Battle royale. It’s currently the hottest video game genre, having exploded in popularity and revenue since PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 2017 debut. According to GameDaily(Opens in a new window), battle royale games generate billions of dollars per year. Even if you aren’t a genre fan, you can’t dismiss the category’s impact.
Battle royal games haven’t just dominated the sales charts; they’ve made last-man-standing gameplay incredibly popular again, so much so that its elements have spilled over into non-battle royale games. Tetris 99, a “free-to-play” game that’s only available to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, is a prime example of that. That said, it’s not quite a battle royale game.
What Is a Battle Royale Game?
If you aren’t hip to the gaming category, but have somehow stumbled across this article, you’ve probably asked “what is a battle royale game?” Simply put, a battle royale game is a title that combines the aforementioned last-man-standing shooter gameplay with weapon gathering and a shrinking playfield that drives player characters ever closer together. That shrinking playfield also eliminates those who find themselves on the wrong side of it.
A battle royale game needs these three elements, otherwise it’s your standard multiplayer pew-pew title. So, all the critics who hold Fall Guys or Pac-Man 99 aloft as the “best battle royale game” in order to knock the genre need to slow their roll a bit, even if these off-kilter entries do borrow a lot from the formula. That said, recent releases like the melee-focused Naraka: Bladepoint prove that the genre can explore others weapons beyond guns.
If you want to learn about the history of the battle royale genre and how it came to be, we recommend blocking off some free time and taking a trip to good, ol’ Wikipedia(Opens in a new window) to read about Arma2, Arma 3, and H1Z1. There’s a wild history of mods and offshoots that would drive us batty if we tried to recount them in their entirety here.
The Battle Royale Games You Should Play
The battle royale genre’s popularity has seen video game publishers rush to get a sweet slice of that multiplayer pie. As a result, many battle royale games—or related modes attached to other games—have emerged. You can’t play them all. You shouldn’t play them all, as some are hot garbage. Instead, bring your skills to a battle royale game that’s of known quality and has a strong player base. The PC games listed below will do you good.
If you’re ready to begin, check out these excellent battle royale games.
How did EA manage to get a foothold in a battle royale space dominated by Fortnite and PUBG? The company turned to arguably its finest developer, Respawn, and delivered the smash hit Apex Legends.
Key distinctions help Apex Legends stand out in the crowded market. Despite the lack of hulking mechs, the game’s connection to the Titanfall universe gives it a greater sense of identity. Apex Legends has far more personality and charm than PUBG, and tops Fortnite in terms of shooting mechanics. It also brings plenty of new ideas to the formula, such as character-specific abilities and useful team communication tools. Plus, many people are really into the character Mirage. Like, really into him. Apex Legends is free, and has crossplay, multiplayer features.
What a timeline we find ourselves in, one in which an incredibly hot video game is free to play, published by Activision, and based on one of the most popular franchises. Yet, here we are. Call of Duty: Warzone has entered the competitive battle royale fray, with a few tricks up its sleeve to shake up the formula.
Call of Duty: Warzone is a game based on Modern Warfare’s 2019 reboot. Warzone introduces unique battle royale elements, such as loadout kits and respawn matches, that separate it from the competition and greatly impact how the game plays. These additions are hit-or-miss, but the overall package is highly polished. Warzone has enough meat to attract traditional first-person shooter fans regardless of its battle royale designation.
Epic Games’ Fortnite, which is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mac, and mobile, has no walls between its player bases. That’s right, Fortnite lets you play with strangers and buddies regardless of the platform on which they play. Combine that with Fortnite’s incredibly affordable price tag (free!), and it’s easy to see why the game has become the face of the battle royale genre. Oh, and Ninja(Opens in a new window) streaming Fortnite helped skyrocket the game’s popularity, too.
Like PUBG, Fortnite airdrops you into a map either alone, with a duo, or as part of a three- or four- person crew. Then, the mission is to survive the wilds using the weapons, vehicles, and other items you find. Fortnite goes the extra mile by letting your scavenge the land for materials to build protective structures that’ll safeguard your character from weaponry.
Available on PC, PlayStation 4 Xbox One, Android, and iOS, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, colloquially known as PUBG, has the most interesting origin story of all battle royale games. The game that would become PUBG has its roots as a Arma 2 and Arma 3 mod, before being licensed by Sony Online Entertainment for use in H1Z1. PUBG became PUBG when its creator, Brendan Greene, became the Creative Director at Bluehole Studio.
In terms of gameplay, PUBG supports up to 100-person sessions in which you can play solo, as a duo, or in a four-person squad. It’s of utmost importance where you land after you parachute from a passing plane to start the game, as you must scour the environment for armor, weapon, vehicles, and other objects that’ll keep you alive when you encounter other players.
Sadly, PUBG lacks cross-platform play, a feature that its biggest rival happily boasts.
Spellbreak checks all of our battle royale boxes. It’s a multiplayer shooter that lets dozens of people compete for dominance on a shrinking battlefield that’s littered with weapons. In a nice touch, Spellbreak swaps a violent, military aesthetic for a violent, magical aesthetic.
Instead of guns, you find and equip various elemental spells. You can upgrade these powers into stronger versions, and combine them for devastating attacks. Setting a cloud of poison gas on fire is as satisfying as it sounds. Along with the explosive combat, Spellbreak’s high-flying player movement turns skirmishes into dramatic superhero battles. Need to make a tactical retreat? Just bolt directly into the air. Spellbreak is free, and supports crossplay, multiplayer action.