Top 10 eSport Games [Best Recommendations]

In the last 10 years, gaming has become less of a pure hobby and more of a career option as gamers are realizing that they can be paid and make a living off of the time they put into their gaming. Dubbed eSports, professional gaming has seen itself become a growing household term, as more and more games are played professionally, and as classic sports networks give the games more exposure.

Due to the relatively young age of the eSports scene, many fans like to think that their game is the best. Or if there's a bit of a decrease in viewership and tournament support, there are screams of "ded gaem!" Despite these biased approaches to judging games, there are games that set themselves apart due to their popularity, the size and quality of their scene, and how enjoyable the game is for its viewers. With these things in mind, it is very easy to set the true eSports apart from the imitators.

10. World of Tanks

  • System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
  • Publisher: Wargaming
  • Developer: Wargaming
  • Release Dates: August 12, 2010

World of Tanks is barely a blip on many gamers' radar, mostly due to the main game's freemium model. Despite being a sleeper hit for many home gamers, World of Tanks has managed to become one of the top eSports. The player vs player gameplay modes has turned this MMO featuring armored vehicles into an interesting take on an already popular genre of game. World of Tanks features many different gameplay mechanics and game modes that help to set it apart from other shooters and games where the aim is to neutralize the opposing team.

Two years after its release, World of Tanks appeared as an eSport at the 2012 World Cyber Games in Jiangsu, China. Since then, Wargaming has gone on to create the only official league for World of Tanks, the Wargaming.net League in 2016. The WGL is played across four different regions, with the winners of each region and two wild card teams battling out a final tournament. World of Tanks' WGL is still new, and changes to the format in season two have been made to ensure that sport's growing success.


9. Call of Duty: Infinity Warfare

  • System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Infinity Ward
  • Release Dates: November 4, 2016

Often the butt of jokes regarding recycled gameplay, Call of Duty found itself a success story of innovation with its 2016 release, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare continued in the footsteps of the previous title in the series, Black Ops III by making significant changes, by drawing the story and gameplay away from the series' roots.

Call of Duty has been a major game in the eSports scene since 2006, starting with the release of Modern Warfare 4. Since then, the series has continued to be a big earner in the eSports world, giving away more than 15 million dollars in prize money, with Infinite Warfare's 4.1 million leading the charge.


8. Super Smash Bros. Melee

  • System/Platform: GameCube
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: HAL Laboratory
  • Release Dates: November 21, 2001

The sequel to the Nintendo 64's smash hit Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee quickly became one of the most exciting eSports on the scene during the height of its play. Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of the Super Smash series, criticized the competitive field saying it went astray of his vision of the game. It is this very sizable gap in skill level that makes Super Smash Bros. Melee such an exciting sport to watch.

Players of the game already know the excitement involved in the 4 player Nintendo arena fighter. This excitement is magnified on the professional scene, which is why in just under a year, the Super Smash Bros. Melee scene exploded from basement tournaments to being played internationally before finding itself on MLG's Pro Circuit and at the Evolution Championship Series, a yearly fighting game event.

Even though Melee went through a period of reduced exposure, it recent years Super Smash Bros. Melee has experienced a resurgence in popularity, with its return to EVO in 2013 and DreamHack's hosting of Melee tournaments at DreamHack London and DreamHack Winter. Outside of the big-name support, Melee also continues to have a strong grassroots scene, helping to keep Melee alive as one of the top eSports.


7. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

  • System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Linux
  • Publisher: Valve Corporation
  • Developer: Valve Corporation, Hidden Path Entertainment
  • Release Dates: August 12, 2012

Valve's Counter-Strike has continued to find success since its inception in 1999. The objective-based first-person shooter series' most recent game has found itself as one of the most exciting and successful eSports.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has received sponsorship from several parties for its tournaments, known as majors. Over the years, the prize pool has substantially increased, rising from $250,000 to $1 million at the start of the 2016 MLG season. CS: GO's popularity has expanded so much that its majors have been televised on cable TV in the United States.


6. Street Fighter V

  • System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom, Dimps
  • Release Dates: February 16, 2016

Street Fighter has gone from being played in arcades and home basements to the international scene. While at home and in the arcade Street Fighter is just your next fighting game, the pros make the game an entirely different beast of its own. Their ability to play an already technical fighting game to its fullest ability by predicting and reading their opponents attack by frame changes helps to make matches extremely exciting to watch. Fights between the pros are always nail-biters, as the momentum continually shifts as one player makes the most of the smallest opening.

In the eSport scene, Street Fighter has continued to be one of the top fighters, due to its extremely technical gameplay and exciting matches. Due to the series' being known worldwide, and the similar objective of fighters, Street Fighter V is one of the easiest eSports for beginners to get into, as the only learning curve is the technicalities of the gameplay. Thanks to this, top Street Fighter matches and players are known to people who aren't even avid followers of the scene.

In 2016, Street Fighter V broke the record for a number of entrants EVO, with more than five thousand people signing up for the tournament, a sure sign that Street Fighter V is picking up on the eSports scene with no plans of slowing down.


5. Hearthstone

  • System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
  • Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Release Dates: March 11, 2014

Hearthstone is an online collectible card game building on the lore of Blizzard's Warcraft series. Designed to avoid some of the failures of digital collectible card games, Hearthstone was an instant hit with players thanks to its accessibility and ease of play. It is this same low level of entry that helps make Hearthstone such a successful eSport. Fans and newcomers of the game can come into the scene with very little previous knowledge and still enjoy its games.

Although Hearthstone doesn’t require the precision play of other eSports, the decision-making and ability to respond to unexpected situations allow for Hearthstone to still remain an exciting sport to play and spectate. This focus on preparation and slight reliance on luck make it a slightly less exciting game than some other more action-oriented eSports.

Despite this shift in gameplay focus, Hearthstone has managed to draw a significant eSports following. Despite the success of Hearthstone tournaments, as an eSport, it features one of the fewest major tournaments, leading the professional players to use streaming as their main source of income. The popularity of Hearthstone streams has led to a revamp of the professional tournament system, which will hopefully result in more major tournaments for the scene.


4. Overwatch

  • System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
  • Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Release Dates: May 24, 2016

Despite not being made with the intention of becoming an eSport, Blizzard's Overwatch has found a way of making itself one of the most popular eSports right now. The new age shooter has found a way of to stand out from other eSports shooters by featuring a roster of characters with their own unique styles that fit into roles found more frequently in other genres of games.

Overwatch has also found success on the global stage because of its fast-paced gameplay, which helps the games to stay short, allowing for a more enjoyable viewer experience, as matches don't drag on too long, allowing more games that feature gameplay that completely differs from the last.

Even though Overwatch wasn't made to be an eSport, it features a "play of the game" which makes even home games feel like on the big stage. The big stage gameplay completely outshines home-play, which is why just months after its release, Overwatch became big enough to have an international tournament. Since then, it has become one of the top-earning eSports, almost breaking into the top 10 with an even more impressive player pool.


3. League of Legends

  • System/Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Riot Games
  • Developer: Riot Games
  • Release Dates: October 27, 2009

League of Legends is undoubtedly one of the top eSports. Riot Games took the MOBA genre and made it more accessible to casual gamers. With a roster of interesting characters, almost each with their own unique gameplay and abilities, League of Legends large list of champions helps to create exciting and enthralling games.

League of Legends is a much like your standard sports, in that it's a team sport that requires the most advanced and refined teamwork. This team-play element of League of Legends and MOBAs, as a genre, is part of the reason it remains so exciting: once the play heats up during a game, the action takes place in many different areas of the maps, ensuring there's always a point of interest during the game.

During it's almost 10-year life, League of Legends has held one of the most tournaments and awarded the most prize money of all eSports, topped only by one other game. The first League of Legends championship had 1.6 million viewers, with the numbers only increase over time, reaching 1 million concurrent viewers I the 2015 Summer European LCS finals and 32 million for the 2013 World Championships.


2. DOTA 2

  • System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
  • Publisher: Valve Corporation
  • Developer: Valve Corporation
  • Release Dates: July 9, 2013

DOTA 2 is an eSports success story if there ever was one. The original DOTA, Defense of the Ancients, was a community created mod for Blizzard's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The lead designer was hired by Valve to create the sequel, DOTA 2.

To ensure their investment, Valve catapulted DOTA 2 onto the eSports scene, creating The International, a tournament with a $1 million prize. By inviting the top 16 DOTA teams, Valve was able to show off the game create a successful eSport. Each International saw an increase in its prize pool, with the fourth tournament offering a greater prize pool than even the Super Bowl. DOTA 2, with its continually sizeable prize pool, has made itself the highest earning eSport game, by a significant margin.

DOTA 2 is perhaps the first MOBA game to make a significant impact on the gaming scene, and definitely the first one to become a successful eSport. DOTA's success hinges on its depth of gameplay, which rewards players much more than other games of the same genre. The range of heroes, their abilities and counter play makes DOTA 2 the most exciting and successful MOBA and eSport out right now.


1. StarCraft: Brood War

  • System/Platform: Microsoft Windows
  • Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Release Dates: November 30, 1998

Starcraft II is one the most popular and successful eSports in the current scene, but that success and much of eSports' success can be attributed to that of its successor, StarCraft: Brood War, the third expansion for StarCraft. The RTS game is also known for revolutionizing the genre, as a whole. Even though StarCraft II tried to build off of what made Brood War a success, the game design and balance is agreed upon as still being superior to its successor, helping Brood War to continue to be a force to be reckoned with in eSports, especially in the Korean scene.

Despite being 20 years old, Brood War is still being played on a major level in South Korea. The success of the game is so widespread, that Blizzard recently released a remastered version of the game, which has done well enough to attract gamers from StarCraft II. Much like Jordan, Woods, and Brady, the names of some of Starcraft's biggest and most successful players are household names in South Korea. Many people are aware of the names Flash, Jaedong, and Stork, their reigns of dominance and lengthy rivalries.

What made StarCraft such a success in the world of eSports, is the insane level of skill displayed by the players. To be successful at StarCraft, players must balance their macro and micro play. Even though the macro play of Starcraft is important, the micro play takes the front stage in making it an exciting game. Watching Mutalisk and Reaver Micro in the hands of the greats like Jaedong and Stork, compared to even less skilled pros show how much practice is required to play the game at a high level.

In South Korea, there are channels that broadcast only eSports, initially created to fill South Koreans' desire to follow StarCraft and its growing popularity. Since the founding of eSports networks, Korea also saw the rise in teams and eSport leagues. Even 20 years after its release, StarCraft continues to be a popular eSport in Korea, with its championships still drawing in large crowds. Although on an international scene, StarCraft has dwindled in popularity, no other eSports can claim to the popularity, influence, and longevity that StarCraft has experience, especially when you consider that it saw its rise at the start of the eSports scene.


Final Thoughts

In the last few years, MOBAs have become increasingly popular on the eSports scene, with League of Legends and DOTA 2 leading the way in popularity. Many companies are looking to join in on the action, with Blizzard's Heroes and the Storm and Hi-Rez's Smite on the heels of the most popular in the genre. It's not just MOBAs that are seeing growing success; its games on a whole, with games like FIFA earning quite a name for itself, eSports is slowly growing to be a gaming scene for gamers and games of varying types.

Which eSport is your favorite to play and watch? Let us know in the comments below!

Jabulani Blyden

Writer

Author: Jabulani Blyden

This feels like I'm writing a dating profile... Am I pretty enough? In addition to watching anime I like playing video games, mostly RPGs and indies. I lose a lot of Otaku street cred for the games and shows on my backlog (TTGL & FFVII for example #FeelsBadMan). I run a podcast with my friends where we talk about video games and anime. Nice to meet you... or something.

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