In 2018, one genre of video games dominated the public discourse and eventually found its way into the heart of pop culture: Battle royale. The basic concept is simple — dozens of players are placed on a map and fight it out until only one remains standing. It’s led to countless different games offering their own take on the formula.
The Culling introduced crafting weaponry, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds slowed down the action with its stealth and precision shooting. Eventually, the genre expanded to include games that look drastically different from each other, and it can be overwhelming to choose one. Fortunately, we’re here to help. These are the best battle royale games.
Fortnite (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, Android)
The most popular game on the planet in 2019, Fortnite found success by taking an existing game and introducing battle royale elements rather than create something from scratch. Originally only a player-versus-environment “Save the World” mode focused on building, Fortnite evolved into a competitive multiplayer game, as well, but it kept the building elements that made the first version stand out. Dropped onto an enormous map, you must scavenge the environment and nearby buildings in search of weapons to use, all while your enemies create their own fortified structures and search for targets to kill.
Fortnite’s blend of battle royale action and crafting isn’t the only thing that made it successful, though. Epic Games has been committed to constant updates, both to add new content and make ongoing quality-of-life changes. This has led to a game designed specifically to please dedicated players, and it has paid off in a big way.
Apex Legends (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
Respawn Entertainment may have shelved development on Titanfall 3, but the studio avoided angering most of its fans by releasing the free-to-play Apex Legends in its place. Set in the Titanfall universe, the battle royale game is, on a fundamental level, similar to its peers. You still drop down onto a map and gather weapons and gear from loot boxes, and a circle gradually shrinks to kill those not active in the fight. However, it also introduced respawning to the formula, giving teams the ability to revive their friends killed earlier in a match.
This small change wouldn’t be enough to cause Apex Legends’ massive success, however – Respawn’s excellent gunplay is responsible for that. Smooth, snappy, but still weighty, the weapons in
Call of Duty: Warzone (PS4, PC, Xbox One)
You wouldn’t think there’d be room for yet another battle royale shooter, but Call of Duty: Warzone somehow manages to capture the attention of millions of players — even in such a saturated market. The Call of Duty name alone prints money for Activision, and with it being free to play, it’s an enticing offer. In its first month, the shooter racked up over 50 million players. Which, for context, is around the same number of users who played
Above all else, Warzone is an absolute blast to play. There’s nothing quite like the way a Call of Duty game feels — something that other shooters have tried and failed to replicate. Combined with the massive budget of an Activision game and a high degree of polish, Warzone refines the genre completely. It borrows many beloved mechanics from the base version of 2019’s Modern Warfare, like perks and weapon progression, and successfully melds it with what you’d expect from a battle royale game. It features 150 players across small teams of up to four players — all competing to gather cash, loot, and XP, while avoiding the deadly gas that slowly closes in on you. And with constant updates courtesy of Infinity Ward, Warzone will likely stick around for the foreseeable future.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and PUBG Mobile (PC, Xbox One, PS4, iOS, Android)
The game that served as the catalyst for the battle royale phenomenon, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has nonetheless avoided very many pure imitators. A remarkably slow game in comparison to its competitors, a typical match of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds involves players sneaking into shacks and houses, finding a weapon or two, and carefully crawling through the grass to avoid detection. At any moment, chaos can still break out, with grenades going off as players scramble for cover. It isn’t a game of excess, but it rewards smart play like few other battle royale titles.
Despite making full use of controllers on console and mouse-and-keyboard on PC, the game was even translated to phones and tables as the excellent PUBG Mobile. Free-to-play, the mobile version’s use of motion aiming help to keep your shots precise, and it has even received in-game tie-ins with franchises like Mission: Impossible and Resident Evil. It doesn’t have the same fidelity as its big sibling, but that’s about the only tradeoff you’ll deal with.
Tetris 99 (Switch)
Yes, it’s a battle royale game, and yes, it’s one of the best games in the genre. Released without prior announcements as a free-to-play Nintendo Switch game, Tetris 99 takes the classic puzzle game and turns it into all-out chaos by pitting 99 players against each other. You still play
Play too aggressively, and you’ll find multiple players launching attacks on your board, which can result in an early defeat. Play too defensively, however, and you risk leaving too many other players alive when the action begins to speed up. Knowing when to attack is just as important as mastering your piece-spins and hard drops, and even the best
Ring of Elysium (PC)
Other players and the encroaching ring aren’t the only things that can kill you in a battle royale game. In Ring of Elysium, you must also be aware of the world itself, wrecked by natural disaster and ready to eliminate you at nearly any moment. On a map filled with snow, rain, greenery, and asphalt, your ultimate goal is to be one of the last remaining survivors boarding a helicopter off of the game’s hellish landscape.
Ring of Elysium’s development team remain committed to improving the game as it progresses past the early access period, with patches coming on an almost daily basis to add features and address feedback. In a genre this competitive, that is what is necessary in order to survive.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
It can be tough to introduce an entirely new style of play into a series that has been around for over a decade, but Treyarch somehow managed to pull it off with Blackout mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Set on an island that combines elements and locations from the series’ history, Blackout features vehicles — largely absent from the rest of the series — and gives you access to a huge number of weapons as you blast away at your enemies. The guns feel just as smooth as they do in the game’s other modes, and the excellent map design gives you plenty of places to plan ambushes or hunker down.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 includes a Zombies mode, and in the spirit of Blackout’s “greatest hits” structure, there are also undead enemies to fight in battle royale. They guard some of the best weapons in the game, and killing them requires quite a bit of news. Deciding whether it’s worth alerting other players to your position is always a gamble, especially as you’re approaching the end of a game.
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