If your folks ever disparaged your video game obsession as a huge waste of time, they’re either a) incredibly shortsighted or b) huge, huge liars.
Now, that may sound overly harsh, but there’s some truth in my take. Esports, the competitive segment of the video game industry, has amassed huge audiences, incredible cash pots, and sponsorships that enable elite gamers to transform their passions into careers. The Dota 2 International, for example, has a prize pool of $24 million—and climbing. In fact, research firm Newzoo estimates that esports will generate $1.1 billion per year by 2019.
Esports for Everyone
Of course, esports are more than purely capitalistic ventures. Though gamers dig the idea of standing on stage holding oversized checks, the true reason for traveling to tournaments around the globe is to prove they’re the best in their titles of choice.
Esports comprise many games, both popular and under the radar, in numerous genres. You like shooters? You can pop some caps in a rival playing Counter-Strike: Global: Offensive. In the mood for a battle royale of epic proportions? PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has got you covered. Into sports? In a merging of the two worlds, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive—publisher of the super-popular NBA 2K video game series—partnered to create the NBA 2K eLeague. In the esports world, there’s a video game, and related scene, for everyone.
Maybe there’s too much choice. There are so many video games on the market with a competitive, multiplayer focus that getting started in playing, or simply watching, professional video gaming may prove intimidating. Fortunately, this guide to the best esports games is designed to gently nudge you in the right direction. After all, every game going after that sweet esports money isn’t worth your time. And there are a whole lot of those.
The Esports Criteria
This guide contains several esports-worthy titles that PCMag’s staff has reviewed and wholeheartedly recommends playing. In fact, many of the titles that we suggest checking out also live in our best PC games roundup, though we also toss a bone or two to console players.
To be considered for inclusion in this guide, a game simply has to have official tournament support from its publisher. Though we love many of the smaller, community-backed efforts, such as the incredible Tecmo Super Bowl community, we had to create a cut-off point, lest damn near every competitive game be deemed worthy.
So, that’s that. If there’s a notable esports game that’s not listed below, that means we either didn’t review it yet or score it well enough to make the cut. What you’ll find below, however, are some of the best esports games played by amateurs and professionals in 2018—and likely beyond. Dig in. And, more importantly, have fun playing and watching esports.