The rising popularity of esports combined with live service games has led to a much more competitive landscape within gaming. A majority of today’s online multiplayer games receive continuous updates in the form of new content, gameplay rebalancing, and QoL advancements. This creates a constantly evolving metagame in which the average player doesn’t stand a chance against die-hards striving to be the best.
Even more competitive than the players themselves are the titles that fall under this category. As more popular games continue to focus on esports and competitive multiplayer, choosing which one to invest in becomes increasingly tough. So how do you decide which game is worth the commitment?
To help you get started, here we’ve highlighted the best competitive games to play in 2020. We’ll be updating this list in the future, so make sure to check back. And if you’d like to receive more gaming recommendations, consider reading through our other curated lists:
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Overwatch (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Overwatch may not have been the first hero-shooter; however, it’s gone on to dominate the genre while also solidifying its presence in esports with the existence of the Overwatch League. This is in part due to Blizzard’s obsession with rebalancing the game and in some cases completely reworking how a character plays.
Although this approach can prove frustrating for casual players, it presents more opportunities to develop new strategies and team comps while also keeping veterans on their toes. That combined with a growing roster of over 30 ‘easy to pick up, difficult to master’ heroes, the most recent being Sigma, makes Overwatch a solid choice for competitive gaming.
Since making the switch to free-to-play in 2018, CS:GO has seen an uptick in popularity that’s led to a thriving competitive scene surrounding the game. Consistent content drops, such as new maps, characters, weapons, and game modes, have played a major role in maintaining the game feeling fresh after all these years.
The best example of this would be the addition of “Danger Zone,” a battle-royale mode that was introduced in 2018 and brought in an entirely new audience of players. Now that Valve has removed a majority of the content paywalls, becoming a better player is determined more by skill and practice rather than the size of your wallet.
Dota 2 (PC)
Dota 2 is another Valve title that has managed to stand the test of time and still holds onto the title of “most-played game on Steam”. It’s able to retain an active player base by avoiding many of the pitfalls that free-to-play MOBAs often fall prey to, such as content paywalls and poor competitive balancing.
That’s not to mention the game’s massive roster, which includes over 100 diverse heroes designed to be versatile enough to fill multiple roles. Allowing players to form their own unique strategies is where Dota 2 truly shines, as the sheer magnitude of playable characters and special items makes it so no two matches ever feel the same.
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Fortnite’s rise to fame has been amazing to watch, seeing it transition from a run of the mill battle-royale game into a fully-supported competitive esport. It makes sense when you consider how large of an impact Fortnite has had on gaming culture overall, in addition to the rise of the battle royale genre.
This is largely attributed to Epic’s smart decision to continue investing time and money into improving the game and finding ways to cater to every kind of player, adding daily challenges, timed events, a constantly evolving map layout, and new rewards to unlock. The fact that it just so happens to be the most played online game makes it a top-pick for competitive players looking for a challenge.
Rocket League (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
Rocket League has come a long way since its 2015 release, going on to become one of the most popular esports of the present. As one of the few games to offer full cross-play across all major platforms, the vehicular soccer game has amassed a large player base that developer Psyonix is committed to keeping.
This is evident by their decision to remove randomized loot boxes from the game by the end of 2019 as well as adding in 80+ challenges for players to tackle. If you’re looking for a competitive game outside of your typical MOBA or battle royal, Rocket League serves as a worthy alternative with simple controls and straightforward objectives that still allow for more advanced techniques.
Rainbow Six Siege (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Rainbow Six Siege has seen a great deal of success following Ubisoft’s decision to adopt a live service approach towards releasing content, one that has caused the tactical shooter’s player base to skyrocket. The game has built a strong foundation that encompasses a number of game modes, unique Operator classes, and intricately-designed maps.
Additionally, an upcoming Operation Ember Rise expansion looks to introduce two new Operators that are sure to change up the meta. What makes Siege stand out compared to other online first-person shooters is its ability to create tension in matches by placing an emphasis on team communication and cooperative play.
FIFA 19 (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
As with most ongoing sports game franchises, FIFA has been a part of the competitive gaming scene since day one. Year after year, each iteration ushers in a new wave of tournaments and competitions where pro players compete for prize money and recognition for their hours of hard work and practice.
FIFA 19 is no different, offering an updated roster of players, refined gameplay mechanics, and a host of new features. Among these are the new Active Touch System, which grants players increased ball control, and Dynamic Tactics, allowing players to devise different tactical approaches before and during matches.
League of Legends (PC)
League of Legends has garnered a reputation for being one of the most competitive MOBAs around, featuring fast-paced gameplay and over 140 Champions broken up into five distinct classes. Given the game’s been around for about a decade, it’s playerbase has fluctuated over the years, however, it remains one of the most streamed games on Twitch and YouTube, a solid indicator of its popularity within the competitive scene.
While its freemium model may be a turn off for some, developer Riot Games has consistently tried to offer a majority of the game’s content at no cost to the player. Their commitment to finding new ways to keep players invested in LoL has resulted in the creation of a new feature called Eternals, which showcases personal milestones for players’ favorite champions.
Teamfight Tactics (PC)
Auto-battlers are becoming increasingly popular within the competitive space, with many long-running series providing their own take on the relatively new genre. Teamfight Tactics offers a unique auto-battler that incorporates elements from LoL’s universe, including appearances from recognizable Champions.
Matches are round-based and see players attempting to defeat waves of minions along with seven other players in a strategic mad dash to craft the perfect, most powerful squad of fighters. The game acts as a solid entry point for players looking to hone their auto-battling skills and dominate the competition.
Team Fortress 2 (PC)
There was a time when Valve dedicated a large chunk of its resources towards Team Fortress 2, a luxury that has since been awarded to Dota 2. However, that doesn’t mean TF2 is a dead game by any means, as it still receives occasional QoL updates and character/weapon rebalancing from time to time.
The game’s strongest selling point is its passionate community, which continues to find ways to keep the game feeling fresh, releasing new user-generated content in the form of maps, skins, and everyone’s favorite, hats. Although we never got to see more classes added beyond the original nine, each one offers a different experience that affects the flow of matches.
Destiny 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Although Destiny 2 was received fairly well at launch, the months that followed saw the game getting panned for its repetitive end-game content and lackluster Curse of Osiris expansion. Since then, developer Bungie has been working hard to get the first-person shooter back on track to becoming an engaging MMO that’s capable of catering to both casual and competitive players.
The Forsaken update has provided us with the first glimpse into Bungie’s more narrative-driven direction for Destiny 2 while overhauling its confusing weapon system. The upcoming Shadowkeep expansion plans to build upon Bungie’s newfound success by offering players a more streamlined system for upgrading armor as well as a free-to-play version titled New Light, which will serve as an approachable entry point for newcomers.
Apex Legends (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Apex Legends continues to prove itself within the battle royale genre, with many putting it up there alongside two of its most popular rivals, Fortnite and PUBG. However, this comes as no surprise given the game was created by Respawn, a veteran developer who’s been on a hot streak ever since the release of Titanfall 2.
Recent updates have added support for solo matchmaking and introduced cinematic kill sequences that make eliminating other players a lot more satisfying. What’s more the game’s quickly been adopted as an esport, with ongoing cash tournaments being organized across the globe, making it one of the most accessible games to reach pro level in.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Although the battle royale craze had already started to quiet down before the release of Black Ops 4: Blackout mode, seeing Call of Duty’s take on the genre was still impressive. The series is no stranger to the esports scene and has carried the torch when it comes to more contemporary, competitive first-person shooters.
With Blackout mode, developer Treyarch was able to create a premier battle royale experience that features the largest map of any Call of Duty game before and includes iconic locations from the series’ long line of games. Additionally, Black Ops 4 continues to rank high when it comes to performance, offering more consistent frame rates and better matchmaking than many of its competitors.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Before Fortnite stole its spotlight, there was a decent stretch of time where PUBG dominated, as the most popular battle royale game, leading towards its early adoption as an esport. And although console and PC lobbies remain populated to this day, the existence of a free-to-play mobile version of PUBG has been a deciding factor in the game’s continued relevance.
That shouldn’t be considered a slight against PUBG, as it’s one of the few battle royales to use projectile ballistics in favor of hitscan, making it a much more skill-based shooter. It may still be a bit rough around the edges and have a clunky UI; however, if you’re a stickler for things like realistic bullet drop-off calculations, it might be time to try and win yourself a chicken dinner.
Mortal Kombat 11 (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
Mortal Kombat 11 is more than just an awesome fighting game, it’s arguably the best entry in the series. Toting a roster of 25+ characters, many of which have been around since the very beginning, the game sees the return of series’ staples like Fatalities and Brutalities, in addition to new Fatal/Krushing Blows which give players an opportunity to comeback during challenging bouts.
While there are a plethora of other fighters we could recommend, MK 11 remains a top-pick due to developer NetherRealm’s solid track record of supporting their games long after release. What’s more, you’d be hard-pressed to find another competitive fighter with as satisfyingly crunchy combat as MK11.
Smash Ultimate (Switch)
Despite its reputation of being a glorified party game, Smash Ultimate has slowly been winning over skeptics as it continues to solidify its presence in the competitive gaming world. Although a large portion of its playerbase was inherited from previous iterations, Ultimate has marked a shift in players switching over from other less-popular fighters to compete in a new arena.
With a roster of over 76 playable characters, the game seems to have something special for every playstyle, making it one of the most diverse arena fighters of this generation. It may not offer as many complex combos as a game like MK11, however, its longstanding reputation and inclusive roster makes it worth considering getting into, despite Nintendo’s refusal to acknowledge it as an esport.