In 2018, one genre of video games dominated the public discourse and eventually found its way into the heart of pop culture: The 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 Apex Legends feel nearly perfect, and they make it easy to sink dozens of hours into the game in a single week. With classes offering their own unique abilities, as well, you can always try a new strategy.
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 Apex Legends during its first month, as well.
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 tablets as the excellent PUBG Mobile. Free-to-play, the mobile version’s use of motion aiming helps 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.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (PC, PlayStation, Android)
Fall Guys was another hit that skyrocketed in popularity throughout 2020 to become one of the most popular battle royale games in the world — and it’s easy to see why. The game eschews the weapons of other popular royale designs for a series of platform-heavy racecourses instead. Every race starts out with 60 players, and with each match, the number of players drops until the winners are declared.
There are several different types of races involving a variety of chase situations, and multiple tactics to help out friends or knockoff foes. It’s a zany combination of battle royale and the rollicking fun of Mario Kart, and the ability to customize your Fall Guy in so many ways (primarily via a cosmetics shop and currency earned from wins only) is just icing on the cake. While winning is nice, the true fun is in the journey, and thanks to ongoing updates that add new races, that journey will keep going on for quite some time.
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 Tetris as you normally would, but have the choice of where to send your cleared lines, such as a random player or a player attacking someone else.
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 Tetris players will find a challenge when playing against so many others.
Ring of Elysium (PC)
Other players and the encroaching ring aren’t the only things that can kill you in a battle royale game. Ring of Elysium stands out from other Battle Royale games by introducing an environment where natural disasters can kill you. 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.
The Ring of Elysium development team has been churning out brand new content and patches for the game since its initial release in 2018. Patches typically include skins, new abilities, and other items meant to keep things fresh and competitive with other popular Battle Royale titles.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
Treyarch successfully introduced a brand new playing style to their series after over a decade, and we’re glad they did. Blackout mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 takes place on an island that features elements and locations from the series’ history. Blackout provides an enormous arsenal of weapons for taking down enemies, and unlike the rest of the series, Blackout features vehicles, which is a nice change. The guns play just as smooth as you would expect them to, and the detailed map design allows you to plot out your next ambush or find places to shelter.
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 the battle royale. Although you can upgrade your weaponry by killing the undead, shooting at them could be a dead giveaway to your position. Proceed at your own risk.
Spellbreak (PC, Switch, PlayStation, Xbox)
If you’d love to mix in some fantasy with your battle royale, choices can feel a little limited. Black Desert‘s Shadow Arena is certainly a beautiful option, but our personal favorite is the free-to-play Spellbreak. This innovatively styled game looks great without demanding too much performance power, and it has incredible depth for what’s traditionally a fairly simple system. In Spellbreak, the classes are based on various magical elements that you quickly level up and customize. You can then combine your own spells or spells with your friends to create powerful battle magic like electrical storms that also poison foes, or tornadoes made of fire.
Each map also holds tons of potential, including hidden chests with a variety of traditional power-ups and armor — along with truly nontraditional boosts like the ability to fly or teleport. As you can imagine, this makes for some extremely fun gameplay, and it’s particularly easy to keep coming back for more battles. It’s also a bit more like a MOBA than many battle royales, which may be off-putting for some but ultimately worth the effort. The cosmetic options are nice to have but not really the focus of this game.