Many flock to esports for the precise, competitive gameplay they are typically known for, but some players are more interested in an esport’s characters and world-building rather than trying to climb to the highest rank they possibly can. Some esports have even managed to create an entire world that is as rich, vibrant, and alive as our own with creative storytelling, character histories, and sometimes even music videos! Let’s take a look at the top 5 esports with the best lore in the business and see why players love getting enveloped in their worlds.
1. League of Legends
It’s no secret that League of Legends is one of the most stable, top-tier esports out there. Fans are deeply invested in the franchise, with the average League of Legends player spending more on microtransactions than the average Fortnite player in 2019.
On the League of Legends official website, players can find a biography for every one of the game’s 140+ Champions, but it doesn’t just end there. Players can also look up the regions that each Champion comes from to better understand their origins, check out Champion comics that are being created in collaboration with none other than Marvel, and even explore alternate universes that are used to further involve players with their favorite League of Legends Champions in fun, new ways.
Riot Games has even opened up League of Legends’ intellectual property to select developers to allow them to create new experiences revolving around the League of Legends universe. Each potential game is supposed to be approved by Riot Games’ staff to ensure quality and make sure the content within stays true to the characters and regions that are involved.
What’s more, is League of Legends is quickly becoming known for its high-production-value music videos and cinematics created for different seasons of the game. Some videos feature some of the most well-known Champions performing a catchy song, and others more explicitly detail the League of Legends universe and the wars being waged within it.
Riot Games is on a mission to flesh out a fully believable world with their hit esport, and they’re certainly on their way to doing just that!
Halo is an esport that has seen quite a few variations, with gamers having taken an interest in competitive play for the game before esports had all of the glitz and glam they do today. Still, what initially drew players into Halo before the competitive scene emerged was the gripping story of the original trilogy.
The original trilogy of the Halo series is considered to be the first three games that were released — Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, and Halo 3. These three games followed the story of Master Chief and his artificial intelligence, Cortana. Master Chief was a cybernetically and biochemically-enhanced supersoldier, raised to be a literal weapon. He was never seen without his helmet or armor that concealed his entire body and face, which many say allowed players to better assume his role.
The story arc of the original trilogy sees Master Chief battling against an alien lifeform called the Covenant and a parasitic alien lifeform called the Flood, all the while trying to keep humanity safe. Master Chief moves between different locations in space and the Earth throughout the trilogy, giving players a variety of settings to do battle on and introducing new mechanics along the way. In the end, Master Chief manages to save the galaxy at large and is thought to have died in the line of duty; however, he is still alive in the half of his spaceship left floating throughout space. He ends up entering a cryonic sleep, and Cortana sends out a distress beacon, ultimately setting the stage for the next game in the Halo franchise, Halo 4.
Although it sounds like a fairly typical science-fiction plot today, being able to share in the struggles, heated battles, and hard decisions through the eyes of the Master Chief across three different games left players feeling attached to the entire Halo universe and gave them a famous theme song they’ll never forget.
3. Apex Legends
One of the newer esports to make the list, Apex Legends released in early 2019 amidst the excitement of the battle royale genre. It is arguably one of the more unique battle royales to have been created, with Respawn Entertainment putting its own spin on the genre by including familiar gameplay mechanics from their Titanfall series.
Upon launch, there was an immediate interest in the playable characters created for the Apex Games, the Legends. Each Legend feels very different from the others, and it doesn’t take more than a glance to have some sense of their personality or origins. The Legend named Bloodhound is a prime example, with an accent, outfit, and voice lines that convey a very traditional, old-Norse lifestyle. It immediately sparks an interest in players, making them wonder where this Legend is from given the science-fiction setting of the game. Did they come from old Earth? Perhaps they came from an entirely new planet? What brought someone like this to the Apex Games? These are all questions that emerge simply by juxtaposing the traditional feeling of Bloodhound with such a futuristic game world.
Respawn Entertainment quickly realized they’d created a group of characters players wanted to know more about and soon began releasing their “Stories from the Outlands” series on YouTube which stylistically elaborates on the origins of some of the Legends. Additionally, the official Apex Legends website includes brief biographies of every Legend, as well as unique supporting information for each.
The most recent origin story playing out in Apex Legends is the story of the conflict between Revenant and Loba, two of the newest Legends to be released into the game. It was revealed that Revenant killed Loba’s father when she was young, but now that she’s grown and located Revenant in the Apex Games, she’s thrust herself into them to exact revenge.
Much like Apex Legends, Overwatch has managed to create a very unique roster of characters, but they’ve taken it a step further with just how much care has been put into them. Where Apex Legends’ characters all feel like they’re built off of the same base model, every character in Overwatch feels as if they’ve been created from the ground up to fit a particular role in the game, as well as in the lore.
Although the timeline of Overwatch can be a bit muddy, as there is no real sense of when the events in the present and those referenced as past have actually occurred, this esport’s origins are still packed full of interesting details that bring the world to life.
The history of Overwatch largely revolves around the creation of Omnics — lifelike robots with advanced artificial intelligence that were created to assist the economy. The corporation in charge of creating the Omnics was shut down due to fraud, but their factories were later reactivated with the intention of destroying humanity. This spiraled into a war called the Omnic Crisis, and then the Overwatch Task Force was created when world governments could no longer fight off the Omnics. Through the Overwatch Task Force is how many of Overwatch’s heroes end up getting introduced to the game.
Now Overwatch 2 is on the horizon, and the developers have taken note of just how much players care about the heroes they get to play as. Both games are expected to be cross-compatible so players on the original Overwatch can still play with those on Overwatch 2, ensuring the esport doesn’t become divided, but Overwatch 2 will offer players much more story content and missions to play through.
If you’re looking for a complete telling of the history of Overwatch, TGN’s YouTube channel has you covered!
Although SMITE could be considered the lowest-tier esport on this list, it still has a huge amount of lore backing each of the game’s Gods and Goddesses. Not only does HiRez Studios do a great job introducing every new God and Goddess they make with an introductory video, but every playable deity is created from examples found in the real world. Instead of burdening themselves with creating the lore, Hirez Studios lets history and religion handle the storytelling for them and just utilizes popular tales and imagery to bring these deities to life. This means there is practically an infinite amount of supporting material for fans to check out on their favorite SMITE deities.
Every God and Goddess in SMITE comes from a major pantheon like Celtic, Egyptian, Greek, Mayan, Norse, and Japanese, just to name a few. These deities range from well-known figures like Thor, Odin, and Kali to the less-known deities like Olorun and Xbalanque, making the esport relatable to a large portion of people all across the world.
The newest deity to be added to SMITE’s roster was Cthulhu, and he was placed under a brand-new pantheon called Great Old Ones. Although he deviates slightly from the typical deities of SMITE, his concept has been received fairly well by the community, and many previous skins for other deities in SMITE have been based around his imagery.
Honorable Mention – World of Warcraft
It’s pretty hard to not talk about World of Warcraft when lore and world-building are concerned. Unfortunately, the reason World of Warcraft is an honorable mention rather than having a true spot on this list is because this is an esports list, and there is quite a debate about whether or not World of Warcraft qualifies as an esport.
World of Warcraft indeed hosts competitive PvP tournaments every year at BlizzCon, and many major guilds race to be the first to complete new portions of content for the game when they release, which can be considered sporty and competitive in nature. However, this hasn’t been enough to convince many esports fans. The prize pools put up for World of Warcraft’s competitive PvP tournaments pale in comparison to nearly all other esports’ prize pools, which many argue delegitimizes it as an esport given the vast wealth Blizzard has at its disposal to help grow the scene.
It’s also worth noting the game is an MMORPG, which presents a slew of problems in making it a competitive esport, like class balancing issues, deciding on the appropriate character level for the esport, and varying gear sets that completely change your character’s stats. It’s simply hard to find a good point in the game where it can be defined as an esport.
Yet, for those who do consider World of Warcraft an esport, it could very well be considered the esport with the most fleshed-out universe in existence. After all, how could it not be when it has been running for over 15 years and seen multiple large-scale expansions that introduced new areas, content, quests, items, and more? Blizzard truly has created an entire world in World of Warcraft with a functioning economy, professions, dungeons, and iconic storylines that tie it all together. The amount of manpower that must have gone into creating just the questlines in the classic version of World of Warcraft, even before all of the expansion content, must have been insurmountable when you account for the unique characters, the writing of each of their prompts and stories, and ensuring many of them connect cohesively.