Most Popular Esports Games as of 2021
Would you bet on baseball if you didn’t know the difference between batting and pitching, or on football if you couldn’t tell a quarterback from a running back? Would you bet on soccer if you didn’t know the rules of the game? Of course you wouldn’t!
Well, at least we hope you wouldn’t. You see, it’s VERY important to understand what you’re betting on when you’re putting real money at risk. This applies to all forms of gambling, including esports betting. If you don’t understand the games that you’re betting on, then you ARE going to lose money. It really is as simple as that.
One of our top tips for betting on esports is to focus on the games that you’re already familiar with. This is because it’s a lot easier to make good betting decisions when you fully understand how a game works. You don’t necessarily need to have played a game yourself before betting on it (although it helps), but you certainly need to know the basics of how it’s played.
It’s easy to follow this tip if you’re a hardcore video gamer or big video gaming fan. What if you don’t know much about ANY of the esports games though? What are you supposed to do then? You come to us of course!
Below we have listed all the popular styles of esports games commonly bet on today. We’ve also provided detailed guides for the most popular games that offer the best betting opportunities.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena Games
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games have become incredibly popular with video gamers in recent years. Early versions were usually spin-offs derived from real-time strategy games, but there are now many MOBAs that stand alone as individual games in their own right.
Most MOBAs are team games. There are usually two opposing teams, with each team consisting of multiple characters (or heroes). Players control one individual character, and play co-operatively with other players on their team to destroy the opposing team’s base. Each hero has various characteristics and abilities that can be improved during a game to make the character more effective.
The history of MOBAs began in 1998, when a video gamer created a custom map for the real-time strategy game StarCraft. It required players to join up as a team against computer-controlled units to destroy a structure while protecting their own base. There were a few differences between that map and the MOBAs of today, but it basically inspired the creation of a new genre.
The genre has gone from strength to strength since then, and some of the modern MOBAs are among the most played video games in the world. The following are particularly popular, and feature in many high-profile esports competitions.
- Dota 2
- League of Legends
- Heroes of the Storm
We’ve written detailed guides on all four of these MOBAs. You’ll find them linked below, along with a brief overview of each game.
Dota 2 was released in 2013, by Valve Corporation. Like most MOBAs, it’s a free-to-play online game for computers rather than consoles. It’s available only for Windows, OS X and Linux. It’s a very complex game, and comes with a steep learning curve, but it’s popular because of its immersive gameplay.
Dota 2 games feature two teams, with five players on each team. The team that manages to destroy their opponents’ structure first is the winner.
League of Legends
Usually referred to as LoL, League of Legends is one of the most played PC games in both North America and Europe. To call it popular would be something of an understatement! It was released in 2009, by a developer named Riot Games.
League of Legends games take place between two teams, with five players on each team. Each player must select a “champion” to control during games. There are over 130 different champions to choose from, in several different categories, with more being added every few months. The aim of the game is usually to destroy the opponents’ “Nexus”, but objectives can vary depending on the game mode the player chooses.
Smite was developed by Hi-Rez Studios and released in 2014 following an extended beta test. It has a large and active community and features in several high-profile esports contests.
Players control mythological characters such as gods and goddesses in Smite. There are a number of different game modes, with “Conquest” the most popular. This is where players form teams of five and compete against an opposing team in combat. The goal is to destroy an in-game character called the “Titan”.
Heroes of the Storm
The developers of Heroes of the Storm (Blizzard Entertainment) don’t consider this game to be a MOBA. They claim it has a different playstyle to other games in this genre, and label it a “hero brawler” instead. They may have a point, but most people in the videogaming community still class it as a MOBA anyway.
That’s largely because it follows the same basic format as a typical MOBA, with two teams of five competing against each other. Each player selects a character, which is then levelled up as a game progresses. The only real difference is the game objectives, as these are much more varied than most other MOBAs.
Here are some other MOBA games that are played professionally in esports tournaments and leagues, or have been in the past.
Heroes of Newerth
Defense of the Ancients
First Person Shooter Games
This is another extremely popular videogame genre. First person shooter games have been around for decades, with early examples from as far back as the 1970s. The genre really exploded from the 90s though, with Wolfenstein 3D setting a new standard. First-person shooters now account for nearly a third of videogame sales.
The basic premise of these games is simple. Players view the game from a first-person perspective, through the eyes of the character they’re controlling. They use guns and other weapons to engage in combat and complete objectives. These games come in various different formats, such as single player, multi-player and co-op.
First person shooters have been at the forefront of professional esports gaming from the very beginning, and they continue to play a big role today. The following games are especially prevalent at major esports contests.
- Counter-Strike Global Offensive
- Call of Duty
Counter-Strike Global Offensive
Counter-Strike is a series of games developed and published by multiple companies. The very first Counter-Strike was actually released as custom mod for another game, Half-Life. It was subsequently purchased by Valve Corporation, the developers of Half Life, and they then worked with other developers to expand the series.
The most popular game in the series is Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CSGO). It features two opposing teams – Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists. The Terrorists typically have to either plant a bomb or capture and hold hostages, while the Counter-Terrorists are tasked with preventing a bomb from being planted or rescuing hostages.
CSGO is currently one of THE most important games in both the main esports industry and the esports betting industry. In addition to a detailed guide to the game itself, we’ve also compiled a list of the best CSGO betting sites.
Halo is another series of games. The first game was developed and released by Bungie for the Xbox back in 2001, and that was initially followed by two other games; Halo 2, which was released in 2003, and Halo 3 in 2007. Another developer then took over the rights to the franchise and released several more sequels and spinoff games.
Several of the Halo Games have been used in esports contests over the years. However, constant changes to the design and format of the game saw a decline in its popularity. It was dropped from most major contests, but a recent version of the game was developed specifically with esports in mind. Halo has subsequently made something of a recovery on the esports circuit with the success of the Halo Championship Series Pro League.
Battlefield was first launched in 2002, as Battlefield 1942. Since then there have been several new releases, and even more expansion packs. Most of the releases have been focused on the online multiplayer format, which makes the game ideal for esports tournaments and leagues.
Overwatch is one of the newest games featured on this page. It was released in 2016, by Blizzard Entertainment, and rated as one the best new games that year. It’s a team based online multiplayer game where players work together to meet set objectives. These can include securing and defending control points, or escorting a transport of goods across a map.
Call of Duty
Call of Duty (COD) is one of the most well-known video game series of all time. The series began in 2003, when the original Call of Duty was released for Microsoft Windows. Versions for handhelds and consoles soon followed, as did several sequels and spin-off games.
The COD series was initially set in World War II. That changed with the release of Modern Warfare in 2007, which was set in the modern day. Subsequent versions have gone back to the World War II era, but it’s the Modern Warfare games that are typically played in esports contests.
Current and past esports contests have also featured the following first-person shooter games.
Team Fortress 2
Alliance of Valiant Arms
Special Force II
Video games in this genre are usually pretty straightforward. They’re mostly one-versus-one style games, with two players simply competing to beat their opponent through combat. Various forms of combat can be used depending on the game, but it’s typically some kind of hand-to-hand combat.
Most fighting games involve a number of timed rounds. Rounds are won by either KO’ing the opponent or having done the most damage when round ends. The first player to win a specified number of rounds is the winner.
These games are ideal for individual esports gaming, and the following two are the most popular. They feature in several major esports tournaments and leagues.
- Street Fighter
- Super Smash Bros.
Street Fighter is a genuine classic. The first release in this Capcom franchise was back in 1987, and there have been several others since. Some of the earlier versions have subsequently been modernized and rereleased too.
The latest version of Street Fighter is Street Fighter V. This was released in 2016, and has already featured at several esports contests. The older games still feature regularly as well though.
Super Smash Bros.
The Super Smash Bros. series started in 1999, when the original game was released for the Nintendo 64. It featured a number of characters from other Nintendo games, and that theme continued throughout the series. There have been five games in total, with the latest two released simultaneously in 2014.
These games have featured at several notable esports contests, including Apex and the Evolution Championship Series.
Although not as popular as the above two games, the following fighting games are also played competitively.
Marvel vs Capcom
King of Fighters
Real Time Strategy Games
Real time strategy (RTS) games are games where decisions must be made based on events and changes that happen in real time. This contrasts with traditional turn-based strategy games. The RTS genre is extremely popular for single-player use, but less so for multi-player. It’s therefore not ideal for esports contests.
There are, however, some exceptions to this. The best example is Starcraft II. This is an INCREDIBLY popular RTS game that was released back in 2010. It was the sequel to the equally popular original Starcraft, and set a new standard for strategy based video games.
Starcraft II also played a key role in the growth of the esports industry. As one of the first video games to be legitimately considered as a spectator sport, it helped to establish the validity of esports contests being played in front of live audiences.
Other RTS games to feature at professional esports contests include the following.
StarCraft: Brood War
Age of Empires
World in Conflict
Sports & Racing Games
Sports and racing video games have long been part of the esports scene. They’re not quite as prevalent as some of the other genres mentioned on this page, but there are a few games that feature regularly at high profile leagues and tournaments. The following two are especially common.
- FIFA Football/Soccer
- Rocket League
The FIFA series of games from EA Sports is one of the most popular sports video game series of all time. The original game was FIFA International Soccer, released all the way back in 1993. Since then there have been over 20 subsequent versions made, and we can now expect to see a new game every 12 months or so. The latest version of FIFA is usually one the most anticipated game releases of the year.
Most sports videogames are based on REAL sports, but Rocket League is one of the exceptions. It’s based on a virtual sport that’s a little bit like soccer, but involves using rocket-powered vehicles to move the ball around. Several esports competitions have featured this game, including ones organized by ESL and Major League Gaming.
Several other sports and racing games are played competitively too, including the following.
Real Subspace Hockey League
Project Gotham Racing
Need For Speed
Pro Evolution Soccer
Our final list of esports games is for those that don’t fall into any of the categories covered above. These are essentially games that are in a genre of all of their own, and can’t really be labelled. There are two in particular that are a big deal on the esports scene.
- World of Tanks
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
World of Tanks
World of Tanks is a free-to-play online game, although there are some premium features that come at a cost. There are also console versions of the game that were released after the original and mobile versions have recently been released too. The basic premise is the same in all versions of the games though.
As the name suggests, this game is about tanks. Players choose which armored vehicle to take control of (from a range of over 400) and are then placed into battle against opponents. The goal is to destroy all enemy vehicles and/or capture the opposing team’s base.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Hearthstone is part of the Warcraft game franchise that includes World of Warcraft. Although not quite as popular as World of Warcraft (few games are), it has a large following and has proved to be ideal for esports contests.
This is a very simple game really. It’s a turn-based game between two players, where the objective is to destroy the opponent. Players control a selected hero, and use cards and crystals to make their moves.
Here are some other esports games that cannot easily be categorized.
Gears of War
Guild Wars 2
World of Warcraft