Warning: Some of the video games listed below are not suitable for younger viewers. Please use caution and check each game’s ESRB rating before allowing children to play them, especially those rated M for Mature. M-rated video games may contain content that is inappropriate for children and/or unlabeled content that exposes younger viewers to explicit messages and themes.
MOBA games have a rich history in computer gaming, and many players prefer them to other genres. But not everyone is familiar with this gaming category. What does MOBA stand for? How can you tell if a game is truly a MOBA? We answer these questions and share a list of top MOBA game titles to play in this essential MOBA game guide.
What does MOBA mean?
As with any tech term, there can be a bit of confusion over the true MOBA definition. The generally accepted MOBA meaning is “multiplayer online battle arena.” If the game doesn’t include any of the aspects of this term, it is not a MOBA. Single-player games and those that feature fighting largely outside of an arena design generally aren’t true MOBAs.
The premise of each game can vary. Your aim may be to destroy other players’ structures or to kill every member of another team. While building may be a component of the game, it’s not usually the primary goal. The most popular MOBAs embrace a theme of strategically sending or attacking in carefully coordinated waves, and the action is usually in real-time.
History of MOBA games
What was the first MOBA game? Not everyone agrees, but early games that were influential to the genre include Herzog Zwei on the Sega Genesis and Blizzard PC game StarCraft.
Most of us know one of the first formally-recognized MOBAs is Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its imaginative player community. They used mods to create new maps and strategies that completely redefined the gaming category that would become widely accepted as the MOBAs we know today.
This style of gameplay, also known as 5v5 MOBA games, went from a few players trying something new to a highly competitive video game market. You’ll find many MOBAs exclusive to certain platforms such as PC, gaming consoles, and even Google or Apple mobile apps. Professional eSports players
generally stick to the PC versions.
List of the 10 best MOBA games for PC today
As with any best game list, opinions will vary. Here are some of the most raved-about titles for anyone looking to explore the MOBA genre.
1. League of Legends by Riot Games
Without a doubt, this is one of the two most talked about MOBA games available for PC. Known as “LoL
” by its fans, League of Legends
is a competitive game with many players going well beyond hobbyists. It’s currently a top title for professional eSports gamers, and some colleges and universities have even developed eSports programs for top-tier players - scholarships included.
So, what’s the appeal for gamers? It boasts a very traditional 5v5 layout along with a plethora of customizable options. It’s simple enough for new MOBA players to cut their teeth on, and offers more than 140 playable characters, numerous builds, and hundreds of ways to maximize the 30 to 50 minute campaigns. It’s popular because it’s a low barrier game that can be played at an incredible skill level, once mastered.
2. DOTA 2 by Valve Corporation
The second most notable title is Dota 2
, a Valve MOBA that takes the true spirit of the original Warcraft III
mod and holds as close as it can to what gamers loved about it. It may not have as many players as LoL
, but it’s a legitimate eSports brand with many pro players choosing to master it over the other MOBA games.
One perk to those who play often is that it's a somewhat difficult game for newbies to master. The gameplay is more sophisticated and the way to win is through item builds. With 115 heroes to choose from, there's sure to be a character that feels right for everyone. Those who are willing to put in the work will find Dota 2 a truly rewarding MOBA with rich worlds and robust campaigns, plus a rivalry that can’t be found anywhere else.
3. Guardians of Middle-Earth by Monolith Productions
While this Lord of the Rings-inspired game is available for other consoles, the PS4 version of Guardians of Middle-Earth is no longer supported and many players have moved to the PC version.
The game puts the spotlight on teamwork, allowing up to 10 players to work in teams of five and pick from among 36 characters from the franchise. Choose to be Sauron, Gandalf, or a host of others, then work with your friends to win battles and wipe out the enemy base.
The gameplay is best experienced on a larger display
, and it isn’t free like some other MOBAs, but it’s a good choice for anyone looking to get into a game with familiar elements. The game isn’t sold in the Steam store any longer, but you can download it from third-party sites, and the faithful few who still play are active and loyal.
4. Heroes of the Storm by Blizzard Entertainment
Remember how the whole concept of MOBAs came from some players getting creative with Blizzard’s Warcraft III
? Well, it makes sense that Blizzard would enter its own title into the market with Heroes of the Storm
. The characters in this game will be familiar to anyone who is a Blizzard fan because you’ll recognize faces from StarCraft
, and even Diablo
You'll probably see this title as the revamped Heroes 2.0, an improved game that progresses beyond the original version to give players a loot box mechanism similar to Overwatch. There are no items in this game, but the loot is the reason for many players to keep coming back. Level up your abilities, become more powerful, and use one of your two "ultimate" abilities for every match.
5. Smite by Hi-Rez Studios
As the name implies, this game is centered around gods, specifically of the old-world mythology, and what they do to battle it out. Play as Zeus, Thor, or your choice of more than 100 gods, and enjoy how the third-person view creates a more unique playing perspective.
is an international favorite that’s played often at global eSports competitions every year. It also attracts a player community of all ages and cultures. Smite
is one of the games that it may pay to learn to master given that the annual Smite World Championship has a top prize of $1 million.
6. Heroes of Newerth by S2 Games
This highly-technical MOBA has a steep learning curve, but fans of Heroes of Newerth
adore its slick graphics and almost unlimited gameplay variations. Play on the larger 5v5 map or one of two smaller 3v3 maps. With so many heroes to choose from and a very large and passionate player community, it takes only seconds to find a campaign to jump into.
This game has been around for many years, which means the players who love it are quite experienced. It's gaining popularity in other countries, too, where newer players are just discovering it.
7. Battlerite by Stunlock Studios
is about battles. A relatively simple MOBA, it’s appealing to those who want to jump in and fight, giving players quick 10 to 15 minute bouts with intense fight situations. It’s been compared to World of Warcraft's
Arena, and many players love that the battlefield can get very small and very heated. 1v1 battles are not uncommon, and the game is a must-play for anyone who wants fast, duke-it-out campaigns that feel more like boxing rounds than intricate battle scenarios.
8. Monday Night Combat by Uber Entertainment
This third-person shooter MOBA has been around since 2010 and has earned a top spot from fans who like an old-fashioned shoot-out. Two teams face off in Monday Night Combat
and try to destroy the other’s moneyball and keep their own from being destroyed.
This futuristic take on Monday Night Football is unique and popular. The game has been well-received by critics and a sequel, Super Monday Night Combat, was released in 2012. The sequel has since been closed down due to changes in European regulations .
9. AirMech by Carbon Games
If you loved Herzog Zwei
in the ‘90s, this is your game. AirMech
features transforming robots with unique abilities and stats, and the ability to customize your army. Play competitively or cooperatively, asking friends to join to take the campaign. This sky-based game features all kinds of flying robots and machines who take aim from the air.
This game isn't as global as some, with players focused in geographic areas like the U.S. and Europe. If you're playing from outside these places, expect to wait for a matchup. It's also a bit of an unbalanced gameplay experience for those who are willing to spend cash. In-game purchases allow players to invest in leveling up, putting those who play for free at a distinct disadvantage.
10. Awesomenauts by Ronimo Games
The ultra-inventive Awesomenauts
is perhaps one of the most exciting MOBA to play. But it has one caveat: the community is shrinking and it may be impossible to find other players online to challenge. That said, first-time MOBA players will like the side-scrolling features and will find the often-difficult strategies to be rewarding due to the unique game-play experience.
Because many people still love the game despite the dying community, it's a good option if you have friends who can get online for a battle between buddies.
Which MOBA game is right for you?
With so many MOBAs to choose from, your choice of the best MOBA may come down to style preferences, modding ability, or even the community that you play with. MOBAs are incredibly social and give players a way to connect with others in the game, on message boards, and as part of other online fan communities. The experience may be what draws you to a particular MOBA, but it’ll be the people who keep you playing.
Like other video games, MOBAs don't last forever. Finding a game you love doesn't mean you'll always be able to play it. Unlike games you can download and play offline years after they've stopped being supported by the developers, MOBAs rely on a real-time, live community to make the action happen.
If the developer stops hosting servers or providing updates, it's just a matter of time before a game becomes a thing of the past. You may find that looking for regularly-updated games offer the best chance of falling in love with a title that will last.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.