What started off as a mod for a game has spawned an entirely new genre: MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas. While many people will have heard of League of Legends or Dota 2, there's a plethora of MOBAs available to play online – but which are the best?
Here, we take a look at some of the best MOBA games available to play in 2019. For Mac-based gamers, why not check out Macworld UK's recommendation of the best MOBA games for Mac?
League of Legends
League of Legends is hands-down the most popular game in the world at the moment, averaging at around 100 million unique players every month and that’s without talking about the eSports element that’s growing in popularity. The success of the game means that League of Legends has become synonymous with the term MOBA, much like Doom with the FPS category.
Despite featuring a rather traditional MOBA formula, the game features over 130 playable champions with several maps and game modes that help keep the game fresh and exciting year-on-year.
While it’s not as popular as League of Legends with 13 million monthly players, Dota 2 is still a hugely popular MOBA and is Valve’s own entry in the category. The game itself follows a similar formula to League of Legends, but with an added layer of complexity that allows gamers to think more tactically.
Users can perform actions like killing their own creeps to prevent opponents from harvesting gold or delivering items to themselves on the battlefield using a ‘courier’, rather than having to return to their base.
Like League of Legends, Dota 2 is also hugely popular in the eSports scene with world finals garnering multi-million dollar prizes.
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Heroes of the Storm
As one of the first MOBA-style games was originally a Blizzard-owned Warcraft III mod, the company had to create its own: Heroes of the Storm. The game brings together characters from a range of other Blizzard games – StarCraft, Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch – with over 65 available at the time of writing. Despite being a relatively new MOBA, the game is expanding rapidly with Blizzard constantly introducing new heroes to use in-game.
The most noticeable difference between Heroes of the Storm and the likes of League of Legends? There are no items. Instead, players must upgrade their abilities as they level up in-game and make use of two character-specific ultimate abilities (only one of which can be used in each game).
There’s also a wide range of maps that feature power-ups that can change the outcome of the battle. For example, one map features temples that when controlled, fire lasers at the opposing team structures.
Want to pit the likes of Thor and Zeus against each other? Then Smite is the MOBA to play, featuring a range of deities that go head-to-head in a three-lane arena. Much like Paragon, Smite is set in a third-person perspective that can make maintaining awareness of your surroundings difficult, but it makes up for it with moves that take advantage of the different viewing angle.
For example, Thor can launch himself high into the sky and come crashing down on enemies with his hammer, a move that couldn’t be performed on the likes of League of Legends.
While it’s not as popular as others in our roundup, Smite has a healthy base of players and thanks to its third-person perspective, offers something slightly different to the standard MOBA experience.
Strife is easily the smallest out of all the MOBAs in our roundup with only 33 playable heroes at the time of writing, but it’s still worth mentioning not only because it’s created by the same company that made Heroes of Newerth. Coined as a ‘second-generation MOBA’, Strife offers a standard MOBA experience (with three lanes, towers and creeps) along with a giant gorilla called Kratos.
If players can secure the assistance of Kratos in-game, the giant gorilla will charge down the middle lane wiping out everything in its path. It’s not easy to kill either, and will require the attention of multiple members of the same team to take out (leaving other lanes vulnerable to attack).
The developers also claim that the community is much friendlier than those found on the likes of League of Legends, encouraging positive interactions between players on each team.
Vainglory is a little different to the other MOBAs mentioned in our list as it's mobile-only with no way to play on your Mac or PC. It's accessible via the iOS App Store and Google Play for smartphones and tablets, but that's as far as it goes.
Unlike other mobile MOBA games, Vainglory has done away with frustrating on-screen joysticks and virtual buttons. Instead, it uses a simple touch selection mechanic that provides quick response time in the heat of battle. Want to attack an opponent? Tap them. Want to activate your ultimate? Tap it. Want to teleport away from danger? Tap where you'd like to go. You get the idea!
It offers 5v5 PvP combat across several game modes including Classic, Blitz and Battle Royale, and offers over 30 playable characters with different strengths and weaknesses. And, of course, it wouldn't be a MOBA without over 100 skins to unlock and choose from!