Multiplayer games are the best type of games, because they’re built around the most interesting components known to humans: humans. Men, women, and an awful lot of children.
Internet strangers aren’t always the friendliest bunch, but they can surprise you in ways that a static system can’t. People form the living, beating hearts of the gaming moments I value the most. Join me, then, as I point at the games that encase those beating hearts best.
Outwitting another human will always be more satisfying than outwitting an AI. The games on this list are geared towards competitive multiplayer, though do check out our roundup of the 25 best co-op games if you’d rather work with your neighbour than beat them up.
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Onward is basically a slower-paced Counter-Strike in VR, and it’s every bit as exhilarating as that suggests. Two teams of five fight over objectives while wrestling with guns that come with all the faff of their real world counterparts. I’ll never forget the time I lay quivering on top of a rooftop, forgetting how to reload my sniper rifle thanks to the panic-inducing bullets pinging off the concrete around me.
I’ve told this story in at least three different places on RPS, but you’re going to hear it again because it’s such a good illustration of VR’s potential.
My back was pressed against a wall, and the fallen members of my team were pressed around their specating screens. The bomb needed arming and I needed to be the one to do it, but I was sure I could hear an opponent lying in wait for me around a corner. In a normal FPS, I’d have had no choice but to jump into the trap. In VR, I realised I only needed to stick one arm around the wall and fire.
I stepped out of safety to find my would-be ambusher crumpled at my feet. If you own some cybergoggles and haven’t tried Onward, sort it out.
Notes: If you’re shorter than 5’6 the guns on your avatar won’t match up to where they are on your body, which sucks.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Pavlov VR is a faster-paced ‘VR Counter-Strike’ that can’t match Onward’s tension, but still offers some cracking VR firefights and involves far less waiting around.
24. Mount Your Friends
Mount Your Friends is what QWOP would look like if it was a multiplayer game about having an orgy on top of a goat. It’s about overcoming awkward controls to climb an ever growing mountain composed of your mates. It’s about cheering when they pull off something impressive and cheering harder when they spectacularly fail.
You’re eliminated if you can’t reach the top within 60 seconds, so when you start playing your piles of men probably won’t be that mountainous. Every limb needs to be carefully extended individually, and you’ll find yourself slowly dragging your way up before pressing the wrong button and plummeting to the ground.
Put a little practice in though, and you can do vertical cartwheels at speeds that would embarrass Mo Farah. Momentum can be used to swing your body far, far into the air… and over to the opposite side of the tower, before plummeting to the ground. That’ll earn you the biggest cheer of all.
The journey from gangliness to grace is one well worth taking, but definitely embark on it with some friends.
Notes: There’s also a mode that turns everything literally sideways, and a surprisingly fun deathmatch mode where you joust with pointy hats.
What else should I be playing if I like this: They’re not multiplayer, but QWOP, GIRP and Getting Over It are all great games about overcoming infuriating control schemes.
Read more: Have You Played… Mount Your Friends?
I’m cheating here because this is actually a pack of four local multiplayer games, though not all of them will change your life. Joust is a blast but requires Playstation Move controllers, BaraBari Ball isn’t as fun as its name and Hokra is neat but gets old too quickly.
Super Pole Riders, though, is sublime.
A ball hangs above you and your opponent, suspended from a wire that runs between each team’s goal. At first you might both just limply bat at the ball with your pole, caught in a stalemate with an equally flummoxed friend (or two, if you’re playing doubles). Then one of you will figure out how to fly.
Dig in at the right angle, flick your joystick in the right way, and you’ll go soaring into the air. Hit the ball, and it’ll go hurtling towards your opponent’s goal. Land on that opponent, and you can gain some precious ground while they respawn.
Hilarity ensues as you each battle against initially fiddly controls, then transcend them to become agile in that uniquely Bennett Foddy way (famed for QWOP, Getting Over It).
Notes: There’s a free Flash version of Pole Riders, which isn’t nearly as refined but is almost as much fun.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Bennet Foddy’s other games, though they’re not multiplayer.
Read More: Have You Played… Sportsfriends?
22. Mortal Kombat X
Candid admission time: it felt wrong to leave this list without a fighting game on it, but they’re not really in my wheelhouse. I can’t tell you if or why Mortal Kombat X is better than other fighting games because I haven’t played many, so it’s OK if you want to mentally replace this entry with your brawler of choice. I’ll allow it.
But hey, Mortal Kombat X is great fun. Look past the gratuitous gore (or look at it through begrudgingly appreciative ‘oh, come on now’ spectacles) and you’ll see a solid punchfest between pleasingly outlandish characters. There are nuances to delve into if you like, though you can go a long way with just a couple of combos and some panache.
This iteration of Kombat is particularly keen on turning each stage into more than a pretty background, offering opportunities to jump about and occasionally chuck passers by at your opponent.
What else should I be playing if I like this: The same team made Injustice: Gods Among Us, if you prefer your fighting games to be a little more DC.
Northgard is an elegant RTS where winter can pose a bigger threat than an army of axemen. Every villager adds another hungry mouth to feed, and food is always in short supply. Especially when the snow starts to fall.
Time ticks ever onward and winter is always just around the corner, bringing harsh production penalties along with rat plagues, blizzards and earthquakes. Even so, the slow pace and relative simplicity of Northgard make it easy to get into – if not to excel at. You probably won’t meet your viking foes until you’re fifteen minutes into a match, and it’ll be longer still before you start poking at their territory. If you even want to.
The dash of 4X in Northgard’s DNA means military conquest isn’t the only route to victory. Amass enough fame, wealth or knowledge and it won’t matter how many angry Norsemen are at your gates. That gives multiplayer matches a dynamic that goes beyond the one-note destruction of other RTSeses, where the leading player tries to distract everyone from their imminent victory. I once won a game by pretending my villagers had all been eaten by wolves, tricking my opponents into thinking they could focus on expanding their own settlements rather than tearing down mine. I must have looked unbearably smug when I learnt the last bit of lore I needed to win a knowledge victory.
Victory is sweet, but my favourite moments in Northgard have all been when me and the friends I’m competing with get struck by the same calamity together. They’re the moments when a seasonal disaster punctuates everyone’s routine with panic, and when you overcome the threat while your neighbour is still shouting about how everything is on fire. You’re pitted against the world as much as each other, which is what makes thriving in it so satisfying.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Here’s Brendy’s roundup of accessible RTSs.
Read more: Northgard review.
20. Regular Human Basketball
Just some regular humans here, nothing to look at. Nope, no giant robots equipped with jetpacks, magnets and retractable legs playing basketball. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
You’ll need to assemble four friends for Regular Human Basketball to work properly, but if you can manage that you’re in for a treat. It’s just like normal basketball, except each team controls a mech by frantically running around inside it to reach the controls.
It’s difficult enough when you’re on your own, but coordinating with a teammate who has a VERY different idea about ‘appropriate times to activate the jetpack’ can be a nightmare. A hilarious nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless.
Notes: The original version is still free on Itch, though it doesn’t have online multiplayer.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime also involves confusedly piloting a machine by jumping around its rooms, though in co-op rather than competitive multiplayer.
Read more: Have You Played… Regular Human Basketball?
19. Neptune’s Pride
It feels almost irresponsible to recommend Neptune’s Pride, but here we go. Take a long, loving look at your friends – because you’re never going to see them the same way again.
You start with just one lonely star, and win once you’ve populated 50% of the galaxy. Ships can take half a day or more to reach their destination, so strap in for a few weeks of excitement, exasperation and despair.
You make simple decisions with the stars you capture, devoting them to produce money, ships or research. That’s not really where the game is, though.
The game actually takes place in the 2am texts between you and the neighbour who you’re pretending to ally with, but are actually just milking for information before you pincer them between your forces and those of the person who you’re actually working with. For now.
Much like its board game inspiration, Diplomacy, Neptune’s Pride is about weaving a Machiavellian web around your friends while they attempt to do the same. Everyone goes home covered in the icky filament of betrayal. It’s an unforgettable experience, whether you wind up basking in that or loathing it.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Subterfuge is a mobile game with essentially the same premise, but swaps out the spaceships for submarines and lets you get up to more tricks.
18. For Honor
You won’t find much honour in the servers of this third-person stab ’em up, but that’s part of the fun. What sort of duel doesn’t include the threat of being pushed into a pond?
I’m bringing up duels because those are where For Honor shines. There’s a tortuous progression system that gives advantages to those rich in time or pocket money, but the 1v1 and 2v2 battles strip that out and offer a level playing field. Apart from those aforementioned ponds.
I know I keep banging on about it, but the pleasure of so many multiplayer games rests in getting into your opponent’s head. For Honor excels at letting you do that, with a combat system that makes every feint, parry and dodge part of a mind game that varies depending on which vikings, knights or samurai are on the field.
A shield-bearing Warlord and hulking Shugoki might slowly pad around each other, launching ponderous blows that deal devastating damage if they land. Two assassin type peacekeepers, meanwhile, might resemble a whirlwind of knives constantly nipping at each combatant’s health bar. Best of all are when the squidgy, agile classes meet the big lumberers in David Vs. Goliath clashes.
What else should I be playing if I like this: PvP duels in Dark Souls.
17. Quake Champions
Right, look, I haven’t played any of the old Quake games because my flesh is too young and sprightly. Maybe one of those should have taken this spot, but I doubt it.
I doubt it because this is everything people have told me a Quake game should be. You’re nimble. You’re deadly. If you play the best mode, Instagib, you’re equipped with a one-hit instakill laser rifle that explodes people in showers of gristle and instant gratification.
There are character specific abilities in the mix, which some naysayers claim sully the purity of symmetrical laser ballet, but to me they add variety and a welcome layer of strategy. They don’t suffocate, they enhance. I’m fond of dancing around opponents as Slash, then setting off the explosive trail I’ve woven around the battlefield.
Instagib mode captures that ‘every man for himself’ excitement which can drown in the chaotic brawls of normal deathmatches with health pools. I wish I was playing it right now.
Notes: At the time of writing this still doesn’t have capture the flag mode, which will probably be a blast.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Titanfall 2 is another shooter where you’re light on your feet, unless those feet are inside a big mech.
16. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the culmination of 14 years of development to a genre-defining team shooter. Five terrorists want to arm a bomb, or defend a hostage. Five counter-terrorists want to stop them. You know how CounterStrike works, right?
It’s a deeply unimaginative premise, but that doesn’t matter – CS: GO is one of the most stimulating games I’ve ever played. The guns feel great and if the maps were any more refined they’d start cutting into the fabric of reality, but those are the factors that enhance Counter-Strike’s best moments rather than generate them.
There’s an exquisite tension to being the last person left alive on your team. The same can be said for any game with the same round structure, but the simplicity of Counter-Strike elevates that dynamic.
The knowledge that four pairs of eyes are studying your every move, especially when those eyes belong to people you know, has an impact that’s both intoxicating and paralysing. I can count the number of times I’ve come out on top when I’ve been outnumbered on one hand, but there’s no situation where success feels more rewarding.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Rainbow Six: Siege
15. Rainbow Six Siege
You know those movie moments where a flashbang goes off and a squad of highly-trained agents crash through windows while rappelling into a room? That’s what Rainbow Six Siege is all about.
People will tell you tactics are more important than aiming, but they’re lying. If you don’t want to be the first one to die each round in this Counter-Strike-like shooter, you’ll need both.
The basics will sound familiar: one team has to plant a bomb or pry a hostage away from the other. It diverges from Counter-Strike with its classes, which all bring different abilities to bear on levels with destructible walls and floors.
The team playing offense needs to carefully plan their attack, breaching rooms from multiple angles simultaneously. When you swing through a window at the same time as your friends detonate their C4 on the opposite wall, you can almost convince yourself you should be in the actual SAS.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Counter-Strike, though it might feel like a step backwards.
Read more: Alec’s Rainbow Six Siege review, Dave’s Rainbow Six Siege guides, Has Rainbow Six Siege been improved by its updates?
I’ve committed to few games as hard as I have to Duelyst. It’s a CCG with a board-based twist, where the positioning of your units can matter more than their composition.
The new playing field brings new meaning to Familiar abilities. Taunt, for example, will only impact adjacent units – while other ‘keywords’ might allow a minion to teleport, or hit every enemy in a line. It gives you more to think about, and saves you from feeling like you deck is playing itself.
It would be remiss to not mention one of Duelyst’s finest touches: a button that allows you to swap an unwanted card each turn. It gives you a greater deal of control over your deck without sacrificing the card-spewing randomness that makes CCGs tick. Even so, I was so keen to make my deck optimal that I once got a streamer to refine my deck. He didn’t change a thing, which was both flattering to my deck-building self but not what my card-playing self wanted to hear.
The price model is still skimpy, though it’s not too bad compared to other offenders in the genre.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Here’s Brendy’s guide to online CCGs, and some of my own recommendations from when I used the Hearthstone servers being down as an excuse to push them on people.
13. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds
A hundred murderers parachute onto an island. Only one can survive.
An average game of Plunkbat consists of 10-20 minutes of uneventful wandering, then being shot in the back of the head by someone you never had a chance of spotting. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a multiplayer game in years.
Well, maybe not specifically in those matches – but the frequency of failure is part of what makes success so thrilling. Tension escalates alongside heart-rates as the blue zone creeps in, until just a handful of players are hemmed together in the final minutes of a round. Every second of those final moments justifies the build-up, which has a tension of its own if you’re playing solo – but with some friends in tow it’s surprising how readily that tension sublimes into hilarity.
Fill those lulls with conversation and antics, and Plunkbat becomes the best murder island hangout this side of post-brexit Britain.
What else should I be playing if I like this: There’s a real drought of battle royale games, unfortunately. Your options are limited to Fortnite, Realm Royale, H1Z1, Surviv.io, Last Tide, Isles of Nyne, and dozens of others that I’ve missed.
12. StarCraft 2
The holy grail of RTS design, and not for no reason. It’s a slick, polished to perfection unit-bosser that hasn’t been bettered in the X years since it came out.
Gosh, it’s hard though. At least, if you want to compete on the ladder: that direction involves research, timing memorisation and a faster clicking finger than a snapping mouse trap. Playing with friends lets you be a little more goofy. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to worry about zerg rushes because you know your mate always plumps for Hydralisks.
It’s another one where playstyles lead to identities. I play a particular brand of Protoss, because I’m a prick who loves the idea of kicking ass with all their fiddly units when really I’m more cut out for Siege tanks and marines.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Again, Brendy’s guide to accessible RTSs should steer you in the right direction.
Read more: Quinns enjoyed being an insect.
11. Battlefield 1
Ahh, Battlefield. You behemoth.
I’ve spent so many hours in Battlefield 1’s trenches that I’ve tired of being bombarded, but I wouldn’t for a second want anyone else to miss out on it. Playing a Battlefield game is like submerging yourself in liquid explosion. It’s horrible, chaotic and extraordinary.
For sheer spectacle, nothing can compete with 64 players clashing on rubble-strewn maps packed with destructible buildings. Battlefield’s been doing that for yonks, but this iteration ramped up that spectacle with ‘Behemoth’ vehicles, such as a map-dominating blimp and an armoured train. Bigger vehicles means bigger explosions, so they’re a welcome addition – though where this really steps up from Battlefield 4 (the previous entry in the series, because video games are stupid) is with superior infantry combat.
WW1 turned out to be the perfect excuse to introduce weapons with genuinely different characteristics that are less reliable at range, pushing their wielders towards the nitty-gritty of close quarters combat. I’d tell you about how satisfying it is to snipe people, but I’d get told off in the comments.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Every other Battlefield, even if you only see each map once.
10. Garry’s Mod
Some people like to build, and that’s great. I like to let other people do the hard work and poke at whatever they create.
Garry’s Mod is many things to many people, but for me it’s collection of home-brewed nonsense assembled from Steam assets and unhampered imagination. I’ve dabbled in the free-form construction mode, but most of my time has been spent on Fretta servers.
Within the same half hour, I’ve dodged geometric shapes while clambering up a slope alongside 30 other people. I’ve built bobsleds, then raced them. I’ve hunted down players posing as inanimate objects, completed obstacle courses and played charades.
The game changes whenever enough people vote for it to, so if you pile into a server with a handful of friends you can form a voting cartel and ensure the game swaps at your whim. Plenty of the games are fun in their own right, but Fretta works best when you’re constantly pushing on to the next.
That ‘oh, so that’s what we’re doing!’ at the start of each game is a moment to be treasured.
What else should I be playing if I like this: I’m stumped. Mario Party?
Battlerite takes the top-down teamfighting from MOBAs and builds a whole game around them. Accurate aiming and quick reflexes are key, but it’s the psychology behind Battlerite’s scraps that I love the most. It’s played in 2v2 or 3v3, though my favourite moments happen when only two combatants remain.
Think of a fencing match, but with swords swapped out for spells. There are dodges and counters and stuns, all with nuances that need to be learned and adapted to. It’s an intimidating amount to learn by the standards of most games, but a far cry from the knowledge bases that its progenitors ask you to pick up.
It’s perfect for anyone who’s interested in that element of Dota or LoL, but has never felt drawn to the drawn-out slogs they can become. For everyone else, it’s a great way to see some of what you’re missing.
Notes: Battlerite is now available in battle royale flavour.
What else should I be playing if I like this: This is the spiritual successor to Bloodline Champions, so that might be worth a poke. Alternatively: Dota.
Read more: Battlerite review
Nidhogg is electric. It’s sharp. It’s hilarious.
You play as one of two souls, both doomed to repeatedly die in a hellish battle to reach a mythical worm that will devour one of them and set them free from torment. It’s a series of simple 2D sword fights, where you and a friend compete to reach opposites sides of multi-screened arenas.
We haven’t quite reached the best sword fights in video games, but Nidhogg’s come close. The mismatched weapons introduced in the sequel create duels with an appeal of their own, but they’re a messy counterpoint to Nidhogg’s cleanly symmetrical tussles.
Two evenly matched Nidhoggers are a glorious sight to behold, and they’re a sight that’s meant to be beheld. Nidhogg plays best when there’s a crowd to cheer at every stab and riposte, to gasp at every last-second comeback and laugh every time a player accidentally throws themselves down a hole.
Party games don’t get better than this. Apart from No. 3.
Notes: Turn on boomerang swords.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Nidhogg 2 is the obvious place to start, but Eggnogg might be even better. It’s a free version of Nidhogg that someone made while they were waiting for it to come out, which puts its own spin on the same formula.
7. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
This. This is the entry with the best sword fights in video games.
Whenever I hear anyone talk about a new game with deep first-person melee combat, I think about how it won’t be as good as Chivalry’s. Melee combat in other games can feel hectic and weightless, but in Chivalry every swing is imbued with heft and consideration.
Fighting isn’t about learning combos. It’s about mastering the nuances of attacks that can be sped up or slowed down, cancelled and riposted. It’s about getting into the mind of your enemy, anticipating their responses and reacting to those in turn. It’s about learning to slam your mouse backwards in a move dubbed ‘matrixing’, where your character tilts their torso horizontally to dodge a strike before following up with their own.
You’ll get yourself killed a billion times before you pull it off, but it’s worth it.
What else should I be playing if I like this: I’d happily recommend its spell-slinging cousin, Mirage: Arcane Warfare, if I thought you’d have anyone to play with. The servers are sadly empty, so I guess I’ll recommend For Honour instead.
6. Rocket League
Bombastic joy. Those are the two best words to describe Rocket League, a game about playing football with rocket-propelled cars.
That joy kicks in from the very first second. It’s scrappy at first, a mess that invokes childhood memories of school kids swamping the ball, not sparing a thought for teamwork or positioning. That can still provide a chaotic giggle, but Rocket League literally soars to greater heights once everyone knows what they’re doing.
A well-executed aerial shot is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in a video game. Combing the boost button with a double jump at just the right time at just the right angle opens up a space for dextrous plays that hover just out of reach, accessible only to the dedicated but on display for the masses.
Games have discovered plenty of ways to create tension, but chucking players into a field with a ball and two goals remains one of the most effective.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Laser League is a very different game, but mirrors Rocket League’s combination of depth and accessibility, and its matches only last a little bit longer. Regular Human Basketball and Pole Riders are both great games involving balls.
There’s a theme with the games on this list, where I highlight how they’re a lovely time if you’re playing with friends. Which is fine: these games are here because they’re particularity good at facilitating enjoyment amongst company. But I’ve played an awful lot of Overwatch by myself, which is a sure sign that it’s a cut above.
To get my attention, class based games only really need to have one or two that I really click with. I know some have broader pallets, but I like to pick someone who’s nippy and deadly, then specialise. Much of Overwatch’s joy stems from the way I’m not the only type who’s spoilt for choice.
Genji properly feels like a ninja, with the ability to climb walls and deflect fire back at his opponents. Reaper feels like a proper bruiser, a rudeboy ghost with double shotguns that materialise from dimensions unknown. Tracer provides the epitome of annoying hit n’ run playstyles, Winston is as attention grabbing as gorilla’s ought to be and – most recently – Hammond the hamster offers a degree of grapple hook enhanced mobility that gives him a freedom of movement relative to other heroes that’s unparalleled in any other game. Each of the current 28 characters oozes personality, and each changes how the game must be played in a multitude of ways unique to them.
Beyond the endlessly inventive character design, there are masterful touches everywhere you look. When opponent’s use their mega-powerful ultimate abilities, a warning cry echoes across the battlefield in their native language. If they’re on your team, then you’ll hear it in English. The footsteps of your opponents are louder than those of your allies.
Throw in some best-in-class voice acting complete with splendid cross-character interactions, and you’ve got a team shooter that will be played for decades to come.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Team Fortress 2 is probably closest, although wildly different player counts and its lack of abilities mean they play very differently.
Read more: Our Overwatch verdict, Have You Played… Overwatch?, Overwatch’s Symmetra changes placate the toxic parts of its community, a reminder that Overwatch should be the friendliest shooter ever, Has Overwatch been improved by its updates?, Why we need a 2 player Play Of The Game, Hammondball is the apotheosis of Esports.
4. Devil Daggers
You might be wondering what I’m playing at, putting a sublime singleplayer wave-survival shooter near the top of a best multiplayer games list. What manner of provocative stunt is this?
It’s a provocative stunt designed to celebrate one of the best types of multiplayer gaming: leaderboard chases! Devil Daggers would still be fantastic if it lacked a leaderboard, but it did need one to make me persevere after my hundredth death to the same spidery monstrosity. Without a friend’s score to surpass, the difference between surviving for 102 or 103 seconds is nothing. With it, that extra second means everything.
The magic only works when you can entice in a friend or two, which happens naturally when these sort of games first come out but inevitably dwindles over time. You know what though? Round up a few competitively-minded friends, revisit this, Super Hexagon, or even Opus Magnum – and I bet you’ll have a whale of a time.
Notes: A hot tip for Devil Daggers: take your finger off the trigger every now and then. That lets you vacuum up the rubies that pour out of enemies, which massively increase your firepower each time you collect enough of them.
What else should I be playing if I like this: All those other leaderboard chasers I mentioned.
3. Towerfall Ascension
Towerfall Ascension is my favourite local-multiplayer game. It’s got a neat wave survival co-op mode, but that’s not why it’s here. It’s here because nothing has thrilled or delighted me in quite the same way as one of Ascension’s archery duels.
It goes up to four players, and its best mode is its simplest: last archer standing wins. Ascension tells engrossing stories with just three verbs – dodging, jumping and shooting. It only takes a single arrow to take out a player, but a well timed dash can let them safely pluck the offending projectile out of the air. It’s a system that gives fights a wonderful back and forth feeling to them, and results in the best slow motion replays in video games.
Plus the jumping feels real good.
Notes: When you tire of the numerous normal levels, the Steam Workshop has plenty more.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Samurai Gunn is sort of like a blend between this and Nidhogg.
Read more: Have You Played… Towerfall Ascension?
2. Team Fortress 2
The problem with writing about Team Fortress 2, Valve’s unsurpassed class-based shooter, is that I’m in love with one particular version of it.
It’s the version I get to play as a Spy, the weakest character in the game when it comes to a straight up fight. His is a stealthy approach, often revolving around his ability to turn invisible with the aid of different types of watch. That’s deception of a sort, but not the kind that makes his the most unique and memorable role you can play in any multiplayer game. Really, the Spy is all about acting.
It only takes one suspicious Pyro for a ruse to come undone, but you’d be amazed what you can get away with. Slap on a disguise, backpedal from the frontlines while screaming for a medic, and four times out of five times the most important member of the enemy team (their medic, always their medic) will trot right up to you. Maybe he’ll try to give you an inquisitive whack with his bonesaw, but if you know what you’re doing that whack won’t land. You’ll have already stabbed him in the back with your insta-kill knife, potentially drawing from a bag of ninja-esque moves that combine agility with psychological trickery.
More so than with Overwatch, each class plays like a different game – and some items transform their wielder into new classes in their own right. I’ve spent dozens of hours with the double-jumping Scout and the ‘nade spamming Demoman, but it’s the Spy who stole my heart. Give him a chance, and maybe he’ll steal yours.
Notes: Blizzard have since lent their cinematic prowess to the cartoons they release alongside new Overwatch characters, but TF2 did it first and TF2 did it best.
What else should I be playing if I like this: There’s nothing quite like it, but Overwatch is similar in that each class has radically different capabilities.
1. Dota 2
It feels contrived to describe Dota 2 as a hobby rather than a game, but that doesn’t make that description any less fitting. I’ve poured thousands of hours of my life into it, and I can see myself pouring in thousands more. Dota isn’t just a game: it’s an eternally evolving battleground where limits are tested and friendships are forged.
Sure, every competitive game is about testing limits, but part of what makes Dota special is how many it tests at once. There’s the sheer amount of knowledge that it demands you absorb, the hundreds of items and spells and the endless interactions between them. You’ll need to hone reflexes, develop strategies and learn to be patient with both yourself and others.
That sounds like a lot of hard work, and well, it is – but importantly, another limit I often find being tested in the middle of Dota is my ability to concentrate while laughing hysterically.
Dota is stupendously silly. I mean that both in the sense that it’s ostensibly about wizards trying to knock over rock-gardens that form fragments of a sentient moon, and in a mechanical sense. I could have learnt a language (or several) in the time I’ve spent playing Dota, but almost every match still includes unexpected moments that make me gasp and giggle.
An example: last weekend, I was in a game where an enemy’s spell went travelling across the map after I teleported myself out of danger. Ten seconds later, while I recuperated in my base, the stun landed and bounced to a nearby teammate in the middle of his attempt to teleport to the front lines. We lost an important fight because of it, in a way that seems maddeningly unfair while epitomising Dota’s ‘anything goes’ philosophy.
It’s exactly the sort of thing a game designer might just as easily look at and go ‘well, we’ll have to stop that’, and exactly the sort of thing that makes me keep playing.
Notes: You won’t ‘get’ Dota until you’ve played it for about 100 hours, and you won’t ‘really get’ Dota until you’ve played for many more. Whether you find that intimidating or enticing is a good way to decide if this is for you.
What should I be playing if I like this: League of Legends is probably pretty good too.
Read more: Pip’s guide for beginners is getting a little dated now, but it’s still a cracking place to start. There are also a whopping 53 articles in her Dote Night column. I spoke to an ex-Dota pro about toxic teammates.
Thus ends our list of the best multiplayer games to play on PC. Is your favourite game missing from the list? It’s probably at #26, but before you rush to call us names in the comments: stop. Your derision of us won’t bring new fans to your beloved multiplayer bonanza. Instead, write about why you love the game you love, and maybe we’ll reconsider its standing when we update this list.
This list, by the way, looks like this when laid out in full:
24. Mount Your Friends
22. Mortal Kombat X
20. Regular Human Basketball
19. Neptune’s Pride
18. For Honor
17. Quake Champions
16. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
15. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
13. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds
12. StarCraft 2
11. Battlefield 1
10. Garry’s Mod
7. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
6. Rocket League
4. Devil Daggers
3. Towerfall Ascension
2. Team Fortress 2
1. Dota 2
If you still thirst for yet more great games to play, we’ve got many other suggestions. Check out these objectively true best-of lists elsewhere on the site:
- The best PC games to play right now
- The greatest PC games of all time
- The best free PC games to play right now
- Our games of the year 2019
Or try our genre-specific lists, if you want a particular kind of great game to play:
- The best strategy games on PC
- The 50 best RPG on PC
- The best coop games ever made
- The best VR games
- The best FPS games
- The best management games
- The best survival games
- The best space games on PC
- The best non-violent games
- The 14 best Metroidvanias
- The 10 best hacking games
- The best horror games on PC
- The 10 greatest games based on movies
- The 25 best stealth games on PC
- The 25 best action games on PC
- The 25 best adventure games ever made
- The 25 best puzzle games on PC