Looking for the best MOBAs? Multiplayer RTS games like League of Legends are also known as MOBAs – or ‘multiplayer online battle arenas’. That explanation might not leave you any the wiser about what a MOBA actually is, so, to briefly summarise: MOBAs are 5v5 matches in which two teams ultimately attempt to destroy their opponents’ base and achieve glorious victory.
The best MOBA games all follow the same broad template: each player chooses a character at the start of the match, and they begin at level one and are initially relatively weak. Using the resources available on the map, your objective is to gradually become more powerful than your foes and eventually overpower them.
MOBAs can be pretty complicated to get your head around as a new player, as many of them have lots of complex mechanics to master – but that’s also what makes them particularly suited to being some of the biggest esports games in the world. Of course, there are plenty of fun MOBAs that are more accessible and easy to play, too. So if you’re ready to choose a lane, here’s our guide to the best MOBA games.
These are the best MOBA games:
- Dota 2
- League of Legends
- Pokemon Unite
- League of Legends: Wild Rift
The original Dota – Defense of the Ancients – is a Warcraft III custom game from 2003, and one of the very first MOBAs. Valve’s sequel, Dota 2, was launched in 2013, and has since grown into one of the biggest multiplayer games on PC.
Like most MOBAs, the Dota 2 map is split into three lanes; the safe lane, middle lane, and off lane, across two opposing territories: Radiant and Dire. It’s not entirely symmetrical, but the lanes are mirrored; Radiant’s safe lane meets Dire’s off lane. There’s a broadly established ‘meta’ regarding the best types of characters to start in each lane; two team fighters in the off lane, a high damage hero in the mid lane, and an item-dependent character in the safe lane with a support to keep them safe.
Though it’s arguably the most difficult MOBA to learn, one of the best things about Dota 2 is that it’s entirely free-to-play, so there’s no need to individually unlock any of its 110+ playable heroes – you can just hop right in (although we do have a guide to the best Dota 2 heroes to play in Dota 2 ranked to make your choice a little easier).
Dota 2’s update schedule isn’t particularly regular, but the game’s balance is finely tuned so that most heroes are viable in the right situation, even in the highest level of competitive play: the Dota 2 International. Compared to other MOBAs, Dota 2 places a big emphasis on strategy and team play rather than simply executing your abilities well. That means studying the game inevitably pays off, and you can often figure out a way to come back from an unfavourable matchup. There’s also an arcade full of player-made custom games, which is where Dota Auto Chess was born, bringing the autobattler genre to the masses.
League of Legends
League of Legends is the most popular MOBA by far, with millions of regular players across the world and a thriving esports scene. While there’s plenty of intricacy and skill required to climb to the top of the LoL ranks, thanks to a streamlined tutorial and intuitive user interface, new players will find themselves getting the basics down relatively quickly.
Like Dota 2, LoL’s map – known as Summoner’s Rift – is split into three lanes: top, middle, and bottom, each with their own recommended champion types. Unlike Dota, however, they’re not mirrored, so the same sort of characters face off against one another at the beginning of the game. There’s also a ‘jungler’ champion who hangs out in the area between the lanes, defeating monsters for their powerful buffs.
It may seem somewhat intimidating to begin with, until you learn all about the best League of Legends champions, but there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of landing a powerful skillshot on an enemy; fights in League of Legends are particularly fast paced and require a lot of mechanical skill – great if you enjoy a good headshot in an FPS game.
League of Legends is also free-to-play, although not every character is available to you at the beginning and will need to be unlocked. If you’re in the business of unlocking things for fun, League’s reams of dazzling cosmetics are immensely popular with players, and if you happen to get into the lore, the Runeterra universe includes acclaimed animated series Arcane, autobattler Teamfight Tactics, and virtual K-pop supergroup K/DA.
If MOBA games sound appealing to you in theory, but you’re not a fan of the RTS-style top-down camera in LoL and Dota 2, we recommend you try Smite, which is played entirely in third-person. As you may be able to infer from the name, Smite’s roster of playable characters consists of various gods and mythological figures across numerous different historical cultures and religions, each with their own array of godly abilities.
Though you experience it from a different angle, Smite’s main map, Conquest, is broadly similar to League of Legends’; three lanes and a jungle full of monsters that grant various different buffs. There are a few other game modes on offer that take place on alternative versions of the map with fewer (or no) lanes, so there’s plenty of variety on offer.
Available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch, Smite is particularly accessible to new players and relatively simple to get to grips with. In comparison to the bigger MOBAs, Smite doesn’t have a massive player base or competitive scene, but it’s the perfect first MOBA to play in order to try out the genre with friends, particularly if you’re more accustomed to playing games in a third-person perspective.
It’s free-to-play, too, although you’ll need to unlock gods to play them; you start with a pack of free characters, and can play any gods from a temporary rotating pool; the rest require you to purchase them.
The newest MOBA on our list – released in 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS – Pokemon Unite has introduced the genre to a whole new generation. As a more modern MOBA, it’s also made several innovations to update the MOBA blueprint and make it more streamlined and simple to understand.
A standard Pokémon Unite match lasts for only 10 minutes, during which time two opposing teams of five Pokémon compete to get the highest score. Players catch wild Pokémon and then enter a ‘goal zone’ to score points for their team, becoming more powerful over time as they catch Pokémon and defeat enemy players.
The standard map is a circular island split into two halves, with a path around the edge connecting both teams’ bases together, and a central area in the middle. Although the whole ‘laning’ business found in other MOBAs has been done away with, there is an element of strategy regarding where you should spend your time, depending on the type of character you choose to play; ‘Junglers’ head to the centre of the island to farm wild Pokémon and defeat Boss Pokémon to buff the team.
Pokémon Unite is unique among MOBAs for hiding any form of scoreboard during the match, which does help to discourage worrying about comparing your teammates’ scores to your own, for better or for worse. There’s also an official competitive scene emerging, including a hefty prize pool for the first Pokemon Unite Championship Series – check out our Pokemon Unite tier list for tips to help you make it to the big leagues.
League of Legends: Wild Rift
No, you’re not experiencing deja-vu – League of Legends: Wild Rift is a mobile MOBA heavily based on the original League of Legends game, but with a few crucial modifications. Released in 2020, Wild Rift is – like Pokemon Unite – a comparatively modern MOBA designed for the next generation of players.
The most crucial difference between regular LoL and Wild Rift is that the map has been simplified and the pacing of the game has been adjusted in order to streamline each match and shorten the average game length considerably. In effect, it’s been distilled down to the basics: the champions and the basic concept of the map remains exactly the same, but you’re sliding your thumbs around the on-screen joysticks instead of frantically clicking away, and this removes a lot of the mechanical barriers to entry.
The result is a much more casual game that’s easier to introduce to new MOBA converts – of course, if you get hooked and want to devote more time and energy to it, there’s a PC version to conveniently transition over to – shrewd move, Riot.
Now it’s time to select your champion and head to the battlefield – perhaps you could use a League of Legends beginner guide, an explanation of the best Pokemon Unite Defenders, or a refresher on the Dota 2 Spring Cleaning 2022 patch notes to get you ready to compete.