The MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena, is the biggest genre in PC gaming, if not the biggest genre in gaming as a whole right now. The most popular competitive video games in the world (namely, Dota 2 and League of Legends) are both MOBAs. With MOBAs continuing to grow, people who want to enter the scene may wonder where to start.
That’s what this article is for! Whether you want to break into eSports, or just want to dip your toe into this surprisingly complex genre of game, here are the best games out there right now:
This is the OG of MOBAs. Defense of the Ancients started out as a mod for Warcraft III, and birthed the MOBA genre. DotA later spawned DotA: Allstars, which was the most influential version, and the one we’ll be talking about here. DotA has since inspired a number of other titles, including an official, Valve-funded sequel, and the other games in this article. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of this old mod.
- Pure MOBA. As the founder of the genre, you aren’t going to get anything “purer” than DotA.
- Completed. DotA hasn’t been updated for quite some time, since its developers went on to work on Dota 2, League of Legends, and other titles. This means that you don’t need to worry about any big changes to the meta-game. Other games in this list are still being updated and changed, but DotA will always be DotA.
- Will run on a potato. MOBAs are flexible, performance-wise, but on the oldest of the old PCs, DotA will run where others won’t.
- No more support. While this is good for competitive players who don’t want the meta to change, you aren’t going to get new heroes or content updates anytime soon.
- Overshadowed by its legacy. Some loyalists have stuck with DotA, but not nearly as many as play the newer titles. Coming into this one now means entering a small, close-knit, and very experienced community.
- Costly. You’ll need to purchase Warcraft III for this mod, since it runs from that game. It isn’t standalone or free-to-play, which can be a barrier to entry for some people.
When Valve took a liking to the original DotA mod, the company hired the game’s second lead developer, IceFrog, to make a sequel. League of Legends released a little bit before Dota 2 (with support from other DotA devs) making these two games the fiercest competitors for DotA’s legacy.
- Free-to-play done right. The game makes money through microtransactions, but they are all are for cosmetic items that don’t effect gameplay. No purchasing heroes here. You don’t have to worry about other players purchasing their way to superiority.
- A massive competitive scene. The International (that is, The International Dota 2 Championships) is notable for regularly breaking all previous records in terms of size and funding. 2016’s broke $18 million, becoming the largest-funded eSports prize pool of all time.
- Regular updates and developer support. Valve is known for taking care of their games in the long-term, and with Dota 2, it shows.
- Fairly dense. MOBAs in general can be hard to get into for beginners. Compared to its contemporaries, Dota 2 is easily the most difficult.
- Slow-paced relative to League and other titles.
- Smaller overall community. Dota 2 is much more focused on competitive play than casual.
League of Legends is a title developed by RIOT Games. The original Dota mod was created by a designer known as Eul, but the popular Dota: Allstars was created by another designer called Feak. While Feak passed on his work to Icefrog, he later became a part of RIOT Games, and now helps develop League of Legends.
- Fast-paced gameplay. Some like it slow, some like it fast. League games don’t typically suffer from the slow pace Dotas 1 and 2 are accused of.
- Great character design, and lots of characters to choose from. With the largest roster of “champions,” League has its competitors beat on this front.
- Easier for newcomers to get into.
- Free to play done badly. Heroes rotate out of playability every week unless you pay to keep them available for you. This means League can be more expensive to play than Dota 2. This can get significant if you want to unlock everyone: at$2-7 per hero, with 116 heroes unavailable at any given time, you could end up spending a lot of cash…
- Lacks competitive depth. While easier gameplay has its perks, League of Legends suffers from being less complex than Dota. Because of this, Dota 2’s competitive audience remains the biggest. Most of League is occupied by casual players.
Smite is an interesting game developed by Hi-Rez Studios. Played as a third-person action title where you control various gods, Smite has simplified, action-oriented gameplay that prioritizes reflexes, aiming, and mechanical skill a lot more than other titles in the genre.
- Playable with a controller. Due to Smite’s simpler control scheme, it works just fine on controllers and is coming to consoles, which can expand the audience for MOBAs significantly.
- Well-supported and updated by its developers.
- Simplistic gameplay means you’re missing a lot of depth.
- Free to play done wrong. Smite has a similar microtransaction model to League of Legends.
- Competitive exists, but is nowhere near the size of League’s scene, much less Dota’s.
Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s own attempt at a MOBA title. It brings together stars from Blizzard’s many popular properties into one game.
- It’s basically Blizzard Smash Bros. If you’re a fan of Blizzard games, you’ll feel at home here. There are characters from Overwatch, Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, and even The Lost Vikings.
- Super-simplified and fast-paced gameplay compared to other MOBAs.
- Blizzard keeps the game well-supported and updated.
- Competitive suffers yet again. With other games taking up the hardcore competitive players, the audience for this game is more casual.
- Free to play done worse, with even fewer heroes to choose from.
What game is right for you ultimately depends on your preferences. If you want to be a bigtime pro, Dota 2 is your best bet, with League of Legends coming in a close second. These two are also the most complex games in the genre. If you don’t want to spend as much time learning how to play this type of game, simpler titles like Smite and Heroes of the Storm might be more to your liking.
Finally, if you want to be a real purist, you might just want to play the original DotA: Allstars. That’s a little bit strange in this day and age, but you do you, man.