Between Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and a dozen other old, new, and upcoming games, the battle royale genre is still exploding in 2020. If you like chaotic multiplayer free-for-all gameplay and you haven't picked up at least one battle royale game yet, you're missing out. Here's our best battle royale games ranked list to help you pick out one that's the best for you.
The Best Battle Royale Games Ranked
It wasn't that long ago that the success of PUBG and Fortnite looked like it would touch off one of those waves of imitation that you see every so often in the video game industry. Both fans and pros had their teeth clenched waiting for a new wave of battle royales from every direction, nation, company, and genre.
As it turned out, that didn't really happen, at least not yet. There are more battle royale games out there than a lot of players realize, since the top three take up a lot of the oxygen in the room, but we never reached that theorized crisis point where every shooter with more than two fans launched its own last-man-standing mode. Thankfully, due to that uncharacteristic restraint by the larger video game industry, battle royales are a healthy sub-genre that just keeps getting better over time. Here are our picks for the top battle-royale games available now, with one newcomer that we’re particularly excited about.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Activision announced recently that Warzone had surpassed 60 million downloads in its first two months of operation, because of course it did. Call of Duty already sells like crazy once a year; when you staple one of the most addictive sub-genres in the business on top of it, you can't help but pull people in. Local stay-at-home orders just accelerated the process.
The advantage of Warzone over other battle royales is that it's a polished first-person shooter, made as a collaborative effort by some of the best FPS developers in the world today. It's remarkably stripped-down compared to many other games, without player inventories and with a low "loot ceiling"; it's all about that adrenaline kick, and getting you to it as fast as possible.
If you like high-lethality, fast-paced shooters, Warzone is made for you. Death doesn't feel like much of a penalty, between the ability to buy respawns for your teammates and being able to return to the fray if you win a duel in the Gulag. On the negative side, it does still have killstreaks, which are obnoxious in Modern Warfare's multiplayer and borderline game-breaking in Warzone's steadily tightening close quarters. A lot of matches end up coming down to waiting until the map's the size of a postage stamp, then buying a cluster strike and kicking back.
Pros: it's a jam project for some of the most experienced developers in the FPS game right now, and it shows
Cons: someone will claim to have "360 no-scoped" you even when that is visibly untrue
Apex is on the other end of a curve from Warzone, with smaller squads and much larger health pools. Unusually for a battle royale, the "Legend" you pick defines both your individual and team strategy, as it would in a hero shooter or MOBA; your character isn't just a random cipher in a funny hat, but offers multiple unique tactical and mobility options. Strategy and team composition count for a lot more than twitch reflexes here. That, and its high general level of polish, won it an instant following that took everyone, including EA, off guard.
Because Apex has a higher time-to-kill for most characters than is the standard in the genre, you have to get creative on the fly to secure your wins. Matchup knowledge can go a long way--that team has a Gibraltar, don't go on a full offensive until his shield's gone down--as can mastering the ping system for effective field communication. If you just want a mindless shoot-and-loot, Apex isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it's got raw speed, creativity, and a broad range of characters on its side.
Pros: you're harder to kill, so the game's easier to learn
Cons: the the reduced but not eliminated risk of getting wrecked by an adorable emoticon robot
Now in Season 7, good old PUBG is still out there doing the work. It's sold over 60 million units across platforms as of December 2019, with 600 million downloads of PUBG Mobile, and it's why we're even talking about "battle royale" as a genre right now. PUBG enjoys a dedicated fanbase, a solid Twitch following, and its own esports league, with the Continental Series Charity Showdown planned for May 14th to the 31st. By any standard, PUBG is a major success, and still has a pool of regular players that's comfortably in six digits... but in 2020, it's consistently overshadowed on all sides by the games that it inspired.
Playing it now, PUBG already feels like a time capsule. Fortnite's crazier, Apex has better movement and loot handling, and Warzone's got better gunplay, but PUBG's still the baseline for the battle-royale experience, stripped down with limited gimmicks. You can argue with some of its developers' recent moves, like adding bots, but this is still the whole genre's foundation stone. Every other battle royale has a bunch of stuff grafted on top of it to make it look like it isn't a PUBG clone, and that counts for something.
Pros: it's weird that a three-year-old game can be said to have "old-school flavor," but here we are
Cons: constant cravings for chicken
Like PUBG, 2018's Cuisine Royale is still releasing updates and catering to a relatively small but fervent group of fans; Cuisine Royale's is an order of magnitude lower, sure, but it's there. It began as an April Fools' joke by the creators of an MMO World War II shooter called Enlisted that's still in development, but Cuisine Royale rapidly grew into a project in its own right. The "Cuisine" in question comes from the ability to use pots and pans as makeshift armor as you explore the map, with refrigerators instead of lootboxes.
Since leaving Early Access last December, Cuisine Royale has flown the rest of the way off into post-Fortnite craziness. Black magic is now a thing, letting you gather souls from killed players to fuel spells and mystic signs, on top of the firearms and vehicles you'd expect from a more mundane sort of shooter. The primary draw of Cuisine Royale, then, is that at any moment in time it can change from a slightly goofier PUBG clone to some weird hell-blend of Unreal Tournament, Hexen, and Dying Light: Bad Blood. While a few of the Signs just do regular old battle-royale things like spawning grenades or hard cover, enough of them are appropriately weird--zombie summons, jump pads, the unnerving but seemingly useless "brown note" spell--that it's a big change of pace.
Having said that, Cuisine Royale is the product of a relatively small team with an occasionally shaky grasp on both English and humor. Including it on this list at all probably earns us some hipster points. The mystic signs go a long way towards elevating it from the pack, however, particularly given how blatantly out of step they are with the rest of the game's looter-shooter feel.
Pros: a perfectly fine battle royale shooter that can and does change genres on a dime
Cons: a little too wacky for wackiness's sake, even by comparison to Fortnite, and that is saying something
Early Access: Last Tide
This one is an acquired taste, and yes, that is a shark pun, and no, I'm not sorry. The sophomore project from the New Zealand-based Digital Confectioners, Last Tide bills itself as an "aquatic royale," where you play as divers hunting one another underwater. The weapons are all based off of current tech, including harpoons and custom firearms, and the environments are surprisingly varied, with plenty of shipwrecks and picturesque ruins to fight through and hide in. It does play a weird trick on you where it's easy to think that it's just another first-person shooter, but you can always swim up to get around obstacles, hide above doorways, and take advantage of the verticality.
The keynote feature here is that it's not just divers vs. divers. You're in shark-infested waters, with a collapsing "shark shield" taking the place of the typical battle-royale shrinking environment, and can employ the sharks against opponents with weapons like chum rounds. While Last Call is missing an opportunity here by not letting you play as a shark--ideally as a Friday the 13th: The Game kind of thing--there is a unique satisfaction to feeding that one guy to a Megalodon the size of a sedan.
Pros: hunting one another through a suspiciously intact sunken ship is the kind of adventure-movie stuff this genre was made for
Cons: if you're scared of sharks, I have some bad news for you
We're excited about Spellbreak specifically because you get to be a wizard. Guns are officially over; it's magical gauntlets time now.
Currently in closed beta on PC and PS4, Spellbreak puts players in the role of feuding magic-users, who can pick from a list of classes that includes Pyromancer, Frostborn, Stoneshaper, or Toxicologist, as well as four different abilities to socket into your gauntlets. You can fly, conjure walls of flame, unleash massive shockwaves, go invisible, throw lightning, and use dozens of other spells, based upon your class and gauntlets. You're hyper-mobile, with massive area-of-effect spells and a huge number of ways to get around the battlefield. Spellbreak in motion looks like how you're supposed to imagine a match of Magic: The Gathering playing out: a bunch of enormously powerful wizards tearing the landscape in half to get at each other.
Spellbreak has been in development for almost two years by Proletariat, a mobile developer made up of talent from Harmonix, Turbine, and Insomniac. Its previous games include World Zombination and StreamLegends.
Pros: both robe and wizard hat explicitly available
Cons: it's been unnervingly quiet for a while
If we ever get around to having an award category for "Most Evolved From Its Roots," Fortnite will take it in a slow walk. First it was a co-op fort-building zombie game, then its free-to-play Battle Royale mode took over all of explored space, and now it's warming up to a new act as a non-violent virtual concert venue. It's officially impossible to know what Fortnite is going to do next, besides make giant heaping piles of pure cash money.
There's a lot about Fortnite that no one else has even tried to imitate, even now. Other companies are willing to challenge it strictly as a battle-royale game, but Fortnite's base-building mechanics and colorful cartoon aesthetic are still uniquely its own. It became a big hit with kids for a reason, and Epic's consistent schedule of events, new items, and promotions keeps it fresh and evolving.
Fortnite may not be quite as all-consuming in 2020 as it was last year, but it's still the 800-pound gorilla in this particular room, and the only officially-sanctioned way to get Deadpool to fight Harley Quinn. It's made megastars out of streamers, changed the face of the video game industry, has over 350 million registered players, and will likely remain relevant for years to come. If you're planning to jump into the battle-royale genre, this should be your first stop. Fortnite might not hit for you, especially if you hate kids, but it still guides a lot of the conversation around the genre.
Pros: 5% of the entire human population can't all be wrong
Cons: getting even more owned by 10-year-olds than usual
Here at Prima, we're always up for getting airdropped onto a rapidly shrinking island with several dozen idiosyncratic murderers. Check out some of our daily coverage, including tips, tricks, guides, and news, such as:
- How to register as a CEO in GTA Online
- Tips on the best loadout for Call of Duty: Warzone
- How to get Heirloom Shards in Apex Legends
If your favorite battle royale didn't make it onto the list, trust us, it's not personal. There are so many that it's nearly impossible to give them all the time they deserve. If there's one that you think deserves more love than we've shown here, let us know via our official Twitter, @PrimaGames.