The popularity of the multiplayer online battle arena genre cannot be denied. With a massive player base and many games to choose from, it may seem difficult for a newcomer to decide on which title to play. If you’ve never played a MOBA game but wish to try, we round up the most popular names in the genre and give an overview each title’s main features to help you decide which one would suit you best.
Games in the MOBA genre revolve around a core mechanic: a player usually takes control of a single character in a top-down perspective and joins a team of five with the goal of destroying the enemy team’s base while protecting their own. Objectives can vary, but throughout the match, players level up their characters and upgrade their abilities to aid in this battle by killing enemy heroes or creatures.
Victory is met when a team destroys the enemy base’s main structure. While all MOBA games share similar mechanics, there are enough differences to set them apart and offer a range of options within the genre.
October 2009 (PC)
In League of Legends, the characters are called champions. New players gain access to a pool of ten champions for free each week, and the pool rotates weekly to offer different champions to choose from. There are over 120 champions in total.
Permanent access to a champion can be gained by spending Riot Points, which are bought using real-world money or by using Influence Points, which are earned by playing matches.
A team wins when they destroy the Nexus in the opposing team’s base. The Nexus itself is a building that can only be damaged after the turrets surrounding it are destroyed. Sections of the base can eventually respawn after a certain amount of time has passed.
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Fulfilling a specific role in a team and learning extensive item recipes, game-specific terms, champion skills, and the importance of map positioning. Regular League of Legends games see teams adhere to a certain structure and players are expected to buy appropriate in-game items to suit their champion and the situation. Expect to have to learn the lingo, recipes, and map awareness to play at a competent level, with the average game running anywhere between 20 minutes (when the surrender option becomes available) to an hour.
July 2013 (PC)
In Dota 2, characters are called heroes. All heroes can be accessed immediately by all players for free. There are over 110 heroes to select from.
A team wins when they destroy the main structure in the opposing team’s base, called an Ancient.
The Ancient is a stationary building and can only be damaged when its surrounding offensive towers have been destroyed. Unlike in League of Legends, a destroyed base will not respawn over time, making it more difficult for a team to come back after their base is crippled.
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Being rewarded for challenging gameplay. Dota 2 is a sequel to the original DOTA from which most MOBA games originated from, and as a result adheres closely to the original game’s mechanics.
In comparison to the other games on this list there are extra things to consider in-game, such as checking enemy skills, item builds, denying enemy tower kills, and movement around the map is less restricted thanks to consumable teleport scrolls. This means that players are expected to keep track of more during a match and apply their knowledge in more ways. A lot can happen in a short space of time during a Dota 2 match. Team structure is a little more fluid, but the game-specific lingo still exists. Matches usually run for about 40 minutes and can easily extend longer, so expect to have to dedicate a fair bit of time to play the game.
March 2014 (PC)
August 2015 (Xbox One)
Hi-Rez Studios’ Smite bases its roster of characters on the Gods of mythology, with seven different pantheons on offer. Over 60 gods and goddesses are present in the game, drawn from Chineseâ€Ž, Egyptianâ€Ž, Greek,â€Ž Hindu,â€Ž Mayan,â€Ž Norse, andâ€Ž Romanâ€Ž culture.
Like League of Legends, players can access select gods for free periodically. New player accounts are able to access additional selected gods. Permanent access to a god can be purchased using gems, which must be bought using real-world money, or favor, which can be earned in various ways while playing the game.
The main objective in Smite is the Titan, an offensive NPC that can move from its station and attack enemies. Titans can regain health as long as they are out of combat. The team who destroys the enemy Titan first wins the game.
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Getting up close to where the action is. Smite’s third-person camera means that casting skills require more precision. Landing the killing blow on creeps is less important in this game, which mitigates the need to pay extra attention during the early stages of a match. The streamlined item upgrade system also means there is less of a need to learn item recipes. The pace of Smite results in matches that tend to skew around the 30 minute mark, though games can go on for longer. A surrender option is made available after the minimum amount of time has passed.
June 2015 (PC)
Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm draws its cast of heroes from its various franchises. This includes , , , and. Each week, players can choose to play from a pool of seven heroes for free. Access to the sixth and seventh heroes are restricted to players of higher levels. A hero can be permanently unlocked by a player with real-world money or via gold earned in-game through completing quests and playing matches. The current roster offers over 40 heroes to choose from.
Heroes of the Storm offers a number of different maps which it refers to as battlegrounds. Each battleground holds different objectives which ultimately help a team with its goal of destroying the enemy team’s core by hindering the enemy team; think of them as mini-objectives which can be met to grant bonus buffs. Like all the games listed here, the core is positioned deep inside of each team’s base. It is stationary, but can attack enemies on its own.
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Matches that average no longer than thirty minutes, with environment-based objectives and more focus on team effort. Unlike the other aforementioned games, teams level up together, as opposed to having individual characters level up. HoTS also uses an account levelling system, which locks out certain abilities of heroes until the player has gained more experience in playing the game. There are no in-game items to buy, so there’s no need to worry about item recipes.
There is a lot more depth and strategy to each game when played at at a higher skill level which I haven’t discussed, but further differentiates them from one another. No matter which game you choose to try, you can spend an infinite amount of hours learning about the associated characters, skills, items, and overall meta-game. But hopefully this serves as a good starting point to help you decide which MOBA is the best suited to your play style. Regardless of your chosen game, the exhilarating rush of finally emerging victorious on a tumultuous battlefield is unlike that of any other.