What are the best multiplayer games? Sometimes it is not the game that shines, but the players. Deep gameplay and glistening visuals only go so far in making a standout multiplayer game; only humans can provide the surprise and scheming that transforms the average first-person shooter or puzzle game into a gladiatorial showdown or co-op crusade.
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Fast and frantic or tense and calculated, the best multiplayer games come in all shapes and sizes. But they are all connected by the simple pleasure of interacting with another human. Whether it is two minds attempting to solve a puzzle or a tense head-to-head battle, these games wouldn’t be the same without a bunch of humans running around killing, maiming, or, occasionally (very occasionally), helping each other.
Here are the best multiplayer games on PC:
- League of Legends
- Team Fortress 2
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
- Rainbow Six Siege
- Arma 3
- Titanfall 2
- Unreal Tournament
- Rocket League
- Diablo 3
- Towerfall Ascension
Free multiplayer games
Fortnite first emerged as an intriguing mix of building, sandbox, and survival elements. This Early Access mode - in which you construct fortresses to combat a severe zombie threat - now known as Save the World, has been eclipsed by a new mode: Fortnite Battle Royale.
Seen by some - including Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Greene, himself - as a cynical power grab at an exciting new genre in ways that seem remarkably similar to the seminal PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite Battle Royale, if its extraordinarily high player numbers is anything to go by, is one of the best multiplayer games on PC.
Where you stand on the great PUBG vs. Fortnite debate depends on personal preference. both are strong battle royale games with devout communities, but Fortnite’s eye-catching Pixar sheen, accessibility - helped considerably by being free-to-play - and construction mechanics give it the edge for some over the detailed, deep military sim sensibilities of PUBG.
Want more? Bask in the glory of a victory royale with our Fortnite tips.
League of Legends gives you everything you could want from a MOBA. You can go in solo to prove your superiority over others, honing your skills in whatever role you prefer to always try to win. Or you could make it your regular multiplayer home with friends, either in the standard 5v5 modes or in one of several custom games available. Whether you want to be the best in the world or just bash about in well designed systems, there is something here.
For hardcore players League of Legends is a lifestyle choice. Massive industries, professional scenes, and huge tournaments have sprung up around it, with millions on the line for the very best. League’s community has built entire ecosystems of player support, team management, spectating, and shoutcasting around these games, and if you want to you'll always find something new to discuss, try, or improve at. Whereas some will readily extol the virtues of its Valve rival, Dota 2, for us, League of Legends’ player base and better defined roles and rules make it not only the best MOBA, but one of the best multiplayer games on PC.
Thinking of taking the battle arena plunge? These are the best LoL champions for beginners.
If you were not there when Team Fortress 2 launched, it is difficult to convey what a delirious and unexpected pleasure it was in 2007. In development longer than Pangaea, TF2 blindsided everyone when it finally arrived in its cheery and lustrous Pixar sheen. Instead of the anticipated amalgamations of biceps and military garb we expected, its cast is a brigade of slapstick comedians whose interplay provoked frequent, spirited, and genuine lols.
Each had skills and abilities that interweaved beautifully. Heavy mows down Soldier. Engineer builds sentry to mow down Heavy. Spy saps sentry. Pyro incinerates Spy. Sniper takes out Pyro. Scout bonks Sniper on his noggin and runs off. Demo obliterates Scout with his sticky bombs, then resumes flashing people. No, not like that. Medic watches that Uber gauge, and licks his lips.
It’s a very different game today, now absolutely baffling to lapsed players. Still, the rich visual design, the sheer strength of its cast, and the interplay between classes, preserve it as one of the best multiplayer games around. An enduring classic.
Multiplayer shooting games
Beautifully blending Team Fortress 2 and League of Legends, Overwatch remains a phenomenon and easily one of the best multiplayer games ever made. A class-based multiplayer shooter that owes much to TF2's art style, payload maps and asymmetrical combat, Overwatch also owes plenty to LoL's diverse roster and essential teamplay. That tantalising recipe for multiplayer grandeur is a mixture of popular multiplayer styles, ripe with possibilities, which has captured the imaginations and evenings of the masses. That much is apparent from even a cursory visit to the fantastically busy Overwatch reddit page, where you will certainly never go hungry for GIFs.
Blizzard are continually updating the game and adding to their impressively diverse and colourful roster, too. And, somehow, Overwatch gets even better while maintaining a careful competitive balance.
Want more? Gain the edge on the opposition with the best Overwatch heroes for each class.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has an underwhelming origin story. A refresh of Valve’s previous refresh of a Half-Life 1 mod, it was conceived as nothing more ambitious than a console port; an experiment to see if PlayStation and Xbox gamers would engage with the Counter-Strike name. And, if PC players fancied a go, what’s the harm?
As it turns out, we got one of the best multiplayer games on PC.
CS:GO is consistently one of the most played games on Steam. Its weapon skins support an entire cottage industry of trading sites. It is an ultra-competitive, high prize pool eSport. You cannot move on Twitch for CS:GO streams.
Its popularity is self-evident, but its quality requires a deeper understanding of its appeal both as a nostalgia trip and a well-supported, pacey shooter with state-of-the-art spectator tools. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is ripe with tactical exploitation, bristling with razor-sharp weapon feedback, and comforting like mama's homemade apple pie.
Want more? Treat yourself to more options and better settings with these CS:GO console commands.
Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ is the father of the battle royale genre and, as you might have guessed, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is his baby. In PUBG the genre’s premise is presented with just the bare essentials: 100 players drop into a giant map with a shrinking safe zone, scouring the map for guns and gear with which to ensure they are the only one left alive.
PUBG launched after nine months in Early Access, and the game is all the better for it. The gunplay feels spot on, an extensive wardrobe of cosmetics will help you look the part, and the refreshed UI and minimap are much clearer. Plus, more massive new maps are coming all the time to stop things getting staler than a corpse outside the circle. The fact that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is one of the best multiplayer games, but not necessarily the best battle royale game - Fortnite fans might have something to say about that - shows how gargantuan this genre has become.
Want more? Attain that elusive chicken dinner with our PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds tips and tricks.
Despite Rainbow Six: Siege’s surface-level similarities to FPS darling CS:GO, Ubisoft have made reinforcing a wall or laying barbed wire as heroic as no-scoping an enemy from two rooftops away. Perhaps more than even the best multiplayer games, Siege is about planning, communication, and execution of a team-based strategy.
Rainbow Six made its name by taking a quieter, more considered approach than the bombastic shooters against which it debuted in the late nineties, and in doing so it made you feel like a highly-trained, goggle-wearing, silenced MP5-toting specialist. Siege evokes that same feeling despite the meta changes presented by a barrage of new operators and the updates included in years of post-launch updates.
Although, of course, there is destruction. Great big chunks of it that can kick up fine concrete dust every round. Just make sure you don’t get it all over your posh new cosmetics. Part of being ‘good’ at Siege is knowing each map intimately, and co-ordinating your team accordingly. The depth, nail-biting tension, and tactical potential of Rainbow Six Siege makes for a memorable cat-and-mouse multiplayer experience. No wonder Siege as an esport is going from strength to strength.
Want more? Know who to unlock with our list of the most effective Rainbow Six Siege operators.
Arma 3 is about as close to finding yourself on a real battlefield, gibbering unintelligibly as the choppers and tanks go by. The large-scale battles and ultra-realism are not the only intimidating thing about Arma 3, either. Populated by a diehard community with expertise levels second to none, Arma 3 players know things you didn't know you knew.
Where pretend guns are concerned, Arma 3 is one of the best multiplayer games on the internet. Every battle is an engrossing spectacle, peppered with complex team chat and ingenious tactical manoeuvres (if you are on a good server). It might still be buggier than the underside of a rotten branch, but it did its bit to bring about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Enough said.
Titanfall 2 boasts the best single-player FPS story in recent memory, hence why it entered the hallowed hall of fame that is our best games of 2016. However, as if that was not enough, Respawn’s majestic, mech-based shooter is one of the best multiplayer games around, too.
Titanfall 2’s intoxicating multiplayer component is all about interplay. Think David versus Goliath, except it is sometimes Goliath against Goliath. Then, David is inside Golia… actually, never mind.
The opening stages of an online match feel redolent of Call of Duty: you start as one of five nimble pilots, using your grappling hook and other gadgets to get the jump on the opposition and rack up kills. Then, everything changes. Massive 20-foot titans with various weapons and abilities rain down and devastate the battlefield. Trading agile, dynamic traversal as a pilot to take control of the slower, but much more powerful titan imbues multiplayer rounds with an endlessly satisfying rhythm that refines the promising core of the original. If you missed Titanfall 2, rectify that now it is on Origin Access.
Want more? Meet the game’s massive mechs with our Titanfall 2 class guide.
Unreal Tournament has made a huge contribution to the online first-person shooter scene. Chasing power-ups, armour shards, and super-weapons may have fallen out of favour since 1999, but the pace, game modes and map designs make it one of the best multiplayer games you can play.
Not that anyone cared at the time, of course. We were too busy headshotting each other, cowering in the opposing towers of CTF_Face away from the best sniper rifle games had offered to date. Or , scurrying over to the Redeemer for a chance to turn the tides on a poor round’s performance. It might have lost its initial graphical sparkle, but its level layout and special weapon feedback mean that Unreal Tournament remains perfectly playable all these years on.
Multiplayer car games
The moment someone at Psyonix said "how about football… but with cars?" one of the best multiplayer games on PC was born. Despite the failed first attempt, Rocket League’s success is down to its streamlined design: you just push a ball across a pitch with a car. It is hardly something only hardcore petrolheads can understand.
Do not mistake simplicity for a lack of depth, however: mastering all the tricks of successfully passing, shooting, and scoring in Rocket League is a thrilling learning curve. It leads to a career - not just for new musical talent - of a thousand near-misses and 'almost!' moments, your body inching forward in your seat as the tension builds. Headshots in shooters are ten-a-penny, but a goal in Rocket League is something special.
An exceptionally moreish online game, Rocket League's true home is in local split-screen multiplayer. Akin to Towerfall, everyone in the room will be ooh-ing and aahh-ing as the ball zooms from one end of the pitch to the other, punctuated by an obligatory elbow-to-the-ribs to prevent an inevitable goal.
Want more? Get a boost with our Rocket League guide.
Multiplayer RPG games
Slaying demons, playing dress-up, and obsessing over loot are all much more interesting activities with friends. Blizzard’s hack-and-slash action-RPG packs in hundreds of hours of grinding and gear-stat fetishism, which helps it remain as one of the best multiplayer games around, despite its age.
The setup is wonderfully simple: pick a class of hero - paying close attention to our recommended builds - set forth into the world to destroy evil, and listen closely for treasure goblins. Just make sure that, as you are cycling through the abilities on your hotbar, you pay attention to the hordes of baddies that would like nothing better than to explode near you and turn you into dungeon crawler paste . Adding a second player ups the challenge, but also broadens your horizons in terms of specialist abilities. But, if you can stretch to a mighty four players, anything goes, and there’s three extra people to admire that new Cage of the Hellborn chest armour you just picked up.
Want more? Get ready to grind with the best RPGs on PC.
Co-op multiplayer games
The best multiplayer games are all about having fun with friends - and exploding the noggins of internet randoms, of course. That said, Ghost Town Games’ Overcooked will strain the seams of even the strongest of friendships.
The true chaos of this couch co-op cooking game is not revealed immediately. Shrouded beneath a cute, colourful aesthetic, you will likely fly - or should we say fry? - through your first culinary challenges in the Onion Kingdom. Each meal you cook helps save the world from a massive meatball.After a your first few kitchen adventures, though, you and your staff/erstwhile friends will be screaming at each other louder than Gordon Ramsay with lego in his shoes.
If you fail to assign clear roles and communicate effectively, beef patties will burn, dirty dishes will pile up, and customers will get cheesed off. From swaying pirate ships to lorries that split in half in the middle of the motorway, the kitchens in which you work your gastronomic magic will become increasingly treacherous as the dishes you cook grow in complexity. Only chefs that work properly as a team with triumph in this cooking game that is certainly well done.
Want more? These are the best co-op games on PC.
Other multiplayer games
TowerFall Ascension is a game all about platforms - apart from the ill-fated Ouya platform on which it originally launched, that is - and leaping around 2D maps before performing a bolte-face and firing oversized pixelated arrows at one another. With competitive multiplayer for up to four, think Bomberman with the camera moved, and bows instead of explosives, and then you are getting close to Ascension’s engaging appeal.
One of the best multiplayer games for couch co-op, the simplicity of both premise and control scheme - jump, move, shoot - ensures accessibility. You might as well play it long after your friends have gone, too: TowerFall Ascension’s refined movement and map design reward extended practice.
It is easy to be cynical about Worms, now entering its third decade with a penchant for platform proliferation. Chop a turn-based party game from Team17 in half, myth has it, and two new groups of the slippery blighters will spring writhing from its remains. But the (apple) core ensures it remains one of the best multiplayer games on PC: 30 seconds in which you must steer your pink avatar around a pockmarked landscape with the aim of blasting, batting, and Super Sheep-ing an opponent into dust before their turn starts.
Typically played with three or four players, Worms is a slapstick spectator sport ripe for grenade gaffes, jumping misjudgements, and an assortment of other seconds-left mistakes. The nuance offered by trajectory and wind speed - not to mention elusive mastery over the ninja rope - means there is scope for high-level play, too.
Some say that Worms Armageddon was a spiritual high point. But we recommend the subsequent Worms World Party for the potential for customisation, or the recent W.M.D to see the current vehicle-infused iteration of the formula.
Disagree? Gank us in the comments section below.