Just like any other first-person shooter, CS:GO requires its players to learn its maps inside and out.
There are nine main CS:GO maps that are played regularly in a competitive environment: Cache, Cobblestone, Dust II, Inferno, Mirage, Nuke, Overpass, Train, and Vertigo. They’re all (with the exception of Cache and Cobblestone) featured in the Active Duty pool, which is played in international competition by the world’s best professional teams.
Related: The fundamentals of Counter-Strike
To improve your overall ability and become a well-rounded player, it’s important to learn the maps one at a time. Eventually, you’ll master each and every one of them and become a valuable asset to almost any team at your skill level.
Here are the most popular CS:GO maps ranked from worst to best.
The latest addition to the competitive Counter-Strike map pool is a funny one. It stands out like a sore thumb up against the well-redefined likes of Cache, Mirage, and Dust II—but that doesn’t mean Vertigo isn’t fun. It might not be the most balanced map, but it has many interesting and dynamic chokepoints, smoke spots, and boosts. The problem with the map, though, is that because it’s new, no defined metagame or formation has been properly developed, meaning it’s best for new players to avoid it.
Nuke is an absolute headache for newcomers to Counter-Strike. The main building has three-floor levels: a catwalk level, a main level (A site), and a basement level (B site). The entry points into each site vary due to verticality and can be confusing when you’re maneuvering around the map. These factors, combined with the difficulty to discern nearby sounds as enemies, make Nuke a devastatingly difficult map to learn as a new player.
Cobblestone is an odd map to learn because of its wide-open areas and tight-knit corridors. There’s also no well-defined middle portion of the map, mostly because the castle, in which the map is situated, has a confusing layout. When Terrorists take control of a bombsite, Counter-Terrorist rotations are seemingly impossible and can be easy to predict based on timing. The test of rotation knowledge makes timing the most complicated concept associated with Cobblestone.
Train can be confusing for beginners. The defense is given an exceptional amount of map control and Terrorists must bottleneck into the bombsites through extremely tight corridors. But once they make their way into the sites, they’re free to flush Counter-Terrorists out and away from the win. The challenge in becoming a good Train player is knowing what you’re capable of within the map, especially when your teammates are nowhere to be found.
Similar to Inferno, Counter-Terrorists are given an absurd amount of map control at round start. When Terrorists successfully find their way into the bombsites, the defense is punished with a tough rotation on both sites. Another source of difficulty on Overpass is its long ranges of sight, which give a good edge to AWPers and anyone with excellent aim. This, coupled with adequate situational awareness, allows for a variety of playstyles from skilled aimers and smart planners.
4) Dust II
Dust II is the most popular map in all first-person shooters—and with good reason. With three entry points into each bombsite and three lanes within the map, the layout balance is polished to every minute detail to prevent either team from gaining an advantage at the round start. Coordinated teams can prosper on Dust II, but solo queuers can also perform extremely well under the right circumstances.
Cache is a simple three-lane map with connecting pathways to the main lanes. Its easy-to-learn layout and well-balanced timings make it a good playground for noobs to hone their strategic in-game knowledge before moving on to harder maps. It’s a good map for learning the game but it’s also great for testing raw mechanical skills thanks to its open areas and widespread peeking angles within the bombsites. It isn’t in the active map pool right now, but it’ll be back shortly.
Inferno is a Counter-Strike classic with an inherent risk and reward system based solely on a team’s map control. Counter-Terrorists are given map control at the start and Terrorists must find ways to push them back to obtain control of the bombsites. Communication is the key to success on Inferno since taking a site by yourself on both defense and offense is incredibly hard. This important point puts emphasis on the fact that CS:GO is a team game—not a game of individual showboating.
Like Cache, Mirage is a three-lane map that’s perfect for learning strategy. The round pace can be based heavily on the aggression of the Terrorists, making it easy for Counter-Terrorist versatility throughout buy rounds. Like a map that requires good knowledge of rotations and map control, the momentum of Mirage can be swayed with a good execution or retake phase since the map layout allows for variations of both phases for both teams.