The diversity of game genres available today makes the world of video games more exciting. These genres compensate for the interest of diverse players in what they prefer to play, whether targeting and shooting enemies with shooter games, doing missions and quests with role-playing games, or solving mind-boggling puzzles through puzzle games.
But one game subgenre under the strategy games that defined a whole generation is the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). The genre involves players competing against each other while set on a predetermined battlefield in a battle between two teams. Most of the time, it happens in a 3v3 or 5v5 setting with specific objectives, such as destroying the opposing team’s base through attacks and skills used by the player characters.
Esports became popular because of the MOBA subgenre’s innovation of allowing multiple players to team up against another team. You could somehow compare a five-vs-five MOBA match to a five-vs-five game of basketball where each player has a role to fulfill to win. We know how far basketball has reached in terms of popularity, and it is somehow the path MOBA esports games are also taking today.
Here is our list of the 10 best MOBA games of all time, ranked according to gameplay, commercial and critical success, and overall impact on the community.
Best MOBA games, ranked
10) Heroes of Newerth
Developed by S2 Games (and was passed later on to Frostburn Studios), Heroes of Newerth (HoN) was one of the earliest MOBas ever to exist, deriving most of its gameplay components and mechanics from Defense of the Ancients (Dota 1). It then went on to become one of the earliest games to establish an esports scene.
HoN achieved commercial and critical success, listing notable nominations as the best online game and best MOBA for the Mashable Awards and RTSGuru’s PAX East Awards, respectively. Though at the moment, players may not be able to play the game anymore after the developer decided to shut down HoN in June. Still, HoN was one of the games that paved the way for the ongoing popularity MOBAs have established through the years.
9) Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
Currently defined as the most popular mobile MOBA game in Southeast Asia, Moonton’s Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) quickly rose as a legit esports title thanks to its fast-paced MOBA gameplay, as well as the continuous hero additions, which are well-diversified based on their skills, design, and stories. MLBB also offers other game modes aside from the traditional 5v5 nine-tower MOBA setup, such as the all-mid Brawl Mode and the game’s version of the Magic Chess.
But during its first days, MLBB was involved in several controversies, wherein Riot Games accused Moonton of copyright issues, especially with how some heroes from the game resemble the champions available in League of Legends. Though they’ve already settled the lawsuits, MLBB remains a true phenomenon for mobile MOBA gamers today.
8) Arena of Valor
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang may be Southeast Asia’s hit mobile MOBA title, but if we’re talking about the mobile MOBA that has already established a worldwide success, then it should be Tencent Games’ Arena of Valor (AoV). Released in 2017, this game saw massive success commercially, especially when it hit the 200 million download mark in 2018.
AoV also grew to be one of the biggest mobile esports titles in the world. It was even featured as an official game event for various sports events, such as the 2018 Asian Games, 2019 Southeast Asian Games, and will still be a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games. In terms of game integrations, AoV is also fun to play, with the possibility of using Batman, Superman, The Flash, and other DC heroes and villains as official heroes in the game.
7) Pokémon UNITE
The first MOBA title from the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon UNITE features some of our favorite Pocket Monsters being engaged in five-vs-five MOBA matches with a twist. Instead of the traditional tower and base destruction mechanic seen on most of the MOBA titles available, Pokémon UNITE integrates scoring as a part of its core gameplay.
The Pokémon used by players that act as their heroes with skills and abilities must score points by killing other creep Pokémon on the map. Then the scores should be dunked on several bases on the map for the team to own those. The team with the higher total score at the end of the time limit wins. Pokémon UNITE is a fresh take on the known formula established in MOBA games. And of course, seeing Blastoise or Venusaur tanking it out while dealing damage in a MOBA match is definitely a treat.
6) Heroes of the Storm
One of the most popular MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm, combined some of the most popular characters from almost all of Blizzard. This game is a crossover of faces from some of the studio’s most popular titles, like Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch. These heroes are available in the strange world of Nexus where different universes collide.
The game also had its fair share of esports tournaments and competitions, which became popular with fans, especially from 2015 to 2017. Unfortunately, it began to die down, especially when Blizzard announced that Heroes of the Storm entered maintenance mode in July. Still, the game has been really iconic at some point, with Blizzard giving fans a refreshing take on the MOBA scene after Dota 1.
Developed by Super Evil Megacorp, Vainglory is considered the first MOBA game available for mobile platforms. With its 3v3 or 5v5 matchup modes, players can use a hero of their choice to destroy the enemy team’s towers, base, and the jungle monsters seen on the map. It may seem like the same old formula for MOBAs, but being the pioneer to bring it to mobile made Vainglory a successful game.
It also allowed players to utilize the cross-platform feature, allowing them to play Vainglory from either their phone or PC. The override feature, which lets players unlock skill modifications throughout a match also helped the game to have its unique gameplay elements. Vainglory, however, is currently not receiving any new content from its developer. But the legacy it left as one of the best MOBAs, especially for mobile, will forever remain.
Smite may have the usual MOBA setup and formula, the characters that make it stand out in the subgenre. Players can choose from a pool of 120 gods with different abilities and designs. It also has a third-person presentation which is unique from other MOBA games available today.
The game is also keen on collaborating with other franchises, whether from other games, movies, or cartoons. Collaborations such as with Avatar: The Last Airbender and other various shows from Nickelodeon all came to Smite. Its esports scene is also pretty stacked, especially from 2014 to 2016. Yet, Smite remains one of the most popular MOBA games to date.
3) Defense of the Ancients
The MOBA subgenre wouldn’t begin without Defense of the Ancients (Dota 1). This custom map from Warcraft III: Frozen Throne, which is supposed to be like some sort of mini-game, became a worldwide phenomenon and changed the course of gaming through the years. Dota 1 paved the way for one of the biggest gaming and esports genres of all time.
Dota 1’s gameplay objective is pretty simple. You just need to destroy the enemy team’s towers and base to win the game. But the process of doing so makes every match interesting and unique. The heroes used, the skills set by each team, and the map objectives contribute to the worldwide success the MOBA genre has established. And it wouldn’t take place if it wasn’t for this custom map slash game mode from Blizzard.
2) Dota 2
Having a sequel to a game that became so popular and critically acclaimed could be a risk. It may sometimes be worth it that it could be even better than the original, or it could be compared as a cheap bootleg to its predecessor. Though Dota 2 may not be a direct second entry to the original Dota 1 since it was created by an entirely different developer, it became one of esports’ most beloved titles and changed the MOBA subgenre as a whole.
Dota 2 retained and enhanced the heroes from Dota 1, giving them a new life in terms of graphics, design, and overall presentation. New heroes were added to the still-growing roster of playable characters in the game, making Dota 2 a lot better than its predecessor while keeping the original MOBA formula established by the older game.
And when we talk about the esports scene, Dota 2 will always come out as one of the biggest competitive games in the world. Last year’s iteration of the game’s most prestigious tournament, The International, provided the largest prize pool in esports history, valued up to $40 million.
1) League of Legends
Dota 1 may have been the alpha, but League of Legends (LoL) brought the MOBA subgenre to the next level, meaning MOBAs could be considered one of the untouchable subgenres in gaming history.
Riot Games even risked using a free-to-play business model for the game, but that paid off when League became so popular servers even crashed down at one point due to the number of players that wanted to play the game.
League became popular in the West, but it became an esports sensation when it reached Asia, particularly South Korea and China. It became the biggest game during its peak years, beating all other esports titles in the world. The champions, the maps, and pretty much everything was so defined and natural about the game. And the biggest honor a player can achieve, of course, is to lift the Summoner’s Cup, and be hailed as the champions of Worlds. Indeed, League has become a culture for most players and gamers worldwide, making it the best MOBA game ever to exist.