We’re well into 2016 and the MOBA genre is finally maturing, with the shitty games shutting down and the quality titles here to stay. Before you say that you hate MOBAs, here’s the thing: the genre itself is now evolving way beyond your usual stack of League of Legends and Dota clones and you’re getting not only different settings, but also diverse gameplay styles to please a larger crowd.
Sure, it’s still nearly impossible to overthrow the top contenders, but it is looking like the genre has a brighter, more streamlined future than what was expected a couple of years ago. So here is our Top 10 Free MOBA Games 2016~2017.
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10 – GIGANTIC
This game is going through a gigantic delay. Bad pun aside, Gigantic is going through stress test after stress test, making sure that the servers are able to handle all the action, and also serving as a way to balance the different heroes. Now in the hands of Perfect World after an initial push by Microsoft for a Windows 10 exclusivity on PC that is no more, developer Motiga has a clearly talented art team, with Gigantic looking like a stunning playable cartoon. There’s no lack of originality and eye candy in this game, so hopefully the gameplay has improved over the latest tests and Gigantic can finally fulfil its potential.
9 – DREADNOUGHT
This is one for fans of slower paced battles. And sci-fi. With huge spaceships. Dreadnought is one hell of a game, a triple-A production that actually happens to be available for free. The game looks stunning and controlling these massive ships gives you a sense of being truly behind something where you have to consider your actions and plan ahead, not just dive into the fray and hope for the best. Dreadnought will hardly become a hit, as it sounds more like a niche game with its slow paced gameplay and tactical approach required during battle, but it frankly deserves to get a good enough player base to keep it going for many years.
8 – PARAGON
It sounds somewhat weird to say that Paragon is one of the few third-person free MOBAs out there, but considering that for several years everyone was going top-down in a bid to become the next League of Legends, it starts to make sense. Coming from the powerhouse that created the Gears of War series, Paragon surely won’t lack support and is getting a new hero every three weeks to keep things moving. Epic Games didn’t spend much time between the announcement and open beta, which could be the main reason why Paragon is still getting a somewhat divisive reaction – some players love it, others complain about the slower gameplay when compared with other MOBAs. One of the few games where you get all the heroes for free from the start, without any kind of hassle or payment, so you can choose the ones that you like the most right away.
7 – MASTER X MASTER
Master X Master is the MOBA entry from giant NCSoft and just as it happens with Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, it takes inspiration and characters from the studio’s most important franchises. With a catalogue so rich that includes the Lineage series, Guild Wars, Aion, Blade & Soul and Wildstar, it would be a shame not to use some of the more popular characters from those MMOs, along with many interesting original creations for this game. One of the strengths of Master X Master is that it’s not just a MOBA, it’s way more than that; there’s a solid PvE story mode where you can team up with other players and go on an adventure through several environments based on NCSoft’s games. When you’re done with that and you’ve come to grasps with the tag system, which allows you to select two masters and swap between them mid-fight, you can jump straight into the competitive aspect of Master X Master. Featuring 3v3, 4v4 and 5v5 along with different game modes, you can’t accuse this game of lacking content or options, but it also has plenty of polish and it’s a lot of fun, in co-op or competitive modes.
Paladins could be summed up in two words: fun and controversial. Fun because the new game from the makers of SMITE is just that – easy to get into, fast-paced and fun to a degree that many shooter and MOBA games never manage to be; controversial because along the way, development clearly steered away from the initial plans and veered more toward Blizzard’s Overwatch, the big name that was suddenly getting all the attention. Despite the similarities and how much someone may claim that this Paladins character plays a little bit too much as that one from Overwatch, in its defence we could say that both games are heavily inspired by Team Fortress 2. Which in turn was inspired by other shooters that came before. So yeah, Paladins is free, it’s a whole lot of fun and judging by Hi-Rez’s work with SMITE, it should get plenty of new content and characters along the way. Let’s just hope they’re not TOO similar for a while so the controversy can get to rest, as both games are true gems.
5 – BATTLERITE
What are the odds of a spiritual sequel to a beloved MOBA such as Bloodline Champions to actually turn out decent? Well, in the case of Battlerite, it turned out to be way more than that – it’s a damn good example on how you can build on something and make it better by trimming the fat and offering a sharper, more focused experience. It’s a team brawler with 2v2 and 3v3 battles and a skill-based gameplay feel that is enhanced by the WASD movement and mouse aiming. There’s no bullshit, no aimlessly running around, no undesired random elements to hinder gameplay, plenty of champions that actually feel unique and no pay-to-win in sight at this time. Battlerite is also the perfect example that a small indie studio is capable of delivering a critically acclaimed game in such a competitive genre, as long as you have a clear plan and love for your game – goes to show all your shutdown MOBAs how it should be done.
How could Heroes of the Storm fail? It’s Blizzard, after all, and the studio’s reputation didn’t happen by accident. When you’re capable of ditching most of the work that you’ve done in a game for seven years, like it happened with Project Titan, then you don’t need more proof of the commitment that goes into a game. Heroes of the Storm started out as a nice little compendium of the greatest Blizzard games and quickly exploded into its very own MOBA, a game that managed the extremely difficult feat of pleasing both casual and competitive players. The heroes are very unique and the game is very polished, although the matchmaking could be improved. If we had to choose, we would say Heroes of the Storm is more for the casual crowd and less for the competitive players.
3 – SMITE
If there’s a truly original cast of characters in a MOBA, then they’re in SMITE. I mean, what are the chances that we’ll ever get another game where you can play with deities without calling that a straight rip-off of SMITE? Oddly enough, we won’t ever be seeing Christian or Jewish key figures into the game, apparently because they are mostly human and never fought each other in dramatic ways, according to Hi-Rez. So no Jesus Christ for you. No matter what, SMITE is a trailblazer, one of the first third-person MOBAs that became a massive hit and a very deserved one. It’s great in most ways, frequently updated and while you have to buy new gods, the ultimate pack is actually of terrific value if you plan on sticking around for a while.
If there’s a MOBA everyone probably has heard of, then that’s League of Legends, the highest grossing multiplayer online game in the world for quite some time now. It’s a mandatory game in the eSports scene and while it’s not getting any younger, this means that more and more players are able to play it on older computers. This one, just like our number one which we’re pretty sure you’ve already guessed the name by now, are ultra-competitive games for players who aren’t afraid of spending many hours getting to grips with the heroes and taking abuse from what is universally regarded as a toxic community. Don’t let them get to you and one day you may be able to play with the best.
1 – DOTA 2
Unlike League of Legends, which got better with time, Dota 2 was released to almost immediate acclaim. Valve’s sequel to the classic that pretty much introduced the genre to more players is rightly considered the more complex game of the two, with an incredible depth to its pool of heroes and, best of all, they’re free, so that’s one less thing to prevent players from finding their most suited hero and gameplay style. Dota 2 is widely regarded as one of the games that does free-to-play right, so if you’re afraid of jumping in because you may find balance breaking items in the cash shop, you can rest assured that the shop won’t impact gameplay. Dota 2 is, to us, the best MOBA game out there, even if personal preference ends up playing a big role in this decision – each of the games listed in the top three positions could easily be considered the best, depending on who you are or who you ask.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of the genre, you can’t deny that quality is apparently becoming more of a factor and the faceless clones are slowly dying a horrible death. As usual, we want to leave you with a few suggestions that for some reason didn’t make it into the top 10.
So, if you’re into Dreadnought and want more of the same, definitely go for the awesome Fractured Space. If, on the other hand, you prefer something more familiar, there’s Strife, but this recommendation comes with a warning – the player base is apparently becoming really small and the lifespan of this game is probably coming to an end, so be cautious. If you want a polished and clever sci-fi MOBA with strategy elements, then look no further than Supernova. Finally, keep an eye out for King of Wushu, a third-person MOBA that looks a lot like SMITE but visually better – better yet, keep two eyes on it, because it is supposed to be coming west but we haven’t heard from it in months.
That’s it for now. Any other MOBAs you enjoy playing or that you’re looking forward to? As usual, let us know in the comments and have fun… non-toxic fun.