the best of the rest
As a mainstream genre, battle royale is both massively popular and still in its infancy. 2018 was a big year for the last-man-standing multiplayer format, as established blockbusters like Fortnite and PUBG continued to tweak their formulas and newcomers like Black Ops 4's Blackout and Tencent's free to play Ring of Elysium claimed a piece of the action.
There's no indication the genre will run out of momentum in 2019, either. The free-to-play Apex Legends exploded onto the scene in February, drawing 50 million players within its first month, and more battle royale games and game modes will spring up throughout the year, both from indie developers and big studios. Here's what the genre looks like in 2019.
The best battle royale games
The biggest and best games in battle royale are still rolling out new features, maps, events, and updates. Even if you're familiar with the best battle royale games, there's a lot to look forward to in 2019.
Developer: Respawn| Release date: Feb 2019 | Link: Official site
Respawn officially announced its free to play take on battle royale in a dramatic fashion—the same day it launched. Apex Legends combines a hero squad shooter with the last-man-standing formula, and it became an instant hit, racking up 50 million players in its first month. It's already added a ninth character and with novel systems that allow great mic-less communication and the respawning of dead teammates, it's quickly become the battle royale to watch in 2019.
Developer: Epic Games| Release date: Out now | Link: Official site
Fortnite was a worldwide phenomenon in 2018, providing a bright and arcadey experience to counter PUBG's measured pace and gritty vibe. Epic isn't shy about experimenting with wacky modes like 50 vs 50, making frequent and sometimes mysterious changes to its map, or by adding, of all things, airplanes. We don't expect the surprising, game-changing experiments to stop anytime soon. If you enjoy games like Fortnite, read on.
Developer: PUBG Corp|Release date: Out now | Link: Official site
We don't know if there will be a PUBG movie, but at this point we wouldn't really be surprised (we even came up with a script). PUBG had a busy 2018, adding a third map called Sanhok and a winter map, Vikendi, plus new features like dynamic weather and bullet penetration. Expect new modes, weapons, vehicles, and maybe even more maps to keep trickling in as they have since it was released. PUBG will continue to be a major force in battle royale in 2019.
Battlefield 5 Firestorm
Developer: Dice| Release date: Out now| Link: Official site
Battlefield 5's battle royale mode, Firestorm, has arrived, supporting 64 players and featuring stunning visuals and fantastic sound design. Matches take place on the largest map in Battlefield history, filled with destructible buildings and vehicles like Panzer tanks. Firestorm may not be quite the reason to buy Battlefield 5, though, especially when a game like Apex Legends is available for free. But it's still a fun and frantic battle royale mode.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 | Blackout
Developer: Treyarch | Release date: Out now| Link: Official site
There's no traditional campaign in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, but it's got a battle royale mode called Blackout and it's great, if not especially groundbreaking. With grappling hooks and ray guns and a lot of nostalgia—its map recreates a number of locations from earlier CoD games—it's a slick and fast-paced experience, and it continues to develop with new features like custom games.
Ring of Elysium
Developer: Tencent| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Steam
Tencent, PUBG's distributor in China, launched its own battle royale game on PC called Ring of Elysium. With real-time dynamic weather, plus snowboarding and snowmobiling, Tencent has put a few new interesting spins on PUBG's formula. Four players can escape the freezing storm via a rescue chopper, but we discovered that even when there are only four players left they'll still try to kill each other out of habit. It's free and it's fun, and after the addition of a survival mode we're eager to see what else might be added in 2019.
Upcoming battle royale games
There's a lot planned for the rest of 2019 as the genre continues to expand, and we suspect there will be many more to come. For a taste of battle royale games in development, keep reading.
Developer: Daybreak| Release date: January 29 Link: Official site
Featuring solo matches or teams of three, Planetside Arena is a 150-player class-based battle royale (and will sport other match-based multiplayer modes) arriving this January. The sci-fi FPS from the makers of the Planetside series will have a streamlined looting system (you'll find higher tier weapons with attachments already in place, rather than having to cobble them together) and personal transports in addition to vehicles that will seat an entire team. Earned XP will let players unlock new weapon blueprints, and currency collected during the match will allow them to 'buy' those new weapons and put them to use.
Developer: davevillz | Release date: 2018| Link: Steam
Pavlov, an Early Access multiplayer shooter made for the HTC Vive, is billed by many players as the closest you'll get to playing CS:GO in VR until Valve makes CS:GO in VR. The developer recently added Rift Support and revealed plans to add a battle royale mode sometime this year.
Developer: Automaton| Release date: 2018| Link: Official site
It's planning to be the biggest battle royale game yet, capable of whopping 400-player matches, though we haven't played much of Mavericks yet. At GDC last year, I tried a demo with only a few players in the match, but was impressed by the fact that you could track players by following the muddy footprints they left behind.
Other battle royale games
There are all sorts of battle royale games and game modes available: some are in Early Access, others are in full release, and a number are free to play. Below, you're bound to find a last-player standing experience to fit your needs.
CS:GO Danger Zone
Developer: Valve | Release date: Out now | Link: Official site
When CS:GO went free to play at the end of 2018, it came along with a new battle royale mode called Danger Zone. It's a smaller battle royale than most, hosting only 16 to 18 players, and rounds are short, lasting only 10 minutes or so. The map is pretty big (when compared to other Counter-Strike maps), but Danger Zone still features CS:GOs weapons and other familiar elements like hostage rescue.
Developer: Daybreak | Release date: Out now| Link: Official site
H1Z1 left Early Access in 2018, and a week after launch it went free-to-play and added a vehicles-only mode called Auto Royale. While the long-running battle royale's playercount fell quite a bit in 2018, updates and new features continue to be rolled out. It recently rebranded (again) to Z1BR.
The Culling: Origins
Developer: Xaviant| Release date: Out now| Link: Steam
It's been a rather bumpy road for The Culling. Emerging as a melee and crafting-focused standalone battle royale game in 2016, it drew a small but passionate following. But its follow-up, The Culling 2, was a completely generic BR offering that didn't retain much of anything from the original. The Culling 2 bombed and was pulled from sale after a week, and developer Xaviant refocused its attention on the original game, relaunching it as a free-to-play title.
Developer: surviv| Release date: Playable in development| Link: Official site
While the minimalist graphics may not look like much—players are represented simply as circles—this top-down, browser-based battle royale is one of the most enjoyable BR games out there. Everything about it is fast: click play and you're instantly a match, and rounds only last a few minutes which make it perfect for quick and fun sessions. It's cartoony yet still intense, featuring fun weapons and lots of gear. Best of all, it's free.
Islands of Nyne
Developer: Define Human Studios | Release date: Out now | Link: Steam
While a lot of BR games and modes are being made in response to PUBG's massive success, some were in the works before Battlegrounds was even announced. Islands of Nyne, a first-person only battle royale game, was crowdfunded on Kickstarter prior to PUBGs arrival. After a rocky stint in Early Access, it's now free to play, but will no longer be developed.
Developer: Scavengers Studio| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Official site
Darwin Project, which we first learned of at E3 2017, pits players against one another to survive in a frozen wilderness while participating in a dystopian research project. Instead of just randomly running into other players as a circle shrinks around them, they can track one another down by following footprints in the snow, finding clues that point them to nearby players, and even by viewing a map found in certain areas that shows every other player's location.
After struggling to draw players in Early Access, Darwin Project switched to a free-to-play model hoping to cut down on long match queue times.
Developer: Stunlock Studios| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Official site
Free to play MOBA Battlerite slipped the bonds of Early Access in 2017, and developer Stunlock Studios released Battlerite Royale into Early Access in September of 2018. On a map 30 times larger than its current arenas, 20 players duke it out using Battlerite's cast of heroes. It's not free in Early Access, but it will be when it's fully launched.
Dying Light: Bad Blood
Developer: Techland | Release date: In Early Access| Link: Steam
Stemming from "numerous fan requests" Techland has created a battle royale-esque PvP game to compliment its open world zombie survival sandbox. Don't expect the sun to be blotted out by parachutes: the mode features 12 players, not 100.
This being a zombie game, you won't just be battling other players, and you may actually want to team up with them (for a while, at least) in what sounds something akin to The Division's Dark Zone. It's currently $20 in Early Access, but will be free at full launch, which planned for early 2019.
Super Animal Royale
Developer: Pixile| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Steam store
Cute woodland creatures get the battle royale treatment. After dropping from a giant duck acting as a personnel carrier, players gather weapons and look for a vehicle (in this case, a huge hamster ball) and do battle with their cuddly, furry brethren. This is a fun take on battle royale, and it recently added a free demo you can play as long as you like.
Developer: Galvanic Games| Release date: "2018-ish"| Link: Official Site
Set in the world of webcomic Cyanide and Happiness, Rapture Rejects is a cartoony top-down isometric battle royale that takes place after the Rapture among those unfortunately let behind. 100 players will gather weapons and fight to be the final one standing, with the winner (apparently) being accepted into heaven. There have been a few alpha tests, and it should be out sometime this year.
Developer: Digital Confectioners| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Steam
It's battle royale, but under the sea! 100 players in scuba gear are launched into the ocean in mini-submarines, where they fight to the death (or is it to the depths?) using harpoons. Jets streak over the water and drop depth charges, and sharks comprise the deadly closing circle. There are even chum grenades you can throw at enemies to lure sharks their way.
Fear the Wolves
Developer: Vostok Games| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Official Site
Vostok Games, makers of Survarium, plunged into battle royale with Fear the Wolves, in Early Access now with a full release planned for this year. The former Stalker devs bring plenty of that grim and deadly Stalker style with them, as the arena is set in Chernobyl and the dangers go far beyond the other 99 players. Radiation, dangerous anomalies, and mutated animals pose threats as players make their way to the extraction point, hoping to be the sole survivor. The beta was in rough shape, but it's got a fun end-game.
Developer: Unbroken Studios | Release date: In Early Access| Link: Official site
Battle royale on wheels. In what looks like a mash-up of Mad Max and PUBG, drive through a devastated wasteland doing battle both in cars and on foot. The closing circle is a radioactive storm, and you can scavenge not only guns and ammo but upgrades to your vehicle. Fractured Lands entered Early Access in August.
Developer: Hi-Rez| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Official site
Free-to-play hero shooter Paladins announced a upcoming battle royale mode at its Hi-Rez Expo, and it's out now in Early Access. After some initial popularity, player numbers have tailed off and the class-based character system that set it apart from other BR games was completely removed, much to the chagrin of its fans.
Developer: Darkflow Software| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Steam store
Originally created as an April Fool's joke, Cuisine Royale quickly blossomed into a fun standalone game on Steam. The gag is, your armor is assembled from bits of kitchenware like pots, pans, colanders, and waffle irons, and the loot boxes are refrigerators. Silliness aside, it's a solid battle royale game and a nice looking one, too. There's no lobby, plane ride, or parachuting, so it's also quick to get into a match for some looting and shooting. It will remain free while it's in Early Access.
Developer: Fazan Studios | Release date: In Early Access| Link: Official site
Set in an alternate universe combing "the Victorian era, Lovecraft's mythology, and Restrowave," Egress looks a bit like Dark Souls battle royale. Rather than a closing circle forcing players into proximity, the city is flooding and the waters are rising, meaning players will have to climb and clamber to safety. Egress will feature different player classes with different abilities and both solo and team modes.
Developer: Gunpowder Games| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Steam
Maelstrom takes the battle royale concept and ships it to sea, where 15 players compete to be the last ship sailing in this fantasy naval combat game. Choose from humans, orcs, and dwarves, each with their own style of ship, and beware massive sea monsters who will sink you if you stray too long in the dead seas around the perimeter of the map's safe zone.
It's a fun and attractive ship combat game in Early Access, though it hasn't drawn much of an audience yet, meaning matches can take a while to fill.
Stand Out: Battle Royale VR
Developer: raptor lab | Release date: Now in Early Access| Link: Steam store
Battle royale in VR feels like a tricky proposition: one wonders if an online-only game can attract enough players who own VR headsets to consistently keep numerous matches filled. But having played it in (very) Early Access myself, and having a hilarious experience when another player reached out and grabbed a gun out of my hands, I'm pretty sold on the concept.
Survival Games: Battle Royale
Developer: 2.0 Studios| Release date: In Early Access| Link: Steam store
Survival Games: Battle Royale has extremely Minecraft-esque voxel graphics and a few twists for BR, such as procedural maps that give players a different arena each time they play and a map editor that will let players design their own custom arenas.