[Top 10] Biggest Esports Games Ranked By Popularity

most popular esports games
League of Legends Worlds 2023 audience, with over 6.4 million overall viewers in-person and via stream.

What is the similarity between a soccer player and a Valorant player? Rage-induced losses, celebratory chants, and maybe even a worldwide fan base. eSports takes the reign as the fastest-growing competitive sports genre in the world.

eSports or ‘Electronic Sports’ are video games played in a competitive setting. Teams worldwide compete against each other in a tournament, often with a cash prize. The “Pro Gamer” scene increases in popularity, bringing more competition by storm.

It has created a space even for college and high school players, branching out into even scholastic sports scenes. This is where I found myself in the eSports scene back in 2021 in college.

These games on the list are ranked based on their popularity, fanbase, and player consumption.


10. Fortnite

Fortnite World Cup, winner Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf holds a well-deserved trophy.

Ah yes- good ‘ol Fortnite.

In 2011, the company Epic Games announced the launch of their game “Fortnite.”  Six years after its announcement, Fortnite was released in 2017 on Windows, Mac, Xbox, and PlayStation. In this game, 100 solo players or teams fight in an open-world arena battle other players to win a “Battle Royale,” as the last person or team standing.

The eSports scene kicked off with a community tournament hosted by streamer Daniel “Keemstar” Keem called “Friday Fortnite” bringing now well-known eSports players into the limelight. This tournament premiered on May 11th, 2018 on his Twitch channel.

Tournaments began branching outside Twitch--into a bigger live platform with the Fortnite World Cup in 2019. This event was split into two different types of matches; for duos (two-player teams) or solo players.

Sadly, this was cut short due to COVID-19 after deciding to continue it as an inaugural event. From the game design to the collaborations with pop culture shows and cartoons, there’s a reason why this game still stays on the list.


9. Call of Duty

Activision Blizzard, COD tournament.

Call of Duty carries the most robust and interesting group of players (in my opinion, of course). The gameplay is made as a six versus six-first-person shooter with the main objective to defend or attack an opponent’s base.

Featuring over 23 games in its franchise, Call of Duty is bound to host one game in a competitive league. In the 2024 season, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III on PC is the battleground for the competition-driven player base.

The league began its roots in 2014 as the “Call of Duty Pro League,” for the game Call of Duty: Ghosts for the Xbox 360.  Later on, in 2019 the officially franchised Call of Duty League (the current main league) replaced it, making it a world league for that eSport.

Over 12 teams compete in four major tournaments, each featuring three various game modes. These main teams are based in the United States- with popular team names like Faze, Optic, and Surge on the roster. 


8. Apex Legends

AGLS Championship in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2022.

This high-speed battle royale performs like no other. Set in the same world as the Titanfall series, Apex Legends takes number eight on this list.

Apex Legends features fast-paced movement and characters with special abilities called “Legends” that add challenges to the gameplay. Players can play with two-person or three-player squads on an island that shrinks over time. The last one standing is titled the “Apex Legend.”

Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment hold the tournaments, they also perform as the owners of the game franchise. The Apex Legends Global Series was announced in 2019, that had over four phases and 22 events that year.

The sport is divided into two types of leagues; “The Apex Global Series,” which is composed of pro league teams, and the “Challenger Circuit” in which squads can compete to qualify later on for the pro league in the global series. This way, it paves the way for amateur teams to meet the spotlight and have opportunities to compete on a higher level.


7. Arenas of Valor

Arenas of Valor gameplay on the Nintendo Switch.

Similar to the popular game League of Legends, this game has a multiplayer online battle arena or “MOBA,” but it is virtually played on mobile devices rather than multiple platforms. Formerly known as “Strike of Kings,” Arenas of Valor was launched in October 2016 on iOS and Android devices, and later in 2018, to the Nintendo Switch.

The game takes place in real time, with 5 players on each team. Each player can choose one of six character classes; tank, support, warrior, mage, assassin, and marksman. They are 10-minute matches where players aim to attack one another's towers on the chosen maps, with the enemy core being the main objective of the attack.

Most of the player base is showcased in Southeast Asia, as it was marketed in areas outside of mainland China; however, it has branched out into a worldwide scene and two official annual tournaments: the Arena of Valor International Championship (AIC) and the Arena of Valor World Cup (AWC). 


6. DOTA 2

In The International Tournament 2019, team OG’s crowned as champs.

Another popular MOBA, the DOTA franchise inspired a whole new realm of gaming opportunities. The first game was released in 2003 to PC, as a battle arena version of one of its sister franchises World of Warcraft. Later, DOTA 2 was released in 2013 as a sequel to this game, still holding the same elements but with a more modern look.

The gameplay is similar to that of Arenas of Valor and League of Legends with the main goal to capture enemy territory. The main difference between these is due to the player base itself, having an older fanbase, and a wide variety of characters that are all accessible when you start the game.

Dota’s eSports scene stands to be consistent, as its foundations in the 2000s after the first game’s release. In 2011, the International was established for all Dota teams to come together at an organized event with a big prize pool.

The 2nd International featured a trailer to launch the season.

A full season of this game revolves around a whole calendar year beginning in the fall, then ending in the following summer. Each season consists of three “tours,” each one containing one Regional tournament, as well as a Major tournament. After all these tours are completed, the teams who placed in the Major tournaments fight in The International.

Dota 2 International spans for over 11 hours, watch here.


5. Valorant

Valorant World Champions Tournament stage in 2021 in Berlin, Germany. 

Valorant holds a special place near and dear to my heart, being one of the games I played in my collegiate years. I spent some time watching one of the first Valorant championships (also known as VCT) in 2021.

Riot Game’s Valorant features a first-person tactical shooter with 5vs5 teams, each with characters called “agents” who have special abilities to boost gameplay. There are over 23 Agents as of May 2024 and an ever-growing roster per Episode, Valorant’s in-game season.

As mentioned, one of the biggest Valorant championship events began in 2021, just a year after its full-game launch in 2020. This tournament series is broken into three sections: Challengers, Masters, and Champions. 

Champions Tour 2023 best plays.

The main 30 eSports teams became partnered with Riot Games, the company behind the popular FPS game, in 2023. This year, over seven regions are pooling into this game with 42 teams in total. 


4. PUBG: Mobile

The “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” screen upon winning a match adds a fun touch to a secured win.

I just found out when writing this it was an established eSport. Back in high school, I would play this game to avoid a social media “doomscroll.”

This mobile adaptation of PUBG: Battlegrounds is a free-to-play survival battle royale shooter composed of three classic modes, single-player or solo, duos, or squads. Each team plays to be the last one on the map as it continues to shrink, and will be granted with “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.”

There are nine regional tournament cups for the season, and currently over 41 partnered worldwide teams. Tournaments were established in 2018 when the mobile version of the game was released. Championships for this game are played annually, in early to late November. 


3. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang

Gameplay that is standard to MOBA games.

Another mobile game with grand similarities to League of Legends sits at rank 3 in popularity. The game was released in 2016 by Chinese game company Moonton and grew in popularity later on in 2019 during the Southeast Asian Games.

The gameplay is that of Arenas of Valor, where the players are in a 5vs5 setup, fighting to take one another’s territory. Unlike a lot of games, players can play together with differences in rank which can be difficult to play with different skill levels.

The majority of the beginnings began in the Southeast Asian region but finally branched worldwide when the Mobile Legends: Professional League was announced for Brazil in 2021.

Now, there are over 16 teams that participate in the championship games.


2. Counter-Strike: Global Defensive

Fourth in the Counter-Strike series, Global Defensive was released in 2012 as a tactical first-person shooter from Valve. The game was made to be both casual and competitive on PC platforms, originally priced at $14.99, and in 2018 it became free-to-play.

It expanded the gameplay from the 1999, Counterstrike based around terrorist warfare. Two teams in the game, terrorists and counter-terrorists compete to complete opposing objectives. In one mode, Bomb Defusal- depending on what side you are on, you either defuse the bomb or secure a location to plant the bomb.

The main eSport organizer for CSGO leagues is the ESL Pro League, which hosts and organizes 32 teams and is the biggest CS league.

The season begins with four groups of teams labeled A through D, competing in triple elimination, then breaks off into playoffs. Playoffs consist of single elimination brackets, which end in the grand final of a best of 5 between the two last teams. As of 2024, ESL hosts its 19th season for their CSGO league.

See team G2 celebrating the IEM in Cologne, Germany with a win.


1. League of Legends

Dreamhack 2011 in Jönköping, Sweden where the first World Championship was held for League of Legends.

As mentioned with previous games on this list, League of Legends is crowned the number one popular esports. After taking inspiration from 2003’s DOTA, Riot Games created a MOBA in 2009 featuring bright and fun characters. Originally, the game was supposed to be released with only 20 characters or “champions,” but then later doubled upon its launch.

The gameplay is focused on a team-based strategy, another 5vs5 that aims to destroy the opposing team’s base. The base, or “Nexus” resembles a crystal at both ends of the map. Each player goes through various lane positions to create the team compositions of the game.

Professional tournaments have been held for this game since 2011, first at Dreamhack: a gaming festival that features tournaments and spaces for fellow gamers to meet. This is where the first World Championship began, and two years later in 2013, the World Championship sold out within minutes of being on sale.

The tournaments continue to be hosted by Riot Games, which is also in charge of the Valorant eSports season. 

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An article and poetry writer who’s all about gaming? My two life-long favorite things wrapped into one. When these worlds collided, I became unstoppable.
Gamer Since: 2007
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Sims 4 Mostly!
Top 3 Favorite Games:Stardew Valley Bachelor Ratings (All Stardew Bachelors Ranked Worst To Best), The Sims 4, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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