The origins of the battle royale genre are manifold, but the gameplay is largely the same: lots of players go in, only one leaves. Battle royale is a violent, unpredictable, and frenzied multiplayer game mode where the only goal is to survive until you’re the only player left alive. You can win them by hiding in bushes and waiting for the herd to thin out, or scavenge a weapon and start reducing the numbers yourself.
Related: check out the best survival games on PC.
With the explosion of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s only one battle royale game out there. So, to help you broaden your horizons, or even experiment within this burgeoning genre, we’ve assembled this handy guide to the best battle royale games on PC.
There’s a reason PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds regularly boasts 500,000 concurrent players and has sold in excess of six million copies: it’s the basic battle royale premise done right. It might still be in Early Access, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is already reasonably polished, replete with features, and addictive beyond belief.
PlayerUnknown isn’t just a cool-sounding title either, it’s the pseudonym of Brendan Greene, the creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and the man responsible for the incredibly popular Arma 3 Battle Royale mod. That experience shows in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which forgoes complications like crafting and a complex melee fighting system, and instead focuses on razor-sharp gunplay, tactical play, and scavenging.
More so than any other battle royale game on this list, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds feels and controls realistically, resulting in reactive gameplay that never grows old. It’s got some way to go before its full release too, so expect teething issues like poor optimisation and significant bugs to be fixed over the coming months.
H1Z1: King of the Kill
Before Brendan Greene helmed his own battle royale game, he was drafted in to help Daybreak Games perfect H1Z1: King of the Kill after the original H1Z1 was cancelled and split into two separate projects. Compared to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, H1Z1: King of the Kill is a much lighter and more accessible battle royale game - there are fewer weapons, no attachments, and you don’t get to choose where you parachute in from. That last point is particularly important as it means you’re always dropping into the map with several other players, leading to a manic scramble for guns and gear, and a hefty amount of bloodshed in the match’s opening few seconds.
H1Z1’s gunplay is more akin to that of an arcade shooter than the military sim-influenced heft of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ weapons. Shooting feels basic, but there’s still plenty of nuance to landing shots and engaging targets at range that you can only learn through hours of trial and error. The fact that you get nearly 200 potential targets to hone your shooting skills on certainly helps.
If PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds involves a little too much hiding around in bushes and strategic play for your liking, then the faster pace of H1Z1: King of the Kill might be more to your taste. The fact that it’s significantly cheaper is a welcome incentive if you’re still on the fence about the battle royale genre.
Last Man Standing
If you just want to dip your toes into battle royale without spending any money, you could do a lot worse than Last Man Standing, a free-to-play battle royale game with a surprising amount of depth and gameplay features.
The setup fits the battle royale formula to the letter: 100 players spawn in, forage for guns and gear, and kill until there’s only one person left. What Last Man Standing lacks in vehicles, it more than makes up for in weapons and attachments, even giving PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds a run for its money where loadout options are concerned. Its gunplay is nowhere near as polished, however.
If you’re struggling to convince three mates to invest in a battle royale game, Last Man Standing is a solid, and free, alternative.
Leaning much more on the televised, dystopian future flavour of battle royale popularised by The Hunger Games, The Culling is a first-person, melee-focused twist on the genre. The combat is basic but brutal, and the setting is a gamified jungle, complete with a stadium, giant floating scoreboard, and The Culling branding everywhere you look.
Much like in The Hunger Games, you won’t find much in the way of firearms in The Culling, and what assault rifles and SMGs you do come across will come with scarce few rounds. The emphasis here is on crafting rudimentary weapons, traps, and finding rarer treats like chainsaws and dynamite. There are also far fewer enemies to stab, chop, and beat your way through in order to get the win - only 16 contestants fight it out in this battle royale game.
The melee-focused gameplay and smaller player count makes The Culling the ideal battle royale game for The Hunger Games fans or, thanks to its excellent Duos mode, two friends.
Unturned: Arena Mode
One of the most surprising things about free-to-play zombie game Unturned is that it boasts some particularly polished and realistic gunplay. Where that really shines is in Arena Mode, an official game mode that borrows the core mechanics of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, cuts the player count down to 16, and takes place on one of four small maps.
Don’t let Unturned: Arena Mode fool you with its blocky art style - it is a hardcore shooter deep down, and that shows in its breadth of weapons and attachments. The fact that there are four distinct maps to fight through also adds an extra level of skill, as different tactics and map knowledge come into play. If you’re after a less gritty battle royale game, but still crave the high skill cap and realistic gunplay, then seek out Unturned: Arena Mode. And it's free, which is always welcome.
PlayerUnknown’s Battle Royale mod
This is where it all started. PlayerUnknown’s Battle Royale is the hugely successful Arma mod that kicked off both Brendan Greene’s career and battle royale games as a genre. This being a mod for Arma 3, though, expect the full military-sim experience: realistic bullet physics, high damage, and weighty recoil.
There are no special matches for pairs of players or four-person squads, you’re all alone in this last-person-standing competition. The original mod is ideal for anyone looking for the purest distillation of the battle royale premise, so it might be wise to steer clear if you’ve never played a battle royale game before.
Minecraft survival games
Owing to the total freedom afforded to players by Minecraft, particularly on PC, it was only a matter of time before somebody made a version of The Hunger Games in Mojang’s family-oriented sandbox game. That creative freedom means there are hundreds upon hundreds of maps, arena styles, weapon and armour setups, and rules to keep the experience varied depending on which Minecraft server you decide to play on.
Rather than players spawning or dropping into the map at random points, most Minecraft survival games servers pay tribute to the blockbuster franchise by spawning players in a circle around a huge cache of weapons - when the timer hits zero it’s anyone’s game. Rush to the weapons and risk dying in the immediate fray, or hope to scavenge one from a corpse later on? Minecraft survival games is a solid battle royale experience, and the sheer number of custom variants ensures every niche is served.
That’s the lot. Which is your favourite battle royale game? Let us know in the comments below.