The best multiplayer games on PC in 2021

What are the best multiplayer games on PC? We round up shooters, MOBAs, and indies alike, from Fortnite to Overwatch

One of the best multiplayer games, Valorant

Sometimes it’s not the game that shines, but the players. Intricate gameplay and glistening visuals only go so far in making a standout multiplayer title; its humans that can provide surprises and schemes that transform the average first-person shooter or puzzler into a gladiatorial showdown or co-op crusade. That’s the secret to the best multiplayer games on PC.

Fast and frantic or tense and calculated, the best PvP games come in all shapes and sizes. But they’re all connected by the simple pleasure of interacting with other humans. Whether it’s a healer and a DPS attempting to solve a finicky flanking manoeuvre in Overwatch, or a tense head-to-head battle tackling terrorists in Rainbow Six Siege, these games wouldn’t be the same without a bunch of people running around killing, maiming, or, occasionally helping each other.

So banish those bots, break out your friends list, put on your most sociable face, and prepare to embrace the best multiplayer games on PC.

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The best PC multiplayer games are:

War Thunder - multiplayer games

War Thunder

War Thunder is a free-to-play multiplayer game all about military vehicles knocking seven bells out of one another, whether that’s in aerial dog fights, sprawling tank battles, or naval skirmishes. That pitch might sound familiar, but no free MMO has achieved what War Thunder has in terms of quality, balancing, and the sheer scope of vehicles waiting to be unlocked. While the multiplayer game started out with a humble suite of aircraft and ground vehicles you’ll recognise from WW2 games, it’s myriad tech trees now encompass the military histories – past and present – of several nations, from global superpowers to smaller nations famed for punching above their weight.

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What separates this war game from its competitors are its incredibly detailed ballistics modelling and simulation game modes. A 1v1 between two tanks can be affected by countless factors, as armour thickness, armour angle, material, shell size and type, and distance from target can be the difference between a shot ricocheting and dealing no damage, or piercing and wiping out the entire enemy crew. The more you play the more you learn to spot different types of vehicles so you can exploit their weak points and win the fight with a single well-placed shot. It’s an endlessly satisfying loop, and with hundreds of vehicles to earn, it will be a long time before you run out of new content.

Play War Thunder for free

Valorant, one of the best multiplayer games

VALORANT

Riot’s ultra-slick tactical team-based shooter is coming for CS:GO’s crown, and it has a lot of shiny new features to set it apart. The gameplay will be familiar to CS:GO players: teams of five players begin the match either attacking or defending, and swap halfway through; players must also purchase weapons at the beginning of each round, earning currency based on their performance in the previous round. Crucially, though, in Valorant players choose from a roster of agents, each with unique abilities which they can purchase each round (and one they get for free). Each Valorant character has their own strategic strengths and weaknesses; some are experts at defending sites, while others set up pushes or secure kills.

Although skills play an important role, Valorant still maintains a heavy emphasis on gunplay and competitive balance, to ensure it stands up as an excellent game for high level play – as evidenced by its thriving esports scene.

Among Us

If you haven’t heard of Among Us by now, that’s pretty sus. The social deduction game skyrocketed in popularity last year, as its classic formula of multicoloured beans stabbing each other in corridors became a veritable phenomenon. In each lobby, a handful of players are designated Imposters, whose job it is to sabotage and murder the innocent Crewmates without being discovered.

The game ends when Imposters outnumber Crewmates, or when Crewmates successfully figure out the Imposters’ identities and vote them off during emergency meetings. This can be initiated by discovering a body or smacking a big red button in the meeting room.

A squad silhouetted against jagged cliffs in Destiny 2, one of the best multiplayer games

Destiny 2

Whether you want to squad up for gargantuan PvE raids, duke it out against others in PvP, or even combine elements of both in PvPvE, Destiny 2 ticks all of the boxes when it comes to the best multiplayer games. A few years since launch and Destiny 2 is better than ever, with the Forsaken expansion addressing plenty of foibles and a free-to-play launch on Steam bringing the game to new audiences.

Read more: All you need to know about Destiny 2 classes

Loot ties all of the multiplayer arms together, so no matter how you’re playing Destiny 2, your goal is always to acquire powerful new weapons and armour like Destiny 2 Exotics. Every mission completed, miniboss slain, and PvP match won contributes by rewarding you with mightier gear, creating an ongoing, near endless power fantasy.

Pathfinder standing in front of a waterfall in Apex Legends, one of the best multiplayer games

Apex Legends

From hyper-mobile gameplay that lends itself to flanking manoeuvres to respawn beacons that bring your mates back into the fight after death, Respawn’s nimble shooter boasts all the usual trimmings of the best multiplayer games.

Where it truly excels, however, is its ability to bring everyone into the fold with its ping system. Should you feel uncomfortable talking to strangers with your microphone or simply don’t want to, you can still contribute by pinging enemies, locations of interest, and even the best Apex Legends weapons you want or think others may find useful.

The post-apocalyptic shooter is also early in its life cycle, meaning that now is an excellent time to jump in and try our Apex Legends tips. There will also be a steady stream of Apex Legends new Legends for players to sink their teeth into, which promises to freshen up the battle royale’s meta every few months. There’s also a very good chance you’ll bump into someone from this office. Be gentle, please.

A man and his missiles jump from a cliff in Fortnite, one of the best multiplayer games

Fortnite

Epic’s shooter first emerged as an intriguing mix of building, sandbox, and survival elements. The original Fortnite: Save the World mode – in which you construct fortresses to combat a severe zombie threat – has long been eclipsed by the world-conquering Fortnite Battle Royale. Thanks to some phenomenal Fortnite player numbers, and the fact it’s a good deal more polished than PUBG, Epic’s last man standing extravaganza is one of the best multiplayer games on PC.

Where you stand on the great Fortnite vs. PUBG debate depends on personal preference. Both are strong battle royale games with devoted communities, but Fortnite’s eye-catching Pixar sheen, accessibility – helped considerably by being free-to-play – and Fortnite building mechanics give it the edge for some over the detailed, deep military sim sensibilities of PUBG. We’re in no doubt, however, that Epic’s cosmetics game is far stronger: the sheer number of Fortnite skins and Fortnite Wraps (weapon and vehicle skins) is mind-boggling.

Faceless Void traps Tidehunter and Lion in his Chronosphere ability, freezing them in place, in one of the best multiplayer games, Dota 2

Dota 2/League of Legends

Now before you baulk at the aggregation of these two rival beasts of the MOBA genre into a single entry, we’re intending to recommend one or the other, not both – and let’s face it, while the mechanics, items, lanes, and League of Legends Champions/Dota 2 Heroes offer different gameplay experiences, the multiplayer aspect of both these games is largely the same. Gather four friends and discover how you each cope with blame and failure, or be assigned a team of four strangers who all somehow manage to be much worse than you at the game, even though statistically they are likely to be very close to you in rank.

The competitive scene around both of these games is gargantuan – almost four million people watched the LoL Worlds Semifinals simultaneously in November 2019, and back in August 2019 the prize pool for Dota’s The International reached over $34 million, the biggest prize pool in esports history.

League of Legends is Twitch’s most watched game of 2019, and with about eight million concurrent players a day to Dota’s average of 400,000, it’s clear to see which of the two is the most popular. That doesn’t mean LoL is necessarily the better game, but the figures do make sense when you consider how Riot churn out absolute bangers to promote their MOBA.

We recommend you try a couple of matches in both games before you decide on the best MOBA for you, but if you’re looking for a game that is a totally different experience every match depending on your draft vs the opponents’ draft, meaning you and your team can enjoy a new challenge night after night – we advise getting into LoL or Dota 2.

The pyro and the engineer mowing down foes in Team Fortress 2, one of the best multiplayer games

Team Fortress 2

If you were not there when Team Fortress 2 launched, it is difficult to convey what a delirious and unexpected pleasure it was in 2007. In development longer than Pangaea, TF2 blindsided everyone when it finally arrived in its cheery and lustrous Pixar sheen. Instead of the anticipated amalgamations of biceps and military garb we expected, its cast is a brigade of slapstick comedians whose interplay provoked frequent, spirited, and genuine lols.

Each had skills and abilities that interweaved beautifully. Heavy mows down Soldier. Engineer builds sentry to mow down Heavy. Spy saps sentry. Pyro incinerates Spy. Sniper takes out Pyro. Scout bonks Sniper on his noggin and runs off. Demo obliterates Scout with his sticky bombs, then resumes flashing people. No, not like that. Medic watches that Uber gauge, and licks his lips.

It’s a very different game today, now absolutely baffling to lapsed players. Still, the rich visual design, the sheer strength of its cast, and the interplay between classes preserve it as one of the best multiplayer games around. An enduring classic… even if the emergence of Fortnite has lead to the biggest Team Fortress 2 player count drop ever.

Wrecking Ball deploys his minefield in Overwatch, one of the best multiplayer games

Overwatch

Beautifully blending Team Fortress 2 and League of Legends, Overwatch remains a phenomenon and easily one of the best multiplayer games ever made. A class-based multiplayer shooter that owes much to TF2’s art style, payload maps, and asymmetrical combat, Overwatch also owes plenty to LoL’s diverse roster and essential teamplay. As our Overwatch PC review attests, its tantalising recipe for multiplayer grandeur is a mixture of popular styles, ripe with possibilities, which has captured the imaginations and evenings of the masses. That much is apparent from even a cursory visit to the fantastically busy Overwatch reddit, where you will certainly never go hungry for GIFs.

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Blizzard are continually updating the game and adding to their impressively diverse and colourful roster with new Overwatch heroes, too. Want to master the best Overwatch characters? Prepare to commit months to the colourful blaster. Somehow, Overwatch gets even better while maintaining a careful competitive balance.

Two players take aim in one of the best multiplayer games, Counter Strike Global Offensive

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has an underwhelming origin story. A refresh of Valve’s previous refresh of a Half-Life 1 mod, CS:GO was conceived as nothing more ambitious than a console port; an experiment to see if PlayStation and Xbox gamers would engage with the Counter-Strike name. And, if PC players fancied a go, what’s the harm? As it turns out, we got one of the best multiplayer games on PC.

Thanks to regular CS:GO updates, the shooter sensation is consistently one of the most played games on Steam. Its weapon skins support an entire cottage industry of trading sites. It is an ultra-competitive, high prize pool esport. You cannot move on Twitch for CS:GO streams.

Back in time: our list of the best World War 2 games

Its popularity is self-evident, but its quality requires a deeper understanding of its appeal both as a nostalgia trip and a well-supported, pacey shooter with state-of-the-art spectator tools. Valve’s masterpiece is ripe for tactical exploitation, meaning you should check out our CS:GO tips if you want to succeed. Bristling with razor-sharp weapon feedback, this FPS is more comforting than mama’s homemade apple pie.

Warzone

Call of Duty’s battle royale game was relatively late to the BR party, arriving in March 2020, but it’s earned itself a massive following. The free-to-play game initially launched as part of Modern Warfare, but when Black Ops: Cold War came out, all the new weapons were integrated into Warzone – the game receives regular big updates, too, resulting in an ever-changing meta.

As far as battle royale games go, it’s particularly fast-paced and aggressive, as players can respawn if they win a 1v1 in the Gulag, or be brought back into the fight by their teammates spending cash at a Buy Station. You can also set up your chosen Warzone loadouts and purchase them during the game, so players can customise their guns with assorted unlockable attachments to try and get the edge on their opponents.

A car connects with the ball to send it over the head of an opponent in Rocket League, one of the best multiplayer games

Rocket League

The moment someone at Psyonix said “how about football… but with cars?” one of the best multiplayer games on PC was born. Despite the failed first attempt, Rocket League’s success is down to its streamlined design: you just push a ball across a pitch with a car. It is hardly something only hardcore petrolheads can understand.

More horsepower: The best racing games on PC

Do not mistake simplicity for a lack of depth, however. As we point out in our Rocket League PC review, mastering all the key Rocket League tips and successfully passing, shooting, and scoring is a thrilling learning curve. It leads to a career – not just for new musical talent – of a thousand near-misses and ‘almost!’ moments, your body inching forward in your seat as the tension builds. Headshots in shooters are ten-a-penny, but a goal in Rocket League is something special.

Rocket League’s exceptionally moreish online games are even better in local split-screen multiplayer. Everyone in the room will be ooh-ing and aahh-ing as the ball zooms from one end of the pitch to the other, punctuated by an obligatory elbow-to-the-ribs to prevent an inevitable goal.

A team prepares to defend in one of the best multiplayer games, Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege

Despite surface-level similarities to FPS darling CS:GO, Ubisoft have made reinforcing a wall or laying barbed wire as heroic as no-scoping an enemy from two rooftops away. Perhaps more than even the best multiplayer games, Rainbow Six Siege is about planning, communication, and execution of a team-based strategy.

Rainbow Six made its name by taking a quieter, more considered approach than the bombastic shooters against which it debuted in the late nineties, and in doing so it made you feel like a highly-trained, goggle-wearing, silenced MP5-toting specialist. The latest series entry evokes that same feeling despite the meta changes presented by a barrage of Rainbow Six Siege operators with more new operators coming in regular post-launch updates. If that sounds intimidating, Ubi do offer a Rainbow Six Siege Starter Edition so you can try it at a lower price.

Although, of course, there is destruction. Great big chunks of it that can kick up fine concrete dust every round. Just make sure you don’t get it all over your posh new cosmetics. Part of being ‘good’ at Siege is knowing each map intimately, and co-ordinating your team accordingly. The depth, nail-biting tension, and tactical potential of Rainbow Six Siege makes for a memorable cat-and-mouse multiplayer experience. No wonder the future of Siege is bright. As an esport it’s going global, while still allowing inexperienced high school minnows the chance to attain the glory of a major tournament place.

A sniper and their spotter on a hillside in Arma 3, one of the best multiplayer games

Arma 3

Arma 3 is about as close to finding yourself on a real battlefield, gibbering unintelligibly as the choppers and tanks go by. The large-scale battles and ultra-realism are not the only intimidating things about Arma 3, either. Populated by a diehard community with expertise levels second to none, the game’s players know things you didn’t know you knew.

Read more: Here are the best racing games on PC

Where pretend guns are concerned, this is one of the best multiplayer games around – no wonder Arma 3 sales are into the millions. Every battle is an engrossing spectacle, peppered with complex team chat and ingenious tactical manoeuvres (if you’re on a good server). It might still be buggier than the underside of a rotten branch, but it did its bit to bring about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Enough said.

A titan charges forward in Titanfall 2, one of the best multiplayer games

Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2 boasts one of the best single-player FPS stories in recent memory. However, as if that wasn’t enough, Respawn’s majestic, mech-based shooter is one of the best multiplayer games around, too – make sure to read our Titanfall 2 class guide so you can meet your future robot buddies.

Titanfall 2’s intoxicating multiplayer component is all about interplay. Think David versus Goliath, except it can be Goliath against Goliath. Then, sometimes, David is inside Golia… actually, never mind.

The opening stages of an online match are redolent of Call of Duty: you start as one of five nimble pilots, using your grappling hook and other gadgets to get the jump on the opposition and rack up kills. Then, everything changes: Massive 20-foot titans with various weapons and abilities rain down and devastate the battlefield. Trading agile, dynamic traversal as a pilot to take control of the slower, but much more powerful titan imbues multiplayer rounds with an endlessly satisfying rhythm that refines the promising core of the original. If you missed Titanfall 2, rectify that now with Origin Access.

multiplayer-games-dont-starve-together

Don’t Starve Together

Don’t Starve Together is a little different from the other games in our best multiplayer games list. It doesn’t involve taking on an opposing team, but it does require a lot of teamwork, crafting, building, and – crucially – not dying.

In this survival game, you and up to four other players are dropped into a sketchy Tim Burton-esque world filled with violent horrors and terrifying nightmarish creatures. These monsters are the least of your problems as you scramble to survive, keeping fed, warm, dry, and sane. If that wasn’t tricky enough, each night creatures emerge from the shadows ready to snuff out your campfire.

In Don’t Starve Together you’ll need to research new equipment to survive the changing seasons and progress through the world, all while collecting resources and trying desperately to, well, not starve.

GTA Online, one of the best multiplayer games

Grand Theft Auto Online

Rockstar’s open-world game is nearly eight years old – shocking, we know – but Los Santos is still a popular destination for online multiplayer. In Grand Theft Auto Online, players create their own budding criminal before connecting to a multiplayer server and teaming up with other players to complete jobs and heists.

There’s a wealth of player-created content available, too, including races and deathmatches for you to compete in. On the unofficial side of things, GTA Online roleplay servers are especially popular among content creators on Twitch and YouTube, as players make great use of Los Santos’ bustling metropolis to create wild, improvised stories of their own.

So there you have it, the best multiplayer games on PC. Of course, we all know playing multiplayer is only fun when you’re winning, so make sure you read our Fortnite tips for Battle Royale and check up on all the new Overwatch heroes for online success. Many of the best upcoming PC games also have exciting new multiplayer modes. It means there’s never been a better time to tap into your competitive side. Solo gaming is fine and all, but beating other gamers makes the best multiplayer modes incredibly moreish.

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