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The 9 Best Online Multiplayer PC Games
September 16, 2018
Reading time: 13 minutes
Warning:Some of the video games listed below are not suitable for younger viewers. Please use caution and check each game’s ESRB rating before allowing children to play it, especially those rated M for Mature. M-rated video games may contain content that is inappropriate for children and/or unlabeled content that exposes younger viewers to explicit messages and themes.
While there is definitely something to be said for solo gameplay, the world of gaming is made richer by playing video games with friends or other online users. There is something thrilling about sharing the experience of discovery and adventure with others or winning a battle or taking down an enemy because of genuine teamplay.
Here are 9 of the best online multiplayer games that you can embark on together.
Best online RPG games
1. World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment
World of Warcraft: (WoW), the ongoing and venerated massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) franchise that began in 2004, is still reinventing and reinvigorating itself in 2018, in the content-packed expansion World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
After the events of 2016’s expansion, Legion, which resolved itself with the imprisonment of a world-stabbing Titan wounding the planet itself, Battle for Azeroth returns the game back to familiar roots: the deadly rivalry of Alliance and Horde forces. This new expansion, with massive new continents to explore and conquer, sees a change in the dynamics of player vs. player (PvP) and player vs. environment (PvE).
It no longer resolves them into separate servers with specific PvP maps. Instead, the new “War Mode” allows any player character above level 20 the choice of whether to engage in PvP struggles on any server. Toggling “War Mode” will open you up to other players so inclined and encountering them will test your PvP battle skills. Doing so will be more dangerous, but more rewarding in experience points and loot.
Familiar gameplay of finding and completing quests, clearing dungeons, playing through levels, and upgrading weapons and armor are set against a backdrop in which the sword-wounded world is bleeding a new and powerful substance called “Azerite,” which players collect to power their mystic armor and use to gain footholds into enemy territory.
WoW requires a monthly subscription fee of $14.99 to play, but no longer has any upfront cost to purchase the game - so 15 bucks gets you going into the world of Azeroth, either for the noble forces of the Alliance or the sinister and wicked orcs and goblins of the Horde.
2. League of Legends by Riot Games
Sometimes, you don’t want an ongoing epic storyline. You just want to hop into a battle, command fantasy figures to carry out spells and attacks, and win against other players online doing the same. That’s the idea behind League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, which has been delivering this brand of fun since its release in 2009.
League of Legends was inspired by the popular Warcraft III mod, Defense of the Ancients. It lets you become a “Summoner,” controlling a “Champion” in a pitched battle against the other online Summoners and their Champions, for control of the opposing team’s “Nexus,” which is a fantasy-roleplay kind of way to say “the enemy base.”
Each game match is its own discrete event, with matches beginning and ending in 20 minutes to an hour. There are no big plotlines or twists to follow, but plenty of strategy and power-ups to learn about and employ.
As of August 2018, there are 141 different “Champion” avatars to choose from, with different play strategies and styles broken up in six classes:
Marksmen: distance weapon users
Mages: low mobility and weak defense, but massive support and damage spells
Assassins: quick, short-range killers
Tanks: big, beefy types who wade into combat, soaking up great damage while dealing out moderate force
Fighters: well-rounded in different abilities
Support: your healers and medics
League of Legends is a free-to-play game supported by microtransactions, where players buy “Riot Points” (Riot Games is the studio that developed the software) that can be used to unlock different champions, skins, emotes, and “flare” to dress up your avatars.
With tens of millions of players daily, there’s always a battle to join.
Best online FPS games
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 by Treyarch, Beenox, Raven Software
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will go all-in on online multiplayer gameplay as the first in the series without a traditional single-player campaign mode. The development team at Treyarch decided to dedicate all their time to dialing in the best and most polished multiplayer tactical experience, as that’s what the players of previous versions spend most time in, and not divert resources to a campaign mode.
Solo missions mode will still be available to test out your specialist’s gear and controls as well as to learn the mechanics of gameplay. You can also learn the backstory to their characters.
The ten specialist player characters are highly individualized operators with different strengths and weaknesses. Six of these will be returning types from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, with four new additions, code-named Recon, Ajax, Torque, and Crash, to round out the choices.
Zombie mode sees online multiplayer co-op action in PvE matches against waves of mutant undead military enemies in three different battle-map environments. Players will be able to customize the strength and intensity of the enemy hordes. A fourth map is available in the special edition purchase of the game.
But the big draw of Black Ops 4 will be the inclusion of a 100-player battle royale mode called “Blackout.” Think Fortnite, only with a first-person perspective. It also has more realistic weapons, gear, maps and player types. Modes are Solo (last specialist standing wins), Duo (you and a friend) or Quads (teams of four) battling across the largest maps ever made for a Call of Duty game.
4. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege by Ubisoft Montreal
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege gives gamers a very realistic setting and dynamic. In this first-person multiplayer online shooter, players become military operators from novelist Clancy’s fictional Rainbow Program. Weapon and gear loadouts are based on military tech and armaments.
The game sets online players in teams against each other in real-world theater-of-war maps as attackers and defenders with different objectives for victory. One such objective is Hostage, where attackers must successfully and safely extract a hostage being kept by the defending team. Defenders win by either eliminating the attacking team, or if one of the attackers accidentally shoots the hostage.
Bomb is a competitive multiplayer mode where the attack team must storm a planted bomb and deploy (and defend) a defuser device to neutralize it. Secure Area puts a twist on the idea of “capture the flag,” with the defenders keeping a biohazard container safe from attackers. A match ends when either opposing team is completely eliminated or the attackers secure the biohazard in a room with no defenders present.
Cooperation, voice communication, and genuine military tactics and strategies are an emphasis in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege. While the tense multiplayer match modes are the main appeal, you can hone your skills and learn the tactics (and controls) necessary in solo modes, as well, with PvE enemies.
Best online adventure and online survival games
5. Far Cry 5 by Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Toronto
Far Cry 5 is a visually stunning first-person adventure game set in a dystopian near-future Montana.
The player assumes the role of an unnamed sheriff's deputy (either male or female, depending on your choice at the start) tasked with helicoptering into a religious white-separatist cult compound and arresting the charismatic leader of the heavily armed, fanatical militia, Joseph Seed, whose flock calls him “The Father.”
The opening sequence sets the tone of increasing dread and menace as you march with a squad of law enforcement through the compound. When you arrest Seed and put him into the chopper, things go poorly for you, and soon you are all alone in Big Sky Country, surrounded by well-armed religious fanatics with nothing but your wits. Seed and his minions believe that his attempted capture heralds the end of the world, so they search for any non-believers to destroy them and bring on their prophesied Doomsday.
Far Cry 5 creates a kind of survival-horror adventure without any supernatural zombies or mutant monsters; just wild-eyed (and pistol packing) believers who would die - and kill for - their “Father.” The feeling of being trapped and the dread of being surrounded on all sides by other people who cannot be reasoned with creates a real sense of urgency when playing. And the photorealistic enemies and cinematic sequences make for harrowing gameplay.
As the story plays out, the player as deputy has free range of the area, and the different weapons and items that you can scavenge open up creative and different possibilities and choices in gameplay. Recruiting locals from town as follow-along NPCs and making different choices as to who to trust and partner with open up different paths of storylines and side-quests and ensures that no two people will ever play the same game of Far Cry 5.
In addition to the main campaign/story mode, Far Cry 5 also offers mapmaking and multiplayer modes to keep players coming back after the game is finished, or to play more casually between sessions.
6. A Way Out by Electronic Arts
A Way Out is an interesting, artistic twist on the third-person, story-driven adventure game genre. It presents the story of two criminals, Vincent and Leo, arriving in prison, with each player assuming the role of one or the other.
The game is played in overlapping action and plot in split-screen, and here’s the twist: there is no single player mode. To survive prison and bust out, you’ve got to find a partner to play with and adventure both separately (when the screen is artfully split, sometimes larger on one end if the narrative calls for it), or together when events bring Vincent and Leo into the same room.
It presents both a co-op multiplayer style game and a kind of parallel single player experience at the same time, weaving an intricate story of trust and betrayal in the process.
A Way Outis the passion project of Swedish film and game director Josef Fares, who gave up working on a feature film to complete this game with the team of developers at Hazelight Studios. The intention was to create a unique two player experience that told a story in a new and unique way, offering a gaming and cinematic experience to players that they have not seen in other titles, with the simultaneous storytelling.
There are puzzles and item-quests as well as twitch reflex action sequences. Early on, a pitched prison fight breaks out in the yard, with Leo and Vincent fighting back to back, and tapping key buttons and directions at on-screen prompts to dodge or deliver blows.
What the director and developers were hoping to deliver was a new kind of “emotional adventure” that is both a game and a kind of a movie in itself. Definitely a unique and intriguing take on the adventure genre.
7. Don’t Starve Together by Klei Entertainment
Don't Starve Together is the online multiplayer edition of the survival game Don't Starve. This cartoony, stylized, line-drawn Tim Burton-esque world of tiny people and creatures that must survive in the wilderness as long as possible is deceptively creepy. You’ll need to keep your character well-fed, healthy, and sane - there are in fact meters for all three - while running away from or fighting enemies that are seeking to kill and eat you.
The game features 16 playable characters, all of whom have names beginning with the letter “W” (except for one - the villain named Maxwell) and unique abilities: Winona, for instance, is a skilled builder; Wolfgang grows stronger when he’s full; while Willow is immune to fire damage.
Dropped into the wilderness, your character will need to gather resources like twigs, logs, and stones to craft items and structures to survive. You’ll also need to find food like berries, carrots, and even meat so you don’t starve. Exploring and gathering materials is relatively safe during the day. But be aware that the day only lasts a few minutes in this world and the game gets dangerous at night.
You and your friends can build a fire, which will help keep you warm as well as ward away some of the creepy-crawlies. If you do get attacked and survive the battle, your health and sanity meter will be affected. Make yourself a garland to wear on your head and calm your nerves (and add to your health meter).
Even the seemingly cutesy and benign can hurt you. There is an adorable frog that can follow you around, for instance, but it will be able to attack if your health is low. Keeping your body (and mind) strong has never been more important.
Best online sandbox games
8. No Man’s Sky by Hello Games
No Man's Sky is an action-adventure, sandbox (or open world) survival game released in 2016 as single player only, and then re-released, as No Man’s Sky Next, with a multiplayer edition in 2018.
The game enables up to four players (and a maximum of 16 people in each instance) to explore planets and star systems, build bases together, assemble fleets of starships, or fight against each other. Your role as a player is the Traveller, an alien humanoid planetary explorer in an uncharted universe.
Along with their crashed spacecraft, every player spawns on a randomly generated planet within the Euclid galaxy, equipped with space suit, jetpack, and multi-function tool that is used to mine, scan, attack, defend, and collect resources. You’re free to explore your own planet. Then once you collect and mine resources to repair and refuel your spacecraft, you can travel between other planets and space stations in the local solar system, fight with aliens, or make hyperspace jumps to other star systems.
Your planet, as well as every piece of flora and fauna on it, is procedurally (or randomly) generated. In fact, this immense open-world universe includes over 18 quintillion planets. Yup, that’s one million trillion. Each planet’s ecosystem is unique. Some will have dinosaur-like creatures roaming around, while others will have multicolored tentacled, man-eating plants, and still others will look pretty barren.
You can also follow messages and guidance received from an entity called “The Atlas” to travel to the galaxy’s center. Along this journey you’ll encounter galactic members of three alien species called the Gek, Korvax, and Vy'keen.
Mysteries of the galaxy will eventually be revealed to those who want to continue exploring down this path. The beauty of this open world game is that the choices are up to you, and there is accordingly an optimistic feel to the gameplay.
9. Grand Theft Auto V by Rockstar North
Another open world game, in which optimistic is probably the last word that you’d use to describe it, is Grand Theft Auto V. The staggeringly massive world is set in the bleak city of Los Santos, modeled after Los Angeles.
Remarkably, it’s one of the most popular open-world (or sandbox) and action-adventure games out there. This 15th title in the Grand Theft Auto series (which began in 1997) broke industry records during its release in 2013, earning $800 million on day one, and winning a number of video game publications’ industry awards, including “Game of the Year.”
Set in the fictional state of San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto V’s online multiplayer mode, Grand Theft Auto Online, was developed concurrently with the single-player mode. It allows up to 30 people to play a number of characters while roaming freely through the game world.
The story in Grand Theft Auto Online takes place months before events of GTA V. Your character, along with friends and random online players, can carry out missions and other activities, such as racing cars or boats, stealing airplanes and helicopters, robbing banks, or participating in general mayhem on the street.
The best multiplayer experiences depend on the people playing together, and sometimes people don’t act (or speak) very courteously, to put it politely. As Sartre wrote, “Hell is other people.”
On the other hand, you can choose to work together harmoniously to accomplish something really cool. Possibilities include playing a game of golf, chartering a submarine to explore the ocean, customizing your vehicle to look like the Scooby-Doo van, or hanging out and shooting the breeze in a 24/7 convenience store.
Although the game world is exquisitely detailed and rendered, it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Spend a few minutes perusing the game’s website, which presents like a travel promotion welcoming you to “Visit Los Santos and Blaine County: Where plastic surgery, bad movies, and big sharks rule the roost.”
The write-ups are just as tongue-in-cheek and pretty funny. For example, the Member Prospectus of the Exclusive Country Club: “FEEL LIKE A VIP! If you are too lazy or can’t find a manservant to carry your luggage, then drive around in a tiny electric car, despite the fact that you would never be caught dead in a hybrid otherwise.”
Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.
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