Pick your battles
If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds must be blushing right now given the amount of games its inspired. With the PC megahit now on Xbox One), developers everywhere are riding on Battlegrounds' coattails, with their own takes on the Battle Royale blueprint. There’s a lot clones out there, but should we paint the entire subset of imitations as cheap knockoffs? Absolutely not; while there are some issues - Fornite is famously in dispute with PUBG for so closely following it's template - the mode isn't exactly a new idea. Some games are older, and some have a unique angle.
It means there are plenty of good reasons why you’d might want to play a different Battle Royale game to PUBG. You might be looking for something to tide you over as you patiently wait for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on PS4, your preferred platform for Darwinian deathmatches. Alternatively, there is such a thing as too much PUBG, and burning yourself out on PlayerUnknown’s variant of tactical PvP may have left you hungry for change, albeit within the same ballpark as the Battle Royale genre. The following games offer exactly that; a fresh and unique variation which still delivers on everything you love about the ‘Last Man Standing’ multiplayer template. You never know, you might even end up preferring one of them to the original...
Arma 3: PlayerUnknown’s Battle Royale Mod - The one that started it all (PC)
This is where it all began; how PlayerUnknown became, well, known. Inspired by his love of military sims, Brendan Greene used one of his favourites - Arma 3 (particularly its DayZ mod) - as his canvas to experiment with different PvP scenarios, eventually leading to the creation of his first Battle Royale mod. While the mode quickly became known as the “COD of DayZ”, be warned; this is a community mod for a five year old PC mil-sim, so don’t go in expecting something anything close to the stuff you see in PUBG.
Instead, it’s a patient and purist interpretation of Battle Royale, with a healthy dose of realism underscoring the gunplay. The intensity of the genre is definitely there, though, and the fact that you can only play solo makes it an even more stressful experience, if that’s your sort of thing. Still, it can be fun to go back and experience PUBG’s humble roots, even if Greene did eventually go on to bigger and better things.
GTA Online: Motor Wars - The one with the all the cars (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Rockstar is usually the one found at the frontlines of industry innovation rather than following somebody else’s lead but, damn it, Battle Royale makes so much sense as a mode for GTA Online that I’ll allow them this one exception. As part of the Smuggler’s Run update in August 2017, Rockstar added a new mode called Motor Wars, which it described “as a tense battle for survival, where teams race against the clock to locate weaponised vehicles and hunt down opponents inside an ever-shrinking kill box.” Certainly sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
In reality, Motor Wars’s overt emphasis on vehicular mayhem is where the mode really comes into its own. You’re still fighting to survive as the last team standing, but this time you have to contend with skyscrapers, ragdoll physics, and people driving around in armoured trucks with .50 cal turrets mounted on the back. Plus, it’s all taking place within GTA 5’s still impressive game engine, so you know the production value is going to be top notch.
Fortnite: Battle Royale - The one you can play for free
Whether PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds is publicly calling Fortnite out for “replicating the PUBG experience”, or Epic finds itself making headlines after suing a teenager for hacking, Fortnite: Battle Royale hasn’t always been in the spotlight for the right reasons. However, since the survival crafting title launched its PvP mode for free back in September 2017, Fortnite: Battle Royale has witnessed massive success as a PUBG competitor, not least because it beat Bluehole to the console market as the first free Battle Royale game on PS4 and Xbox One.
The mode flaunts attractive features to set itself apart too, by introducing crafting, resource management, and eccentric new weaponry to the fold, with a focus on emergent gameplay that can allow for some breathtakingly creative wins. Build impregnable sky fortresses and finish your foes from above, surf RPG rockets to attain victory via the element of surprise, or create a trap-filled maze to funnel an enemy into a spiky end… All of these tactics and more are made possible by Fortnite’s sandbox sentiments, where intense strategy and inventive hilarity go hand in hand.
The Culling - The one that’s basically The Hunger Games (PC, Xbox One)
The Battle Royale genre primarily takes its inspiration from (surprise!) the Japanese film of the same name, but The Culling finds its identity by drawing from a slightly different movie muse. Set in a jungle forest biome where 16 players whack, shoot, and explode each other to death as an unmissable scoreboard in the sky chronicles every defeat and victory, this is The Hunger Games in all but name.
The bloody combat is clunky but cathartic, and developer Xaviant’s prioritisation on crafting and melee weaponry makes a fresh change from the long-range firefights of Battlegrounds. It’s also a visually and thematically colourful game, with a tongue-in-cheek tone that works well as as comic relief from the breakneck intensity of every match.
Rust: Battle Royale - The one where you’re naked (PC)
You’ve heard of Rust before. It’s the game where hundreds of people go around thwacking each other with rocks, usually while wearing nothing but their birthday suit. Considering that the whole point of Rust is to survive in a harsh environment as you scrounge for resources and fend off any competition, then, it was inevitable that someone would set up an unofficial Battle Royale server for the game at some point.
In Rust: Battle Royale, players spawn on the edge of the map (in the nude, of course), with nothing but a torch, bandage, and map to keep them company. What follows is a ruthless dog eat dog quest to stay alive at any cost, as the combat zone slowly begins to shrink. The mode is Battle Royale diluted to its most barebones and, at times, it’s absolutely terrifying. You’re more likely to be running around like a headless chicken than engaging in strategically minded combat, but there’s something to be said about the sheer brutality of it all that makes Rust’s answer to PUBG more entertaining than it looks.
H1Z1: King of the Kill - The one for eSports enthusiasts (PC)
After wowing players and peers alike with his aforementioned Arma 3 mod, PlayerUnknown went on to work with Daybreak Games to create a new H1Z1 Battle Royale mode in the exact same vein, and King of the Kill is the wildly popular result of those combined efforts. With its faster pace and stress on shooting over scavenging, King of the Kill boasts an active and hotly competitive community of players, and has gone on to become something of the Battle Royale poster child for eSports tournaments and events.
But it’s also a fairly accessible game for newcomers too, with less systems in play than something like Battlegrounds, placing the directive firmly on skill and survival. More shooter than mil-sim, H1Z1’s simpler style and cheaper price point make it an appealing and viable alternative to the PUBG experience.
Ark: Survival of the Fittest - The one with dinosaurs (PC)
Let’s not beat around the prehistoric bush; Ark: Survival of the Fittest has gawkish visuals, buggy gameplay, and an awful user interface, but this standalone spin-off to Ark: Survival Evolved is also the only Battle Royale game where you’ll also be fighting alongside all manner of rancorous reptiles and barmy beasties, where even mother nature herself is out to kill you.
The caveman setting fits nicely into the Battle Royale dynamic, but the real good stuff comes when things begin to heat up; as players ride into fights mounted on giant gorillas or fire-breathing dragons, leading to end-game battles on a scale that simply can’t be found anywhere else. It may take you a while to find a match these days, as Ark’s player count continues to dwindle, but I promise you won’t be disappointed once you do.
Minecraft: The Hunger Games - The one you can play with your kids (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Before PUBG (or indeed the Battle Royale genre) was ever even a thing, Minecraft had been hosting Last Man Standing deathmatches for years. Today still, there are dozens of Battle Royale-style servers to choose from on Minecraft PC, but you’ll want to stick with big, popular communities like Mineplex for the most balanced and competitive rounds set in Mojang’s blockbuster title.
As you’d imagine, the fully destroyable and rebuildable world of Minecraft is the perfect playground for Battle Royale death matches, as players are given every opportunity to engage with their creative side for the sake of survival. The ever clunky combat is never going to be as fair or fine-tuned as the rest of the games on this list, but it’s a serviceable compromise when you consider that this might be the only kid-friendly Battle Royale experience out there.
Rules of Survival - The one you can play on your phone (Mobile)
While it’s already been announced that an official PUBG game is in development for mobile (at least in China), it’s probably going to be a while before we ever see that in action. In the meantime, there’s plenty of half decent Battle Royale mobile games that you can download and play on your portable device of choice, and Rules of Survival is one the best examples.
Despite the limitations of the platform, Rules of Survival boasts a higher player limit than the Battle Royale standard, allowing up to 120 players to drop in on the same island at any one time. The map is impressively big, and there’s a good variety of vehicles and guns to discover in each round, even if NetEase Games still has a lot of work to do when it comes to ironing out some of the more noticeable bugs and glitches. As far as originality, it doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the competition, and the presentation leaves much to be desired, but it’s still one of the more robust and enjoyable variants of mobile Battle Royale out there.
Warface - The one you should probably avoid (PC)
As I mentioned earlier, not every Battle Royale game is a winner, and Warface’s take on the mode is only worth checking out if, for whatever reason, you can’t play any of the above. The game might be free to play and developed by Crytek, but the good news stops there. For starters, Warface is ugly, donning the kind of grey and brown military aesthetic that had lost any sense of eye-pleasing appeal years ago, and the rudimentary combat isn’t much more interesting either.
Its Battle Royale mode is serviceable at best, but the fact that it only allows 16 players per round diminishes the scale of the fighting drastically, and games can end up feeling more like a dragged out version of Team Deathmatch above anything else. Still, there are over 70 guns to play around with, and if you’re into its COD-inspired brand of arcade gunplay, then Warface has you covered.