If you don’t quite relish the idea of digesting in front of the big game on Thanksgiving, maybe now’s the time to give esports a try. Esports isn’t all high strategy and spell-slinging (although there’s plenty of that if that’s what you’re after). There’s a reason these games have such a huge following — they’re simply a joy to watch, and you’ll quickly find yourself growing attached to the players as well. Here’s a list of five high-octane esports for newcomers to watch this Thanksgiving.
Overwatch is still less than a year old, but Blizzard is looking to push the game as an esport big time. Many esports organizations are starting to recruit Overwatch teams as talks of tournaments begin to take hold. Overwatch is great fun to watch — it looks a treat and is ultra-fast paced. If you want to get into a first-person, hero-heavy shooter, this is the game to try. The game is team-based, and each character plays a role, be it support, tank, offense, and defense to either capture points on the map or deliver a payload.
Overwatch Season 3 doesn’t begin until November 30th, but you can still find some talented folks streaming the game over the holiday break. Check out NRG Esports’s A_Seagull, who streams regularly and provides educational and entertaining commentary. Moon Moon also has a massive following — he’s a skilled player who’s fun to watch and is highly informative.
Heroes of the Storm
Heroes of the Storm takes favorite characters from different Blizzard games and tosses them together into strategic, team-based battles. It’s a MOBA, but the developers have done a pretty good job to ensure that the game is accessible for newcomers as well. Once you get a good feel for Heroes of the Storm, you can even move on to other games like League of Legends or Dota 2.
Players are divided into teams and face off against each other, levelling up over the course of the match and crafting powerful builds to take out opponents. It’s fast-paced and fun, making it a great substitute for live sports over the holidays.
If you want to watch some HotS, check out Khaldor (above), who covers live pro EU matches, offering insightful commentary. You might want to follow Grubby too, a talented player who has built a friendly community and streams quite frequently.
Much like Overwatch, Rocket League is a relative newcomer to competitive gaming, but is looking to break into esports in a major way. It’s also something oddly refreshing — cars playing soccer. If you’re familiar with the basic rules of soccer, Rocket League will be a cinch. The main difference is that the game’s outrageous physics allow cars to pull off flips and crazy trick shots for some added fun.
Rocket League has received quite a bit of support for its new professional league. If you want to look into some pro matches, do check out Rocket League Central on Twitch or watch some of Kronovi’s broadcasts. Kronovi is one of the best in the biz, representing G2 Esports and impressing millions of viewers with his impressive aerial stunts.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Everyone likes Nintendo characters, which should making getting into this bright and bubbly esport easy as that pumpkin pie you just gobbled down. Super Smash Bros. Melee has been around for almost two decades now, but it’s still one of the biggest fighting games in esports. Players face off against each other, controlling one of many famous Nintendo characters, each with their own unique set of abilities.
It’s accessible for people at all levels and easy to watch, but there are a lot of layers to dig into if that’s what you’re after. If you want to check out pro-Melee, watch Joseph “Mang0” Marquez on his Twitch channel. Mang0 plays Melee for Cloud 9 Gaming. Or check out Kevin “PPMD Nanney who, along with Mang0, is considered one of the “5 Gods” in Super Smash Bros. Melee and represents Evil Geniuses.
League of Legends
League of Legends is one of the biggest names in esports, drawing huge crowds to events year after year. With its international appeal and superstar players, League is a blast whether you’re watching or playing. Like Heroes of the Storm, it’s a MOBA in which two teams face off against each other, fighting to take out their opponent’s “Nexus,” a sort of tower and power source on each team’s side of the map.
Just as a matter of caution though, while many of the games on this list require swift reaction time and intense strategy, League of Legends is the one on this list that will probably take the most study just to understand what’s happening on the screen. We have a guide to help you with that, but its still possible to dive in head first anyway.
While League of Legends is between seasons at the moment, you can catch some older matches on YouTube or Twitch. The World Championships were especially exciting, as ROX Tigers took on heavy hitter SK Telecom 1 in a series of surprising semi-finals matches. You can catch it in the video above.