H1Z1 | PC, PS4, Xbox One
After three years and change in its buggy early access form, H1Z1 emerged this past February an entirely new game. The original single-player zombie survival mode was renamed Just Survive while the more popular King of the Hill multiplayer battle royale mode took over the H1Z1 title. As a standalone battle royale experience, H1Z1 feels stripped-down compared to its contemporaries. Missing are the base-building aspects of Fortnite and PUBG’s gun attachments. Aside from a basic crafting function, it’s essentially run-and-gun until the time runs out. Combined with its multi-platform availability and the fact that it’s now entirely free to play, H1Z1 is one of the more accessible battle royale games out there.
Surviv.io | PC Browser
If PUBG’s uber-realistic graphics turn you off, this top-down internet browser game is certainly a different direction. In it, you take control of a yellow circle with two smaller circles as your fists, fighting for victory within a small, grid-like map. You can take on opponents solo, in a duo, or in a squad of four. Surviv.io is an effective reminder not to judge a book by its cover, presenting a far deeper, more complex gameplay experience than you’d imagine. Gear can be found in crates, houses, cabinets, and across the playing field. Plus, your guns can be upgraded with scopes which allow you to pick off opponents you wouldn’t otherwise be able to spot. Obviously, Surviv.io will never be a Fortnite killer, but for a bit of free, mindless fun, it’s worth a click.
Unturned: Arena | PC
Unturned is a popular zombie survival sandbox, and its Arena multiplayer mode offers a classic battle royale arena experience; spawn, find weapons, destroy. Production value is only a minor step up from Surviv.io, limiting its appeal to the most forgiving of PC gamers. However, in contrast to the blocky, unrefined style, Unturned’s gameplay is surprisingly tight. The Arena mode pits just 16 players against each other, minimizing chaos compared to the genre norm. Boasting a good selection of weapons, four different maps, and a reasonable skill curve, Unturned’s Arena mode is a free-to-play battle royale worth checking out if you can stomach the crude presentation.
The Culling | PC, Xbox One
Here’s a small-scale battle royale for gamers in search of a more orderly operation. What distinguishes The Culling from its peers is its twisted narrative and the atmosphere it creates. In 8-player and 16-player modes, “contestants” on a cruel game show fight for their lives on a remote island for the entertainment of some seriously messed up people. It’s a gritty, slightly sickening mood that works to create a harrowing, tense experience. While today you’d have to shell out for the game, there’s hope that its waning player numbers will motivate the developers to turn to free-to-play in the future.
Grand Theft Auto Online: Motor Wars | PC, PS4, Xbox One
The battle royale style Motor Wars mode can be found in GTA Online’s Adversary mode, added to the game as part of the Smuggler’s Run update released last August. Motor Wars follows the battle royale rulebook fairly closely, but with one game-changing exception: vehicles. Sure, the most popular battle royale games have vehicles, but with Motor Wars, it’s kind of the whole point. To ignore the benefit of the various military-style vehicles would be to embrace your own defeat from the get-go. Matches hold between four and 28 players, divided into four teams. Consistent with the format, the maps shrink with time, only in Motor Wars, they shrink significantly quicker. Now consider that more-or-less every player will be driving a vehicle and it isn’t hard to imagine the havoc that ensues.
Last Man Standing | PC
It’s been called “the poor man’s PUBG,” but I’d be remiss not to discuss the game’s merits. Like PUBG, it’s a gritty, realistic alternative to Fortnite. Unlike PUBG though, Last Man Standing is completely free to play. The 100-man deathmatch format is cut precisely from the battle royale playbook, but its polished gameplay and extensive weapons variety make Last Man Standing stand out as a free-to-play title.
Rules of Survival | iOS, Android
Look, we get it. Battle royale games are fun, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to fight to the death while you’re waiting at the doctor or commuting on the train. Rules of Survival is a 300-player – yes, up to three-hundred – deathmatch on your phone. While a technical marvel in and of itself, it should come as no surprise that performance issues will affect individual experiences depending on your tablet or phone’s specs and connection. Still, Rules of Survival doesn’t cut corners and for that, it deserves credit. Featuring a robust selection of weapons, attachments, and vehicles, Rules of Survival is as close to a full battle royale experience as one could expect from a mobile game, and it comes pretty darn close.
ARK: Survival of the Fittest | PC
It’s battle royale with dinosaurs — what’s not to like? Well, not much as long as you can accept that you’re playing a game fated to disappear at any moment. Studio Wildcard has all but given up on its ARK: Survival Evolved spin-off, Survival of the Fittest. And it’s a shame because when you can find a match, it’s a rip-roaring good time. It’s got everything we’ve come to expect from a battle royale game, from scavenging materials and crafting gear to the shrinking safe zone, except here you can tame dinosaurs and employ them to eliminate your enemies. You can play in a free for all mode or in two and four-player “tribes.” Unfortunately, as of now, the game is only available when you buy the full ARK: Survival Evolved game, but if you plan on getting it already then checking out Survival of the Fittest is a no-brainer.