I tried warning some of y’all before the Overwatch 2 launch even happened… Where does that bring you? Back to me.
Now the game is at the point where it’s borderline unplayable. Even if you were able to suffer through the nonfunctioning matchmaking, the upheaval of the hero system, the FUBARed rebalancing of player squads, and nerfed weapons and character sets, there’s no denying the dreaded feeling. We can’t go back and Play Overwatch 1. This is a massive gut punch to people who loved playing multiplayer shooters.
What games are like Overwatch?
What constitutes a game that can replace Overwatch? Squad based multiplayer? Hero shooters? 3D action MOBA? Good, consistent shooters are hard to come by in general, and the hype machine will roll on for Overwatch 2 unmatched, so this list is more of an amalgamation of different genres that we hope will present you with a similar experience to sit down, squad up and chill out. At any rate, these games will usually give you an easier time competing in the categories on Twitch if you’re looking to grow a content creator’s audience that way too.
On top of everything else, Activision-Blizzard is a bad company and doesn’t show signs of getting better, no matter how many new hires come and go. Even the Microsoft acquisition hasn’t had much effect in scraping out the rot. The further Blizzard’s rabbit hole goes, the worse it gets, and is so deeply rooted in the company’s foundations that it’s distressing to even think how much worse Activision made things. We won’t even go into those the details here. Right now, we want to find you some video games to play.
That said, if we’re sticking to our ethics guns we need to exclude Call of Duty (Activision), Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft), League of Legends and Valorant (Riot). We won’t stop you from playing those, but there’s a clear reason they’re excluded here. We hope to think this is a list of games you can play that are ethically sourced, but if you have any disputes let us know in the comments.
Bandai Namco got a lot of Gundam fans interested with the open beta weekend this spring. Then, the PC launch of this free-to-play Overwatch clone dropped only a week before Overwatch 2 did in October 2022. While it is a clone of Blizzard’s hero shooter, it’s more so a love letter to the classic anime series. The battle pass is exclusively for cosmetics, which is irresistable for longtime fans but inconsequential for newcomers. The gameplay is simple, but tight, clearly aping what makes Overwatch work as a basis for it’s play structure and building its iconic heroes around. There’s not much meat here yet and there doesn’t need to be. If 80’s anime aesthetic appeals to you, whether you’re a Gundam mega-fan or not, this is a super fun and easy to pick up alternative, and plays more like the original Overwatch anyway.
You can play as Char’s Sazabi, you can play as Iron Blooded Orphans’ Barbatos, you can play as Unicorn, the classic RX-78-2, and so many more throughout a 40 year history of fanservice. If you don’t know what any of those mean, welcome to Gundam! It’s a lot! Don’t worry about it! Enjoy the sights and sounds and the cool mechs. That’s all that matters, have a good time. And for console players it launches on November 30th 2022! (Please for the love of god someone play the cool robot game with me.)
The people who love Splatoon really love it. Since 2014, Splatoon has been Nintendo’s go to competitive miltiplayer franchise ouside of Pokemon. The goal of the game is a round of King of the Hill crossed with Mario Party shenanigans. The combat involves squading up with friends to throw painting ink across the map. “Weapon” varieties are abundant depending on your strategy and play style: do you want to hit your opponent, play defense, dominate offense? You can use brushes, rollers, ink bombs and come up with all kinds of creative ways to push control of your opponents and strategize with your team.
Within the confines of your team’s color, navigation is a cinch, and has only gotten more fluid with time as the inklings dive and flounder about the map whilst recharging and finding new spots on the terrain. Most importantly, it is so community driven that you can’t help but admire it.There is so much user engagement in the form of Splatfest weekend events and a hub world where you can customize your inkling and see players’ drawings posted, keeping the essence of Miiverse alive. Splatoon 3 deserves your time for player connectedness and colorful presentation alone, and on top of it the multiplayer plays incredibly too.
Team Fortress 2
Yes, believe it or not, after all this time the classic from Valve’s 2007 The Orange Box is still playable on PC for free on Steam. You can engage in classic King of the Hill and Capture the Flag on the RED or BLU team with unique heroes that are bursting with personality. If you look it up, each of the characters in this game have CG intro movies released online that show a clear blueprint for the release design of Overwatch’s heroes. “Who touched my Sasha?!”
While the Valve servers are rife with relentless cheaters and bots, there is still a thriving community of custom games and fan servers to match up and have an absolute blast.
Going on a decade of the popular online battle arena game, SMITE is a hero based multiplayer game where you play as gods. Often appealing to players of League of Legends and DOTA, SMITE definitely has a bit of a learning curve, but after some time fighting against bots and learning what god you want to get more experienced with, its player base swears by it even if you only pick up and play every once in a while. You can do PVP in the popular Arena mode which puts two teams of five against each other, and you can learn some techniques from a rather active esports scene as well.
Counterstrike has been around since the dinosaurs as far as gaming is concerned. However, Valve’s 2012 revamp, Global Offensive, is still one of the most played multiplayer shooters across the globe. While it has a rather scary barrier of entry, getting online and learning how to play with friends and familiarizing yourself with maps is a wild ride, and when you finally start to get good at this competitive shooter, there isn’t anything else quite like it. See the saga of learning CS:GO by TheRussianBadger for a taste of what that experience is like. In his words “There is no game that kicks me in the face harder than CS:GO”
We wish that we could recommend Titanfall 2. Unfortunately the multiplayer was pretty dead on arrival and it’s too much effort to get a crew together for a game now. However, Respawn has redirected a lot of passion and resources into making the three player team system in this battle royale exhilarating and refreshing even if you’re signing back in after months of not playing. The character balance has been consistent, and the innovation of the ping system is a function that keeps the focus of your team tight, and has benefitted games overall. Plus, the way you procure and build on weapons tickles that Borderlands looter-shooter energy if you feel nostalgic for those.
SMITE is cool but what if you’re a deck builder game nerd? Shooters with card deck integration are becoming increasingly popular (see Neon White), so Hi-Rez Studios, the creator of SMITE, decided to build another free to play 5v5 multiplayer game, but with unique fantasy heroes driven by deck based combat mechanics. Paladins launched its beta before Overwatch in a rush of studios creating games like Team Fortress 2, and that may have kept it from getting more attention. However, over time its community has grown, a competitive scene has burgeoned and its gameplay refined into something its player base really enjoys.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Listen, you can’t go wrong with a classic. Is it hero based? Absolutely not. Is it new and shiny? No, but it’s reliable. It’s consistent. It’s Halo, and it damn sure plays damn better than Halo Infinite. No matter what happens with 343 industries the servers for the remastered collection of Halo’s best games in the series have no sign of shutting down. It’s the Halo you Gen-X and Millennial players know and love, but with easy to navigate matchmaking servers. Its easily integrated and non-interfering battle pass rewards players and the game has customizable playlist styles.
Any game mode you ever wanted is available: custom games, Forge, shotty snipes, Halo CE pistols only, Halo 3 SWAT ,Halo 2 Capture the Flag, Big Team Battle, Halo Reach’s Firefight mode, zero gravity rocket launchers only with mongooses on Sandtrap, it’s all here baby. Halo’s gameplay is second to none even today, and with Xbox or PC Game Pass you don’t have to pay a dime.
Featured image credit: Bandai Namco Online Inc. / ©SOTSU・SUNRISE