Competitive gaming has existed for god knows how long. If you've been gaming since the 80s, then you probably have fond memories of attempting to beat other gamers' high scores in Asteroids and trying to earn a spot in the Nintendo World Championships. And even during the 90s and beyond, gamers have endured furious competitions in Street Fighter II, Quake, Mario Kart, and so much more. Things have progressed to the point where the esports realm has reached a shockingly high plateau - it's not shocking whatsoever to witness a video game competition emanate from a massive arena with thousands watching in attendance. If you've always wondered what the top esports tournaments are, then allow us to help you and showcase 20 of the most prominent ones on the scene today.
1. The International (TI)
Image credit: Valve
For every conversation that revolves around the top esports tournaments in the world, you have to bring up the premiere Dota 2 esports championship series. The International (better known as TI) is recognized globally as the most important and recognizable event on the Dota Pro Circuit. Since its very first tourney in 2011, The International has featured the very best Dota 2 players and featured prize pools that reach well into the millions (The International 2021 even featured the largest prize pool with $40,018,195). The International's international presence has taken over major arenas and stadiums across North America, Western Europe, China, and Southeast Asia.
2. League of Legends World Championship
Image credit: Riot Games
Dota 2 isn't the only major MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game out there - Riot Games' League of Legends is always on the tip of everyone's tounges whenever that sub-genre comes to mind. And the tournament that regularly places the spotlight on its finest players and teams is the League of Legends World Championship, which has been held around the globe in well-known stadiums such as the Staples Center and the Chase Center. The $99,500 prize pool of the initial 2011 tournament has now reached into the millions with the 2018 League of Legends World Championship maxing out at $6,450,000.
3. Call of Duty League
Image credit: Activision
The most notable first-person shooter franchise in the world is backed by an official esports circuit that's jam-packed with a lineup of teams followers of the scene simply adore. The Call of Duty League always offers fresh competitions to enjoy for viewers thanks to the annual release schedule of the series, so it's always fun to watch the top players/teams adjust to the overall feel and mechanics of every new Call of Duty installment. Supertalented teams, such as Dallas Empire, Atlanta FaZe, and Los Angeles Thieves, regularly compete in the most exciting Call of Duty multiplayer matches fans have ever seen. Only the best of the best take their talents to the Call of Duty League.
4. CS:GO Major Championships (Formerly Known as The Majors)
Image credit: ELEAGUE
Another first-person shooter that's played at a very high level is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. And when it comes to the top esports tournaments, everyone knows the CS:GO Major Championships stands out as the end-all-be-all for the game's competitive circuit. Valve, which is the publisher/developer behind that iconic tactical first-person shooter, officially sponsors the tournament and currently has a prize pool that hits the $1 million mark. This esports league takes place across a bevy of sponsored events under the major company umbrellas of Major League Gaming, Intel, and ELEAGUE.
5. Apex Legends Global Series
Image credit: EA Sports
Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall-inspired battle royale first-person shooter has taken the world by storm ever since it hit the scene in 2019. With huge player numbers, continued support from the game's developers, and unwavering fan support, it should come as no surprise that Apex Legends is played in one of the top esports tournaments across the globe. The Apex Legends Global Series is considered big-time among the best players due to the high level of competition and the massive $5 million prize pool that compels those same players to take the top spots. Pro League and Challenger Circuit competitions bring the hype across in-person events that must be seen to be believed.
6. Six Invitational
Image credit: Ubisoft
Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege started out on a bad note. But over the years, it has grown to become one of the most rewarding tactical first-person shooters there is. The front-facing tournament that everyone looks to for their most exciting esports competitions is the Six Invitational. Prominent esports organizations such as Team Liquid, TSM, and G2 Esports have Rainbow Six: Siege teams that participate in this tourney. And when it comes to the prize pool spread out amongst those high-ranking teams, you can just take a look at the $3 million one put in place for the 2022 edition to realize just how much money is on the line.
7. Intel Extreme Masters
Image credit: Intel
Intel and Electronic Sports League (ESL) have joined forces to bring together the most efficient international players in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and StarCraft II for their dominant esports tourney. And that tournament is known the world over as the Intel Extreme Masters, which has been going strong since 2007. Other paramount PC games, such as Quake Live and Warcraft III, have also been contested during past iterations of this world-famous tourney. The most revered teams hailing from Europe, North America, and Asia stake their claim here on an annual basis.
8. Honor of Kings Champion Cup
Image credit: Tencent Games
If you've never heard of Honor of Kings, then don't feel too bad - it's one of those mobile games that's way more popular than you'd expect thanks to its massive player base in China. Its acclaim amongst other MOBAs is recognized by a whole swath of dedicated players in that region of the world, which is why it has its very own esports presence. The Honor of Kings Champion Cup regularly shows how significant the pro gaming scene for Honor of Kings truly is - the $10 million prize pool for the Honor of Kings International Championship 2022 is proof of just how much truth is attached to that statement.
9. PUBG Mobile Global Championship
Image credit: KRAFTON
Do you know what's so wild? One of the top esports tournaments in the world is for the mobile version of the OG battle royale game that really got the sub-genre going in a major way back in 2017! PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has done amazingly well within the confines of iOS- and Android-enabled hardware, which is why its best players always make an effort to showcase their skills during the PUBG Mobile Global Championship. Top players that hail from the Americas, Asia, and Europe play their hearts out to come to this final event of every PUBG Mobile competitive season. The $4 million prize pool for the 2022 tourney points to just how monumental it is.
10. Free Fire World Series (FFWS)
Image credit: Garena
On an annual basis, Garena (the publisher/developer behind the mobile battle royale game called Free Fire), goes all out to put on its Free Fire World Series event. This pro gaming competition got its start in 2019 and has grown exponentially in the years since. Teams from every major region imaginable come to play their hearts out - it's easy to see why since the 2022 installment of this tourney put up a $2 million prize pool while being held in the jaw-dropping play space known as the Resort World Sentosa Convention Centre. Mobile games are doing big numbers as far as player numbers and financials are concerned - Free Fire is one of the biggest ones and is well deserving of its big-time esports significance.
11. Valorant Champions
Image credit: Riot Games
League of Legends isn't the only smash hit that's been birthed by Riot Games - it also has its hands in the free-to-play first-person hero shooter Valorant. And on this list of the top esports tournaments, it's definitely worth mentioning Valorant Champions. The most entertaining Valorant esports can be witnessed during the offline escapades of this tourney - established esports organizations such as 100 Thieves and OpTic Gaming send their best teams to take home the grand prize and #1 spot. The fact that the 2022 VALORANT Champions tourney took place in the Volkswagen Arena with a $1 million prize pool shows just how prominent it is and always will be.
12. Halo World Championship
Image credit: Xbox Game Studios
The first-person shooter series that's defined by its run of excellence on Xbox consoles is none other than Halo. Watching all those custom Spartans run and gun on explosive battlefields is quite electrifying when you're doing it in a live setting. The Halo World Championship provides that amazing experience and has been doing so since 2014. This esports tourney has gone from players going their hardest in Halo 2 Anniversary for a $15K prize pool to a new generation of competitors competing in Halo Infinite for a $1 million prize pool. And getting to watch it all while seated within the Seattle Convention Center during the 2022 tourney is the definition of invigorating.
13. Hearthstone World Championship
Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment
Hearthstone, which is recognized by many as the biggest free-to-play online digital collectible card game, has enjoyed tons of critical/financial success and high player retention since its 2014 debut. Blizzard Entertainment has done a great job of pouring its support into the official tournament circuit for the game. The Hearthstone World Championship is super official as it's considered the grand finale for the Hearthstone Grandmasters system. This tourney wraps up the year in a nice bow for the Hearthstone community as it usually takes place in December. The $500K prize pool for the 2022 Hearthstone World Championship surely offers plenty of incentive to the best players to fight to the top of the ladder.
14. Evolution Championship Series (EVO)
Image credit: Evolution Championship Series
What started as a pretty humble fighting game community gathering in Sunnyvale, California known as "Battle by the Bay" has evolved (pun intended) into the biggest FGC tourney. And whenever top esports tournaments come to mind, the Evolution Championship Series is considered the king of the mountain. Now that it's owned by Sony Interactive Entertainment and the Endeavor esports venture RTS, EVO is even bigger than ever before. Respectable prize pools, top-tier competition, and hype-inducing announcements are always expected from EVO on an annual basis and it always delivers in full.
15. Evolution Championship Series Japan
Image credit: Evolution Championship Series Japan
EVO is so big that it's been given the spinoff treatment in the form of a Japanese version that kicks off the most compelling FGC matches at the start of the year. Just like its mainline predecessor, Evolution Championship Series Japan brings together the strongest contenders across the latest installments in Street Fighter, Tekken, Guilty Gear, and more for some next-level competition. In 2010, this tourney originated as "Evo vs Godsgarden" - in 2018, it finally became its own event and the rest is history. EVO Japan is a worthy companion piece to the American version of the most sensational FGC event in the world.
16. Community Effort Orlando (CEO)
Image credit: Community Effort Orlando
Back in 2010, Alex Jebailey managed to bring together the small but close-knit FGC community members in Orlando, Florida for the inaugural Community Effort Orlando. And due to its monumental growth, CEO has morphed into one of the top esports tournaments in the US for fighting game fanatics. This wrestling-themed FGC tourney attracts the best Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Dragon Ball FighterZ, etc. players from all over the world for the most hypest fighting game sets they'll ever play. CEO is considered the second-largest fighting game in the nation.
Image credit: CEOtaku
The niche anime fighting game community is noteworthy enough to get its own major tournaments to net a bunch of attention and players who want to both the #1 spot in the game they're dedicated to. This spinoff of CEO called CEOtaku brings together every anime fighting game community you can think of into one destination for high-level competition. CEOtaku features the heavy hitters in the anime fighting sub-genre (Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and Melty Blood) and even the lesser-known titles worth competing in (Windjammers even gets some shine here!).
18. Combo Breaker
Image credit: Combo Breaker
Combo Breaker is equal parts fighting game convention and one of the leading tournaments in the entire FGC. This celebratory event honors every corner of the fighting game fandom while also offering a ton of games for competing players to try their hand in. Every year, there's a vast lineup of players that converge on Illinois to go their absolute hardest in every modern-day fighting game imaginable. It doesn't matter if you're a hardcore Street Fighter player or a Bloody Roar devotee that still loves competing - Combo Breaker's large suite of games to compete in is next-level.
Image credit: VSFighting
VSFighting showcases the UK fighting game community as it takes its place as one of the top esports tournaments for the genre across the pond. Thanks to the collective efforts of the founder Jason "DNA" Reynolds and CEO Justin "JustinXavier" Rutherford, this tourney has gained a ton of steam and adoration since being founded in 2010. As the flagship tournament for the Electronic Dojo FGC, VSFighting brings players from far and wide to try their hand at playing (and hopefully defeating) the fiercest competition in the world.
Image credit: GENESIS
The San Francisco Bay Area plays host to one of the most prestigious Super Smash Bros. tournament series. And that tourney is referred to as GENESIS (that uppercase lettering should clue you into how major it is!). Nintendo's blockbuster platform fighter gets the red carpet treatment at this annual tourney - the original Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are all played here in singles and doubles formats. The best of the best in the Smash community come to GENESIS every year to pull off amazing feats and shocking upsets for the world to see.
21. The Big House
Image credit: The Big House
The other notable Super Smash Bros. tourney that gets the best players to come through on a yearly basis is The Big House. This competition is regularly headquartered in Michigan. And after getting established in 2011, it has become a go-to destination for the best Smash players to compete amongst the most marquee players in the community. Singles and doubles tourneys across the same three Smash games played featured at GENESIS are featured here, which points to the importance of The Big House as a haven for serious Smash players.
22. Super Smash Con
Image credit: Super Smash Con
The Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia is the home of the most distinguished Super Smash Bros. convention in the world. And it just so happens to also house one of the most widely recognized top esports tournaments for Smash players. Super Smash Con not only features competitions for every Smash game imaginable but it also shows some love to other platform fighters via side tourneys. Games such as Rivals of Aether, Slap City, and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl have gotten their time to shine right next to the undisputed leader in the fighting game sub-genre.