I promised myself that I would never download Fortnite. I caved on that statement the exact day I figured out what its Battle Royale mode was. The game has been on my PS4 for the last couple months and the hours have melted away faster than Square Enix's goodwill at E3 2018. Scavenge for weapons in a shrinking safe area, hunt your fellow players, and try to be the last person standing before time runs out.
Trends come and go and at this very moment, the battle royale mode is having its moment in the skies, ready to dive on top of each individual island of gaming. It's an addicting and fast-paced take on the shooter, the next logical step after staying trends like horde mode and gritty realism. This game mode didn't just sprout out of thin air, so I decided to do some digging and figure where exactly everyone's new favorite time-wasting game mode started.
Let's start with the most obvious. In 1996, Koushun Takami penned a novel revolving around middle schoolers in a battle to the death, Lord of The Flies dropkicked into the tense school environments of 1990s Japan. It's stark and disarming to see a bunch of teenagers forced into a situation like this, and when the inevitable film adaptation eventually debuted stateside in 2000, it hit its niche market like a shot.
More than a decade later, the film's impact can be felt in this glut of new games. Aside from the obvious homage in the name, most versions revolve around a group of people stranded in an area with an obscure time limit (exploding neck collars in the movie, a shrinking safe area in most others) scavenging for weapons in order to be the last person standing. For all intents and purposes, Battle Royale established the ground floor.
The first gaming stem on this list belongs to everyone's favorite blocky life sim. The Minecraft Hunger Games - founded by CliffJametson and mlamascese52 - ripped some pages out of the titular young adult franchise's book by having players gather around chests filled with items and grab what they can before they hunted each other down. This is the earliest instance of the battle royale formula as we know it today, in all of its pixelated glory.
To call the original version of H1Z1 anything other than busted, broken, and buggy would be disingenuous. The game was popular, but it took off in a big way once Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene got a hold of it. Greene created his own offshoot of the game called King of The Kill, which more or less birthed the battle royale formula we know and love today: spawn in on a map, pick up weapons, and kill anyone who wasn't you or your teammates. The mod got so big that then-CEO of Sony Online Entertainment John Smedley actually DM'd Greene on Twitter asking him to develop the project as an official expansion. This eventually led us to...
After the runaway success of KotK, Greene was ready for his own official platform. He eventually left his job as a consultant at Sony Online to start development with South Korean developer Bluehole Studios on what would eventually become PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The combination of a DayZ mod and KotK proved to be the perfect chemistry and also took off like a shot, eventually passing KotK on Steam.
His original goal was to create a less buggy and more refined version of his ideal battle royale game, but even though the game is still generating money and new player hand over fist, PUBG is still ridiculously buggy and an acquired taste. Credit where it's due to PUBG helping to build further up past the ground floor of the phenomenon, though. Some of the game's unlockable skins even pay "homage" to the movie that started it all.
This is the point where battle royale really exploded into the mainstream. What started out as a game developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly as a cross between Minecraft and Left 4 Dead eventually birthed a battle royale spin-off of its own. Epic Games got to work and the rest is history. Fortnite colorful art style and breakneck gameplay has endeared it to fans all over the world and will probably expand even further with the recent port to the Nintendo Switch.
Not to be outdone, developer/publisher Xaviant decided to throw their hat into the ring and created The Culling. The game focused on 16 players stranded on an island instead of the usual 100 and revolved around random pick-ups and killings, per usual. Constant and confusing updates, game-breaking bugs, and a hasty port of the game to the Xbox One eventually destroyed whatever community was being built within The Culling before it could really catch on.
Yet another twist on the battle royale formula. Realm Royale - yet another battle royale themed spinoff of a bigger game, this time Paladins: Battlegrounds - brings class-based play to the forefront this time. The unique strengths and weaknesses of the five classes (Warrior, Mage, Hunter, Engineer, Assassin), the ability to break down scavenged items into materials to make better items, and the hotly contested Forges you use to build said items, add even more to the 100-player madness than before. So far, this expansion has only been released on PC, with Xbox One and Ps4 versions pending.
Not to be outdone in a field quickly passing it by, Black Opps will be adding a battle royale mode called "Blackout" in its upcoming fourth installment.
Also not to be outdone, Battlefield V will be putting its destructive team-based energy to use in bringing battle royale into its world, too.