Baelog: It's not a MOBA, it's a hero brawler!
Olaf: Hero brawler herba heybee, you made that up!
Erik: Nope, but Blizzard sure did!
The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), also known as ARTS (Action Real Time Strategy)note or Hero Brawler, is a relatively new game genre popularized in the first decade of the 21st century. While the Ur-Example was the Sega Genesis classic Herzog Zwei, the Trope Maker was Aeon of Strife, a map for Starcraft. It gained popularity and, when Warcraft III with its powerful Hero Units and amazing map editor came out, spawned a lot of similar maps which were referred to as AoS-style maps. Amongst others there were D-Day, various AoS direct ports, and Defense of the Ancients, developed by Eul. One of its own spinoffs, Defense Of The Ancients Allstars developed by Guinsoo, became the Trope Codifier by virtue of its astounding popularity, with a non-negligible fraction of Warcraft III sales driven solely by people who wanted to play DotA Allstars.
The heart of the MOBA genre lies in several basic qualities. First, it is relatively easy to play, being (typically) controlled through a point-and-click Real-Time Strategy interface but giving the player control of only one Hero Unit, with four or five skills, instead of a Command & Conquer Economy. In comparison of the other RTS games, this also makes the controllable character feel more unique and individual than just generic characters (which is quite ironic, because as far as this genre's plot goes, it's basically Excuse Plot). The player is assisted by a computer-controlled base and its minions, as well as four (sometimes two) Player Character teammates, each controlling their own Hero Unit, with the opposition consisting of the same. Second, it has many characters, making it easy to learn but difficult to master; not only is each character unique in its skills and abilities, but the large number of characters results in unique team compositions, with varying levels of synergy between them. Third, the objective is not to rack up enough kills, but rather to destroy the enemy's base. Killing the enemy heroes helps you with this, but is not a necessary step. Finally, Competitive Balance dictates that no Hero Unit can ever become powerful enough to win the game single-handedly; each character (or player) is deliberately limited in what elements they can contribute to the victory (crowd control, damage output, tanking, healing, etc), which is especially important once the teams start aggregating for five-on-five brawls. The result is a high emphasis on skill and teamwork, where communication and intelligent gameplay inevitably win out.
For more details on how a MOBA played out in general, check the Analysis page.
Games in this genre:
The ProgenitorsThe games that incidentally possessed certain game elements that would inspire the creation of the first iteration of a MOBA. Pretty much the prototypes of the genre and they were created not to make this genre in the first place.
- Herzog Zwei - A Sega Genesis game that contains elements of team fights that would inspire the creators of the game below, particularly the 'Fight 'til you destroy enemy base', and 'Your hero always respawn after death'. This is the Ur-Example of MOBA.
- Future Cop: L.A.P.D. - The Precinct Assault multiplayer mode is pretty much the prototype of future MOBA genre. Aeon of Strife's creator was heavily influenced by this mode.
- Aeon Of Strife - Starcraft Game Mod, where the setting and concept of the genre was first defined (control single heroes, three lanes, etc.).
The GrandfatherThe game that eventually grew too popular and launched the genre. The one that started it all.
- Defense of the Ancients - A Warcraft III Game Mod, improving further of the concepts of Aeon of Strife and having its own dedicated patch team to ensure the game continues as a success. Has many iterations until the All Stars subseries becomes the standard map. Also known as DOTA, this is the Trope Maker.
The Big Three (of PC)Currently considered the cream of the crop and the most played games, more likely to get a lot of streamers on the video or rated as the best MOBAs to date, and more likely to have E-Sport presence. They held the greatest popularities and standing power through The New '10s, the era where MOBA took stride, and still continue to do so. For the most part, they held dominance in the PC (or Console) community.
- League of Legends - A MOBA developed by several of the team who worked on DotA Allstars (including Guinsoo), it was the first to come up with matchmaking system, simplified mechanics to attract the casuals more and an actually deep lore to keep the fans attached to the characters on more personal levels. Released in 2009, it was also only the second independent (non-Game Mod) MOBA behind Demigod, listed below, giving it more room to shine. It took from World of Warcraft the title of "Most Played Game in the World" and retained it through much of The New '10s before being dethroned by Battle Royale Games.
- Dota 2 - A straight port of Defense of the Ancients, remade on the Source engine (and later the Source 2 engine) by both Valve Software and one of the original's team, IceFrog. Gameplay started off practically identical to DotA's aside from various quality-of-life improvements, superior graphics, and original character designs for the heroes (to avoid copyright issues with Blizzard); since support for its predecessor was dropped in 2015, it has since introduced new heroes, items, and mechanics such as the talent tree to evolve its gameplay. Though not quite as popular as League, it still draws a huge e-sports scene by virtue of having the largest prize pools in the world.
- Smite - Made by Hi-Rez Studios, who made Global Agenda. Notable for putting the action in over-the-shoulder 3rd person for a more action-packed experience, while still sticking faithfully to the genre formula. Based around mythologies from all over the word where you take control as gods such as Thor, Hades, Ra and many more. Also available for home consoles (PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X, PS5)
The Mobile Kings
Mobile platforms has a vastly high adoption rate. Therefore, it was perfect ground for the wildly popular genre and several of the mobile MOBA games have gained a great deal of popularity. These are the MOBA that became the greatest juggernauts on its own within the Mobile platform (iOS and Android).
- Honor of Kings: A mobile MOBA by Tencent, using a modified engine of League of Legends for mobile, featuring characters from Chinese mythology, history and folklore, because Riot Games (that they owned) wasn't sure about League of Legends for mobile during its time. Unlike a traditional MOBA or Vainglory, the game play area is smaller for fast paced and quick action gameplay, there are no wards and no fog of war, also the game uses console-esque virtual analog pad and face buttons for action buttons. Being a very Chinese game, its registration requires you to register in Chinese chatting applications (WeChat and QQ) which has a tedious registration process, but it still managed to be the most played mobile game in the world. It was later ported as Arena of Valor, and years later after being contained in China only, it will finally have an international version.
- Arena of Valor: An internationalized version Honor of Kings, with a Nintendo Switch port, making it the first 'traditional' mobile MOBA that has a console appearance. The hero design of this game caters to more international/Western audience, and for a time, utilized Guest Fighter from DC Comics, such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and The Joker. Aside of being an internationalized version, it's a lot more accessible than Honor of Kings by the virtue of the user not having the need to register to those aforementioned applications. Despite the international version of Honor of Kings having been announced, no plans have been announced that the two will be merged: they will instead coexist with each other.
- Mobile Legends: Bang Bang: Made by Shanghai Moonton and surprisingly taking artistic and gameplay cues from League of Legends (along with Captain Ersatz of other popular anime and game characters) enough that at one point Riot Games sued them for infringement and later Tencent, the new owner of Riot Games, also sued Moonton (due to very high similarities in user interface, controls, and art style to the aforementioned Arena of Valor) and won a fair share of lawsuit. It managed to still stand and continued to gain popularity, especially in Southeast Asia.
The Former Stars
These titles are somewhere in between the overwhelmingly huge gap between the Big Three and the other niche and/or short-lived MOBAs. At their prime, they were well-liked and popular enough to actually be considered a contender... until something happened, usually leading to a 'maintenance mode' (not having any new contents) and eventually closing down (the silver lining is that they actually lasted longer than other MOBAs that were shut down after just a short time, so they had the time to mark their name in the fandom's mind). While they no longer have the influence they used to, even past their prime, they generally enjoyed more success than others. This list will include both the PC and Mobile platforms.
- Heroes of Newerth: One of the earliest standalone MOBA games to be released, developed by Frostburn Studios (formerly S2 Games). Originally created as a direct Spiritual Successor to DotA All-Stars, it attracted players who just wanted to play DotA but not on the woefully outdated Warcraft 3 engine, but has over the years grown to be different in many aspects, most notably the larger part of heroes created directly by S2 Games, but also several nuances have been changed that Valve would not dare touch for fear of upsetting fans of the original mod. It was amongst the big titles and the only ones who could challenge League of Legends, but the fanbase was largely superceded by Dota 2 and it lost favor against Smite and Heroes of the Storm. It entered "Maintenance Mode" in early 2019 (which means updates with new assets were no longer being made) and was shut down in June 2022, making it the dead MOBA with the longest lifespan (12 years).
- Heroes of the Storm - A MOBA made with Heroes and characters from Blizzard's popular franchises and properties (and one of their older classics), crossing over and battling in new and original maps, each with their own objectives and twists. It features a shorter average game length and removes items entirely in favor of "Talents". Was originally called Blizzard Dota, and then Blizzard All-Stars, before settling on the current title. Unfortunately, Blizzard committed a certain mismanagement that caused them to pull the game from the e-sports scene, thereby losing a lot of attention and players. It's still played and is managed by its development team, attaining Cult Classic status like Heroes of Newerth, but now mostly concentrates on non-e-sport scenes (such as quick plays), thus losing its spot as one of the big ones. Unofficial tournament scenes are still made by not-so-big names so it feels like making a slow recovery, but has yet to reach the stage that they would take the world by storm again... and generally still survived when Heroes of Newerth closed off, though shortly after that happened, Blizzard announced they have ceased development of content for the game.
- Vainglory: One of the earlier attempts at Mobile MOBA by Super Evil Megacorp. Using solely point and click controls like the PC counterparts, it took the Tablet/Android scene in a surprising pace and starts to have its own solid e-sport scene. It was notorious for only having a 3vs3 format at maximum, but latter updates made a 5vs5 mode available. In 2020, it was shut down by the publisher Rogue due to being eclipsed in popularity by its competitors. However, the community instead took over the development and, working together with Super Evil Megacorp, released Vainglory: Community Edition, which is basically the same game as of the time its server shut down, but with everything already unlocked. Despite its eventual collapse, it became well known as one of the earliest progenitors of the mobile MOBA scene that Tencent (behind Honor of Kings and Arena of Valor) saw it as a main competition and measuring stick on how to approach with their titles.
PC Fledging and Cult Ones
These MOBA are very much playable and have a chance to be a fan favorite, except they tend to lay kind of low, either not attracting E-Sport scenes, or they're not out of alpha/beta phase yet. But they still live.
- Awesomenauts, a 2D Sidescrolling game following the DotA formula.
- AirMech, a Real-Time Strategy in the vein of Herzog Zwei.
- Battlerite, which does not follow DotA's formula at all. Rather than having creeps, lanes, and towers, Bloodline Champions focuses entirely on player vs. player combat, making it a "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena" in the most literal sense of the phrase.
- BattleTanks, a less-well known Warcraft III Game Mod where the heroes are tanks.
- Bloodline Champions. Has the same gameplay as Battlerite, which is a Spiritual Successor to it.
- Bombergirl, a spin-off of the Bomberman series featuring streamlined, arcade-styled MOBA gameplay and a healthy dose of fanservice à la Otomedius. Despite its simpler approach to the genre, it also offers a light amount of skill customization and a large variety of maps with their own gimmicks and hazards.
- Chaos Online, dubbed as 'Korean DOTA' at first, but has more similarities to League of Legends (though the map is designed like southeast-northwest as opposed to the typical southwest-northeast). Gains its notice when not only they feature crossover from Japanese games, so far Guilty Gear, BlazBlue and Valkyria Chronicles, it is also imported to Japan (under the name Chaos Heroes Online), and those crossover characters get Role Reprises by their original actors. The English version lived under closed beta, managed by Aeria Games, and yes, the crossover characters get carried over, until Aeria Games closed it down. However, it's still going on in Japan and Korea.
- Clonk scenarios "Tower Attack" (focusing on the base and mook elements) and "Keepers" (with less Real-Time Strategy elements and more action combat and RPG Elements; freely combinable skills depending on class instead of fixed skillsets).
- Dungeon Defenders 2, a sequel to the original Dungeon Defenders which was going to have a Dota-like mode with many heroes and a third person camera, but was scrapped in favor of sticking to the original formula
- Eternal Return Black Survival, a Battle Royale Game that had a Beta/Early Access release in late 2020.
- Fat Princess, a hybrid of the genre with top-down Action Game.
- Guilty Gear 2: Overture, a far cry from the Fighting Games that make up the rest of the series, it involves commanding various Servants, taking control of Ghosts across the battlefield, and eventually destroying the opponent's Master Ghost. A mix between this, and a straight up Action-RTS because you have less control over your Servants than a typical RTS, and the battlefield is lane-based.
- Realm of the Titans was supported by Aeria Games for about a year or two. Support in the US has been dropped, but continues to be played in East Asia.
- Star Wars: Squadrons has a multiplayer mode, "Fleet Battles," that is essentially a MOBA IN SPACE!, from the cockpit of a starfighter: each side has five players, AI-controlled wingmen, a single cruiser that must be destroyed to win, and two frigate- or corvette-sized ships defending said cruiser. It has far fewer character classes (spaceships) than the typical MOBA, and does not allow players to level up or buy items. Lastly, it adds a "Morale" mechanic that specifically puts one side on offense, during which time its warships cannot be damaged.
- Starwing Paradox is an odd example that mixes this genre with mecha combat like as seen in Virtual-ON. Defense towers and minions exist, but there are no lanes and the objective is to capture neutral points to expose the enemy base’s core.
- Storm Of The Imperial Sanctum, a StarCraft II Game Mod.
- Tides Of Blood, another Warcraft III Game Mod.
Mobile Fledging and Cult Ones
Same deal with the above, except for mobile. Note that the fast pace of mobile development allows these titles to have greater longevity.
- Extraordinary Ones: An anime-influenced MOBA by NetEase Games. Has the unique honor of having "crossovers" with the likes of My Hero Academia and Mob Psycho 100 where main characters from those series can be played as special skins for certain fighters.
- Jump Assemble: An upcoming 5v5 MOBA by DeNa in which players control characters from various manga series published by Shonen Jump. In battle, players are able to use representatives of anything from 1990's to 2000's classics like Dragon Ball and One Piece to modern favorites like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and Undead Unluck.
- Kessen! Heian-kyō aka. Onmyoji Arena: A MOBA spin-off of the mobile RPG Onmyoji using the same characters from the game (surprisingly including several crossover characters such as Inuyasha and Sesshomaru).
- Marvel Super War: A collaboration between Marvel Comics and NetEase Games, this is a mobile MOBA that featured Marvel Universe characters ranging from Spider-Man, X-Men, The Avengers and a lot more of Marvel heroes.
- Pokémon Unite: Up to five players, with one Pokémon each, team up to score points by defeating wild Pokémon and taking the collected energy to the opposing team's score zones.
- League of Legends Wild Rift: Take League of Legends, and then modify the game cores to fit in the mobile format, inspired with Arena of Valornote , also shaping to be one of Riot's success in mobile department. Even Riot plans to have this version on consoles in the future.
- Heroes Evolved: A mobile MOBA which takes inspiration from Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Arena of Valor while also adding in features from Dota 2, such as fog of war, terrain elevation (enabling high ground system) and character primary stats (Strength, Agility and Intelligence) and passives required to be leveled with skill points gained from leveling up, and in the meantime, adds a RPG-like Adventure mode with gacha rarity systems. Formerly created by R2Games, it eventually faced a stagnant era with its fans fearing that it'll die. However, NetDragon took over the development and has since given out more improvements of the game and eventually rebranded it as Heroes Arise, with smoother graphics and improved engine (and ironically reusing the map layout of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang).
- Heroes Of Order And Chaos: another Mobile Phone Game take.
The genre turns out to be a very harsh competition between producers, so there are some that that have been killed and sent to the graveyard of Defunct Online Video Games. Some of them managed to make themselves known before being put down though.
- Atlas Reactor: A Turn-Based Strategy game based around Frozen Synapse (or Diplomacy, for the tabletop enthusiasts)-style simultaneous turns planned in advance.
- Arena of Fate: A game that was developed by Crytek, before going to Sega featuring characters from mythology (Fenrir, Achilles) fairy tales (Red Riding Hood, Alice) and history (Nikola Tesla, Joan of Arc), but was quietly canceled.
- Adventure Time Battle Party: A free-to-play game featuring characters from the show Adventure Time. Was shut down in May of 2017 due to support for Unity games being dropped, as well as server issues.
- Auto Chess MOBA: A MOBA based on the Auto Chess mobile game, which was spun off from a mod of Dota 2 that would become Dota Underlords. In Auto Chess' case, they used a more chibi-fied, cutesy original design based on the heroes of Dota 2. In a full-circle development, these new designs would be put in a mobile MOBA game that tried its best to emulate Dota 2 rather than League of Legends, right down to wards, terrain elevation, primary stats and heroes more similar to the Dota heroes. Unfortunately, it failed to gain popularity, thus it closed down in February 2023.
- Crasher, a Vehicular Combat version.
- Dark Nexus Arena: A Warhammer 40,000 MOBA game. Cancelled in 2016.
- Dawngate: A fleeting game by a new company called Waystone Games that changes things by removing the standard middle lane in favor of a massive jungle, and adding "Resource Nodes", which are automatically mined by minions when captured and give resources to the team. While it became something of a fan favorite, EA decided to shut down Waystone Games and closed the Dawngate along with it.
- Demigod: A particularly high-budget attempt at the genre, with incredible graphics and sound and a lot of creative new mechanics; sadly, it failed to get off the ground (it wasn't Free-to-Play, which most of the successful titles are, and had a very small number of Hero Characters) and died in short order.
- Fates Forever, a MOBA made exclusively for tablets (iOS only). It didn't get far, but its legacy lives on: as they programmed Fates Forever, its developers noticed that most Voice over Internet Protocol clients (IE telephone over internet) didn't work well when run alongside gaming software. They set out to create their own solution. It's called Discord.
- Gigantic, a third person MOBA by Motiga with a distinct cel-shaded art style. Gigantic eschews the normal jungle based combat with various side arenas which spawn minions for the team that controls them, as well as being based around the gigantic beasts who replace the normal crystal at the end.
- Guardians Of Middle Earth, featuring characters from Tolkien's Legendarium.
- Infinite Crisis: A MOBA set in the DC Universe, with the premise of numerous alternate universes colliding. Its creator, Turbine, announced its shutdown for August 2015, six months after its release. However, some of the DC heroes would make appearances in another mobile MOBA, Arena of Valor (See above)
- Monday Night Combat, a hybrid of the genre with Third Person Shooter.
- Its sequel, Super Monday Night Combat, followed the formula more closely, but still blended it with a Third Person Shooter.
- Orcs Must Die! Unchained originally had a Siege mode that mixed MOBA-style action with the Tower Defense gameplay of the previous games, but was eventually removed due to unpopularity to focus more on the PvE aspect of the game.
- Paragon (2016), a Third-Person Shooter-MOBA much like Monday Night Combat, made by Epic Games of the Unreal Tournament fame, as well as running on the Unreal 4 Engine. Though not unsuccessful, it was overshadowed by Epic's other product Fortnite and shut down for financial reasons.
- Prime World, a game that sought to integrate Facebook and the ability to play support with a Zuma-like mini-game if a player isn't that good with DotA-style games). Has its own Tower Defense Spin-Off, "Prime World Defenders", on smartphones. This spin-off is still in existence, which is more than Prime World itself can say; it closed in March 2021.
- Rise of Immortals: Lasted around 2-3 years, with a short relaunch as Battle for Graxia, but the service was cancelled in June 2013.
- Sins Of A Dark Age: By Ironclad Games, it mixed things up by introducing randomly selected quests during the match, each of which comes with a unique reward in addition to building an overall quest completion reward list. Released in March 2015, it was deemed financially unviable within a mere two months.
- Solstice Arena: a trend-breaker in several ways, being published by Zynga (!) exclusively for iStuff (!!), though a Steam release came later. It was described as a "speed MOBA" and did away with lane creeps entirely.
- Strife, a MOBA developed by the same people behind Heroes of Newerth. While introducing player customization such as custom recipes, the game was also balanced for a more casual experience by giving shared creep bounty, revising scaling for all heroes, and even removing wards.
- Universal Monsters Online: a Massive Multiplayer Crossover starring Universal Horror monsters, discontinued as of 2013.
- Vorp, A Space MOBA.
- Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes: A game that was being made by Bioware, did moderately well, but failed to meet expectations, and was canceled before it left beta.
- The Witcher Battle Arena: a free-to-play game based in The Witcher universe.
List of tropes prominent in the genre:
- Adaptation Displacement: DotA: Allstars is more popular and well-known than any of its predecessors. Very few people know about Aeon of Strife or Eul's DotA. Likewise, Guinsoo's tenure at the helm of Allstars is more historical compared to Ice Frog's tenure, due to Ice Frog maintaining Competitive Balance.
- Ascended Glitch: Some limits of the Warcraft III engine and glitches made it into metagame and are copied in other games. Notably, the concept of killing your own friendly creeps to "deny" XP and gold from the enemy.
- Boss Battle: The heroes may be considered Bosses. In addition, some MOBAs also include a powerful Neutral enemy which is difficult to face alone, but usually yields a powerful reward (like the ability to revive from death once).
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: The most common business model for these games is a downplayed version of this: players get access to a small portion of the roster of playable characters, which regularly rotates. Characters can also be unlocked permanently by buying them with in-game currency, but this often takes enormous amounts of grinding (especially for the newest characters, which usually have an inflated price tag when they are first released). If you want to play as someone you don't have unlocked but don't feel like grinding for days (possibly weeks if the game is especially stingy with its currency rewards), you'll have to cough up the cash. Some games also offer a special bundle which instantly unlocks every current and future character at a reduced price. This is not as bad as it may sound, as all characters are generally meant to be roughly equal in power, so having more of them to pick from does not always grant you an advantage so long as the game's balance is good enough. Dota 2 is the only one that doesn't always follow this format: The money are used for accessories or event boosters; but as far as the original game goes, all heroes are available from get-go, though it will create a situation where newbies will be overwhelmed if they do not adapt quickly.
- Can't Catch Up: Players intend to invoke this. In many MOBAs, there are many heroes who can't do much after a certain point in the game thanks due to lower scaling abilities/stat growth. In addition, by then, heroes who succeed in getting enough gold and experience will start to painfully maim their past predators
- Cast of Snowflakes: This is a standard feature of this genre. The characters have to be distinct and easily-identified in a chaotic teamfight.
- Casual-Competitive Conflict: Embodied in the rivalry between League of Legends and Dota 2. LoL isn't even the simplest MOBA by a long shot, but it's the biggest, and was deliberately designed as a much more streamlined version of Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars, Dota 2's immediate predecessor.
- Character Tiers: These are frequently debated by the various communities and monitored closely by the developers; due to the competitive nature of these games, heroes are frequently made more or less powerful in order to bring them into better balance with one another, with varying levels of success. Some heroes are generically strong, some can be used in multiple roles on a team, some excel at specific roles, and some may be useful for exactly one thing and completely useless otherwise. The tiers change frequently in many games due to constant small adjustments to various heroes, with older heroes tending to settle out to relatively stable positions while newer heroes tend to be more varied in usefulness as they are rebalanced as players learn how to use them to deadly effect, or counter them and render them almost entirely useless.
- Comeback Mechanic:
- In many games, if you kill a Hero who is in the middle of a Kill Streak, you get a big Gold bonus, not to mention a huge psychological boost. However, this is all too frequently subverted.
- See also the various other metrics of success. New players typically assume that leading in killscore equates to victory, and it certainly does up your chances... but "CS" (creep score), the number of mooks you've killed—and thus the amount of Gold you have—is critical too, because that results in better items. The number of demolished towers are also important, because it lowers the enemy's map control and makes it harder for them to farm safely. Finally, there's typically some sort of superboss (Roshan in the original DotA) that grants some sort of mega-buff when slain. In the semi-final round of the 2013 League of Legends world championship, a team that was behind in kills 2 to 1 nonetheless managed to keep equal in Gold and items, and snatch said mega-buff. It was enough to turn the game in their favor.
- The biggest Comeback Mechanic, though, is the way respawn timers scale with level. The higher your character's level, the longer it takes for that character to respawn. This can create very long periods of time in which your team is under-strength in comparison to the enemy team. In fact, teams who have been winning the entire game have been known to lose the match by engaging in a team fight, losing said team fight by any margin whatsoever, and being unable to stop the enemy team as they steamroll their way through the gap. (Of course, this requires your team to grab the Idiot Ball with both hands and the enemy team to grab the Smart Ball, neither of which are things you can count on.)
- Competitive Balance: You can have Physical Gods and Badass Normals in one setting, but they must be equal in power.
- Cooldowns: Your abilities will almost always have a cooldown period after being used. In some games, the most powerful ultimate abilities may have several minutes of cooldown, while more arcade-y games may have only a few seconds at most.
- Death Is Cheap: Downplayed. As mentioned, your hero respawns endlessly and will continue to do so for as long as the match goes on; you never have to worry about getting locked out of the match. Having said that, dying is literally the absolute worst thing you can ever do in a match (short of Throwing the Fight by dying on purpose), because your team is 20% weaker until you come back. (And that's before we get into funky math about how much further the enemy team got ahead while you were gone.) While it is extremely difficult to play a serious match without ever dying, that is nonetheless the standard you are expected to play to.
- Dueling Games: The rivalry between League of Legends and Dota 2 is quite possibly THE most vicious and hate-fueled clash in gaming history, easily surpassing the Mario/Sonic rivalry of the early 90s or the more recent Call of Duty vs Battlefield conflict in sheer vitriol. The two fanbases simply cannot tolerate the mere existence of the other, with Dota 2 players treating LoL as a dumbed-down, childish rip-off played by immature, unskilled babies too pathetic to play a real game, while the LoL players consider Dota 2 to be an obsolete, clunky, intentionally-overcomplicated dinosaur of a game played by arrogant, elitist snobs who equate "difficulty" with "quality". The fact that both games are considered to have among the most toxic and unpleasant communities in all of gaming certainly does not help matters. Other games in the genre only avoid similar bashing from these communities by virtue of being smaller targets.note
- On the mobile side, Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang form up a similar rivalry (MLBB has immense advertising advantage much like League, while AOV actually offers inner depths almost similar to Dota, in as much as a mobile MOBA can offer), just less hate-fueled or filled with vitriols against each other.
- Dynamic Entry: Pretty much every MOBA has at least one character that can use "stealth" or turn him/herself invisible before landing the first attack. Or a character that leaps so high in the sky and then instantly teleports to a certain far distance while generating a Shockwave Stomp on landing, usually nicknamed as the '(insert relevant thing here) Drop'
- Earn Your Fun: Sure, it can take a long time to adjust to even the basic mechanics of the game, even longer to know what every character, item, and mechanics do and get a firm grasp on the flow of the game, but if you can get past those (and the community), MOBAs can be a very rewarding experience for some.
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: A constant thorn whenever you play as a jungler. You are just minding your business beating up the jungle creeps, when suddenly, an enemy pops up out of nowhere and lands the final hit, so the rewards (buff, experience and money) goes to that enemy and you just wasted your time. Can also happen on a massive scale when the 'creep' in question is actually a tough superboss. One of the strategies in the early game is to have every heroes camp near the enemy jungle and gang up on the jungler, stealing their buff (then go back to their proper lanes) and rendering them underpowered for the rest of the game unless the jungler had other ways to catch up without being inflicted with mental damage of getting ganged up again in another camp.
- Elemental Powers: Pick any element you can think of and listed in the page. Any elements. Chances are, each MOBA has a hero/champion thematically based on that element and utilizing them in their skills.
- Excuse Plot: Some games just think "Pick these people, now go fight."
- Follow the Leader: The standard 5-on-5 three-lane map described above is the most common setup for maps. However, this is becoming increasingly rare, as more and more games try different layouts, sometimes even having multiple different maps.
- Forced Level-Grinding: Farming is the prime sources of Experience Points for skills and gold for items, even with the much larger individual bounties for hero kills.
- Fountain of Expies: The genre's popularity in China ensured that several characters from certain Chinese literatures would be repeated a lot of times:
- Monkey King Lite: Most games have a playable Monkey King in some form. If it's not a flat out playable character based on Sun Wukong (or Wukong himself being part of the roster), a character will have a skin based on the Monkey King.
- The spear-wielding warrior from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhao Yun, will inevitably get a variant on mostly mobile games which is more in-line with the Chinese tastes. Zhao Yun himself is present in Honor of Kings where many Chinese figures gather; he's got his Expy in both Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Arena of Valor (Zilong and Zanis; and heck, for Zanis, the game's Japanese and Taiwanese servers just refers to him as Zhao Yun and called it a day), and several other minor mobile games as a rule has a need to include a Zhao Yun variant. It doesn't look as obvious for PC players, because the only Zhao Yun variant available there is Xin Zhao from League of Legends.
- Expanding beyond China, there's always going to be a hero whose playstyle is based on Pudge, the Butcher: They always come with a chain hook skill that goes very far and quickly drags the first enemy it touches right to their side, and they always have a way to make sure you stay in place for awhile. Pudge imitators thus far include Blitzcrank, Devourer, Stitches, Zhong Kui (not from Smite), Grakk and Franco.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: If the game has a backstory, expect it to have little to no bearing on the actual gameplay. Characters who are mortal enemies lore-wise will happily fight side-by-side if you pick one of them and a teammate picks the other.
- Item Crafting: Introduced in DotA: Allstars. Everything is sold in the shop, but high-tier items are built out of mid-tier items, which themselves might be built out of low-tier items. This is meaningful because Warcraft III only gave heroes 6 inventory slots. Forcing you to save up for the Infinity +1 Sword would basically doom your team to failure, since anyone who went for an Infinity -1 Sword would have it half a game earlier—and that edge, tiny though it seems, matters a lot. Hence item crafting, allowing you to suck less by building two -1 Swords and combining them into the +1 later.
- I Shall Taunt You: Some games allow you to taunt your enemies with either a taunt command or an emote. If in the game, recalling back to base is an action that don't cost a thing, a player can instead spam the recall button. Negatively, it's considered Unsportsmanlike Gloating. Pragmatically, it's counted as baiting the enemy to get irritated, which hopefully makes them less-concentrated and more mistake-prone, which translates to more advantage for you. Be careful of possible comebacks, though. There are also 'in-universe' Taunt skills, which mostly translate to 'inflict Draw Aggro to those who get hit'.
- Limit Break: the ultimate spell which is more powerful and unique than any other spells, and it is only unlocked by reaching a certain level.
- Never My Fault: Given the large amount of randomness that goes into the genre, this mentality is prevalent. It may also contribute for the genre's success: in a team environment, after all, all five people have to cooperate properly to win, and if you can simply blame those other four people for not doing their job, then you start another match to prove that you totally knew what you were doing.
- One-Man Army:
- Downplayed Trope for the players. Certainly the average playable character is this compared to the average (unseen) denizen of the gameworld, but compared to other playables, a character may only become a One Man Army if they get a massive advantage over the other side in the early game.
- If the game has a superboss, it will usually qualify, requiring multiple characters to take down.
- Recurring Element: A MOBA usually is known of taking elements of an existing MOBA game and then modifying them a bit to differentiate. As such, expect a lot of similar play styles and heroes whose theme and playstyle emulate an existing character from another game. Some end up being a Fountain of Expies.
- Pick-Up Group: matchmaking. Note also that the vast majority of players will get the vast majority of their play experience in PUGs, as the playerbase's toxicity can make it difficult to find anyone who is willing to lane with you repeatedly.
- Play the Game, Skip the Story: Being a multiplayer game; whenever a game attempts to have a plot, it's ignored.
- Serious Business: This is par for the course in any PvP game, but practically a genre trait in MOBA games.
- Silliness Switch: Many MOBAs have cosmetic skins which can turn a serious character into a walking joke, such as Dunkmaster Darius, Such Cold Skadi, and Kandy King Muradin.
- Throwing the Fight: often described as "feeding," this is the act of playing to lose, often by dying on purpose to the enemy team and "feeding" them the Gold and EXP bonuses. Note that this can happen without treacherous intent, if the other player is just that much better than you. Doesn't stop you from losing, though. And, if a teammate sees you doing this on accident, they may start doing it on purpose, just to get things over with faster.
- Total Party Kill: Depends on the game. There are "Aced!", "Deicide!" or "Enemy Team Dominated!", or RAMPAGE! These all are achieved when you and your team brutally slaughter every single player on the opposing team and leave no survivors.
- Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Aside of the usual all-chat abuse, there's one way to rub your victory over the defeated team if you're so ahead: 'Base/Fountain camping'. It's the act of surrounding the enemy base after you have deprived them their defensive structures and only waiting for the inevitable time that the enemy core will blow up... and yet you don't do it manually, you let your creep/minions do the job as you stand near the enemy base, killing them swiftly whenever they respawn, just to hammer down their helplessness from your savage beatdown. In certain games where teleporting to your base is a free action, another way to gloat is to constantly spam the "recall" option. However, there are some scenarios where the gloaters got too cocky they made a mistake that allowed the curb-stomped team to somehow make a comeback and snatch victory, reversing the position.
- Unstable Equilibrium: MOBAs tend to have incredibly unstable equilibria. Remember that whole thing about "feeding"? If you die to the same enemy player three times or even twice, you can basically condemn your team to defeat. There is very little margin for error in a MOBA.
- Ur-Example: Herzog Zwei
- Weak Turret Gun: Double Subverted by the towers. Early-mid game towers are very dangerous and can kill heroes in only a few hits, but they don't scale according to hero levels, so past a certain point towers stop being a formidable threat. Their main Late-Game use is as glorified stealth detectors. However, generally played entirely straight and justified gameplay-wise with some heroes who may be able to summon turret guns.
- Weapon Specialization: Due to the inherent large number of characters, eventually each MOBA will have representatives for many weapons. For those of you who likes certain weapons, you will most likely be drawn to the Hero/Champion wielding it, although their usage and role vary between each games. Add up Dual Wielding sometimes and it provides variety. The Analysis page provides some common themes shared between those who wield these weapons. Some of the more common weapons to grace the MOBA genre include:
- Axes (be they used to melee or being thrown). Examples include Axe, Darius for the purely melee ones, Troll Warlord, Draven for the ranged ones (though Troll can switch to melee if he wants to)
- Bow and Arrow. Examples include Drow Ranger, Ashe.
- Crossbows. Examples include Vayne, Valla
- Hammers. Examples include Poppy, Thor
- Maces/Clubs. Examples include Hercules, Leoric
- Sniper Rifle (Other kinds of firearms are also often found, but this is the most common form spread through the genre). Examples include Sniper, Caitlyn.
- Daggers. Examples include Riki, Katarina.
- Polearms, but most commonly spears. Examples include Phantom Lancer, Xin Zhao
- Shields, either wielded in the other hand or just wholly using shields. Examples include Dragon Knight, Leona for those using it in one hand, Braum, Cabrakan for those only using shields.
- Staves. This is commonly used for a Monkey King Lite character, if there's one.
- Swords. Of course, with so many of its variants.
- Bombs/Explosives. Examples include Techies, Ziggs
- You Are Fat: Inverted. In this genre, "fat" is almost always a compliment: it means someone has been "feeding" you and you are now overpowered as a result. This only applies to carries, though. If it's a support who somehow gets fat, they'll probably be criticized for being fat instead of stepping back and letting the carry become fat, which is what a support is supposed to do. (Keep in mind that carry characters are typically saddled with Magikarp Power levels of scaling, so being undernourished makes it impossible for them to carry the team to victory as they should.) (This is also an example of why the genre Suffers Newbies Poorly: if you're a healer, being a Hypercompetent Sidekick is good way to lose.)