Battle royale-style “one vs. many” games like Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone have colonised the online space over the past couple of years, with hundreds of thousands of gamers logged in at any given time. But some parents are uneasy with the level of violence in the most popular titles in the genre; even in a cartoonish game like Fortnite, players are encouraged to shoot one another with bazookas.
However, there are non-violent free-for-all alternatives — games that offer all the excitement of the multiplayer-elimination genre without the guns and grenades. Here are five to start with.
This addictive Nintendo Switch game lets you compete with 99 other players in gigantic block-dropping battles. But it’s more than just a 100-person head-to-head Tetris game: As you clear lines, you earn “garbage blocks” — attacks you can throw at other players to mess up their flow.
As you’d probably expect from Tetris, things speed up and the attacks become more frequent as the game goes on. Choosing who to attack and when — do you want to knock a struggling player out of the game or get revenge on the jerk who just threw a garbage block at you? — injects a surprising amount of strategy into this fun, abstract puzzle game.
Forza Horizon: The Eliminator
This mode for Forza Horizon 4 lets 72 drivers compete online by challenging each other in races all over the Forza world. As you win car duels, you can take losers’ cars or improve your own whip, so the races get faster and more challenging as drivers are eliminated. The whole shebang ends in a climactic 12-player sprint where the winning racer earns the title of “The Eliminator.”
More than just a tournament mode, the game uses race challenges and random car-drops as mechanics — you’ll want to avoid races with drivers in faster cars and keep track of new rides showing up — so winning involves strategy, as well as raw driving skills. It’s available on the Xbox, PC, and iOS, and Android.
Party Royale isn’t a game, per se; it’s a game mode within multiplayer shooter Fortnite. Game developer Epic opens the virtual event space occasionally, giving players a chill-out area to attend concerts, watch movies, and play mini-games like boat racing and sky diving — all without worrying about being blown to pieces every five seconds.
Past virtual concerts have included stars like Travis Scott, Diplo, and Kaskade. Epic is being a bit cagey about the future of Party Royale (there’s nothing on the schedule at the moment), but a recent document leak and court case suggests a Fortnite/NBA team-up that might include a basketball mini-game of some sort… so stay tuned.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
This bright, cartoony party game throws 60 players into an online free-for-all of obstacles, challenges, and chaos. Some rounds are cooperative, with teams competing against each other to avoid elimination, and some are every-guy-for-themselves free-for-alls.
This game is pure entertainment — vibrant colours and ridiculous calamities winnowing the field until only one player remains. There’s little strategy or skill to Fall Guys, but the amount of pandemonium is guaranteed to make you laugh, even if you lose in the first round. My only gripe: It’s only playable on PC or PlayStation 4. This would be a perfect game for the Switch.
This PC-only ship-based fantasy combat game isn’t non-violent exactly, but it’s just sailing ships shooting at each other, so it isn’t as personal and visceral as people mowing other people down face-to-face.
In Maelstrom, up to 16 players take to the seas and fire volleys of cannonballs at each other, battle vicious sea monsters, and collect loot until only one schooner remains. It’s a fairly involved game, so it’s not good for smaller kids, but if you’re looking for a unique take on the “one vs. many” genre, and you dream of being a buccaneer on the briny deep, this is the game for you.