Battlefield is one of the two FPS series’ that dominated the mainstream video game market for a number of years. Despite playing second fiddle to Call of Duty in terms of sales overall, Battlefield actually started a year before COD. In the eyes of some, Battlefield is a series that prioritizes quality over quantity, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a huge number of different games in the series.
Trying to figure out which Battlefield games deserve the title of cream of the crop can be a bit of a challenge, nevertheless, we’ve decided to take that challenge on. We present our list of the best Battlefield games that money can buy.
Battlefield 1942/Wake Island Demo
Sometimes the original is just the best, and that very well might be the case with the original Battlefield 1942 release. It came out around 2002 on OS X and PC, and was a pretty huge deal for FPS fans, bringing with it a lot of sweeping gameplay changes that just weren’t common in the genre at the time. Even better, before the game was officially released, possibly one of the greatest demo maps ever made was released, the Wake Island demo.
To start with, the thing that really made Battlefield 1942 stand out amongst other historical FPS games at the time was the style of the gameplay. Rather than featuring a story-driven campaign with some cursory gameplay and a tacked-on multiplayer, it featured a fully gameplay-focused experience. You could play solo against AI opponents, but the core gameplay remained the same whether you were online or not.
The gameplay in question mainly focused on teamwork and doing part to ensure that your side came out on top, rather than the individual focus that was common in other FPS titles. In Battlefield 1942 you’re not some super-soldier, or an all-American hero out to save the day, you’re a single part of the great war machine that rolls out across the landscape. While you certainly need to do your part, no amount of individual skill will win the day. You’ll need to coordinate with your team if you have any chance of coming out on top.
Without a doubt, the Wake Island demo was one of the single greatest reasons that Battlefield 1942 went on to be a success. The demo gave players access to a single map, Wake Island, in a pitched battle between the US and Japanese military forces. Not only does it have a little bit of everything, but it’s easily one of the most unique online FPS maps of the era, with its strange horseshoe-like design and plethora of features such as aircraft carriers and plenty of room for air combat. Hell, it was such a great map that one of the most popular videos from the era was actually recreated in the Battlefield 2042 reveal trailer. Now that’s what I call an impact.
It was a tough decision to choose between Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, as the games were pretty similar in many ways. In the end, we landed on Battlefield 4 because although it started out with some pretty major multiplayer issues, these were eventually fixed, and to this day the game still manages to attract a pretty healthy player base, despite having been released back in 2014. When an online game lasts that long, then you know it has to be doing something right.
One great addition to the game was actually the revival of a feature from Battlefield 2142 in 2006: Commander Mode. This mode gives one player on each team a bird’s eye view of the battlefield, allowing them to give orders to teammates in a move more akin to real-time strategy than a first-person shooter. While this feature was lauded by critics, it did get a bit more of a mixed reaction from fans, but either way, the option to use it was quite nice.
Other than that, everything you can think of was improved over Battlefield 4. There are some new mechanics, such as hiding underwater to avoid detection, and overall the gameplay is just snappier than its predecessor. On top of that, the graphical leap between the two is quite staggering, with some much clearer views, as well as the added bonus of better lighting to make everything pop well.
The most important part here is the huge diversity in the maps available for multiplayer. It’s no wonder that people are still playing the game, considering just how many different maps there are available to enjoy. The only real downside here is the single-player campaign, which was sort of disappointing for most people who were looking forward to it. Then again, even more than Call of Duty, Battlefield is a series that has been primarily about multiplayer ever since that first game, so it’s hard to see it as too much of a downside.
Some people may not have even heard of this one, as Battlefield Heroes was a free-to-play title released back when EA was all about that for about 5 or 6 years. While Battlefield Heroes could charitably be described as Diet Battlefield, it was still a pretty decent game considering it was totally free, and by 2010 it had managed to amass over 10 million active players, so clearly the game was doing something right with the new gameplay it was trying to bring to the series.
The first thing a hardcore Battlefield fan would probably notice about Heroes is the change in perspective. Unlike most games in the series, Heroes goes for a third-person perspective, rather than a first-person one. The second thing they’ll notice is that this game is basically a cartoony take on World War II, and honestly, it was a breath of fresh air at the time with all of the grim and realistic takes on war we’d been getting at that point.
What makes Battlefield Heroes so appealing is just how easy it was to play and enjoy. It didn’t cost anything to get into, and any given match was typified by zany antics rather than series competition. You could surf on the wings of planes to take down enemies, fly high into the air thanks to explosions, and almost all of it was accompanied by over-the-top sound effects. Not to mention the main theme which was simultaneously one of the most annoying, yet most catchy songs ever devised by humankind.
The real reason that Battlefield Heroes stands out as one of the best games in the series is that it tried to do something unique. While the official servers were shut down in 2015, there is so much fondness for these zany antics that fans have been keeping it alive ever since. To this day, there is a community of at least 85000 people who still actively enjoy the game, and it’s not hard to see why.
This is a choice that is potentially going to draw a lot of ire from some fans. Battlefield 1 caused a lot of ruckuses when it was released due to certain decisions the developers made about including female playable characters in a World War 1 shooter. Ignoring your personal feelings about this decision, Battlefield 1 was still a great game for various reasons. It had some truly excellent maps, tried to bring a little more interesting themes into the narrative, and was truly a breath of fresh air when it was released due to an FPS market oversaturated with modern military shooters.
One of the most important elements of Battlefield 1’s success was the map variety, and the reason the maps felt varied was that DICE really put the effort into expanding the game’s setting from simply rehashing the same muddy field in northern France that we’ve seen 1000 times. Instead, the story of the game takes you from forests to deserts, to bombed-out fields, and many places besides, giving the map designers so much more to work with.
Speaking of the story campaign, it was top-notch in its own right as well. Not only did you get to visit all of these great places, but you also really felt like the people you were playing as were real people, not just silent robots that spring back to life whenever they die and have no major reactions to the horrors of war going on all around them. These people have names, ages, and you get to see their faces. They react to the horrible things around them, and whenever you die, they stay dead, as you zoom into another player.
At the end of the day, Battlefield 1 gets a space on this list for being bold and daring. It made you really feel for the characters you were controlling and featured great map variety, a great story, and great gameplay both online and in single-player. This game was so good, that when Call of Duty: WWII was released a year later. It felt like a pale imitation when it tried to make you feel things for the endlessly respawning main characters that you control in that game. In short, this is the game for you if you’re getting fed up with modern shooters, and want something that’s going to make you realize how much war really sucks.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
If you’re a hardcore fan of the Battlefield franchise, then you were probably just waiting for this one to appear on our list. Widely considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of the series, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 brought a lot to the table and built on everything that the first Bad Company game did to create one of the most impressive and streamlined FPS experiences that have ever been seen. It’s not hard to see why so many claim this as their favourite game in the series.
One of the biggest features of both Bad Company titles is the large and destructible pieces of scenery that make up most of the maps. Whether you’re online or playing through the single-player campaign, you can be sure that stuff is going to get destroyed when you blow it up. While it might seem like an obvious addition, it’s surprising how many games don’t bother with realistically destroyable levels. Either way, it’s nice to know that you can rely on concrete to fly apart when you hit it with a rocket launcher.
The online gameplay is the most streamlined and snappy that it’s ever been, and still relies on the class-based system that you’ll find in pretty much all of the battlefield games. The real key here is the really well-designed multiplayer maps, as well as the huge amount of work that went into the game to balance it so it would be fun for everyone, and not just the top 10% of players who spend the most time getting good.
There’s also a stronger focus in the storyline of character-based storytelling, with characters that feel more like real people than in most modern shooters. It might be a little predictable as far as FPS single-player campaigns go, but at the end of the day it’s one hell of an enjoyable storyline, and when combined with the outstanding online play, you’ve probably got the perfect package right here.
The Final Word
Well, it’s been one hell of a journey, but there it is. Our definitive list of the best titles in the Battlefield series, from historical shooters to modern military affairs, and all the way back again. Are there any more games in the series that you think should have been put on this list? Are there games here that you think we should remove? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.