Which games have the best battle passes?

As more and more people find themselves involuntarily housebound as part of the nationwide self-quarantine effort, many of those same people are turning to video games to help fill their time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is also putting a financial strain on a lot of working folks, individual games which promise dozens or even hundreds of hours of engagement are naturally in high demand. Consequently, game publishers have found that inserting a battle pass system into their games is a great way to boost long-term player investment.

The phenomenon of battle passes technically predates the COVID-19 crisis, but now that most gamers are being more choosey with the increased amount of gaming time they have, those same battle passes have suddenly become a major selling point. Working through an individual game’s battle pass can be a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor, but as we’ll explain in this article, not all battle passes are created the same.

Depending on a player’s personal genre preferences and playstyle, they might be better off picking one game’s battle pass over another. We’ve highlighted some popular battle pass games below and explained as best we can what sorts of players are an ideal fit for each game on the list.

The “Proto” Battle Pass

You can’t really talk about battle passes without at least acknowledging the game that kicked off the entire battle pass phenomenon: Epic Games’ Fortnite. The battle pass system which accompanied Fortnite’s breakout hit battle royale mode amplified the game’s ongoing success by establishing a user-friendly progression track filled with meaningful rewards and clear-cut goals for players to pursue.

Fortnite’s battle pass also set in place a certain template from which many other games would soon borrow. While specific battle pass systems in different games can vary in their execution, there are certain “battle pass commandments” that were established by Fortnite’s original implementation and which have remained ubiquitous across virtually every game that has utilized a battle pass since. Such commandments include the following:

  • In most (but not all) cases, battle passes include two parallel “tracks” of rewards, one that’s free to all players and one that’s only available to those who purchase full access to the pass. The paid track naturally includes more rewards, but the free track can let more casual players try the system out without having to pay first.
  • Unlocking access to a particular battle pass’s premium rewards track typically costs $10, a price point that was established by Epic Games and Fortnite from the start.
  • Battle passes offer value to both players and game publishers because, no matter how players choose to unlock the pass’s rewards, publishers also benefit. Players can unlock rewards either by playing or by “skipping” reward tiers with additional monetary investments (typically about $1 per skip). In the case of the former, the associated game’s engagement metrics are boosted, and in the latter case the publisher gets more money directly.
  • A battle pass usually contains a total of 100 reward tiers, though that number can vary depending on the specific nature of the game.
  • Battle passes are pretty much always tied to an associated seasonal system wherein a new “season” (and associated battle pass) is rotated in every few months. This helps to further drive player engagement since any battle pass rewards a player didn’t earn before the season ended are gone for good, motivating players to keep coming back and playing even when they might normally consider playing another game instead.
  • Again, most (but not all) battle passes afford players the opportunity to earn their associated game’s premium currency at certain reward tiers. This means that dedicated players can unlock subsequent battle passes without having to make any additional monetary investment.
  • Making progress in a battle pass typically involves nothing more than simply playing the associated game, though some games also offer battle pass-specific missions or quests while others require that players participate in specific modes or game types.

As you’ll see in the below list, many of the upcoming games we discuss adhere to these commandments pretty closely while also implementing their own rules and quirks. The presence of a battle pass alone might not be enough to win a new player over, but it could be the deciding factor if the game was already on that player’s radar.

Destiny 2

Best For: Players who prefer PvE content, players who don’t mind grinding bounties for the most efficient progress.

Alongside the launch of last year’s Shadowkeep expansion, Destiny 2 developer Bungie also kicked off a new seasonal content format, with each new season including its own “season pass” of 100 tiered rewards. In the case of Destiny 2, the $10 purchase needed to access the season pass premium track actually unlocks the entirety of the season’s premium feature set which (depending on the season) can include things like new Exotic weapon quests, new temporary game modes, new seasonal events, and more.

Players can earn XP towards their season pass progress by slaying enemies and completing activities, but the most efficient method for progressing each Destiny 2 season pass is by completing any of the myriad of different bounties on offer at any one time. For those who don’t know, bounties in Destiny 2 are basically daily or weekly quests tied to specific activities or gameplay types, and each bounty completed grants a small selection of rewards including a noticeable boost in season pass progress.

A sizeable portion of Destiny 2 players have actually lamented how “grinding” bounties is the most efficient method for progressing each season pass since they feel it pulls focus from the game’s more organic story-based and gear-based progression systems. However, in a time when most battle pass games tend to prioritize their PvP components, it’s nice to have such an established and content-rich title that offers just as many (if not more) PvE options.

Each new Destiny 2 season pass offers an eclectic mixture of rewards including planetary materials, currency, armor, weapons, and unique cosmetic items. However, one thing that players can’t earn through the season pass is the game’s premium currency, Silver. This means that with every new season players have to invest in another 1,000 Silver ($10) to unlock the associated season pass and other content.

Having players pay $10 for each new season pass even if they max out the previous one makes a certain amount of sense considering the entirety of the season’s premium content is also baked into that $10 price tag. Still, if being frugal is a priority, that monthly $10 buy-in should be something you take into consideration.

More information about Destiny 2’s seasonal system and accompanying season pass can be found here.      

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Best For: Dedicated gamers, those who enjoy a mixture of battle royale, standard multiplayer, and co-op.

Activision’s first attempt at a Call of Duty battle pass in 2018’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 came with a few growing pains, but many of those issues were thankfully addressed in the more recent Modern Warfare reboot. Each Modern Warfare battle pass contains 100 reward tiers filled with calling cards, profile emblems, operator skins, unique weapon blueprints, and ‘CoD Points’ premium currency. Even better, several of the pass’s more coveted rewards such as new weapons and certain CoD Point payouts are free to unlock for all players assuming they put in the work to reach the associated tiers.

The big selling point behind Modern Warfare’s battle pass system is that players can progress the battle pass by playing any of the game’s three tentpole multiplayer experiences: the standard multiplayer suite, the PvE co-op mode, or the more recent Warzone experience which offers large-scale competitive modes like battle royale. However, each Modern Warfare season also tends to be shorter than in most other games, which means there’s greater pressure to grind and/or spend additional money on tier skips as the end of the season creeps closer.

If you’ve got a dedicated squad of friends to play with, Modern Warfare is a solid choice since the battle pass tiers can just fly by as you freely move between the game’s various competitive and co-op game modes. Just be sure to keep track of whenever developer Infinity Ward hosts a double battle pass XP weekend (there are usually at least 2-3 such weekends per season) since the season’s end will sneak up on you faster than you think.

More information on Modern Warfare’s battle pass can be found here.      

Battlefield V

Best For: Existing Battlefield fans, those who prefer large-scale multiplayer.

With Battlefield V, EA and DICE have gotten into the battle pass game with a seasonal ‘Tides of War’ content rollout and an accompanying ‘Chapter Rewards’ tiered reward system. Much as with Destiny 2 and Modern Warfare, Battlefield V players can progress their individual Chapter Rewards tracks by participating in virtually any of the game’s offered multiplayer modes and experiences, including its Firestorm battle royale mode and its (sadly quite flawed) co-op mode Combined Arms.

Battlefield V players don’t have to pay to access the singular Chapter Rewards track, but the items they earn aren’t exactly the most eye-catching either, consisting mainly of static weapon and vehicle skins along with the occasional new weapon or soldier outfit. Unsurprisingly, this also means that Battlefield V’s premium ‘Battlefield Currency’ isn’t obtainable through Chapter Rewards, though players can spend any Battlefield Currency they do have on Chapter Rewards tier skips.

Again, if you’ve got some friends you can play with and/or you already enjoy the Battlefield series’ unique take on large-scale multiplayer warfare, Battlefield V’s Chapter Rewards might be worth giving a shot. Solo players can get some value out of Chapter Rewards as well since there’s no monetary investment needed to unlock the full suite of rewards, but each Battlefield game (and Battlefield V in particular) has always been built with groups in mind.  

For Honor

Best For: Players who don’t care for shooters and are medieval combat fans

As you might have already guessed if you took a quick perusal of this entire list, a large majority of battle pass-supported games are shooters, which isn’t very surprising considering how popular and robust the shooter genre is. Still, if firing digital guns isn’t your jam, you’re not entirely out of luck. Ubisoft recently adopted a battle pass model for its competitive medieval brawler game For Honor as part of the game’s Year 4 seasonal content calendar.

In terms of functionality, For Honor’s battle pass structure is pretty by-the-numbers, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. There are 100 tiers of rewards laid across parallel free and premium tracks, and the rewards themselves include unique cosmetic items such as weapon and character skins, taunts, execution animations, and victory poses. Battle pass participants can even earn For Honor’s premium currency, Steel, to help offset the cost of future battle passes or other premium in-game items.

For Honor does admittedly have a bit of a learning curve since it focuses on intricate PvP close-quarters combat, but you can thankfully still enjoy the benefits of the battle pass even if you only dabble in the PvP itself. In addition to match completions, battle pass progress in For Honor is also awarded for finishing daily orders (many of which are tied to the game’s co-op vs. AI modes) or by completing quests in the PvE-centric Arcade Mode.

For more solo-minded players who don’t want to jump straight into the deep end of PvP multiplayer and/or want something different from all the shooter games out there, For Honor and its accompanying battle pass system could be just the ticket. As long as you have the patience to master the game’s unique combat mechanics, it can be a highly rewarding experience even if you stick mainly to the battle pass’s free rewards track.

More information about For Honor’s battle pass can be found here.     

Rainbow Six Siege

Best For: Super-dedicated tactical shooter fans, players who don’t mind participating in high-stakes PvP matches.

Ubisoft clearly saw how much potential the battle pass format has since it also recently rolled such a system into another one of its flagship online games: Rainbow Six Siege. Unlike most other battle passes, Siege’s take on the pass actually ties a bit into the game’s lore by including story tidbits as relayed by the newly appointed Rainbow Six Director Harry “Six” Panday. Both the new lore entries and the pass rewards themselves help to flesh out the various operators players control by highlighting their unique globe-spanning backgrounds and personalities.

Siege’s debut battle pass only contains 35 tiers, though there’s still a total of 50 rewards to earn across both the free and premium tracks. Along with expected rewards such as unique character skins and weapon charms, players can also earn boosters which increase the rate at which they earn Renown (in-game currency) as well as caches of R6 Credits (premium currency).

The only major downside to Siege’s current battle pass format is that pass progress can only be earned by participating in live PvP matches. Siege does technically include PvE gameplay options in the form of arcade-style ‘Scenarios” and repeatable Terrorist Hunt missions, but neither of those PvE offerings advances the battle pass at all.

There’s also the inescapable fact that Siege isn’t exactly shy about asking players to pony up extra cash for an assortment of both cosmetic and gameplay-related add-ons (skins, new operators, yearly content passes, operator bundles, boosters, etc.). Those who own the newest yearly content pass (a $25 investment) and thus benefit from its associated VIP benefits can technically purchase the battle pass at a 30 percent discount. However, it still feels a bit egregious to insert yet another microtransaction into a game that’s already stuffed to the brim with them.

For those who are already heavily invested in Rainbow Six Siege’s ever-evolving competitive gameplay meta, buying the battle pass can grant access to some pretty cool-looking rewards. Those who are looking for a more casual-friendly battle pass experience, however, might want to look elsewhere.

More information about Rainbow Six Siege’s battle pass can be found here.     

Dauntless

Best For: Fans of MMO’s and/or F2P (free-to-play) games, those who prefer PvE gameplay, Monster Hunter fans looking for something that’s both familiar and a slight change of pace, players who like making their characters look stylish.

Indie developer Phoenix Labs was quick to hop aboard the battle pass train shortly after its debut game, the monster-hunting MMO Dauntless, launched in full, and so far the move has been working out well for it. Dauntless’ central gameplay loop is pretty straightforward in that it pits groups of four players against massive AI-controlled beasts so they can hopefully slay them, collect their materials, and then use those materials to forge better gear and hunt tougher beasts.

Currently, Dauntless is entirely PvE-focused, and its combination of social, exploration, and combat components is a bit more welcoming to new players than something like, say, Monster Hunter World (though that’s certainly up to individual interpretation). The game is also F2P and available as a cross-play/cross-progression title across a number of different platforms, making it one of the most highly accessible games on this list.

To help entice players into maybe spending a little money on Dauntless, Phoenix Labs has implemented a ‘Hunt Pass’ system which spreads a series of cosmetic rewards and stat-boosting consumables across 50 tiers of a dual free/premium rewards track. Players can advance the Hunt Pass by completing monster encounters, progressing their character’s individual Mastery progression track, and finishing a series of unique daily and weekly tasks included with each new content season.

If aesthetics factor heavily into your decision to invest in a particular game’s battle pass, Dauntless is one option you should absolutely consider. Each new content season is accompanied by an overlying theme which defines not only the season itself but all the gear you earn through the Hunt Pass. Dauntless may not offer as much gameplay variety as some of the other games on this list, but if you pursue the game’s Hunt Pass rewards you’re guaranteed to look the part of a stylish monster slayer.

More information about Dauntless’ Hunt Pass can be found here.     

Doom Eternal

Best For: Fans of single-player games, existing Doom fans, those who prefer more one-of-a-kind competitive multiplayer modes.

Yep, you read correctly. Doom Eternal, the newest Doom game from developer id Software, has a battle pass. As you might expect, Doom Eternal’s battle pass isn’t quite as robust as those found in other games, but it still helps in boosting the game’s longevity by encouraging players to continuously revisit the single-player campaign and/or give the unique 2v1 ‘Battle Mode’ PvP experience a spin.

Doom Eternal’s battle pass system is simply called ‘Events’ and is made up of a mere 12 tiers for its inaugural ‘Series One’ launch. Players advance through the tiers by completing campaign milestones, finishing a rotating series of daily and weekly challenges, and playing Battle Mode matches. There’s even a clever ‘Boosters’ system wherein players can add their friends or other players they’ve encountered in Battle Mode as boosters, passively earning XP whenever their booster players do.

Advancing through the tiers naturally unlocks unique cosmetic rewards such as player titles, profile icons, and skins for Doom Guy and the various Battle Mode demons players can control. Again, Doom Eternal’s battle pass likely won’t offer as many additional hours of rewards-based engagement as more online-centric games, but if you’re already planning to invest as much time into the game as you can, it’s certainly a welcome bonus.

Fortnite

Best For: F2P fans, those who like carrying game progress across multiple platforms, players who don’t mind shooters with a cartoony aesthetic.

Yes, we did discuss Fortnite’s “proto” battle pass back at the start, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also cover what sorts of players might be best suited for said proto battle pass. Fortnite has come a long way since it initially launched its battle royale and battle pass features, but just because it had the first battle pass doesn’t necessarily mean it has the best one.

Currently, Fortnite is compartmentalized into three distinct game modes: Battle Royale, Creative, and Save the World. Battle Royale is by far the most popular of the three not only because of its colorful 100-player deathmatches but also because it’s F2P. Also, like Dauntless, progression in Fortnite is tied directly to a player’s Epic Games profile, which means they retain their progress and reward unlocks even if they play on multiple platforms.

The Creative mode is closely tied to Battle Royale and is also F2P, offering players a space where they can come up with their own zany modes and modifiers. Unfortunately, for the time being, Fortnite’s PvE-focused Save the World mode is a bit of a walled garden.

Save the World is only accessible to those who purchase a Fortnite founder’s pack (a minimum $40 buy-in) and it’s also not available on certain platforms like mobile devices and the Nintendo Switch. Worse, Save the World has its own internal progression system that’s entirely separate from Battle Royale, which means that battle pass progression isn’t earned from Save the World gameplay, and unlocked Battle Royale/battle pass items cant’ be used in Save the World.

If sticking mainly with Fortnite’s PvP-focused Battle Royale mode isn’t an issue, you certainly get your money’s worth if you purchase the $10 premium rewards track for the battle pass. Each Fortnite season is chock full of battle pass missions, unique cosmetic rewards (some of which can be upgraded via additional missions), and V-Buck (premium currency) reward tiers, and that’s just the start. Epic Games has also included unique themes for each season, themes which include spectacular in-game events that players can witness in real-time and which often drastically and permanently alter Fortnite’s base battle royale map.

Yes, Fortnite has a rightly-earned reputation of being a more cartoony and whimsical online shooter that’s purposefully designed to appeal to a younger audience, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a try for yourself. If you don’t mind playing consistently and working through each new set of weekly challenges that pop up throughout a season, a single $10 battle pass investment can take you a long way in Fortnite.

More information about Fortnite’s battle pass can be found here.   

Other Battle Pass Games to Consider

There are plenty of other games out there which also have battle passes of their own, too many to put into a single concise list. Still, if none of the above games seem like they’d be your cup of tea, we do want to at least highlight how you have plenty of other options.

If you’re looking for shooter games you might want to look into other battle royale titles such as PUBG or Apex Legends, the latter of which is also F2P. Other F2P options include Hi-Rez Studios’ Overwatch-esque team shooter Paladins or Digital Extremes’ PvE-focused space ninja game Warframe (both are also solid choices if you prefer sci-fi games).

We mentioned before how Ubisoft has been one of the bigger battle pass proponents, and that’s especially true considering how it also added a seasonal endgame content system (including a battle pass) into its tactical RPG-esque shooter The Division 2 with last month’s Warlords of New York expansion. Interestingly enough, Ubisoft also actually removed the battle pass-esque ‘Battle Rewards’ system from Ghost Recon Breakpoint due to fan feedback.

As for non-shooter options, there are battle pass-enabled games to be found in the Moba and mobile realms as well. The popular (and F2P) Moba games Dota 2 and Smite have both since incorporated their own battle pass systems, boosting their already high amount of replay value. Riot Games hasn’t yet followed suite with its own Moba, League of Legends, but it has added a ‘Galaxy Pass’ feature to its spin-off auto-chess game Teamfight Tactics. And speaking of auto-chess games, both Dota Underlords and the mobile-exclusive Chess Rush have battle passes for dedicated players to commit to.

Rounding out the mobile battle pass games is Activision’s Call of Duty: Mobile, a perfect option for those who want to take their shooter gameplay on the go. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is another option to consider if you don’t mind playing a slightly older game, as is Psyonix’s unique “car soccer” game Rocket League.

If this list proves anything, it’s that there are a lot of battle pass-enabled games out there, and in every case those battle passes greatly enhance the total value of their respective games for little (or in some cases no) monetary investment. As a player, you might have to conduct a little trial and error to see which games grab you the most, but once you find a game or two that you enjoy, their respective battle passes will ensure you get your money’s worth and then some.