These are the most unexpected eSports games

By William Davis

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May 2, 2024

Reading time: 3 min

Thoughts of competitive eSport tournaments conjure up images of gamers playing popular games like Apex Legends, League of Legends, Mario Kart, and the most recent Madden title. In truth, eSports goes well beyond the best-selling shooter, sports, and racing games and into some obscure and older titles. Let’s explore the games you might not expect to see played in a championship for serious cash.

Farming Simulator

From what we know about farming, it isn’t an easy life. Most of today’s small farms stay in business because they love the land, and like generations before them, they realize growing crops takes much more thought and effort than the average person knows about.

Still, you wouldn’t think of a farming game as a spectator sport within video gaming, but a $125,000 prize says otherwise. Like modern real-world farming, Farming Simulator shows us how much skill you’ll need to harvest a field properly. The game and the rules within the tournament add drama, with teams of virtual farmers racing against the clock for points and driving their tractors to get wheat stored for processing while avoiding obstacles. 

This farming simulator is much more nuanced and complex than we gave it credit for!

Turbo Racing League

Turbo Racing League stems from Turbo, a somewhat popular animated movie from 2013 about a racing snail. Verizon sponsored a tournament called the “Shell-Out Contest” with a total of $1,000,000 in prizes. The game’s presence in the eSports community didn’t last long, though, as the big prizes ended. This was a barebones tournament that the winner reportedly played while training for other games, like World of Warcraft, and didn’t exactly have fancy equipment as he took down opponents using a budget Samsung J3 smartphone—which he probably also used to play at online casinos with a $10 deposit.

Turbo Racing League serves as proof that any game can be competitive when there is a serious prize on the line and the right skillset dominates.

GeoGuessr

Do you know your geography well? Could you identify a location anywhere on Earth within about 1,000 miles using just a picture? That’s what you’ll need to do to get a high score at GeoGuessr, and you’ll want to do it quickly. You might be surprised at the challenge GeoGuessr presents, as the images often offer few context clues with street-level photos.

GeoGuessr started fairly small in 2017 and grew when gamers had plenty of time indoors and little travel during the recent pandemic. For a geography game, GeoGuessr has a decent following on eSports websites. The world finals attracted nearly 70,000 viewers as location enthusiasts mapped their way to a $15,000 grand prize and a trip that included a “Mission: Impossible” style tour of parts of Europe in a vintage car, flying a helicopter, and a boat ride through Venice.

Age of Empires

You may have heard of Age of Empires 2, the well-known real-time strategy game involving gathering resources that gradually turn into cities and armies to conquer your rivals. In the context of eSports, which was once dominated by games like StarCraft, creating a war machine from the ground up makes a lot of sense for a highly competitive game, so the unexpected element within Age of Empires comes from how long it’s been around. Age of Empire hit shelves back when buying a computer game off a shelf was still a thing, in 1999. 

Gamers are still earning sizable prizes by conquering opponents in the game, with a 2022 tournament bringing a $200,000 prize pool. 

Shrek SuperSlam

In all fairness, you probably haven’t heard of Shrek SuperSlam. As the name suggests, the game features characters from the movie Shrek fighting in an arena. Released shortly after the first two Shrek movies, the game didn’t sell well. It wasn’t even meant to be taken seriously until skilled meme artists mastered the game’s mechanics and encouraged others to join them to create a much more competitive environment.

You are unlikely to see Shrek SuperSlam played for prizes, but the community that made the game popular created a remastered, high-definition version to make it more fun for them. That is a serious commitment.

Conclusion

Every video game has competitive elements. Through prizes, gamer support, and unique interests, some games have developed serious communities that love to learn all the details and play on a public stage, like YouTube or Twitch. We salute the people who turn their passion for gaming into something bigger.