Inside 2023’s Brainiest Esports

Overwhelmingly, the focus of esports fans is on games like League of Legends, CS: GO, and Dota 2. However, as the industry continues to evolve so do the number of esports games—and the challenges they pose to players. 

For the most part, RTS and FPS games are considered the most challenging. An RTS battle royale demands that players strategize well, work together seamlessly, and use all of their skills appropriately. On the other hand, an FPS game challenges players to move quickly and perform with a high level of accuracy. 

But what about esports leagues and tournaments that challenge players in more cerebral ways? Obviously, LoL and CS: GO stars are thinking on their feet—but what about games that involve a bit more hardboiled strategy and mental calculations? Let’s dive into this year’s emerging esports that are simply brainier than the rest.

Online Poker

There’s a debate raging about whether poker should be considered an eSport. Though it’s clearly not a video game, the challenges that athletes and e-athletes face are remarkably similar. In fact, even an online poker schedule closely resembles a modern esports league schedule. 

To succeed, players must be able to read the table and their opponents, gauge how the game is changing each round, determine their bets, and contend with a series of unknowns along the way.


This collectible card game is one of the most recent to hit the esports scene. However, it’s also one of the most challenging. That’s because players must change and evolve their strategy at each turn—similar to how they do in poker. However, their strategy must be a long-term one that informs them when to use high-power cards, when to sacrifice the round, and so on. 

Since its release in 2018, GWENT has started to compete with Hearthstone as one of the world’s top digital collectible card games. It’s considered much more difficult than Hearthstone because of its learning curve.

Age of Empires

In terms of global followings, the Age of Empires esports sector has been relatively limited. However, it’s now starting to take off as one of the top RTS esports titles—and certainly one of the brainiest. To succeed, players must manage resources wisely while contending with a variety of challenges.

That includes economic markets, diverse maps that change, and even civilizations that are constantly in flux. For most players, it’s the mapping challenges that push their minds to the limit, as they must juggle multiple map areas to tweak and improve their tactics.

Rainbow Six Siege

Interestingly, one study conducted by Royal Panda sought to judge top video games based on the intelligence of their players. The study found that Rainbow Six Siege gamers had the highest IQs on average (at 120.3). So, when counting down the brainiest esports titles, this FPS, though not as popular as COD or CS: GO, poses challenges that people with high IQs enjoy tackling.

But what makes it stand out from its contemporaries? Players agree that Rainbow Six Siege is demanding primarily because of its high learning curve, similar to GWENT and poker. This is due to players having to learn about different operators before they’re able to advance in the game.

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