There are all kinds of reasons you might want to play a multiplayer game without other players. Maybe you want to learn the basics before going live with other players, or maybe your internet connection isn’t great and you don’t want to suffer through a stuttery mess just for multiplayer. Playing with bots is a good way to try out new builds or fine-tune your skills. Perhaps you’re just not in the mood to deal with other people at the moment—or maybe you never are.
Whatever the reason, there are lots of great multiplayer games that provide a strong experience with bots. AI will never perfectly mimic the behavior of human players, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun. Let’s be honest—some of our best friends are robots.
Heroes of the Storm
No, they aren’t especially difficult, at least not for a skilled player, but the bots in Heroes of the Storm’s Vs-AI matches mimic human behavior enough to provide a legitimate game experience. These matches, where five human players face off against five AI-controlled opponents, offer a low-stakes situation for new players to learn the ropes or veterans to test out a new build. And since the games still offer XP and count towards completing quests, the mode is a nice place to level up heroes you suck with without worrying about holding your team back. Bonus: with the stakes so low, players are much less toxic. —Bo Moore
Unreal Tournament 2004
Depending on what difficultly level you choose, the bots of Unreal Tournament 2004 can be entertaining fodder or nigh-unbeatable gods. Either way, UT’s bots have some of the best AI you’ll find in any game before or since, utilizing self-preservation if they’re outmatched and demonstrating real teamwork during capture the flag matches. Unreal Tournament 99 has fantastic bots, too, and can be customized to a greater degree, but UT 2004’s bots feel more like playing against real people. —Chris Livingston
Left 4 Dead 2
Left 4 Dead 2 is best played with friends and worst with internet randos, but it’s surprisingly decent on your own. You can actually listen to the banter between characters (I ride or die for polite hillbilly Ellis), and if you want to just poke around the fairground playing with the strength tester nobody’s going to try to drag you away—except possibly a Smoker, with its tongue. —Jody Macgregor
Arma 3’s AI is pretty robotic, but its scenario editor tool (which gained a 3D editing view, Eden, more than a year ago) is powerful if you can utilize all of its functions to create dramatic convoy raids, airstrikes, helicopter extracts, and other pleasant tropes. I think of Arma 3’s bots less as intelligent enemies than I do interesting targets that I have to spot and knock down over hundreds of miles of detailed terrain. In bigger numbers (and with the help of ordinance and vehicles), they can be deadly and erratic, but most of the fun is the roleplaying, navigating, and drama that happens along the way. —Evan Lahti
Warhammer: The End Times—Vermintide
Warhammer: The End Times — Vermintide has improved the AI of its bots tremendously, and while at launch they would leave you hanging, literally, ignoring you while you clung to a ledge by your fingertips, after some updates they became competent enough to make single-player a viable option. It is worth noting that you need to be online to play Vermintide even with bots, annoyingly. —Jody Macgregor
I can’t be bothered with the hours of suffering required to be able to play Dota properly, but I like the heroes and their weird abilities so I drop into a bot match every now and then to last-hit a bunch of creeps and eat some enemy heroes. The massive spider Broodmother is my favourite. Brood can web up entire zones of the map, as a spider might. On webbed areas she moves faster and can clamber over everything, which lets you get behind heroes for an ambush. As long as you stop enemy heroes from killing her spiderlings for loads of gold and XP you grow hideously powerful. In the final stages I like to try to web up the opponents’ high ground so I can run around eating heroes unopposed. Dota 2 is secretly a great spider sim. —Tom Senior
AI in the Worms series has gotten a little better with each game, and by better I don’t mean deadlier. I mean they act more like real players, healing themselves when hurt, making believable mistakes and missing shots from time to time, and even crafting. Good bots shouldn’t be flawless and unbeatable, they should mimic human players, and W.M.D. does a great job making it hard to tell the difference. —Chris Livingston
You definitely won’t be fooled into thinking these bots are real players, but the selling point in playing Rocket League offline is its Season Mode. There’s just something enjoyable about playing through a season of sports on a team, even if the challenge isn’t particularly extreme. And unlike real players, the competition won’t abandon the match when they’re getting schooled. —Chris Livingston