The greatest esports players of all time

greatest esports players of all time
s1mple - Esports Kingdom - CC BY 2.0

More than two decades ago the amazing world of esports was born.

In that time, across many different titles and genres great athletes have risen above everyone else and achieved what most gamers can only dream of.

Professional players form the small minority of top users any game has. Esport stars, the best among the best, are an even rarer breed.

In truth, there are several players whose skills deserve praise and admiration yet will not show up here. In most cases, one cannot compile a list that ranks objectively who the best videogame players of all time are.

Nevertheless, considering their competitive achievements and how brought up in conversation they tend to be as the very best, I have compiled a list of players who can be safely assumed to be some of the most well-rounded competitors of their respective esports scene.

Daigo

Name: Daigo Umehara

Game: Street Fighter series

Country: Japan

Teams: Team Beast, Red Bull esports

Nickname: The beast

daigo best esports players
Daigo - Andy L

A veteran of esports with more than two decades of experience under his belt, Daigo was there from the very beginning. He is considered a beast at fighting games.

Known for being a consistently good player, Daigo is responsible for some of the most impressive moments in Street Fighter history. Daigo pushes characters to the extreme and serves as inspiration for his colleagues. 

Though throughout each Street Fighter iteration he may not have been the undisputed best, when the game series itself is taken as a whole Daigo comes out on top.

Most notably, the japanese player is responsible for what probably has become the most famous play in fighting game history, EVO Moment 37.

Confused?

Here is a video explaining Daigo and the almost impossible play that immortalized him as one of esports greatest.

n0tail

Name: Johan Sundstein

Game: Heroes of Newerth, Dota 2

Country: Denmark

Teams: Fnatic, Team Secret, Cloud9, (monkey) Business, OG

Position: Support

notail esports best players
n0tail - The International - Valve Corporation

Dota 2 is an extremely hard and complex team game. It is difficult to come up with an objective list of the best Dota players compared to other esports.

A few competitors are better with their micro mechanics, others are talented strategists and drafters, some are better at carrying, and there are those who can bring together a team in such a way that makes it work like a well-oiled machine.

Sticking to accomplishments then, Johan “n0tail” Sundstein is one of the game’s greatest.

Coming from Heroes of Newerth, where he was already one of the top-ranked players, n0tail switched his Dota 2 role from mid to support. What followed were years of strong results, winning The International, the biggest esports event by prize pool, twice.

In-game n0tail is known for his ability to generate opportunities as well as for outmaneuvering his opponents with smart plays.

Outside of it, n0tail is an accomplished team co-founder and coach, having kickstarted multiple successful careers. What all of these achievements show is that n0tail is an enabler, and for that he takes this spot as one of Dota‘s greatest.

TheViper

Name: Ørjan Larsen

Game: Age of Empires series

Country:  Norway

Teams: GamerLegion

best esports player
TheViper during Red Bull Wololo V at Castel Heidelberg, Germany - Julian Schilase - Red Bull Content Pool

Though it experienced a resurgence in recent years, Age of Empires has never been a massively popular esport. That is not to say that the game is not subjected to fierce competition. Far from it.

TheViper has proven himself the best player the series has ever hadTime and time again he manages to secure first and second places with ease

At this point, more often than not one watches AoE II tournaments to see who ends up fighting for second place at finals.

While at the end of the day TheViper is a titan in a niche game, he can still be considered one of the best gamers of all time due to his immense skill and consistent dominance.

s1mple

Name: Oleksandr Olehovych Kostyliev 

Game: Counter Strike

Country: Ukraine

Teams: Hellraisers, Team Liquid, Natus Vincere

Position: Awper (Sniper)

Nickname: Undertaker

Over the years Counter Strike has birthed plenty of prodigies, but few if any come close to s1mple

Talented as they come, the Ukrainian is an insanely strong marksman, with a game sense that dwarves that of other great players.

In his early years s1mple was somewhat known for his strong temper and difficulty to work with, which for a while caused him to jump around squads until he finally stuck to Natus Vincere. 

It was at NaVi that s1mple truly proved himself, showing enough patience to weed out the team’s weaknesses while enhancing its strengths. After a few years of hard work Natus Vincere finally showed its worth by winning several majors.

Faker

Name: Lee Sang Hyeok

Game: League of Legends

Country: Republic of Korea

Teams: SK Telecom T1 K, SKT T1, T1

Position: Mid

Nickname: The Unkillable Demon King

League of legends Faker playing for SKT
Faker - Powder Flickr - CC BY-ND 2.0

If you are a fan of esports this man needs no introduction

After years of amazing plays and consistently strong results, Faker has by far cemented himself as the face of League of Legends and esports worldwide. He is widely considered to be the best player the game has ever had, especially when it comes to tournament scenarios.

Capable of doing things that seem almost inhuman, his skills both as a team player and as a solo laner are known by all. When asked about him, players that have been paired against Faker always describe how uneasy and insecure of their own skills he makes them feel. 

Playing against Faker is like trying to trick an unforgiving genius, someone who will punish every tiny mistake made and whose small incremental optimizations build up until they end up overwhelming the opponent.

While early in his career Faker showed preference for aggressive play styles which showcased his absurd tactical prowess and mechanics, over the long term he has managed to outshine most other pros due to his ability to pick practically any viable mid champion and perform well with it. Faker‘s versatility and the potential of creativity derived from it have proven themselves his greatest strengths across radically different metagames and team squads.

Another quality that makes Faker the greatest is his work ethic. Unlike other players at the top of the esports ladder, Faker has not allowed himself to become complacent, remaining humble and living a disciplined lifestyle despite being able to afford plenty of luxuries. This trait has no doubt helped him win League’s greatest prize, the World Championship title, three times.

For as long as League of Legends remains popular, people will always marvel at his skills and compare others to him; for Faker is the gold standard of esports players.

Flash

Name: Lee Young Ho

Game: Starcraft: Brood War and Starcraft 2

Country: Republic of Korea

Teams: Pantech Ex. KTF MagicNs, KT Rolster

Race: Terran

Nicknames: God, Final Weapon

greatest esports players of all time
Flash - TL.net user NeverGG

An unknown figure to most esports fans, this is the the man that beat multiplayer.

Beginning to professionally compete in Starcraft: Brood War at the age of fourteen, it did not take long for Flash to become the most dominating figure the game has ever known.

Flash became a South Korean champion at fifteen, starting a rivalry with the best pros of the era, including the game’s second greatest prodigy, Jaedong

With win rates that sometimes even went above 80% percent across all three matchups in Starcraft, Flash was characterized for having an extremely solid style of play which allowed for immense strategic flexibility, being comfortable both with macro and cheese styles. His ability to read opponents like a book and understand how to counter what they were doing was second to none. He was also renowned for being a team league monster, seldom dropping a map.

Having achieved the highest elo ratings for any player in Starcraft (~ 2400s), Flash had such a consistent level of proficiency at the game that he ended up receiving nicknames such as “God” or “Final Boss”. 

Quite simply, Flash was just better than everyone at practically anything and for longer periods of time than anyone else.

Tournament maps were changed or redesigned to directly nerf the strengths that he as a Terran displayed, and while this would hurt most of his race colleagues Flash would simply adjust and still manage to come out victorious, constantly innovating, optimizing, and executing strategies that other strong players would have a hard time understanding, let alone attempting to mirror.

Indeed, after competing for a couple of years it was clear that the mark of a great Starcraft player could be decided by whether they could hold their own against Flash, even if for a brief while.

Flash also has what quite probably is one of the weirdest entrances any progamer has ever had for a tournament, being brought by airplane to a hangar full of spectators.

greatest gamer of all time god starcraft
Yes, it is just a meme, but it comes close to being the reality in Brood War

Making the switch to Starcraft 2 around the end of Wings of Liberty, Flash was unable to replicate his previous results. He, however, remained a strong contender, managing to win one individual event and being able to take a series from any of the world’s top competitors.

After retiring from Starcraft 2 in late 2015, Flash returned to Brood War once again, quickly regaining his form and proving he was still the best player to ever touch the aging RTS.

In any esports community and any competitive game, at the highest of levels the players are always capable of beating each other; there are players with occasional hot streaks who for a brief period are considered to be the most threatening. 

In Starcraft: Brood War the very best can with a lot of effort and luck beat Flash, but even when they do there is no debate regarding who the better player really is. They all know it, because Flash is the monster that stands above the other monsters.

It is for his unparalleled ability to dominate in the hardest esports game to ever exist that Flash deserves to be considered the greatest esports athlete of all time.

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Miguel Fernandez

Miguel Fernandez

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