With 2016 drawing to a close, we look back at some of the most memorable and best esports moments that are likely to live on for years to come.
The following are not the only esports moments that made the year such a special one for competitive video games. There is enough content out there to comprise similar lists for esports moments for all games involved. However, the ones mentioned here hold great value in our opinion. They are also placed in no specific order.
If you have your own esports moments, do share them with us by commenting below.
When the Largest Esports Prize Pool Made History (Dota 2)
In another round of crowdfunding for the annual world championship, the passionate Dota 2 player-base broke through last year’s record total of around $18 million with a monstrous prize pool of close to $21 million.
The International 2016 became the most lucrative esports event in history of competitive video games. As such, all three iterations of the prestigious championship have overshadowed the one before it in terms of the crowdfunded pot. It goes without saying that we may very well see the game waltz through this year’s total for the next championship event.
When SonicFox Looked Human (Mortal Kombat X)
We have become too accustomed to seeing Dominique “SonicFox” McLean ripping through his competition every time he sets foot on stage. The grand finals at EVO 2016 proved to be his biggest challenge yet, running for a grueling 22 minutes.
Having qualified from the winner’s bracket, SonicFox faced Sayed Hashim “TekkenMaster” Ahmed from the loser’s side. The intense series between the two went down as one of the best matches in history of the Mortal Kombat franchise, making SonicFox look human for the first time since he entered the professional scene.
After losing the first match to Hollywood Cassie Cage, TekkenMaster switched from Swarm Queen D’Vorah to War God Kotal Kahn to take a win. Feeling uncomfortable, SonicFox switched to his signature Gunslinger Erron Black but fell.
By winning the first set 3-1, TekkenMaster successfully reset the bracket and forced SonicFox to remove his trademark blue-furred hat. SonicFox eventually took a lead afterwards but TekkenMaster wasn’t done just yet. He switched to Blood God Kotal Kahn and forced the series to the decisive fifth game. SonicFox changed characters again, going for Acidic Alien and successfully defending his EVO title for the third time in a row.
When S1mple Went Airborne (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
The premium tournament of the summer season pitted North America’s Team Liquid against Europe’s Fnatic in the semi-finals of ESL One Cologne 2016. Fnatic, one of the best teams in the business and hailing from a region renowned for its Counter-Strike presence, was a clear favorite.
Just reaching the semi-finals was an achievement for Team Liquid. However, the North American roster wanted more on its plate. Close to half-time in the second game, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev found himself alone against two hungry Fnatic members.
Going against the laws of the game, s1mple dropped from a ledge to land a no-scope in mid-air before landing another no-scope to eliminate both players in spectacular fashion. The clutch was not only insane but also helped to close out the first half and later the match.
The casting from an excited James “JZFB” Bardolph made the play all the more better and worthy of any best esports moments list.
When the Dark Horse Won the Aegis of Champions (Dota 2)
If someone had earlier on said that Wings Gaming was going to win The International 2016, the person would probably had been laughed at. The Chinese roster proved to be the perfect dark horse in the prestigious annual event, defeating Digital Chaos in the grand finals and securing the Aegis of Champions. Wings Gaming also cemented itself as the team that won over $9.1 million from a single event, the largest esports prize pot in history.
The unpredictable achievement also saw the team break the meta of the game, playing through a diverse selection of heroes that left opponents uncomfortable and the analysts scratching their heads.
When Hungrybox Ran for Gold (Super Smash Bros. Melee)
Juan “Hungrybox” Manuel Debiedma had to fight his way through the loser’s bracket of EVO 2016, taking one match at a time and eliminating all who stood against him in the top 8. The run alone was impressive enough but only led him against a far greater adversary in the grand finals, Adam “Armada” Lindgren.
Surprising everyone, Hungrybox made quick work of Armada in the first match with dominance showcased by Jigglypuff over Star Fox. The momentum carried over to the second match as well until Armada rallied in the third and fourth matches to balance the set. In the fifth and decisive match, both players went defensive but it was Hungrybox who came out on top at 104 percent.
The first match following the reset was an incredibly close one with Armada narrowly inching forward to secure victory. Hungrybox instantly replied by taking the second match and Armada responding to that in the third. Hungrybox would then ping pong his way back to win the fourth match, forcing the intense finals into sudden death.
In the last match, both players had one stock left. After enduring the double set over 40 minutes, Hungrybox finally put Armada to reset to win the crown.
When a Korean Dynasty Was Born (League of Legends)
History was made at the Staples Center in Los Angeles when SK Telecom T1 managed to defend its title by winning the 2016 League of Legends World Championship. This was the second championship victory in a row, and the third in four years of participation. SKT is the only team in history of the game to achieve such a milestone.
The final best-of-five series was one of the toughest challenges for the team yet and comprised worthy esports moments for years to come. Fellow Korean juggernaut Samsung Galaxy forced the series into the decisive fifth game after pulling out surprise picks to snatch a couple of games away from SKT. This was also the first time that we’ve seen the grand finals of Worlds play out all five games, with some of the longest matches ever.
Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok registered the most kills by any player in Worlds history, proving why he’s regarded as the best League of Legends player on the planet. Following reports from the pre-season, the esports organization offered the skilled lad with a mighty contract to convince him to stay. As such, Faker is now worth more than most professional athletes from traditional sports.
When Hiko Became a One-Man Army (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
The semi-final series between Team Liquid and Luminosity Gaming at MLG Columbus 2016 is most commonly remembered for two things: the round where Luminosity’s Marcelo “Coldzera” David landed an absurd barrage of no-scopes and Liquid’s infamous trait of unable to close out games.
While Luminosity ended up securing both maps, it was Spencer “Hiko” Martin who stood in-between to make sure that the tide of battle swung both ways. Too many rounds saw Hiko having to face multiple foes and too many times was he successful in staying alive.
Not every clutch was fancy enough to put in a highlight reel but each one made it clear that Hiko was wired to produce miracles. He alone shifted the tide of battle back in favor of Liquid on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, the rest of the team couldn’t capitalize on the extra time that Hiko got them.
When North America Dominated Three Games on a Single Day (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Street Fighter V)
December 3 was a historic day for North American esports with three organizations from the region dominating three different tournaments.
OpTic Gaming, known for its strong Call of Duty presence, surprised the world by eliminating Astralis, one of the best Counter-Strike teams in the scene, to win the finals of ELEAGUE Season 2.
Team EnVyUs invaded the Korean Overwatch scene to snatch the APEX championship away from the home favorites, Afreeca Freecs. Team Liquid’s Du “NuckleDu” Dang secured the annual Street Fighter V world championship to become the first North American to have his name engraved on the Capcom Cup.
When Riot Games Killed Multiple Memes (League of Legends)
For majority of the year, the community got to witness excessive (and controversial) League of Legends drama based on decisions taken by Riot Games. However, the year ended with the developer finally making amends and succumbing to various requests from the player-base that have been mounting for years.
Riot Games finally brought out the new League Client Update, putting an end to the aging Legacy Client. Replays arrived as well, a feature that should have been there from the very first season. The dreaded debacle of the removal of Solo/Duo Queue was ended by bringing the mode back. The developer even confirmed work on an official sandbox mode for practice.
There were various other announcements as well, including the release of Little Devil Teemo (Satan Teemo) and the Winter Summoner’s Rift.
Furthermore, the company announced a new direction for the betterment of its esports scene. The new guidelines dictate better revenue options for team owners, crowdfunding for the annual prize pot, sponsorship incentives with third-party advertisers, and other options that are being discussed. Most recently it announced an independent arbitration process for the League Championship Series (LCS).
We also heard rumors about employee benefits for active competitive players in the scene.
When Vitality Miraculously Saved the Nexus (League of Legends)
Base races are always a spectacle for viewers to behold. The most intense one of the year went to Team Vitality and G2 Esports in their match for the playoffs during the spring split of the European League Championship Series (EU LCS).
While Team Vitality focused on taking down Baron Nashor, G2 Esports decided to simply waltz inside to take down the Nexus in what looked to be the end of the game. By some miracle, Vitality was able to fend off the attack with the Nexus standing solid with 200 health points.
Not to be deterred, G2 followed with another wave of attack. Call it bad luck or not, the Nexus barely survived with just 35 health points. A simple auto-attack would have done the job but Vitality finished off G2 before that.
In a final push, Vitality took the offensive and marched forward to finish off G2 to secure the game.