The 5 Most Popular eSports Games in Japan

Esports are very popular in Japan.  Many popular online games are becoming staples of the Japanese gaming experience.  Those include Dota 2, Call of Duty, and Valorant.  Japanese players are prepared to take their gaming experience to the next level through esports.  According to a survey by Statista, Japan is on track to have 26 million active gamers by 2026.  Esports is further stimulating interest in video gaming owing to substantial prize pools, team fans, and well-organized tournaments. What makes some esports games better than others? Well, there are many factors really. To some players, it’s important to have a community to be a part of.  With this in mind, it’s easy to see why some games thrive.  Popular esports choices in Japan today include:

  • League of Legends
  • Valorant
  • Overwatch
  • Call of Duty
  • Dota 2

All these games are competitive and promote a sense of camaraderie that people enjoy and want to share. Let’s take a closer look at each game individually.

League of Legends

You may almost argue that League of Legends is an Asian staple game that has a lot to offer to players. League of Legends players from Asia tend to be some of the best in the game, especially on the competitive level.  What this means is that many of today’s pros are hailing from countries such as South Korea and China.  This is still changing with more talented players from Japan now entering the game.  Of course, Japanese players are only getting started. League of Legends by Riot Games is already a top game there.  There are at least several prominent Japanese players in the game, including:

  • Tubasa Hamagishi
  • Kotoji Mugita
  • Ryouta Sakura (佐倉 涼太)
  • Shintaro Kaneko
  • Masaki Kawashima

Player numbers for Japan have been going up with the debut of the League of Legends original Netflix show Arcane.  Japan has over 200,000 active players in League of Legends.

Dota 2

One of the biggest motivators for Japanese players to venture in Dota 2 is the sheer level of esports prize money that is offered.  The most recent edition of the esports tournament, The International, paid out $40 million.  Professional esports players (Japanese gamers included) now stand to win $40 million off a single, two-week event. With first-place awarding around $18 million., that’s an impressive sum of prize money!


Overwatch is a game that will appeal to fantasy and first-person shooter players. The game is a shooter experience where you get to control a unique character who allows you to perform with different abilities against opponents.  There are 500,000-600,000 daily players and the gamer numbers have peaked at 7.3 million at one point.

Overwatch is one of the most compelling games to compete in as well.  It’s built on a franchised model.  This means that there are cities around the world that host their own esports events, stadiums and participate in a global competition known as the Overwatch League or OWL for short.  If you are interested in becoming an Overwatch pro in Japan you’ll be happy to know that everyone will get a fresh restart very soon, as an Overwatch 2 version is in the works!  Players are patiently waiting to explore the game, but the release is only expected in 2023 at the earliest.


Valorant is another Riot Games staple esports title deserving attention.  If you are truly looking for a bit of fun, Valorant is the game to try.  It’s inspired by both Overwatch and Counter-Strike, but it delivers on a distinct gameplay and mechanics of its own.  Japanese players clearly love this first-person shooter.  The RAGE Japan Tournament was one of the first events for Japanese players in the game, won by Absolute JUPITER.  The event had a $50,000 prize pool. 

Call of Duty

Call of Duty is a war-based game that pits teams of soldiers against one another.  With quick gameplay and depth, this game is one of the all-time favorites for many Japanese gamers.  The Call of Duty: Mobile World Championship was hosted in Jappan in 2021 with a prize pool of $50,000.  Not surprisingly, Call of Duty is one of the best mobile esports games.  Call of Duty is developed by Treyarch and a few other studios that take turns to release a new game each year.  Development usually takes at least two years and is pre-agreed with Electronic Arts, the publisher and owner of the franchise.  As a result, the game is one of the most breath-taking experiences set in the war theatre. If you want to compete in esports in Japan and are looking for a game, Call of Duty is your best bet.