Top 5 Favorite FRC Games

I think the recent strides in team capability open up lots of interesting challenges that in the past only sort of worked (and even then only for the top-of-the-top teams). I may gripe about the FIRST organization a bunch, but the GDC has delivered pretty consistently and I’m excited to see them start reacting to the improvements in what teams can do.


I’m so happy to see Triple Play getting some love. I remember cd at that time with teasers of who had the tallest robot. Seeing chainzilla in person was incredible. I still tell my students about Einstein and watching the stacks get higher and higher. I like games where both alliances are scoring on the same goal.

Triple Play in the modern era would be a lot of fun.


I think Triple Play is probably the only game I would like to replay. Too many others have been pushed to the point where new technology and/or revealed robot strategies would break the game (replaying 2013, for instance, would mean everyone and their mother would have full court shooting in their pocket). With a bit of polish and rules-era updates (bumpers, probably re-working the human player loading, extension limits, something more exciting in autonomous/autonomous bonuses) I think Triple Play could be a great game that we haven’t maxxed out the potential of.


I’d love to replay Triple Play and Rack ‘n Roll in the current COTS ecosystem. The strategic depth of these games were hampered by the lower floor of the era, but would be so fun with today’s KoP and WPILib.

You say that as if it’s worse - that sounds inCREDIBLE

2013 replayed today with some tweaks would have such high level play - more turrets, more swerve, more climbers - it would be so hype to watch


I don’t think there’s a game in history that has had quite the same nostalgia glasses glow-up, perhaps even bordering on revisionist history at times, than Aerial Assist. While I can’t dig up all the complaints from the era (many are buried in random threads), here’s a quick sampling of what people thought of Aerial Assist back in 2014:

To summarize some of the concerns regarding Aerial Assist from back in 2014:

  • Too many fouls that changes the outcome of matches
  • Tech Fouls were worth 50 points in a game where average scores didn’t break 100 points until week 6.
  • Refs were essentially given double duty as manual scorekeepers (tracking assists and trusses) and tracking fouls
  • The game was nicknamed “Aerial Assault” for the significant amounts of damage that robots received, particularly from high speed collisions involving intakes that would deploy outside of the frame perimeter (sound familiar?)
  • Dead robots and “bad” robots could significantly impact an alliance’s ability to win a match, thanks to the assist rules essentially turning many matches into a contest of who had the weakest link. Some larger/higher resources teams attempted to mitigate this by doing things like attaching lawn chairs to robots to help them gather assists, but that still didn’t solve issues that arose when team’s would have radio or cRIO reboots, suffer damage during a match, or even pop their main breaker (remember this was the stretch where 6 CIM drivetrains existed but the roboRIO with its staggered brown outs didn’t yet, so tripping the main breaker was a real possibility).
  • Missing autonomous shots would delay the start of tele-op cycles and assist gathering, so it actively penalized less consistent teams from attempting high goal autonomous routines.
  • Pedestal lighting to start ball availability was a huge issue in week 1, and continued to be an intermittent issue in later weeks
  • Dead balls
  • The rankings at regional events were often very “noisy” and heavily dependent on qualification schedule and luck (even more so than in other years)

To make it clear, I don’t think Aerial Assist was a “bad game,” especially not at higher levels. I think those 2014 Championship matches are some of the most fun you can have watching FRC, at least as a spectator. But I do think there’s a ton of nostalgia that is associated with this particular game. Qualification matches in many games are often pretty boring (especially before the past few years), but 2014 was particularly cringe inducing. Here’s a qualification match involving a team that would end up on Einstein against a team that would be a division finalist.

Additionally, if you look at the other end of the spectrum of play, Aerial Assist eventually evolved into a game where the human players did most of the playing and the robot attempted to touch the ball as little as possible. Teams very rarely attempted to catch the ball over the truss, instead opting for trussing to their human players. Eventually teams minimized passing the ball directly between robots, instead opting to gain possession credit as quickly as possible and give the ball directly back to their human players so the HP could then feed the next robot in the cycle. By IRI, even elite-level teams like 2056 were reduced to being elastic springboards that human players could execute “bounceback passes” onto.

Some of the most praised strategies involved robots that would gain a scoring position and then never move:


2014 fails then

2014 was still very fun (at higher levels) to watch and is justifiably a very good game, and Lavery above does a way better job of discussing this anyways…

That sounds like they all will be hanging out in the loading stations instead…? likely end up with 2 full court shooters and 1 cleanup, or worse a 2015 style “sit and look pretty” bot

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So this was a really hard one. My top are, in no particular order:

  • PowerUp - The time based scoring was very unique, and it was very visual. I.e. very easy to tell “who is winning” without even knowing about the game.

  • Stronghold - Imagery was great, and the ability to score just by driving was great. The field changing between matches made it more engaging.

  • Breakaway - Maybe this is just nostalgia, but I really loved the simplicity of the game and the simple scoring. Actually, Rapid React reminds me a bit of Breakaway for this reason. But I never evaluate the most recent game in my “top X” list to account for decency bias.

  • Aerial Assist - Best robot to robot interaction. The open field ensured very exciting gameplay with high speeds. A variety of viable strategies.

  • Rebound Rumble - Scoring was simple, and the bridge endgame was probably one of the most exciting non-climbing endgames I’ve seen in 15 years.

Honorable Mentions that I really wish I could put in the top 5:

  • Overdrive (my rookie year, so nostalgia)
  • Infinite Recharge (just didn’t play it enough to score it properly)

Some things I look at when

I love all of these criteria, but I’ll also add:

  • All game elements played to their intended potential.

This is where 2013 Ultimate Ascent gets knocked down for me. The pyramid was only really played by a handful of teams overall. 2017 also, we didn’t really see Kpa used to the extent that I believe the GDC intended. 2017 also gets some nicks for explainability.

I am still an Aerial Assist fan, but yeah - this. Everyone remembers Einstein when in reality, the vast majority of matches that year consisted of 6 robots running into each other, 50 point technical fouls, and not all that much scoring.

I think Steamworks also suffers from the “we remember Einstein, but Einstein-level play in no way resembled your average match” phenomenon in our collective memory.

Conversely, I think Rebound Rumble is somewhat underrated because we were robbed of a proper Einstein tournament to act as the season capstone of high level play.


There has been a total of 1 game in the past two decades without any major issues on the team experience end, and that’s 2016’s Stronghold. Stronghold was an excellent game, really well-balanced, and IMO deserves to be in everyone’s top 3 at least.

But no game has come close to the high highs of Aerial Assist.

Every robot played hybrid offense and defense, teams passed the ball, put down picks and blocks, the low goal was probably the most valuable it’s ever been, and was a legitimate way top-tier teams would finish cycles sometimes.

And I disagree that the lows of Aerial Assist were any lower than other modern FRC games. 2022 had too many fouls and high speed collisions as well, and that game is leading the poll. Three robots with just intakes could play an exciting version of AA, and the game got better and better as the season went on.

I agree that bounce-back assists were a negative development in the game, but the involvement of human players was fascinating. Outside of 2009, I don’t know that the human player has ever been as involved in such an interesting role as in AA. They were often given the ball and then had to figure out who to give the ball to/how to get it there. Robots that could accept balls from the HP from range had an advantage there, but that was a risky proposition, and there was always the play of skipping an assist and giving the ball to a different robot to finish the cycle.

This was an interesting development to the game, but ended up not being a universal strategy shift (like excitable 2014 me thought it would be). The “Death Cycle” finish ended up becoming an option that teams with large catching areas and fender shots could take advantage of (or even in the low goal).

I vastly prefer this to games where the third robot needs to just stay out of the way.

2015/2018/2022 often had that vibe of “please stay out of our way” at mid levels that was frustrating for all parties involved. Nobody wants to sit in the corner, or be a decent offense robot but not be able to play offense because there’s only enough room for 2 offense robots on the field. 2014 you had to involve your third partner, else you’d be at a 20 point disadvantage per cycle.

To be clear, I don’t think Aerial Assist was perfect, but it was damned good, and I think many of it’s detractors exaggerate the game’s issues, especially relative to other games, which often had the same or similar issues.


Surprised to see rapid react so high, I blame recency bias. I think the game was far too basic and also unbalanced at the same time, swerve drive was just too good this year while every other drive train was at an objective disadvantage. You could only really get creative with climbing, shooting was as basic as it’s ever been.


I’m not sure this is the case; minimizing shot energy was crucial to successful shooting this year. It was a subtle thing.


It has some recentcy bias, but I believe that it will stay highly ranked over time. Never has a game had such a high floor before. The game was played at a high level from week 1 through champs and many teams burst onto the scene this year that nobody would have mentioned in previous years.


My personal top 5 is
Power Up
Deep Space
Ultimate Ascent
Infinite recharge

I find infinite recharge to be underrated honestly, I think a lot of people hate on it because of the covid season but as a game itself I think it’s pretty solid besides the spinner being useless

Also surprised to see aerial assist so high, I mean I haven’t played it but from an outside perspective it seems like on of the worst games, Large open field with nothing on it, major point imbalance with high goal giving 10x the points, the coolest thing about it is catching your alliance partners balls but I barely ever saw that happen.

To be honest, I was sick of infinite recharge two weeks into the build season for it. It’s one of the only games I’ve ever been involved in (since 2012) where I was just flat out bored by it.


I had similar feelings. The climb was too basic, and the meta involved a very repetitive main cycle.

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I’d also say I ranked it higher on the basis of timing. Coming out of a multi-year break from competition I think rapid React was exactly what we needed to ease back into things while still offering plenty of challenges and still being exciting to watch.

I agree with all of that, I dont think rapid react is bad by any measure I was just appalled to see so high, coming off of the season I’m starting to think less of it purely game design wise

The vast majority of the points came from the assists, so a 3-assist low goal cycle was 31 points, and a 3-assist high goal cycle was 40 points, which is a better ratio than any game.

Similarly, early-season Stronghold, had you crossing a defense for 5 points, then scoring a boulder in each cycle, making low goal cycles worth 6 points and high goal cycles worth 10, and the low goal was more consistent and just as valuable for the capture bonus.

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I think it all comes down to what people define as a “good game” and what makes a game their favorite. To me, there’s a difference between the game itself and the season that played the game. I wouldn’t say Basketball is a bad game after watching the local middle school JV league bumble around the court, struggling to score points. In the same way I think Aerial Assist (like many FRC games) was a great game, it just took a while for teams to be good at it.