Top 5 Favorite FRC Games

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.


What I liked about Aerial Assist (after fixing some of the way things were being called in the first week or two) was that no one was just an offensive or just a defensive robot. In order to be effective, you had to do both. I loved the switch from getting rid of the ball to immediately playing defense until it was time to inbound another ball. Also, as noted already, when you got 6 robots on the field playing at a high level, it was a fun game to both be a part of and watch.


Triple Play would be a good replay.
The one part of that game that isn’t seen much in others, is the fact that one game piece scored at the end could make a huge difference in the outcome.
Great for audiences.

  1. Rapid React
    – Basically my rookie season, also it’s very fun to watch cargo get shot all over and see crazy moves and close scores at high levels.
  2. Power Up
    – Seeing the huge scale get contested made the videos from this year really awesome, enough for me to actually watch a significant number of them.
  3. I’m a newbie and don’t know the old games that well, so that’s it.

I’m personally a fan of actually playing the game until the end of the match. I find it more interesting than just leaving at the most critical moment of a match to do something almost completely un-interactive.

2014 was a fantastic year for a lot of reasons and a terrible year for a lot of others. IMO a new game could take the best aspects (forcing alliances to co-operate instead of independently score/play defense, force teams to have more dynamic roles on the field) and fix the problems (high speed ramming, tech fouls).

I will add a (not yet mentioned) pro to Aerial assist: the field was super easy to replicate for low resource teams, easy to set up at events, and easy to do field reset. More of that please.


That’s a good point. Games that have a higher chance of last minute buzzer beater actions are very exciting. A game that ends with all the robots safely at rest, a few seconds before the buzzer goes off isn’t as exciting. People will always push endgames to the last second so you can call those ‘buzzer beater’ endgames but having the chance of last minute robot interaction between each alliance is extra exciting.

1678 was quite unique in its approach. 1114 and 971 had similar set ups, but they also were quite unique. If you have others that were similar, you should post links. I can’t think of year where 3 of robots that were so different could be equally competitive. Unlike other years, I can’t think of what was a “typical” configuration for 2014.

It took a couple of weeks to evolve, in large part the teams needed to develop strategies, which contradicts your earlier observation, but once those strategies settled, the matches were engaging throughout.

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there is a summary at the bottom. i like game design. i do apologize.

I think the top 5 games on this list is very telling of what makes a great FRC game. My ordering would not be quite the same, but I think my top 5 would be. Currently, we have:

  1. Rapid React
  2. Aerial Assist
  3. Ultimate Ascent
  4. Stronghold
  5. Power Up

Let’s compare these. One critical similarity which I think hasn’t gotten enough screen-time in this thread is that all these games were played with one game-piece. FIRST has fluctuated on how many game-pieces are used in each game. Surveying the last ~12 years, we get the following:

Year Game Unique Game-pieces Endgame
2022 Rapid React 1 Climb
2020 Infinite Recharge 1 Climb
2019 Deep Space 2 Lift
2018 Power Up 1 Climb
2017 Steamworks 2 Climb
2016 Stronghold 1 Climb
2015 Recycle Rush 2 None
2014 Aerial Assist 1 None
2013 Ultimate Ascent 1 Climb
2012 Rebound Rumble 1 Balance
2011 Logomotion 1 Mini-Bot
2010 Breakaway 1 Climb

One thing that is immediately obvious is the prevalence of 1 game-piece games in this list, and further, how none of the top 5 games had more than 1 unique game-piece. Further, the second rank game, which I would argue fails to a bit of recency bias of 2022, had a total of two balls for the entire game, and didn’t even have an endgame.

What this speaks to me is that simplicity in an FRC game carries enormous value, far more than many people give credit. I was a judge for the Game Design Challenge during 2021 and was the lead mentor for 2590’s submission. One thing that I see frequently is a sentiment that these games, particularly those in our top 5, are “too simple”, and praise for games with large-on-field elements and multiple game-pieces for giving teams “more choices.”

Either that, or I see many points praising Rapid React as a good game, but qualified that its simplicity was justified only because of COIVD impacting teams.

Overall, I think this simplicity-being-bad viewpoint is flawed and misses many elements that make popular games, particularly sports, so successful, and this community poll really shows that.

While simple games might “seem” boring on first glance, when they actually get played, they are actually great challenges, exciting to play and to watch. This shouldn’t come as a surprise… the vast majority of sports that have any significant public following today are really quite simple in their basic form.

Let’s look at an example. Soccer, Probably the most popular sport worldwide, is incredibly simple. One ball. Each team (or alliance, to us) competes to put the one ball in the opponent’s goal. That’s it. That’s all you need to say to explain soccer to someone who has never seen it. With just that basic physical concept, you have the basis for an amazing game that people around the world love to play and watch.

Aerial Assist is probably the closest to replicating this success we came to as a program. Ball count is two instead of one. Everyone is involved in the offense, most are involved in the defense. To explain the situation to spectators, its not much harder than the soccer example above.

In practice, the competition is one of personal perfection and alliance strategy. Don’t miss shots. Don’t miss catches. Work with your partners to make sure everyone is in the place they need to be at the right time. Watch your partners but keep track of your opponents. Learn their gameplay to know how to defend against it. This is the same as sports. It’s awesome, and it’s what we had in Aerial Assist. The result was a game that was super fun to play and to watch, so long as your alliance members were able to play the game with you.

And personally, I think that’s the situation that FRC games should be designed for. I want to see our game at its best when the teams playing it are at their best. Qualification rounds will always pair better teams with worse teams, and the alliance will do worse if some teams on it are worse. I don’t think this is really a problem for FRC, and looking back on it, I don’t think it was a huge problem for Aerial Assist. Even if you couldn’t intake a ball, you could still herd it, and you could still play defense, both of which contributed to your alliance. Cycles could be done with only two or one robot. The Dead-Ball card could be used if absolutely necessary. The gigantic penalties getting tacked on after match-end stand out to me as more of an issue, but penalty influence on FRC games is still an unsolved problem.

We see the same strengths coming through in Rapid React. Like only two balls did in Aerial Assist, a single scoring location concentrated teams and encouraged lots of interaction between robots. Just like in sports, we saw a combination of offense and defense from top alliances, and many teams even played opportunistic defense while scoring. Some teams could put up high scores when undefended but crumbled under defense. Some teams scored less, but maintained that even under defense. Safe zones were limited, which meant scoring happened from all over the field. The challenge of scoring only your colored balls, and scoring them such that they had a low chance of bouncing out, was a nuanced and new challenge in this game that offered an area to improve performance, while not being so critical that you had to succeed at it to participate. All these factors contributed to a game with great strategic depth. The antithesis to those would be Recycle Rush, with effectively no game strategy besides the can-race matchup you chose at match start.

Simple field, single game piece, encouraged robot interactions. Those are the key points of great FRC games, and they are commonly called simple games.

In summary (highly needed, I’m stuck on a plane), I assert that simple games are better than more complicated ones. Simple games are better for new teams because they reduce the barrier to entry. Simple games are better for spectators because they are easier to understand on quick explanation. Simple games are better for veteran teams because they offer more important strategic decisions.

Simple :clap: games :clap: are :clap: great.

Thank you, FIRST, for Rapid React. Hopefully we can continue this trend :slightly_smiling_face: