A huge chunk of popularity of the Counter-Strike franchise is its ever-evolving range of maps available to skirmishing players. In the classic editions of the game the graphic engine didn’t allow for much details, so the maps had to reveal their identity through atmospheric textures and movement grids that allowed players to apply varied strategies. Fortunately, it went way forward since then!
In the span of several CS games the developers and the players proposed and tested several game scenarios, now more often called ‘modes’. The original Counter-Strike maps allowed you to play demolition, hostage rescue counter-strike (yes, that’s where the name comes from) and VIP escorting scenarios. They’ve been followed by deathmatch maps, scout matches and many others proposed by the growing community. Although some of them survived till the Global Offensive days, and originally fan-made modes were incorporated into the core game, the bomb scenarios have become the main frame of the competitive CS:GO play, having terrorists trying to plant a bomb and counter-terrorists doing everything to prevent it.
In this short article we will look at the best CSGO maps in terms of both tournaments and custom server matches. Ready for the pistol round?
The most popular CSGO maps
We will start the reckoning with the maps that are the most commonly used during tournaments or boast a tremendous popularity on official servers. We endow each description with a map of standardised callouts used in voice communication between players, as prepared by TotalCSGO’s awesome staff.
This map doesn’t need a prolonged introduction. It’s not uncommon for Mirage to come back every second queue on casual servers. Those critical of the map say it’s because it is so blatantly simple. It is true that its design is heavily balanced, having three main ways with meeting points and each bombsite approachable through three main directions. Even so, the map lived to peak its hype by being the only map to appear in all CS:GO Major Championships to date. Despite its superficial simplicity, Mirage’s construction allows players to execute very contradicting strategies on both sides of the conflict. Its design has been heavily shifted throughout the years – the near-East white walls were changed into something more mediterranean and the overall ornamentation is much different now. The map is further optimised till this very day – for example we’ve just seen it updated to disallow players to shoot through the spaces between crates on bombsite A as well as one allowing players to self-boost to Window from a bench next to connector..
A classic map bearing the legacy of its original game of CS 1.1, presenting a good application of vertical play. Not only should you know your way around corridors and dead ends, but you should also look up when pushing through both mids. The map allows for either a quick clash of both teams (at the banana) or playing hide and seek in the twisted corridors of apartments. Those were once presented more in the style of Spanish province, but now they bear more semblance to Italian paesino. You can find some cunning details here and there – for example, the street next to the banana is called Via Adamo, which is a nod to the King of Banana, Adam Friberg, current Dignitas all-star.
Feel the mood of the safety crisis on a power plant filled with toxic waste. This map placed in Ukraine is partially a tribute to both the popular hangar-based style of shooter maps and the real-life shooting games held in abandoned objects, like airsoft sports. Previous versions of the map saw Cache scenario happen in a more devastated environment slowly taken over by the verdure, but the cold concrete and overall greyness of Pripyat suits the tension of the tight confrontation much better.
One of the flagship maps of the last rendition of CS franchise is a nice change for a roster of maps focused on horizontal contact. Overpass simulates an attempt at bombing an express road cutting through dense urban terrain in Berlin. There is a battlefield of a local community park, the trench war of technical facilities and a short maze of canals dotted with pillars and urban infrastructure. On one hand each of the bomb sites requires a drastically different approach, on the other hand the system of tech passages and tunnels allow players to get to the other side of map relatively quickly.
Does this map need to be introduced to anyone anymore? If your friends play Counter-Strike, for sure there’s one among them that plays ONLY on Dust II. A map so good that it’s too good – eventually dropped by nauseated professionals and exiled from Major play – yet so popular that Valve kept a separate group for players to be able to play only Dust II again and again. Now back in the professional mix, Dust II is known for its simple access to bombsite B, a clear shot between both spawns and the four-leaf-clover structure that was a litmus test for a generation of CSGO bast maps coming afterwards. What else to add? Oh yeah, the whole range of callouts that functioned on this map deserves a separate, academically approved monograph to be comprehended.
Best community-made CSGO maps
Undeniably, there is a large community of content creators still trying to supplement their favorite game. While a part of it is trying to make very balanced and tactical maps meant to catch the eye of the developers and hopefully be introduced into the core game, there are a lot of alternative ways the game’s engine can be utilised. What seems to be the current craze are scenarios turning CS into a survival horror (see ZS:FS Prison Hill), recreations of maps from previous editions of the game (Hijack, old style Cache) or the undying surf maps that utilize a little loophole in the physics engine of the game that was willingly left there by the developers when they’ve noticed the popularity of the phenomenon. Best CSGO surf maps like Surf Fillory or Surf Master are a pleasure to watch while players sway through the arcs of long, abstract corridors.
Also, one of the most popular maps prepared by the community are aim maps that allow you to practice your shooting skills in simulated scenarios filled by respawning bots. This way you’re not prone to criticism or ridicule of other players while you polish your most essential skills. Some of those worth mentioning are Training: Bot Aim or Recoil Master.
Noteworthy, Valve has finally noticed the potential behind best CSGO 1v1 maps and has recently introduced one-on-one warmups before Wingman matches that take place in simplified spaces built with the mood of the main map. This is now available for Train, Nuke and Vertigo, but others might just be added as we write. Best 1v1 maps CSGO community has created present different aiming situations in a possibly simple environment. 1vs1 by Verto offers a simplified monochrome background, whereas 1vs1 by 🅺🅰🅽🆃🆁🅸 goes for a more dusty and natural feel.
Are the most played maps actually the best?
This is not a rule, as these might mutually exclude each other. Let’s take the unfortunate example of Studio, which was added to Sigma group at the end of last year only to be excluded as early as this April. The map suffered some design flaws and even numerous updates and tweaks didn’t help to expand on its playability. If you’d look at that statistically, Studio was in the group for a couple of months, so it was probably played more often than the less fortunate workshop maps. However, it did not stand the test.
There are different tastes, but what seems to be the most important factor is the immersion. Dust II and Mirage last for so long because despite their rather simple form they allow for many, many scenarios to be played out. This type of approach is currently tried on Chlorine and Anubis. The May 4th update 2020 tweaked the maps a whole bunch, including brighter textures and mobility improvements – hopefully because there’s interest in it, not because it needs early reanimation.
It’s outright difficult to compare the popularity of, say, trainable CSGO best aim maps and CSGO competitive map roster. The former ones are not (usually) hosted on servers and are rather downloaded from the workshop to be used in single player. Same goes with hostage maps like Italy, Militia or Assault, that has lived long enough to see serious revamps and rebalancing, but are not the tournament standard. Some avid players still consider them their favorites.
To map it out
For a map to become a favorite it either needs to be a polished cult classic, a new perspective on sorted and tried constructions or a completely new proposition that is not ripping at the seams. It’s surely good to finally master a map and have multiple strategies for one scenario, but it’s also good to sometimes switch around, or even change the mode of play for a while – you might discover that the best CSGO maps you could imagine are hiding somewhere beyond the seriousness of competitive play.