The strategy genre is one of the most popular gaming genres. It covers a wide variety of types such as fast-paced RTS games and slower paced grand strategy 4x games. We’ve compiled a list here of some of the best strategy games currently on the market. They vary from old classics that codified the field to new and upcoming hits.
The settings on offer are just as varied as the styles of play. Historical battlefields such as the world wars, ancient Rome, and samurai era Japan share the field with futuristic science fiction and epic fantasy.
One of the most RTS strategy titles in living memory, the second game, Age of Kings, is still played and receiving expansions packs nearly twenty years after its initial release. The game has steadily increased in popularity even with no future editions released.
Still the most popular of the series, Age of Kings offers numerous historical campaigns and civilizations, each with their own unique units, advantages, and playstyles.
The newest game updates the action to the colonial era, with expansions focusing on the Native American tribes as well as the Asian dynasties. The original game is currently being remastered, a tribute not only to its nostalgic value but also the classic gameplay that made it so popular.
Famed for their in-depth strategy as well as their difficulty, the XCOM series of games combine turn-based tactical battles with a strategic map layer and base management. XCOM is an organization devoted to fighting alien threats to the Earth with you as the commander.
Use interceptors to shoot down UFOs and then send in a customizable ground team to secure the crash site. You’re up against a foe that outmatches you in every way, only cunning and proper planning will win you the day.
Research alien technology and dissect corpses in order to learn more about your foe. Success on the battlefield will not guarantee victory alone. XCOM requires you to prioritize advances as the alien offensive increases in difficulty and scale each month.
Best experienced with the vanilla game for your first playthrough, the expansion packs (Enemy Within and War of the Chosen) nearly count as a full sequel on their own, drastically increasing the complexity and scale of their parent games. If that wasn’t enough, both Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2 boast extensive fan-made content such as the famous Long War mods.
The stand-alone expansion to Sins of a Solar Empire improves upon the original game in almost every way. As well as new ships and technologies, the game adds Rebel and Loyalist factions to each faction. The Trader Emergency Coalition, the Advent Unity, and the Vasari Empire, all return in this improved version of the base game.
A large selection of new ships and technologies have been added to the game along with extra victory conditions and diplomacy options. The improvements to gameplay and addition of new features make this the best version of the game yet.
A classic RTS that was a rival with Age of Empires, Rise of Nations is an RTS with a difference. Unlike others in the genre, players can only construct buildings within their territory, areas near their settlements. Expansion requires research and the construction of special buildings.
Most entertaining of all, the game allows for alternate history scenarios and the playing of every civilization at any point in history. Thus players playing as the Aztecs, Maya, or Incas can continue on into the Modern and Information ages.
As well as construction, players must also use tactics to their advantage. Units are built with traits to support playstyles, pikemen, for example, will excel at killing cavalry.
One of two entries on our list set in the prison, Prison Architect is as its name says it is. Design and manage your own prison, working as both the architect and governor. The player is responsible for planning, building, hiring staff, and overall prison management.
The style is reminiscent of games such as Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, and Dwarf Fortress. The presence of gangs, temperature, and escapists all add to the challenge of managing the prison successfully. The player sets and controls the daily schedule. Players can also choose to play as an inmate and work to escape.
Another entry from Paradox Interactive, the Europa Universalis series covers from the 15th to 18th centuries, the age of colonialism. Compete with rival powers and extend your power abroad. Discover new lands and wage war on both land and sea.
Diplomacy, trade, espionage, war, and religion, are all legitimate tools you can use to further the expansion of your realm. Research and technology play a vital role as they provide powerful advantages over your foes. The stability of your realm is also constantly under threat, with bankruptcy, civil disorder, government change, and war all affecting it.
One of the newer games on our list, Northgard is nonetheless proving to have carved out a niche of its own. With a setting inspired by Norse mythology, it follows a clan of vikings in their struggle for control of a newly discovered continent.
Resource and unit management is key to surviving the harsh winters of Northgard. Assign vikings to tasks such as Farmer, Sailor, Loremaster, or Warrior. Different victory conditions and the unique powers of your warchief allow many paths to victory.
One of the most famed series of 4x strategy games on the market, the Civilization Series have endured in popularity through the ages. It is no surprise that it is considered one of the best grand strategy games of all time.
Aspects of the game have achieved memetic status such as the warmongering expansionist Gandhi and the inevitable struggle of a low-tech spearman against a modern day tank. You control the development of your civilization, the bonuses and traits of your civilization are meant only to be guidelines. You choose their developments, their style of government, you mold it to be what you wish.
One of the big four of space strategy 4x games, the trilogy (so far) of Galactic Civilizations games remains hugely popular worldwide. Play through the gripping and epic storyline that connects the triad together or enjoy freeform fun in the wide open options of the sandbox mode.
Each civilization comes with its own unique traits and skills that support a multitude of different playstyles. It remains one of the most enduring games in the 4x genre.
The fantasy counterpart to Endless Space, Endless Legend is a turn-based 4x strategy game where players must establish an empire utilizing exploration, conquest, research, trade, and diplomacy.
Over eleven factions are available to play in the base game. Each one has their own unique characteristics, such as units, abilities, appearance, and their playstyles.
The game is centered around the use of five different resources, each one influencing a different aspect of the game.
Another award-winning title from Paradox Interactive, the Hearts of Iron series covers the turmoil and wars of the mid 20th century. It is open to playing numeros “whatif” scenarios from an alternate Second World War or Spanish Civil War to any potential conflict that you the player devise.
The game’s nations are roughly split into three factions, Axis, Allies, and Comintern. Nations are more likely to side with those of similar ideology, proximity, and threat but it is possible to slowly align your nation with any faction you wish.
The complex interface and game features can be daunting for some players but it is an ultimately rewarding experience for aficionados of grand strategy and historical realism.
Famed for their vast battles, the Total War series covers a wide variety of history. The games let you wage war from Ancient Greece to Imperial Rome through Medieval Europe to feudal Japan and the 19th century, more than 2,000 years of warfare.
The game has two aspects. A Risk-style map covers the strategic view, with the map split into provinces and cities that a player can control. The terrain on the map represents that which you will fight on in battle, with mountains, rivers, and cities all becoming important strategic concerns.
The real joy of Total War is in the battles, no other game offers such in-depth action where thousands of units engage in bloody combat on screen. Players can zoom right from a bird’s eye view to see two soldiers fighting one on one.
The next entry in the popular alternate history franchise, Red Alert 3 brings a new faction, the Empire of the Rising Sun to the forefront. All the hallmarks of the series are her. The game continues the tradition of a rocking soundtrack, live-action cinematics, addictive gameplay, and over the top units.
Each faction has a campaign and the addition of a third one allows for increased depth and complexity in multiplayer.
A factory construction game, Factorio puts you in charge of building and creating automated factories of increasing complexity and skill in an infinitely vast 2d world. Mine resources and craft tools in your struggle to become an economic powerhouse.
Refine oil, construct robots, build solar fields and exploit every resource on the planet as you race to be the leader ahead of all your rivals.
Though at its heart a roleplaying game, Darkest Dungeon is a game with many strategic elements. The player must manage a roster of heroes and adventurers to explore the dungeons and catacombs under their recently inherited estate.
The dungeons are procedurally generated, allowing for infinite replayability. Combat is determined through turn-based battles. The player’s party of heroes can be chosen from over fifteen different character classes.
These beautifully illustrated games offer an immersive storyline with in-depth turn-based combat. Become the hero in a fantasy world on the brink of destruction. The game offers a unique player driven story where your every action and decision have an effect further down the line.
The game doesn’t just offer a gripping storyline, the tactical combat is deceptively complex with precise positioning and careful moves required to triumph. The dual system of Armour/Health puts the emphasis on focused attacks and the use of special abilities by heroes.
A classic series of turn-based strategy games, the Heroes of Might and Magic series are set in the unique fantasy world of Enroth and a series of related worlds connected through portals. The game is split between an adventure and battle map.
Player’s heroes explore the map with their army, this section of the game owes much to RPGs. When encountering enemies or rival heroes, the screen changes to a battle screen. Players can also capture settlements, find magical items, and learn magic.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
This game is a welcome throwback to a genre of games such as Commandos, Desperados, and Robin Hood. An isometric stealth game, Shadow Tactics is a game that will test your wits and resolve against a clever and reactive AI.
The game boasts beautiful visuals that really help bring its 16th century Japan setting to life. Each of the five playable characters has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Balancing these traits and working as a team is essential to victory.
The levels gradually increase in complexity and difficulty. There is always more than one path to victory and there is value in several replays of the game. The campaign takes you through isolated mountain fortresses,
A spiritual successor to the classic Total Annihilation, the Supreme Commander series focuses on a three-way war between the United Earth Federation, the Cybran Nation, and the Aeon Illuminate. Groundbreaking for the scale it offers, Supreme Commander is a game designed to be played on multiple monitors.
Supreme Commander feels a niche between the tactical micromanagement of games such as Starcraft and the overarching strategy of the 4x genre. An extreme level of automation is possible. Players can set up production lines to rendezvous at pre-arranged pick up points where air transports will automatically ferry them to the front lines.
The game’s units are structured by tier with research allowing progression to higher tiers and more powerful weapons. The real joy is in the use of experimental or prototype units, ones that can be game winners when used correctly. Massive in scale compared to the normal units, they represent what the game is all about.
Set in the familiar universe of Warhammer 40,000, the Dawn of War series offers bloody and frantic action. Though smaller in scale than other games on this list, the series focus on squad-based gameplay allows for surprisingly complex maneuvers.
The Blood Ravens are the main focus of the games singleplayer campaigns but they offer multiple factions to play. The initial game offered three full-length expansions and numerous races.
The long-awaited sequel to the RTS classic was well worth the wait. The three classic races of Protoss, Terran, and Zerg, are all available to play again. Wage war in the Koprulu sector in this return to one of the best PC strategy games of all time.
Take charge of three distinctive races, the skilled and ancient Protoss, the jack of all trade Terrans, or the relentless and numerous Zerg. Starcraft has been praised for its factions differing playstyles and traits, unlike other games where factions appear to be only cosmetically different.
The first campaign, Wings of Liberty, has recently been made available as free to play so why not log in and try it out? The original game is also available for free or remastered at a price. The fast-paced and exciting gameplay of Starcraft has inspired dozens of copycats, go experience one of the best RTS games ever made.
The Dominions series is a collection of god games that are beloved by modders. The simple graphics disguise complex gameplay and strategy. Struggle against rival gods as you strive to become the supreme, the Pantokrator.
The game offers a variety of different races to lead, taking inspiration from real-world historical and mythological examples. User created content is also encouraged. A wide selection of units and monsters can be recruited to expand your realm.
As turn-based 4x games, the Dominions are unique in that it is your god that shapes the state of your nation and the powers it can command.
Another in-depth space 4x strategy game, Stellaris is fast proving itself a classic. A brilliant production, also by Paradox Interactive, Stellaris boasts emergent storytelling, diverse alien races, and a rich and detailed universe to explore.
Sometimes billed as a science fiction version of Dwarf Fortress, Rimworld is a colony simulation game where an intelligent AI shapes your world around your actions. Beginning with three colonists, the players must build a successful colony while facing off against dangers such as rampaging animals, ancient defense mechanisms, pirate raiders, and the environment.
The game offers unlimited replayability. Every world is different with separate biomes such as equatorial jungle, frozen tundra, or scorching desert. Each colonist is unique with different skills and traits. Wounds and illness will impair their abilities. Events will shape them or cause them to go berserk.
The only way to grow your colony is through taking in refugees, rescuing survivors from crashes,
This classic from Blizzard was what paved the way for the success of World Of Warcraft. It’s day/night cycle encourages tactical play, as does the inclusion of unique hero units that grow in strength throughout the campaign.
Similar to Blizzard’s other breakout hit, Warcraft’s different factions vary drastically in their playstyle, units, and structures. The main storyline is also playable from the perspective of different races, similar to Starcraft.
The game is still popular for multiplayer with numerous mods and other fan-made content having been created for the game and its expansions.
Tooth and Tail
Tooth and Tail is an excellent microcosm of the strategy genre. Battles generally last no longer than fifteen minutes and the game is an excellent introduction to the genre as a whole. Players can only control units and structures within the vicinity of their commander forcing them to focus either on military or construction tasks.
The game takes place in a universe populated by anthropomorphic animals, similar to Redwall. Compete with rival factions as you strive to escape becoming prey.
A cross between 4x strategy and an RTS, the Star Ruler series takes place in a vast procedural generated galaxy.
A noted feature of the game is its in-depth and detailed ship construction. Players can construct anything from a tiny scout ship to star sized battleships. Effects of components are weapons are scaled to represent their size.
The Escapists Series
A top-down game, The Escapists differs from many other titles on our list. The player takes the role of a newly incarcerated prisoner that must escape from prison. Various tools must be acquired by trading with prisoners. Interactions or tasks can also be accomplished to improve your standing with fellow inmates.
The suspicion of guards must be alleviated by obeying the prison daily routines. Players can strengthen their character by studying or exercising, improving their chances at escape. Tools must be hidden as guards will regularly search cells. Their players’ progress will be reset if they’re caught engaging in suspicious activity as they will be placed in solitary confinement.
The game is open-ended with a wide variety of escape weapons on offer. Inciting riots, climbing through air vents, and roof escapes are all potential avenues to freedom.
The fantastic prequel to the groundbreaking Homeworld series, Deserts of Kharak changes the setting from space combat to ground. All the hallmarks that made the series a success are still there. Your land carrier, the Kapisi, takes the place of the previous games mothership. It serves as the heart of your land armada, a treasured piece of your army that you will upgrade and customize throughout the campaign.
The transition to land has not affected the core aspects that make up Homeworld. The story follows the Coalition, an alliance of clans centered on the northern polar region, as they dispatch a second expedition to find out what happened to the first that disappeared in the desert.
Deserts of Kharak is a game that will delight both fans of the original series and newcomers. Its beautiful visuals, atmospheric soundtrack, and the gripping storyline is one that will have you talking about it long after you finish it.
A critically acclaimed title from Paradox Interactive, Crusader Kings II differs from the other 4x strategy games they’ve released in that you don’t control a country or empire, you control a dynasty. The loss of your fiefdom is not the cause of a game over, the extinction of your line is.
The game and its DLCs cover from the fall of Rome to the end of the Middle Ages. Player created content has replicated popular fiction such as Game of Thrones, Dune, and the Elder Scrolls, transplanting the dynastic action to fantasy worlds and science fiction settings.
The game offers untold hours of replayability. Religion, trade, war, and diplomacy must all be balanced to ensure the survival and success of your dynasty. The AI is so detailed that it also actively plots against you and members of your court.
These Second World War classics cover both the western and eastern fronts of the European theatre. Take charge of an American company after D-Day and fight to liberate Europe from the Nazi scourge.
The sequel has you command Soviet forces from the battle of Stalingrad up until the fall of Berlin. Expansion packs add mini-campaigns as well as new factions such as the British forces. The squad-based gameplay is balanced to ensure that no one unit has supremacy. Players must juggle all aspects of their army in order to secure the victory.
Your company is customizable as you choose upgrades based on how you want your force to fight. The choice between an offensive or defensive build, an infantry or army base, these are the factors that will influence your success.
The best competitor to SimCity, Cities:Skylines is the undisputed king of city simulation games. Players can control almost every aspect of urban planning in this open-ended city builder. Zoning, road placement, taxation, public transport, and public services, are all player controlled.
Challenges such as the budget, pollution, health, and employment, must all be managed by the player, using innovative strategy and thinking. Players begin with a small 2km x 2km plot of land near a motorway. From there it is up to them to develop and expand the city to encourage residents to move in. With mods, the play area can be expanded up to a total of 324 square kilometers!
The game’s streamlined design has received much praise, as well as its realistic public transport system. It is one of the best city building games currently available.
The third entry in this award-winning trilogy, Age of Wonders III returns to the ancient battleground of the Keepers and the Cult of Storms.
Your choice of leader will affect the type of force that you lead into battle. The six different options differ
A relatively new series, Wargame offers in-depth combat that straddles the tactical and operational aspects of modern warfare.
Initially set in an alternate Cold War where WW3 kicked off in the 1980s, subsequent expansions and sequels have updated the setting to modern day as well as adding a wide variety of new militaries to play and extra units.
A thrilling and fast-paced strategy game, AI War is infamous for punishing you for being too successful. Set in a galaxy where self-aware AI has all but exterminated the human race, the player is in charge of the last remaining human fleet.
The human advantages revolve around being under the radar. Human actions affect AI Progress which ratchets up the difficulty and increases the amount of AI activity. Taking too many planets too quickly will alert the AI and result in swift destruction.
The game discourages micromanagement, allowing most basic processes to be automated. The main focus is encouraged to be on grand strategy and critical thinking, this is not the type of game that rewards clicking fast.
A turn-based 4x game series set in a science fiction universe, Endless Space offers nine unique interstellar empires for the player to control. They can also create their own unique one to conquer the galaxy, controlling their civilization over hundreds and thousands of years.
The game adopts a unique mechanic for space battles, splitting each conflict into three engagement stages, long range, medium range, and melee range. Different weapons and ship systems perform differently at each engagement stage. The player can also influence battles by the use of an order at each stage.
Homeworld is one of the best PC strategy games available. Its combination of soundtrack, gameplay, and story, all combined to make it one of the greatest hits of the last century. Remastered to restore its beautiful graphics, it is now available to be enjoyed by an entirely new generation of gamers.
The game follows the trials and struggles of the Kushan, a humanoid race who embark on an exodus to their fabled lost homeworld after a genocidal alien fleet razes their planet and all but exterminates their race. The game’s poignant story and music is the centerpiece though it’s gripping gameplay and visuals are always worthy of note.
Nearly twenty years old now, Homeworld remains a classic despite its venerable age and is a game that all RTS or science fiction fans should play at least once.