The best strategy games on PC

Best strategy games

What is the best PC strategy game? The genre was first invented way back in 1938 when Winston Churchill looked out of an aeroplane window over France and thought, "Hey, this would make a really cool videogame, whatever that is."

Since then there have been about a hundred million different strategy games, simulating about as many different kinds of fighting as we humans have had reasons to fight one another. From the all-encompassing broad strokes of the Civilization series to the individually rendered blades of the Total War games, and from the unflinchingly realistic depictions of Europa Universalis to the far flung fantasy tech of StarCraft, the genre is as diverse as they come.

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But which are the absolute top strategy games on PC? Which are the best strategy games on Steam? Are any of them free? Well just drag a selection box over our bodies and right-click on the horizon, and we'll all be on our way to finding out.

Stellaris

Best strategy games Stellaris

Stellaris, Paradox’s 4X grand strategy hybrid, makes space surprising again thanks to event chains that are, at first, evocative of Crusader Kings II, but end up going much further. Expect mutant uprisings, robotic rebellions and the discovery of alien texts that make your citizens question their place in the galaxy. 

It’s not just a 4X game; it’s a galactic roleplaying game and empire sim, bestowing a vast array of options upon players, allowing them to create unique, eccentric space-faring species. You can play as a fundamentalist society built on the backs of slaves, or hyper-intelligent lizards that rely on robots whether they are fighting or farming. The robust species creator and multitude of meaningful decisions mean that you can create almost any aliens that you can imagine. 

And underpinning all of that is the game’s focus on exploration. While most space 4X games stick with one method of interstellar travel, Stellaris gives you three to choose from, each with their own strengths and counters. In one game, the galaxy might be a network of hyperlanes, but in the next, you might find yourself building wormhole stations and blinking across the galaxy. 

Stellaris’ multiplayer isn’t to be overlooked either, transforming decent human beings into Machiavellian alien tyrants at the drop of a hat. For more, check out our Stellaris review.

Ashes of the Singularity 

Best strategy games Ashes of the Singularity

Ashes of the Singularity wears its Supreme Commander (seen elsewhere on this list) and Total Annihilation influences on its sleeve – complete with a camera view that can zoom all the way out, to the point where you’re ordering micro machines around a grid; before zipping all way in, so that you’re so close to the action you can almost feel the grinding of a Hades aircraft’s gears. The UI is missing a strategic zoom, but hitting space brings up a strategic map overview which does the same job and doesn’t take too much getting used to. 

Ashes also operates a familiar streaming economy to Supreme Commander, whereby you build extractors to obtain resources from the land, however strays from SupCom’s escalating tier system, instead at times echoing Company of Heroes in the way it requires you continually hunt down resource points. Metal and radioactives are the game’s primary resources and regions will typically house one or the other, whereas Turinium and Quanta make up the rest - the former used to boost intelligence and achieve critical mass; the latter needed to boost unit output – thus much of your strategy hinges on your ability to manage all resources simultaneously.

Large scale armies of course make for large scale battles, which is where Ashes shines. Air units provide radar and visual coverage, and can bomb targets; whereas ground units are comprised of anything from small frigates around 50m in length, to humongous, kilometer-long Dreadnoughts. These are your best form of offence, as, besides from their size, they employ a veterancy feature that lets them gain experience with each passing battle. And best of all, they can be grouped together into meta units, intelligently working and moving as one. 

Want more? Here's our Ashes of the Singularity review.

XCOM 2

best strategy games XCOM 2

XCOM 2 is one of the all time greats of the tactics genre. Already. It takes the best bits from the series so far – the savage struggle, the ragtag group of heroes, the devious aliens, the tight tactical battles – and just throws improvement after improvement on top. 

Once again you’re sending up to six soldiers into the breach, but this time as a group of struggling survivors fighting against a tyrannical alien regime. It’s all guerilla tactics, covert missions and dissidence. You need to learn to make sacrifices, leaving men and women behind so you can save the rest, and you need to learn to swallow losses and failures. 

The battles are challenging and varied, full of horrific adversaries with tricky, surprising abilities, but the biggest changes are found in the strategic layer. You’ll travel all over the world, setting up cells, infiltrating black sites, hunting for more resources so you can field more powerful weapons and tools -- it’s compelling, rather than an afterthought. 

And XCOM 2’s mods are already great. You can download a corgi gun. A corgi gun.

Want more? Here's our XCOM 2 review.

Total War: Shogun 2

Best strategy games Total War Shogun 2

Total War's second trip to Japan, the sequel to the very first Total War, is the greatest game in the series. Yes, better than the beloved original Rome or the ambitious and very pretty Attila. It’s a more thoughtful, scaled back Total War, in contrast to its massive, very flawed predecessor, Empire. 

Lessons had obviously been learned from the more focussed Napoleon. Shogun II’s map is diverse and full of interesting tactical problems thanks to the prevalence of mountains, but it’s also small, by Total War standards, and more manageable. This is very, very good, because it means one important thing: more battles! 

Shogun II is undoubtedly the prettiest Total War game to boot. Its newer siblings might be younger and firmer, but Shogun’s got a style they could only dream of, where battles are peppered with floating cherry blossoms and individual warriors duke it out in tense duels. 

There's a lot to recommend beyond the base game, too. Check our guides to the best Shogun 2 modsDLC and user-created maps. The excellent Fall of the Samurai expansion is also a must, particularly if you want to see gunpowder warfare done right, or at least better than in Empire.  

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

best strategy games Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

With Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, Blackbird Interactive have done the seemingly impossible: transpose the elegant, minimalist space wars of the original Homeworld games to a single planet. And somehow, it works. 

It’s a journey, across a never-ending desert, on a mission to save a civilisation. Each battle is connected to the last, and the ones yet to be played. Every unit that survives will live to fight another day in another mission in a persistent war for survival.

Kharak itself, despite just being one giant desert, is a fantastic planet-sized battlefield. The addition of terrain and elevation replicates the three dimensional battles of the previous games, with the sand dunes providing cover, hiding spots and high ground from where you can unleash devastating attacks. 

Like its predecessors, Deserts of Kharak is also blessed with some of the best art design that you could hope to find in an RTS, accompanied by incredible sound design and a genuinely interesting narrative.    

Want more? Here's our Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak review

Cities: Skylines

best strategy games Cities Skylines

Not Since SimCity 4 has there been a city-builder of such great quality. Colossal Order had made a name for itself through the Cities in Motion series, which simulated city transport networks, but skylines was much more ambitious – a full-featured, highly moddable city management game. And what a game. Huge, in size and scope, detailed and logical, Skylines managed to almost make us forget about 2013's disappointing SimCity.

On the day it launched, it was already an impressive game, but by the end of the day it proved to be something else: a playground for modders. In stark comparison with EA's attitude in regards to SimCity, Colossal Order smartly opened their game up to the masses, allowing modders to fiddle with all manner of things, from in-game buildings and roads to adding entirely new assets and tools.

The base game should keep most avid city planners happy, but the expansion, After Dark, is more than worth a look, as well. It expands the commercial aspect of your cities, adding in a whole lot of leisure, as well as a game-changing day and night cycle. More than just an aesthetic touch, it gives you a lot more fine control over your city, letting you plan city services like garbage disposal, public transport and police patrols around the time of day. For instance, the roads are quieter late at night, making it easier for the garbage trucks to make their stops.

With the diligent modding community still very much active, Skylines promises to only get bigger. Take a look at our list of the best Cities: Skylines mods.

Want more? Here's our Cities: Skylines review.

Endless Legend 

best strategy games Endless Legend

Whenever Endless Legend comes up in conversation, it's hard not to gush about it, which is what we're being forced to do here. Forced by the fact that it’s just lovely, earning itself a place as one of the best games of 2014

It’s a 4X game that blends fantasy and science fiction seamlessly, throwing stranded spacemen against magical dragon people in absolutely the most striking hex-based world. Diverse, gorgeous, it looks almost tangible, like you could reach out and pick up one of the elaborate cities and cradle it in your hands. "Don't worry, citizens. We won't let the horrible man-eating insects devour you and your families." 

What makes it most notable are the fascinating factions that vie for dominance over the pretty but slightly apocalyptic world, each blessed with unique and interesting mechanics that set them apart and inform how they are played. You’ve got the horrible aforementioned flesh-eating insect race, the Necrophage, for instance, who are so foul that they can’t make alliances with the other factions, forcing them to always be the opposition. And there’s the bizarre Cultists, a faction of peculiar zealots that can only construct one city and must rely on swallowing up other factions if they want to expand.

It loses steam a bit when it gets to the end game, but remains fun and the journey to that point is rich in interesting strategic and tactical decisions. Surprisingly, it’s also blessed with a strong narrative that lends the game a tangible sense of place. Every faction has a unique set of story quests that will inform a lot of your decisions without backing you into a corner, and there's an abundance of side-quests and stories that makes it feel like you're managing a world where a roleplaying adventure is taking place.

Want more? Here's our Endless Legend review.

Crusader Kings II

best strategy games Crusader Kings 2

Crusader Kings II is a murderous bastard of a grand-strategy game. You play a medieval ruler trying to gain more power, influence, and territory in a historically authentic medieval Europe. It's a game of intrigue, war, politics and religion, played out of a stunning, detailed map of the known world and in countless, complex menus. Really, though, it's about people: your dynasty, your vassals, you lovers, enemies and family members. 

It’s this personal element that makes CKII so compelling. You are in charge of a family dynasty, not an abstract nation. You will marry and have kids, you’ll die, and then your heir will take over and the whole thing begins again. In between all this, you can use intrigue or brute force to increase your holdings, but the key is that you develop a real personal connection with your characters, you avatar. You will mourn their death, you’ll cheer their every triumph.

You'll want to make a lot of friends, and then betray them all, the fools.

Usurp thrones, create politically advantageous marriages, murder your wife, and if it all gets too much for you, there's always the occasional jousting tournament or day of hunting to keep you in good spirits. As long as they don't kill you. 

Because we like making excuses to play, we tested Hillary Clinton's Presidential skills in Crusader Kings II

Civilization V

best strategy games Civilization V

It's the year 2000. Montezuma has his finger on the big red button. Will he launch the nukes? Or will a last minute alliance between the war-mongering Gandhi and the peaceful but wealthy Mongols under Genghis Khan claim a last minute victory? Civilization V is a game fat with weird ahistorical scenarios as civilisations compete and work together from the Stone Age to the near future, and it's the poster child for the ambitious 4X genre. 

The decisions you face are many: political, economical, military, even social. You can be a friendly neighbour or conqueror. A hub of trade and tourism, or an industrial powerhouse. Freedom of choice is the game’s best asset – where do you go? What do you do? How will you end up creating the greatest civilisation in the world? 

Civilization V is as streamlined as the series will ever get and the perfect place to jump in, but it's still blessed with enough complexity so that you won't find yourself sitting in front the screen, endlessly clicking End Turn, waiting for someting to happen. Combat is as good as it’s ever been thanks to a rethink of Civ’s grid system, and Steam Workshop support means there’s a never-ending flow of mods and maps to tinker with.

This is the series that invented the term “one more turn” –  it is addictive, compelling, and absorbing. Essential playing. 

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

best strategy games Dawn of War

Playing Dawn of War now is fascinating. In many ways, it feels like a very traditional RTS, with lots of base building, turtling and resource management. But it’s also a precursor to the likes of Company of Heroes. We see Relic starting to experiment with morale, cover, squads and drastically different factions. 

There's an intensity underpinning the whole game. It’s all about pushing forward, then capturing and holding territory. And all the time, resources become more fleeting, as generators and the like decay. But the war machine constantly needs to be fed. 

Expansions fleshed the game out, introducing more factions built around unique mechanics. There’s the sneaky Eldar, waaargh-hungry Orks, the massive Imperial Guard – each faction offered different ways to play the game. By the end, there were nine factions in total. 

Dawn of War II ended up changing just about everything, making battles smaller and focusing on tactics over strategy. It was still great, but the move away from the traditions of the genre made it lose some of its magic. 

StarCraft II

best strategy games StarCraft II

Starcraft II is sci-fi strategy game about armoured cowboys versus xenomorphic aliens and space elves. It’s a classic base-building RTS where you gather resources, build armies, and kill your enemy before they kill you with quick decisions and even quicker mouse clicks.

Multiplayer is a huge part of Starcraft II. Your enemies will be human; they will be able to click faster than you, issue orders quicker than you.  You will probably lose a lot, but you will get better the more you play, and there is a small but dedicated competitive player-base to compete against at the eSports level.

The single player is also interesting - Blizzard have combined frantic action with an RPG like backdrop as you follow the exploits of Terran Mercenary Jim Raynor. You will fight through a series of missions, many of which will have unique objectives – like trying to harvest resources on a map that periodically fills up with lava, defending against waves upon waves of Zerg for a set period of time. In between missions you’ll explore an RPG-like hub, where you can talk to people, research new techs and decide where your next destination will be. Story is hard to do in RTS, and many resign themselves to cutscenes or in-mission dialogue, but SCII actually makes you interact with the world outside combat, and so it’s more interactive story.

2015 saw the game conclude with the launch of Legacy of the Void, one of our best games of 2015, so if you want the whole experience, you'll be wanting to get all three entries in the series.

Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault

best strategy games Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault

Company of Heroes 2 was great, but it didn't quite match the magic of its predecessor. Then Ardennes Assault came along. The US forces and German Oberkommando are fighting over control of the Ardennes, in a campaign inspired by The Battle of the Bulge. What sets it apart from both Company of Heroes and the sequel is the non-linear campaign that plays out across a strategic meta map. The Germans are dynamic, being reinforced by retreating forces, changing the challenges posed by both story missions and the dynamic skirmishes.

A single battle can replayed many times, with each fight offering new obstacles. 

While the campaign is only played from the American point of view, the US forces are split into three companies, all with unique specialties covering air, support and mechanised roles. These companies all have special officer abilities and upgrade trees, and any can be used to tackle a mission. Even if you focus on one, the other two will still be on the map, and can provide assistance by blocking the enemy retreat out of a capture province. 

This is the first time the battles in Company of Heroes have had real weight. Previously, winning was all that mattered. Finish the mission and you move on to the next one, starting fresh. Ardennes Assault is a persistent campaign, though, and losses in battle can bring down a company's veterancy and manpower, and there's even a risk of it being wiped out entirely, leaving the other two companies to face the Germans alone. 

Age of Empires II

best strategy games Age of Empires II

Age of Empires II is easy to learn, charming, yet the challenge is there if you want it. You start with nothing but a few aimless workers, but you'll eventually be ripping gold out of the earth, building huge fortresses and monuments to your glory, and of course you'll be putting all of your enemies to the sword.

It covers an abstracted time period that starts in the Dark Ages, and goes all the way to the early Renaissance era. Celtic woad raiders duke it out with Persian elephants and medieval pikemen near Japanese fortresses. And for those that know the cheat, there's always that sports car with machine guns to play with.

Multiple campaigns, infinite skirmishes, custom maps and plenty of disparate factions – there's a lot to keep you busy. And thanks to an HD re-release on Steam, which added multiplayer and Workshop support along with Steamworks integration, it's better-looking and more supported than it has been in years.

Wargame: AirLand Battle

best strategy games Wargame AirLand Battle

Wargame: AirLand Battle is a marriage of wargaming and real-time strategy – forcing you to worry equally about logistics and blowing stuff up – set amid sprawling, richly detailed battlefields and slick strategic campaign maps. From the latter, you control the war, concerning yourself with moving different forces into position, snatching territory and deploying new battlegroups, and it's great, but what you're really here for are the huge, real-time, combined arms battles. 

A gargantuan range of modern military vehicles and units are at your disposal, and from them you can craft a destructive loadout to take into battle. The number of units available is bewildering, but it's not just for show. This isn't a game of rock, paper, scissors, as each unit is made up out of countless statistics, strengths and weaknesses, to the point where your addiction to spreadsheets might start here.

The single-player and co-op campaigns are good, but there's a good chance you'll find yourself spending more time with the multiplayer. In particular the 10 v 10 matches are a sight to behold, and require a completely different mindset. Sure, you can field a broad range of units and just try to lock down territory as you would in single-player, but you'll be more effective if you specialise. Be the heavy armour guy, tormenting your enemies with your monstrous tanks, or the artillery girl, bombarding the enemy from afar whenever they appear. 

Tropico 4

best strategy games Tropico 4

Tropico is essentially a city builder, but what makes it great is its charm. You play as the dictator of Caribbean-themed Banana Republic, and your job is guide your island from humble beginnings into greatness.

How you do that is up to you. You can exploit the natural resources of your island and turn it into an industrial powerhouse, or you can tap into the island’s natural beauty and try and become THE holiday destination for ignorant white tourists. Or both. There are a lot of choices in Tropico, from where to place that apartment complex or that factory, to whether or not to institute pensions, or conscription. You’ll attract immigrants to the island, and they’ll all need housing and jobs, and you’ll need to build up your economy and services. Throughout everything, your actions are wonderfully narrated by the talk show host of Tropico’s only radio station, who makes even the most dickish of moves seem like benign intervention.

As your island grows, you’ll also have to start dealing with global politics - America, Russia, even China and Europe will all want to exert influence. They’ll offer you money and riches, if only you'd let them maybe build a military base just over there, or let them export their waste to you. If you’re not careful, you’ll have a revolt on your hands, or an invasion. Either way, your regime will be toppled.

Tropico is just a consistently fun game to play: it’s city-management on a manageable scale, with a healthy dose of economy, trade and politics to keep things interesting. You’ll never stop being amused, because remember: El Presidente is always right. Even when he’s wrong. 

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

best strategy games Sins of a Solar Empire

Sins of a Solar Empire cares more about action and titanic battles than most empire-building games do. Sure, you have planets you can colonise, industry and trade you can develop, but when it comes down to it, there’s always groups of ships throwing bullets, lasers and missiles each other in the never ending struggle for dominance.

It’s challenging, even against the AI. There are three races, each with their own identity, ships and technology. There are always neutral forces that will make early expansion slow, and there’s even a ‘Pirate’ faction that you can bribe to attack your neighbour, which always seems like a great idea until they’re paid even more money to attack you instead. There is a pretty involved diplomacy element as well, beyond the usual trade agreements and non-aggression pacts. Other factions can give you missions, like giving them resources or attacking another player, and you can do the same to them.

There’s a lot of movement in a typical Sins game: your scouts will be zipping from planet to planet in the search for new worlds to exploit. Your trade fleets will be moving goods from place to place, keeping the wheels of economy and your mighty battle fleets will be darting from one crisis to the next, because if it’s not pirates at your door, then it’s another faction coming to claim what’s yours.

There’s no single-player campaign per say: you simply play an infinite number of skirmish battles against the AI using a wide range of map set-ups, each with it’s own quirks and strategy. You can also create your own using the impressive map-making tools, and of course you can take the game online and play against real people.  

DEFCON

best strategy games DEFCON

DEFCON is a game about winning the unwinnable: all-out nuclear war. You’re presented with a simple vector-based world map (in the style of the film WarGames), you’re given a bunch of military assets, and as the world slowly ticks down towards armageddon you have to make the best use of them in order to come out on top of soon-to-be desolated world. 

Not that you really notice – DEFCON’s simplicity and its abstraction is its greatest asset. You won’t be able to stop every missile, and you won’t win every clash. Regions will be wiped out, entire fleets will be lost... but all you see are stats on a screen. You get points for killing large amounts of people in one go, you lose points for every percentage of your original population you lose. The player with the most points at the end of it all “wins”. Congratulations. 

It’s fascinating, although morbidly so, but what makes it so addictive is that the game really is a battle of minds, a game of nuclear Chess. A match will always start at DEFCON 5, and will count down the threat levels at set times. The closer to 1 you get, the more you’re allowed to do, but it all basically boils down to the best placement of your assets – you’ll have fleets and submarines, bombers and fighters, missile silos, radar. You and your enemies (up to 6 players or AI can play in one match) will all be doing the same thing, so the amount of anticipation and second-guessing is mentally challenging.

Supreme Commander

best strategy games Supreme Commander

Supreme Commander was the game that broke PCs, such were the demands it placed on processors. This future war robo-RTS simplifies resource management and focuses more on creating the perfect war machine. You start off with a single irreplaceable command unit, and from there you build factories that will churn out units to wage war on your enemies.

It’s the sheer scale that does it – years later, Supreme Commander doesn’t so much break PC’s anymore as it breaks minds. A player’s army can potentially reach up to 1,000 units separated out into land, sea and air. You have to orchestrate a careful ballet of production, movement and attack, grinding down your opponent while keeping your command unit safe, and your factories powered and supplied so that they can create more machines of death. It’s brilliant and mind-boggling.

This was one of the few games to officially support dual monitors, which means you can have a zoomable map up on the second screen. It’s a godsend, as it allows you to keep an eye on the big picture a lot easier. Few games are blessed with the same scale as Supreme Commander, and when you take the war online that’s where the real challenge begins. Titles like StarCraft demand quick thinking and quicker reactions, but they only deal with a couple of dozen units at most. Supreme Commander demands all of that, and deals in the thousands.

Europa Universalis IV

best strategy games Europa Universalis IV

Paradox Development Studio’s mighty flagship and one of the best PC games of 2013. The EU series has always had the power to impress, with its massive complexity and sandbox approach to strategy. But with that complexity came a lot of obstacles. Bugs, obtuse UIs and poorly explained mechanics could put people off before they’d annexed their first nation. 

Europa Universalis IV changes all of that. It’s still a tough nut to crack and demands a lot of player investment, but it’s by far the most user-friendly game in the series. And while its myriad systems remain daunting, it’s perfectly possible to just jump in and carve out a niche in history. 

Through trade and economics, warfare and diplomacy, exploration and progress, nations advance through the ages. You can embark on the colonisation of the Americas or send ships to conquer India, or you can simply start in those places, as an indigenous power or, later, a colonial nation. It's a centuries long sandbox, and you can start anywhere, at any time across 400 years. 

It’s a game of what ifs. What if Venice formed Italy and swept through the Ottoman Empire with a massive mercenary army? What if England and France became best friends and carved up Europe together instead of fighting each other? What if Scotland ruled the world? What if. 

Distant Worlds: Universe

best strategy games Distant Worlds Universe

Distant Worlds is huge; soul-crushingly, overwhelmingly massive. An entire galaxy is simulated from private traders going about their business, to pirates getting up to no good. It’s the most ambitious 4X space game that you’re ever likely to find. 

But the beauty of the game is that it’s you, the player, who defines your level of interaction with the galaxy. Everything can be automated, so you can sit back and simply control a single scout ship, charting the galaxy for hours on end, or you can take control of a whole empire, fiddling with economic policy, alien diplomacy and galactic-scale wars. It's absolutely up to you how you want to play, and the AI is impressively competent, meaning that you can let it take over the parts of empire management you're not keen on, without worrying about it ruining everything. 

At its core, it’s a tool for creating your own galaxies to play in. Players can curate the game to such a degree that one game could bear no resemblance to the next. Everything from the age of the galaxy to the aggression of pirates can be dictated before a game even begins. 

Age of Wonders III

best strategy games Age of Wonders III

Age of Wonders III is a welcome resurrection; a classic series given new life. It’s a fantasy 4X game where the final X, eXterminate, is the most important one. 

There are multiple, scripted campaigns to get through, but the meat is the randomly generated maps and customisable factions. Fundamentalist goblins can fight - using holy powered engines of war – industrialised elfs, while armies of dire penguins march through frozen wastes until they're slaughtered by magical halflings. It’s all delightfully silly. And damn do the battles get big. Multiple units can be linked together, creating gargantuan armies. Sieges are evocative of Total War in terms of scale, but with thoughtful turn-based combat and magic. 

While diplomacy and city management are weak, Age of Wonders shines during conflict. The abundance of magic and special abilities, diverse lists of units and battlefields littered with environmental obstacles make each battle a rewarding puzzle.

Order of Battle: Pacific 

best strategy games Order of Battle Pacific

The Panzer General-style of wargame has been re-created and reinvented many times over the history of the strategy genre, but no game has quite done it with as much success as Order of Battle: Pacific. An intricate-yet-approachable wargame, with logical rules and a distinct eye for detail.

Each move becomes a series of puzzles. The game rewards making pacey decisions and refusing to dawdle. Yet extending your grasp for side-missions can also provide bonuses further down the line. Each decision expands into new opportunities and further questions. 

It’s also a game that finally succeeds at naval transportation and combat, which is pretty vital considering the Pacific setting means much of your time will be set at sea. It’s approach to naval is exceptionally strong, and makes sailing from port to port as interesting as battles themselves. 

That's it. Phew. 20 of the best PC strategy games. But I bet we missed some of your favourites. Let us know in the comments.

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lotrfan45 Avatar
6
1 Year ago

Command and Conquer helped create the modern strategy game, I would say that makes the game relevant, and should have a spot on this list

4
MrAptronym Avatar
307
1 Year ago

I think the list is more "What is the most fun right now.", they say "Here are the 15 best strategy games that I think you should all play right now." I love command and conquer but I don't think it has aged as well as some other titles.

Nothing wrong with lists of the most important titles, I just don't think this is that kind of list.

3
Dangerosul Avatar
1
1 Month ago

He is right, you know. The title of the article says "The best strategy games on PC" so i think C&C quialifies. Certainly not all of them are great and some have dated gfx and gameplay but the one i would definitely put on this list, and the best in the series, is C&C 3. Great gfx, gameplay, 3 playable factions, awesome superweapons and ALIENS that invade teh Earth. What more could you want in a sci-fi RTS?

1
brmorgen82 Avatar
25
4 Months ago

There were these games called Dune 2 and Warcraft, young fella. But keep spewing garbage, it's what you do best.

1
Scar1976 Avatar
1
1 Year ago

Nope Dune brought it to life but the real player in land based rts was total anhilation, wich set a milestone wich games based on till this day

0
Chris Evans Avatar
108
2 Years ago

No love at all for any Commander and Conquer games makes me sad...but I can understand why. It is a series that hasn't really been relevant since Red Alert 2, and some would say Tiberian Sun was the last great C&C. Also some might say that the strategy is thinly veiled as you can just churn out masses of units and steam-roll the enemy for the most part. Lacks the nuance of Starcraft.

3
Rob Zacny Avatar
101
2 Years ago

Joe tried to add a C&C game. Can't remember which, I think it may have been Red Alert 2. Or maybe it was whatever was the most recent. I vetoed it for the reasons you list, and because we already had RTS games well-represented here.

I loved C&C when the series was young, but it just failed to grow. It loved its own campiness too much, the designs got more and more over the top, and yeah, that core game didn't really get more interesting. SupCom ate its lunch from the visual spectacle standpoint, and it really wasn't a good enough RTS to stand alongside any of its contemporaries.

2
Punishersfury Avatar
1
Punishersfury(15 hours played)
1 Year ago

i been playing rts games for a long time to not have WC3+exp nor ANY command and conquer games is a massive slight to rts hell they didnt eve mention dune between dune and c&c thats the heart of rts. now to be fair the last goood c&c game was c&c 3 tibrium wars as much as i love geerals i still have to say c&c 3 was my fav but its such a hard choice i was i could say there where both the best

1
Antonius Avatar
80
10 Months ago

No love for Homeworld(s), GalCiv or Masters of Orion?

Homeworld redefined RTS for 3D space and the GalCiv games are solid, worthy 4X.

Haven't played a MoO since MoO 3 though. That was dense as **** to get into…

1
Julian Benson Avatar
179
2 Years ago

For me, the series peaked at C&C: Generals. They moved away from the kitsch videos (which I did love in the original games but the sheen wore off when they started spending so much on producing B-movie cutscenes) and simply created a fun, explosive RTS.

I'm hoping the C&C Victory Studios are working on taps into the Generals style of game.

2
Empyre Avatar
238
8 Months ago

Satiellite Riegn sould be in here.

3
AnAuldWolf Avatar
475
8 Months ago

Does Armello count? No? I'm terrible at this, as I have been with every other list.

I'm not so good at strategy, really. Glad those games exist though as it can be a joy to watch someone play them, and sometimes you have to have a mind like steel tacks to outwit the AI or whomever you're playing against. And when such a person is a good winner/loser on top of that? Well, you're probably looking at quite the admirable human being.

I never could get anywhere beyond the likes of Shining Force, FEDA, and Vandal Hearts. Or was it Vagrant Story? I always get those two confused. No, pretty sure it was Vandal Hearts. Terrible at Disgaea, though, but I find it so engaging as I'm fond of NIS's sense of humour. The only developer to have made a visual novel that I not only completed, but played more than once.

If you've not heard of it, look up Disgaea Infinite. It's a PSP game, but you people seem too civilised to go for all that 'console peasant' brainrot. Good for you!

Ah, Shining Force. It had an armadillo in steampunk powered armour. Unforgettable. We need a Shining Force remake that's actually good, so I can vote that in for one of these articles. Though it might not end up on PC, so I'd probably fail at the whole concept of these lists all over again.

3
unwanted Avatar
732
2 Years ago

It's almost like someone seen me talk about this.

2
Tim Edwards Avatar
505
Tim Edwards(7 hours played)
2 Years ago

We aim to please. 

2
subedii Avatar
698
2 Years ago

I can jibe with this list.

 

Personally I'd remove World in Conflict and replace it with Dawn of War 2. Because for me, WiC is better covered by Airland Battle if we're talking cold-war RTS, and DoW2 is probably the RTS I've played most of over the years. Probably the first RTS to REALLY suck me into playing online.

 

With regards to Supreme Commander, it still has an active community given that Forged Alliance Forever dropped a few months ago. Probably more active than SupCom 2. And all in all, it's still conducive to some epic large scale battles. I'd recommned Gyle's casts if you want to check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/user/felixlighta/videos

 

 

2
xNuke Avatar
264
1 Year ago

I miss Stronghold: Crusader from this list :( With it's HD remake it's playable and Crusader 2 is about to release in 3 weeks time. It's meant to stay true to the original.

Either way, the first one should've made it to the top 20 list

2
Turrican Avatar
25
Turrican(2 days 11 hours played)
1 Year ago

This is a great list:

I would personally add, Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, Homeworld and these days I'd rather have Rome 2 or Attila over Shogun.

2
Dog Pants Avatar
1385
Dog Pants(2 days 13 hours played)
2 Years ago

Regarding Empire at War, I recall the reviews of the time giving me the impression that the ground battles were pretty terrible. Can I assume from its entry here that they're not as bad as I thought? I've not played a decent strategic Star Wars game since Supremacy so my interest is piqued.

1
Joe Robinson Avatar
6
Joe Robinson(13 hours played)
2 Years ago

The ground battles arn't great, although I personally feel the more scripted engagements in the single-player are alright. Considering Supremacy/Rebellion didn't even have ground battles though, it's a step up from that.

If you liked Supremecy, you should like this. It may not be the best RTS ever as far as mechanics and design (again, re ground battles), but it's a pretty kick-ass star wars game. You get to summon in Star Destroyers and see them blast away, the expansion adds in the SSDs, you can build and use Death Stars... it's an experience, and not one to sniff at. That's why I included it, anyway.

1
Dusty Avatar
1
1 Year ago

i must say that even though this is an "old post"

there is 1 game i miss on the list..

Total anihilation.

one of the very first RTS games, along with C&C that defined RTS games

even though games like Dune 1 came back in 1992.

i would trade WiC for total anihilation or the original C&C :D

but thats just me.. im old enough to remember the good old games

to bad the newer computers are to "heavy" to play the old classics

1
Shriven Avatar
2944
1 Year ago

I never would have thought about saying this 6 months ago, but Rome II has been polished up so well its better than Shogun for combat and depth. But the Shogun era is much more fun just to bask in.

It deserves a revisit.

1
Njoy420 Avatar
7
1 Year ago

One of my personal favorite strategy game is Lord of the rings: Battle for middle-earth 2 :P

1
Saiph Avatar
22
1 Year ago

It's a shame someone hasn't updated Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour so that it can be played on Windows 8.1. It's a classic game, and deserves to be mentioned in this list IMO. I used to love playing the GLA and steamrolling over the Americans *evil laugh*! ("Thank you for the new shoes!" :-D )

Another game that I bought only four days ago is Rise Of Nations, and I'm really enjoying it. It's great fun to start a game with spearmen and slingshot warriors, and end up planning missions using fighter and bomber aircraft. And of course if you want to go really crazy, you can develop nukes too. Great scope for varied strategy and tactics.

Apart from those omissions I think this list is very interesting. I own 10 of the 20 games mentioned, so there are a few that I'll be checking out and possibly buying, especially if they're in a Steam sale. Thanks for updating the list!

1
Fraser Brown Avatar
899
1 Year ago

When I was updating the list, I actually had a chat with Rob in regards to Rise of Nations, especially since there's the Extended Edition now. But having not played the new version, and since it's been many, many years since I played the original, I decided that I wasn't as comfortable adding it to the list as I was with the other new additions.

Of course, we'll no doubt be updating the list again at some point, and by then I might have had time to play the Extended Edition. So it could appear down the line.

1
Embed Avatar
1
12 Months ago

Don't know how about you, but I have C&C Generals: Zero Hour on Origin and it works fine on Win 8.1.

1
a_tiny_child Avatar
17
1 Year ago

No love for the Dominions series? For shame.

1
[Q]uik Avatar
2
1 Year ago

The fact that neither Victoria nor Hearts of Iron made the list, but CK2 and EUIV (EU being the worst of them..) did, makes me quite damned sad.

that said, for the most part it's a good list.

1
[Q]uik Avatar
2
1 Year ago

Wasnt World in conflicts multiplayer shut down?

Shouldnt that be stated in the "buyers guide"?

1
Tonton Avatar
1
1 Year ago

Where the f is Homeworld?

1
BraveToaster Avatar
262
1 Year ago

I'm really happy to see Starcraft 2 isn't on here. That boring trash killed the RTS genre. Blizzard is good at killing genres

1
Tovias Avatar
843
1 Year ago

No Mount and Blade? Really?

1
Fraser Brown Avatar
899
1 Year ago

Mount & Blade: Warband is in both our top sandbox and top RPG lists.

2
Tovias Avatar
843
1 Year ago

You know what? I also missed the strategy part in the title, my bad.

A lot of "The Best" lately.

1
TsunamiWombat Avatar
423
TsunamiWombat(1 day 8 hours played)
1 Year ago

I feel like Dawn of War 2 should be on here as well, it was different from the original but good - well, alright, I feel like the last expansion fell flat.

Other than that, perfect list.

I also feel like SupCom should be on the list twice. Just because.

1
Fraser Brown Avatar
899
1 Year ago

SupCom really is brilliant.

I can't say I'm a huge fan of Dawn of War 2, though. It can be fun, and the progression of your squad is neat, but as a strategy game I think it's severely lacking. We're also picking the best from franchises rather than listing the franchise or listing them separately, and I think most would agree that the original is still the best.

1
TsunamiWombat Avatar
423
TsunamiWombat(1 day 8 hours played)
1 Year ago

Me, I really loved DoW2's squad level control. It made perfect sense with the context of Space Marines. Sadly, they never got terribly creative with the level or mission design, but moving from one end of the map to the other setting up kill zones and dealing with enemy units in different ways was fun enough, almost like a RTS'y X-Com (Nu-Com). No other game has quite emulated it's style and thats a shame.

1
subedii Avatar
698
1 Year ago

This comments section is getting confusing. I would recommend simply starting a new post come 2015 instead of continuing to update this one.

.

Glad to see Infested Planet make the list. It’s a pretty awesome strategy game, and very different from most other RTS's. You regularly see yourself battling back and forth with the bugs on each map, losing the advantage one minute and being pushed back, then suddenly having a breakout moment as you adapt and change to the circumstances, or pull off a risky raid that takes the pressure off your flank, or even just remember an ability you had been forgetting about until now.

.

There’s a heavy emphasis on on-the-fly strategy, with the battles ebbing forwards and backwards as you advance, gain ground, the aliens adapt, force you back, and you desperately try not to loose too much whilst they counter-attack and frequently circumvent your previous strategies. You can gain momentum, but so can the enemy, and the game has a lot of scope for turn-arounds from dire circumstances with the right play (which applies just as much to the enemy).

.

All in all, I definitely recommend it, especially if you’re looking for something a little different from the standard RTS or squad level tactical game.

1
Matanuska Avatar
67
1 Year ago

I'd personally put Men of War: Assault Squad 2 on this list. Sure it's rough around the edges but it has a certain charm for a WW2 RTS I haven't felt since the late 90s/early 00s.

1
Techguy10110 Avatar
1
1 Year ago

Has no one mentioned Age of Mythology?

1
tomstubbs951 Avatar
2
1 Year ago

I've only played two of these games: Civilization V and Age of Empires. I really liked both of them, so maybe I'll have to try these other games. What's age of mythology? Is it more like civilizations, but with added mythological creatures. That sounds like a pretty interesting game. http://www.gameofwarrealtips.com

2
arkons Avatar
1
1 Year ago

I will always maintain, that Warcraft 3 is one of the best strategy games ever made, and it does deserve a place on this list. A game that's only downfall wasn't even in the gameplay, but it was let down by the devs, who left it in the mercy of hackers. A HD remake with cheat-secure official servers would put it back on the map, even after 10+ years. Also, I agree with some of the comments here about the C&C series, my vote would go to Generals, that was a lot of fun to play, both the core game and the expansion, Zero Hour.

1
marcusb1976 Avatar
1
1 Year ago

Home World or one of the 2 Home World sequals along with Command and Conquer or one of the 16 Comand and Conquer sequals should have a right to be on the list;)

1
fizicro Avatar
1
1 Year ago

The Emissary should be on the list to , I play it for days ( not that I recommend it ) , it's available for free ( I played it on Linux )

Check it out here http://stratmontclanstrategies.blogspot.com/

I agree on Command and conquer , spent days on it

1
Sir Killalot Avatar
1
12 Months ago

I can't believe this list doesn't have Warcraft III...

1
.The_Crow Avatar
1
12 Months ago

I would make a list as well, I can respect most. See the supreme commander as the revival of total annihilation :) the old dune and Warcraft are pas their prime but the only title I am really lacki is any title in the heroes of might and magic series?

1
Mctittles Avatar
154
11 Months ago

If you haven't played it I recommend A.I. War which is absolutely the best co-op strategy game I have ever played. Nothing else even comes close.

1
Turrican Avatar
25
Turrican(2 days 11 hours played)
10 Months ago

Great list. However, Endless Legend and Homeworld would be on my list also.

1
Droniac Avatar
27
8 Months ago

There's a few games I want to comment on:

World in Conflict - multiplayer may be shut down, but its singleplayer campaign is so good that it should probably be mentioned regardless. It's one of few strategy games that I'd point to as having good singleplayer campaigns.

Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War - I think you should make this more specific and point directly at Dark Crusade. It's easily the best version of that game.

Dawn of War 2 - is underrated. The singleplayer is only fun if you enjoy clicker-RPGs like Diablo, but multiplayer is surprisingly good. Team matches in particular are very fun and different from the norm.

Best licensed strategy game - should still be Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, but Empire at War is a great second ;)

Best strategy game campaign - where is it?

I get that CoH 2: Ardennes Assault has a nice dynamic campaign, but that's all it is: interestingly dynamic. To be blunt: CoH's mission design is terrible, its storytelling is weak, it doesn't have much variety and its presentation is poor.

There are strategy games that do try to tell a story and actually manage to present it rather well and within an interestingly varied, but structured, campaign. Think of the C&C games, StarCraft 2, World in Conflict, Battle Realms, Homeworld, etc.

Strategy games may not traditionally be the best vehicles for story, but World in Conflict outshines most story-driven shooters and Battle Realms likewise trounces most fantasy RPGs. As for StarCraft 2: that presentation, that mission design, wow.

1
Irritant Avatar
1
7 Months ago

A good test for RTS games is to think how popular or enjoyable the game would be if it had basic graphics (think 1995). In some cases (like Civilization or Starcraft) it would be just as good, in other cases (like the XCOM remake) it would make it pretty obvious that they're just a basic RNG hiding behind pretty 3D models. To call that thing a strategy game is an insult to the word "strategy". At best it involves some tactics, and (given how bad the AI is) you don't even need much of that.

1
Raith Avatar
1
Raith(3 days 20 hours played)
7 Months ago

Look, I LOVE Sins of a Solar Empire, I do...buuut I don't think it's better than Homeworld or Galactic Civilizations 2.

1
Vinu Avatar
1
7 Months ago

What about Warcraft?

1
JeezusJessie Avatar
1
4 Months ago

SWEAW is definitely a good one, but I didn't like the population cap on it though - especially in space skirmishes. Still, glad it's here.

1
Jezcentral Avatar
463
1 Year ago

I know this is an update, but don't forget XCOM now has an expansion, Enemy Within. It's a cracker, and I would recommend people get that, rather than "just" the vanilla game.

God, I was so happy it was so good. (Do you see my avatar? DO YOU?)

0
aevansjr35 Avatar
3
9 Months ago

I do NOT recommend war game series. Horrible quality. T-55 tanks can take out M1A2's with no issue while M1A2's can sit their and shoot and do no damage, vehicle and weapon models are just bad. Game play is closer to arcade then it is strategy.

0
Turrican Avatar
25
Turrican(2 days 11 hours played)
8 Months ago

Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun has a special place in my heart.

I think Age of Wonders III is a great game.

There are just too many unbelievably good games out there now and with XCom2 and Warhammer on the horizon, the dilemma of what to spend precious time on is only going to get worse.

0
aevansjr35 Avatar
3
7 Months ago

I wouldnt consider the wargame series strategy games.. more like arcade RTS. Not even close to realistic.

0
Vinu Avatar
1
7 Months ago

What about Warcraft?

0
aevansjr35 Avatar
3
1 Year ago

wargamer is one of the worst wargames out their. Unrealistic and unfair scenarios its easy to play and beat but its far from being realistic and thats what kills it.

-1