What are the best PC tank games? And which free tank game should you try? Tanks: they’re big, they’re made of metal, and they can blow loads of stuff up… even other tanks. Rolling into battle in a vehicle that weighs the same as ten elephants and can raze entire buildings with a single shot simply never gets old. However, for all its weight and might, the tank is also synonymous with tense firefights and immense claustrophobia. The agony of reloading, the lack of pace, and the fact that you’re the enemy’s priority target make the tank game as nerve-wracking as it is empowering.
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There have been countless greats to pick from in a genre that’s been knocking about since the days of the Apple II. From hyper-realistic, control-laden sims to arcadey, point-and-explode shoot-’em-ups, here are the best tank games on PC.
Best free tank games
Another leviathan of free-to-play tank games, War Thunder favours hardcore tacticians, genius statisticians and boorish attention to detail. Unlike World of Tanks, War Thunder cannot make any claims to being accessible. There are a ridiculous number of tanks and branches of research to attempt follow from the off; pouring hours of your time into the wrong tank pathway is easily done. Additionally, War Thunder boasts a complex and sophisticated armour penetration mechanic, which forces careful consideration before firing a single shot.
While War Thunder’s arcade mode does a good job of introducing gamers to some of the game’s core mechanics, you can’t consider yourself a War Thunder Veteran until you’ve emerged victorious from a simulator battle. This stripped-back game mode restricts your view, turns aim assists off and dramatically increases the time it takes to perform any action, making your every encounter a nail-biting tactical nightmare.
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World of Tanks
If it’s a hardcore, lifetime-to-master tank game you’re looking for, steer well clear of World of Tanks. This free-to-play titan offers fast and frantic gameplay with some realistic elements thrown in for good measure. The result? A game that’s ideal for casual gamers looking for an in-road to more tanking action and yet one with enough depth and progression to keep gamers invested well into the later tiers of unlockable tanks.
Perhaps World of Tanks’ greatest strength is its roster of well over 250 armoured vehicles, ranging from scout vehicles to battlefield behemoths. Better still, with the game featuring vehicles from France, Great Britain, Japan, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Soviet Russia, the United States and China, there’s heaps of variation in what you’ll be battling alongside and squaring up to in World of Tanks.
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The top tanking continues below, but you can see some of our picks right here in a lovely video we made:
While the tags of ‘MMO’, ‘free-to-play’ and ‘tank’ apply to Armored Warfare as well they do to World of Tanks, a number of key differences enure both are worth the time of a tank game veteran. Transporting World of Tanks’ remarkably approachable gameplay to the more modern era, Armoured Warfare provides tankers with more equipment, newer tanks and a selection of versatile tank tech that adds a great deal more variation gameplay.
Additionally, Armored Warfare brings PVE to the fold, allowing you to team up with friends to take on AI enemies, progressing through the ranks of tanks without constantly losing out to highly skilled foes in PVP.
Steel Armor: Blaze of War
What’s more fun than blowing stuff up and driving through buildings? Carefully micromanaging its crew and innards to the point where you forget you’re actually in a tank and instead begin to believe you’re a machinist in a factory… obviously.
Steel Armor: Blaze of War offers up new pastures where tank games are concerned, looking to the battlefields of the 1980s Iran-Iraq conflicts. Tank enthusiasts will adore the rampant attention to detail - there are only two tanks in the game, but both are rendered to staggering detail, inside and out. Despite being fiddly and at times inaccessible, Steel Armor’s dry ardour for military hardware makes it a must-play for tank game veterans.
Panzer Elite Action: Gold Edition
Bundling two classic Panzer titles into one Steam release, Panzer Elite Action: Gold Edition is hours upon hours upon hours of driving tanks around World War II battlefields and blowing stuff up - and that’s exactly what we need sometimes. Incredibly user friendly, but full of engaging mechanics and unlockables, Panzer Elite Action is all about surviving one of the game’s famous historical campaigns to fight another day.
Playing on either the Allied or Axis side in a variety of famous conflicts, Panzer Elite Action gives you control of four-to-five tanks and sets you on your merry way blowing stuff up and cowering behind hedgerows for some semblance of cover. While it lacks the realism of its originator, Panzer Elite, the need to look after your crew and upgrade your equipment makes for a compelling experience from start to finish.
170 miles of pristine military sandbox await players heading into ARMA 3 - it’s a massive open-world that lends your tanking an overwhelming sense of scale. Gone are the days of distressing close-quarters encounters in bombed-out cities, ARMA 3 hands players a new source of anxiety in the form of having to constantly scan the horizons for new threats. Buildings and natural cover are scarce, meaning that survival, and indeed victory, rely upon being able to identify and destroy the enemy before they even know you’re there.
While not strictly a tank game, ARMA 3 possesses an incredible level of realism that brings the concept of modern tank warfare to life. Playing as the armoured arm of a massive army is what ARMA 3 does best: aiding ground assaults, hunting down enemy tanks and wreaking havoc on strongholds.
Tank games featuring things that aren't tanks
Careful positioning is key to surviving in most tank games. Battlefield 4’s tanks hate careful positioning. Battlefield 4’s tanks like going really fast, blowing helicopters out of the sky and making little ground people run away and cower behind buildings. Battlefield 4’s tanks are ridiculous.
Rampaging around the map causing untold damage and ruining the carefully laid plans of your fellow soldiers is the order of business in Battlefield 4. This is tank gameplay at its most empowering, allowing players to become Death on tracks and leave any veneer of tactics or strategy behind them as they romp around the map exchanging shells for XP.
Heroes & Generals
Forget the strategy-based metagame that accompanies Heroes & Generals’ engrossing ground battles and you’ve still got a hectic combined forces war game in which tanks play a vital role. Include the metagame and Heroes & Generals is the complete tanker’s package, offering everything from resource management to explosive first-person combat.
There are few tank management features to pay constant attention to in Heroes & Generals, which means the focus is strictly on wreaking havoc. The combined forces element of Heroes & Generals lends your role as a tank commander some genuine potency on the battlefield, where your actions can make the difference for your fellow teammates, whether on the ground or in the air.
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
Tanks aren’t the focus of this realism-heavy Eastern Front shooter, but the way they seamlessly fit into its mud-and-guts gameplay make for some of the finest tanking moments around.
Red Orchestra 2 utilises a similar ballistics and armour penetration mechanic as War Thunder, ensuring that every encounter between two tanks is an adrenaline-fuelled duel where knowledge and precision triumph over brute force. Moreover, there’s the constant threat of anti-tank troops to consider in this punishing multiplayer FPS.
Tank strategy games
Company of Heroes 2
Transporting the brilliantly refined RTS gameplay of the first game to the Eastern Front, Company of Heroes 2 is all about tactical ingenuity and making the best use of your tanks. Cover, line-of-sight and suppression are the keys to success in Company of Heroes 2, meaning you’ll have to direct your resources using genuine battlefield tactics if you want to repel the Axis threat.
Packing a devastating punch and able to turn the tide of any battle, the tanks of Company of Heroes 2 are a joy to send guns blazing towards enemy infantry units and watch as the casualties mount up. Like all good tank games, Company of Heroes 2 acknowledges the vulnerabilities of a tank, punishing players who send their armoured units into the fray without due caution.
Panzer Corps is old school turn-based strategy gaming at its absolute finest. Putting you in the boots of a Wehrmacht general, it’s your job to oversee and manage operations across 26 grueling Axis campaigns.
Ignoring the fact that you’re fighting for the bad guys, the focus of Panzer Corps is firmly on leading your units to victory. There are over 800 unit types spread among 20 unit classes, which results in an endless array of attacking options for both sides. If that isn’t convoluted enough, every unit has roughly 20 parameters by which its strengths and weaknesses are judged - it’s all a battlefield-mathematician could possibly ask for in a tank strategy game.
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