Looking for the best tower defense games on PC? For a time, the humble tower defense was one of the most popular genres out there. They may appear to be simple strategy games for more casual players, but fans would call them accessible tactical titles that require sharp reflexes, a sharper mind, and quick improvisation. The approachability of tower defense games stems from how deceptively straightforward they are – at least to begin with.
A horde of enemies comes from specific directions across a small arena, and the player has to improvise a set of appropriate defenses – using scant resources – to deal with them. Enemies become tougher and more numerous as the game progresses, but the player gets access to better equipment to deal with them too. While the genre often veers towards smartphone and tablet gaming, there are still many fantastic tower defense games on PC right now, with many of them actually being free PC games. Here’s the best of the best.
The best tower defense games on PC for 2022 are:
- Kingdom Rush Vengeance
- Plants Vs Zombies
- Defense Grid: The Awakening
- Sanctum 2
- Bloons TD 6
- Dungeon Defenders
- Kingdom Two Crowns
- Anomaly Warzone Earth
- Orcs Must Die! 3
- Iron Brigade
- Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder
Kingdom Rush Vengeance
Ironhide Studios has spent the last decade perfecting a line of fantasy-fuelled tower defense games known as Kingdom Rush. From the original Kingdom Rush game back in 2014 through to the most recent entry Vengeance, which takes place from the perspective of the series’ antagonist, Kingdom Rush is a house name in the world of tower defense. There’s even a board game spin-off.
Kingdom Rush has all of the genre staples, such as towers and the need to defend yourself from waves of relentless enemies. There are also heroes you can deploy with powerful abilities of their own, and plenty of other fun twists. Tower defense fans should definitely check this one out if they haven’t already – it’s on mobile, too.
Plants vs Zombies
For many, Plants vs Zombies is the ultimate game, period. Even by tower defense standards, it’s simple – there’s no long path to defend, the zombies come from the right, and the player defends the left. If a zombie makes it all the way left in a lane, there’s one do-over available in the form of a lawnmower.
Nevertheless, Plants vs Zombies is a perfect cycle of addiction. Every level offers something new to keep you hooked – more challenging zombies are gradually introduced, numerous minigames break up the gameplay, and new plants become available to play with. Combined with the appealing visuals and aggressively fun sound design, it’s easy to see how Plants vs Zombies became a phenomenon – a shame that subsequent Plants vs Zombies games have either been mobile-only or online shooters.
Defense Grid: The Awakening
Defense Grid: The Awakening is straightforward perfection – and unlike many games on this list, you’re actually using towers as a defence. Stop aliens from stealing power cores from a charmingly British AI companion, and kill them if they try to escape. Defeating aliens nets the resources to buy or upgrade the various types of towers, and there are the usual death mazes the player can put together.
Defense Grid is a pure, addictive tower defense delight – and if that’s not enough, there are DLC tie-ins with Borderlands and Portal, too. Defense Grid 2, however, is a little overcomplicated – we’ll stick to the original.
From the studio behind Satisfactory and, er, Goat Simulator, Sanctum 2 is a unique tower defense game because it also doubles as an FPS game. If you just play the first few seconds, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve bought a Borderlands-style co-op shooter – until you hit the arena and have to put up walls, turrets, tesla coils, and other defences to stop the alien hordes from taking out your power cores.
All you really need to know is that you can create death mazes in up to four-player co-op. Sanctum 2 is one to throw at anyone who says that tower defense games aren’t exciting.
Bloons TD 6
Anyone who’s dismissed the Bloons series for appearing childish, basic, or highly microtransaction-y should think again, since Bloons TD 6 is nothing less than the highest-rated tower defense game on Steam. The games are deliberately cartoony by nature – you place monkeys with special powers around a map to protect it from malevolent balloons.
The gameplay focuses on characters rather than structures, who can be upgraded, leveled up, and given better equipment. There’s an almost XCOM-level of squad management here, which elevates Bloons TD 6 to a whole new plane of addiction.
Dungeon Defenders is part MOBA, part action RPG, all tower defense. You must defend the fantasy land of Etheria against the hordes of orcs, goblins, etc – your typical RPG fare — by creating a character from several classes, equipping the right gear, upgrading abilities, and heading out to battle.
From here, players are thrown into a small arena where enemies attack in waves from specific directions. Each class has its own defences to place, which can be repaired, sold, or upgraded, but they can’t do all the work —the player has to get stuck in too.
Kingdom Two Crowns
This stretches the definition of tower defense to a certain degree, but we’re assuming you’re here because you want more awesome TD games to play. If you like what’s on the rest of this list, you’ll like Kingdom: Two Crowns. This is a side-scrolling strategy game where you play as a mounted monarch tasked with rebuilding a kingdom under constant threat from the Greed, who will attack your settlement in waves of ever increasing difficulty.
To survive, you will need to collect tithes from your population and invest the money into defenses – walls and towers for the most part – but also weapons. You don’t control anyone other than the ruler directly. Everyone else will go about their business automatically depending on their role, but certain actions will incentivise certain behaviour. Builders will build what you tell them to, but they can also chop down trees for more money. Eventually, you can upgrade your economy to rely less on hunting and more on farming. All the while, Greed will keep attacking your walls to try and destroy your home.
Two Crowns is the current iteration of Kingdom and involves a sprawling campaign that lets you travel from island to island exploring the wilderness for powerful secrets, new mounts, and a way to destroy Greed for good. It also comes with co-op – online or local split-screen.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a complete reversal of the tower defense genre – the player instead controls the units they’re trying to sneak past the defences in order to attack. It’s tower offence.
After plotting a course through an alien-controlled hellscape, players must keep their limited units healthy, upgrading them wherever possible, to make it to the objective while attacking the various tower defenses along the way. It’s not the longest game on this list, but it’s an innovative and fun spin on the genre.
Orcs Must Die! 3
The Orcs Must Die! series mixes third-person shooter, melee, and magic combat with fantasy-based tower defense, requiring players to mix strategy with skill – you can’t rely on just your weapons or the Dungeon Keeper-style traps to defeat the Orc hordes.
The third game in the series was exclusive to Google Stadia, but has luckily since launched on Steam. Orcs Must Die! 3 is a welcome addition to the franchise, introducing a story mode that takes place 20 years after Orcs Must Die! 2, and War Scenarios, a new mode that lets players fight against the largest orc armies ever assembled.
From Psychonauts developer Double Fine comes this underrated third-person mech combat/tower defense mash-up. In the aftermath of WW1, a crazed scientist tries to take over the world with his army of killer televisions, but luckily the chaps of the mobile trench division are here to save the day.
The player gets a fully-armed mech, which is fun, but they’ll also need to set up defences to counter the Tube onslaught. The unique gameplay, co-op, and Double Fine’s signature snappy wit make Iron Brigade well worth a visit.
Bardbarian features a barbarian named Brad who hung up his axe to play guitar instead. By playing sick tunes, Brad can call several fighters to follow him, who attack enemies when they get close. It’s a tower defense game where the defences accompany the player around the battlefield.
The player doesn’t attack at all – although they can be killed – you simply lead troops, boost them with guitar riffs, and collect gold for upgrades, which include new unit types, more effective boosts, and a town drunk who vomits in the enemy’s path. The usual stuff.
Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder
The Rock Of Ages series is an intriguing mix of tower defense, Super Monkey Ball, and animated bits of Monty Python. Each level features a downhill course with a base at the end that the player has to protect with various wacky defences. At the same time, the player’s opponent – human or AI – is doing the same thing.
When either is ready, they can control a rolling boulder and attempt to smash through those defences and crash into the enemy base. Rock Of Ages 2 is probably the best in the series, as the more recent third game leaned a little too hard into the difficulty and lost much of the fun.
If these tower defense games somehow don’t satisfy your needs, try our list of the best multiplayer games as well, and try something a bit more cooperative. Tower defense games are easily some of the best PC games for those who enjoy a more hands-off approach to their chaos, and this list has them all.