Which war games are worth your time? It’s a tricky question to answer since war is sort of the default here in the world of PC gaming. It never changes, whether you’re re-fighting WW2 or blowing planes out of the sky with bazookas in Battlefield. PC games are, as DC Comics eloquently once put, in a state of Infinite Crisis and it’s not like we’re spoiled for choice, even if you want to focus on just the ‘best’.
Nevertheless, we’ve chosen some highlights from quality war games on PC for your persual, from calmer free-to-play options, to serious strategy games that cover some of history’s most serious conflicts. This means a range of genres and game types, so hopefully they’ll be something here for everyone below.
This is a living list where we try to keep things fresh by rotating games in and out, so make sure you check back reguarly. We also stick the free-to-play options up top by default, so if you’re looking for something else you’ll need to scroll down a bit. Check out our sister website Wargamer for plenty more dedicated coverage from the world of war games.
War games on PC
The best war games are:
- War Thunder
- World of Tanks
- World of Warships
- Panzer Corps 2
- Hearts of Iron IV
- Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
- Valiant Hearts: The Great War
- This War of Mine
- Battlefield 5
- Unity of Command 2
- Arma 3
- Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault
After seven years of continual updates and improvements, there are few multiplayer war games as complete as War Thunder. Whether you prefer aerial dogfights, tank combat, or naval battles, War Thunder is essentially three simulation games rolled into one. So you really don’t have to choose – recent updates have even added helicopters and modern military vehicles to the mix.
Whichever battlefield you elect to play on, War Thunder’s realistic ballistics modeling and attention detail promise as authentic an experience as you could want. Every vehicle has been painstakingly modeled, inside and out, so every shot yields a different result based on factors like range, shell type, the angle of the enemy tank’s armour, its thickness, where the crew are located within the enemy tank, and much more.
That damage modelling is consistent across the whole game, so whether you’re strafing the canopy of an enemy fighter plane or lining up the perfect torpedo strike you’ll need to do plenty of quick maths before pulling the trigger.
Enlisted is a multiplayer shooter set in World War Two, and at its core is a clever, innovative idea that just might revolutionise the genre. You are the commander of an infantry squad, composed of soldiers with specialised roles. You can give orders to AI teammates, but you can also swap bodies with them at any time.
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Fancy calling down an artillery bombardment on an enemy trench? Swap into your radio operator. Does that guy with the flamethrower look like he’s having more fun than you? Take over and light ’em up. In Enlisted you can always go wherever the action is, and you can use any of the toys your squad has brought with them.
Rather than dying and respawning as an individual, your squad only respawns once it has lost every soldier. This encourages you to work as a unit, covering each other and bringing the correct specialists for each engagement in order to stay alive and maintain your strength. But if you do die, you needn’t worry about waiting ages to respawn – you can simply jump into another soldier.
World of Tanks
Tanks play a pretty significant role in modern warfare, so much so that Wargaming has given the mechanical miscreants their very own multiplayer game. World of Tanks has been going for roughly a decade now and in that time the roster of classic tanks has ballooned to over 400, and even includes some armoured vehicles and other WW2 curios.
Related: The best tank games on PC
Those 400+ vehicles all boast unique stats and qualities that you’ll get to know over hundreds of hours of tank vs. tank deathmatch, where you’ll constantly be earning progress to the next shiny metal death machine on your chosen upgrade path. With seasonal events, a ceaseless flow of new hardware to unlock, and plenty of background changes to ensure the game feels fresh.
World of Warships
If tanks get their very own world than it’s only right that warships get the same treatment. World of Warships mirrors its tanky counterpart in terms of its progression mechanics, but the transition from war-torn cities to open waters creates a very different type of gameplay. Torpedoes and cannon barrages travel for seconds at a time before striking their target, creating a fascinating battle of feints and dodges. With very little cover to rely on, warship commanders need to become comfortable blasting from range and reading enemy shots.
Like World of Tanks, Warships is also subject to an unending tide of new ships, gameplay tweaks, and seasonal events that stave off any sense of stagnation. Plus it could soon be among the best submarine games as Wargaming has confirmed they’re working on bringing subs to the game.
PANZER CORPS 2
Panzer Corps 2 is the long-awaited sequel to classic war game Panzer Corps. After nine years in development, this new burst through our defences and overwhelmed us with over 1,000 unit types, 61 single-player scenarios, and a random map generator for both solo and online play.
If that’s not enough, there is also 4K support, custom camouflages and insignia for units, and dozens of map skins for various locations, seasons, and weather. It’s already getting a healty injection of DLC expansions as well, covering each year of WW2 in granular detail and offering scenarios that arn’t always covered in other games set during this period. For information and for an expert Panzer Corps 2 review, check out our sister site Wargamer.
Hearts of Iron IV
Where-as Panzer Corps 2 offers a lot of depth and detail, focusing on indivdual battles and theatres, Paradox Interactive’sWW2 grand strategy game Hearts of Iron IV provides more of a sandbox approach. It provides you with the tools, the actors, and a breadth of potential options both historical and a-historical, and lets you go bannanas.
You won’t be fighting the Second World War, but you will be fighting a second world war, the nature of which changes with each play through. The game is five years old at this point, and it’s been supported by a division’s worth of DLC expansions, plenty of amazing mods, and is still working towards new content as we speak.
People who want something with more historical accuracy may want to look elsewhere, but if you’re just looking for a massive toy box to throw armies around in, there’s few better. On top of that, you don’t have to worry too much about the minutae if you don’t want to.
BROTHERS IN ARMS: ROAD TO HILL 30
Authenticity is a questionable ask for all the best war games – how can any immaculately recreated battlefield capture the experience of living through its horrors? The first Brothers in Arms made a great go of it, telling the true story of a parachute infantry regiment in the United States’ 101st Airborne Division, dropped behind enemy lines on D-Day.
Levels were designed around historical reconnaissance photographs taken in ‘40s Normandy, and research included both interviews with veterans and classroom lessons on combat tactics. The result remains the closest thing we have to an interactive Band of Brothers, and that most rare of things – a respectful shooter and one of the best WW2 games.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
By the time a game’s given you a gun and sent you on your way, you’ve already been encouraged to start thinking in kill counts – to take on the opposing role in whatever in which you are involved. Valiant Hearts is different to most war games: a procession of gentle puzzles and occasional rhythm action that simply has you witness the Great War as it ravages France.
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It is to Rayman’s Ubisoft Montpellier’s credit that Valiant Hearts doesn’t do the usual and try to capture the reality of combat – instead opting for cartoon abstraction. But don’t think it holds back on the harrowing detail due to its art style, as its environments are filled with snippets of shiver-inducing real-world history.
The principal characters in this sometimes heartbreaking adventure game are, without exception, just trying to find their way back to each other. Torn apart by the most widespread war ever fought, borders and battle lines are irrelevant to these soldiers and civvies, yet they are shook by them to a distressing degree.
This War of Mine
In war, not everyone is a soldier. That is the tagline of This War of Mine- a game based loosely on the experiences of the citizens of Sarajevo, who lived under siege for 1,425 days during the Bosnian War.
Practically speaking, that means you’re presented with a cross-section of charcoal-coloured buildings and an unflinching view of the people eking out an existence within. Sampling elements of survival games, you manage their lives, directing them to craft and trade during the day, and then – once the snipers are gone – sending them out to scavenge for food and medicine at night. Think of it as the war games equivalent of Fallout Shelter, but with less busy work and much more to say – as we found in our This War of Mine review.
There is no way for you to win this war or to contribute to it. Your role is simply to keep going, and somehow reconcile your needs with your conscience. This War of Mine isn’t fun, per se, but its uneasy brilliance makes it one of the most important videogames to confront war and has paved the way for Call of Duty: WW2 and Battlefield 1’s more thoughtful breed of war games in the process.
EA had its work cut out when it came to surpassing the seriousness of Battlefield 1’s Great War setting. Few war games have depicted the horror of that conflict as well as Battlefield 1 did, placing you in the boots of a series of young men as they each meet their untimely demise in a desperate last stand against against the Imperial German Army.
Battlefield V continues this sombre tone as you (once again) gear up for the killing fields of World War 2. Each of Battlefield 5’s War Stories are single-player vignettes intended to “create feelings of despair”. With each death your character’s name, birth date, and death date loom out to remind you that this war game is about more than just entertainment.
When it comes to gameplay, however, Battlefield V rivals the best FPS games on PC. Weapons feels refreshingly janky compared to the futuristic fare of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, offering up a satisfying rattle and kick with every shot you fire. The battlefields themselves change constantly throughout a match as destructible buildings are torn apart, showering players with rubble… it’s only natural that resident hardware nut Dave James chose Battlefield 5 as his personal game of the year for 2018.
Will Battlefield 5 be toppled by its newer sibling, Battlefield 2042? While Call of Duty is returning to WW2, Battlefield is looking forward once more to the modern-day setting of Battlefield 3 and 4, and we can’t wait to find out how it plays in comparison to its predecessors.
Unity of Command 2
Unity of Command 2 is a turn-based war game set primarily on the western front of World War II, although a recent expansion has offered a new campaign that focuses on the eastern front, which was the setting of the first game. It’s one of the brightest lights in the genre’s recent renaissance, and while the original game was good, this surpasses it in almost every way, adding a new campaign layer with off-map support options.
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Unity of Command 2 is one of the best war games thanks to its merciless focus on your ability to manage supplies across distance, as well as deploying the forces available to you in the best possible fashion. Winning is about reading the map and planning bold, decisive campaigns that will keep your army rolling, despite perilously long supply lines and the constant threat of being cut-off.
It’s a great introduction to the sub-genre of operational war games, and a welcome change of perspective for those of us wondering what really makes a war run. If they can’t be fed or equipped, it doesn’t matter how well a soldier is shooting. Check out Wargamer’s Unity of Command 2 review for more details.
There is but one name in hardcore conflict simulation, and that’s Arma 3. Ok, there’s also Squad, and I think a new one is coming out as well… but anyway, Arma has been doing it the longest, and is arguably the most mature war game on the market.
This isn’t your run-and-gun shooter, nor is it the flashy, dramatic skirmishes of Battlefield – it’s a serious simulation of modern military conflict, and tries to instil a sense of hyper-realism that you won’t find in many shooters. Sometimes the most sobering thing you can do to drive home the vulnerability of battle in war games is to strip away everything we’re used to in a shooter – regenerating armour, piles of hit points, copious cover – and show how quickly we’d really last under fire.
Arma 3 has been out a long time by this point, and has a wealth of DLC options for you to explore, from new vehciles, locations, even a single-player scenario DLC featuring… aliens? If you’re looking to challenge yourself, Arma is a great place to do it.
Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault
This one features on both our best RTS games list and our overall best strategy games list, simply for being the best up-to-date Company of Heroes experience available right now. Sure, the original Company of Heroes will forever remain in the hall of fame, but it’s getting on a bit now and we prefer to keep things fresh.
Ardennes Assault is an expansion to Company of Heroes 2, and builds upon all of the improvements thrown at the base game (which had a bit of a rocky start), offering a new campaign that not only brought back fan-favourite American forces, but also a dnyamic campaign layer that gave it a very replayable feel. You are in charge of three companys during the 1944 Ardennes campaign, and must hold back the German counter-offensive, capturing and holding key towns and regions.
Pretty much the only thing that might topple this incredibly satisying strategy war game is Company of Heroes 3, the full-fledged sequel that’s coming sometime next year. While the tactical RTS combat remains as good as ever, Relic is going on all in by adding a Total War-style campaign layer like nothing the series has seen before.
Conflict is a huge part of games, and there as many ways of exploring it as there are games in the genre. So from thoughtful explorations of violence to intense firefights, the PC really does have it all.
Additional words by Joe Robinson.