What are the best political games? There’s an addictive quality to political simulation games that’s unlike the rush you get from shooters or RPGs, although the escapism is no less real. Whether you’re setting economic and trade policies, standing strong on the international stage, or leading a nation through war or some other crisis, it can be easy to say you can do better than the real politicians. In some cases, that’s absolutely true, but what about those unforeseen circumstances?
Both RTS games and war games have a political edge to them for certain, but it’s not all just about how you demonstrate your power through armed conflict. Sometimes, you need to flex your diplomatic muscles to solve the world’s more pressing problems, like having enough to eat, building enough infrastructure, or balancing emission levels to reduce their environmental impact. Here are some of the best games on PC in a genre that attempts to model every facet of what goes into running a nation.
Here are the best political games on PC in 2024:
One of the poster children for political games, the Democracy series views government simulations through the lens of policy and popular opinion. You play as the primary head of state for a country and can set whatever policies and laws to test your political ideas. The only goal of Democracy 4 is to get re-elected, but it’s a game that, by design, is supposed to be without inherent bias.
The digital population you rule dynamically and randomly reacts to your policies, giving you the pushback you need to simulate the careful negotiation and compromise between political ideals and the voting population. It’s such an intricate simulation that national newspapers in the UK have used it several times to test the manifestos of political parties in the run-up to elections. While it doesn’t have all the management capabilities of more old-school simulation games, this is the most authentic ‘political game’ you’ll ever play.
Most political games are grounded in the real world, with historical tensions of the 20th century being represented. However, Suzerain takes a different approach in that it’s an entirely fictional world with a vastly unique set of circumstances, yet its setting parallels our own past.
Similar concepts such as encouraging religious diversity, managing the global domestic product (GDP), and international diplomacy are just some of the many day-to-day issues you must address as the president of the fictional country of Sordland. As you navigate the political landscape, you must also acknowledge the past, such as a civil war and a recent economic crisis, that are fresh in the public’s mind. It’s a delicate tightrope to walk; one slip-up could mean your political downfall.
A precursor to games like Power & Revolution and similar series like RealPolitiks II, the SuperPower series started in 2002, with the better-known sequel launching in 2004. SuperPower 2 would eventually get a Steam release ten years later in 2014.
SuperPower 2 is an old-school simulation game with a meaty, information-heavy UI and the entire ruling infrastructure of any one of 140 playable nations. The game has had a robust mod scene, keeping it alive for all these years.
Supreme Ruler: Ultimate
Supreme Ruler, as a series, has skewed more towards the war game side of the simulation spectrum because most of them tend to focus on specific conflicts such as WW2 or WW1.
Supreme Ruler: Ultimate is an attempt to marry all of the games together into one – starting just before The Great War, you can lead a single nation through global conflicts, The Cold War, and then into modern times and the near future. There are specific historical scenarios you can play through as well. While military and fighting mechanics are key to this series, robust political management aspects can rival other more dedicated games on this list, as you need to run the country as a whole, no matter what’s going on.
Rebel Inc: Escalation
We’re taking a break from more global-facing political simulations for a more localized game that you should try if you’re looking for a well-researched take on the War on Terror. You’re in charge of a fictional region inspired by Afghanistan, tasked with trying to rebuild after a devastating conflict. This involves managing civilian matters to bring prosperity and fighting off insurgents who oppose you.
On the face of it, this could be mistaken for a simple real-time tactical war game, but plenty of tools are available to you that don’t just involve fighting. You’ve got to make the best use of international aid and funding to build infrastructure and amenities, educate the populace, and eventually train replacement forces to take over so your initial NATO troops can be sent home.
Strictly speaking, there’s no direct government simulation in Rebel Inc, but you do engage in local politics and enact policies that help the local authorities rebuild. Ndemic has put a lot of time and effort into making this a sensitive, authentic experience.
This is the digital adaptation of one of the most fascinating Cold War board games. In a nail-biting two-player experience, one person represents America, while the other represents Soviet Russia. It’s a card-driven game where victory points decide the final winner, but given that you have most of the world to play with, you must pick your strategy carefully.
Again, there’s no government simulation here, but Twilight Struggle is a political strategy game aimed at trying to recreate the subtle yet meaningful ideological posturing that dominated the Cold War period until the Soviet Union’s collapse. Wars are present in a very abstract sense – mainly via the cards as flavor text – but the main goal is to have more influence in a country than your opponent and, through that, the most influence in a region, making sure you score at the opportune moment.
Yes, Your Grace
Not all political games are set in modern times, and perhaps the best of these is Yes, Your Grace. It warns you from the start that it’s “impossible to satisfy the needs of every petitioner” and that your subjects may have alternative motives behind their requests. The idea is to simply have enough resources at the end of every week as you build your kingdom.
The citizens of Davern often have requests to consider, especially since a year later, your people will be under siege. Our Yes, Your Grace review highlights that your decisions don’t just impact the kingdom as a whole but also your immediate family and that’s a compelling layer that’s not often explored in games like this. Yes, Your Grace has many layers that make it an engaging experience, and we’re looking forward to the sequel coming at some point this year.
It’s just as much a city building game as a political game, but Tropico holds a special place in our hearts because it brought a humorous, slightly dystopian twist to the nation-building formula. You are the newly appointed dictator of a banana republic and must take it from an ex-colonial outpost to a thriving paradise, either through exports, tourism, or both!
While more recent entries like Tropico 6 are also pretty good, Tropico 4 sticks with us specifically as it touched on some fascinating political dynamics in a way the previous games hadn’t. While you couldn’t control your government in fine detail like many of the other games above, you could enact specific policies and a large part of this was dedicated to international relations. You could even set superpowers against each other in competing for your influence, although if you took things too far, one of them was likely just to invade and overthrow you.
So, if you are thinking about standing for government in the virtual world of political games and wonder who our vote goes to, those are the best political games you can try right now. If politics seems a bit too serious for your liking, we’ve got some of the other best simulation games and management games that might scratch that itch for control and power.