The Best Strategy War Games for PC

The Best Strategy War Games for PC
War games plunge us into the chaos of the battlefield with limited weapons and one overriding task: survive!

 

Earn Your Stripes and Prove Your Superiority in These Strategy War Games

So, what do you look for in a strategy war game? Maybe you’re looking to wade through the pages of history and relive the great wars of the past. Or maybe you’re looking to immerse yourself in an imaginative, futuristic world of interstellar travel and alien invasions. Perhaps you’re more the type to want to see odd creatures and magical powers included in the equation.

Whatever the case, there’s a lot to consider, isn’t there? You’ll want a gripping, comprehensive campaign. Huge armies full of a variety of unit types. Cool, destructive weaponry that you can really look forward to adding to your arsenal. A realistic and intuitive battle system. A vast and interactive environment. Lots and lots of vehicles. A robust AI to actually work the old brain cells. Oh, and explosions. Huge explosions. (Of course, games set in the distant past would have to provide the proper alternatives to some of these.)

I think we can agree at this point that any strategy war game that manages to combine these elements and actually gets us feeling as if we really are darting across a battlefield with explosions and mortal peril all around us would be worthy of our continued attention. And having said all that, shall we take a look at some strategy war games that fit the bill? Sound good? Awesome.

Then, without further ado, we give you the best strategy war games for PC.

Military Strategy War Games

7. Steel Division: Normandy 44

Steel Division: Normandy 44 - “Briefing” Pre-Order Trailer

Real-time strategy meets the intensity of all-out war in a fresh way, thanks to Steel Division: Normandy 44 by Eugen Systems. Once again, you’re on the battlefields of WWII—this time you’re specifically limited to the “Hedgegrow Hell” of Normandy. The game manages to combine all the fun and excitement of an RTS with all the detail and historical accuracy you’d expect from a game that aims to seriously tackle a world war.

A staggering variety of units and vehicles means that Steel Division: Normandy 44 is a tactical powerhouse where you can and will get punished (horribly) for failing to take your role as General seriously enough—or if you’re just not cut out for that job. The units also interact in very unique and realistic ways. For instance, units caught in the midst of heavy fire or explosions will get pinned down and won’t take any orders. Vehicles facing particularly daunting opposition might eventually turn tail and flee. Translation: your units are susceptible to stress like any real-world soldier would be. That’s right—even the little guys in your “unassailable” tanks. Say goodbye to all your plans of simply fielding certain types of units and sweeping the map away in your unstoppable onset. Strategy is all-important here!

A glimpse of the beautifully rendered map of Normandy.

The game’s wide selection of weaponry and war vehicles can prove a little daunting for newcomers.

6. Men of War: Assault Squad 2

Men of War: Assault Squad 2 trailer

Continuing with the gaming world’s fascination with World War 2, we come across Men of War: Assault Squad 2, one hell of a war game. Seriously. Here we have a deep, intense real-time tactics/strategy game taking place across several key locations of WWII and chock full of some pretty neat features. Five distinct armies, each of which comes with their own extensive campaigns. Vehicles and weapons galore. Camouflage capabilities accurately based on the seasons. Melee combat. Fully destructible environments. Simply amazing graphics. Sensible rendering of armour penetration mechanics. And a steep learning curve!

If anything, this game certainly gets the point across that war is not all fun and games. Mercy is not something to be expected. You’ll go down, and go down fast, if you don’t know what you’re doing. And much of what you should be doing, you’ll have to learn on your own. Explaining stuff in the heat of battle just isn’t one of Assault Squad 2’s fortes.

That aside, Men of War: Assault Squad 2 is truly a great RTS game. The game lends itself to some serious tactical manoeuvring thanks to the ways in which you can interact with your units. Go right ahead and let your imagination run wild with strategies. Split your forces to distract and then flank the enemy. Place mines to leave foes a nasty surprize. Coordinate devastating airstrikes. Send your entire army belly-crawling to avoid being spotted. Dig trenches. Launch flashy head-on attacks or go for covert sniping missions instead. Just remember one little thing. Every single unit has its personal inventory and the game keeps track of that. Don’t run out of weapons or ammo—war doesn’t look kindly upon that sort of thing!

Wage war across a beautifully rendered and open world.

Support your infantry units with a vast array of vehicles.

5. Blitzkrieg 2 and 3

Blitzkrieg 2 trailer

Blitzkrieg 3 trailer

Nival Interactive’s Blitzkrieg as a series has been quite successful in the arena of RTS games, and for good reason. Consistently good simulation of war, tactics and strategy is what the series has become known for. And if you thought its name was a reference to Germany’s famed Blitzkrieg manoeuvre from WWII, you were right. Blitzkrieg as a whole deals with the second World War and all the terror that it brought with it.

Here, you’ll find you’re free to experience the war from the perspective of the Axis, the Allies or the USSR. Gather your armies, storm your enemies’ strongholds and steamroll over everything with a near unstoppable force of army tanks in Blitzkrieg 2. Play against countless online combatants in the massively multiplayer Blitzkrieg 3. Or, if you’re not an aggressive PvP gamer, take on the AI in the form of “General Boris” whom Nival Interactive is promoting as the world’s first ever true neural network AI. Boris is designed to react to the events of the game in real time (like playing against another human), not by choosing strategies based on pre-programmed variables like we’re used to in other games. That, at least, is far more intriguing than the usual.

To be sure, neither game sticks to the story of World War II particularly well, but that’s completely secondary to the fact that they’re loads of fun. The campaigns are engaging and the games offer much in the way of versatility and just pure, strategizing enjoyment. Definitely worth checking out!

Dropping in on a battlefield in Blitzkrieg 2. Geronimooooooooooo…!

Blitzkrieg 3 features fully 3-D rendering, something that sets it apart from its predecessors.

4. Wargame: Red Dragon

Wargame: Red Dragon trailer

Ah, Wargame: Red Dragon… Where to start? Do I kick things off with the 21 nations and 1,700 units in the game that span from 1944 to 1994? Do I mention the plethora of vehicles for land, sea and air? Or do I go with the incredible sights and sounds that characterize the game?

Wargame: Red Dragon by Eugen Systems is a monster of an RTS that combines some of the best elements of the genre. The game is a true spectacle—it’s pure awesomeness just to watch the action unfold. But don’t get caught sightseeing! You can’t shift your thoughts from the overarching battle for an instant without paying for it in blood. With so many strategic variables to consider, things can go wrong fast, and one tiny mistake can be enough to plunge you into the depths of a crushing defeat. That’s not to say that the game is brutal or unfair; just that strategy, awareness, army composition and planning are all-important. This is war, after all.

The biggest armies won’t help you here unless there’s some real depth and variety to your troops. Every unit is designed specifically to kill another type. That can spell disaster since what was meant to be a battle can swiftly devolve into a massacre all because you or your opponent lacked the foresight (or the luck) to take some different units and vehicles to the field. At the end of it all, whether you fight on land, sea or air, this will be no simple affair. The winner is the general who thinks just that one step ahead.

In Wargame: Red Dragon, you can take to the field with hundreds of heavy artillery and vehicles.

Great graphics makes the experience of waging war a truly spectacular one.

3. Order of Battle: World War II 

Order of Battle: World War II trailer

Order of Battle: World War II is yet another turn-based strategy war game that covers WWII. Take part in battles that will have you exploring places like China, Japan and the North Atlantic. Order of Battle World War II used to be Order of Battle: Pacific. However, the developers, Slitherine, opted for a reboot, stripping the game of its original campaigns, adding more, and making these all available as downloadable content (DLC). The end result is that you have the freedom to access precisely and only the war stories you want to play, which is a bit different from your typical DLC setup.

In Order of Battle: World War II you can compose armies using the over 1000 unique units (each with unique abilities and class-specific advantages) and put together ground units, fleets and air forces that make use of and benefit from the tactics and technologies historically used by their respective factions in the War. You’ll also unlock Commanders as you play the game, and these will serve to make the game even more challenging, as the Commanders each have their benefits and drawbacks. Those benefits or drawbacks can make all the difference in a skirmish.  

One of the game’s most notable features is that it deals with battles that are of great historical significance, but which do not usually get represented in your average war game. For instance, the Morning Sun DLC is a campaign about the Japanese invasion of China, something you likely haven’t encountered before in a war game. Also, be careful not to let your units get cut off from their supplies by the enemy, or they will suffer. In this game you’ll have to worry as much about your food and ammunition as your actual enemies.

The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

You’ll need to put a lot of thought into the composition of your army.

2. Hearts of Iron 4 

Hearts of Iron 4 trailer

Make your own history! That’s what Paradox Interactive’s Hearts of Iron 4 encourages you to do. And why not? If the controller is in your hands, why should you need to conform to the script that “they” wrote for World War II?

Hearts of Iron 4 is a scenario, not a sandbox like the rest of Paradox’s strategy games. However, it’s a very vast and complex scenario where things can turn out in almost any number of ways. The focus is on you.

Take control of any of the powerhouses of the world at that period and then lead them to victory against the other big wigs. Form or break alliances. Decide on your political posture and ideologies. Manage your economy and supply lines. The game will also force you into making some pretty tough decisions—like, do you produce a fleet of tanks now to counter the enemy, or do you invest those resources into discovering new technologies instead that will pay off later, assuming you can somehow survive their tanks for long enough, of course.

Hearts of Iron 4 is a very satisfying war game. Its various conundrums and necessary trade-offs will certainly give the RTS enthusiast plenty to consider in order to avoid ceding one advantage after the next to the enemy. And, like I said earlier, you have freedom to wage WW2 your way. So, go ahead—make your Italy sever ties with Germany in favour of creating a new Roman Empire with different allies just because the original Roman Empire was so awesome.  

Wage war on several fronts in your bid to conquer Europe…and beyond.

Play as several historical figures and take your country (and your war efforts) in any direction you please.

1. Company of Heroes 

Company of Heroes trailer

Relic Entertainment really hit the nail on the head with their World War 2 game, Company of Heroes. Set at the time spanning from the Battle of Normandy to the end of the war, Company of Heroes does an amazing job of truly presenting the greatest war in recent memory in all its deadly and destructive glory.

You play as the Allies (represented by the Americans) and the Axis (represented by the Germans), and this means far less unit variety than most RTS games offer. But what the game lacks there, it more than makes up for in sheer execution. Visually stunning and characterized by amazing music and realistic sound effects (even featuring liberal use of profanity from your infantry units, something that, unfortunately, cannot be toggled off), Company of Heroes faithfully captures the essence of what the war truly was. You only get so many units but they are brimming with far more personality than you’re likely to find in the units of any other game touching the subject.

Keeping on your toes is a must, too, since the game’s fast-paced action and intense attention to detail means you’ll be constantly thrown into the heat of battle where tactical manoeuvres and overarching strategy are critical and may need to be modified in a heartbeat. And the fully destructible and beautifully rendered world isn’t just cosmetic, either—units can take cover in buildings, behind destroyed vehicles and even in the craters left in the wake of an explosion.

Company of Heroes is without a doubt one of the best war games you’ll come across, easily standing head-and-shoulders above most of its competitors.

A tank attempts to smoke out enemy soldiers in this building.

The Victory Points system (shown top centre, here) adds yet another element of challenge to the game. Pure annihilation isn’t always key.

Fantasy Strategy War Games

7. Northgard 

Northgard trailer

Take to the North and lead your Viking tribes to a new home in Northgard. Even though the game is still only in its Early Access phase, it’s already drawing comparisons to The Settlers and Age of Empires. Lead your Vikings to the newly discovered and promising land of Northgard and establish a mighty colony. As always, though, the land is not without its dangers. Northgard will pit you against marauding packs of dire wolves, draugr (undead warriors), giants, other Viking clans competing for the right to rule this rich new land, and the bitter assault of merciless winter.

You’ll find you can achieve victory through several means (conquest, fame, lore, trading), but that you’ll have to work and plan if you have any hopes of coming out on top. Your Vikings can fill many jobs (Farmer, Warrior, Sailor, Loremaster, to name a few), and no, the Warrior class is not the most important of these. You’ll need more than an army to conquer Northgard. Alliances (with the giants, for instance) and resource gathering will figure heavily into your chances of victory. Of particular importance is the profound significance of one of the game’s more valuable natural resources—firewood. I’m serious. You can forget about mining iron or anything else if you simply run out of firewood in the middle of winter.

Being in its Early Access phase means the game doesn’t yet have a campaign mode, among other things. The full release should put in its appearance later in the year, however, and even at this early stage Northgard is distinguishing itself in all the right ways.

Northgard is a beautiful land with quirky, cartoony artwork, a lovely colour palette and diverse natural features.

Gather resources, scout new territory and expand your sphere of influence.

6. Armello 

Armello trailer

What do you do when you inhabit a fairy-tale world populated by talking animals and your great and powerful king suddenly comes down with a disease called the Rot, which is not only killing him slowly but also turns him pure evil? You commit regicide, of course! So says Armello, the debut production of League of Geeks, at least. In a novel mix of table-top fantasy role-playing, strategy, 4X, card and board games, Armello has you setting out as one of four heroes in a tense race for the throne in a world where the Rot wreaks havoc even as high up as the royal palace.

You’re a hero from one of the animal clans from the kingdom of Armello, tasked with storming the royal castle and deposing the maddened king. To do so you’ll have to take on quests, hire agents, scheme, form alliances, backstab and do battle with other players. Being a digital board game, Armello is turn-based and also includes dice rolls, and smartly animated cards with which you can cast spells, use skills or lay traps for rivals. There’s also a day-night cycle that affects some of the enemies you’ll come across, as well as what advantages your heroes have.

The heroes themselves are quite diverse, each having, among other things, a unique passive skill which will affect how you play the game. Adding to the uniqueness, Armello’s maps are all procedurally generated, meaning no two games are ever the same. And no matter how things turn out, there are only so many turns you can play before the king dies of the Rot on his own if you don’t manage to assassinate him quickly enough. In this case, the winner of the game is the player who’s accumulated the most prestige.

Thane, one of the heroes, in combat.

Armello offers lovely graphics on a procedurally generated hexagonal map.

5. Age of Wonders 3  

Age of Wonders 3 trailer

Extending the series’ tradition of great strategy gaming, Triumph Studios gives us Age of Wonders 3, a wonderfully crafted and engaging entry that combines elements of high fantasy, RPG and turn-based strategy. The end result is an imaginative game that’s well worth playing. If you’re a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and works like it, you’ll find this game is just right for you.

Play as one of six races: humans, draconians, high elves, dwarves, orcs, and goblins; all of whom have unique benefits and abilities. Your choice here will affect how you approach both combat and the economy. Having chosen one of these, you can choose further from one of six classes: Sorcerer, Theocrat, Rogue, Archdruid, Dreadnought or Warlord. The world map is further populated with other fantastical races, like giants or the undead. These unaffiliated races and groups can be conquered or allied with.

Age of Wonders 3 includes elements of city-building, resource gathering, exploration, spell casting, research and, of course, combat. The game also includes a story-driven campaign that’s playable from the perspective of two opposing parties. You can also recruit powerful heroes to aid your armies. Players can also decide their alignment in terms of good and evil. Actions you take will push that alignment down either path.

A peek at the wonderfully animated world of Age of Wonders 3.

Wage war against the many belligerents, each with very interesting, diverse and devastating abilities.

4. The Banner Saga 2

The Banner Saga 2 trailer

The Banner Saga 2, the latest instalment in Stoic’s planned trilogy, does much to add to the charm of its predecessor; which is saying quite a lot since the original game made such an impact. That being said, The Banner Saga 2 is best enjoyed if you actually did play the original game. It is, after all, a continuation of the story, and even has an option to let you import your completed save file from The Banner Saga. But even if you didn’t play the original, there’s still a lot to enjoy in The Banner Saga 2.

The game’s real selling point, by the way, is its story—and a very well-thought out and engrossing tale it is. You are the leader of a traveling band of desperate Vikings fleeing war in the hope of finding safety in a distant land. In addition to simply telling a good story, the series has a way of forming a deep link between your decisions and the overarching narrative. And you will be called upon to make many tough decisions during the course of the game. Knowing that every little thing you do affects the story gives added weight to these moments, but it also means the game has a high replay value since the story can take so many different turns based on your choices.

Beyond its storytelling element, The Banner Saga 2 offers a turn-based strategy experience that will demand proper planning and foresight on and off the battlefield. The variety of game mechanics also mean that there are many tiny tactical details that are nonetheless very critical to the progression of battle and that serve to keep things interesting. The Banner Saga 2 is rounded off by charming graphics (which reminds one of early Disney artwork) and a soundtrack that does much to enhance the game’s overall mood.

Simple obstacles in the environment can prove to be terrible hindrances or timely helps.

The Banner Saga 2 features a charming 2D art style that reminds you of classic Disney animation.

3. Endless Legend

Endless Legend trailer

The world of Auriga is dying. Will you be able to escape it? Dive into Amplitude Studio’s Endless Legend, play as one of 8 factions and vie for control of this beautiful world full of remarkable species and exotic places to discover. Build up an empire and unlock the knowledge and skills necessary to escape Auriga and save your people before it’s too late.

Endless Legend combines elements of RPG, RTS and 4X games in one very attractive package. Easily one of the best graphical entries on this list, Endless Legend is a treat for the eyes and is likely to remain so for a while yet, even in the face of changing technologies. The visuals are also bolstered by an amazing soundtrack. Play-wise, Endless Legend is full of diversity, what with its 8 factions and several other minor entities which, while not directly playable, you can assimilate or conquer to give yourself access to a few special units. Each side is also driven by its own story elements, a fact that makes the game all the more interesting.

Combat makes good use of the game’s great visuals as terrain bonuses are often a very important consideration whenever you look to engage an enemy. For instance, you can place your archers high up on impassable cliffs to really punish your foe with little risk to your own units. All combat must also be resolved within 6 phases, something that really places emphasis on your own tactical and strategic prowess. Combat isn’t the only way to win, though. You can carve any one of several paths to victory including diplomacy, economy, science and building wonders.

The world of Auriga is wonderfully rendered with great detail and a lively blend of colours.

Combat between rival groups.

2. Age of Mythology

Age of Mythology trailer

From the creators of the acclaimed Age of Empires comes the similarly acclaimed Age of Mythology. A must-play for lovers of mythology, it features the myths, legends, beasts, heroes and gods of 3 civilizations: the Egyptians, the Norse and the Greeks.

The game’s campaign is quite long, with a total of 32 scenarios. Follow the adventures of Arkantos, a hero from Atlantis, as he pursues old foes and tries to unravel the mystery that places his homeland in peril. On the way, Arkantos will find himself treading through the foreign sands of Egypt, and even reaching as far north as the Norse lands, finding that they all share a common enemy who must be stopped at all costs.

The game does an amazing job of capturing the style and feel of each of its civilizations, with very specialized units from each civilization that boast exclusive abilities both on and off the battlefield. It also makes liberal use of the various mythologies, which makes for very interesting story-driven gameplay. Add classical monsters and heroes to your armies to give yourself the edge in combat. Progress through various ages of each civilization, unlocking new technologies and powers as you go. Enjoy the detailed animations within the game. Experience the world in a time when the gods walked among men and intervened in their affairs at will. Get the expansion packs for even more amazing content.  

Call upon the gods to access their destructive power in battle. Depicted here is the Meteor power.

Unleash the power of the ancient Titans in “The Titans” expansion pack!

1. Total War: Warhammer 1 & 2 

Total War: Warhammer 1 trailer

Total War: Warhammer 2 trailer

Enter – Total War: Warhammer. Amidst the turmoil of a brutal civil war, a new Emperor ascends the throne. His goal—unite his broken empire, consolidate his power and then bring peace to the Old World at large by challenging and subduing his warmongering neighbours. The task ahead is an arduous one, however, as tensions between the Dwarf race and the Greenskins run high, and the Vampires have their own designs on ruling the Empire. Farther north lies the Chaos faction, bent on destroying everything…

Total War: Warhammer II, the successor to the series, is set to be released later this year (2017) and promises to be just as exciting as its forerunner. In this game, four races will find themselves embroiled in a conflict to either save or destroy the Great Vortex in Ulthuan.

The games feature a wide selection of available units; brilliant artwork and animations; and an engaging strategic system of play that focuses on city and unit building, diplomacy and intense tactical army manoeuvring. Fantasy meets history on a grand scale in this series, and the result is epic!

The magnificent world of Total War: Warhammer

Total War: Warhammer II will have even more narrative focus and introduce even more amazing creatures.

Sci-Fi Strategy War Games

9. Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon

Warhammer 40K: Armageddon trailer

If you can get past the less than impressive graphics of Warhammer 40K: Armageddon, you’ll find a lot to enjoy about the game. Warhammer 40K: Armageddon is a turn-based war game with a lot of spirit. The fiction associated with Warhammer is strong in the game, and this is one of its best elements. The campaign goes pretty deep and there are hundreds of units to explore.

This is one game that’s easy to pick up and play due to its relative simplicity—concepts are relatively easy to understand and make use of, making the game very accessible, and most scenarios have simple objectives. That being said, there is still much room for a nail-biting RTS experience. The maps as well as the enemy units are laid out in a very clever manner, often calling for frantic charges, tactical feints to lure the enemy out of the defensive, and many moments of sudden panic as you realize you only have a few turns left to check some unforeseen development that might cost you the game.

In all your planning, you’ll also have to factor in weapon types and ranges. In this regard, upgrades you choose may help or seriously hinder your cause, adding yet another reason for careful planning and thinking on your feet when you realize mid-game that you’ll have to work that much harder to snatch the win from right under the nose of your opponent.

Warhammer 40K: Armageddon doesn’t stand out for its graphics…

…But its intuitive interface and demanding strategic elements make it a solid war game.

8. Ashes of the Singularity

Ashes of the Singularity trailer

In a world where long-distance space travel has become a reality, humanity has spread its influence across the stars and has set up a thriving galactic empire. Then comes the long-distance space trouble. Suddenly finding itself at the top of the hit list of an alien mechanical race calling itself the “Substrate”, humanity must fight to preserve its very existence or fade into genocidal obscurity.

Ashes of the Singularity’s defining feature is its ability to handle literally thousands of individual units doing battle at the same time across massive maps, which is something most of its competitors simply can’t compete with. The game manages this using Nitrous, billed as “the world’s first native 64-bit RTS engine”. The result is truly spectacular to behold.

This is a game more suited for gamers who are more into thinking about the bigger picture rather than rushing in and handling things on the spur of the moment. Thought and planning outweighs speed and flair here. The AI is also quite robust, leading to many a good challenge throughout the game. With a game that plays on such a large scale, with thousands of units simultaneously taking the field and vast maps, your choices about what technologies to research, what units to send where (and when), and how to manage your economy will prove vital to any hopes of final victory.

Go wild with airships, ground units and weapons of various size and power.

Ashes of the Singularity is home to gigantic maps, which add some real depth to combat.

7. Star Wars: Empire at War

Stars Wars: Empire at War trailer

May The Force be with you as you battle your way across the galaxy in an attempt to depose a corrupt empire, or else to squash the annoying eyesores that call themselves the “Rebel Alliance” and are fool enough to challenge your almighty rule (ha!). Play as several notable heroes from the Star Wars franchise, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, and command your armies both on land and in the vacuum of space.

Star Wars: Empire at War has 3 modes: a campaign, Galactic Conquest and Skirmish. Take control of either the Rebel Alliance or the Empire and their iconic leaders; then capture entire planets, which will provide you with the necessary money and resources to fund your armies and take the fight to the enemy. Research technologies that will give your units the edge in battle, and place powerful heroes at the helm of your units who can use The Force to their advantage.

Your adventures will take you to the edges of the Empire, and you’ll fight hard for every step. Just make sure you have a powerful army with you at all times. Wherever you meet the enemy—on land or in space—a battle will ensue, and you can only use the equipment you already have with you. Each side can only field up to a set number of units at once, but there’s a handy reinforcement feature that allows you to add fresh units at certain points in the battle.

This planet has become a battlefield after a sudden meeting of these two factions.

Enjoy the rush of a classic Star Wars battle in outer space.

6. Stellaris 

Stellaris trailer

Paradox Interactive takes 4X and grand strategy games into space with Stellaris, a game that’s all about the charm and allure of space travel, space exploration and the extra-terrestrial. Science fiction buffs will find quite a bit to interest them here.

The game begins in the year 2200. Starting off with a single planet, a construction ship, a science ship, 3 small warships and a spaceport in your suitcase of grand dreams, you set out to explore and colonize the galaxy, eventually building up an empire. The game’s procedurally generated worlds and customization capabilities sets the stage for a staggering assortment of planets and alien species, all of which it does a wonderful job of rendering thanks to incredible graphics. Exploring this wide world will prove to be a reward in itself.

Another great feature about the game is its interesting spin on ideologies. Whatever race you choose, you’ll also have to decide on its general posture and policy. Will your people be a race of xenophobes or will they be a sociable people who welcome contact with alien races? Will you value pacifism or will you lead a militant people? These considerations will factor heavily into your strategies and goals throughout the game, adding a welcome RPG element to the game and making for great replay-ability. And it’s fun to watch battles unfold on such a great graphical system.

Explore dozens of unique systems and planets thanks to a procedurally generated world.

Blasting your enemies looks pretty cool in Stellaris, thanks to great graphics.

5. Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 

Dawn of War 2 trailer

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 spins a tale of relentless interstellar conflict, age-old blood feuds and a desperate race against time to save a friend’s life. Then it wraps all of this up in a package of pure, fast-paced action.

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 hits hard and fast. It’s all about the action, the heat of battle, the thrill of combat and the terror of knowing there’s danger looming around every corner. You either keep up or get beat down. Horribly.

Strictly speaking, the single-player campaign is more of an RPG with RTS elements than it is an RTS. That said, Dawn of War 2 does a good job here, with the addictive rush to collect loot, level up units and customize characters that make RPGs so much fun. The RTS element of the game really shines through in the intense multiplayer mode where you get to build up your base and churn out your own units in order to take the fight to the enemy.

Whatever mode you decide to play, you’ll be spending most of your time on the frontlines of battle. The game revolves around capturing and holding nodes which yield resources, and this means players will be constantly at loggerheads as they attempt to maintain control over these nodes and achieve ultimate victory. The fights become brutal and fast-paced, and Dawn of War 2 does a magnificent of really getting you involved in them with great graphics, animations, music and sound.

A close-up of some of your units in-game.

The raw chaos of the battlefield is very well represented in Dawn of War 2.

4. Supreme Commander

Supreme Commander trailer

Supreme Commander from Gas Powered Games launches us into the far-flung 37th century where a thousand-year war, dubbed “the Infinite War”, fought among three irreconcilable parties has shattered the peace of an entire galaxy and threatens to reduce everything to rubble. Now the war has finally reached a major turning point, and it’s up to you to pounce on the opportunity and guide your chosen syndicate to victory—or face extermination at its helm.

The three belligerents, appearing fundamentally similar at first glance, possess a number of significant differences, a fact that becomes increasingly obvious as you progress along their individual tech trees. The Aeon Illuminate, the Cybran Nation and the United Earth Federation all boast units with distinctive abilities that add strategic variety to how you can play the game. There is a way to counter any and all of the weaponry and technologies that each faction can use against you, if only you can answer with the right units. Building a versatile army will be of utmost importance.

Simply mounting an assault with a veritable swarm of seasoned warriors and advanced weaponry is no way to go about defeating your foe, however. Sure, it has its perks, and the game is more than capable of making the clashes look spectacular, but you’ll achieve far more through reconnaissance, planning and pre-empting your opponent. The sheer scale of the war both you and your rivals can wage thanks to many, varied and useful abilities means that knowing what to anticipate, when and where will do you much more good than randomly throwing your forces about, regardless of how mighty they may be.

Welcome to the 37th century where everything looks new and shiny!

It can be really satisfying to see your diverse army come to life on the battlefield.

3. Homeworld Remastered

Homeworld Remastered trailer

More than 15 years after Relic Entertainment first released their head-turning real-time strategy wonder, the game sees a welcome reboot that brings it into the modern world—and what a reintroduction it was! Homeworld Remastered is simply a matter of garbing an older, brilliant interstellar story in the more modern outfit it so easily deserves.

Your mothership, the Pride of Hiigara, is the driving force of all your ambitions and the story at large. If you lose this incredibly valuable and useful colossus, it’s game over. That’s because the Pride contains the very last remnants of your struggling race in cryogenically preserved form. The Pride must both outrun and outgun her deadly pursuers in order to make it safely back to Hiigara, the homeworld you were thrust out of thousands of years ago.

All of your units and combat capabilities are bound up in the Pride. From your mothership you can spawn tiny vessels dedicated to gathering all-important resources, or fighter ships to defend it and to launch attacks of your own in your quest for vengeance. Civilian and soldier units you successfully preserve are also carried over from chapter to chapter, which will prove to be critical to an already dangerously depleted species. So, make good use of your resources, fight well and, above all, fight smart—otherwise you may find the game is over before you even knew what hit you.

Homeworld Remastered keeps the tension at a constant high, as your besieged mothership is literally the last hope for your kind.

Send rockets and laser beams whizzing through the depths of space as you make space dust of the opposition.

2. Sins of a Solar Empire 

Sins of a Solar Empire trailer

Ironclad Games did their name justice when they created Sins of a Solar Empire, as this game is easily one of the most robust RTS titles you’re likely to come across. Released back in 2008, the game won itself many accolades and multiple awards from the gaming press besides; and even now it remains one of the premiere examples of the RTS genre.

Combining real-time strategy with 4X elements, Sins of a Solar Empire does much to commend both genres. Get ready for an addictive experience that will keep you at your computer screen for hours at a time. While the game doesn’t feature a single-player campaign, Sins of a Solar Empire lets its players loose in a sandbox that can easily see them spanning entire systems with dozens of worlds. It’s a thoroughly exciting world to explore and conquer. Battles also take place on a grand scale—often you’ll be orchestrating 5 gigantic fleets at once across multiple systems.

The three opposing groups in-game also lend themselves to individual play styles, and each has their own motivations and goals. You’re free to play the game from the perspective of any one of them as you move to conquer and colonize worlds and fortify yourself for the inevitable battle.

Constant conflict is the name of the game in Sins of a Solar Empire.

Choose from an arsenal of ships of different sizes, suited for different combat situations.

1. Starcraft 2

Starcraft 2 trailer

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty from Blizzard entertainment is yet another great title in the ever-expanding realm of RTS games. A game bursting with character, imagination and depth, Starcraft II is a joy to play and get lost in with its story of three races: the Protoss, the Terrans and the Zerg.

In the campaign you’re placed in the shoes of one Jim Raynor—a character anyone who’s played the original Starcraft will remember—and you’re put in charge of an entire army of Terrans. So far, the usual, right? But part of what sets the game apart is the sheer personality of the Terran forces at your command. Click on them and they’ll respond vocally. They’re always eager to follow your orders. Their artwork and animation is simply superb, and their personality comes out in everything they do. It’s hard not to like the little guys. Add to that some pretty amazing weapons and technologies and you have a recipe for comic, well-animated and thoroughly enjoyable mayhem. The tale the game weaves is also very well thought out.

Starcraft II also brings a lot of imagination in its approach to real-time strategy. It moves away from the typical formula RTS games have been following for years in a refreshing way. Gameplay won’t be all about gathering resources, holding the fort until you’ve amassed an unstoppable force then squashing every poor bug in your path. Each of the 27 missions contains a peculiar twist that successfully keeps you guessing and requires constant changes to your play style. The game keeps you constantly engaged—expect to improvise in order to claim certain victories.

You can play as either of the remaining races by getting their respective expansion packs.

Lots of unit variety often makes for tense games spent trying to come up with the perfect counter force.

Battle your way across several diversely crafted stages.

Medieval Strategy War Games

7. Stronghold: Crusader 

Stronghold Crusader trailer

Relive the fervour and brutality that was the crusades in Firefly Studio’s Stronghold: Crusader. Take the fight to the Middle East in your bid to liberate the Holy Land, or fight for your freedom instead as the Arabian Sultan, Saladin. Even with outdated graphics, the game retains its charm in how it presents the world of the Middle East overall.

The game features over 100 unique skirmish missions and campaigns that follow the stories of the First, Second and Third Crusades. Build up your cities, get a thriving economy going and recruit soldiers from among your peasants or by hiring more expensive mercenaries. You’ll need all this if you’re to avoid fading into the obscurity of defeat. One of the charms of the game is the environment within which you work. Building up a castle is fun, given the level of customization possible—until you must watch it fall at the hands of your detractors. Ouch. Almost every one of your citizens has something to say if you click on them—and what they say changes based on the state of the economy, etc.

You’ll spend much of your time storming enemy castles to assassinate their lords (and making sure your own head doesn’t roll in the process). Assassins will be both a powerful tool in your hands and a lethal threat when deployed against you. If you don’t remain vigilant, you could find that one or two or three of them has already infiltrated your castle and it’s too late. As for the lords you must interact with in game, they all have short cut-scene-like videos by which they ask for help or goods (if they’re allies), or taunt you or express worry when under siege (if they’re enemies).

“I will remember this defeat and pay you back.”—A summary of virtually all wars, everywhere.

Archers and ballistae can prove to be a potent threat in the right hands.

6. Total War™: ROME II - Emperor Edition 

Total War™: ROME II - Emperor Edition trailer

Total War: Rome II first made its debut to lacklustre reviews. Following this, The Creative Assembly (the game’s developers) made a tactical retreat from the frontlines and, one year later, unleashed the fruit of some intense behind-the-scenes labour. They dubbed it “Total War: Rome II – Emperor Edition”. Did it solve the original problem? In a word, yes.

Total War: Rome II – Emperor Edition plunges players into the political and military chaos of post-Julius Caesar Rome. With the assassination of the great leader came a brutal power struggle which led to internal turmoil and, of course, external political vultures gathering to pounce on what they fervently hoped was to be the decaying remains of a dead empire. Emperor Edition adds many new factions to the game plus a new campaign, Imperator Augustus, which deals with the aftermath of Caesar’s murder. Otherwise, the game retains its original Grand Campaign option where players can go as far as trying to conquer the world, rewriting the history books in the process.

The game at its core has two elements: a turn-based mode where players manage their cities, move armies across the world map and administrate their empire; and a real-time battle mode where they take to the field and assume direct control of their armies in a skirmish. The game also features a decent AI, lovely graphics and audio, and improvements to buildings and the politics in-game.  

Real-time combat gets up close and personal.

Explore the beautiful world of ancient Rome made possible by smartly rendered graphics.

5. Total War: Atilla 

Total War: Atilla trailer

Whereas Total War: Rome II – Emperor Edition related the story of the near-death, resurrection and subsequent supremacy of Rome, Total War: Atilla, from the same developers, gives us the story of its ultimate decline. Atilla the Hun burst onto the scene of world history and, along with other Barbarians of the day, proved to be a fatal thorn in the side of the flailing empire.

At the dawn of the Dark Ages, a series of volcanic changes plunges the fragile Roman Empire into chaos and seems to presage the coming of some terrible force to assail it. Enter: Atilla et al. At the start of the game, playing as the Western Roman Empire, you’re thrust into a survival game as you watch your initially vast territory get whittled down by outside invaders. Not much changes if you play from the perspective of most of the other available factions. The various Barbarian groups are all in a desperate race to find land, food and shelter, chased from their homes by either steadily worsening changes in Mother Nature’s mood or Atilla’s near-invincible forces. As for Atilla himself, though he will become leader to the Huns, he’s not yet in power at the game’s start. With all these variables, the campaign proves to be quite dynamic.

Total War: Atilla does very well in capturing the socio-political climate of the time. It also does very well in creating a deep understanding of the issues that faced these ancient peoples, a fact that creates a sense of emotional connection to the story the game tells. This is no pointlessly mad rush to conquer all in sight. There is a sense of necessity and purpose in the various actions undertaken by the several groups. It also means that strategy and thought take on a new level of importance in-game.

Turmoil and chaos extends even to the natural environment in Total War: Atilla.

The riders from the East encroach steadily upon the lands you have known.

4. Crusader Kings 2    

Crusader Kings 2 trailer         

Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings II is set in the Middle Ages and tasks you with establishing a dynasty and retaining power for as long as possible. The game spans the time period of 1066 to 1453, and you’ll need to have plenty of tricks up your sleeve to last that long. This game is unique on this list because of its approach.

Strategy in this game takes on a new meaning. Far from being your traditional RTS, Crusader Kings II really digs into the nitty-gritty of power-hungry nobility by placing its focus not only on war but on political relationships and all that comes with them. Sure, you’ll still have need of drawing your sword and bellowing a battle cry. But you’ll also need to make strategic and liberal use of marriage, assassinations, scandal and the like. Neither the sword nor the wallet is all-powerful, after all. What you need above all is a strategic mind that can concoct brilliant machinations for your benefit.  

The end result is an often ridiculously hilarious game that nevertheless maintains its claim to being played because of how uncannily accurate it is in its representation of life in the Middle Ages and the art of politicking. Crusader Kings II is a tongue-in-cheek medieval soap opera which remains true-to-life while managing to capture the more serious side of empire-building. Every decision you make will have some impact on the story, and they range from trivially entertaining to absolutely critical.

Navigate the treacherous political landscape of Europe and its environs over a period of centuries.

Marrying well will go a long way towards expanding your empire & consolidating your power

3. Europa Universalis 4

Europa Universalis 4 trailer

So you’re looking to write your own bit of history—maybe create a world where World War II never happened; or where some random, miniscule island off the coast of Africa positively demolished Britain and all the other world powers in an epic naval battle and proceeded to stamp its dominance on the world. You know—just for kicks. Then you’ve arrived at just the right place. Europa Universalis 4, part of Paradox Interactive’s successful Europa Unversalis series, is eminent in its ability to weave tales of historical speculation that could be called anything but “tall”.

It’s a great concept. Given the reigns of a nation, you are tasked with making your country into a world power through military might, diplomacy or trade. But best of all, you are also given immense freedom to rewrite the history books. Still, the game checks this power with very effective mechanics reminiscent of real-world realities that ultimately prevent you from simply steamrolling over everyone else like you normally would in other games of the same sort. Build up your empire and take over new territory—but beware of your neighbours who, through fear of your aggressive expansionist tendencies—will grow to hate you and form coalitions against you to check your power. Your own people and armies may become disillusioned with your endless quest for power and abandon you, swiftly bringing your plans to a grinding halt.

Beyond details like that, feel free to shape the world as you see fit. Make Germany a colonial force in the New World instead of the precipitator of WW2 due to its designs on Europe. Make England into a leftist, totalitarian state instead of the paragon of democracy. The game will also spawn random events designed to force hard decisions upon you or simply to add to the realism of the tale. That being said, the mechanics work in a way that constantly steer the game away from becoming too capricious in its logic.

You can exercise a staggering amount of control over the history of your chosen nation and those around you by the choices you make.

Unleash your troops and equip them for battle both on land and on sea.

2. Medieval 2: Total War       

Medieval 2 Total War trailer

Chart a course through Europe, the Middle East, Africa and even the New World in your quest for territory, power and dominance. Medieval 2: Total War, developed by Creative Assembly, focuses on warfare, religion, politics and the overall struggle for supremacy during the Medieval period of world history.

As Sovereign to your country, you must delicately handle the balance of power both at home and abroad. From maintaining the loyalty of your generals to stamping out the menace of witchcraft to warring with neighbouring rivals to electing the new pope, virtually every aspect of medieval life is touched upon. Your hands will be full trying to tap into resources for much-needed gold, marrying off princesses to cement alliances, training and equipping a mighty army for both attack and defence, and general power-brokering across the entire region.

The game does an excellent job of presenting itself, whether on the turn-based world map where most of your managing duties take place or on the real-time battlefield where your armies duke it out against your sworn enemies. The single-player campaign has a short campaign and a long one—and the short one can easily span a week of gaming. For any hard-core RTS fan, though, this is hardly an issue since the game is so good. There are plenty of factions, units, dynamics, goals and battles to keep you entertained for a long time.

Battles in Medieval 2: Total War are intense affairs that never fail to leave an impact for their sheer scale and intricacy.

The graphical rendering of the expansive world is simply gorgeous.

1. Sid Meier's Civilization® V

Sid Meier's Civilization® V trailer

There’s no denying that Sid Meier’s Civilization V is a mammoth of a strategy game. A pioneer in the arena of turn-based strategy, the series has never looked back from earlier successes, and Civ 5 is light years away from being an exception to this rule.

From its graphics to its scale to its mechanics to its gameplay, Civilization V delivers consistently high quality across the board and is easily one of the most satisfying forays into strategy games you’re likely to make for a long time. Guide your chosen people over a period of thousands of years, starting from prehistoric times and stretching forward into the distant future. The maps are procedurally generated, making for consistently interesting gameplay. The units are many, varied and beautifully animated. The attention to detail all across the world map is delightful.

Choose your own path to victory. Become a military juggernaut, rule through culture and economy, win the space race by building the first space-worthy vessel, or be the idolized cool kid on the block who has everyone’s vote for President of The Whole World. Whichever path you choose, Sid Meier’s Civilization V is guaranteed to show you a good time characterized by deep strategic considerations, long-term planning, thrilling warfare and the simple satisfaction of watching your empire rise from the underground to worldwide prominence.

The world of Civ 5 is easily one of the greatest graphical achievements of modern gaming.

Yup…there’s no escaping it—this city is finished.

It’s been a wild ride, but there you have it—the best strategy war games for PC that you can find these days. There’s always room for games that make us slow down the tempo a bit and meticulously plan out our path to some distant but thoroughly satisfying goal, or that force us to micro-manage any number of things at once all while desperately fighting to keep our base of operations secure from merciless onslaughts. And for those times when that’s the gaming experience you’re looking for, you can hardly go wrong with these fine examples of the genre.

If you enjoyed poring through this list of strategy games, or if you discovered a gem you simply must add to your shopping list, then check out these other top listings:

The 25 Best Real-Time Strategy Games in 2017 (PC)

17 Best Turn-Based Strategy Games Worth Playing in 2017

13 Best Strategy Games for PC in 2017

The 12 Best Grand Strategy Games to Play Right Now

 

 

 

Every day Aldane rises to do battle with the Space Monkeys from Outworld 62 alongside his trusty sidekicks, Chronius and Patience. His superpowers include flight, the Midas Touch and imaginaaation.
Gamer Since: 1998
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Age of Mythology; The Settlers VI
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