[Top 15] Best 4x Games for PC

Civilization VI isn't the only 4X game in town.


The 4X genre has always been synonymous with PC gaming. The control scheme, mechanics, and gameplay environment plainly demand for the more complicated capabilities of the PC over consoles. As a result, there’s quite a number of 4X games in the PC’s catalog that have sprang up over the decades, and it can get pretty overwhelming when trying to choose what game to play in the genre. Don’t fret though because we did the heavy-lifting on this one. Here’s 15 of the best 4X PC games we picked just for you.

15. Oriental Empires (PC – 2017)

Oriental Empires - Launch Trailer

Oriental Empires is set in Ancient China. You guide a small tribe from the Early Bronze Age through Imperial Chinese history as you seek to conquer the entire country and eventually become Emperor. In your way are several historical factions like the Shu, Qin, and Han, who also longs for control over the land. 

The game’s developer is R.T. “Bob” Smith who previously worked on the Total War series. As such, Total War’s influence can be seen throughout the game. Things like the map overview and UI have similarities to Total War. Fans of that series should definitely give Oriental Empires a try.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Total War series
  • Ancient China
  • Medieval warfare

Well, sometimes war is inevitable…

 

 

14. Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville (PC – 2015)

Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville Trailer

Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadville is a fun game about the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s set in modern Earth where zombies have run rampant, and survivors are aiming to rebuild civilization. You build industry and gather resources as you try to expand your holdings under the constant threat of a zombie horde.

Rebuild 3 has an endearing charm to it. The game is riddled with dark humor, and rendered in a fun cartoony way. This makes the thought of a zombie-infested apocalypse far more fun than it has any business to be. 

Choose this game if you like:

  • Zombie apocalypse
  • Colony management sims
  • Endearingly funky cartoon graphics

You can’t just leave in the middle of a zombie apocalypse!

 

 

13. Northgard (PC – 2018)

Northgard Official Release Trailer

Northgard is all about its Viking myth inspiration. You lead a Viking clan as they try to establish a settlement on the newly-discovered continent of Northgard. Among the dangers you tackle are harsh winters and hostile factions just to name a few.

The game is reminiscent of the Settlers series, particularly the later games that seamlessly blend both elements of the 4X and RTS genres. Even its graphical design has a similar popping aesthetic that the Settlers series is known for. 

The game also has tons of major updates that you get absolutely free. A lot of these add a host of new content to the base game like new factions, cosmetics, and other features! Northgard is definitely worth the money you will pay for it.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Vikings!
  • Real-time strategy
  • City-building

Fenrir makes sense as the name of a war-like faction!

 

 

12. Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War (PC, Linux – July 12, 2018)

Warhammer 40.000: Gladius - Relics of War || Release Trailer

Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War is the Warhammer franchise’s attempt at creating a 4X game. It features 4 factions, the Astra Militarum, Space Marines, Orks, and Necrons, vying for control of the Imperial world of Gladius. Forged in true Warhammer fashion, there is no diplomacy feature in the game.

Warhammer 40,000: Gladius is all about war and conquest. Everything you do in this game is nothing more but to add fuel for your capacity to wage war. The game makes itself clear—war is the only path to victory in the world of Gladius, truly a very fitting entry into the grim-derp world of Warhammer 40K.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Warhammer 40k series
  • Giant mechas
  • Destroying heretics to the rule of the God-Emperor of Mankind

This game isn’t heresy at all.

 

11. Terra Invicta (PC – 2022)

Terra Invicta Gameplay Trailer

Terra Invicta is set in an Earth facing the looming threat of an alien invasion. Detecting the vanguard of a hostile alien fleet at the very edge of the Solar System’s Kuiper belt, the fractured nations of Earth are mired with in-fighting and disagreements on how to handle the coming invasion. The player takes on the role of the commander of the resistance against the aliens, as they try to harness all of humanity’s resources to resist the coming invasion.

The game is very reminiscent of The Expanse series. Similar to it, Terra Invicta also explores a humanity with real-world, hard sci-fi tech and capabilities, facing off against the more technologically esoteric facet of popular science fiction—extra-terrestrial alien civilizations.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Solar system setting
  • The Expanse
  • Hard sci-fi

ALPHA-2 sees everything

 

10. Airships: Conquer the Skies (PC – 2018)

Airships: Conquer the Skies Launch Trailer

Airships: Conquer the Skies is set in a steampunk world where massive, mythical sea abominations and airships of various constructs dot the sky. The goal of the game is to construct a powerful ship and conquer territory to build a mighty empire. You need to watch your starboard side though, contending factions and flying sea monsters are going to get in your way.

Don’t let Airships: Conquer the Skies’ charming pixel graphics fool you. The game not only offers a vast amount of ways you can build your own airship on the cosmetic level, but design construct and layout matter deeply if you don’t want your ship coming apart after a few swats from a flying kraken’s mighty tentacles. So, think carefully on how you want your ship to function before you go on soaring through the skies—it’s full of stuff that can send you crashing right back down.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Playing as sky-pirates
  • Aquatic animals that can fly
  • Charming pixel graphics

A flying squid?!

 

9. Age of Wonders: Planetfall (PC, PS4, Xbox One, macOS – 2019)

Age of Wonders: Planetfall Release Trailer

Planetfall is the fifth installment in the Age of Wonders series. The game follows the events after the fall of the intergalactic human government known as the Star Union due to an unknown cataclysm. It features the struggles of the several factions that have risen in the aftermath as they try to create a new future for humanity in the vast unknown.

Unlike its predecessors, the game is set in a sci-fi universe instead of a high-fantasy one. It’s a distinct change that gives the Age of Wonders series a refreshing uplift, and divorces it somewhat from its origins as a Heroes of Might and Magic clone. If you’re in for a planet-based 4X sci-fi game, then you should give Age of Wonders” Planetfall a try.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Planet-based sci-fi setting
  • Amazons riding dinosaurs
  • Humanoid cockroaches with laser rifles

Why couldn’t we take the car again?

 

8. Master of Orion (2016) (PC, OS X, Linux - 2016)

Master of Orion — Release Trailer

Like its predecessors, Master of Orion 2016 is set in a universe where humanity has come into contact with various alien races. You compete for various resources, technological superiority, influence, and territory. In the end, you either learn to coexist with each other peacefully, or exterminate one another in a war for galactic conquest.

Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars, or simply referred to as Master of Orion 2016, is a reboot of the classic 4X series after Wargaming acquired the Master of Orion IP from Atari. It particularly streamlines and modernizes a lot of the mechanics found in the original game which have become outdated over the years. Overall, Master of Orion is a really good entry-level 4X title for people just starting out in the genre.

Choose this game if you like:

  • The original Master of Orion series
  • Quirky alien races
  • Intergalactic conquest

As far as remakes go, we’re pretty good…

 

7. Endless Space 2 (PC, macOS – 2017)

ENDLESS™ Space 2 Trailer 

Endless Space 2 is set in a universe once ruled by a powerful precursor race known as the Endless. The Endless, through a schism that unfolded in their society, was wiped-out in a civil war. Tens of thousands of years later, the galaxy is once again home to civilizations with interstellar reach, all vying for galactic supremacy.

Endless Space 2 is a sequel to the first Endless Space game that launched in 2012. Its greatest improvement over the earlier game is the inclusion of the political party system. It brings a new dimension of depth into the gameplay experience that the 1st game lacked—an internal factor that affects your interstellar civilization aside from the more tangible resource and economic elements typical of the 4X genre.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Archeological exploration of a long-dead alien precursor’s civilization
  • Balancing political ideologies to maintain your interstellar empire
  • Intense space battles

Launch all fighters, let them do all the work!

 

6. Galactic Civilizations IV (PC – 2022)

Galactic Civilizations IV - Release Trailer

Galactic Civilizations IV is set in the far future in a galaxy where humanity invented a faster than light form of travel called the hyperdrive. The invention of the hyperdrive supplanted the former dominant form of intergalactic travel, the Stargate, due to being much cheaper to produce and more convenient to use. With the eventual dissemination of the hyperdrive to the rest of the galaxy’s known races, a new era of space travel and exploration begins, all while relics from a former age lurk in the shadows, waiting for their time in the galactic spotlight once again.

Galactic Civilization IV is the latest release in the long-running space-themed 4X game by Stardock. The back plot and general story of the series is actually based on a series of short stories by Stardock’s CEO, Brad Wardell. Kinda cool, don’t you think?

Choose this game if you like:

  • Creating your custom alien races
  • Designing different classes of ships
  • Orbital and deep space constructs like space stations and shipyards

Alien Robot civilizations are always interesting

 

5. Pixel Starships (PC – 2023)

Pixel Starships Preview

Pixel Starships is a spaceship management game. You build, design, and recruit the crew for your ship from the ground up, after which you set out to explore a galaxy filled with wonders, dangers, and other oddities. Due to its MMO nature, you can meet other players and work together to explore the massive online Universe the game is set in.

The game is completely free to download and play. There is an in-game currency that you can buy for real money which you can use in turn to speed-up a lot of things like acquiring top-level crew, but generally you don’t really need to spring cash to play this game well. Finding a reputable fleet to join is a necessity though, so if you’re into purely solo gaming then Pixel Starships might not be the game for you.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Pixel graphics
  • Adventure and exploration
  • Building your own spaceships

Building an intergalactic spaceship one pixel at a time

 

4. Sins of a Solar Empire (PC – 2008)

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion - Launch Trailer

Sins of a Solar Empire is a unique fusion of the 4X and RTS genres. There are 3 contending factions in the game—the TEC, Advent, and Vasari. Each faction has their own distinct tech tree, units, buildings, and special abilities which you will need to make full use of if you want to survive this harsh universe filled with conflict and massive space battles.

Sins of a Solar Empire’s real draw is its real-time component. You can wheel and deal with your opponents just like in any other 4X title, while at the same time your fleet is making its way to their planetary border ready to smash everything in its way. It’s a simple change to the usual 4X gameplay that has an enormous effect on how you experience and play the game.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Massive space battles
  • Real-time combat
  • Assaulting orbital defenses
  • Dreadnaughts living up to their name

Space is almost not large enough to contain dreadnoughts blasting each other

 

3. Old World (PC, macOS – 2021/ Linux – 2022)

Old World Release Date Trailer

Old World is a historical 4X game fused with the dynasty simulation mechanic of Crusader Kings. It offers 8 playable real-world civilizations from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Due to its dynasty simulation mechanic, you don’t just need to manage your civilization, but also your family’s legacy and all the politics that come along with it.

Old World is a refreshing take on the 4X genre. It pretty much one-ups the Crusader Kings franchise by cheekily incorporating the series’ main drawing mechanic into the 4X gameplay experience. The result is a dynasty simulator that is much more involved and interactive with the gaming environment it’s set in. You can do so much more than plan and plot with the added elements of the 4X genre—it makes the geopolitical and internal mechanics of the game much more robust and dynamic.

Choose this game if you like:

  • The age of antiquity
  • Crusader Kings’ dynasty simulation
  • Political intrigue

There won’t be clocks in this game, only sundials 

 

2. Stellaris (PC, OS X, Linux – 2016/ PS4, Xbox One – 2019)

Stellaris Launch Trailer - Grand Strategy on a Galactic Scale

In Stellaris you guide a budding interstellar civilization as it tries to claim its proper place among the stars. You explore, colonize, and take on as much ground as you and your empire’s resources can accommodate. Beware though, you’re not the only civilization trying to claw its way among the stars, and you either find a way to live with each other, or go on a more destructive path—war. 

On paper, Stellaris doesn’t really add something new to the 4X genre. It has all the staples you could ask for in a 4X title, which in itself is where Stellaris’ true strength lies—it incorporates everything that you look for in a 4X game seamlessly. A simple idea that is far harder to pull-off than most people think. And this seamless integration of the enormous gameplay mechanics and eccentricities that the 4X genre has to offer makes for a truly great gaming experience.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Space opera
  • Late-game events that keep your gameplay interesting
  • Massive number of factions and races

Are we invading someone? Why, yes, yes, we are!

 

1. Civilization VI (PC, macOS – 2016/ Linux - 2017/ iOS – 2017/ Switch – 2018/ PS4, Xbox One – 2019/ Android –  2020)

CIVILIZATION VI Launch Trailer

Civilization VI is a historical 4X game where you develop a civilization from the prehistoric age up to modern times. Your ultimate goal is to achieve one of the several available victory conditions like overwhelmingly expanding your cultural reach, establishing an advanced space program, achieving the pinnacle of diplomacy, or subjugating all other civilizations through military conquest. Whatever path you choose, you and the digital citizens of your civilization will surely have your work cut out for them.

What else can we say? The Civilization series is pretty much analogous to the 4X genre for most of its existence, and the 6th mainline release of Sid Meier’s seminal series doesn’t change that fact. This time around, however, it incorporates a more modern issue into its gameplay experience—climate change. In Civilization VI you don’t just compete against other Civilizations, you also go against rising sea levels, super typhoons, insane sandstorms, flooding, and meteors blasting from above.

Choose this game if you like:

  • Environmental disaster mechanics
  • Climate change management
  • The long-standing Gandhi nuke gag

Volcanoes are unforgiving in this game

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Sometimes mistaken as a sasquatch sprouting random tidbits of lore from Tolkien's legendarium, he's got serious case of ceviche addiction.
Gamer Since: 1991
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: DOTA 2
Top 3 Favorite Games:DOTA 2, XCOM 2, Mount & Blade


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