[Top 15] Best RTS Games That Are Excellent

best rts games,rts games, fun rts games, strategy games
Orcs vs Humans. A tale as old as time.

RTS or real-time strategy games are, like the name implies, a subgenre of strategy games where the actual gameplay happens in real-time rather than turns.

While any strategy game which has real-time gameplay can fall under this definition, the RTS name has been associated with resource collecting,base building and unit commanding RTS games the most, such as Age of Empires.

If we don’t count Paradox Interactive' grand strategy games, which I've decided to exclude from this list, this genre has been quite stale in the mid 2010s, but in recent years it has experienced something of a revival, as you will be able to see from our list.

With that in mind, here are the best RTS games, in no particular order:

15. Age of Empires IV (PC)

Age of Empires IV, the second coming of the RTS genre. The newest Age of Empires game, coming in 16 years after Age of Empires III, managed to do the impossible. It managed to actually please fans of the genre. How did they do this? It’s simple, instead of messing around too much they gave the fans exactly what they wanted, which is just a basic RTS game made in modern times with modern tech. MEaning AoE IV isn’t exactly innovative, but it doesn’t need to be, what matters is that it got the basics right, the resource gathering, the base building, the unique factions. AoE IV is, in my opinion, the best RTS game currently out there, and I would highly recommend everyone to play it.

14. Age of Empires 2 Definitive (PC)

Age of Empires II is considered by many to be the best RTS game of all time, the pinnacle of the genre. AoE II Definitive is a remaster of the original that includes all the previous expansions, better graphics and general improvements. AoE II is very similar to AoE IV, or vice versa since AoE II came first, the gameplay is excellent, the factions are extremely varied, especially with all the expansions. So, if it’s so similar to AoE IV, why should you get it instead of that? Well for starters it’s less than half the price, it objectively has more content, I mean it’s 20 years older, of course it has, and the multiplayer is still very active. All of this combined means that AoE II Definitive is still worth playing today.

13. Rise of Nations (PC / MacOS)

An often overlooked RTS game from the golden era of RTS games. Rise of Nations is probably my favorite RTS game ever, I’ve played it for thousands of hours. Like nearly all RTS games it’s based around resource gathering, base building and combat, but unlike many in Rise of Nations your base represents a city which controls some territory, and you can only build within your own nations territory. Also, the tech tree of Rise of Nations spans from the stone age all the way to modern times, and you know me, I any game that allows you to drop a nuke on someone is excellent. While a bit dated I would still recommend Rise of Nations to anyone interested in the genre. In certain aspects it’s completely unique and hasn't been surpassed by more modern titles still.

12. Age of Mythology HD (PC / MacOS)

Do you like RTS games? Are you a fan of Age of Empires? Do you have an unhealthy obsession with Greek mythology? Well this is the perfect game for you. How would I describe it, it’s basically Age of Empires, but set in the Troyan war era of Greek mythology. It allowed for more creativity to the developers since they were not tied down by historical accuracy. Unlike in AoE, here religion and mythology play a big role, choosing which god to serve determines which bonuses you get and which mythological unit you unlock. The campaign is excellent as well. Honestly I’ve probably played Age of Mythology more than the entire Age of Empires series. The game got an HD re-release, but I'm still hoping for a proper sequel or maybe even a Definitive edition like the old Age of Empires games got.

11. Stronghold Crusader (PC)

Now for another slightly obscure game. If you’re a fan of RTS games you’ve probably heard of the Stronghold series, but if you’re new it’s easy to overlook them. The game is set during the crusades, it focuses on the skirmish mode, with a proper campaign being absent, not counting certain historical maps. The gameplay basics are fairly simple, gather resources, build a base, build an army and win, but it has some complexities compared to AoE, for starters you have to magane food supplies, population happiness and a basic economy, building troops costs money after all. What makes Stronghold Crusader truly fun is the excellent AI adversaries, each of them has a unique animated portrait, unique voice lines and a unique style of play, which can clearly be seen in the way they build their castle. The game also comes with a decent scenario editor, where you can make custom maps. I’ve probably spent more time using this editor than I did actually playing the game. 

10. Starcraft 2 (PC / MacOS)

Starcraft 2 is the essential RTS game. What needs to be said about Starcraft 2 other than the fact that the game's multiplayer mode spawned an entire esports scene. StarCraft 2 competitions are proof of just how excellent its gameplay is. Take control of one of three races and take on your friends in 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 in spectacular fun sci-fi combat, and the best part is that StarCraft 2 multiplayer is free since 2017. Probably one of the few remaining Blizzard games still worth playing today. (They really went downhill fast, right?)

9. Warcraft 3 (PC / macOS)

Remember when Blizzard was seen as the good guy? The good old times. Anyway, what is there to say about Warcraft III, one of the most influential games of all time. Warcraft III is an essential RTS game for any fan of the genre. One of the most famous MMORPG of all time is based on Warcraft lore. The game is your basic RTS game, this time with heroes and special abilities, but the campaign is where it truly shines. It’s possibly one of the best campaigns in any RTS game ever. It featured a very active modding scene that literally birthed a whole other genre of games, MOBAs. Despite being twenty years old it’s still excellent and worth playing today, as long as you can find a non-reforged copy (Warcraft III: Reforged being the abysmal attempted remake by Blizzard).

8. Homeworld Remastered Collection (PC)

The Homeworld Remastered Collection is a remaster of the critically acclaimed Homeworld and Homeworld 2, that brings it to modern players and systems with updated graphics, music, and new, high fidelity voice recordings by the original actors.

Homeworld 1 and 2 redefined what an RTS game could be, they’re set in space with units being controllable in fully 3D space, unlike many other space-themed RTS games, where it’s essentially a 2D map, but just in space. The story is excellent, the gameplay is still excellent, just make sure to grab the fan-made patch if you’re intending on playing it.

7. Company of Heroes 2 (PC / macOS)

Company of Heroes 2 is an RTS game where you control a squad of troops in WWII. The game is set on the eastern front, with plates controlling Red Army soldiers in their fight against Nazis, during various pivotal battles of WWII. CoH 2  features some unique mechanics, such as the truesight system that emulates the units’ line of sight, as well as the cover-system that encourages clever unit placement and the combined arms approach for hard and soft counters gameplay that will make you rethink before trying to destroy a tank with a simple squad of riflemen. What more is there to say, it’s extremely fun to this day and it features multiplayer.

6. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (PC / MacOS / PS3 / XBox 360)

“The desperate leadership of a doomed Soviet Union travels back in time to change history and restore the glory of Mother Russia. The time travel mission goes awry, creating an alternate timeline where technology has followed an entirely different evolution, a new superpower has been thrust onto the world stage, and World War III is raging.”

If the premise of this game doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. What matters is that Red Alert 3 is incredibly fun, an excellent RTS game set in an alternate timeline. While the gameplay is fun where it truly shines are the campaigns with their incredibly campy full-motion video cutscenes. The game is worth buying just for Tim Curry’s performance as the USSR leader.

5. They are billions (PC / MacOS / PS4 / XBox One)

They are billions is an RTS game set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world. Oh, you want me to say more than that, fine. The player's goal is to build a base to protect themselves, explore the map, collect resources, and expand while fighting the local zombie population at the same time. The game has some 48 missions in total, while it’s not perfect it’s definitely a good example of an RTS game following the drought of the mid-2010s.

4. Northguard (PC / Xbox One / PS4 / Switch)

If you’re a fan of Norse mythology and are looking for an RTS set in that world, then Northgard is just the game for you. Take control of one of six Viking clans who are fighting for control of a mysterious new land. Collect resources, survive the winter and lead your clan to victory, either in singleplayer or online multiplayer against your friends.

One of the better RTS games in recent times, the genre has really been experiencing something of a renaissance. 

3. Cossacks 3 (PC)

Don’t let the look of this game fool you, while it may not be a beauty, it’s incredibly fun to play. Cossacks 3 a remake of the 2001 RTS game Cossacks: European Wars and it definitely feels like an old-school RTS game. It’s set in 17th and 18th century Europe. You take control of one of 70 nations and fight in truly large-scale battles with literally thousands of troops. For a teenage me, It’s essentially a dream come true.

2. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 (PC / macOS)

Ah, the beautiful universe of Warhammer 40K, where big things kill bigger things, which are in turn killed by even bigger things. What better setting for a video game than this. Dawn of War 2 brings this universe and manages to capture its brutality in truly amazing and fun RTS gameplay. Its focus on fast-action, rather than the slow and methodical planning present in other RTS games, fits excellently into the 40K universe. Best of all the entire campaign is playable in co-op, so you can finally introduce one of your friends to the grim-darkness of 40K.

1. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (PC / macOS)

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a prequel to Homeworld, the 3D space RTS game. Set on the desert world of Kharak, the game focuses on different tribes fighting each other before they were unified in Homeworld. It’s a ground-based RTS game, which was quite a departure for the series and had made the player base very apprehensive, but Deserts of Kharak proved them wrong. It turned out to be excellent, not just another Homeworld game, but as an RTS game in general. If you’re a fan of the series’ story, this game is essentially a must-have.

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Gamer Since: 2003
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: Battlefield 1
Top 3 Favorite Games:Tropico 5, ,

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