[Top 5] Strategy Games With Nukes

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A military jest passing by a mushroom cloud.

Nuclear weapons, the single most terrifying invention that mankind has ever come up with. The power to destroy cities, countries even, to kill hundreds of thousands of people in an instant, to render the land that it hit almost uninhabitable. Truly horrific.

It’s only natural, of course, for developers to put it in their games. Now instead of sitting in a nuclear shelter, wondering whether a humanity-destroying event will take place, you can experience it in games.

How do you represent such an awe inspiring weapon, the pinnacle of humanities bloodthirst, well I have some of the better examples for you in the list below: 

5. Rise of Nations (PC / macOS) 

Rise of Nations, an overlooked gem from the golden era of RTS games. I remember playing this exact game for literally thousands of hours. The game itself has a fairly simple gameplay loop: gather resources, build your bases, or in this case cities, build an army and defeat your enemies. But this isn’t why it’s on the list, the true reason is that when you reach the Modern Era you unlock nukes. The feeling of dropping a nuke on a city center, looking at the huge mushroom cloud as all the buildings around get destroyed and all the units drop dead is indescribable. While the actual consequences of dropping a nuke are not as severe as in other games, especially if the armageddon clock is turned off, it’s still one of the more impressive representations of this devastating weapon in gaming. I still remember when I was playing as a child and losing a city center to the enemy, nuking it and retaking it with my troops, only for the process to repeat five times. I wonder if that has had any effect on me growing up? 

4. Civilization VI (PC / MacOS / iOS / Android / PS4 / Xbox One / Switch) 

Civilization VI, the newest game in the long-running Civilization series, is a 4X turn-based strategy game. To be honest, I probably could have put any of the civilization games on this list, some of them actually have even more devastating nuclear weapons, Civilization II probably being the best example. But realistically you can’t go wrong with any of them. The thing about nukes is that they are mankinds’ most dangerous weapon ever conceived, to translate that into a game requires much more than it being a powerful weapon, and Civ VI delivers, the sound of the missile being launched, the roar of the explosion, the mushroom cloud slowly expanding, the buildings and units being damaged or destroyed, and afterward, the irradiated wasteland left behind. It’s truly an awe-inspiring spectacle. 

3. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC) 

What if the Cold War didn’t end? What if the nations kept arming themselves with increasingly more dangerous weapons until actual conflict broke out? Thankfully we didn’t have to experience that in real life (yet), but Red Alert 2 is here to answer that question. Red Alert 2 is an RTS game set in an alternate timeline, where the USSR and the US actually went to war. It’s most famous for its FMV cutscenes, featuring real-life actors delivering incredibly forced performances, but that’s what makes it work. Do you know what else it features? Nukes. Great, big, devastating nukes, further amplified by the scenario in which the game takes place. 

2. World in Conflict (PC) 

Another game set in an alternate timeline, where the USSR and US went to war in 1989, huh. I guess there was just something about that period that tickled peoples’ imagination, something about being on the edge of all-out, civilization-destroying conflict for 40 years or so.World in Conflict is also an RTS game, but this time you don’t control a nation on a large-scale map, you control your troops on smaller-scale maps, trying to beat the enemy. This is the reason why it made the list, it’s one thing to see a nuke from above destroying a city, but in this game, you’re up close and personal with it. The huge blinding flash, the total silence, and a complete lack of radio chatter for several seconds, all of this add up together to make an unforgettable experience. 

1. Empire Earth 2 (PC) 

Empire Earth 2, another classic RTS game. Similar to Rise of Nations, the game follows humanity from the beginning all the way to modern times, and what do we get in modern times? Exactly, we get nuclear weapons. Just imagine it, rushing to the modern era while your adversaries are still stuck building their castles from stone and wood, you’re developing the greatest weapon ever. Imagine how that villager would feel seeing a nuke being dropped on its castle. He probably couldn’t even conceive such power, he probably would have thought it to be some kind of divine punishment. We will never know, but through the magic of games, we can at least glance at the possibility.

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Gamer Since: 2003
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: Battlefield 1
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