Top 17 Best 4X Games for PC

best 4x games
Everyone wants to be king for a day.

Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate

The 4X genre is a favorite of the gaming community.  Players are tasked with managing huge armies, building sprawling empires, and taking over the world.  We recap the 17 best 4X games that you can play on PC right now.

17. Northgard

Northgard Gameplay

Brave the harsh Nordic winter and help your clan survive in Northgard. This real-time-strategy game has you scrambling to gather food, fuel, and shelter as fast as you can.  Only the toughest can make it to spring.
Command your workers to clear entire forests for wood.  Hunt packs of vicious wolves.  Battle to the death against hostile tribes.  Rule your Viking clan to ensure your survival in Northgard.

Achieve Victory in up to 4 ways, including conquest, trade, wisdom, and fame.

Drastically alter gameplay by choosing one of 6 clans; Stag, Goat, Wolf, Boar, Bear, or Raven.

Master the terrain for maximum strategic advantage.

Divide your workers between building, foraging, and hunting.

16. Crusader Kings 2

Crusader Kings 2 Gameplay

Crusader Kings 2 puts you in control of your own medieval empire.  Ruthlessly rule your dynasty as you crush your foes, choose your allies, and forge your army in this turn-based strategy game.
Arrange marriages to combine massive empires and produce a worthy heir.  Or build an army strong enough to make even the greatest of kings bow to you.  Take control of history as you vie for dominance in Crusader Kings II.

Play alongside some of history’s greatest figures, like Genghis Khan or Richard Lionheart.

Play as yourself as you prolong your dynasty by having hers to take your throne, take more land, and more.

Take control of real-world nations as you begin your quest for dominance.

Manage your armies, provinces, and resources as you struggle through some of history's greatest eras.

15. Napoleon: Total War ™

 Napoleon: Total War ™ Gameplay Demo

Take control of one of the great world powers as you vie for dominance of Europe in Napoleon: Total War™.  Alternate between turn-based civilization builder and real-time military combat as you build up your empire.
Command a massive army of highly trained soldiers.  Undercut your enemies through political espionage.  Grow your empire and take over Europe.  Manage your citizens and crush any revolts.  Do what it takes to conquer in Napoleon: Total War™

Play through 4 different campaign modes based on actual historical events.

Take advantage of a realistic physics engine to get an advantage in battle with canons, cavalry, and tactics.

Get an eagle-eye view of your empire as you move your forces across Europe

Stand in the battlefield with your troops as you test your tactics for victory.

14. Rise of Nations: Extended Edition

Rise of Nations Gameplay Review

Rise of Nations tasks you with going from settler to emperor as you grow your village into an empire.  Develop towns into cities, manage international diplomacy, and grow your economy.  Do all of this in real-time in an all-out race to victory.
Take charge of your humble beginnings to become a military force or a diplomatic entity.  Become the ruler your people love or fear.  Make your towns into merchant havens or military strongholds.  Rise of Nations lets you take any approach you want to achieve global supremacy.

Manage your territory in a unique system by developing villages, towns, and cities to extend your border.

Pick from one of 18 civilizations in the single player "Conquer the World" mode, where you eliminate all other nations.

Take advantage of tactical formations for control of the battlefield.

Move through 8 different eras of history with 18 different civilizations.

13. Age of Wonders III

Age of Wonders III Gameplay

Explore and conquer the land in Age of Wonders III.  This fantasy 4X strategy game has you growing your army, economy, and political clout to crush all of your opponents.  Take a variety of strategies to achieve military supremacy over your enemies.
Create a Dwarven kingdom deep in the mountains.  Create a magic army of elves.  Use each race's unique advantages to build up your civilization in Age of Wonders III.

Mix RPG elements into your game by creating a unique, fully customization leader for your civilization.

Inspire your troops by recruiting heroes into your numbers as you mix them with your leader and troops for maximum strength.

Take advantage of mythical beasts for an advantage in battle.

Create an impenetrable fortress to ward off your foes.

12. Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes Playthrough

Find your true heroes as you build your empire in Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes.  Create an army out of your commoners, mixed with all-powerful super soldiers and go head to head with your rivals.  Build your empire as you build your army, using your magic and heroes along the way.
Your enemies will shake in their boots as your super-soldiers rush the field.  Conquer your enemies and command your troops in your quest for dominance.  Create cities to expand your influence as you rush to conquer your foes in Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes.

Find elemental shards across the world and turn them into mana for your army.

Specialize each of your cities to focus on economy, research, or military strength as you find your strategy for victory.

Defend your cities from all sorts of threats, from armies to dragons.

Explore the world and find the best places for your next city.

11. Endless Space 2

Endless Space 2 Guide

Endless Space 2 is a grand strategy game that has you colonizing an entire galaxy.  Take control of your civilization as you move beyond your own planet.  Research and build your army and take control of the galaxy one star-system at a time.
Destroy your enemies in real-time space combat.  Mine distant moons for precious resources.  Make and break alliances as you compete with other interplanetary societies.  Rise up to the challenge in Endless Space 2 and do whatever is necessary for galactic domination.

Research new technology in an incredibly complex skill tree, with categories in military, science, trade, and empire development.

Switch between turn-based grand strategy to grow your empire, and tactical real-time strategy in battle against your foes.

Customize your fleet as you prepare for all-out.

Colonize each solar system one planet at a time and manage your resources on each planet.

10. Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade

Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade Gameplay

If you want to control every detail of a massive interplanetary society, then Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade is your game.  Military dominance isn't the only path to victory.  You can win through culture, science, diplomacy, and more as your build every aspect of your galactic empire.
Coordinate trade deals between hostile alien empires.  Work out complex military positions across your empire for optimum defenses.  Work out ultimate peace between all civilizations or crush them all.  You can decide how you want to run every part of your civilization in Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade.

Play against up to 128 possible enemies at a time in a huge galactic map.

Each civilization has its own unique technology tree for an ultimate challenge.

Customize every aspect of your army, from your fleet composition to the hull of each ship.

Manage your civilization from above as you plot every detail of your empire's expansion.

9. Oriental Empires

Oriental Empires Let's Play

In Oriental Empires, you take your small tribe and try to conquer all of China.  In this turn-based grand strategy game, you must forge alliances, build your military, and wage war to take control of the land.
Control an ancient barbarian village as you wipe out all nearby tribes.  Or start as a noble from a modest tribe as you unite the villages around you.  Ruthlessly conquer your foes or unite the land peacefully in Oriental Empires.

Develop your society through researching culture, philosophy, and religion.

Go from struggling through the bronze age to dominating during the imperial era of China.

Build your army and test your skills on the battlefield.

Slowly cover China with your flag as you expand your borders.

8. Warlock 2: The Exiled

Warlock II: The Exiled Let's Play

Warlock 2: The Exiled is a fantasy grand-strategy game that has you taking over the world by any means necessary.  Vie for control of the realm against mages, trolls, and all manner of rivals.
Build Castles overlooking beautiful mountains and forests.  Relentlessly burn down enemy villages.  Assemble an army of wizards and knights.  Warlock 2: The Exiled makes you dominate the realm as you build upward and outward.

Play one of the only games without a diplomacy feature.  Military dominance is the only way you can ensure victory.

Play a sandbox match where you compete against other players, or play "The Exiled" as a story-based campaign.

Densely populate the realm with castles, knights, and more.

Ensure control over your land by building up your army to defend your borders.

7. Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock

Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock Gameplay

Live out your ultimate space-military fantasy in Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock.  Build your space armada and manage your resources as you prepare for battle.  Then, test your skills in all-out space warfare.
Mobilize your fleet as you defend your base.  Take the offensive as you strategically move your ships forward.  Decisively take out enemy resources.  Crush your enemies with your space force in Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock.

Each phase of gameplay dramatically effects the next, with resource management phases setting up your army for battle phases.

Understand your army as you see each unit's special abilities, limitations, strengths, and more.

Build your fleet from scratch as you prepare for war.

Your base is as important as your army, so defend it with your life.

6. Endless Legend

Endless Legend Playthrough

Build up your fantasy kingdom and dominate the world in Endless Legend.  Build up you borders, grow your economy, and develop your armies in order to dominate the world.
Amaze the world by building wonders for your civilization.  Build up your army with a variety of units, each unique to your faction.  Take over the entire map by spreading our influence.  Turn the world into your dominion in Endless Legend.

Rapidly expand your borders with a unique territory system, where large territories are claimed by your cities.

Choose from 11 Factions, each with unique buildings, units, wonders, and strategies.

Expand each city to create a fortress of your might, economy, and culture.

Manage your borders through military expansion.

Bonus: Warhammer 40,000: Gladius-Relics of War

Warhammer 40,000: Gladius-Relics of War Gameplay

Warhammer 40,000: Gladius-Relics of War brings the turn-based 4X strategy genre to the Warhammer universe.  Take your civilization to new heights by crushing your foes with your military might.
Command an army of trolls and ogres.  Raze every village in your path.  Grow your civilizations to achieve total dominance in Warhammer 40,000: Gladius-Relics of War.

Do away with diplomacy as you focus solely on military force.

Take advantage of each faction’s unique technology tree for huge variety every match.

Move your forces across the land in your conquest.

Fight mages, dragons, trolls, and explore the Warhammer universe in this epic fantasy adventure.

5. Starborne: Sovereign Space

Starborne: Sovereign Space Gameplay

Take the 4X strategy genre and put it online with 2500 players.  Starborne: Sovereign Space is the first major MMO grand strategy game, where 2500 players will compete for their faction's dominance.
Plot your path to victory for months with your friends.  Make strategic decisions that will manifest weeks from now.  Starborne: Sovereign Space lets you take part in some of the largest-scale strategy games ever.

Play with 2492 players simultaneously in months-long battles.

Like standard MMOs, choose from a variety of specialized classes to best support your faction's quest for victory.

Shift the scales as your faction takes over each sector.

Be part of a massive team as your faction progresses in its quest for dominance.

4. Europa Universalis IV

Europa Universalis IV Gameplay

Take control of a major world power and take over Europe in Europa Universalis IV.  This grand-strategy game has you juggling your army, economy, borders, and alliances as you compete for domination of the continent.
Command your soldiers to take the enemy capital while you negotiate trade with your allies.  Get a competitive edge by advancing military technology.  Become a savvy diplomat, general, and more in Europa Universalis IV

Focus on diplomacy instead of military might when you play as one of dozens of real-world nations.

Incorporate the benefits of different religions with each playthrough.

Extend your conquest beyond Europe to the rest of the world.

Manage the complex network of empires all over the world.

3. Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Playthrough

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion combines elements of 4X strategy and real-time tactics game to create an epic empire simulator.  Manage your extra-terrestrial empire as you crawl from a single-planet kingdom to a multi-star empire.
Manage your army as you devastate enemies in battle.  Keep an eye on your resources as you mine various planets.  Advance your technology to crush your rivals.  Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion gives you an entire galaxy to conquer.

Develop complex trade networks with allies to make up for any missing resources.

Explore the cosmos as you encounter unknown celestial objects and anomalies

Manage your planets as your empire grows beyond a single solar system.

Create epic and unique ships to send into battle.

2. Stellaris

Stellaris Gameplay

Move faster than light as you take your empire across the universe.  This real-time grand strategy game tasks you with building up your resources, army, and alliances to transcend into the ultimate species.
Become a baron of peace throughout the galaxy or become a feared warmonger.  Take the lead in scientific discovery or focus on amassing resources.  Decide your path forward as you colonize the universe in Stellaris.

Incorporate your civilization’s “ethics” to get unique advantages over your opponents.

React to major events outside of your control, like an interdimensional invasion or an AI uprising.

Dominate a huge galaxy in your race to victory.

Strategically acquire planets and stars for better resources.

1. Civilization V

Civilization V Gameplay

Civilization V is the most epic 4X strategy game, giving you complete control of human history.  Pick from one of dozens of history’s greatest leaders and take your lone settler to a sprawling empire.  Manage your resources, economy, diplomacy, and army as you sprint for victory.
Be the envy of the world as you build the Great Pyramids.  Elect yourself leader of the world through clever alliances.  Become the first nation to unlock nuclear weaponry and force your way to victory.  You have the ability to shape the development humanity in Civilization V.

Build up your nations culture with art, literature, and tourism to achieve Civilization V’s unique culture victory.

A robust diplomacy system lets you get an advantage through espionage and spies.

Compete for territory as your nation expands, filling up entire continents with your cities.

Completely dominate with nuclear weapons in the later game.

You may also be interested in:

More on this topic:

Level 23 Bard and former member of the Psyjic Order. Enjoys creative writing, 4X strategy games, and slaying dragons.
Gamer Since: 1998
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: God of War
Top 3 Favorite Games:Sid Meier's Civilization V, Mount & Blade: Warband, Dark Souls 3

More Top Stories