It's time to conquer the best strategy games on PC, from the best RTS to the best turn-based strategy
What are the best strategy games for PC? Some would say StarCraft II, others Civilization VI, while still others would say “actually, Civ 4 was the best ga-”, but at that point we would stop listening because nobody cared. Join us as we explore a curated collection of the genre's greatest hits, from newcomers to classics.
Fun fact: The strategy genre was first invented in 1938, when Winston Churchill looked out the window of a plane to France and thought, “Hey, that would make a really cool video game, whatever it is.” Probably.
Since then, there have been about a hundred million different strategy games, simulating as many different types of fighting as we humans have reason to fight one another.
Turn-based or real-time, grand strategy or tactics… this genre is as diverse as it gets. But what are the best strategy games for PC? Well, just drag a selection box over our bodies and right-click on the horizon, and we'll find out. We have a strategy editor on our team now, so we can't be wrong.
THE BEST STRATEGY GAMES
The best strategy games on PC are:
- Crusader kings iii
- Offworld Trading Company
- XCOM 2
- Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
- Total War: Warhammer II
- civilization VI
- Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
- Endless Legend
- Starcraft II
- Battlestar Galactica stalemate
CRUSADER KINGS III
Talk about a murderous bastard from a great strategy game. While only time will tell if this dynasty, emerging storyteller successor claims the throne from its now-free-to-play predecessor Crusader Kings 2, it certainly began its reign with royal excellence.
Crusader Kings 3 vastly overhauled the series' Byzantine interface, making it a welcome proposition for new players while retaining much of the depth the series is known for.
It may look like a traditional grand strategy map painter, and while it certainly contains detailed systems for waging war, the heart of Crusader Kings 3 resides in their personal, often hilarious stories.
Will you gain power through military might, wealth, religious influence, diplomacy or subterfuge? Each character you play as has their own personality and lifestyle focus, and each member of your dynasty will shape your empire, for better or worse, before bequeathing it to the next in line.
It's a game that makes personal plots plotted behind closed doors as important as battles between nations.
OFFWORLD TRADING COMPANY
Offworld Trading Company is right at the other end of the Civilization strategy game spectrum, although its designer, Soren Johnson, also worked on Civ IV.
As Civ traverses humanity's history and part of the future, chronicling humanity's progress, the Offworld Trading Company is all about making a fortune exploring our red neighbor, Mars.
It's an RTS crossed with the complexities of the best management games, where victory isn't achieved by throwing tanks at enemies or demolishing their bases.
Instead, your weapons are resources and money, which you use to manipulate the market not just to get rich, but to completely disrupt your competitors. You might not expect an economic strategy game to be very aggressive, but the Offworld Trading Company encourages you to be as hostile as a warrior.
When you're eyeing menus, planning what to build next, what to sell, which company to launch a hostile takeover against, it's just as exciting as when you're sending infantry across fields destroyed by artillery or launching stealth airstrikes against a stronghold. enemy in Company of Heroes or StarCraft II.
The same developers just released their own version of the 4X/Civilization games called Old World, have a look.
XCOM 2 is one of the best turn - based strategy games , and we gave it a very good score in our XCOM 2 review . It takes the best parts of the series so far, the savage fighting, the ragtag group of heroes, the devious aliens, the tight tactical battles, and throws improvement after improvement on top.
It is a question of whether the expansion War of the Chosen is objectively better, but there are plenty of excellent XCOM 2 mods that can bring the vanilla game down to scratch. Both offer distinct but equally rewarding experiences. There are many others DLCs do XCOM 2 Also.
Battles are challenging and varied, filled with horrible opponents with surprising and tricky abilities, but the biggest changes are found in the strategic layer. You'll travel all over the world, establishing cells, infiltrating black sites, looking for more resources so you can have more powerful weapons and tools - it's compelling, rather than an afterthought.
CHRISTMAS WORLD: DESERTS OF KHARAK
A Blackbird Interactive did the seemingly impossible with Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. And that's to transpose the sleek, minimalist space wars of the original Homeworld games onto a single planet, making it one of the best strategy games in the process. It somehow works. Very good.
It's a journey across a vast wilderness driven by your mission to save a civilization. Each battle is connected to the last one and also to the ones that have not yet been fought. Each unit that survives will live to fight another day on another mission in a persistent war for survival.
Kharak itself, despite being a giant desert, is a fantastical planet-sized battleground that does for the ground what the originals did for space. The addition of terrain and elevation replicates the three-dimensional battles of previous games, with the sand dunes providing cover, hiding places, and high ground from which you can unleash devastating attacks.
Like its predecessors, the game is blessed with some of the best art designs you could ever hope to find in an RTS, meaning you can take beautiful screenshots of the home world. Add in its amazing sound design and genuinely interesting storytelling, Deserts of Kharak is a classic.
TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER II
OK Alright. As much as I don't like to admit it, Total War: Warhammer II is probably the best Total War game. It's easily the studio's most creative work yet, and the ultimate expression of the long-lost Warhammer Fantasy universe, but there's also a credible argument that the tactical layer is beautiful.
Still, Warhammer Fantasy Total War games in general have done wonders for the strategic layer, offering a more diverse and immersive experience than ever before.
These improvements would inspire the strategic layers of Total War: Three Kingdoms e Total War Saga: Troy, both pretty decent historical strategy games, and feature tactical battles more in line with the classic games in the series.
There are a modest but equally creative set of DLC expansions for Total War: Warhammer 2 to help round out the base game experience, as well as some excellent Warhammer 2 mods.
Let's not forget about the add-on either Mortal Empires, available to owners of both Total Warhammer games, which elevates the Old World into something akin to a grand strategy epic Paradox. All this is preparing us for the next Total War: Warhammer III (see below), which looks extremely metallic.Read also
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You would find a lot of debate about which modern Civilization game was better, Civ 5 ou Civ 6 (we even had it all about it), but with the release of the Gathering Storm expansion, this sixth installment in the series can finally boast as a great strategy game of note.
Still epitomizing the 'one more twist' ideal that makes these types of games so addictive, Civilization 6 offers many more mechanisms to bring the world around you to life.
It's not just about exchanging ideas about this civilization or declaring war on it - you need to pay attention to how you're impacting the world and working towards your goals, of which there is a wide variety.
Civ 6 recently finished its year-long New Frontier season pass, which added a bunch of civs to the game as well as a bunch of optional game modes and free and premium items. This culminated in April 2021 balance patch , that although a little by the numbers left the game in the best state ever.
There's a lot to dive into with Civilization 6, whether it's the healthy amount of Civ 6 DLC available for purchase or the vibrant and creative collection of Civ 6 mods. This is the ultimate strategy game for modern times.
COMPANY OF HEROES 2: ARDENNES ASSAULT
Company of Heroes 2 was great, but it didn't quite match the magic of its predecessor. Then came Ardennes Assault, in our Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault review we found it to be one of the best RTS games you can play.
US forces and the German Oberkommando are fighting for control of the Bulge in a campaign inspired by the Battle of the Bulge, in true wargaming style.
This differentiates it from Company of Heroes and the sequel, alongside its non-linear single-player campaign that unfolds on a strategic metamap. The Germans are dynamic, being reinforced by retreating forces, changing the challenges presented by story missions and dynamic skirmishes.
While the campaign is played from an American perspective only, American forces are divided into three companies, all with unique specialties covering air, support, and mechanized functions.
All of these companies have special officer skills and upgrade trees, and any one can be used to fulfill a mission. Even if you focus on one, the other two will still be on the map and can provide assistance by blocking enemy retreat from a captured province.
This is the first time battles in Company of Heroes have real weight to rival the best WW2 games, but the series won't stop there. Company of Heroes 3 was announced (see below) and is bringing with it a new campaign layer that takes lessons learned from the Ardennes Assault and turns them into 11.
COMMAND & CONQUER: RED ALERT 2
There's so much to love about Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. From the ridiculous unit types to the cheesy FMV cutscenes, you'll be hard pressed to find a strategy game with as much personality and charm as this RTS.
It might not be as wild as the sequel, which managed to scale J K Simmons, Tim Curry e George Takei, but there's a certain degree of sincerity amidst the bombastic style.
And if you're just looking for something with solid strategy game skills, then Red Alert 2 it hasn't aged a day in the two decades since its release.
You'll find two varied campaigns to run through, one from the US perspective and one from the Soviet Union, and a well-balanced multiplayer offering with some infinitely addictive modes. No other strategy game lets you pit democratic dolphins against Soviet squids, and for that alone, we'll always love the Red Alert 2.
In our analysis of Endless Legend , we praise a 4X game that blends fantasy and science fiction perfectly, playing lost astronauts against magical dragons in absolutely the most stunning hexagonal world there is.
Diverse, beautiful, it feels almost tangible, as if you could reach out and take one of the elaborate cities and pack it in your hands. “Don't worry, citizens. We will not let the horrible man-eating bugs devour you and your families,” we whispered into our cupped hands.
Fascinating factions vie for dominance in the apocalyptic world. Each is blessed with unique and interesting mechanics that set them apart and inform how they are played.
You have the aforementioned horrible race of flesh-eating insects, the Scavengers, for example, who are so disgusting that they cannot make alliances with other factions, forcing them to always be the opposition.
Endless Legend is also blessed with a strong narrative that gives it a strong sense of place. Each faction has a set of story missions that will inform many of your decisions without cornering you.
Amplitude recently released a new historic 4X game called Humankind, which seeks to rival Civilization VI. It's still not where it needs to be to earn a spot on this list.
What's not to love about a game that pits armored cowboys against xenomorphic aliens and space elves? StarCraft II is a classic base building RTS that tasks you to gather resources, build armies and kill your enemy before they kill you with quick decisions and even faster mouse clicks.
StarCraft II is also one of the best multiplayer PC games. Your enemies are human; they will likely be able to click faster than you, placing orders faster than you.
You'll likely lose a lot, but you'll get better the more you play, making this one of the best RTS games for anyone with a competitive streak.
The PvE campaign is also notable as the story is difficult to do in RTS games. Many developers resort to cutscenes or dialogue during the mission, but StarCraft II lets you interact with the world outside of combat.
Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California, alleging years of discrimination and harassment. Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company's initial response "deaf," employees have gone on strike, Blizzard President J Allen Brack has left, and the ABK Workers Alliance has demanded changes at the company. The process is in progress.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA DEADLOCK
We're releasing a new entry for in an effort to help highlight some of the lesser-known heroes in the strategy space.
There aren't many games like Battlestar Galactica Deadlock, but it's definitely an awesome space game and certainly the best BSG game on the market if you're looking for a 12 colony shaped hole in your life.
It's a tactical space combat game at its core, but it's also what we call a 'WEGO' strategy game. Essentially, both sides make and resolve their moves simultaneously. You can also think of it as a real-time strategy game with forced breaks. You give your movements and orders to the ships in your fleet, and then they will follow those orders for a specific period of time (usually ten seconds), before the game stops again. You can then change the orders as you see fit, or leave things as they are.
After finishing a tactical battle, you can watch a replay where everything unfolds in real time with no pauses, and the replay camera AI will use shots and visual effects from the TV show.
Deadlock is also an excellent single-player campaign, which brings you fleet building, resource management, and even a little politics as you try to keep the 12 colonies in line while also defeating the Cylon invasion. Unless you really don't like Battlestar Galactica, definitely worth checking out.