Strategy games have long been a favorite for PC gamers and a way to flex those brain muscles like no other genre can. These games require a lot of strategy from the player, and they are quite diverse in what they offer. If this sounds like it might be up your alley, check out our list of the best strategy games for PC with both new and old making the cut.
In a way, you could class any PC game as one requiring strategy, but the strategy genre itself is a special one. Any game that has a series of choices that one must make in order to be victorious or fail is what sets these apart from the rest, and they require a whole lot of dedication and patience to get them right.
The strategy genre has been lucky enough to have many classic titles within it over the years, and some of the most iconic games ever made for PC are within this category. With that in mind, we’re here to look back at 20 of the best strategy games ever released and what made them so special to us gamers.
20. StarCraft II
This real-time strategy game has always been a favorite but has also divided fans who loved the first StarCraft. There’s no doubt that its production values far outweigh most in the genre for its time and its story is enough to draw anyone in. As you wage war across the galaxy, you’ll get lost in this game for hours and have to rely on your smarts to be victorious. Not only that, you’re given multiple ways to play so you’ll never get bored.
19. Rise of Nations
Although this game is quite dated now, with over 15 years since its release, it’s still one of the best executed RTS titles in history. Rise of Nations did so many things that were unique to the genre and still by today’s standards, making it an instant stand out. This innovative game changed the way we control the map and got rid of a lot of problems that most others struggled with. If you like your strategy games with a lot of history behind them, this is a great one that spans it all.
18. Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault
This strategy game showed a side of war that we don’t usually get to see when we’re gaming, especially when it comes to strategy titles. With a focus on the human side of things and especially the soldiers that do battle for us, this is one that will tug at the heartstrings. Ardennes Assault looks at the morality of war but also being precious with your resources which are very real things to face in battle. The graphics are dynamic and beautiful and it feels a lot more realistic than some strategy games. With an open-ended playing feel, there’s no limit to how many hours you can enjoy this World War II saga for.
17. Ultimate General: Gettysburg
For those who like simplicity in their gameplay but still require a challenge, Ultimate General: Gettysburg might be just what you’re after. Although it may look easy, you really have to pay close attention to what you’re doing and you’ll soon see how deep the gameplay goes. This RTS is a Civil War based title that lets you decide your own ending, but it’s a matter of skill just as much as it is strategy. Although a few years old now, it’s still a heap of fun to play.
16. WarCraft III
One of the biggest and best in the genre is WarCraft III, and it managed to be even better than the first two. This is not for those who like to take things slowly though, as you’ll need to be willing to roll with the punches as soon as they happen and think on your feet. The map was innovative in itself and the gameplay was vibrant. Now 16 years old, it shows no sign of aging and would be just as well received today as it was back then.
15. Cities: Skylines
We all remember the days of SimCity, and how many others tried to emulate it. Cities: Skylines has done the best job so far but made this game even more open-ended and full of options. You’ll get to build your city just as you need it and one can easily get lost for hours in the city planning that takes place. This game works just as well as a hobby and a serious challenge, with strategy being the number one skill you need.
14. Crusader Kings II
This is a seriously epic strategy game set in the Middle Ages, and not as neatly laid out as you might imagine. There’s chaos everywhere when you play Crusader Kings II so you have to be cool under the pressure. The sequel to Crusader Kings was released in 2012 and is still loved today, with the focus on each individual character making it a real standout in the strategy genre. If you like your games with a little more emotion and a lot more individuality in characters and storyline, it’s definitely one to check out.
13. StarCraft: Brood War
For many fans of the genre, StarCraft: Brood War will always be their number one. This sci-fi game did what no other could do and managed to mix science, storytelling, and skill together to create one epic game. Sometimes, you’ll feel as though you’re watching an award-winning sci-fi movie and other times you’ll be so lost in the fun that you won’t even know your own name.
12. FLT: Faster Than Light
This real-time strategy game is not for the faint-hearted, and you’ll likely be sitting on the edge of your gaming chair every time you play. Faster Than Light is set in space and you must make your way through the sky fighting off bad guys and rebels, or battling with other ships. There’s no end to the drama and although the graphics might seem a little basic, you’ll barely notice them once you get stuck into the action. FTL is a few years old now but we have a feeling it’ll be considered a classic forever.
11. Mount & Blade: Warband
Although some might not consider Mount & Blade to be a strategy game, we think they’d be wrong. Warband focuses a lot on skill-based combat which can throw some, but there’s a whole lot of strategy at play. You’ll need to direct your men through battle and make important choices to do with power, which is the marker of a great strategy game. There’s no end to how you can play it and although it’s a little rough around the edges, it’s definitely one of the better choices.
10. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
Fans of Warhammer will often fight over which is best, the original or the sequel, but in terms of entertainment value, the second would have to win. This is war, but not as you know it, as you’re in charge of space marines and their battle for the galaxy. The storytelling and graphics are amazing which can sometimes make it feel as though you’re watching a movie rather than strategizing. There’s no shortage of challenges or puzzles to solve, so you’ll always be thinking of your next move.
9. Stardew Valley
If war scenarios or space battles seem a little too intense for you, but you still like to keep your brain working with strategy, why not check out the farming sim Stardew Valley. There’s so much to do here that you’ll easily waste hours without even realizing. You can plant crops, learn about which ones make more profits, and learn how to manage the busy schedule of farm life. This is as close as you’ll ever come to having your own farm, but without the added pressure of milking the cows yourself.
8. Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance
By far the most intense and serious title on our list is Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. This is a game that’s reserved for those who really love their strategy games and are willing to give it their all. You’ll need to know every minor detail about resources or look out for quick chances to strike at the enemy. Don’t play if you’ve got something else going on in the background, otherwise, you won’t last very long.
7. Sid Meier’s Civilization V
The man responsible for the huge boom in sim games showed his worth with Civilization V. The major change that made this one a standout from the others was having just one military unit per square. This is a perfectly rounded game that gives you hours and hours of play, and civilizations that are so huge you’ll barely get to cover them all.
6. Total War: Warhammer II
If you’re thinking this list is missing some dragon action, we have you covered. The hugely successful Total War: Warhammer II has dragons aplenty along with many other fantasy themes and characters. You’ll be able to work your way through knights, demons, and battle armies that are so diverse it’ll make your head spin.
5. Master of Orion II
Going way back when to 1996, Master of Orion II is one game that has managed to stand the test of time. You wouldn’t be comparing its graphics to anything today, but in terms of gameplay and the options available for you to control, it can’t be beaten. You’ll be able to design your own alien race or create unique superweapons to use in battle. Other games have tried to copy Master of Orion II but failed miserably, so why not just go straight to the source?
This one looks quite different from the other strategy titles in a game, but it all works well. As a rebooted version of XCOM that was orchestrated by Firaxis, it worked better than what anyone anticipated. The campaigns in this are a lot more complex to organize and you’ll get a whole range of soldier types to choose from, but the rewards for your hard work and strategy are more than worth it.
3. Age of Mythology
When you think of classic strategy games, Age of Mythology is one that comes to people’s minds instantly. The difference between this game and others from eras gone by is that it actually still holds up today. You’ll be covering almost every mythology you can think of including Greek and Egyptian s it’s a great history lesson as well. As you slay your enemies and work your way through the campaigns, you’ll realize that they just don’t make them like this anymore.
2. Total War: Attila
Total War has released its fair share of strategy games but none came close to Attila. What makes this so cool is that we’ve never seen this period covered before as it looks at the rise of Medieval Europe. You’ll have to make plenty of tough choices playing this game and even some decisions that mean no win, either way, so be prepared to make some sacrifices along the way.
1. Europa Universalis IV
Now 5 years since its release, Europa Universalis IV still stands out as the best from this franchise. In order to keep people playing, there’s been countless free content released that helps to flesh out the map and give you even more challenges. You’ll need to do more than just strategize base issues as you deal with the most minute details. However, it’s all presented with one of the best interfaces we’ve ever seen in a strategy game and can make even the hardest decisions seem easy to understand.
Here are a few other notebooks that can handle current PC games well, as well: