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.
- Fast-paced, hard-hitting, tightly balanced competitive real-time strategy gameplay that recaptures and improves on the original game
- Three completely distinct races: Protoss, Terran, and Zerg
- Units and gameplay mechanics distinguish each race
- 3D-graphics engine with support for visual effects and massive unit and army sizes
- Full multiplayer support, with competitive features and matchmaking utilities available through Battle.net
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.
- Lead 1 of 24 diverse nations in this epic, historical, real-time strategy game
- Engage in 5 single player campaigns and over 130 scenarios
- Brings to life 6,000 years of history from the ancient age to the information age
- 6 new nations, 4 unique single-player campaigns, 20+ original units, and more
- No online play available
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.
- Blood and Snow Take command of the iconic Red Army on the Eastern Front and repel the Nazi invaders in the most brutal conflict of World War 2
- Next Generation RTS The sequel to the highest rated RTS title of all time is pushing the boundaries of the RTS genre with new TrueSight and Dynamic Battle Tactics gameplay mechanics
- Essence 3.0 Built on the latest rendition of Relic Entertainment?s state of the art proprietary engine, Company of Heroes 2 pushes the graphical and gameplay boundaries of the RTS genre
- Tactical Expertise Develop and utilize your commander abilities based on your tactical preference and taste for war. Mold and customize your army to suit your individual playstyle before delivering tactical blows to annihilate your enemies
- Competitive Multiplayer Featuring the great competitive multiplayer that fans have grown to expect from the Company of Heroes franchise
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.
- Assume the role of Union and Confederate soldiers fighting behind enemy lines in legendary battles
- Your goal is to disrupt the armies of both the North and the South by any means necessary, including conducting train raids, stealing ironclad ships, stopping enemy supply lines, destroying enemy artillery and more
- All events are drawn from the real life actions of famous partisans, scouts and rangers
- Fight as a member of Mosby's Rangers, Sheridan's Scouts and Grant's Secret Service
- Receive your mission commands from famous generals including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Ulysses Grant
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Mount & Blade offers a realistic world, where some quests are resolved through the world's own dynamics.
- A demanding game with a high degree of concentration and user involvement.
- Innovative battles take place with your character on the horseback.
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.
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.
- Turn an overgrown field into a lively farm! Raise animals, start an orchard, craft useful machines, and more!
- Improve your skills over time. As you make your way from a struggling greenhorn to a master farmer, you'll level up in 5 different areas: farming, mining, combat, fishing, and foraging.
- Become a part of the local community. Over 30 unique characters living in Stardew Valley, each with their own daily schedule, birthday, unique mini-cutscenes, and new things to say throughout the week and year.
- Explore a vast, mysterious cave. Encounter new and dangerous monsters, powerful weapons, new environments, valuable gemstones, and other treasures as you venture deeper underground!
- Craft bait, bobbers, and crab pots to help you in your journey toward catching every fish and becoming a local legend!
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.
- New Playable Faction - The Seraphim will offer a completely new playable faction in multiplayer games and serve as the main threat during the new single-player campaign. The Seraphim are a cunning and devious race with advanced technology and are true masters of quantum technology.
- New weapons, new strategies, new conquests!
- New Units - 110 new land, sea, air, base and experimental units evolve armies to address strategic weaknesses or become the ultimate expressions of factional military doctrine.
- Warfare on an Epic Scale - Fully realized navies, orbital weaponry, advanced counter intelligence technologies, suicide weapons and sneak attacks give commanders unprecedented, deadly new capabilities in what is already the most strategic RTS on the market today.
- New Multiplayer Maps - 12 new multiplayer maps provide new battlegrounds or players to prove their supremacy.
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.
- Successful diplomacy will depend on players carefully managing relationships with other leaders
- Expanded visuals and immersive audio invite would-be kings to take up the reigns of power and forge a mighty empire
- An intuitive interface eases both new players and Civ veterans into the game
- The addition of ranged bombardment allows players to fire weapons from behind the front lines
- Choose one of eighteen historical civilizations to lead from the stone-age to the space age
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.
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.
- , not just military and economic consequences.
- Slick and intuitive interface makes navigation and gameplay a snap for novice players.
- Complete campaigns to satisfy would-be galactic conquerors.
- Robust Multiplayer lets 8 players slug it out for galactic domination.
- Manage policies dealing with freedom and oppression, slavery, and racial tolerance. Will your civilization thrive better as an oppressive tyranny, a free republic, a unified theocracy, or something in-between?
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?
- XCOM ON THE RUN: Take command of the Avenger, an alien supply craft converted to XCOM's mobile headquarters.
- RECRUIT RESISTANCE FIGHTERS: Five soldier classes, each with its own skill tree, let you create specific soldiers for your tactical plan.
- TACTICAL GUERRILLA COMBAT: New gameplay systems offer more tactical flexibility in combat. Use concealment to ambush enemy patrols.
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.
- The game is only played on the computer and is not available for online play.
- In this exciting real-time strategy game, youplay as either the ancient Greeks, Norse or Egyptians. All three are vying for control of the world, and you must help your chosen side to succeed!
- To control more territory, you'll have to arrange armies, handle diplomacy and manage trade
- Technological improvements combine with supernatural power as you develop your sciences and call upon the ancient gods
- Rain down lightning on an opposing army, demolish enemy camps with earthquakes, and sink a navy with a tidal wave -- you'll see it all happen in real-time with incredibly detailed special effects
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.
Total War has released its fair share of strategy games but none came close to Shogun 2. What makes this so cool is that we’ve never seen this period covered before as it looks at the rise of Japan. 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.
- Real-time strategy game set in 15th- through 18th-century Europe
- Play the medieval campaigns of Jeanne D'Arc to the massive wars of Napoleon
- Intuitive interface and combat system
- Lead any of 140 nations with historical leaders and national research
- For 1 to 8 players using Internet or LAN connection
Now 5 years since its release, Europa Universalis II 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.