July 23, 2024

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Best grand strategy games on PC 2023

Best grand strategy games on PC 2023

There are countless subdivisions within the strategy genre, but here at Wargamer, grand strategy games are among the closest to our heart. Not content for you to control a handful of units in one battle, these games see you command entire states and their resources, pursuing sweeping goals you set for yourself. Paradox Interactive is certainly the leading publisher in the area, but it’s not the only one – so we’ve collected our all-time favorite grand strategy games in this guide.

The best grand strategy games offer a unique blend of long-term strategic decisions and tactical fine-tuning. More than typical turn based games or 4X games, and far more than even the finest RTS games on PC, grand strategy allows the player broad influence over both the macro (very big) and micro (very small) levels of a detailed simulation, whether it’s historical, fantasy, or sci-fi themed – and we’ve picked out games with a variety of backdrops for our list.

If you enjoy this guide, you’ll probably find something up your street in our guides to the best Total War games and the best WW2 games, too. If you’re also a tabletop gamer, we’d also recommend checking out our guides on the best strategy board games and miniature wargames. For now, though, limber up your logistical brain, because…

The best grand strategy games on PC in 2023 are:

Best Grand Strategy games on PC 2023 - Europa Universalis 4 screenshot showing a coloured map centered on Europe with unit symbols

1. Europa Universalis 4

The biggest, grandest grand strategy game

We’d be remiss if we didn’t start this list with probably the best known and most expansive grand strategy game on the market: Europa Universalis 4. Inspired by a 1993 board game, Paradox Interactive’s leviathan EU4 transports you to a time when the medieval period is coming to an end – and the world has many changes to look forward to under your rule.

Best Grand Strategy games on PC 2023 - Europa Universalis 4 screenshot showing part of a world map, with overlaid player menu panels

From the beginnings of the renaissance through to the early industrial revolution, Europa Universalis IV lets you chart a course through history, experiencing first-hand the beginnings of many of the nation states that make up our society today.

The entire globe will be your playground as you lead your nation through peace, war, and anything in-between. In-depth warfare, trade and diplomacy mechanics will be at your disposal to help your nation survive and (hopefully) thrive to make its mark in history.

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There are hundreds of nations you can play across the entire globe, with many of the countries having unique content such as mission trees or important governmental decisions which further distinguish between them and add even more playtime.

There are continuous updates and DLC packs released each year, which continue to add countless hours of content and expand upon many mechanics present in the game. For those looking for the biggest grand strategy game in town, with vast stores of content to play through, look no further.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Crusader Kings 3 screenshot showing 3D models for three characters, two in armor, armed for war, and one a courtly spy and assassin holding a dagger

2. Crusader Kings 3

The best grand strategy game for RPG fans

If you prefer your grand strategy games to have a dash of roleplaying attached or to return to an earlier period in history, then Paradox’s Crusader Kings 3 will be your jam. Counts, Knights, Kings, and Emperors all feature in an impressively realized rendition of the Middle Ages.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Crusader Kings 3 screenshot showing your noble's family tree screen with various in game stats

Instead of playing as a monolithic entity like a country, you’ll take the role of a specific medieval noble, following their personal story; that of their family; and all the events that happen around them. In many ways, Crusader Kings 3 is as much as a story generator as it is a grand strategy game, and, if you lean into the roleplaying aspect, there are some incredibly fun bishop-tricking, daughter-disowning, aunt-assassinating, and cousin-marrying times to be had.

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Even without roleplaying, there is a deep and rewarding grand strategy game at your fingertips, as you vie with other monarchs and courts from Ireland to India to establish yourself as the true power of the medieval world via warfare, religion, diplomacy, and intrigue.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Crusader Kings 3 screenshot showing the city of paris at the centre of your territory on the game map

You can command armies, or the assassin’s blade, to achieve your aims – there are multiple ways to deal with almost any eventuality. You’ll need to use all the tools at your disposal, not only to rise to the top, but to stay there. This cut-throat world is where Crusader Kings 3 shines, and guarantees its spot on our list.

For more info, check out our guide to the best Crusader Kings 3 mods, or our Crusader Kings 3 Royal Court DLC review.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Imperator Rome screenshot showing a stack of units in the city of Rome on the in game map

3. Imperator: Rome

The best ancient world grand strategy game

Also by Paradox, Imperator: Rome takes you to an even earlier time frame, being set in the period not long after the mighty Alexander the Great’s death and just before the rise of the juggernaut of Rome.

In Imperator: Rome you’ll build great cities and metropolises, command legions and lead your state through to the dawn of a new era of civilisation. From the rise of Rome, to the great successor states of Alexander’s glorious empire, to the barbarians inhabiting the uncharted borders of the known civilized world; you’ll command a nation and its people through the time of classical antiquity and the many upheavals you’ll face – such as internal strife, competing kingdoms, and barbarian attacks.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Imperator Rome screenshot showing the in game map, centered on Italy, with a player menu panel open

Imperator is a bit of a mix of Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings, in that you play as a nation state, but there are also various named characters from noble houses and clans, both at your command and scheming against you.

It finds a good balance between the two but also brings its own unique spin too – it’s incredibly fun to build up cities and watch as they expand in your provinces on the map, or to command levies made up of your populace which are shaped from which cultures they’re from.

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There’s also a thriving modding scene around the game that continues to add additional content – especially important as Paradox has unfortunately stopped active development on the game. For this reason, if you’re planning on diving into this one, we heavily recommend the Imperator: Invictus mod for all future runs, as this adds a ton of fan-created fixes and quality of life improvements.

Despite those rough edges, Imperator: Rome firmly deserves a place in the top list – for more information, read our Imperator: Rome review.

Best grand strategy games guide - Wargamer original Total War Warhammer screenshot showing Tzeentch daemons and the Legendary Lord Kairos Fateweaver in battle

4. Total War: Warhammer 3

The grand strategy game with the best battles

If you prefer a larger serving of outright warfare and fully-realised, real time battling with your grand strategy, then Total War: Warhammer 3 is an excellent choice.

Bringing an accessible level of grand strategy to the Warhammer Old World setting, Total Warhammer 3 is the ambitious culmination of years of work from the developer Creative Assembly, tying the preceding two games into one massive campaign with dozens of Total Warhammer 3 factions playable.

Best grand strategy games guide - Wargamer original Total War Warhammer screenshot showing Grand Cathay units clashing with Slaanesh daemons in battle

In it, you’ll be in a tenacious fight for survival in a hostile universe constantly at war. You’ll shape the composition of your armies as you fight tactical real-time battles on a strategic turn based grand campaign map as you fight against the vast number of threats arrayed against you and your chosen nation.

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You’ll need to juggle diplomacy, research, and – most importantly – warfare as you struggle to survive against relentless enemies such as the insidious threat of Chaos, the brutal Orc tribes or the perfidious ratmen of the Skaven. To achieve this you’ll need to expand your cities, subjugate rivals, and find great relics to help your heroes reach the zenith of their power.

This is both an excellent, lower-complexity grand strategy title, and the overall best Warhammer fantasy videogame yet made – as we explain in our Total War Warhammer 3 review.

Best grand strategy games guide - Stellaris screenshot showing a star map with several coloured territories

5. Stellaris

The best space grand strategy game

Side-stepping from fantasy into sci-fi, we have Stellaris: Paradox’s spacefaring bestseller, combining the best of the grand strategy and 4X genres in a lavishly detailed, procedurally generated galaxy full of aliens, random events, and bizarre optional objectives.

Best grand strategy games guide - Stellaris screenshot showing a fleet of 3d starships arrayed for battle

You’ll create a unique civilization to your liking, and then, with the advent of faster-than-light travel, explore the unknown galaxy; you’ll find other species, discover ancient ruins and chart maps of the galaxy. In addition, you’ll need to manage colonisation of new planets, manage political parties, and direct your research teams to your liking as well as the usual mechanics such as warfare.

Stellaris starts off feeling like a pure 4X game, but, as your faction expands and your decisions grow broader and more numerous, it transitions into a full-blown grand strategy experience – and one that feels unique among Paradox grand strategy titles due to its early and midgame emphasis on exploration and the sheer, bewildering variety of cultures and species present.

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In one game, many of the empires you encounter may be xenophile and working towards a galactic utopia, whereas the next might be chock full of warmongering space fascists bent upon galactic domination – and this vast difference between games is part of its charm.

Compared to its peers, Stellaris is generally a bit easier in terms of its learning curve, too, making it more accessible to new fans of the genre – one of the reasons we’ll always recommend it to any friends looking to dip their toes into grand strategy.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Terra Invicta screenshot showing the orbital path of an object around the Earth

6. Terra Invicta

The best grand strategy game for XCOM fans

Also leaning into the sci-fi theme, but in a bit more of a grounded manner, Terra Invicta (from developer Pavonis and publisher Hooded Horse) has you guarding against an insidious extra-terrestrial threat while leading a transnational group of political, military, and scientific leaders.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Terra Invicta screenshot showing the in game viewer centered on China, showing a readout of military forces in the area

The aliens have their own designs for our solar system, and your role is to push back against them while your faction’s aims. Depending on which faction you’ve chosen to play as, these could be to resist against the alien in a manner similar to games like XCOM; plot an escape from earth and escape their clutches; or just join the aliens and help them to fulfil their goals in the hope of safeguarding humanity. Competing human factions have their own aims to complete, and are just as much of a threat to each other as the aliens.

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You won’t begin the game with much, but you’ll need to build space stations, control countries, construct mighty spaceships and fleets, and explore the solar system for resources.

You’ll command your fleets in real-time tactical battles, with every ship designed and built to your exacting specifications. If you’re looking for an XCOM-esque title with a lot more complexity, Terra Invicta fits the bill.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Hearts of Iron 4 screenshot showing various units on the Europe campaign map, with railway supply lines between and aircraft overhead

7. Hearts of Iron 4

The best WW2 grand strategy game

In Hearts of Iron 4, you’ll lead one of dozens of playable nations, big and small, through the tumultuous historical events of World War 2, either following in the real-world leaders’ footsteps or choosing alternate paths through history.

You’ll focus on strategic battleplans and combined-arms warfare, waging war on land, sea, and in the air – all while researching new military technologies and upgrading your country’s army divisions, tanks, ships, and planes with the ultimate goal of winning the war and achieving your country’s aims.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Hearts of Iron 4 screenshot showing two factions' units on either side of a frontline running through a city

None of that’ll happen without a strong war economy, though, so you’ll also be managing factories, supply lines, and logistics. Make no mistake, HOI4 is a WW2 history nerd’s dream.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Hearts of Iron 4 screenshot showing a Division advance order on the map, displayed as an arrow heading west towards a new front line

Whether you’re playing as an Axis or an Allied nation (or those of alternative factions, if you go down an alternate history path) Hearts of Iron 4 will give you plenty of trials and tribulations you’ll need to overcome to be victorious. There’s a lot to juggle, but you’ll need to learn to adapt to the situation at hand, as no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

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We wholeheartedly recommend Hearts of Iron 4 as one of the best grand strategy games – and, if you’re interested in getting into it, check out our guides to the best HOI4 DLC and the best HOI4 mods.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Dominions 5 screenshot showing an army attacking in battle, with many cavalry units and wizards behind

8. Dominions 5: Warriors of the Faith

The best fantasy grand strategy game

If you fancy a similarly pure-bred grand strategy game in a fantasy setting, then Dominions 5 may be exactly what you’re looking for. The simplistic graphics and functional UI belies what is an incredibly deep and engaging grand strategy title, with hundreds of spells and units ready for you to use in your quest to ascend this plane of existence and become a god.

Your servants act as an extension of your will, and they’ll make war in your name as you deal with any rivals vying to achieve godhood at your expense. There are dozens of unique nations for you to command, including undead roman-esque legions and HP-Lovecraft inspired Atlanteans, among others – each with its own fantastical units from which to raise your armies.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Dominions 5 screenshot showing the campaign map and different factions

You’re not merely a dictator in the sky, though: In Dominions 5, you have your own in-game god unit – your ‘Pretender’ – that represents you in the game, to whom you can equip items, specializing them into your preferred battlefield role. Your commanders will lead mighty armies to conquer territory and increase the resources at your disposal as well as eliminating threats.

There are a lot of decisions you’ll need to make, and hurdles to overcome, before you achieve your overarching goal of godhood – but the journey to get there in Dominions 5 is extremely fun and rewarding. If you’re up for giving it a go, check out our beginner Dominions 5 guide first.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Knights of Honor 2 Sovereign screenshot showing the town and surrounding area of Helsinki on the campaign strategy map

9. Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign

The best grand strategy game for beginners

Returning to the medieval period, Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign is an excellent grand strategy title that blends action-rich RTS-style tactical battles with a (drop dead gorgeous) real-time campaign map to create a hybrid that sits somewhere between Crusader Kings and Total War.

In KOH, you’ll command your leaders to conquer nearby lands and expand the infrastructure within medieval Europe and beyond, as you will have competing powers vying for domination and influence in order to achieve victory.

Best grand strategy games on PC guide - Knights of Honor 2 Sovereign screenshot showing units besieging a town wall during a real time siege battle

Generally in KOH, you’ll want to expand outward as much as possible in order to take more resources and land to fuel your war machine, as resources unlock new upgrades for your buildings, which then buff various aspects of your nation – such as the economy, or the units that make up your armies.

This heavy focus on resources is a core component of the game, and one of its more distinctive, enjoyable aspects. There’s also plenty of use of named characters – although they aren’t as detailed, interlinked, or complicated to use as in Crusader Kings.

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Knights of Honor 2 is pretty simple to pick up, and it is another game we’d recommend for a newcomer to the grand strategy genre. Despite being, in the main, an entry level title, it can still get very tricky if you overextend in an attempt to expand quickly – so there’s plenty of scope for those who want to master the game to add difficulty, creating challenges for themselves to overcome.

If none of these sweeping strategy sojourns tickle your fancy, might we suggest a different historical focus, with our guides to the best Napoleonic games, the best Vietnam War games, or the best American Civil War games? Alternatively, you can always save a few bucks by picking out one of the best free strategy games PC has to offer.