If you are a strategy fan looking for some gripping game play that is guaranteed to keep you glued to the screen for hours on end look no further than our round up of the best Mac strategy games.
For our top best Mac games recommendations read: Top 20 Mac games of 2022.
We also have eleven separate articles covering our favorites in each game genre. So if you want more of the same, select your favorite genre from the list below and jump to that article.
You may also like to take a look at our Best Mac for gaming guide.
Company: Harebrained Schemes
Where to buy: Green Man Gaming (£11.90/$13.60), Steam (£34.99/$39.99)
System requirements: Mac with OS X v10.13.3, 3GHz Intel Core i5 processor, discrete graphics card with 2GB VRAM
There haven’t been many ‘mech’ games released for the Mac, so we were pleased to see the giant-robot action of BattleTech arriving on the Mac alongside the PC version of the game.
BattleTech isn’t a fast-paced shooter, like the PC-only Titanfall, so you don’t get to go stomping around inside your giant ‘mech robot suit, crushing scenery and enemies galore. Instead, BattleTech offers a more tactical, turn-based approach to combat – a bit like the excellent X-Com, but with more giant robots.
Set in the year 3025, you start the game as bodyguard to Lady Arano, heir to the House Of Arano, which rules over a region of space known as the Aurigan Reach. Mankind doesn’t seem to have progressed much in the future, so daily life is a constant battle between rival noble Houses spread around the galaxy. However, Lady Arano also has to deal with political in-fighting at home, so your job is to protect her against enemies on all sides. And, as the game progresses, you rise through the ranks until you can lead the Arano forces into full-scale battle with your crack team of stompy mech-warriors.
The game starts with a straightforward tutorial, that introduces the basic movement and combat controls for your personal mech. Like most strategy games, BattleTech gives you an overhead view of the terrain – depicted in detailed 3D graphics – and allows you to select your location or target with a simple click of the mouse. Your mech doesn’t look particularly big or impressive in this mode, but once you’ve issued your commands the game switches into a more close-up view where you see your mech stomping – or dramatically jumping – towards your target and then firing your weapons.
These regular changes of viewpoint can be a bit disconcerting at first, and the methodical approach to combat can be a bit frustrating if you just want to let rip with your giant mech and smush your enemies into little blots on the landscape. However, the main single-player campaign provides plenty of tactical challenges for strategy fans, and there’s an online Skirmish mode available that offers PvP combat for both teams and individual players.
The game’s slick 3D graphics need a decent graphics card, though, so make sure to check out the recommended system requirements before buying.
Civilization: Beyond Earth
Where to buy: Steam (£29.99/$39.99), Green Man Gaming (£29.99/$39.99), Mac App Store (£38.99/$39.99)
System requirements: Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite), 2.2GHz Intel processor, GeForce 640M or Radeon HD 5750
The previous games in the Civilization series have all followed the same basic pattern, putting you in control of a group of primitive settlers who fight and trade their way to world domination before eventually developing rocket ships and advanced technologies that allow them to reach for the stars.
Beyond Earth, as its name implies, takes the next logical step. The Earth is a mess, so a group of colony ships are launched into space in order to find a new home for the human race. Each ship has a ‘sponsor’, which is the national group that built the ship, such as the Pan-Asian Cooperative, Brasilia or the African Union. These sponsors provide different advantages, such as super-efficient Pan-Asian workers, or the military strength of Brasilia.
The colonists on each ship can vary too, including different combinations of scientists, artists, refugees and wealthy aristocrats, with each group providing different benefits for your new colony. And, of course, your new home world will present its own challenges. Some worlds are quite Earth-like, with large land masses and continents, while others may consist of endless dry deserts, or small groups of islands scattered across a watery ocean world.
The basic mechanics of Beyond Earth will be familiar to anyone that has played previous Civ games, but the space colonisation theme gives the game a different feel and introduces new elements that will provide plenty of challenges for strategy fans.
If you enjoy it, the Rising Tide expansion pack adds new content to the game to keep you playing, but also introduces some new features that may change the way you play.
You can wave the flag for Great Britain by playing as the new North Sea Alliance. As the name implies, this UK-Scandinavian partnership has a strong naval tradition, and its ship-building skills will come in useful as Rising Tide also allows you to explore the seas and gather new resources, and even to build floating cities that you can move around each planet’s oceans.
We’d recommend that you buy it on Steam rather than the App Store, as the Steam version includes a multi-player option as well as the basic single-player game.
Civilization V: Brave New World
Where to buy: Steam (£19.99/$29.99), Green Man Gaming (£19.99/$29.99), Mac App Store (£28.99/$29.99)
System requirements: OS X 10.6.8 or later
The Civilization strategy games’ basic formula remains the same: you start with a bunch of cavemen and progress through history to create a civilisation that will rule the world. But the Civ series has long since passed the point where all you had to do was build up a big army. Civilization V beefed up the diplomacy elements and the Gods and Kings expansion pack added religion to the mix. Brave New World adds even more depth.
There are nine new civilisations, including Portugal, Morocco, Brazil and the Zulus, but the real substance in Brave New World lies in the new cultural and ideological systems. The ‘Culture Victory’, for instance, is a new way of conquering the world, whereby nations can place musicians, writers and artists in key buildings, such as the Globe Theatre in London.
There’s combat aplenty if that’s how you like your strategy games, but the political, religious and cultural elements that it adds to the mix create a game in which you really can develop an entire civilisation, rather than just building up a big army.
Read our full Civilization V: Brave New World review.
Company Of Heroes 2
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam (£14.99/$19.99), Mac App Store (£38.99/$39.99)
System requirements: Mac with OS X 10.10.3, 1.8GHz processor, 4GB memory, 512MB video memory
It’s a couple of years since Company Of Heroes 2 was released on the PC, but we’ve not had many good strategy games to play with on the Mac recently so this Mac version will be welcomed by many strategy fans.
The game shares the same World War II setting as the original Company Of Heroes, but shifts its focus away from the US troops – who, as we all know, won WWII all by themselves – and heads towards the Eastern Front. This time around you play a commander in the Soviet Red Army as you face a series of missions that range from the defence of Stalingrad to the final advance on Berlin.
Like most strategy games, Company Of Heroes 2 involves a balance between combat and resource management, so you’ll need to make the occasional detour in order to capture additional weapons and fuel, as well as creating command structures to build tanks and other weapons. The environment also plays a big part in combat – especially the bitter Russian winter, which can actually freeze your troops to death if you’re not careful.
The main single-player campaign is about 15 hours long, but there’s also a Theatre Of War mode that allows you to command either Russian or German troops in a series of one-off battle scenarios. There’s a multiplayer mode too, which allows you to play with up to seven other people.
If you’re looking for a better online experience, take a look at The Western Front Armies DLC which is, in effect, the multiplayer mode for CoH 2.Unfortunately, the Mac version of the game will only allow you to play against other Mac users, so your choice of opponent may be a bit limited when you go online.
Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance Tactics
Company: En Masse Entertainment
Where to buy: Steam (£15.49/$19.99), GOG (£15.49/$20.19)
System requirements: Mac with OS X v10.14, 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 1GB video memory
The new Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance has been a big hit on Netflix, and the simple good-versus-evil format of the Dark Crystal stories is perfect material for a video game. It’s not surprising, then, that this Tactics offering has arrived to take advantage of the revival.
At first glance, it looks like a fairly conventional strategy game, in which the friendly Gelflings attempt to overthrow the evil Skeksis who have taken control of the world of Thra. However, Tactics leans towards a younger audience, so instead of filling the screen with great, bloody battles between rival armies, it puts you in control of just a few Gelfling characters at a time as they attempt to complete a series of missions. The game isn’t too violent, either – the worst thing that can happen to your team is that they get knocked out – so you don’t have to worry about younger children being traumatised.
The control system is nice and simple too, with each character taking turns to move into position and then choosing from a selection of combat abilities. But the game adds some variety by allowing your characters to learn a ‘job’ – similar to the classes in traditional RPGs. To keep things simple the game concentrates on three main jobs – soldiers who specialise in melee combat, scouts for ranged combat, and healers who can help you through some of the tougher battles. More experienced strategy gamers may not find Tactics very challenging, but the difficulty level feels just about right for younger players. The different jobs and skills ensure there’s enough variety to keep things interesting, while the 3D graphics do a good job of capturing the visual style of the film and TV series.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Company: Subset Games
Where to buy: Steam (£6.99/$9.99)
System requirements: OS X 10.6.x or later; 1GB RAM; 128MB VRAM; 200MB HD space
We’ve been hearing about the indie hit Faster Than Light (FTL for short) for a while, but didn’t believe the hype until we tried it out for ourselves. The product of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, FTL has you captaining a ship across the galaxy in a dangerous mission to (for once) save the Federation from the evil rebels.
Your space adventure is constantly on edge for a variety of reasons. The rebels are always hot on your heels, meaning you can never sit around for too long in a given galaxy. Friends and foes crowd your path to success. Fuel, weapons and upgrades are in short supply and must be managed in and out of combat. Every encounter has multiple solutions for you to choose from. What will you do if a heavy missile barrage shuts down your shields? Reroute all power to the engines in an attempt to escape, power up additional weapons to blow your enemy out of the sky, or take the fight to them with a boarding party?
FTL is all about replayability. Your first defeat will be bitter, perhaps even surprising as the game is unapologetically difficult in its random generation. But once you understand the mechanics at work, casual space-farers will be sucked in by the simple premise and seasoned star captains will dig the complex strategic options at your disposal.
Not content with their original success, the developers released an “advanced edition” of the game for free, which included new ships to pilot, events, weapons and even music. For all your space exploration/adventure needs, look no farther than FTL.
Sid Meier’s Starships
Company: 2K Games
Where to buy: Steam (£5.49/$7.49), Mac App Store (£9.99/$9.99)
System requirements: Mac with OS X 10.9, 2.0GHz processor, 4GB memory, 256MB video memory
Civilization: Beyond Earth took the long-running strategy game series into outer space at long last, but much of that game’s action was still earth-bound, so to speak, taking place on the surface of the new worlds that were colonised by humanity’s migrating hordes.
Starships takes a different approach, firing up its thrusters and throwing you into the outer space action in command of an entire fleet of starships. The aim of the game is pretty straightforward – simple galactic domination, which is achieved by gaining control of 51% of the vast galaxy that the game lays before you. Each time you approach a new planet you’re given a number of tasks to complete, which can range from simple escort missions to battles against alien marauders. You can also gain influence through trading and diplomacy, as well as cold, hard cash.
There are several types of spacecraft that you can use in your fleet, including fast-but-fragile fighters, and stealth ships with their own version of the Klingon Cloaking Device.
Some reviewers have criticised Starships as a fairly lightweight strategy game, and it’s true that it doesn’t have the depth of the Civ series, but it’s still good fun and it’s the sort of game that you can easily dip into every now and then without having to devote hours of planning and tactical analysis to it. Starships is an affordable option for strategy fans.
Total War Saga: Troy
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Epic Games Store (£34.99/$49.99), Steam (£34.99/$49.99)
System requirements: macOS 10.15.6 or later, 2.0GHz Intel Core i5 processor, Radeon R9 M290 or Intel Iris 540
The latest instalment in the Total War series has something for everyone.
Focusing on the legendary Trojan War, the 20-year conflict between the kingdoms of Greece and Troy, the game provides the large-scale battles and strategic challenges that fans expect from the series. However, there are also elements of roleplaying, as you can take control of heroic leaders, such as the nimble but hot-tempered Achilles, who leads the fast-moving Myrmidon strike force, or the heavily armoured King Menelaus leading his troops in search of vengeance. You can also take command of both sides in the conflict, providing plenty of scope for replaying the game as you experiment with different heroes and playing styles.
Diplomacy plays a part too, with shifting alliances between various factions, and Civ-style empire building that allows you to curry favour with the gods of Greek mythology. Following the cult of Aphrodite will strengthen your diplomacy, and allow you to build alliances with other factions, or you can take a more direct approach by following Athena, who steadies the aim of your spear-chucking troops. There are even guest appearances from mythical figures such as the Minotaur and Cyclops to add a touch of fantasy, with additional DLC expansion packs adding new heroes and factions, such as the Amazon armies of Queen Hippolyta (although there’s no word on any guest appearances by Wonder Woman – aka Princess Diana of Amazonia – which would be kind of cool).
For some reason, Troy is currently only available on the Epic games store. It’s not available on the Mac App Store – although the game will be released on Steam later this year – so you’ll need to sign up for a free account with Epic in order to buy the game. The good news is that it doesn’t require a really powerful Mac to run the game but, like many recent releases, Troy only runs on Catalina or Big Sur.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Mac App Store (£48.99/$49.99), Steam (£44.99/$59.99)
System requirements: macOS 10.14.4, 2GHz Intel i5 processor, 2GB Nvidia 680MX, 2GB AMD R9 M290, 1.5GB Intel Iris Graphics 540 or better
After its recent detour into the future-fantasy of Warhammer, the Total War series of strategy games returns to its historical roots for Three Kingdoms. Set in China around the year 200AD, the game focuses on the mighty Han Empire that now faces collapse after ruling the country for almost 400 years.
The Emperor Xian has been kidnapped by his rival, Dong Zhuo, prompting all the warlords of China to start fighting amongst themselves to seize the throne. That somewhat chaotic state of affairs means that the game starts by giving you a choice of no less than 11 different factions that you can lead.
The Total War games have always been known for their large-scale battles, and Three Kingdoms makes the most of this era’s epic confrontations to really go to town with its vast onscreen warfare. However, it also puts more of an emphasis on diplomacy than most games in the Total War series, allowing you to plot and scheme as the rival factions jostle for advantage. Each faction leader has a ‘specialisation’ that they can employ, such as the ‘heroism’ of Sun Jian, which helps him to recruit more fighters, or the diplomatic skills of Cao Cao.
All this adds up to a fairly complex strategy game, but Three Kingdoms includes a new in-game Advisor, which can offer advice tailored to your level of experience. And, as well as the main single-player campaign, there’s a Battle mode, where you can fight individual battles taken from Chinese history in order to practice your strategy and skills. You can play online with friends (assuming they’re on Mac too), and there’s already been an expansion pack released called The Yellow Turban Rebellion that provides a new story and skills to master.
The game’s system requirements are quite steep, though, so check the details on Steam to make sure your Mac can run the game before buying.
Total War: Warhammer II
Company: Creative Assembly/Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam (£39.99/$59.99)
System requirements: macOS 10.14, 2GHz Intel Core i5, Radeon R9 M290 or Intel Iris 540 with 2GB video memory
Total War: Warhammer was a match made in Orc-heaven, as it combined the fantasy warfare of the Warhammer series with the large-scale battles of the Total War strategy games. So it’s no surprise that this follow-up offers more of the same, albeit with enough variety to make it worth coughing up the rather hefty £39.99/$59.99 on Steam. But you should check the game’s system requirements first, as the battling armies of elves, lizardmen and rodent-like Skaven need a pretty powerful Mac to handle their demanding 3D graphics.
The story for the main single-player campaign is, to be honest, fairly trite fantasy fodder, with the game’s four rival factions competing to control a great, swirling vortex of magical energy floating up in the sky. That’s little more than an excuse to get the rival armies and heroes charging across the game’s vast landscapes, but the main campaign is well constructed and gives you plenty of different options for getting stuck into endless hours of fantasy fisticuffs.
You can control any of the four rival races, and each race lets you choose between two Legendary Lords, who all have different storylines and starting locations, as well as their own special abilities that can be used to assist their troops in battle (and, if you’re new to the Total War games, one Lord for each race also gives you a handy tutorial to get started). That gives you eight different options for playing and re-playing the game, and if you also own the original Total War: Warhammer then you get a free bonus campaign thrown in as well.
The game also includes a number of Battle modes that you can dip into for a quick fix every now and then, as well as a multiplayer mode.
Warhammer: Dawn Of War III
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam (£29.99/$39.99), Mac App Store (£38.99/$39.99)
System requirements: Mac with macOS 10.12, including iMacs since late 2013, 15in MacBook Pro since 2012, 13in MacBook Pro since 2016
Most sequels offer ‘more of the same’, but this addition to the Warhammer series marks a shift of emphasis from Dawn Of War II.
Taking a more traditional strategy approach, Dawn Of War III starts off by simplifying things a bit. The game now focuses on just three main factions who are competing for galactic supremacy – the human Space Marines, green-skinned Orks, and the elf-like Eldar – and forgets about the rogue marines and other alien factions that you also had to contend with in the previous game.
The aim of the game is pretty simple too: a super-powerful mega-weapon has been discovered on the planet Acheron so, needless to say, all three armies set off across the galaxy, battling every step of the way to get hold of the device that will allow them to conquer their enemies.
There’s more emphasis on building up armies for large-scale battles this time around, and you also get to command ‘heroes’ – giant figures who stride across the battlefield, laying waste to the enemies around them.
It’s not all gung-ho combat, though. Dawn Of War III also puts more emphasis on resource management, and building barracks and other battle structures that provide back-up for your troops on the ground.
Further adding to the challenge is the fact that the missions in the single-player campaign require you to take control of all three factions at different times, so you have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each faction, and the differing abilities and technologies that they can take into battle.
There are some good tutorials for newcomers, and once you’ve gotten to grips with the single-player campaign there’s an online multiplayer mode available as well.
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam (£8.74/$14.99), Mac App Store (£48.99/$49.99)
System requirements: Mac with OS X 10.11.2, 2.4GHz dual-core processor, discrete graphics card with 1GB VRAM
The good news is that XCOM 2 arrived on the Mac at the same time as the PC version. The bad news is that the aliens won at the end of XCOM: Enemy Unknown back in 2013. So now we jump forward 20 years and the Earth is ruled by Advent – a coalition of alien overlords and their human collaborators (boo, hiss) – so it’s up to you to lead the human resistance movement and recruit a new XCOM team to wage a guerrilla war against the alien oppressors.
Like its predecessor, XCOM 2 is a turn-based strategy game that provides an overhead isometric view of the battlefield so that you can plan your team’s moves as they approach their target. But the moment you pull the trigger the action switches to a close-up view – similar to a first person shooter – that gives it a more visceral feel than most conventional strategy games.
There are five soldier classes available to help you out, including Sharpshooters with their long-range sniper skills, and Grenadiers who just charge in and blow up everything in sight. There’s also the Psi Operative, who adds a fantasy/sci-fi element with telepathic abilities such as Soulfire and mind-control. Each class also gets its own selection of different skills, giving you plenty of freedom to develop your team in a way that suits your combat style.
There are other resources available too. Your base is a captured alien ship called the Avenger, and between missions you need to give careful thought to developing the engineering, research and armoury facilities on the ship in order to provide new weapons and technology for your team. It’s gripping stuff, and guaranteed to keep strategy fans glued to the screen for hours on end.
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