What are the best strategy games on PC? Turn-based or real-time, grand strategy or tactical RPGs, there are many sub-genres within the strategy game umbrella. For example, in one game, you can command an entire fleet in space, while in another, you bark orders to soldiers fighting on a battlefield as magic flies through the air.
Since there are so many different types of games out there, we’ll keep this particular list of the best strategy games on PC as broad as possible – similar to our list of the best building games. So join us as we explore a curated collection of the genre’s greatest hits, from newcomers to classics.
The best strategy games on PC are:
Fancy taking control of the world’s nations as they engage in one of the largest wars in military history? If so, you should take Supremacy 1914 for a spin. This is an MMO strategy game that sees you and up to 499 other players taking control of the different countries of the world as you play through the First World War – and things don’t necessarily need to follow the path of history.
As you can imagine, each game takes a really long time to play out, and with so many different playable countries (each with their own unique selection of resources available), you’ll encounter a lot of variety. History buffs will also enjoy the attention to detail present in all the cities and units that each nation produces.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
If you’ve ever wanted a little more deck building in your turn-based combat, Midnight Suns has you covered. Developed by strategy stalwarts, Firaxis, Midnight Suns puts you in the shoes of the Hunter, a mysterious hero who’s been dead for the past few centuries, pitting them against the ultimate foe: their mother.
The combat is thought-provoking and often spectacular, with the deck-building aspect turning encounters into puzzles rather than all-out brawls. The combat and deep friendship mechanics combine for something special, and the story isn’t bad either. Check out our Midnight Suns review here if you want to know more about the sleeper hit of the year.
Crusader Kings 3
Talk about a murderous bastard of a grand strategy game. While only time will tell whether this dynasty-spanning, emergent-storytelling successor claims the throne of its now free-to-play predecessor Crusader Kings 2, it’s certainly kicked off its reign with royal excellency.
Crusader Kings 3 has massively overhauled the series’ formerly 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 features in-depth systems for waging war, the heart of Crusader Kings 3 lies in its personal, often hilarious stories.
Will you seize power through military might, wealth, religious influence, diplomacy, or subterfuge? Each one of the characters you can play as has their own personality and lifestyle focus, and each member of your dynasty will shape their empire, for better or worse, before bequeathing it to their next in line. It’s a game that makes personal plots hatched behind closed doors just as important as battles between nations.
Don’t forget to check out our Crusader Kings 3 review if you’re still undecided. For tips, there’s our Crusader Kings 3 starting characters guide, our Crusader Kings 3 beginners guide, and our Crusader Kings 3 mods guide while we wait for more Crusader Kings 3 DLC.
Offworld Trading Company
Offworld Trading Company is right at the other end of the strategy games spectrum from Civilization, though its designer, Soren Johnson, also worked on Civ 4. While Civ spans the history and some of the future of humanity, chronicling the progress of mankind, Offworld Trading Company is all about making a fortune by exploiting our red neighbour, Mars.
It’s an RTS crossed with the intricacies of the best management games, one in which victory is not achieved by throwing tanks at enemies, or demolishing their bases.
Instead, your weapons are resources and cash, which you use to manipulate the marketplace not just to simply get rich, but to completely screw over your competitors. You might not expect an economic strategy game to be very aggressive, but Offworld Trading Company encourages you to be just as hostile as a warmonger.
When you’re eyeing up menus, planning what to build next, what to sell, which company to launch a hostile takeover against next, it’s easily as thrilling as when you’re sending infantry across artillery-pummelled fields or launching sneak air attacks against an enemy stronghold in Company of Heroes or StarCraft 2. The same developers have just released their own take on 4X games/Civilization, called Old World – check it out.
XCOM 2 is one of the best turn-based strategy games, and we gave it a really good score in our XCOM 2 review. It takes the best bits from the series so far – the savage struggle, the ragtag group of heroes, the devious aliens, the tight tactical battles – and throws improvement after improvement on top.
It’s a toss-up as to whether the War of the Chosen expansion is objectively better, but there are plenty of excellent XCOM 2 mods that can bring the vanilla game up to scratch. Both offer distinct, but equally rewarding experiences. There is plenty of other XCOM 2 DLC available as well.
The battles are challenging and varied, full of horrific adversaries with tricky, surprising abilities, but the biggest changes are found on the strategic layer. You will travel all over the world, setting up cells, infiltrating black sites, and hunting for more resources so you can field more powerful weapons and tools – it is compelling, rather than an afterthought.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Blackbird Interactive has done the seemingly impossible with Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. And that’s to transpose the elegant, minimalist space wars of the original Homeworld games to a single planet, making for one of the best strategy games in the process. Somehow it works. Really well.
It’s a journey across a vast desert directed by your mission to save a civilisation. Each battle is connected to the last as well as the ones yet to be played. Every unit that survives will live to fight another day in another mission in a persistent war for survival.
Kharak itself, despite being a giant desert, is a fantastic planet-sized battlefield that does for the ground what the originals did for space games. The addition of terrain and elevation replicates the three-dimensional battles of the previous games, with the sand dunes providing cover, hiding spots, and high ground from where you can unleash devastating attacks.
Like its predecessors, the game is blessed with some of the best art design you could hope to find in an RTS, meaning you can take beautiful Homeworld screenshots. Add with its incredible sound design, and a genuinely interesting narrative, Deserts of Kharak is a classic.
Total War: Warhammer 3
If you thought that Total War: Warhammer 2 was big, it’s got nothing on Total War: Warhammer 3’s sheer sense of scale. It essentially has everything that made that game great, all while bringing all 15 of the tabletop game’s core races to life with jaw-dropping visuals. A new five-hour tutorial prologue helps get new players up to speed, so it’s also the best jumping-in point if you’ve never experienced a Total War game.
You can read our Total War: Warhammer 3 review if you want a more in-depth sense of just how packed it truly is, but the long and short of it is that once you begin to play, you’re likely to be playing the same campaign at least a calendar year down the line, and still have a smile on your face as you discover another new thing.
You would find plenty of debate about which modern Civilization game was better, Civ 5 or Civ 6 (we even had a whole thing about it), but with the release of Gathering Storm expansion this sixth entry of the series is finally able to stand proud as a great strategy game worthy of note.
Still epitomising the ideal of ‘one more turn’ that makes these kinds of games so addictive, Civilization 6 offers a lot more mechanics to bring the world to life around you. It’s not just about schmoozing this civ or declaring war on that civ – you’ve got to pay attention to how you’re impacting the world and working towards your goals – of which there is a wide variety.
Civ 6 just recently finished its year-long New Frontier season pass, which added a bunch more excellent civs and their inspirational leaders, as well as a bunch of optional game modes and both free and premium content drops. It culminated in the April 2021 balance patch, which while a bit by the numbers has left the game in the best state it’s ever been.
There’s plenty to dive into with Civilization 6, whether it’s the healthy amount of Civ 6 DLC available to buy, or the vibrant and creative collection of Civ 6 mods. This is a definitive 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 Ardennes Assault came along; in our Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault review, we found that it’s one of the best RTS games you can play.
The US forces and German Oberkommando are fighting over control of the Ardennes in a campaign inspired by The Battle of the Bulge – in true war games style. That sets it apart from both Company of Heroes and the sequel alongside its non-linear single-player campaign that plays out across a strategic meta map. The Germans are dynamic, being reinforced by retreating forces, changing the challenges posed by both story missions and the dynamic skirmishes.
While the campaign is only played from the American point of view, the US forces are split into three companies, all with unique specialities covering air, support, and mechanised roles. These companies all have special officer abilities and upgrade trees, and any can be used to tackle a mission. Even if you focus on one, the other two will still be on the map, and can provide assistance by blocking the enemy retreat out of a captured province.
This is the first time the battles in Company of Heroes have had real weight to rival the very best WW2 games, but the series won’t be stopping there. Company of Heroes 3 has been announced (see below), and it’s bringing with it a brand new campaign layer that takes the lessons learned from Ardennes Assault, and turns them up to 11.
Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection
There’s much to love about Command & Conquer Remastered, from the corny FMV cutscenes to the bonkers secret levels. You’ll struggle to find a strategy game with as much personality and charm as this RTS. It includes the original Command & Conquer, set in a near future where the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and the Brotherhood of Nod fight for control of an ultra-valuable energy resource known as Tiberium. It also stars Joseph D. Kucan as Kane, a man who we swear hasn’t aged a day since the 1990s, who we interviewed once.
The other game in this immaculately recreated collection is Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Set in an alternative history where Hitler was assassinated before rising to power, we instead get the Allies warring over Europe against the invading Soviet Union. It may not be as wild as the sequels, one of which manages to cast J.K. Simmons, Tim Curry, and George Takei, but it’s still a fantastically silly romp.
All of the playable factions in both included games are asymmetrical, so while the Allies in Red Alert have access to aerial weapons and space lasers, the Soviets have tesla coils and powerful mammoth tanks. What’s more, the Remastered version fixes and modernises both games with rebuilt multiplayer mode from the ground, allowing you to find skirmish matches easily. For those who may be new to RTS games or strategy games in general, we can think of no better place to start than here. Check out our Command & Conquer Remastered Collection review for more details.
In our Endless Legend review, we lavished praise on a 4X game that blends fantasy and science fiction seamlessly, throwing stranded spacemen against magical dragon people in absolutely the most striking hex-based world there is. Diverse, gorgeous, it looks almost tangible, like you could reach out and pick up one of the elaborate cities and cradle it in your hands. “Don’t worry, citizens. We won’t let the horrible man-eating insects devour you and your families,” we whisper into our cupped palms.
Fascinating factions vie for dominance over the apocalyptic world. Each is blessed with unique and interesting mechanics that set them apart and inform how they’re played. You have got the horrible aforementioned flesh-eating insect race, the Necrophage, for instance, who are so foul they cannot make alliances with other factions, forcing them always to be the opposition. Endless Legend is also blessed with a strong narrative that lends it a strong sense of place. Every faction has a set of story quests that will inform many of your decisions without backing you into a corner.
Amplitude has recently released a new historical 4X game called Humankind, which seeks to rival Civilization VI. It’s not quite where it needs to be yet to earn a place on this list, but you can read our Humankind review for more details – it’s pretty good already.
StarCraft 2 is a classic base-building RTS featuring armoured cowboys, xenomorphic aliens, and space elves. It tasks you with gathering resources, building armies, and killing your enemy before they kill you with quick decisions and even quicker mouse clicks.
StarCraft 2 is a strong multiplayer game. Your enemies are human; they’ll probably be able to click faster than you, issuing orders quicker than you. You’ll lose a lot, but you’ll get better the more you play, making this one a decent RTS for anyone with a competitive streak. The PvE campaign is also notable, as the story is hard to do in RTS games. Many developers resort to cutscenes or in-mission dialogue, but StarCraft 2 has you interact with the world outside of combat.
Age of Empires 4
For years, we thought a new Age of Empires game would never happen. However, 16 years after the last numbered entry, we now have Age of Empires 4, taking everything that made the remakes of the classic RTS series such a memorable experience for so many people and dialling it up a notch. It now includes more historically inspired scenarios, eight base game civilisations, and a bunch of unique mechanics and armies at your disposal.
Suppose you feel like learning something while you extinguish your rivals’ chances at victory. In that case, it has several unlockable documentaries that are well-produced, teaching you all about the facts for each level you play. As we mention in our Age of Empires 4 review, it isn’t a revolutionary RTS game, but it shows that the genre is still fun, all while having a modern coat of paint.
Dune Spice Wars
Those of you with fond memories of Westwood Studios’ Dune 2: The Building of a Dynasty will likely bring the game up in the conversation of best strategy games. However, Dune: Spice Wars is entirely different. It’s an early access title riding off the coattails of the recent film adaptation and aims to keep things more in line with the books (yes, House Ordos is a made-up faction for the Westwood Studios game).
This blend of 4X and RTS has you build bases to try and gather as much of the coveted spice as you can, all while maintaining some form of diplomacy with factions and avoiding the ever-hungry maw of a sandworm. It’s already quite a behemoth of a game if you’re not used to the 4X side of strategy games, and with it being in early access, chances are that it will introduce new and exciting mechanics over time. It’s certainly one to watch.
So, there you have it: the best strategy games on PC, as decided by us in a Totally Legit(TM) manner. While you’re here, check out the best PC MMOs for a similar set of mind-blowing proclamations. And if you’re after the very cream of the crop, check out the best PC games of all time.
Additional words from Joe Robinson and Paul Kelly.
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