The Best Strategy Games You Can Buy On PC, Turn-Based & RTS

The Best Strategy Games You Can Buy On PC, Turn-Based & RTS

The PC is home to just about every type of video game under the sun, but few are as essentially PC as strategy games.

Because it’s such a popular (and important) type of game for the platform, and because I’ve spent way too much time playing it over the past few years, I thought I’d help people out by putting together a list of what I consider to be the best strategy games for the best system to play them on.

So what counts as a strategy game? It’s a good question. A game that, thanks to video gaming’s relentless drive to strip all meaning from its genre names, we may never be able to settle on. The lines are so blurred between ‘strategy’ and ‘RTS’ and ‘grand strategy’ and ‘management’ and ‘simulation’ that I’ve tried to narrow this list down to games that, well, most people would just simply dread. agreement (through an instinct feeling) agreed to be called “strategy games”.

So here are the best games to play if you feel like taking over something, ruining an economy, and/or leading an army through the fields of your enemies.

Note: Originally published in November 2016, this list has since been updated to reflect new entries and include links to updated coverage of some classics.


What more can i say? A titan in the field, it not only stands as the best Civilization game, but one of the best games ever released on PC. Whatever your strategic cup of tea, be it warfare, diplomacy, or exploration, Civilization V has you covered.

And yes, I know that Civilization VI is out and is very goodbut I think its obsession with yields and lesser AI means it can’t quite match the full package of its predecessor.

Civilization V: The Kotaku Review

It’s 2016. With that in mind, go play a shooter from 2010. Or a sports game. Or, well, anything else from 2010. Look how (relatively) basic it is! Notice how advances in game design and technology have rendered so many of these old classics obsolete. Now go play Civilization V. I’ll see you in six months. If we’re lucky.


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This spot on the list was once kept warm by Crusader Kings II, but I think the time has come to replace it with the sequel, Crusader Kings III. While it lacks as much breadth and depth of additional content as Paradox has released for the former over the years, the latter’s smoother interface and more pleasing visuals (not to mention its own gameplay innovations, like a vastly improved way to wage war) means it’s easily the one I’d recommend to people.


Crusader Kings III is a game that traces 600 years of human history, from the 9th to the 15th century, with all the geopolitical conflicts, religious unrest and interpersonal struggles that have accompanied it. So… where do we even start with this game, let alone this review?


On the one hand, it looks a lot like Civilization! On the other, it’s not, building on the foundations of Civ with lots of cool, new, and interesting ideas, from its slick UI to how its fiction translates into features of absolutely crazy faction. It’s also great to see a strategy game with a real sense of style. Those looking for a good alternative to Civilization might try Amplitude Later humanitybut really, I think Endless Legend is still the best deal if you want to play a 4X game that’s a bit different.

Endless Legend: The Kotaku Review

If I sound excited about this game, it’s because it’s an exciting game to talk about if you like that sort of thing. It’s such a breath of fresh air, the perfect example of a game taking Civilization as its foundation but then flying out on its own to add (or invent) aspects that complement those foundations so well.


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For me, the RTS genre died in 2006. Not because of some cataclysmic event, but because it was the year Company of Heroes came out and perfected the formula, basically saying “shut it down, we don’t need it anymore”. No game – even its own lackluster sequel – has come close to matching it since. Replacing frantic mouse clicks and annoying build orders with a constant need for real-world tactics, its slower pace and more realistic battlefield conditions mean that even ten years later it’s still an absolute classic.


The Total War series remains a mainstay of PC strategy gaming, and while Empire is my favorite, and Warhammer the most popular recent entries, I tend to recommend Shogun 2 first. It’s more functional and focused than Total War games before (or since), and it still looks absolutely stunning. Bonus: its big extension, Fall of the Samurai, is probably the best thing in the whole Total War series.

Total War: Shogun 2: The Kotaku Review

They say you can never go home again. Well, with Shogun 2, Creative Assembly did just that. Shogun 2 may be retreading familiar ground, but it does so with a range of both new and repaired features and innovations that make it the most polished, focused, and most polished Total War game ever. enjoyable so far.


the art. the the music. The way he took on a tough control challenge – moving around a fleet of ships in empty 3D space – and absolutely nailed it. Recent remakes have only really touched on sound and visuals, as everything else about Homeworld remains near perfect.

Homeworld: the return of an almost perfect game

Homeworld was released in 1999. The 20th Century. Play its 2015 remastered edition, however, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was an all-new video game. Almost everything about it – and I’m not talking about its new visuals – looks fresh.


Inspired by the classic Panzer General, Panzer Corps is a (relatively) simple turn-based game that still manages to pack an incredible amount of depth (and content). If you want to fight the entirety of WWII but don’t want to spend hours learning complicated rules or menus, this is the game for you. This game has since a sequel came out, which looks much nicerbut also plays slower and lacks a lot of extra content from the original, so Panzer Corps is still the one I would recommend.

Panzer Corps: The Kotaku Review

The strength of the game comes from its simplicity. This is not a game that requires you to learn 150 menu commands or keyboard shortcuts. Because all you have to worry about is moving units and then firing them (and sometimes resupplying), the majority of your time can be spent on what matters most: tactics.


It may seem like a surprising choice, but World in Conflict is a very good strategy game. It picks a niche in the genre – somewhere between the chaotic immediacy of Blizzard and the big-map tactics of Total War – and nails it, constantly taxing both your small-scale reactions and your larger strategic concerns. It also has a weirdly goofy, lovable feel you don’t often get in this most serious genre, from its over-the-top adherence to its 1989 setting to Alec Baldwin’s “Jack Donaghy in fatigues” campaign narration.


I didn’t think XCOM 2 still had room to improve from the first game. How wrong I was. It turns out that by adding stealth/visibility systems, refining the strategic meta-game, and dramatically increasing the game’s cinematic flair, you can make something much bigger.

XCOM 2: The Kotaku Review

What amazes me about XCOM 2 is how often it’s not bullshit. With the stakes so high and so many intertwined systems constantly pushing the player forward, this could have easily turned into a jaw-dropping fest of frustration. This is not the case. XCOM 2 masterfully creates the illusion that the odds are completely stacked against you, while also giving you plenty of opportunities for Rocky to get back to the top. You just have to stay nimble. You just have to think.


I don’t think any game, even up to the contemporary StarCraft II and Kharak Deserts, was able to excel in the traditional RTS (fetch, build, and deploy) model better than Age of Kings. The scale of the maps, the armies you could build, and the emphasis on fortifications…it all worked out perfectly. If you are curious, the recent definitive edition is definitely the best way to experience this classic.


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Let the captains and colonels take care of the little stuff. Hearts of Iron IV puts you in command of an entire nation’s war effort, from producing weapons to deploying armies. It’s an intentional logistical nightmare, and once tamed it can produce some of the most rewarding experiences in all of video games, especially with its endless alternate history variations.


I love these games and think they’re all great (and representative of different types of strategy games), but they just couldn’t make the cut.

Unity of Command II, StarCraft II, The Banner Saga, Endless Space 2, Alpha Centauri, Command & Conquer Red Alert, WarCraft III, Europa Universalis IV, Desperadoes 3 and Sid Meier’s Colonization.


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