The 50 Best Strategy Games On PC

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An entirely objective ranking of the 50 best PC strategy games ever made. From intricate wargames to soothing peacegames, the broad expanse of the genre contains something for everyone, and we’ve gathered the best of the best. The vast majority are available to buy digitally, a few are free to download and play forever. They’re all brilliant.

The links below will take you to specific parts of the rankings, although we recommend that you read in sequential order to create maximum tension.

50-41

40-31

30-21

20-16

15-11

10-2

Number One

Complete List & Postscript

Before diving into this delicious stack of games, we should define exactly what we mean when we say “Strategy Games”. The answer, quite simply, is that we don’t mean “Strategy Games”. Don’t worry, they’re here, – from grand historical strategy and RTS clickity-clicking to turn-based operational level wargaming – but our church of strategy is broad. Games that concentrate purely on tactical decisions have been considered for inclusion, as have management games that might not fit into Colonel Trousers’ rigid definitions as outlined in the seminal brain-pacifier That Is Not Strategy Vol I-XXX.

There are several reasons to recommend our broader definition. Perhaps most importantly, it means that we haven’t ended up with a list of 50 games about World War II or alien spacewars. The treasures below are varied in theme, style and setting, and there’s surprisingly little overlap between them. Some of the management games included would struggle to find a home on any genre-based list if they didn’t have a home here. Inclusiveness is key.

Of course, you might find that your personal favourites haven’t made the list. When your moment of grieving has passed, remember that all attempts to rank games are arbitrary and ultimately futile, and whether X should be placed above Y might isn’t really all that important.

That’s not to say this isn’t the most accurate list you’ll ever read, of course, because it is.

Onward!

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203 Comments

  1. nebnebben says:

    Wow! Really impressive list here, and I’m so glad that you didn’t do the thing of splitting it up into segments over days which other sites do.

    • hatlock says:

      This list is missing Imperialism 2, though. It covers a small slice of history, but it does a great job of covering a very fascinating period of technological progress and diplomatic tension.

      Personally, I’d trade out a reference to a very popular game that I assume most people have heard of (Civ IV) and put that one in instead.

    • bill says:

      Splitting it up over 5 days might actually have been a little more digestible.

  2. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    Woah there, where did this come from?

    Did you just drop 50 games on us, out of nowhere, of the heaviest genre there is?

  3. draglikepull says:

    This is correct. Civ IV is the best strategy game I’ve ever played.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Meh adjusted for release date I would take Civ 2 or UFO:Enemy Unknown over it, as well as SMAC. Great list in general though, perhaps skews a bit to the recent side, but not too much and covers most of the classics.

      Deadlock should be on there somewhere IMO.

      • draglikepull says:

        I can’t play games in the past, though. Civ IV is more fun to play today than Civ V, Endless Legend, Crusader Kings 2, etc.

        • klops says:

          It also has wonderful mods. Fall From Heaven II was great and the SMAC-mod Planetfall was good.

          • Guzzleguts says:

            It seems wrong that fall from heaven wasn’t mentioned in the article really. It’s way better than most commercial fantasy 4X games

          • ye-ole-PK says:

            great list. FFH was a great mod. I was hoping it would have been ported to Civ5 but then the lead dev got hired to work on Fallen Enchantress.

          • RanDomino says:

            I played CIV unmodded precisely once in order to learn the basics, then loaded FFH and never looked back.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Meh I don’t think that is true at all. Civ IV was great, but the AI was broke up through the expansions and was only cleaned up with a fan made patch, and I think the widespread consensus now is that V is the more enjoyable even if not the better game when you adjust for release date.

          Obviously everyone has their own opinion, but most people switched to 5 despite all the early grumbling (there was also a comparable amount of early grumbling about 2,3, and 4).

          • hatlock says:

            From what I gather, most of the grumbling seems to be that the newest Civ iterations have invalidated or discouraged the popular strategies of the first previous game. Civ IV feels like the “pinnacle” of the game ideas presented in Civ I. So personally I am glad they really experimented and went with a different experience in Civ V.

      • Steve Catens says:

        No Civ without full motion video advisors can truly be great. Civ 2 forever! I know FMV fell out of favor, but I loved these guys and wish they were a staple in every Civ game. I loved when I would be at war and my military advisor would just walk out of frame in ecstasy while chowing down on a mutton leg.

    • acheron says:

      I would put Alpha Centauri over Civ 4 by just a bit, but I can’t really complain either way.

      What still amazes me about SMAC is not the game mechanics, which have their issues, but the theme. Why has the world of SMAC never been equaled? I mean, remember the SMAC manual? That was a masterpiece all by itself.

    • SherlockHomie says:

      These lists always seem like an incredibly ballsy move to me. I try not to judge games publications too hard on their choices, but I honestly would have lost a bit of respect for RPS if Civ IV was not top 3.

    • bill says:

      All i remember about Civ4 was that it had a long complex tutorial hosted by a floaating Sid Meier.

      And that about 1 hour into that tutorial I had to stop playing due to Life(tm) and there appeared to be no way to pause or save your progress.
      That was the last I played of Civ4 as I couldn’t be arsed to go back through an hour of tutorial to find out how to play the remaining parts of the game.
      *sad face*

      • GlassDeviant says:

        Meh, I never cared much for any “legit” Sid Meier game after Civ II and SMAC/SMAX. They just went in a direction I didn’t like, too cartoony and gameplay issues I didn’t like. Far better was the offshoot Call to Power II from Activision, which explored aspects of civilisation building in ways the “real” Civ series never dared to.

        I am also not impressed with the cookie-cutter direction the Civ series has gone in lately, one practically identical game after another.

    • the1ringer says:

      I can’t disagree with you on much in this list. I think I would put EUIV above CK2 at this point because the last two DLCs have been awesome (and the next is shaping up to be great with the fortress changes!). CK2, however, definitely leaves you with more memories. Like the time I was Charlemagne’s son and closed up the pit of hell with boulders, or when I married my sister, who was possessed by Satan and had murdered my father, off to the King of Italy. I bet some of you misread that sentence…

      And yeah, for sheer hours spent, Civ IV has to be my #1 too, although I find Civ somewhat unsatisfying now that I’m a history major in college and found out about Paradox’s games. Beyond the Sword is probably still the greatest single expansion for any game I’ve ever seen. So many new systems, and some great mods included, too.

      Anybody remember Battle for Middle-Earth? It may just be because I’ve always loved Lord of the Rings, but that game was really satisfying for me for a very long time, and it had some great mods, too.

  4. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I bloody loved RUSE. The Wargame series hasn’t been the same, for me.

  5. subedii says:

    Glad to see SupCom made the list. One of my all time favourites.

    Shame Infested Planet didn’t make it. I really feel it’s a pretty unique style of squad level RTS, in the constant on-the-fly adaptation and strategy, and back and forth gameplay. Something I don’t really see nearly as much of in most RTS’s.

    • subedii says:

      Can’t edit, just thought I’d add, it may be well worth looking at if you were interested in AI War. Also happens to be on daily-deal on Steam with surprising timing.

    • Cederic says:

      I’d still rate TA ahead of SC, even SC:FA.

      Total Annihilation is the only strategy game in which I’ve been three hours into full-on no holds barred battle and it’s still total deadlock, both sides are having to clear the crushed remains of combatants from the field before they can re-engage and it’s still awesome unmitigated joyful fun.

      Nearly two decades and I’m still waiting for a game to give me that experience again.

      • subedii says:

        I’ve been in epically long games of FA. That said, I do believe that having shield tech in the game changes the gameplay style significantly, and can lead to more deadlocks in which attacks become useless (if you don’t break the shields, they just regenerate) unless you can build a REALLY hefty force to power through. TA is more fast paced, and even creeping damage can have an effect wearing down opposition over time.

        They are different styles of game in how they can play out. Personally I’m waiting to see more on Ashes of the Singularity and what comes of it (still way too early for any real info, but it could be interesting).

  6. MiniMatt says:

    This comment started as a “OMG you forgot …. THIS LIST IS MEANINGLESS” rant. Then I noticed you’d included it at a worthy position 16.

    Turns out it’s a darn fine list after all. Many I have, many I’ll be looking into forthwith. So congratulations on adding at least half a dozen new titles to my burgeoning backlog you complete, utter, barstewards.

    • MiniMatt says:

      edit: one that I would suggest may have been overlooked, given we’re talking ever made:

      Lords of Midnight

      From 1984 I’d argue it has inspired or influenced nearly every subsequent strategy & RPG title.

      Mike Singleton died a couple of years ago, had a lovely obit in the Guardian and a good send off from RPS.

      • thekelvingreen says:

        Seconded. Perhaps RPS doesn’t consider the Speccy and C64 to be PCs.

        • MiniMatt says:

          Perhaps RPS doesn’t consider the Speccy and C64 to be PCs

          Ahh, see, umm, now, well then. Yeah, I guess that could be where they have me. I mean, IBM-PC compatibles did *just* about exist back in 1984, although it’d be another year before release of MS Windows 1.0.

          I’d possibly argue the PCs-with-different-software angle, failing that I’d stomp my feet and perhaps have a little tantrum and explain that Lords of Midnight / Doomdarks Revenge deserve an exception ruling :)

          • thekelvingreen says:

            I consider any home computer a PC for exactly this reason. Lords of Midnight is too good to leave off the list because it doesn’t have “IBM PC or compatible” on the box.

      • bill says:

        I haven’t done more than dabble in it. from those few minutes, it seemed much more epic than most strategy games, while at the same time running a parallel small scale quest.

        I keep meaning to check out the android ports.

    • blastaz says:

      It’s true this is a pretty good list. However it unarguably has three objective errors:

      Heroes of M&M needs to be about 30 places higher. The first line of the summary says it all, it’s nearly perfect. It certainly is. There aren’t that many games closer to perfect than it is.

      Masters of Orion 1 is way better than 2. Moo2 was a bit of a sell out and tried to be more like civ. Moo1 was a game that was happy to be all about the math. Moo2 also messed up the combat by making you command every ship individually which while fun in the early game made the end game a complete pain in the arse.

      Civ 2 is the best civ. no counter argument is possible, it’s an objectively true fact. I can see why the hippy peaceniks at rps want to pretend to prefer 4 though.

      • cptgone says:

        MoO2 is the only game from the 90s i still play – OK, i’ll admit, am addicted to.

        MoO2 has both advantages and disadvantages over MoO1. It’s downside being the micromanagement in the late game.
        But the combat you complain about was great IMO. It allowed you to see, in all detail, how your ship design strategy played out on the field. And if you did get bored, there was always the Auto button. Or you could auto-resolve battles altogether.


        I recently bought Stardrive 2 – a new pretender to MoO’s throne – and it sure looks promising :)

        • blastaz says:

          Was more fun with stacks of ships in 1. Late game battles in 2 with 200 ships a side would take 2 hours just to auto resolve.

          Late game battles in moo 1 had thousands of ships a side, took 5 mins to play through and your tactics and ship builds made all the difference, like when I miniaturised a death ray to fit it, a targeting computer and an engine on a medium ship and cranked out hundreds a turn, two of which were capable of killing 1 of the huge ships my opponent was building 5 of a turn. Let’s just say those Ursans brought a knife to a gun fight.

          Moo2 is a good game, don’t get me wrong but Moo was a magical one.

          • cptgone says:

            I see. As a long-time MoO2 addict by the time i finally bought MoO1, i didn’t spend much time playing the latter. When I did, I noticed MoO1 is a better game in at least some respects, but missed the things MoO2 did improve upon.

  7. bluetoon says:

    my all time fave has to be World in Conflict, shame it didnt make the list.

    • PerlonKid says:

      Great game. Seems to have been mostly forgotten about these days, guessing that’s because it came out at a time when RTS games were out of vogue.

      I’d also add Hostile Waters which could be played as a typical RTS but you could take control of the individual units at any time. Plus, Tom Baker!

      • bill says:

        Hostile waters was awesome. (from someone who finds most RTS repetitive and annoying).

  8. DashingDorm says:

    Perimeter anyone? Quite flawed, yet unique and memorable.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Jiskra says:

    your list on last page have 3rd and 4th place switched

  10. Text_Fish says:

    Where’s Age of Empires?

    • GameCat says:

      I know this is PC-only site, but a list of strategy games without Advance Wars and Fire Emblem feels hollow.

      • GameCat says:

        Uh, I didn’t mean to reply to this post. :/

        • Text_Fish says:

          All the same, I’m glad you did. Welcome to my thread. X

      • Anym says:

        I hear them mentioned a lot, but never played any of them due to lack of a console and dislike of gamepad-based input schemes. Are there any good clones or similar games on PC?

    • Berzee says:

      Adam has not yet been converted to our way of thinking.

      *wololo*

    • acheron says:

      It has Rise of Nations, which is similar to AOE except it’s superior in every way, so…. :P

  11. tangoliber says:

    I don’t even have to look at the list to know that it doesn’t have my top 3.
    1. R.U.S.E.
    2. Conquest of Elysium 3
    3. Dominions 4

    It probably has Civilization, which I find extremely boring. Can’t usually get too far into a match.

    • tangoliber says:

      Oh wow, it does have R.U.S.E.. My opinion is validated!

      Didn’t care for multiplayer, or big maps with multiple players. But I love love love the 1v1 on Ranked maps. It was perfectly designed.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Yeah, logged in to comment on the lack of COE3, but I suppose I shouldn’t have expected any different. It’s still a great list, mind, but for me, COE3’s combination of streamlined systems and enormous amounts of GENUINELY varied content make it easily in my top three, as well.

    • Steve Catens says:

      You might want to rethink your “post before reading the article” policy. 2 of your favorites are ranked, and another is an honorable mention.

  12. fuggles says:

    You included Dawn of War 1! THANK YOU!!!!

    In hindsight, it’s always going to be added given the authors here, but its nice for my community to be included.

    There are still heaps of mods going on for Soulstorm, such as the mighty Ultimate Apocalypse which adds Titans and enormity. If you just want to keep track of new races, and watch a couple of showcase videos then check this page out:
    link to forums.relicnews.com

    I will answer questions, write about or link to Dow mods all day (maybe even a few of my own). Please let me write an article*

    Anyway, Whilst the modding community has definitely shrunk in the last 10 years, there is still stuff on the go. Whilst some are better than others and the Witch Hunters Soulstorm mod is only available privately, there are still about 10 rock solid race mods out there and a few more that should get finished. Add this to Soulstorm’s 9(!) races and I genuinely doubt you will ever have a WH40K game with as much content in ever again.

    *or let me write about have you played Terra Nova, the greatest LG game ever.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Please write about Terra Nova, the greatest LG game ever. Please, I sincerely mean that. If for some crazy reason RPS doesnt want to feature it, just put it up somewhere else. I have been on a crusade to get that game more publicity for years now. The lack of re-release is just criminal.

      Also notice you mentioned UA for Soulstorm. Worth a download? The thing that’s always put me off is that I actually LOVED how small-scale Dawn of War is. The tiny caps made how you use your squads feel far more tactically meaningful to me. But hey, I’d love to be persuaded otherwise.

      • fuggles says:

        UA is definitely worth a download – consider that in DOW there is a mod manager on the title screen so a new mod is but 3 clicks away. It keeps the basic dow mechanics, but then adds a couple of extra tiers with titan and giant units. It’s a pretty impressive spectacle. There are ample videos on the web showing the craziness that it spirals into – it is by far the most wide reaching mod. A new version incorporating Daemons is on the cards too.

        Also, note that combining mods (normally race mods as they do not alter the base game) is a matter of making a file in notepad. I personally prefer the race mods as they add to the gameplay and don’t fundamentally change it – which is not to say that mods play the same; Daemons has 5 tech trees and a very unique style, as do World Eaters with their combat based economy.

    • bill says:

      I’ve been wanting to check out DoW1 for years (due to fond memories of ancient wh40k) but 3 things have held me back:
      1 – the large number of different versions available means I don’t know where to start.
      2 – They don’t seem to get discounted as much as they should, meaning it’s hard to justify for such an old game that I’m not sure I’d enjoy (me = 40k yay! RTS meh). Plus the ones that do get discounted are usually the vanilla versions, not the gold/platinum/adamantium versions and I always feel I might be missing something.
      3 – The terrain looks really flat.

      • fuggles says:

        At this point it depends what you want. Dow1 has a decent narrative campaign which cliff hanged until Dow 2 retribution.

        Winter assault has a very good, non linear standalone campaign, but plays differently to Dow1.

        Dark crusade changed the gameplay again and introduced the metamap skirmish campaign.

        Soulstorm is basically a rushed expansion to dark crusade and is mechanically the same, but with new races.

        Maps are not mountainous, but there are so many you can find one you will like! You use heavy, light and negative cover ala the tabletop game. It plays as a rolling land grab and is small scale and fast paced.

        I love it. Played it most days in the last 10 year’s.

        Soulstorm still has online players and is where the mods are for – I’d start there if you just want to play and are not to distraught by the slightly tedious campaign.

        Or there was a demo for Dow1many moons ago.

  13. Cropduster says:

    Alpha Centauri, Crusader Kings 2, Roller Coaster Tycoon 2.

    The trinity of zero-productivity.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Wow – exactly the same unholy trinity of time sinks I would have come up with.

  14. Horg says:

    You have Age of Wonders 3 tagged as Age of Wonders 2: The Wizards Throne, and incorrectly named as Age of Wonders 2 in the final list.

  15. GardenOfSun says:

    Awww, no Sacrifice. :/

  16. Faldrath says:

    Excellent list – I won’t bother discussing what should or should not have been in there because it isn’t my list (I still like EU2 more than EU4!). What I liked was the actual format itself: good words about the games, more indications, curiosities, etc. Very well done, really. Kudos to RPS, showing how lists should be made.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I loved EU2 so much. It was the best. Good times, and you learned so much.

      • carewolf says:

        I just wished they would include more of the music from EU2, especially Falalah. Every EU game since has felt less awesome due to its absense.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          The EU2 soundtrack has a prominent place on my Ipod, it makes people looks at me funny when Fallalalllalaaan comes on.

          • blastaz says:

            Oh god, now it’s stuck in my head and won’t come out!

            Fa la la lan fa la fa la la lera fa la la lan!

    • MiniMatt says:

      Excellent point, it’s not just a list, it’s a proper interesting delve with interesting side notes, further recommendations. As you say, it’s lists done right.

      Fave was: “Berry’s first game, completed in 1978, was a real-time auction game. It required a custom controller and sold 50 copies.

      …which is still ~47 more sales than my 90s pub-gigging band shifted of our first, last, album.

  17. Duke of Chutney says:

    Impressive list and most of the games i’d have picked are on the lisat (if even in the wrong order). I respect Alpha Centauri, CK2, and Super comms high position but by putting Civ at number one is very questionable, though at least civ V wasn’t picked, the epitome of blandness.

    The games i’ve played most are probably Settlers 2, Wargame Red Dragon, Super Comm and Dorf Fortress. Settlers largely due to it being the first game I ever bought for PC. I really love supply chains! I’d pick a lesser known game Ascendancy as my fav space 4x or perhaps Star Ruler due to its physics. Also Warlords III holds up amazingly well even if it is hard to get running.

  18. Freud says:

    If UFO: Enemy Unknown can be included, I would have liked to see Card Hunter too. It’s a fantastic game with just the right difficulty.

  19. Uglycat says:

    Tut tut, none of the Kohans?

  20. Llewyn says:

    Oh my, your list is so very Wrong.

    And yes, my list would be equally Wrong, and for all that I don’t actually find your list too wrong really. But! I think there’s one weakness in your approach, favouring recent games which are very enjoyable but nowhere near the Greatness their high ranking would imply.

    The two clear examples for me are CK2 and XCOM:EU. I’m not being dismissive of these game; they would both rank highly on a list of my favourite games of any genre, and I’m grateful for having bought CK2 from GG originally so Steam doesn’t show me quite how much time I’ve spent playing it. However they’re both a long way from true greatness, and if I were to try to compile a list of best games I think I’d have to take that into account.

    I can’t help feeling Endless Legend would fall into the same category, but I’ve not yet spent enough time with it to know whether it’s anywhere near as enjoyable as those two, nor whether it’s genuinely a great game.

    • HopeHubris says:

      Newer games are more favourited because they build on the old ones, some of the older games with updated, less clunky, interfaces and better graphics would probably be rated much higher, even if none of the core gameplay changed in the slightest

  21. Stevostin says:

    6 UFO: Enemy Unknown
    47 Master of Magic

    … lol ?
    UFO shouldn’t even in that top if you ask me. When I play it 95% of my play I know for sure I am playing for the best. Just watching at the % I also know that luck is a part of it that largely exceed the gap between me playing at my best and my worst. Which allows me to say for sure that it doesn’t even start to qualify as a strategy game.

    On the top of your article there is a chess picture. It would be worth remembering what makes chess one the best mind game to realise how some game on that list are just crappy attempt at strategy games dressed in actually nice video games gimmicks. Nothing wrong with that and it can be fun but when you do a top 50… it starts to matter more than a little, methink.

  22. orionite says:

    Nice list! Some good memories right there. I’d like to add a few to the Honorable Mentions list:
    – Starcraft
    – Total Annihilation
    – Age of Empires II (as others have mentioned)
    – Ascendancy

    My only gripe here is that MOM is so far down the list. Even at 16 MOO’s ranking seems harsh :) To this day my favourite TBS next to the Civ series.

    • Duke of Chutney says:

      +1 for Ascendancy, great game, though the planetary management was a pain.

  23. OmNomNom says:

    For me Warcraft 3 was #1 but maybe I’m not much of an RTS player

  24. MikhailG says:

    Wait wait NONE of the C&C games, the series that ended up defining tank spamming RTS’s? Not even the atmospheric tiberian sun? Or the silly Red Alert ones? [fanrage intensifies] I guess EA ran the series so hard into the ground no one likes to remember it.
    Also, Age of Empires II. Seriously.

    I will go through this list at some bored afternoon and probably try a few games out that I have missed, but am glad to see that I tried like a third of them.

    • Duke of Chutney says:

      I thought about this. The C&C games brought interesting settings but were essentially all the same game and Supercomm was much better than that game. I probably liked Emperor for Dune the best.

    • Skull says:

      Red Alert (obviously not 3) should still get a shout out even if not C&C. What it lacks in balance it more than makes up for in pure fun and inventiveness. Add to that, the first (and best) Red Alert is now freeware and is still one of the best games I have ever played!

      Good call on Civ IV at number 1 though.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      Not even Dune effing 2! Criminal.

      • thekelvingreen says:

        Last year I heard Steve Jackson — of “Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone” fame — talk about Dune 2 as one of his favourite games ever and how he disappeared down a rabbit hole when he discovered it, spending days playing it and forgetting to eat or sleep.

      • klops says:

        Play Dune II today and perhaps you see why.

    • gfs555 says:

      I agree. At least one of the C&C games should have made the list. Also, I think that Starcraft is better than Starcraft II and should be higher on the list.

  25. Dorga says:

    Rising Lands rules above all.

  26. Nice Save says:

    Well, there goes my weekend…

  27. tonka_92 says:

    while I do think it weird that of the Strategy games I most remember growing up with, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires, even lesser-thought-ofs like Dark Reign and Empire Earth, none appeared, I realise why (apart of course from some of my favourites being damn flawed games but I loved them)

    our list of 50 seems to have very few games that play like one another, you could say we have 50 different types of strategy games up there
    AND THAT’S MAD, in a good way
    love the list, even though I still think EUIV is a more enjoyable game than CKII :P

  28. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Sweet list. Though I am not a fan, I think that overlooking ALL the Westwood contributions is going a bit too far. Well, there is a pattern: not only all the Westwood contributions are ignored, but also most of the games they influenced (including Total Annihilation).

    But it is sweet. Warlords 2. Master of Magic. Sweet.

    • Horg says:

      I think the key there is that every game in the list has mechanics that still hold up today. The TA games and earlier CnC games were really great for their time, but the game play is dated.

      • FreeRegent says:

        What a terrible metric then, to only rank the “best” by freshness of their mechanics. That will necessarily create a myopic ranking system, with newer games with their newer innovations winning out by necessity.

        That said, I don’t even think that’s what was done with these. I’m not 100% sure what metrics *were* used, but given that there are older games included that possess mechanics that have been done since and better, it’s not ‘mechanical freshness.’

        • Horg says:

          Perhaps I wasn’t getting my thought across properly. Every game in that list has something unique about it, or is simply the pinnacle of a particular style at this moment. The game play of TA and CnC has been iterated and improved on many times, and the closest game in the list mechanically is probably Starcraft 2. With SC2 included, why include TA or CnC? I don’t think any of the games listed made the cut purely on art assets or story, so mechanics are probably the most important factor. When you have an example of a mechanically superior game then you don’t need to list everything that influenced its development as well, just for the sake of completeness. I’d give them an honorable mention, but not a place on the list.

  29. ExitDose says:

    Good list, but no Steel Panthers?

  30. Graham Smith says:

    Good list, but Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is CLEARLY the best strategy game ever made.

    And no Cannon Fodder?

    • fuggles says:

      Are you related to Adam Smith?

      Any chance of that Terra Nova article I mentioned above ^^

  31. Premium User Badge

    X_kot says:

    It probably needs a bit more time to breathe, but I think Vietnam ’65 is absolute gem of a strategic game. It’s very accessible, and it requires players to rethink notions of area control and pacification.

  32. P.Funk says:

    RPS demonstrating they know how to do a “Top [bullshit]” gaming list better than anybody. Where there is disagreement there is little opportunity to comment on omission.

    I’d say this list isn’t click bait but its obviously click bait for the refined taste of the RPS hive mind.

    • sansenoy says:

      Speaking of omissions, sorry, but I simply have to mention NetStorm again…

      link to abandonia.com

      (it runs fine on Win8.1 x64, just tick win98 compatibility and display scaling if necessary)

      • Gnoupi says:

        It surprised me that netstormhq is down. I mean, I haven’t set foot on it for years, and probably so did(n’t) others, hence the closing, but still.

        It was there, like a bastion impervious to time, proudly providing a place for NetStorm players to meet and play.

        NetStorm, that lovely early mix between RTS, Tower defense (and offense), and…Tetris. :)

  33. acheron says:

    Wow, this list. Here I was trying to avoid buying games for awhile.

  34. stringerdell says:

    Good to see Rollercoaster Tycoon represented, i love that old game. I scanned the list and was about ready to freak out that I didnt see Total Annihilation but Supreme Commander is pretty high up there so I calmed down.

  35. hey_tc says:

    Crusader Kings II absolutely deserves the no. 3. At least I hope it does because I’ve given it in excess of 2000 hours of my life… Mildly fuming that my all time favourite Total Annihilation didn’t make the list as hen I as four that game gave me my start in pc gaming.

  36. FreeRegent says:

    I disagree with the absolute exclusion of Westwood – their games formed the basis of the RTS genre in its formative days, and without them and their influences the genre would look wildly different, in my opinion. Yes, in comparison to newer games they don’t seem so flashy, but ignoring their impact is nearsighted.

    Similarly, no Starcraft? That game *was* pro gaming for, what, a decade? That deserves top 50 at least.

    Happy to see that Civ IV got the nod, though. Dynamite game. Has eaten more hours of my life than anything aside from Thief II and Skyrim.

  37. sansenoy says:

    You forgot about Netstorm!!! I’ve played it as a kid, there’s nothing like it, totally mesmerizing even today…

  38. LexW1 says:

    I was going to whinge about how out of order this list seemed, and that it was rather heavy on games from the 2009-13 era, and I do think it’s still missing some older strategy games, but SMAC at #2? Yeah, that’s spot on. UFO ahead of XCOM? Yep, that’s spot-on (amazingly – I went back to UFO a while back and it actually is, when the chips are down, vastly better than XCOM, not a little bit better – a lot).

    It’s a pretty horrible joke to have XCOM (which is good but not great) at #12 though. I mean come on. Better than MOO2? Or really, any of the other games on this list? Hmmm very sceptical.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I think it deserves to be in the top50. 12 seems high, but it was great and was a very tough task (remake an absolute classic).

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Totally agree. UFO is so much better than XCOM it’s sort of shocking.

  39. Hodell says:

    No Sins of a Solar Empire on the list is to me a very, very, big oversight.

  40. Banyan says:

    G-dam, a list that acknowledges Warlords, DEFCON, Wesnoth, and Unity of Command, and gives a shoutout to Theme Hospital? That’s a good list.

    Obligatory complaints: Surprised that a member of the subgenres that developed in the Warlords 3 modding community (tower defense and lane pushing games) didn’t make the list, though that does prevent the LOL and Dota 2 fanboys from overwhelming the comments with their whining. Also, no CCG? Unmentioned games that would make my personal Top 20 would be Dota 2, Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, Darwinia, and Magic: The Gathering (the 1997 game).

  41. Shadow says:

    Master of Orion II has the wrong screenshot, which is from the first Master of Orion.

  42. DanMan says:

    No Battlezone love. :_(

  43. Cederic says:

    Good call on 01/02 for the Championship Manager / Football Manager series. However: 31 on the list?

    Every incarnation of the game is a top 5 on sales, on hours played, on raw fanaticism, on playability, on depth. The series as a whole may be the greatest example of PC gaming, with its raw longevity (I bought the earliest incarnation for the C64 ffs), let alone the centuries of gameplay, the broken marriages, the continued commercial success.

    It’s flawed, but it’s also truly brilliant.

  44. fish99 says:

    Haven’t played enough turn based strategies (other than Civ4 which is indeed great) to make any meaningful comment on this list, but I do appreciate seeing SupCom FA up there so high, to me the best RTS.

    Having said that Age of Empires 2 deserves a spot.

  45. ansionnach says:

    Wow, very impressive! Like how UFO: Enemy Unknown is called… its original name. Not even going to attempt to be picky about the list, especially seeing as the alternatives listed cover even more options. I still like classic civ2 (the 16-bit-only one) but I never really game the fourth one a chance as I was turned off be the 3D graphics and slowness of play compared to civ2 with animations turned off. From what I read the expansions have added much and surely there must be a way of turning off animations and zooming waay out?

    It would really be nice to get a 32-bit+ version of civ2 2.42. May not be that much work considering the multiplayer gold edition (which I also have) is already 32-bit. Not that it’s difficult to run this in 32-bit or 16-bit windows in a VM but it will be its 20th anniversary next year…

    • ansionnach says:

      …by the 3D graphics…
      No!:
      BE the 3D graphics.

      Maybe the next thing after VR: Virtual Reality where reality is actually turned into the virtual. You’ll then be able to experience for the first time kind-of-what-it-might-be-like to be a dog; cat; catdog; dogcat; 5/17th dog, 11/17th cat, 1/17th deuterium… or an orange.

      Not being able to edit comments isn’t so bad!

  46. Monkeh says:

    Guess I have terrible taste, because for me Age of Empires and Red Alert (2) would be very high up in the list, if not at the top. :P

    • Cederic says:

      No, not at all. I think the problem is that there are just so many fantastic choices they were never going to fit everything in.

      C&C was my first “proper” RTS, and I don’t regret the three hours wages it cost me, and that whole series has been tremendously influential. However, the games on this list are undoubtably exemplars in their own right, so it feels churlish to even suggest you drop any of these to fit another in.

  47. Cederic says:

    Call me biased, but this article may be the single finest indictment of console gaming known to mankind.

    Maybe – and just maybe – the Flare Path could create a list to challenge, but no-one else

  48. BlazeL says:

    On the other end of the pacing scale from Neptun’s Pride resides Galcon. It has all the thrills of strategy gaming condensed into 15 minutes at a game.

    And I also would like to mention the original StarControl. It’s like playing space chess where attacks are playing out in an awesome top down arcade shooter mode: melé.

  49. kud13 says:

    Shout-out to Empire Earth was great. The sheer vastness of custom content for that game is stunning. One of the ones I go back to most often when i’m on an RTS “kick”

    I really wish Cossacks: the Art of War had a mention. That game did real-time naval and artillery combat right a full decade before Empire: total war came along. Some of my fondest rts memories were inching my cannons, so that I could get a long-range shot through a hilly 3-D terrain. That game also had formations, walls with gates, you could close/ open, mercenaries, capturable buildings, workers and artillery…it was years ahead of its time.

  50. green frog says:

    Adam, I will love you forever for this list. This is fantastic. I will be discovering incredible games off of this list for years.

    • Person of Interest says:

      Yes, thank you for the wonderful list! It’s a lovely celebration of PC gaming as well as a terrific reference guide.

      I will also refer to this list for years to come: I still open my bookmark for RPS’s The 122 Best PC Games Ever from 2011 whenever I’m in the mood to discover a fantastic classic.