The 50 best strategy games on PC

1 of 52

An entirely objective ranking of the 50 best PC strategy games ever made, now brought up to date with the riches of the last two years. 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.

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 and combat 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.

The links below will skip you forward in intervals of ten, if you like. You can also change pages using the arrows beneath or below the image at the top of each page, or using your arrow keys:

The 50s

The 40s

The 30s

The 20s

The 10s

Onward!

111 Comments

  1. Raoul Duke says:

    I love both sci fi and Civ 2 and 4, and I have never been able to get into Alpha Centauri. The graphics are generic, the unit customisation pointless and also generic, and of course it lacks the joy of letting you play with historical civilisations, leaders and so on.

    Also Endless Legend is not very good and not top 50 material, let alone top 10.

  2. melancholicthug says:

    Ah, Alpha Centauri. If the powers that be ever allow to get married to an inanimate object, I’d probably marry a copy of that game. What a masterpiece. I wish Brian Reynolds came back to PC gaming. Clearly Firaxis has no idea whatsoever on how to make a sequel. I’d settle for a remake, even.

  3. Someoldguy says:

    I do wonder sometimes if you guys and girls write down the names of 200 good games of a genre on a list and pick 45 of them at random out of a hat to add to the 5 that you all agree cannot be ignored.

    It’s nice to see Warlords get honoured with a mention – I bought my first PC in part because I’d played co-op Warlords 1 at a friend’s flat. Still, I wouldn’t include it in a list that’s dropped so many classics. The AI in all versions of Warlords was a bit weak despite the relative simplicity of the game.

  4. theninthlayer says:

    Look, I get that fifty games is a lot to write about, but do you really have to resort to blatant copy+pasting? The Warlords III article references Master of Magic as “the previous game on the list,” the GalCiv II article says the third game is still in Early Access, and those were just two examples of things that got messed up in copy+pasting, not even the articles that I know for a fact I’ve read before word for word.

  5. thvaz says:

    “free like that free lunch they said you’d never find” You feel the need to push your leftist agenda everywhere, don’t you? It is not even funny.
    There is still no free lunch – those Wesnoth developers put a lot of their lunches into the game, which we all should be thankful for. If you didn’t pay your lunch it only means that someone had to pay it for you.

  6. behrooz says:

    Ahh, Solium Infernum.

    That was a truly fine gem of betrayal and deceit in PBEM MP.

    I am inspired to go re-install.

  7. clonitza says:

    Did you know you can play Settlers 2 hotseat with two mice? :)

  8. saillc says:

    Total War: Warhammer at 16 is a disgrace. Not only is it exactly the type of awful DLC scheme that studios need to avoid, the combat and campaign are incredibly simplified compared to previous total war games. I just can’t believe you guys have it at 16.

  9. Mi-24 says:

    it’s an excellent list, although I do have many disagreements, but I wanted to ask:

    What makes Men of war > men of war assault squad (2?)
    and similarly why is Coh1 > Coh2?

    I actually haven’t played mow1, just both assault squads and vietnam (pretty underrated imo) and was wondering why the original is better? does it incorporate more vehicles? or have a better campaign?

    as for Coh whilst I really liked 1 i do think I now enjoy 2 more (doesnt mean it’s a better strategy game) but was wondering the reasoning for 1 > 2?

  10. Conky says:

    List has to have Age of Empires II. Shame, shame, shame.