In many games you are the shining hero who saves worlds, frees princesses or experiences more personal stories. It is different with strategy. In this genre, the player becomes the master of the big picture, a general who leads entire armies into battle or masters tactically demanding tasks with small troops. This is about strategic thinking and forward planning. The roots of the genre go back to classic board games like chess. Strategy games flourished in the 1990s and early 2000s after Dune 2 made real-time strategy a breakthrough. But even today, the genre continues to produce various excellent titles, despite repeated deaths. Whether you are a fan of real-time strategy or turn-based tactics, the genre is versatile enough to appeal to various types of players. Our buying guide to strategy games is correspondingly diverse. In the following, we present the ten best games for hobby generals currently in our opinion.
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Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
The Fire Emblem series can now look back on thirty years of history. During this time, sixteen parts of the main series and four spin-offs have appeared. The games have always practiced an interesting amalgamation of turn-based tactical battles on gridded playing fields, almost like in chess, with a plot and character development like in role-playing games. This is no different in the latest part, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which was released for Nintendo Switch in 2019. After the series was only at home on handheld consoles for many years, Fire Emblem returned to a home console for the first time since 2007. The developers have come up with some innovations for this. Mechanics like the school system with the three rival nations and the battalion mechanics bring a breath of fresh air into the game. In addition to the tactically demanding battles, the believable characters and the captivating story with sometimes dramatic elements are convincing. The system with the three rival houses also has a high replay value. Just the thing for tactics fans who don't shy away from a certain JRPG impact.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release: 05/09/2016 (PC), 02/26/2019 (PS4, XBO)
When it comes to space strategy on a grand scale, where you can spread yourself out as the ruler of a star empire in an entire galaxy, there is hardly anything that goes past Stellaris or Endless Space 2 at the moment. We decided on the former at this point because the game from Paradox Interactive is still regularly updated with new content more than four years after the original release. The developers do not shy away from revising entire game systems if it serves to improve the gaming experience. The Stellaris of today therefore plays in some aspects very differently than when it was tested four years ago. What has remained unchanged, however, is the great flow of the game, the extremely high replay value and the extensive possibilities to shape your empire, your politics and your own playing style. In comparison to the other strategy heavyweights from Paradox, Stellaris is also much more accessible. Therefore, the developers have also succeeded in realizing a well-implemented console version for PS4 and Xbox One. So if you've always wanted to rule your own galactic empire or a federation of the united planets, you've come to the right place.
Source: PC Games
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch
Release: 02/27/2018 (PC), 08/28/2018 (NSW)
It is in the nature of the genre that strategy games don't always need the latest high-gloss graphics in order to work wonderfully. The best example of this in recent years has been the indie hit Into the Breach. Its developer Subset Games had previously made a name for itself with FTL: Faster Than Light. With their second project, they impressively demonstrated that what matters most in strategy is inner values. On small, manageable battlefields, turn-based combat with usually no more than a handful of units develops a tremendous tactical depth. What is particularly striking is the traceability of everything that happens on the screen at all times. This makes the strategic processes in the game easy to understand, but in the end very difficult to master. In addition, there is the rogue-like mechanism based on time travel, which ensures high replayability and long-lasting motivation. If you have no problem with the rudimentary pixel graphics, you only have to put up with the fact that the story and background story are only superficially available. In return, you can expect top-class strategic challenges.
Source: Subset Games
The Total War series has been a long-runner in the strategy genre for 20 years. With their combination of turn-based strategy on a world map and gripping, real-time battles, the games still stand out from many of their genre colleagues. With a number of 14 mostly good to excellent games so far, it is not that easy to determine the best part. We chose this buying guide for Warhammer 2 from 2017 because the title has been able to hold its own against its successors in our PC games booklet to this day. The mixture of challenge, excitement and reward still works wonderfully today. In addition, there is the perfectly captured Warhammer atmosphere with its four very different races. Probably because of the fantasy setting and the much more diverse factions, a particularly complex strategic depth arises. In addition, the scope is really impressive, which ensures many hours of fun. So maybe just the thing for cold winter evenings.
Starcraft 2: The Complete Trilogy
Release: 07/27/2010 (Wings of Liberty), 03/12/2013 (Heart of the Swarm), 11/10/2015 (Legacy of the Void)
With real-time strategy, Blizzard celebrated its breakthrough as a developer studio in the 1990s. In addition to Warcraft 3, which is still loved for its story today, the Californians have put their stamp on the genre, especially with Starcraft, which has developed into an esports phenomenon, especially in Asia. They didn't want to mess with the successor and turned it into a real mammoth project. From 2010 to 2015, Starcraft 2 appeared as a trilogy, with a separate part for each of the three main races of the universe. In the overall package, you can expect three very extensive campaigns, each with different game mechanics, which always provide new challenges. The epic story is brilliantly staged and told again and again with chic render sequences. But of course Starcraft 2 is again one of the outstanding representatives of its kind in multiplayer. In addition to classic multiplayer modes, the developers have also introduced some innovations such as co-op missions. However, the game is not for leisurely strategists. Instead, Starcraft 2 hits a fairly fast pace. When fighting other players, it is therefore particularly important to think and act efficiently and quickly. If you don't shy away from it, the trilogy is one of the competitive real-time strategy games.
Source: PC Games
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release: 02/05/2016 (PC), 09/27/2016 (PS4, XBO), 08/29/2017 (War of the Chosen), 05/29/2020 (NSW)
Mercilessly good. The title of our test by XCOM 2 in 2016 was as simple as it was apt. After the series had already successfully rebooted five years ago, the Firaxis developers managed to go one step further in all respects. In the area of lap tactics there is still nothing better. The catchy and excellently presented battles cast a spell and make you forget time while playing. There is also a significantly improved basic expansion part and an elaborately told story. The merciless enemy AI ensures a pleasantly high standard, which can be regulated in four levels of difficulty. The balance between the different classes, the countless items and other tactical possibilities works perfectly from start to finish. With the add-on War of the Chosen the game has been extended with new features. New mission types, opponents and start options provide even more variety. The strict mission timers, which were still somewhat controversial in the main game, have been defused. So if you want to buy XCOM 2, you should definitely use the complete package of main game and add-on. Countless hours of the finest tactical food await you.
Source: 2k Games
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release: June 16, 2020
Those who prefer tactical challenges in real time instead of lap tactics can hardly avoid Desperados 3 at the moment. The game by the German developers of Mimimi Games is reviving a series that had been inactive for a long time, which at the beginning of the 2000s mixed up the strategy genre at the same time as the legendary Commandos games. But don't worry, you don't need any previous knowledge, because it is a prequel to the previous parts of the series. So you can fully concentrate on the beautiful level design, the varied assignments with their diverse solutions and the friendly heroes. With Shadow Tactics, the developers had already proven that they understand their craft in real-time tactics, and with Desperados 3 they deliver an absolutely smooth and thoroughly fun experience. The standard is consistently high, but never leads to frustration. With a pretty decent amount of around 25 hours, which is also expanded by optional challenge missions and DLCs, tactics fans get a lot for the money.
Source: PC Games
The Crusader Kings series has always had a rather unusual approach to a strategy game. It is less about nations and empires. Instead, the focus is on one's own ruler and his family in an almost role-playing manner. With the third part, published in 2020, the developers at Paradox Interactive have further perfected this approach to play. In a political situation that is constantly changing due to war, intrigues, blackmail and intrigue, it is important to strengthen your own dynasty more and more and to maneuver through crises. Here a skilful married relative, there a well-negotiated alliance and if nothing else helps, then arms have to speak out. In addition, there are always events that require the player to make decisions whose effects can have unforeseen consequences. To steer one's own ruling family through the turmoil of the Middle Ages in this way exerts a tremendous fascination. With a well-made tutorial, helpful tool tips and other entry-level aids, the developers have also tried to appeal to players who were previously rather put off by the complex grand tragedy games.
Source: PC Games
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition
Age of Empires 2 was one of the best real-time strategy had to offer 20 years ago. In addition to Starcraft and Command & Conquer, which are more geared towards brisk action, the second part of the Age series embodied a somewhat more leisurely style of play. With the Definitive Edition, Microsoft has given this masterpiece a high gloss polish, which means that the game does not have to hide behind the competition even today. In no less than 27 campaigns you will experience gripping missions with the most varied of peoples from the medieval world. The central element of the game is the excellent interplay of building a base, researching new technologies and conquering the enemy settlements. With the tidy interface of the Definitive Edition, this is now even easier to do. This is also ensured by a few sensible improvements in comfort. If you haven't had enough after the campaigns, you can let off steam in various multiplayer modes or create your own content with the integrated map editor. Then as now, Age of Empires 2 is a must have for any real-time strategy fanatic.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
Release: 10/21/2016 (PC), 11/16/2018 (NSW), 11/22/2019 (PS4, XBO), 8/13/2020 (Android)
Like almost all of the titles in this buying guide, Civilization has a long and turbulent history. Created by Sid Meier in the early 90s, the series has always been considered the king of turn-based strategy. As is so often the case, opinions differ on the best part of the series. The last three parts in particular have always been outstanding games with their respective add-ons. At this point, we decided on the current offshoot, because Civilization 6, with its two expansions Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm, is an all-round successful package that ensures crazy nights with its typical spiral of addiction. In addition, the game is still being supplied with new content by the developers for over four years after its release. At the moment, the makers keep pushing new races, leaders and game modes. Like many parts before, Civilization 6 also suffers from various AI problems. But in the overall package, turn strategy fans still get one of the best gaming experiences ever. With new ideas such as the city districts, a climate system that reacts to the actions of the nations, the age mechanics and much more, the game also sets itself apart from its predecessor. If you don't want to mess with the AI at all, you can of course also compete with other leisure state leaders in multiplayer mode. To guide a people through human history in a turn-based manner, there is currently hardly anything better. Always true to the motto: Just one more round …
Source: PC Games
As different as the manifestations of strategy games can be, so are the opinions about the best representatives of the genre. Within a number of long-term series, this also applies to the genre in general. It is clear then that we may not get approval from each of you. After all, there are many more great strategy games like Command & Conquer, Gears Tactics, Homeworld and more. So if your favorite is not there or you have further recommendations, please write us in the comments. We look forward to your opinion.
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