Best turn-based and real-time strategy games to play today.

Strategy games might not be the most popular game genre in today’s market, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still fantastic ones to play.

So if you are looking for epic games that allow you to build armies and raise empires, then you have come to the right place.

Today we take a look at the very best strategy games that hold up well today, whether they are turn-based or real-time games; these are our favorites on today’s market.

Note: The games do not have to be new or even recent to make it onto here, as long as the gameplay and graphics hold up today.

Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty

”Best Free-to-play RTS on the market.”

Screenshot from Starcraft 2 multiplayer

It’s no coincidence that Blizzard is considered the king of real-time strategy games, and the Starcraft franchise is a big part of why. This sci-fi franchise is renowned for its storytelling, world-building, and excellent gameplay.

The original Starcraft is considered by many to be one of the best RTS games ever for multiple reasons. It had an excellent campaign for its time, and most importantly, it had silky-smooth gameplay, which is likely why it became the first big esport in the world.

Most of what made the original Starcraft great holds true for Starcraft 2, and in many ways, it surpasses its predecessor. Starcraft 2 has a fantastic campaign with exciting characters and gripping stories, as well as offering one of the best overall gameplay experiences of any strategy game to date.

Whether you are looking for a great campaign to play through, a competitive and fast-paced experience, or just an incredibly well-crafted strategy game, Starcraft 2 is a must-try.

Note: Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty has gone entirely free to play, and you only have to pay if you want to move on and play the two expansions, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void. Both of which I highly recommended, especially the first expansion, Heart of the Swarm.

Related: Any armchair general needs a proper gaming chair. 

Total War: Warhammer 2

”Best Total War campaign to date.”

Image from Total War Warhammer 2

  • Platform: PC
  • Type: Turn-based Strategy & Real-time Tactics
  • Metacritic Score: 87/100
  • Link: Official Site / Metacritic 

The Total War series is one of the most popular Strategy game franchises ever with games such as Rome, Shogun, and Medieval 2 under its belt it no wonders why. However, in recent times they have struggled to make a brand new Total War that meets the quality of those older classics until Total War: Warhammer 2 was released late 2017.

Total War is probably the best game series to live out your fantasies of being a war general and conquer your enemies with superior strategy and firepower and Total War: Warhammer 2 is the best one to come out since Shogun 2 that came out in 2011.

Total War: Warhammer 2 is what you call a turn-based strategy and real-time tactics game, which is a fancy way of saying it has it all. In this game, strategy and tactics are equally important if you are to succeed in your campaign, and making wise decisions is as important as having the most massive army.

The rich lore and universe of the Warhammer franchise culminate with the deep and rewarding gameplay of the Total war series to make one of the best strategy games of all time.

Sid Meyer’s Civilization 6

”Most complex & beautiful Civilization game yet.”

Screenshot from Civilization 6

Another classic franchise we obviously can’t forget when talking about the best strategy games is the Civilization games and, in this case, the new Civilization 6 from 2016. This turn-based strategy game will feel very familiar to fans of the classic tabletop Risk game.

Sid Meyer’s Civilization takes the strong turn-based strategic gameplay of the classic tabletop Risk game and adds an immense amount of depth on top of it. You are not just trying to conquer your enemies and expand your empire. You are also leading a nation from the very stone age to modern times and beyond. This means you are not only creating armies, but you are building and ruling an entire kingdom, which includes research in technology, developing relationships through diplomacy, dictating politics, and much more.

Sid Meyer’s Civilization 6 is the perfect game through which you can live out your fantasies of world domination, and it is one of the best turn-based strategy games on the market.

Company of Heroes 2

”Best unit focused Real-time strategy game.”

Screenshot from Company of Heroes 2

Company of Heroes is a unique and incredibly tactical affair that does a lot of things better than any other game on the market. It takes place during World War 2 and offers a great campaign that walks you through several historical battlefields, and with three full expansions, there is no lack of content to play through. Add this to the incredibly deep multiplayer mode as well as a decently active modding community that keeps adding new maps, and you have an almost endless amount of replayability.

Where Company of Heroes elevates itself above other strategy games is with its realistic game mechanics such as the weather system and true sight. When a snowstorm hits, you better find shelter soon, or you will quickly see your troops freezing to death, while true sight emulates the actual line of sight of your forces to create even more tactical depth and realism.

This game is a lot different from most classic RTS games in that it focuses entirely on commanding your army and conquering your enemy instead of building a base. So if what you love most about strategy games is the actual warfare and control of a military rather than base building, then Company of Heroes is one of the best games out there.

Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos & The Frozen Throne

”Best Real-time Strategy campaign of all time.”

Screenshot from Warcraft 3 campaign

Warcraft 3 stands tall as not only one of the best strategy games ever but one of the best games ever, period. Very few games have ever offered as complete an experience as Warcraft 3, it has flawless gameplay, an excellent campaign and I’d dare say the best modding community of any game to date.

Warcraft 3 takes place in the well known and beloved world of Azeroth in the universe that later gave birth to the MMO sensation World of Warcraft. Reign of Chaos has, in my opinion, the best campaign of any strategy game to date, and it still holds up very well to this day due to the iconic stylized Blizzard graphics. The campaign focuses on the Story of Prince Arthas and his journey to save his homeland, a character that has since become one of the most iconic game characters of all time. On top of that, it has a near-perfect expansion, the Frozen Throne, which further develops the character of Arthas but also has a significant focus on the Illidan, another incredibly iconic Blizzard character.

When people mention Warcraft 3, three things, in particular, comes to mind. A flawless campaign and gameplay experience and the incredibly user-friendly map editor that gave birth it an endless array of game modes and wonky maps, most notably Defense of the Ancients, a.k.a DOTA, the first Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game. Warcraft 3 has thousands(yes thousands) of well-crafted maps created by the community that caters to so many different people, and no matter what you like, I guarantee that someone has made a mod for it in Warcraft 3.

Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and it’s expansion pack The Frozen Throne are both absolute classics that any fan of the real-time-strategy genre owes themselves to try out. It has top-tier gameplay, a fantastic campaign, and endless replayability due to its online modding community.

Related: Competitive RTS gaming requires precision that only mechanical keyboards can provide. 

Age of Empire 3

”Best historic Real-time strategy game.”Screenshot from Age of Empires 3

From one absolute classic to another, Age of Empires stands as one of the first truly great real-time strategy games and one of the first games that come to mind when people mention RTS classics. While the original will always hold a special place in my heart, there is no denying that Age of Empires 3 is the best version of the game today and proves a worthy successor to the old classic.

Despite being more than ten years old, it’s graphics hold of decently well today and its age does in no way take away from the gameplay of this masterpiece. Its gameplay is slick and intuitive with a lot of depth once you get into it, and the game has both a very enjoyable campaign and multiplayer mode.

Age of Empires 3 is basically Sid Meyer’s Civilization in a real-time strategy format. Just like in the classic Civilization games, you start at an early age of human history, and as you develop and expand your empire, you move through the ages. The most significant difference is that instead of the grand turn-based style of Civilization, Age of Empires is a true RTS where you are in charge of both base-building and warfare.

Age of Empires’ biggest strength lies in its pacing and gameplay. Games like Warcraft 3 and Starcraft are incredibly fast-paced and can come off as too stressful for some people, whereas Age of Empires is a lot slower, which helps to give you that feeling of building a true empire and makes you care about your base and army a lot more.

So if you want a historical setting rather than fantasy and want a pureblood real-time strategy experience with a significant focus on base-building, then Age of Empires is a must-play and is worth trying out for any fan of the RTS genre.

Europa Universalis 4

”One of the best grand strategy games ever made.”

screenshot from Europa Universalis 4 pc game

Europa Universalis is often compared to the Civilization series, and on the surface, they may look alike, but the two are not even in the same genre. While Civilization is a turn-based strategy game, the Europa Universalis games reside within the genre of Grand Strategy.

Europa Universalis is almost like a history simulator where you play on a map of the earth divided into provinces. Each province serves as a strategical and tactical threat or opportunity to the player as each province can bring in resources and wealth or a ton of trouble in the form of rebellion of treason.

While playing, you must aspire to advance administratively, diplomatically, and militarily to conquer the challenges and events that happen throughout the play session. The events that occur are unique and fitting to the history of the country you choose to play as and thus offer a ton of replayability.

Europa Universalis 4 is an extremely addictive grand strategy game, and if you want something more in-depth and strategical than Civilization, then Europa Universalis is right up your alley. In my opinion, it is the best and most polished grand strategy game on the market, and if you want to explore that genre of games, then the Europa Universalis series is the best way to do it.

Total War: Shogun 2

”best historical Total War to date.”

Screenshot from Total War Shogun 2

Shogun 2 is the Total War franchise at it’s absolute finest. Just like Total War: Warhammer 2 is the best fantasy version of the game to date, Shogun is the best historical version.

Total War: Shogun 2 offers incredible gameplay, fun, and excellent campaign, and a beautiful world to conquer. No Total War game before it has managed to make the actual wars and real-time strategy as engaging and rewarding as Shogun 2, which is due to a very smart A.I and well thought out game mechanics. On top of that, the turn-based side of the game is also among the very best in the series, and fun mechanics such as the ”Family tree” really make you care about your empire.

Although the Total War series is not known for incredible graphics, this 5-year-old Strategy game still looks great, and its age doesn’t hold it back one bit.

Total War: Shogun 2 also has an equally impressive expansion pack, Fall of the Samurai, that delivers a perhaps even better campaign than the base game and adds some welcomed new features and units to the game.

Whether you are looking for a realistic Total War game as a first-time player or are a Total War veteran who, for some reason, haven’t tried Shogun 2 yet, this game is remarkably well crafted. Everything from the real-time gameplay to the turn-based grand scheme strategy feels incredibly rewarding and Total War: Shogun 2 is just really hard to put down once you get into it.

Age of Empires 2 (2013)

”The epitome of real-time strategy games.”

Age of Empires hd 2013

This 2013 HD update of one of the most beloved strategy games of all time is precisely how you should do a high definition re-release. It recaptures all of the magic of the original Age of Empires 2 game, and it looks great doing it, which has earned it a ten out of ten user ratings on Steam alongside critical acclaim from all respectable publications.

Age of Empires 2 is the epitome of real-time strategy games, and if you enjoy a medieval setting, historical campaign, and a slightly more slow-paced RTS game, then there are no better options than Age of Empires 2 HD.

It includes all of the original campaigns from all of the expansion sets, as well as three brand new campaigns and four new civilizations to play. Whether you enjoy online head-on-head matches or just want an engaging singleplayer campaign, Age of Empires 2 HD is a wonderful game.

Crusader Kings 2

”Grand strategy excellence.”

Crusader Kings 2 image

If games like Civilization 6 or Age of Empires don’t have enough depth for your taste, then I would recommend Crusader Kings 2. It is incredibly detailed, the gameplay is extraordinarily complicated, and it will almost certainly be too hard to get into for casual players. However, once you understand the game and how it plays, you have one of the most satisfying grand strategy experiences on your hands.

Fans of Europa Universalis will love this game, and it is not hard to see that Paradox Development Studio has developed it. It contains a high-level of military strategy, political intrigue, and allows you to rewrite European medieval history.


  1. Europa Universalis is not a turn based strategy at all.

    It has 5 speeds with 5 being unlocked to as fast as your PC will allow. it goes through the days in time, there are no turns.

    I don’t know if it is considered Real Time Strategy because it has a calendar starting in 1440 AD or so and each day passes at a time set by the game speed.

  2. I am still missing Westwoods Command and Conquer. Very dated but arguably one of the best in 1995. I do replay C&C: Tiberium Dawn every 5 years on Windows 10. So I am always keen for a similar current or near future (non fantasy/Sci Fi) RTS. There are many tedious browser based Freemiums, but they don’t come anywhere near the perfectly balanced C&C single layer missions.

    Any Suggestions

    • Hi Jules,
      You are absolutely right, C&C is an incredible RTS, arguably one of the best of all time.
      However, as we stated at the beginning: ”Today we take a look at the very best strategy games that hold up well today” and I honestly don’t think it does. Otherwise, I would have added Warcraft 2 and Starcraft as well.

  3. AOE & C&C are some of the best RTS I have ever played! Very greatful that I played all of these when I was young and I do still enjoy them to this day! Can’t beat it in my opinion! I would love to see new games from the same team of builders! Thank you!

  4. Yeah you need to put Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium War and the Expansion “Kane’s Wrath”.

    9/10 gameplay, 9/10 campaign, very fast paced multiplayer RTS, shoutout to the tactic ‘bikerush’

  5. Some of these I have not been able to play on Windows 10. It would be nice to see the Windows versions these will play on without tricks. I was happy to see Starcraft was re-written to play on line except it doesn’t have the levels of easy/normal/hard. It plays at one level only. But the stories are the same. I would like to see Warcraft 2 brought up to on line and/or Windows 10 version.


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