The Best Strategy Games That You Can Play Today

Have you ever been so deep into an epic strategy game that hours pass by without you noticing? The best strategy games tend to do that, which is why we love them. What makes strategy games so addicting? For starters, there’s a sense of accomplishment as something you began grows and builds up into something powerful. With the best strategy games, you need to make plans and see them executed. Sometimes they actually work, and you’re rewarded. Most of the time you end up with a crisis on your hands, which only quick thinking can solve.

We remember Sid Meier’s Civilization (the first one) with deep fondness. Who knows how many hours of our youth we invested in that game? Civilization was just the beginning of our obsession with strategy games. Between the 1990s and now, we’ve mastered Axis and Allies, multiple versions of Sim City, Warcraft, Blitzkrieg, Company of Heroes, Hearts of Iron, and of course, every Civilization release since then. And let’s not forget the best of the best, Age of Empires.

Strategy games have come a long way since the early days of computer gaming. Today’s strategy games build on the backs of giants, and we can choose from a massive library of awesome games. In fact, there’s too many to choose from! Which is why we wanted to know which ones are the best strategy games you can play today.

All About Strategy Games


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Did you know that the first digital strategy game was released way back in 1972? We were shocked to learn that, too! It was called Invasion, and was basically Risk meets Pong. In the early 80s with the rise of the Apple II and home computing, computer games exploded onto the scene. By the 90s, a lot of homes had a computer and the internet was a thing. Strategy games were perfect for those PCs. They packed about eight megabytes of RAM and one gigabyte of hard drive space. Add 24-bit video cards to that and these machines couldn’t do too much, but the best strategy games such as Sid Meier’s Civilization were perfect.

The best strategy games today could never play on a desktop machine from 1995. Most of them require at least 4 gigabytes of RAM and 200 megabytes of memory space, at a bare minimum. And don’t forget about graphics. 24-bit graphics compared to modern 4-gigabyte graphics card output is no competition.


What are strategy games?

A strategy game is different from most other games in that you generally have a God’s eye view of the game and command multiple units. Usually, you control a single unit, whether it be a person, vehicle, ship, etc. and move them around a world. In the best strategy games, you control entire armies, cities, nations, or civilizations. Sometimes, you even control the very game world itself!

Roughly speaking, strategy games can be broken into two categories: Real-time and turn-based. There are a lot of subgenres (tower defense, 4X, tactics, etc.) beyond this but they almost all fall into one of these two categories.


Real-time strategy, or RTS, is when the game plays in, well, real time. Some games can be slowed down (or even sped up for a more significant challenge) but not stopped. You have to control your units on the fly and adjust your strategy as conditions change in the game. You’ve heard the phrase, “no plan survives contact with the enemy?” That’s what real-time strategy games are all about. You make your plans, set them in motion, and then frantically work to overcome the obstacles that laugh at your hubris. It’s an adrenaline rush, to say the least.


Turn-based strategy is exactly what it sounds like. You take a turn, and then the computer (or your human opponent) gets a chance. Think chess but instead of an eight by eight board, your armies can span entire continents, planets, or even galaxies.


Are all strategy games about war?

Short answer? No. Long answer? Not even remotely. Like every other genre of video games, strategy games come in every flavor under the sun. If you didn’t catch the name before, Sim City is very much not a war game. You literally build a city and keep it running and growing. There are strategy games that focus on sports. Others focus on theme parks. If you’re not interested in blowing stuff up but still want a strategic challenge, there’s a place for you.


Who plays them?

Pretty much anybody can get into a great strategy game. Whether it’s a turn-based game like Civilization or Panzer General, or an RTS game like Age of Empires or Company of Heroes, there’s a flavor for everybody. That being said, those who prefer to think, plot, politic, and basically play God with the digital lives of your denizens will enjoy strategy games the most. If you like action that depends on your reflexes or endless patience with mining ore to build armor to go on quests to get better armor to go on more quests, a First Person Shooter (FPS) or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) is more up your alley.


How much do they cost?

The really large and elaborate strategy games are super-expensive to create. Most FPS games use the same graphics engine to power the action which lowers overall expenses, but every strategy game requires a new build. On top of production costs, there’s marketing and licensing. Thanks, however, to the popularity of Steam, distribution costs have declined significantly.

Still, all of those other factors mean that the best strategy games are not cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to nearly $100 for a collector’s edition with all kinds of bonus content. There are older classics out there like Masters of Orion 2 that won’t cost nearly as much, but we’re looking at some of the fresher titles and with freshness comes a bit of a price tag. Don’t worry, though. It’s money well spent!

How We Reviewed


We wanted to find the best strategy games that you can play today. Okay, we’ll be completely honest. We wanted to find the best strategy games that we could play, but you can play them too! To do that, we searched our memories for all the best titles we ever became obsessed with and then thought of some reasons why those games stood out. We realized that those games:

  • Had an almost unlimited replay value
  • Required lots of strategic thinking and planning
  • Still had moments where we had to act quickly
  • Included memorable soundtracks
  • Were epic in nature

After compiling this unofficial list of criteria, we set out to find similar games available today. Once we had a decent-sized list, we weeded out any games with poor customer reviews. What remained was a great list of the best strategy games you can play today.

The Best Strategy Games in 2019

The first thing you might notice from our list of the best strategy games in 2019 is that some of these titles are a few years old. That’s because this list isn’t just about the newest games on the market. That being said, we didn’t go back to classics like Command & Conquer because while they can run on today’s computers with a little tweaking, we’re not doing a “best strategy games of all time” list here. That’s an entirely different article!

We assembled our list in no particular order so jump right in and see what kind of strategy game is right for you.

After compiling this unofficial list of criteria, we set out to find similar games available today. Once we had a decent-sized list, we weeded out any games with poor customer reviews. What remained was a great list of the best strategy games you can play today.

Hearts of Iron IV

First on our list is a World War II blockbuster. Hearts of Iron IV can be called the best Second World War strategy game on the market today. The creators finally fixed a lot of flaws in the AI engine with the fourth iteration of their game. Now you can expect the AI to behave like the generals and politicians in charge. Which means if you’re playing as the Soviet Union, you can expect a remorseless blitzkrieg from the Germans that will be nearly impossible to halt. At least at first. The game costs between $45 and $75, and if you get it on Steam, they often have discounts.

Customers on Steam rated it “Very Positive,” praising the endless possibilities, the politics, and the grand strategies which result in invasions or the collapse of entire nations. Complaints centered around the game eating up more CPU the longer you play it, which can slow less powerful computers down.

Company of Heroes 2

Next up is another live-action strategy classic franchise. Company of Heroes 2 takes over from the original blockbuster, introducing the Red Army to the mix, along with a hundred new maps and dozens of new commanders. Company of Heroes manages to blend small scale troop combat with resource gathering in a seamless and compelling wartime setting. Build your combat units, keep them supplied, and achieve your objectives. We particularly love the addition of winter storms, which will kill your infantry if they’re not huddled around a fire or hiding in a building. The game costs between $20 and $40, but you can buy the entire franchise on Steam for between $60 and $70.

Steam customers rated it “Mostly Positive.” Most people loved the game, with one customer calling it the “…biggest cluster of sheer amazing awesomeness…” he’s ever played. Some people pointed out that the AI isn’t that smart, and will simply rush your positions with ever-stronger units no matter what strategy you come up with.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

In 2016, Firaxis Games released the sixth iteration of the ever-popular Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise. Number six builds upon the previous five with mind-blowing graphics and a brand new epic soundtrack. Unfortunately, Leonard Nimoy doesn’t narrate this version as he did with Civ IV. However, we love that as cities grow, they’ll sprawl across the map, even merging together into a mega-metropolis. The AI is now super-smart, and world leaders will follow their own agendas based on historical personas, so expect Genghis Khan to be really aggressive. You can buy it for between $80 and $100, so check Steam for flash sales or discounts.

The game received “Mixed” reviews from Steam customers. That means as many people downvoted it as upvoted it. People loved the graphics and the fact that beginners and veterans alike can jump into the game without much of a learning curve. Unfortunately, there were many complaints that the AI is awful, and it seems every world leader wants to attack you at every turn, rather than playing politics and competing commercially and culturally as in previous versions.


DOTA 2 is the most played game on Steam. Millions of people log on and play each other in the world’s largest massive multiplayer strategy game. DOTA (Defence of the Ancients) began as a mod to Warcraft III. Thanks to its popularity, DOTA 2 released in 2013 and it’s still going strong. Play as a legendary god of mythology, or a barbaric warrior, or a superhero, and build your community and your powers as you battle your way through the DOTA world. There’s an infinite number of possibilities to unfold, and no two games are the same. Best of all, DOTA 2 is free on Steam, but you’ll have to pay for in-game micro-transactions if you want to take advantage of them.

Players on Steam rated it “Very Positive.” Customers loved it, saying it’s one of the most immersive and satisfying strategy role-playing games you can find. Many of them did warn that it can take up to 100 hours of gameplay before you actually see anything start to happen with your character, however.

Cities: Skylines

Next is the first serious competitor to the famous Sim City franchise. Cities: Skylines, released by Paradox Interactive in 2015, fills in many of the gaps that Sim City leaves out. We appreciate the comedic aspects of Sim City, but Cities: Skylines takes things more seriously. It allows you to build a fully-realized transportation network, manage your traffic grid, place roads and individual buildings where you need them, and manage taxes. Also, you need to carefully zone commercial, residential, and industrial districts because they all affect each other. We love that you need to carefully balance things like education and health care in order to build a thriving city. Expect to pay between $30 and $50 for this awesome city manager. Check out Steam for discounts.

On Steam, it’s rated “Very Positive” by customers, who said it was a “very good game” and enjoyed the graphics and overall gameplay. Many people complained that without buying the add-ons, it’s very bare-bones.

Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War

Warhammer began as a book-based role-playing game. Then it evolved into a tabletop strategy game before making the leap to computers. In 2018, Proxy Studios gave us Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War. The game takes place on an unpopulated, war-ravaged planet which colonists start to resettle.

Unfortunately, they found ancient relics which unleashed all those horrible armies from the original games. Now you’ve got to take control and build your defenses and crush the horrors that roam the planet. You’ll pay between $45 and $65 for the honor, but Steam might help you out with a discount.

Customers rated it “Mostly Positive” on Steam, saying they loved the resource gathering and society-building aspects, and the graphics are decent. Many people did complain that the battles aren’t large enough and there’s no real war, just lots of skirmishes.

Football Manager 2018

The great thing about the best strategy games is that they’re not all war and politics. There are also sports. In the case of Football Manager 2018, there’s the world of international FIFA soccer. As the manager of a major football club, you decide who to sign, what tactics to use that best exploits your individual player’s talents, how to train your team, and even the team budget. We love that you can build partnerships between players so they’ll operate better together on the pitch. The game costs between $50 and $75. On Steam, there’s often flash sales so keep an eye out for one.

Football Manager 2018 received a “Mixed” rating on Steam. Several people called it one of the most addictive strategy games you can get, and people loved how complex it is, with so many subtle intricacies that need to be managed. That’s also a reason many people downvoted it, saying it takes too long to get into and others calling it boring.

Some Final Thoughts

The best strategy games will immerse us into a world where we need to think and plan to succeed. Sometimes there’s no “winning,” and it’s the process itself that’s fun. Other times, like with Company of Heroes 2 or Football Manager 2018, you want to rise to the top and win the game outright. Either way, you’re sure to have fun. Strategy games have come a long way since 1972, and for strategy nerds like us, that’s a good thing!

Do you have a favorite strategy game we forgot to add to our list of the best strategy games? Let us know in the comments!

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