Action-based games are fun for gamers who want bombastic action happening in their games all the time. However, even the most passionate action fan can get tired of the genre if it’s the only type of game they play. A change of pace is always welcome, and what better way to do that than to dive into a different game genre?
If that sounds like you, I’d recommend you try a few strategy games. They grind your gears and make you think, giving a different kind of satisfaction when your plans come together and emerge victorious. Unleash your creativity and test your skills because these games are all about brainpower and planning your moves ahead of time. Which are the best strategy games for you to try, you ask? Check out our list below to find out.
But before we list the best strategy games of 2020, let’s define the genre real quick. What are strategy games and how do they differ from other game genres?
As the name implies, the game’s result will be determined by the player’s strategy. Aspects of the game that are luck-based are mostly kept to a minimum. In strategy games, the player will manage all aspects of the game including resource gathering, unit creation, base management, and more.
As with other game genres, different sub-genres exist under strategy games. Each one will differ in gameplay and mechanics. One example is real-time strategy games or RTS games for short. They differ from turn-based games in that they progress in real-time without waiting for anyone’s turn to end. Tactical games are very similar to strategy games but are limited to managing soldiers and combat strategies as opposed to every aspect of a battle like resource management and diplomacy.
15 Best Strategy Games on PC
Can’t wait to sink your teeth into the world of strategy games? Here are the best strategy games in 2020 that will surely get you more than fired up:
Civilizations, especially empires, tend to fall hard after a prominent rise. From the fall of the earliest civilizations like the Indus Valley and Mesopotamian civilizations to the well-known battle-heavy Roman Empire and even ancient Egypt. All of them have fallen victim to the sands of time. It’s safe to say that we take for granted what it takes to maintain a civilization.
Do you want to know if you have what it takes to build, maintain, and expand a civilization into greatness? Then Civilization 6 should light your eyes up! Take a small civilization from its conception and groom it into a modern-day superpower. Manage resources and infrastructure, conquer lands, research new technologies, and reach milestones as you advance through the ages all in the name of your precious civilization.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Red Alert 2 is a solid strategy game if you want to battle enemies into submission and surrender. Play as either the Allies or the Soviets and defeat the opponent’s base that is controlled by either an AI or a human player.
Of course, you’ll need money and resources to execute your strategy well. Protecting your base to earn money and generate resources are also key parts of gameplay. Managing these different aspects to succeed in your missions coupled with its dated yet charming cutscenes makes it a fun game to play.
To top it off, you get to witness the perspective of either of the world’s former major powers. Who wouldn’t want to play such an exciting game?
Company of Heroes
War is no fun thing in real life but is admittedly fascinating for many, especially in terms of the strategy involved in its campaigns. Many movies and online strategy games have been developed with specific wars in mind–World War 2 being particularly popular. It’s no wonder World War 2 is the premise of Company of Heroes, one of the best strategy games that you can get your hands on.
Many other games have World War 2 as their setting, but what differentiates Company of Heroes is how it immerses players into its world. Only a few other games can capture World War 2’s tactical difficulties, and Company of Heroes does this tremendously well. Gather your friends to contract troops and construct bases as you defeat enemies of a time long past.
Crusader Kings II
Ancient empires and kingdoms are some of the most interesting historical subjects, but who says understanding them is boring and difficult? With Crusader Kings II, you get a glimpse of dynastic life–and you’ll find that it’s as dramatic as ancient history.
Not only do you get the pleasure of playing one of the best grand strategy games around, but you also get to play an elaborate and interesting RPG that will have you hooked. Unlike other strategy games, you play as an individual ruler with a personal life to go through. You’re constantly pushed to make tough decisions that affect both your empire and your private life. Will you let your kingdom crumble after you age and die? Who will be the heir and successor to your throne?
Strategies in the Middle Ages weren’t always war-related, you know. Family and political strategies play a huge role, making this game that much more interesting. Let’s hope that Crusader Kings III, its sequel and one of the biggest upcoming games of 2020, is just as thrilling.
Europa Universalis 4
Europa Universalis IV is one of Paradox’s flagship strategy games PC alongside Crusader Kings II, and it’s an absolute thrill to play. Play as the immortal ruler in charge of a country from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Being a nation means you not only handle the nation’s military, but also its political and economic affairs. Who says that the key to getting better in strategy games is just a matter of understanding military combat?
In this game, you’ll follow historical events but part of the fun is that history is in your hands now. Changing historical events, war outcomes, and creating an alternate history is not uncommon in Europa Universalis IV. Dive into this immense and complex world and forge your path in the game’s ever-changing world.
When people hear “Gears of War”, they immediately think of a cover-based third-person shooter. While playing as a badass soldier saving the human race from mutant Locusts is fun, playing the same franchise in a different genre can be just as exciting.
With Gears Tactics, you can dive into the world of turn-based tactical games. It has all the basic tactical elements you’d expect: travel lines, range cones, action points, and troop recruitment. However, it retains Gears of War staples including surges of overwhelming enemies, cover-heavy settings, and melee executions. If you’re a Gears of War fan wanting to dip your toes into strategy games, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The best PC strategy games don’t always have complex systems with hundreds of things to manage and remember. Games that focus on a few elements as key parts of the experience can be just as fun.
With Halo Wars, you get one of the best strategy games set in space with aliens and space marines engaging in battle. Its strategy aspects are simple to learn yet difficult to master. The player gathers resources, creates units, and focuses on the offense as they engage in real-time space battles. Although these may seem uncomplicated, their graphical details and sequences require your utmost attention because missing something might prove fatal to your campaign.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
If you thought Homeworld could only be a space battle, you thought wrong. With Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, you’re transported to a single planet full of the dullest thing in the world: sand. However, you’ll be more than happy to discover that Deserts of Kharak is anything but dull.
With Deserts of Kharak, you’re faced with one of the best strategy games that utilize the terrain in interesting ways. Use the dunes as cover, hiding places, and even as high ground to turn the tide of battle your way. Every fight you face will determine your tactical advantages (or disadvantages) as you progress through the game. Managing your troops and winning battles is critical as you journey across the desert to save a civilization.
Starcraft 2: Wings Of Liberty
You can’t create a list discussing the best strategy games without a mention of Starcraft. For years, it has been the frontrunner to people’s minds whenever strategy games are brought up. Even with its already-established reputation, it continues to surprise players with its remix of what the RTS genre is.
In Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, there’s a surprising twist on every level. These constant twists will keep you on your toes as you’re compelled to relearn Starcraft’s core mechanics. It’s also pretty compelling story-wise as you’re part of a human colony bent on conquering another planet.
Earth has become overpopulated and mankind needs to expand its territory through space travel. However, you’ve lost all communication with the home planet. This forces you to take on aliens and handle inner conflicts among various human factions, all while trying to stay alive.
In Stellaris, your goal is to build an intergalactic empire. However, it’s not going to be easy given the many different spacefaring civilizations you have to deal with. Synth uprisings, gene wars, and a whole host of hostile alien forces getting in your way are only some of the problems you’ll have to face. It’ll take a lot of planning, strategizing, and conflict to build an empire in this game.
It may come as a surprise, but Stellaris wasn’t anything special when it was initially released. However, due to Paradox’s commitment to its titles, Stellaris has grown to become an impressive and comprehensive 4X strategy title. Thanks to continuous updates and DLCs, Stellaris easily grew to become one of the best strategy games available.
Few games come close to Supreme Commander’s real-time combat and strategy. That’s because as one of the best strategy games out there, it mixes ground, air, and naval combat at once. Additionally, you’ll even get artillery, nuclear power, and experimental bots in the mix to give you a glimpse into what war might be like with technological advancement.
With Supreme Commander, you’ll get a rush from scrolling to one part of the map to a single engineer, coming and going wherever you feel the need. There’s action everywhere, and the myriad of tasks that force you to flick the mouse to back and forth makes the game fast-paced and exhilarating to play.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
The best strategy games don’t just integrate complex battles and resource management into the game. They also include personality and interesting characters that make their game an enjoyable romp to play through. You will get just that and more with Total War: Three Kingdoms, one of the latest releases in the popular Total War series.
In this game, you’re set in the middle of the Three Kingdoms era that’s just as much about the memorable characters as it is the battles that ravaged Ancient China. These characters have distinct personalities that were brilliantly translated to the campaign map and the battlefield. Their relationships and conflicts are prominent parts of the game, affecting both combat and political affairs. If that’s not enough for you, there are great DLCs that delve into various events connected to the era.
Total War: Warhammer II
The Total War series is fun for any strategy game fan. However, Three Kingdoms doesn’t exactly quench the thirst for a bit of fantasy. Sure, you get a more grounded perspective on historical warfare, but you don’t get to relive your dreams of commanding a fantastical army in a Lord of the Rings-like battle. With Total War: Warhammer and Warhammer II, you do that and more.
Total War: Warhammer II is a delight to play in its Games Workshop-created setting of humans, orcs, and vampires. You get dragons, magic, and all the good stuff any good fantasy game has to offer. Despite it being more vibrant and rich, those elements don’t distract from Warhammer’s true strength: its strategy elements. Master the factions and classes all while enduring the pressure of the Vortex victory condition.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
The first Dawn of War game was excellent, but people don’t always pay attention to its sequel. It’s too bad because even though it’s a bit more experimental, it’s one of the best strategy games out there.
With Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, you replace your hordes with a couple of specialized aliens. Each will have various abilities that you have to synergize with your other forces. It’s all about elevating the strengths of each unit so you can optimize the use of your other resources.
Strategies aren’t just about managing resources and creating combat plans. Opportunities don’t always come knocking at your door in real life, and XCOM 2 channels that scarcity well. As one of the best strategy games to come out of the previous decade, XCOM 2 forces you into deciding between recruiting rookies, having an effective comms facility, and weapon upgrades while fighting against time to free humanity from ADVENT and its alien masters. You need all of these but you can likely only acquire one. What will you choose to do?
Playing some of the best strategy games is exhilarating for anyone who loves a good strategy-based board game. Heck, strategy games are incredibly fun even if you’ve never tried it before. They give you the joy of knowing you’ve won not because of luck but your mighty brainpower. While winning chance-based games can be kind of fun, there’s a different sort of satisfaction when you know you’ve won based on pure skill and intellect.