Craving a good strategy game? You’re in luck – in the last decade or so, it feels like there’s been no shortage of titles designed to get your brain in gear. From slow-burn political manoeuvring to frantic battles with alien invaders, the genre has plenty to offer – and if you’re overwhelmed for choice, it can sometimes feel like too much.
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Just trying to decide on which strategy game to play can be a nightmare when there’s so many gems trying to tempt you. To help out, we’ve hand-picked six of the best strategy games that are available to play now, and mentioned which platforms they’re on – meaning there should be something for everyone on this list.
1. XCOM 2
Since the first XCOM launched all the way back in 1994, strategy fans have spent nearly three decades enjoying the turn-based squad combat and its ensuing tales of heroism and heart-break.
Instead of fielding a globally-powerful defence organisation, XCOM 2 puts players in charge of a bootstrap resistance group, fighting gritty guerrilla warfare against Earth’s all-powerful alien overlords.
The premise brings a lot for to the table. Instead of jumping into every mission guns-blazing, a stealth mechanic means that you’ll often begin each outing meticulously setting up ambushes and sneaking past enemy patrols – which is important, because these extra-terrestrial troops will often outgun you. It’s a supremely satisfying extra layer of strategy, and the sequel’s DLC – War Of The Chosen – adds even more for players to sink their teeth into, including the series’ deadliest enemies to date.
2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Available on: Nintendo Switch
If you can’t help getting attached to the (often ill-fated) squaddies of XCOM, why not take that to the next step with Fire Emblem: Three Houses?
After landing a teaching role at the prestigious Officers Academy of Garreg Mach, you’re tasked with taking on a class-full of students and training them to be effective strategists and killing machines. Between tea parties and choir practice, you’ll take your class into live combat missions designed to develop their fighting prowess, and permanently losing one of your pupils is a very real threat.
Without spoiling anything, a shocking plot twist and subsequent time-skip halfway through Fire Emblem: Three Houses sends the game’s direction in a bloody turn, and the stakes skyrocket: you’re soon fighting a very real war, battling for the existence of whichever faction you’ve chosen to side with. Fire Emblem: Three Houses isn’t just a fantastic strategy game, it’s also one of the best games available on the Nintendo Switch – so give it a shot if fantasy-themed strategy strikes your fancy.
3. Total War: Warhammer 3
Available on: PC
Here, players command entire armies – with troops often numbering in the thousands – on the battlefield in real-time. Between these battles, there’s a larger turn-based campaign map where the game’s political and city-building elements shine.
If you’d prefer all of this set to a realistic historical backdrop, it’s worth checking the series’ older entries such as Three Kingdoms, Medieval 2, or Rome 2. But if this sounds like something that would be improved with the addition of dragons, daemons and vampires, look no further than Total War: Warhammer 3.
In the third and final entry to Creative Assembly’s Warhammer trilogy, you can play as everything from Kislev’s bear-riding, gun-toting humans to Nurgle’s plague-ridden daemons. The developer is also working on a game mode called Immortal Empires, which will combine the trilogy’s factions and locations into one big map – so if the third game’s roster sounds a little tame, just wait until they’re joined by vampire pirates and dinosaur-riding dinosaurs.
Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5.
In space, no one can hear you scheme. Get used to it – in Stellaris, a grand strategy game about carving out an empire among the stars, you’ll be up to your neck in plots, intrigue, and politics. Made by strategy titan Paradox, Stellaris is a sandbox-style title where the main goal is to lead your empire however you see fit. Whether that’s through conducting relentless military expansion, unifying the universe with sickly-sweet diplomacy, or simply protecting your home turf, there are few strategy games that leave so much to the players’ imagination.
As well as being able to create your own race of sentient life, there’s plenty of downloadable content (DLC) that enables a wide range of playstyles: from a Flood-style hivemind to a species of sentient rocks, Stellaris offers plenty of replayability in each playthrough.
One of the most exciting features in Stellaris is its end-game crises. Made to counteract the strategy genre’s tendency for games to become a bit of a slog toward the end, these crises challenge players to overcome issues that can very easily consign their empire to the history books. These end-game crises can range from extradimensional invaders to an AI rebellion, and – like the game’s in-depth functionality and variety of playable races – ensure that players get lightyears of mileage from Stellaris.
5. Civilization 5
Available on: PC.
For those of us who’d rather stay a little more grounded, there’s Civilization 5. Sid Meier’s long-running strategy series needs little introduction, but the turn-based empire-builder has remained popular for a reason.
A game of Civilization 5 sends a host of real-world leaders back to the Ancient Era, and sets them away building up their (drum roll, please) civilisation, all the way up to the near future.
Starting with a humble settlement in the Ancient Era, it’s up to players how they want to win the game: cultural victories will require developing a small cluster of lucrative cities for tourism, chasing a science victory means taking your empire into space, and domination victories require…well, dominating. Though you may start out with spears and bows, Civilization 5 epitomises strategy’s “just one more turn” fever at its best, and it won’t be long before Ghandi’s commanding legions of Giant Death Robots and chucking nukes at anything that moves.
6. Company Of Heroes 2
Available on: PC.
A throwback to the strategy genre’s story-based campaigns of old, Company Of Heroes 2 parachutes players into a pivotal turning point in WW2’s Eastern Front. As Relic Entertainment‘s campaign opens, Germany has made ruthless gains in its invasion of Russia, and outright destruction looks imminent. While the first few missions revolve around desperate retreats and half-victories, it’s not long until Stalin issues Order 227 – preventing Russian forces from retreating. Despite its brutal implementation, the Red Army was able to hold the German army at Stalingrad, and the campaign then follows Russia as it launches a savage counter-offensive.
Company Of Heroes 2 pulls no punches in highlighting the graphic nature of war. Your own officers will kill Russian conscripts for trying to flee, and stray tank rounds can turn entire squads to bloody red mist. It’s a captivating – if challenging – campaign, and paired with a still-active multiplayer scene, Company Of Heroes 2 is one of the better real-time strategy games you can pick up today.
That being said, Company Of Heroes 3 is currently in pre-alpha, with a release date that’s yet to be announced – so it’s worth keeping an eye on if you’d prefer a more up-to-date entry in the series. We recently got to preview the upcoming game – here’s what we thought.
So there you have it, the best strategy games to play right now. We’ll be keeping this list updated as more games are release that fit the bill. In the meantime, check out our guide on upcoming games you should look forward to in 2022.
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