15 best strategy games of all time on PC

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Strategies … once a great genre that captures the minds of millions of people around the world, today is going through hard times. The shift in emphasis from thoughtful gameplay to interactivity, a huge amount of action and rendering of game mechanics became the reason that many simply forgot how to play tactical and strategic projects, and, accordingly, interest in them began to gradually fade away.

Looking at the current state of the gaming industry market, it becomes clear why all strategy games of the early 2000s bear the title of cult – after all, it was at that time that the genre flourished, and it was then that much more attention was paid to projects. Mindful of the past decade, but confidently looking into the future, the magazine has prepared for you a rating of the best PC strategies of all time, the names of which are firmly entrenched on the pages of the history of the world gamedev.

Ranking of the best strategies of all time on PC

Nomination a place a game rating
Ranking of the best strategies of all time on PC 1 Warcraft iii 5.0
2 Starcraft 4.9
3 Company of Heroes 4.8
4 Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 4.8
5 Heroes of Might & Magic III 4.7
6 Total War: Shogun II 4.7
7 Total War. Warhammer 4.7
8 Sid Meier's Civilization III 4.6
9 Age of empires 4.5
10 Stronghold crusader 4.4
11 The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth 4.3
12 Blitzkrieg 4.3
13 Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 4.2
14 Anno 1404 4.1
15 Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars 4.0

Warcraft iii

Game rating: 5.0

WARCRAFT III

Speaking of Warcraft III as a separate part of the great series, we mean both the original game called Reign of Chaos and the expansion pack The Frozen Throne that was released to it, which added an exciting sequel to the main campaign.

The story of the 3rd part of Warcraft develops 12 years after the events of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, and tells the story of the invasion of Azeroth by the demons of the underworld. The storyline is divided into 5 parts, each of which gives the player the opportunity to look at the events taking place from the side of different races. It all starts with a training campaign for the Horde, which consists of 2 missions: here the player is introduced to the interface and the basics of command and control, as well as the capabilities of the base and interaction with individual buildings.

The Warcraft III project paradigm was much deeper than that of its predecessors in the series. So, the developers from Blizzard paid special attention to the diversity of races, in connection with which each of them (Alliance, Horde, Undead, Dark Elves) received unique characteristics, a set of strategic opportunities and a methodology for deploying a base. There was nothing complicated in the “recipe” of the game: the interface was made intuitive and friendly to the players, the races were diversified, giving a strict individuality. But all this has gone down so much to players and critics that the project is still referred to as an example of an ideal strategy.

Starcraft

Game rating: 4.9

STARCRAFT

Another great brainchild of Blizzard Entertainment, the first creation to take a holistic approach to race balancing. From now on, they differed not only visually, but also stood out for their strongest characteristics, as well as their approach to combat tactics. Terrans took on the characters from whom the balance is made – this is the most balanced race, having average values ​​of the cost, power and maneuverability of the prepared units. The Zerg, in turn, outnumbered their opponents due to their high speed of movement and the number of troops, but had little individual strength. Protoss, in contrast, were a race of elite and very powerful troops, which required a large amount of resources to train.

As in the case of the Warcraft series, in Starcraft Blizzard tried to reveal as much as possible each side of the global conflict. The plot contains 3 different campaigns that reveal some of the events taking place with the races (first the Terrans, and after the Zerg and Protoss). These campaigns are closely related, and in the end provide a big picture of what is happening … which becomes the starting point for the story of the sequel trilogy Starcraft II.

Company of Heroes

Game rating: 4.8

COMPANY OF HEROES

Creation of the studio Relic Entertainment, based on the mechanics of the previously released strategy Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War, but has a number of very characteristic and beneficial differences. The gameplay in Company of Heroes was based on the same model of struggle for resources, which provided access to the best equipment and raising the combat power of troops. The user controlled the trained units, each of which now had 3 levels of experience. This level increased as the squad showed itself on the battlefield, and gave permanent buffs in the form of an increase in the rate of fire, accuracy and damage dealt.

As in Dawn of War, in Company of Heroes, troops underwent special rearmament. Instead of conventional rifles and machine guns, they could be equipped with special weapons, which, after the death of an equipped soldier, could be picked up by one of the detachment members without special weapons. This approach to the implementation of the idea made it possible to bring the strategic and tactical component to a qualitatively different level, even in comparison with the game-predecessor. Unsurprisingly, Company of Heroes ultimately scored 93 Metacritic points based on 55 game reviews. The project is still considered the strongest in its genre, for which it deserves an honorable third place in our rating.

Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War

Game rating: 4.8

WARHAMMER   40K DAWN OF WAR

The first game in the series, based on Games Workshops' tabletop wargame, decided to take the classic canons of the RTS genre as a basis. As in the projects of its main competitors, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War implements a system of crafting resources and arranging a personal base in order to improve technologies and train troops. Here are just the accents in the gameplay are placed in such a way as to force the player to act tactically, especially at high difficulty levels. The game of “rush” will not work here: there is a high degree of probability that without thorough preparation the troops will simply be destroyed by the enemy group.

The second gameplay feature is associated with the ability to replenish the ranks of units right during the battle. Even if this opportunity requires both time and resources, it significantly increases the dynamics of what is happening: the troops do not need to be pulled back to regroup, and the tactics of containment only benefit from this.

The storyline of Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War follows the tangled war of darkness and righteousness: the Space Marines and the Orc Horde that invaded a planet called Tartarus. In the course of a number of missions, it is revealed that the dominance of the planet by the Orcs is the work of the Chaos Space Marines, who pursue their goals. After going through a wave of betrayal and the conclusion of a fragile truce with the Eldar, the Space Marine manages to complete the final mission, but the results are disappointing … and events smoothly transfer us to the second part of the series.

Heroes of Might & Magic III

Game rating: 4.7

HEROES OF MIGHT & MAGIC III

A representative of the genre of turn-based strategies with RPG elements, which has not lost its relevance even after 20 years. At the time of its release in 1999, Heroes of Might & Magic III made a splash in the series: a qualitatively different level of graphics, world detailing, an abundance of interesting locations, a huge amount of content and pure fanfare. People have been playing this game for years, learning every corner of the map, every segment of it, and trying various tactical options to defeat enemies.

But what exactly was the reason for such a resounding success? The secret is simple: taking as a basis everything that was proposed by the previous parts of the series, New World Computing added scale and graphics to the project. The variability in the choice of player characteristics henceforth predetermined the entire tactical plan of the path to victory in the campaign: a powerful hero had an advantage in battles, but was very slow and could not cover long distances in one move. The fast hero, on the other hand, had an advantage in movement, and, moreover, was often the winner in terms of the strength of the units available. These are only 2 of the considered cases from a great many … it's a pity that the subsequent parts of the series could not fully consolidate the success of the 3rd numbered part.

Total War: Shogun II

Game rating: 4.7

TOTAL WAR SHOGUN II

Another representative of the Total War series, which was released in 2011. Total War. Shogun II is a logical evolution of the gameplay system of the previous installments of the series, which combines the modes of tactical real-time game and turn-based strategy. Switching between these two components is as follows: on the global map, the game is played according to the rules of turn-based strategies, and battles on the location require the manifestation of quick tactical moves.

In Total War: Shogun II, real-time combat differed from competitive projects in its scale: at certain points, the number of units on the map could reach 6 thousand. For the first time in the history of the series, users were able to combine battles on water and land, taking full advantage of the transitional landscape. A huge stake was placed on the commanders – admirals and generals – who significantly increased the morale of the troops under control and increased, for example, the rate and accuracy of fire, as well as the damage inflicted from battles at close range. But, at the same time, the death of the commander could cause demoralization of the army, and, as a consequence, lead to its complete destruction.

After the release, during the year Creative Assembly released 6 add-ons and DLCs for Shogun II, which prolonged the interest of users in the game, and also consolidated its financial success. According to Metacritic, this project is on a par with Warcraft III and Starcraft, collecting 90 points out of 100 based on 53 reviews.

Total War. Warhammer

Game rating: 4.7

TOTAL WAR.   WARHAMMER

Like all Total War games, Warhammer is a fusion of real-time strategy and turn-based variants. A very successful setting – the world of Warhammer Fantasy developed by Games Workshop – allowed Creative Assembly to move away from their usual canons of Earth history. As a result, users received an excellent fantasy tactical and strategic project with a large set of content and unlimited freedom of action.

In the original version of Total War. Warhammer included only 4 playable factions: Dwarfs, Vampires, Greenskins and the Von Carstein clan). Later, due to expansion through the release of DLC, 9 more parties joined them (among which were the Chaos Warriors and Wood Elves canon for Warhammer). In general, in terms of downloadable content, this game has become a kind of champion among the strategies of recent years. Until August 2017 (and the release of the original project took place in May 2016), the developers released 13 add-ons of various sizes and content, which well supported the relevance of the gameplay for years to come.

According to current estimates by Total War. Warhammer is among the top most successful strategies in recent history of the gaming industry, has an 87% rating on Metacritic and a record for the number of sales in the first few days after release.

Sid Meier's Civilization III

Game rating: 4.6

SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION III

Likewise, Heroes of Might & Magic earned one of the best and global turn-based strategy series Sid Meier's Civilization III, released in 2001. Similar to the previous parts of the series, the main vector of the gameplay was directed towards the competitive component. The main goal of the players (or the player, if we are talking about a single-player game) is to lead their civilization to victory in any of the 6 available ways:

  1. conquest – the most straightforward way to win, which consists in destroying rivals by waging war;
  2. dominance – to win, you need to seize control over 66% of the entire territory of the active map;
  3. diplomacy is one of the most difficult ways to win, as it requires the construction of a special wonder of the world, holding elections and establishing diplomatic ties with most civilizations in the game session;
  4. cultural victory – the condition for this method of victory is that one or more cities of the civilization gain a certain number of cultural level points;
  5. scoring (historiographer) – if the simulation of time has reached its extreme point (2050), but none of the civilizations has won, then scoring is carried out for each period of historical development;
  6. space race – the civilization that launches the spaceship first wins the game. This winning opportunity was inherited from the previous installments of the series.

This condition alone makes the experience of playing Civilization III very diverse and unique. And to expect something else from the game, which was repeatedly recognized as the best in 2001.

Age of empires

Game rating: 4.5

AGE OF EMPIRES

One of the very first real-time strategy games adopted by many with literally the following wording: “an addictive mixture of Warcraft and Civilization.” It was possible to reach analogies by simply drawing parallels. The RTS mechanics, together with all the classic strategy chips, clearly made Age of Empires related to Warcraft, while the main idea was very close in spirit to the projects of the Sid Meier's Civilization series.

The project provided the user with the opportunity to choose 1 of 12 available civilizations, and offered to lead it through various eras of development: from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. At the same time, other civilizations were also located on the map, which reduced the gameplay to the next development race. In the end, domination resulted in full-scale battles, but not turn-based, as embodied in Civilization, but dynamic, here and now.

To say that Age of Empires made a resonance with its release is to say nothing. Some gaming publications have branded the project disgusting, but the bulk of them were perceived with excitement as single-player and multiplayer game modes. In the end, AoE was awarded the title of the game of 1998, and the total number of copies sold at the time of 2000 was 3 million.

Stronghold crusader

Game rating: 4.4

Stronghold crusader

The culmination of the Stronghold series, which has become the benchmark for a good real-time strategy with elements of economic development. In 2002, the number of good RTS and turn-based strategy games was extremely large, and only unique and original features could stand out from them. However, Stronghold Crusader took the path of developing the paradigm of the first part, practically without changing the combat system and expanding the storyline campaign to 4 sets of missions (one of which is training) linked by history.

In addition to them, a special campaign “The Path of the Crusader” was generated, which includes 50 cards that are not particularly connected by any common message or plot, and a free building mode, which cut out the military component from the game as such. And, of course, Crusader couldn't do without a map editor that increases the playing time at times, because the amount of content available for use exceeded the expectations of even hardcore strategy lovers. The result of this development of ideas was a natural positive reception of Stronghold Crusader by gaming publications – an overall rating on Metacritic was 78% based on 14 published reviews. It is a shame that the potentially great legacy was “leaked” in later parts of the series.

The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth

Game rating: 4.3

THE LORD OF THE RINGS THE BATTLE FOR MIDDLE-EARTH

A milestone in the history of the gaming industry was the release of a real-time strategy based on the famous work The Lord of the Rings, called The Battle for Middle-Earth. The developer and publisher of the game was EA Games, which at that time was still interested in creating projects of the strategic genre.

“Battle for Middle Earth” told users the story of the opposition of the forces of light to the forces of darkness, intersecting at key points with the famous film adaptation and literary source. And if there is nothing special to highlight in terms of the plot, then from the point of view of the gameplay the project had many distinctive features. It is worth noting the urban planning system here: unlike all known RTS of that time, in The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth, the construction of buildings could only occur in certain areas that were marked on the map (castles, villages, outposts, camps, etc. outposts). On the one hand, this introduced a limitation, but on the other hand, it forced users to come up with original tactical moves to overcome such an intrusive gaming convention.

The second interesting feature of the project was the emphasis on deliberately reducing the dynamics of the gameplay due to the ability to regenerate the health of heroes and replenish the squad outside the combat zone. All this and much more predetermined the high praise of “Battle for Middle-earth”, and also forever entered the name of the game in the annals of the best strategies created for the PC platform.

Blitzkrieg

Game rating: 4.3

BLITZKRIEG

The first part of the famous strategy from the Russian studio Nival Interactive, released a year before the release of another remarkable strategic project of the CIS – RTS “Behind Enemy Lines”. The Blitzkrieg plot uses the theme of the Second World War, which was very popular at that time, offering to look at the confrontation from the perspective of 3 playable factions: the troops of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and the Allies in the person of Britain and the United States. As part of the plot, players will have to play for each of the presented sides, and all missions will be divided into 2 types: historical, constructed based on the real chronology of events, and arbitrary, not carrying a special semantic load in the historical subtext.

One of the features of the campaign in Blitzkreag is that each playable side faces at least one non-playable nation in the game. So, in the campaign for the USSR, such are the Finnish troops, in history for the allies – fascist Italy, defending positions in the North African lands, in the campaign for Germany – the armed forces of the corps of France and Poland. From the gameplay features of the project, it can be noted that the structure and development of the base is not provided here, but in some missions it can be captured. Troops, most often, arrive in the form of reinforcements, which somewhat shifts the focus of combat to painstaking and thoughtful development of tactical moves. Thus, Blitzkreag is a game for those who love hardcore strategy games with a reconstruction of WWII military operations.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3

Game rating: 4.2

COMMAND & CONQUER RED ALERT 3

The number of “cranberries” in this project could rival the concentration of trivialities in the games of the Tom Clancy series, but this does not make it worse either in terms of gameplay or the intensity of plot passions. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is a time travel strategy game that, in the modern sense, means that the developers have had a crisis of original ideas. The defeat of the Soviet Union in the finale of the second part of the series led to the fact that the main people of the faction set in motion a secret project of a certain scientist Zilinsky – a time machine. After rewinding time to 1927, Colonel Cherdenko – an approximate of the General Secretary of the Union Romanov – finds himself at the Solvay Congress, where, after shaking hands with Albert Einstein, he actually kills him due to the violation of the space-time continuum.

Naturally, such a step radically changes the course of history. The USSR, on the losing side, has become a dominant throughout Western Europe and is preparing an attack on the NATO corps located in England. However, a third party unexpectedly intervenes in the conflict – the Empire of the Rising Sun, which accentuated the strike on the eastern borders of the USSR. The powerful and slightly absurd alternate story hides more significant gameplay details. So, the developers have focused on various features of the campaigns in order to unify tactical moves and add variety to the passage. But the most important innovation concerned the fact that all missions in the project were carried out in a cooperative – either with a real partner or with troops under computer control. Was this a revolution in the genre? Certainly. And the game itself is firmly entrenched in the top of the best strategies with 81 points of reviews on Metacritic.

Anno 1404

Game rating: 4.1

ANNO 1404

The most talked about game in the Anno series, using the concepts of real historical prototypes to build an alternative chronological course. The distinctive features-references to history in Anno 1404 were the Crusades, the development of the capitalist formation of states, Gothic architecture, another wave of patrician flourishing, etc.

Unlike similar urban planning strategies, Anno 1404 has a full storyline of 8 chapters. In fact, this campaign is aimed at educating the user in all the intricacies of managing a large-scale “construction simulator” before starting the game in other modes. The main innovation of the gameplay, which distinguishes this part from its predecessors, was the division of the world into 2 cultural zones: the West, represented by the Europe of the Renaissance, and the East, in the embodiment of the medieval scenery of the Middle Eastern lands. From now on, game mechanics make it possible to develop eastern settlements with a claim to their further management … but the emphasis is still shifted towards European cities. In such a situation, the East is presented as a trading partner of Europe. However, the whole point of introducing eastern culture into the project is the need to extract rare and very valuable resources (spices, sand and indigo). Unfortunately, the powerful potential of the idea remained outside the franchise, which, however, did not prevent Anno 1404 from receiving high marks from gaming publications.

Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars

Game rating: 4.0

COSSACKS II NAPOLEON WARS

The legendary game of the Ukrainian studio GSG Gameworld, which has become one of the most powerful projects in the RTS genre, developed in the post-Soviet space. As in all strategies of this scale, “Cossacks II” were distinguished by a very thoughtful balance of troops and a variety of tactical techniques that somehow followed from it. In particular, special attention was paid to the interaction of the army with the landscape of the area, which also affected its power indicators. For example, soldiers took less damage when hidden in a wooded area, or could shoot their opponents when attacking from an elevated position without any problems. When marching over rough terrain, the so-called parameter of the fatigue of the army was also present, because of which it became more vulnerable to enemy attacks.

A very large contribution to the realism of what was happening was also made by such seemingly small things as the need to reload muskets after a single shot, which made the shooters extremely vulnerable to attacks at a particular moment in time. With a low level of morale and morale, even one salvo towards the detachment was enough to provoke its disintegration – the scattered soldiers became an extremely easy target for enemies. In general, not devoid of small flaws, “Cossacks II” received very flattering reviews from users and 77 points on Metacritic, which for a long time has staked out an honorable place in the rank of the best strategies for personal computers.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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