Best RTS games to keep the turns coming

The best RTS games are often the ones that let you put your tactical skills to the test and offer a satisfying sense of progression. While they’ve traditionally found a comfortable home on PC, many fantastic RTS games have also now come to consoles, with a broad range of challenges on offer. From building up an empire of your very own to managing resources, and seeing civilizations flourish, you can find yourself in all kinds of world settings – from historical backdrops to sci-fi environments. Read on to find our pick of the best RTS games out there you can get stuck into right now. 

20. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation

Ashes of the Singularity

(Image credit: Stardock Entertainment)

You might remember the original Ashes of the Singularity from back in early 2016, where it introduced itself as an RTS of grand scale where the screen would quickly fill with dozens, if not hundreds of units at the same time. It required a beefy PC in order to really withstand its potential but doing so granted access to several single-player campaigns and equally busy multiplayer skirmishes.

Later that year Escalation was released as a standalone expansion designed with veteran RTS players in mind. The plan was to support both of them separately, but this expansion was later merged in the base game. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation iterates and expands upon everything that made the original so interesting, and it should definitely be on your radar if you’re looking for something different.

Available on: PC

19. Driftland: The Magic Revival


(Image credit: Star Drifters)

If the idea of connecting floating islands with one another using magic as you command dragons and giant eyeballs in the field interests you, then stay awhile and listen about Driftland: The Magic Revival. Set in a procedurally generated world where warriors, archers, and mages all live in harmony and patiently wait for your next order, you can expect an influence from the 4X subgenre (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) in the way resource management and goals work, but with enough of its own personal touch to keep you engaged.

The biggest appeal definitely comes from the setting, which boasts personality. Taming and riding dragons, as well as other creatures, as well as moving and terraforming islands to make better use of your territory makes for intriguing results, and you can take part in single-player missions, multiplayer, and additional modes with their own set rules as well.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

18. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

(Image credit: Gearbox Publishing)

Serving as a prequel to the Homeworld franchise, the iconic RTS franchise that will be seeing a new entry in 2022, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak invites you to take battles through dunes. In the campaign, the character Rachel S’jet is tasked with leading her people on a quest to investigate an anomaly, which means having to survive dune seas, craters, and hostiles canyons of grand scale, as well as everyone who gets in the way.

It’s interesting to see how all these elements play out, and become available for your own tactical advantage, in addition to what has made the Homeworld games so beloved, managing units in both land and air vehicles up to heavyweight cruisers. This not only makes for an interesting take on this universe before the actual events of the main series but also a worthy introduction before jumping into the Homeworld Remastered Collection as you wait for the third entry.

Available on: PC

17. Warcraft 3 Reforged

Warcraft 3 Reforged

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Yes, we know Warcraft 3: Reforged wasn’t well received at launch due to its shaky performance and plethora of missing features, but there might be hope for it after all. If you have never played the original games (both Reign of Chaos and Frozen Throne campaigns), then this makes for a good (and the sole official) opportunity to do so. Even if you’re not a fan of the new graphics, you can just toggle the classic look for the game on a whim. 

But if your interest comes from multiplayer alone, there are still features missing that were present in the original game and are sorely needed here. The upside is that the community has been working hard on a tool called Warcraft 3 Champions, or W3Champions for short, which addresses some of the concerns regarding competitive multiplayer in a rather streamlined way. It’s unsure whether Blizzard will officially address them, but in the meantime, know that the community is thriving, and still coming up with custom maps.

Available on: PC

16. Death Crown

Death Crown

(Image credit: CO5MONAUT)

If you have been enchanted by the art style of World of Horror, or maybe just want to see a different take on the RTS genre on a smaller scale, Death Crown covers both bases. In here you command Death herself, summoning legions of enemies throughout kingdoms to take all of them down. The interesting part is that it’s all in 1bit style, which means that units are shown almost like ants on the battlefield, moving from one route to the next as you build more facilities to continue marching on.

This minimalist presentation that is mostly in black and white (although this can be changed) also corresponds to the gameplay itself. You only have barracks that produce troops, mines for gold, and towers to protect your own buildings – everything escalates from there. With both a unique art style, a considerable campaign and local co-op, and a soundtrack that perfectly captures all together, Death Crown has plenty to offer amidst its big siblings in the genre.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

15. Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

(Image credit: Stardock Entertainment)

If there’s a series that is well known to both 4X and RTS fans is Sins of a Solar Empire. Ever since its release back in 2008, it has reunited an avid audience around it that doesn’t seem like it’s gonna stop anytime soon. Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is the latest iteration that came out in 2012, and even to this day is still receiving updates from the developers and even new events. The support is rare to see, but it also comes from the fact that players have been asking for more content for a whilst.

It’s unsure whether or not we’ll see a sequel, but in the meantime this standalone expansion is more than enough to get you into the action. You can expect single-player missions on a wide scale throughout space, including new warships, class ships, and capital ships, as well as diverse victory conditions and also updated tutorials aimed at both newcomers and experienced players.

Available on: PC

14. SpellForce 3: Fallen God

SpellForce 3: Fallen God

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

Real-time strategy games often don’t have anything to do with RPGs, but SpellForce 3: Fallen God provides a “well, actually” scenario with great results. This isn’t the first for the series, but rather an idea that has been in constant evolution for a couple of years now. In this particular story, you’re tasked with commanding a group of trolls (not the online ones) through a long and dangerous path to resurrect a fallen god in order to save your civilization.

The twist in terms of genres takes place at all times. You make your way building and making your tribe stronger, whilst also adventuring through different areas, and you can customize your heroes with skill trees and different abilities as well as craft weapons throughout a 20 hours long campaign with multiple endings. There’s also Ranked Play in terms of multiplayer, where you’ll be able to select from 4 factions, each with two unique heroes.

Available on: PC

13. Frostpunk


(Image credit: 11 Bit Studios)

Frostpunk is a hybrid of sorts when it comes to placing it in a genre. It’s a city builder, a strategy, and a survival game all at once, but it also comes with the tough choices that players acquainted with This War of Mine are well aware of. It’s strategic in the sense of managing resources and making hard decisions, but here danger isn’t portrayed as zombies or giant space fleets, but rather as an increasing cold that is putting the last remnants of civilization in jeopardy.

Of course, the cold is only the foundation for all the conflicts that arise during Frostpunk’s campaign. Survival leads the people under your command to take desperate actions, rebel themselves, and do anything they can to see another day. You’re constantly having to think about the next move, whilst also dealing with problems that won’t go away on their own. It’s a tough game, but one of the most rewarding in terms of storytelling, and player agency over a conflict of this scale.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

12. Stellaris


(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

Paradox Interactive has always been known for its knack for creating strategy games and iterating on the genre in different ways. Stellaris is one of its many titles, and it’s a particular take on the 4X subgenre (an abbreviation of eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate). Think of it as more of a Master of Orion instead of, say, Civilization 5, taking you to outer space to interact with alien races, discover dozens of worlds, and slowly make your way through the stars and beyond.

The way you choose to explore these spaces is up to you, and you’re always retaining knowledge and experience as you progress. You can slowly create your own civilization and see it become more powerful over time, build stations, set on to find secrets, and just leave your mark in one of the most interesting takes on the genre to date.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One

11. Northgard


(Image credit: Shiro Games)

If you have been looking for an alternative to Age of Empires with its own unique art style and added Norse mythology, then Northgard is the one for you. This charming take on the genre by studio Shiro Games leads you to choose a Viking clan and storm unknown lands, leaving their footsteps and axes in the way.

There are 11 campaign chapters and several clans to choose from, including the resource management that you would expect from games like this, but with cool twists such as assigning your Vikings to various jobs and different victory conditions, from conquest and fame to lore and trading, as well as a Story mode to embark yourself on. Ever since release Northgard has received several free major updates, so there’s no better time than the present to jump in, scavenge for resources, and enjoy a few ales after a long battle with the clan.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

10. Iron Harvest

Iron Harvest

(Image credit: Deep Silver)

Picture the 1920s, an era in human history where technological advancements started to become more mainstream – cars, radios, and telephones appeared in the picture over in the US. But this was also close to the aftermath of WWI. Iron Harvest takes place in this moment of time, but it does so in an alternate reality, starring giant dieselpunk mechs as the world prepares itself for yet another confrontation after secret forces put a threat on Europe as we know it.

Throughout 20 missions over three campaigns, which can be done either solo or with a friend in co-op, players command 9 heroes with unique abilities, working together with over 40 unit types across three different factions to face the looming danger. Iron Harvest is unique in its setting, but also makes the most out of its mechs, and story, to provide a fresh take on the genre in single, co-op, and competitive multiplayer.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One

9. They Are Billions

They Are Billions

(Image credit: Numantian Games)

Seeing a zombie apocalypse in a real-time strategy game is rare, but They Are Billions knew how to add a welcoming and quite horrifying twist to it. Set in a steampunk universe, the game asks you to build and defend colonies, either with units or with proper barricades and traps. But how about the enemy? Well, if you’re a fan of the hordes in Left 4 Dead or even movies like 28 Days Later, you can expect a similar fair here, but multiplied by billions.

It makes an interesting presence that grows larger over time and is always lurking around preparing for a massive attack. The art style helps to bring everything to life in a distinct manner, with carefully crafted mechs, snipers, and both a clear and concise UI that doesn’t overwhelm you. You will already have enough to worry about when the zombies start knocking on your doors.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One

8. Command & Conquer Remastered Collection

Command and Conquer

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

Command & Conquer is one of the pioneers of the genre, and whilst there have been several releases over the years, the classics still hold up well to this day. Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection takes both the original and Red Alert to modern PCs with impressive results, following a similar treatment to the one in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, where we see everything much sharper than before, from the revamped UI to cutscenes and even the soundtrack.

This collection, as well as adding support for up to 4K resolutions, includes a series of interesting additions. The multiplayer has been rebuilt and remains as active as ever, with a map editor to tag along and increase that longevity even further, as well as a bonus footage gallery. A worthy entry for fans, and probably the best starting point for those who haven’t played the series yet.

Available on: PC

7. Offworld Trading Company

Offworld Trading Company

(Image credit: Stardock Entertainment)

This is a different take to your usual RTS. It’s set in outer space, sure, but specifically in Mars after the Earth flew all the way there to colonize it. And whilst there’s a focus on looking for resources and slowly expanding your presence on martian grounds, conflict isn’t exactly solved through combat. Instead, it’s more of an economic RTS (from the mind of Soren Johnson, the lead designer on Civilization IV) where competition is all about overtaking the market.

This doesn’t mean the experience isn’t fast-paced, there are decisions to make at every given turn. Choosing which resources to pick can lead to high advantages if you time your acquisitions well enough, and of course, there will be both alliances and rivals to deal with. It’s up to you when to twist them for your own gain, whether in the single-player campaign or multiplayer mode with up to eight players.

Available on: PC

6. Bad North

Bad North

(Image credit: Plausible Concept)

It’s not rare to find real-time strategy games that are always boasting immense scales and hundreds of moving units at the same time. It’s kind of the staple of the genre to become this almighty being watching and controlling everything from the skies, and yet Bad North presents an interesting twist. All levels take place in remote islands, which you have to defend from incoming enemy ships with often a handful of units at a time.

The genius is in how everything plays out, as it’s more a matter of positioning than actively moving them around. You place the units in specific spots and then witness how it all plays, repositioning whenever necessary, even if it means to retreat to save the commander of the group. The prospect of having procedurally generated islands, making each encounter different, and obtaining upgrades that can help you progress and become stronger in upcoming visits makes for Bad North a smaller, yet equally challenging take on the genre that’s well worth your time.

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

5. Age of Empires 4

Age of Empires 4 review

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Age of Empires 4 brought the classic and much-loved RTS series back with gusto in 2021. As an updated take on the strategy that will still feel familiar to longtime fans, it’s host to plenty of satisfying campaigns, with eight different civilizations to play with and try out. Just like games past, you’ll be building up your own settlements through the historical ages, and advancing your technology along the way. 

As a series steeped in history, Age of Empires 4 also lets you learn more about the time periods, with fascinating videos that tell you about the impact of battles or certain features you’re interacting with. It’s a welcome addition that doesn’t get in the way of the action. With a polished look, lots of depth, tactics, and a satisfying sense of progression, the latest instalment in the series is well worth checking out.  

4. Halo Wars: Definitive Edition

Halo Wars

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

This list couldn’t miss the addition of Halo Wars, one of the most interesting RTS out there. Not just because of the fact that it’s a polished and worthy spin on the genre, but also in terms of how well it adapts everything that makes Halo so rich into uncharted territory for the franchise. You can expect the same buck wild, frantic action of Halo’s intense battles in a different perspective, leading several units at a time and looking for the best approach for every encounter.

The Definitive Edition treatment revamps the game’s graphics and also includes all DLCs from the original release, as well as the addition of achievements and new network play outside of Games for Windows Live like it used to back in the day. If you haven’t given this a try yet, even if you’re not an avid Halo fan, you really should.

Available on: PC, Xbox One

3. Company of Heroes 2

Company of Heroes 2

(Image credit: Relic Entertainment)

You can’t talk about the RTS genre without mentioning the Company of Heroes series. It’s been present for decades, iterating on an ambitious idea in many different ways since, creating its own niche in the way. In a similar vein to games like Dawn of War or Halo Wars, Company of Heroes 2 takes you to a WW2 setting where everything counts. The campaign is intense and as overwhelming as you would expect, whilst also offering plenty of options to move around, create plans to defend yourself and flank the enemy, or just sit back and enjoy how it all comes together in real-time.

The online multiplayer is known to be nerve-wracking, to say the least, but also beloved by the community, which has led to the release of two DLCs for it. But, if you’re more into the single-player aspect, there’s a DLC campaign that will scratch that itch if you’re left wanting for more after the story is over. Even after all these years, the game is well worth your time, especially if you haven’t played it before.

Available on: PC

2. Ages of Empires 2: Definitive Edition

Age of Empires 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

It’s no wonder that after all these years Age of Empires is still one of the first recommendations that come to mind when talking about RTS games. Everything from the design to the charm (and often silliness) of the units makes it for a title that rarely misses. The Definitive Edition isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of changes, but it’s one of those cases where any drastic changes would have raised some brows.

Still, it makes for a worthy presentation. Graphics-wise, everything has been revamped to better suit 4K resolutions, but you can perceive the slight fashion upgrade in 1080p as well. There’s a new and also remastered soundtrack, and the inclusion of The Last Khans, which contains three new campaigns that boast four different civilizations. If Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition isn’t on your Friday night schedule to play with friends already, this is the version to start up with.

Available on: PC, Xbox One

1. Starcraft 2

Starcraft 2

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Starcraft was the first taste of the RTS genre for many, and for good reason. Its gritty sci-fi aesthetic, interesting characters with solid voice acting, and of course, non-stop combat and resource management in real time made it stand out for years to come. The sequel brought much of what had worked well in its predecessor packed in a new campaign and multiplayer modes.

Even if you didn’t play the first game, Starcraft 2 is a great jumping point for the series. Creating your base in space as you fight against terrifying enemies, but also command them to live through their storylines is even more impressive in a brand new engine that still stands its ground to this day. Plus, since a big part of the game went free-to-play back in 2017, there’s literally no excuse to not give it a try.

Available on: PC

Looking for more recommendations? Why not check out our pick of the best city building games

About Fox

Check Also

Why did Baldurs Gate 3 blow up? Larian lead writer says its thanks to “a big gamble” with CRPG standards

Why did Baldur’s Gate 3 blow up the way it did? We put the question …

Leave a Reply