The turn based strategy video game genre has seen a decline since the turn of the century. As computer processing speeds improve, real time strategy games become more viable and more popular. Online, especially, the real time strategy spin-off genre, the multiplayer online battle arena, has become one of the most popular genres on the market. Despite the decrease in games made for the genre, the genre itself remains popular with a large enough percentage of gamers that a number of excellent turn based strategy games were developed in 2010 and beyond. If you are a fan of the genre, try out some of the following top ten best turn based strategy games ever made.
10. Trade Wars – This old BBS game was one of the first turn based multiplayer games ever created. Similar to modern Facebook games, you had a certain number of turns with which to perform actions and once those turns were used, they recovered at an hourly or daily rate. The premise of the game was that you traveled around space buying and selling goods, eventually earning enough money to build your own base and control your own mines. Modern online war games owe a lot to this game and, for its time, it was one of the most popular games available.
9. King’s Bounty: Armored Princess – This single player game is a story based twist on the Heroes of Might and Magic series. The advanced character building mechanics allow a significantly greater degree of customization than the parent series, but the lack of town building reduces a lot of the strategic game play. It still lives up among some of the best turn based strategy games ever created, despite minor flaws.
8. Heroes of Might and Magic V – This isn’t the best game in the Heroes of Might and Magic series, but it is the best multiplayer game in that series. The game features slick mechanics that allow for sped up multiplayer and dozens of quality multiplayer maps. Like every game in this series, resource gathering and army building are just as important as hero selection and skill choice while leveling. If you are looking for a modern multiplayer turn based strategy game, this is arguably the best.
7. Romance of the Three Kingdoms – This is one of the earliest resource management war games ever made. Originally released for the Amiga, it gained a cult following after being released on the NES. Each game in the series improved slightly on the previous, but none were such a massive improvement to truly stand out above the others. As such, the original deserves recognition for being the game that spawned almost a dozen direct sequels.
6. Master of Magic – This game is one part Civilization and one part Magic the Gathering. Taking the reins of a powerful wizard, you build your civilization of magical creatures and powerful heroes in order to conquer your neighbors. As should be expected, you also command arcane magic that can assist you in your conquest. If you are fan of Magic the Gathering, the obvious references to that game should make this just a little more fun to play.
5. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – Imagine a distant future when the human race has traveled to Alpha Centauri to colonize a new planet. In this far future, the human race has fractured into multiple sociopolitical factions that immediately start warring to conquer the new planet. This game is also based off the Civilization engine, but adds a multitude of new concepts. Between choosing societal rules that direct the growth of your civilization, uniquely designing each of your units, and fighting off the planet’s living defenses, the game is uniquely its own creation. Each new technology is paired with a quote by one of the faction leaders that help build a beautiful, and occasionally terrifying, background story for the game.
4. X-COM: Enemy Unknown – This 2013 revival of the X-Com series is a perfect modern remake of the original. The mechanics have been changed and streamlined, both for higher replay factor and to more easily work on consoles. Despite this, the game still feels like the original while removing almost all of the clunky elements and adding exciting new features like character customization and classes. While battles are tactical, the game still has strong strategic elements based around maintaining good relations with the countries of the world, developing your base, and researching new technology. The difficulty level ranges from easy to insane and there are many ways to slightly tweak it without skipping to the next difficulty level. If you are looking for a modern tactics and strategy hybrid, this is the game to play.
3. Civilization 2 – Many would argue the fifth game in this series is the best, but this is the game that truly made this series what it is today. There wouldn’t be a sequel for almost five years and by then, this game had become the gold standard in the 4X genre, and essentially still is today. Whether you chose to conquer all of your neighbors or simply launched into space to land to explore Alpha Centauri, you could choose your own path to victory in one of the most famous 4X games ever created.
2. Heroes of Might and Magic III – Many would argue that this is the best turn based strategy game ever created and it was definitely a contender for that title. It is definitely leaps and bounds better than every previous game on this list. The third game in the Heroes of Might and Magic series was the one that finally nailed the formula. Between the high numbers of heroes, various unit types, and the strong character customization options, this game really just improved in all the right ways over its predecessors. The story is also generally considered the best of all the games, so if you like a good story, give this game a try.
1. Master of Orion II – No game quite managed to put together all of the pieces of the turn based strategy genre in quite the way as this 4X masterpiece. Borrowing slightly from Civilization, Master of Orion II was brilliant in simply every way. Custom ship design allowed you to build a fast fleet of scouts or slow pondering giant war planets. The random maps meant you never knew whether you’d find a beautiful Earth-like planet perfect for growing food or a horrifically irradiated planet that was little more than an outpost for you military. And the ability to customize your race along with a tech tree that forced you to make hard decisions were the final pieces of the puzzle that made this the best turn based strategy game ever created.