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Fast-paced action games that require nothing but adrenaline and reflexes can be fun, but if that’s all you played you’d probably get bored pretty quickly. Sometimes you feel like playing a game that requires more strategic thought and careful planning than pure mechanical skill.
While the heyday of the real-time strategy game has come and gone, there are still plenty of strategy games worth playing. Over the last decade, we’ve seen great strategy games from real-time to turn-based to anywhere in between, meaning no matter what type of strategy game you prefer—from grand to tactical—there’s something for you.
Most strategy games focus on war, and while that is a major part of Crusader Kings 2, it’s far from the only part. While it may not show it in the form of shiny graphics, this game is filled with political intrigue, backstabbing, and bloody family drama that wouldn’t feel out of place in Game of Thrones. So much so that the game even got a Game of Thrones spin-off.
Stellaris may have a sci-fi setting, but it’s far from Sins of a Solar Empire or Homeworld. While there is plenty of space combat, there is also plenty of minding your citizens that you can’t ignore. If you’ve ever wanted a game where space-gerrymandering is a valid tactic, here you go.
Somewhat similarly to Crusader Kings 2 (and from the same publisher), Europa Universalis takes an even higher overview. Paradox’s grand strategy games aren’t for everyone, but if you enjoy these types of games, few do it better than this latest entry in the series.
The name Sid Meier is forever tied with turn-based strategy, and if Civilization 6 is any indication, he and developer Firaxis Games aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. While it hasn’t yet gathered the suite of expansions its predecessor boasts, there’s still plenty of game here for strategy fans.
Speaking of Sid Meier, if you miss Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri but don’t think Civilization: Beyond Earth scratches that same itch, you might want to check out Age of Wonders: Planetfall. Like those games, this is a 4X in a sci-fi setting, but developer Triumph Studios cites Fallout and Hyperion as inspiration for its lore.
6. StarCraft II
Forget about the original StarCraft, even StarCraft II: Wings of Libery is almost too old to be on this list. Considering its later expansions though, as well as its massive fanbase, it needs to be mentioned. Real-time strategy tends to be fading in favor of turn-based games and MOBAs, but this game shows it can still be done right.
After FTL, it would have been easy for developer Subset Games to crank out another similar game. Instead it made a completely different type of game. While Into the Breach keeps the punishing difficulty, it presents its levels as almost strategic puzzles, meaning there is usually an ideal way through a situation, even if you don’t always see it.
Strategy games usually focus either on completely eliminating your enemy or capturing or defending a given objective. Stealth, if it’s used at all, is usually minimal. Invisible Inc. turns this all on its head as it’s essentially a turn-based stealth game. This rachets up the tension considerably, making this a nail-biting experience.
9. XCOM 2
Another game from Firaxis, XCOM 2 is much more of a tactics game, featuring on controlling individual units in battles with aliens who have taken over the earth. It has even less of a strategic layer than its predecessor, but that lets you focus on what this game does best: the combat.
You can’t round up PC strategy games without something from the Warhammer universe or a game from the Total War franchise, so why not do both at once? Total War: Warhammer II eschews the historical backgrounds the franchise is known for, opting for the original Warhammer (ie. not 40,000) universe. That said, the epic real-time battles you know and love are still the spotlight.
How About PC Games for Crappy PCs?
If you’ve got a hankering for strategy gaming but don’t have an especially powerful PC, some of the games we’ve gathered here—for example, Into The Breach and Crusader Kings—should still be fairly playable. What if you’re not only looking for strategy games, though?
While gaming PCs keep getting bigger, more powerful, and even more adorned with extraneous lights, the barrier of entry to PC games is actually getting lower. Take a look at our list of lightweight games for non-gaming PCs!