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20 Best Real time Strategy Games of All Time

20 Jul 2013 by

Best Real time Strategy Games

Strategy games hold particular importance for the gaming community as  these type of games involve a lot of thinking and require wit to outsmart the enemy. And that’s exactly what makes them so exciting. The feeling of outsmarting another person or even AI is heavenly for any gamer. Here today we have compiled a list of the best real time strategy games of all time that mentions some classic titles which you should play at least once:

 

Note: We are strictly talking about “RTS Games for PC” here and don’t be surprised if you cant find your favorite “Real Time Tactics game” in this list. We will cover “the best RTT games” in a separate list!

 

20. Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom (2010)

Settlers 7 Paths to a Kingdom

Settlers 7 is all about micro-management! Everything needs to go in perfect balance if you want your empire to grow. If you’re spending too much on military, doing too little research or collecting too little resources then you have no chance of making it through the game. If you are looking for a war-focused RTS, proceed to the next item in the list, because Settlers 7 will only disappoint you.

The game places much more focus on the town planning and settlement rather than fights. The very small scale fights that do emerge can take care of themselves even without much user input. Unless you’re an old veteran of the game, Settlers 7 is bound to give you a tough time learning it. The campaign itself only acts as nothing more than a tutorial, for at the end you are still learning new tips and tricks.

 

19. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (2009)

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

Dawn of War II can be generalized as something like this: take an RTS, take away base building and resource collection, add special abilities to units and role playing mechanics and voila! you have Dawn of War II. This game isn’t your typical RTS you’d expect but the second title in the franchise by the makers of Company of Heroes does manage to deliver what it promised to its fans. Now instead of spending half of your time worrying about resource collection or expanding your base, you are in constant battle, upgrading your units.

Although you’re units never really die in the game, they shut down until their power is revived (now don’t take this too lightly, it is a lot harder than you think!) The storyline of the campaign is nothing remarkable and the missions have a tendency to get repetitive after a while. But what is really impressive about the game is the departure from the traditional RTS where you have countless soldiers and the war is what matters.

Dawn of War II tells its story in a different way for the first time, where each of your soldiers play a part in the story. For people loyal to traditional RTS, this might not be your thing but Dawn of War II does bring a lot of new stuff to the table.

 

18. UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994)

20 Best Real time Strategy Games of All Time

The earth is under attack by aliens! What to do? It’s at times like these that the leaders of the world unite for a common cause, and create XCOM, an organization dedicated to detecting alien activity around the earth and putting a stop to it. The players are given an option as where to build the headquarters of XCOM. From there on it’s the players job to keep the earth free of aliens.

If any UFO is detected, the player sends in a team of soldiers to investigate and if any threat is faced they must fight off the aliens. The game switches between two different views (Geoscape and the Battlescape) depending upon the contact with the enemy.

Although the game isn’t a pure RTS game but as XCOM is funded by the top leaders of the world and if they do not like the progress, they will leave the project, so to keep the funding going the player needs to keep everyone happy by thinking strategically – obviously a tough job.

 

17. Sins of a Solar Empire (2008)

Sins of a Solar Empire

When war on earth is just not enough for you, Sins of a Solar Empire is here to get you into space, however it’s rather a slow game that requires a lot of time to finish a battle. Even on a small map, there are about 15 planets and on a large one it goes up to nearly  a 100, so before you start a game , make sure you have some time at your disposal. Fleets bombard these planets and destroy enemy civilizations and then drop pods to start expanding their own population. You can only travel to various planets via marked routes.

The game lacks a campaign, but then again something as huge as this doesn’t even need one. What it does need is a little more introduction to the mechanics of the game. The tutorials are never really enough to get the player acquainted to the various aspects of the game. To sum it up, Sins of a Solar Empire is a great game, but it’s recommended for people who can work in the morning after staying up all night playing a match of Sins of Solar Empire.

 

16. Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth II (2006)

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

The strongest point of the game is the way it represents the world of ‘The Lord of The Rings‘ to the real time strategy community. For those who do not really care about the Tolkien brand, The Battle of Middle-Earth II is a major improvement over its predecessor.

In essence the game is pretty much the same as the original, it just improves upon its weak aspects, for example the look-alike maps and the bolted down buildings. The game does keep many of the praised aspects from the original. The customizations, heroes, resource gathering, base building provide enough charisma in the gameplay to keep any RTS fan involved. There are a number of factions to choose from and the gameplay is really addictive.

 

15. Sacrifice (2000)

Sacrifice strategy game

Creativity involves risk and not many developers are willing to take that. This is exactly what makes Sacrifice stand out among the crowd of RTS games. It’s different and offers unique elements to gamers. To begin with, Sacrifice was released in 2000 and offered some gorgeous graphics which were incomparable for its times (probably one major hook in the game). It also was the only RTS game that puts you on a level surface with your unit and not hovering above it.

The story is about a wizard, who once summoned a demon to help him win a war, but the demon went out of control and caused an apocalypse. Now the wizard has vowed to banish him from the earth. The gameplay is pretty basic, you build a base, build a team attack enemy. But in order to win the game, you must sacrifice a soul at the enemy wizards Altair. Sounds interesting right? Apart from a few drawbacks in the fighting sequence, the game has everything you need to keep you hooked at nights!

 

14. Age of Mythology (2002)

Age of Mythology

If somebody has ever read or seen any work about Greek or Egyptian myths, you would know how fun and interesting they can be. Now imagine all that in a strategy game with you having the power to command your mortal troops and invoke Godly powers upon your opponents. Totally awesome right?

Say hello to Age of Mythology, a spin-off of the popular Age of Empires series. The story is a mix of three ancient mythologies. The game follows the story of Arkantos, the commander of Atalantis who is ordered to assist the Trojan War. Arkantos discovers more deadly plans to release titans from the lowest level of Hades that can cause massive scale destruction. In order to save the world, Arkantos makes his way through Greece and Egypt using local men and even gods for his purpose.

The gameplay is a somewhat similar to its sister Age of Empires series, but with some interesting additions. Age of Mythology is in 3D view. You build your town, you expand it and prepare your military. As expected each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses, so the player must have a perfect blend of units to maximize the strengths. The mythological units are the most interesting ones and are created depending on which god you worship.

 

13. Civilization II (1996)

 Civilization II gameplay

Since we are talking about the best strategy games, why not mention the god-father of all micro management games (despite of the fact that its not a RTS game)? Civilization II was the sequel to a well-received Sid Meyer’s Civilization. For its time, the game was highly complex. You build an empire and you win by conquering enemy civilizations or advancing to space. The task does seem simple, but with Civilization that’s not the case.

The game is extremely detail oriented. In order to build cities you need resources, trade and food. How to get the resources? You need to build trade routes and mines. So you can get the picture that the game requires micro-managing skills by the player to keep his civilization in balance. Combat was highly improved over the first part, where the fights were won outright.

In this game the winning unit can also sustain damage, which can be repaired later on. Civilization II is considered by many as one of the greatest strategy games of all times due to an unmatched level of detail. Although the game has a steep learning curve, many RTS gamers will find it engaging.

 

12. Homeworld (1999)

Best-New RTS Game

A highly creative approach towards an RTS game, Homeworld is a never-before experience for the fans of the genre. While most of the gamers are used to playing on ground, where it’s a lot easier to fight with walls to give you cover and a higher ground to give you an edge, for homeworld you will have to come up with more creative ways. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to space warfare!

You are the commander of a mother ship made by people of planet Kharak, who learn that the planet is not their true home and decide to look for it. Now you must use the ships abilities and your own wit to take people back to their true home, their “Homeworld”. As an RTS game, interface is one crucial part of the gameplay, and Homeworld doesn’t lag behind on that. It does take the player some time to get used to the new mechanics (the case with most strategy games), it’s not a difficult job if tutorials are followed correctly.

Some issues are faced with the AI, when units stop moving for no obvious reason, and laggy behavior of the repair ships. Also it wouldn’t have hurt the developers to put a health bar along with the units to keep a track of the battle. Homeworld may have its shortcomings, but it still have enough to offer an addictive RTS experience!

 

11. Stronghold Crusader (2002)

Stronghold Crusader

As the name suggests, the game is centered on the Crusades in the Middle-East. This might be the only notable RTS that finally moved out of Europe.

In the Crusade era, the wars were heavily focused on fortification, and that’s what the game does. The player is given a city inside a fortified wall which it needs to sustain. Being a desert, Oasis are the center of everything around here, and important strategic points. Watch what you’re people are eating, the happier they are the more taxes they will pay. This game pays much emphasis on city building which demands some real management skills!

 

10. Rise of Nations (2003)

Rise of Nations

So you’re a hardcore strategy gamer and Age of Empires just wasn’t enough for you? Allow us to introduce you to Rise of Nations, another masterpiece from the makers of Age of Empires. Micro-Management would be a small word to describe how this game goes, and it is one hell of a lengthy game. Players begin to build their empires from the dark ages, managing resources and go all the way into the modern era, a total of 8 periods of history to play through.

The gameplay is pretty simple. The player needs to balance his economy with his military. Too much focus on economy will leave you open for attack, and too much military will get you bankrupt. As the game advances you capture more and more cities (you can rename your cities at will) and gather resources to get more creatable units, each having its own specialty. Being difficult is exactly what makes it a great strategy game.



Rafay Farooq

Rafay Farooq is studying Computer Sciences in FAST-NUCES Karachi. He is passionate about blogging and finding odds from the even. In leisure time you could find him doing programming and exploring tech gadgets.

Latest posts by Rafay Farooq (see all)



47 Comments

  1. Harukiller14 says:

    StarCraft: Brood War was also very cool. Before Wings of Liberty made it to the market, Brood War was definitely the best one.

    • marcin says:

      yeah i mean starcraft not being here at #1 i can kind of understand. but not being on this list at ALL, leads me to believe the author has no knowledge whatsoever on the subject.

    • adrian says:

      i second that. this is a pretty shitty review considering that the title talks about “…of all time” and doesn’t mention SCBW….

      WOTS is not an all timer… came out in 2010

  2. Axe99 says:

    Civ II is a turn-based strategy game, not real-time, there’s a difference ;). UFO: Enemy Unknown is turn-based tactics – again, not RTS ;).

    Decent list overall though, although trades a bit on nostalgia (for example, but not the only one: Rome:TW was great, but there’s no doubt Shogun 2:TW is a better overall game, as are most of the other post-Rome TWs).

  3. Jack says:

    OK! Not the bad list. But, where the f*** is Cossacks : European War ( surely better than Age Of Empires ), Shogun : Total War, Sudden Strike 1 and 2, Panzer Elite Warhammer : Shadow Of The Horned Rat and Dark Omen, Heroes Of Might And Magic 3 and 4… And Starcraft II is 1st on the list?? C’mon!!!

  4. Firan says:

    Anyone remember the legendary Dune II? Such a great game and I wish they would make a new Dune RTS.

    • Axe99 says:

      Too right, half the games on that list, including the ‘crafts’, owe most of their gameplay mechanics to the venerable Dune 2. It’s a bit of an ommission, actually, given the list is so nostalgia-based.

    • Shakeel Ahmad says:

      I love that game, Dune 1 was the game who fell me in love with RTS games :)

    • Chin says:

      I remember Dune 2000. This is the game that got me into RTS nothing was better at the time. I think people just really forget or are not that old. They did make a new Dune and it failed bad for some reason. They was ahead of the game and the slow Lan speeds could not keep up with it all.

    • Mig says:

      I totally agree. Dune 2 is where it all started for me, then followed by Warcraft 1 and C&C 1.
      Magical times. Loved how the Sand Worms would eat shit up if left unattended, or how in WC i fought demons n blobs n crap, or else in C&C flying about in my chinook with my commando blowing shit up or playing funpark
      … ahhh such gd times. breaks my heart

      As Chin said, there was a re-make -> Dune 2000

  5. WolfLeBlack says:

    Just throwing this out there to see if there’s any other fans going around: Total Annihilation absolutely has to be on my top list of the best RTS games ever. It wss beautifully balanced, had some awesome maps, cool units and great gameplay. I’ve sunk a lot of hours into that game, and still do thanks to the massive amount of mods available for it.

    • Pintheshadows says:

      I used to play Total Annihilation in my IT lab at school on lunchbreaks. LAN games with my IT teacher and my friends where some of the best RTS experiences i’ve ever had. It should be on this list really.

  6. imt558 says:

    OK! Not the bad list. But, where the f*** is Cossacks : European War ( surely better than Age Of Empires ), Shogun : Total War, Sudden Strike 1 and 2, Panzer Elite Warhammer : Shadow Of The Horned Rat and Dark Omen, Heroes Of Might And Magic 3 and 4… And Starcraft II is 1st on the list?? C’mon!!!

  7. MrTrololo says:

    Command & Conquer Zero Hour is my most favourite strategy games next to warcraft 3. Wish blizzard would make warcraft 4

  8. Piers says:

    RTS = Real Time Strategy. NOT Turned Based Strategy

    There is a huge fundamental difference between the two which the writer of his article clearly doesn’t understand.

    I won’t read a word more of what you have to say as you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

  9. Jack Tors says:

    Warcraft II is a better game than warcraft 3. They tried to combine diablo and warcraft with warcraft 3. Starcraft II is great, but does not exist without warcraft.

    • Mig says:

      WC2 was fun, wont argue … especially the vocally retorts or the exploding critters … but what did have as a down side was that the factions were symmetrical.

      Balance is good, true. But in this case they were basically identical. The only variance was in the magic spells of the death knights/mages and pallys/ogre magi

      Hence more than diablo, i think its more a case of combining warcraft with sc for more variety. You know creep/blight, swarm of undead/zerglings. They werent exactly hiding it

  10. Dale says:

    What about the Warlord series. I always thought they were superior to Warcraft since they concentrate more on play and less on pretty cinematics

  11. Dale says:

    correction Warlords Battlecry, warlords was their turn based series. I often got the 2 games confused since they were both based on the same world.

  12. Mac says:

    Starcraft 2 as #1? Umm you have many games in your top 10 that revolutionized rts as we know it and you pick the one that’s basically a rehash with more units as the top spot? And SC1 isn’t anywhere to be found? I love SC2 but Rome TW , WC3 or Company of Heroes are definitely more worthy.

    Also, 40k Dawn of War II does have resource collection in multiplayer (which is 50-75% of the game depending on who you talk to), and economy is a big part of the game as it buys upgrades and units just like any other competitive rts. Reading a lot of these entries it seems you aren’t well versed in multiplayer…

  13. paresh says:

    Me and my friends used to play lot of RTS games in my friends cyber cafe. We played games such as age of empires series, battle realms, rise of nations etc. Empire earth was most favourite among us

  14. gizgi says:

    i played most of them. rome totalwar, medieval total war are very nice games, also i played age of series

  15. Pat says:

    Powermonger and megalomania on the Atari st were brilliant nostalgic titles that I never completed but will remember them till I die

  16. justinpatrick1011 says:

    SupCom Forged alliance must be at the 1st.

  17. keith says:

    what about WarZone 2100?

    • Justin says:

      I second this, Warzone 2100 was before its time… It may not have caught on en-mase but it’s an amazing RTS that lives on today.

      • Lewis says:

        I third that. I still have the original game and the box it came in. It was a brilliant game and as above before its time. It was like the research tree was endless and what game of that time had interchangeable modules. Mortars with heat rounds anyone??

        Its downloadable by the way and modified to run on win 7. Has a strong fan following still out there. It still looks awesome for a game 20 years old. To think it was a flop at the sales. There is no justice.

  18. larry says:

    Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars should have been on the list.

  19. hafabee says:

    No DUNE 2000?! Ridiculous.

  20. Spymaster20 says:

    i have played Battlezone 2 and it’s the best game ever in RTS not to mention you can command by driving/fighting enemy in a hover tank + snipe in pilot the enemies ship… and much more…. reconsider your list if you are talking about 1999…

  21. Niall says:

    Can’t take this as being a very educated article
    Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander 2 not even listed?!

  22. grizzly says:

    For those who don’t know,Jurassic park operation genesis is a game worth trying out….lots of things to keep you interested

  23. JohnnyB says:

    hmm its Dawn of war Soulstorm #1 for me if people enjoy havin alot of choice of factions thats the game for you, in the actual games there like 9 but with a great community behind it still that keep bringin out new factions and chapters from the lore keeps u occupied for hours i have 26 factions all unique all different playstyle and very ,much balanced, others i would consider would be total annihilation and supreme commander 2

    • Mig says:

      Wasnt too crazy about the soulstorm races. But imo Dark Crusade was way more fun than DoW 2. At the very least it kept me hooked which is more than i can say for the successor

  24. Salah says:

    What about seven kingdoms, one of my favorite games due to its unique take on RTS… wish more recent games toke some of its concepts.

  25. Stefan says:

    This list doesnt even have the top rts games.
    Where is WC2 + exp
    Where is C&C Tiberian sun
    Where is SC1 + exp
    Where is original Dawn of war
    AND PLEASE WHERE THE HELL IS RED ALERT original
    wow i could go on for alot longer

  26. Jon Snow says:

    Eh… Total Annihilation should be #1 … and it’s not even on the list… nor is Starcraft 1 or Warcraft 2 or homeworld 2 or SupCom2….. wtf…

  27. Justin says:

    More than anything I find it interesting to see that Dune II isn’t mentioned. It was this platform that many software firms jumped onto for their cues in development. In particular, C&C is built directly off of the engine and game play. Even now I still have a DOS 6.22/Win 95 machine just for this game and few other delectable pieces.

  28. jimbo says:

    DARK REIGN 2 the best ever

  29. Thales says:

    You shouldn’t forget to mention Achron, simply for the ingenuity of the game’s system. To those that are not familiar with it: imagine generic RTS gameplay, but with the added possibility of TIME TRAVEL.

    Imagine losing a skirmish, then going to the past, and just re-routing an additional portion of your army to the place where you lost, turning your loss in a win. Or re-route your army that lost to a place where they’re safe.

    Imagine instead going even further into the past, sending out a secret assassination mission to destroy the one enemy building that produced the army that made you lose the battle in the first place.

    Also, there’s multiplayer.

    IS YOUR MIND BLOWN YET? :P

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