The 24 best turn-based Strategy Games Of all Time & 4X Games 2021: What Can you expect ?
We have tried to bring together the best turn-based strategy games of all time. That means: You will find around strategy and classic 4X games here. There really is everything: from indie titles to AAA and free-to-play games, we have everything covered. Some titles are not 100% turn-based, we know that, but they have enough elements to fit this list. If you miss RTS titles like “C&C” here, take a look at our article on the best real-time strategy games!
Our list of the best is roughly in chronological order, i.e. newer games can be found further up in the list. The further you scroll down, the older classics you will find. Note: This is not a ranking list, ergo above does not mean the best. We wanted to make sure that you can find current round strategy games as well as classic cars that simply belong on every leaderboard. Oh yes: This selection of games was made as objectively as possible, but of course that is not always 100% possible ;-).
1. MUTANT YEAR ZERO: ROAD TO EDEN
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a turn-based strategy game based on a Swedish pen & paper role-playing game of the same name. The game leads you into a post-apocalyptic future in which the majority of the population was wiped out in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Except for a few mutants. You take control of a small group of explorers called stalkers, and your group includes a drake and a two-legged boar.
The gameplay is split into real-time exploration and turn-based combat. When exploring you can search for supplies and position your team for battles, in the turn-based encounters you then have to face your enemies. But be careful: your opponents on the way to Eden are very tough and force you to develop well-thought-out strategies before the fight. There are also some light RPG elements such as level advancement, skill points, talent trees and individual abilities of your characters, but these do not have too much depth. Nevertheless, the game is definitely an insider tip for tactics fans!
2. THRONEBREAKER: THE WITCHER TALES
With the success of The Witcher 3 followed by the card game Gwent and now Thronebreaker, it seems like CD Projekt couldn’t go wrong with developing a Witcher game. Thronebreaker is a mix of RPG and card strategy, creating a whole new kind of game where decisions are neither good nor bad. In the 30-hour campaign, however, your decisions still have weight.
Thronebreaker offers you a brand new adventure in the Witcher universe, in which you meet different characters with interesting background stories and contradicting goals and perspectives. As the game progresses, you will have to make difficult decisions that will affect the world around you, while encounters with enemies are fought through strategic card battles using the mechanics of the game Gwent. A must for all Gwent fans, as well as for all Tatikers.
3. INTO THE BREACH
Into the Breach is the second strategy game developed and published by Subset Games (the creators of Faster than Light!). The game is set in a distant future in which humanity battles an army of monsters called Vek. The gameplay lets you take part in turn-based combat using soldier-controlled mechs that can be equipped with a variety of weapons and armour.
Similar to FTL, the game is divided into sequences that take place on several islands, each with its own procedurally generated mission scenario. In this regard, Into the Breach is considered a roguelike game. Because should you lose a mission scenario for any reason, you have the option of sending one of your pilots back to start the first mission. Essentially, a new game is started, but at least its current experience points and skills are retained.
4. SLAY THE SPIRE
Slay the Spire is a roguelike card game developed by the American studio MegaCrit. Every time you start a “run” you have the choice between three predefined characters (apparently there are more to come in the future!), Each of which has its own starting conditions (such as life points, special abilities or starting cards. Thus, the characters play each other perfectly different and each time requires a different tactic. As you travel through the tower, you defeat many opponents in turn-based card battles, find treasures and get new cards to build your deck.
The object of the game is to progress through multiple levels of a tower, with each level having a series of potential encounters determined by a branching path and culminating in a boss fight. You also earn gold by defeating opponents, which you can spend at traders. Everyone who likes tactical games or Hearthstone should definitely have a look!
5. TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER II
Total War: Warhammer is definitely one of the better parts of the series, the reviews of all the major magazines speak for themselves. The latest part convinces with great advances in both faction and campaign design. As always, the areas of civil engineering, politics and diplomacy are a bit limited, but that’s not the focus of the Total War series anyway.
The interesting and very different factions comfort this, however, the campaign or story mode motivates compared to old Total War parts. With all the (upcoming) DLCs you also have more than enough material to pass boring evenings.
The Total-War series belongs more to the “Grand-Strategy” category, but you still spend a lot of time planning and managing your empire in a turn-based manner. That’s why we put the Total War games on this list.
6. XCOM 2 AND ADDON WAR OF THE CHOSEN
Compared to its predecessor, XCOM 2 has a few new mechanics (such as the stealth mechanics I think are very strange), but the basic principle is exactly the same: You recruit your heroes, put together the optimal team combination depending on the mission, gain experience and train your warriors with special upgrades after a successful mission.
It has to be said that the many “bad” reviews on Steam were only given because of initial bugs. These have now all been eliminated and the add-on “War of the Chosen” adds a lot of new content to the main game: New missions, new classes and factions, new opponents and much more.
So if you’re thirsting for more XCOM after playing through XCOM and its add-on, then you’re not doing anything wrong with XCOM 2. Definitely a top recommendation for every hobby strategist!
7. DARKEST DUNGEON + ADDON
To be honest: The game is an absolute board for us, now with an add-on and even more content. The question is, where should you put Darkest Dungeon in? RPG? A little maybe. Turn-based strategy game? At least the fights, yes. So here we have a mishmash of roguelike RPG & turn-based combat systems. Quite unique and one thing above all: brilliant.
You start the game with 4 heroes and gradually have to recruit more to expand your roster. There are different classes, which results in a lot of unique party compositions. It’s just great fun to try out which classes go well together and which combos are possible. In order for you to advance in the game and not immediately lose everything (yes, if one of your heroes loses it, he stays dead!), You have to show tactical finesse, both when planning your quests and in the turn-based combat system.
To cut a long story short: All tacticians who like RPGs and like to plan, min/max, try things out and like to take on challenges will find a great game in Darkest Dungeon. We look forward to part 2!
If you have played Civilization or any of the numerous 4X descendants, you will quickly become familiar with the basics of Stellaris. You accompany a new civilization in building their empire. You can determine how you will govern it, what its guidelines are and how it should develop technologically.
Each of your AI opponents is generated with a randomly generated set of characteristics: For example, despotic pacifists or xenophobic materialists – there is a great variety on offer here. In the usual 4X pattern, you explore your neighbouring systems, get to know other races, expand your sphere of influence and enter into diplomatic negotiations.
Stellaris is not a turn-based strategy game but belongs to the “Grand Strategy” genre. Since Stellaris is more in the direction of 4X play compared to, for example, Europa Universalis, we have put it in this list and not in the real-time list!
9. TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER
Total War: Warhammer brings together two of the most popular franchises and creates an ingenious combination that just works for any fan of strategy games. That Warhammer may not be a pure turn-based title, or not quite as classic 4X as Civ5, I have to admit. Total War: Warhammer combines aspects of turn-based and real-time strategy games, but elements such as macro-management and the development of your empire are in the foreground, which is definitely more related to a traditional TBS title than to an RTS.
Total War: Warhammer is the tenth title in the series and offers tactical round strategy elements similar to its predecessors. In contrast to the other parts of the series, Warhammer takes place in a fantasy world that is ruled by five different factions. These include – the dwarves, the human realm, the vampire lords, the chaos warriors and the green skins. Warhammer is the first game in the series to introduce magic.
10. DUELYST (FREE TO PLAY; PVP ONLY)
Duelyst is a free PVP-only game that you can download from Steam or the official Counterplay Games site. Duelyst is kind of a cross between Hearthstone and Final Fantasy. Games against others last between 5-10 minutes and above all demand your strategic skills in positioning your cards.
You build your deck of cards from over 400 cards from 6 different factions and test your skills against the decks of other players. Due to the overlap with other games in the card game genre, Duelyst doesn’t feel like you’re starting from scratch. Nevertheless, Duelyst has created its own niche and clearly distinguishes itself from games like Faeria or Hearthstone.
11. ATLAS REACTOR (PVP-ONLY, FREE TO PLAY)
What is Atlas Reactor? You could describe it a bit like TBS or Overwatch meets XCOM & LoL / Dota. Atlas Reactor is a science fiction 3D strategy game that clearly distinguishes itself from other games in the genre. In instanced battle arenas you plan your actions in a unique 4-phase round system in order to defeat the enemy team. Simultaneous rounds mean No waiting for you, except for 20 seconds in the action phase.
Let’s see where the game goes. At the moment there are still very few heroes (freelancers) and maps, but Atlas Reactor offers unique gameplay. The game has been completely free-to-play since January 2017, at the beginning you had to pay once again for the game.
12. INVISIBLE, INC.
Mission Impossible meets XCOM – that’s how Invisible Inc could be summed up briefly. In terms of story technology, there is little going on here, the game flourishes a lot more thanks to the ingenious mechanics. The missions start out simple and straightforward but become increasingly difficult and challenging. Tactical finesse and a considered approach are therefore required.
Each round requires tough decisions from you, and the game’s learning curve is definitely quite steep. Too bad: The text and voice output is only available in English so far. A clear recommendation for everyone for whom XCOM is a little too lax or “too slow”.
In any case, the game has a very good recommendation rate on Steam and we can warmly recommend it to you.
13. ENDLESS LEGEND + ADDONS
Endless Legend is one game that definitely deserves a spot on this leaderboard. The base game came out in 2014 and has already been expanded with some addons. Short summary: If you’re a civ freak like Sascha, definitely give Endless Legends a chance.
Due to the many unique races that all play differently, you have a lot of variety with different tactics and victory conditions. In the usual 4X manner, you expand your capital city, research new technologies, explore the surrounding (and by the way very beautiful!) Terrain and establish further settlements. What particularly impresses me about Endless Legends is the great graphics and the detailed landscapes. The game has not received a lot of praise for its immersive visual display for nothing.
Tip from us: Be sure to get the latest add-ons, they are really worth it.
As a 4X strategy game, Endless Legend is definitely comparable to Civilization 5, but it is driven more by a story that differs from person to person. In the game, you get a variety of quests from your respective faction. Completing these quests will bring you closer and closer to victory and also help you get a feel for how to best play your people.
What other differences are there to Civ? On the one hand, you have random events that can influence you either negatively or positively. There are also rewards for completing the quests, for example in the form of valuable resources. Then there are your heroes. You can either use your heroes as a commander to strengthen your armies in battle, or you can station them in a city to increase your food production, for example. Heroes gain experience as the game progresses and there are even skill trees.
14. AGE OF WONDERS 3+ ADDONS
Age of Wonders 3 is the latest in Triumph’s long-running game series. Age of Wonders 3 represents the latest generation of fantasy turn-around strategy games that offer both strategic and tactical gameplay. The strategic part unfortunately takes a backseat because building it feels totally boring somewhere. This is more than offset by the very tactical battle mode shown in 3D.
Age of Wonders III has the classic 4X gameplay: You take on the role of a leader, build cities, buildings and armies to expand your empire through conquest or diplomacy, although the diplomacy here is not really comparable to games like Civ5. You choose from 6 cool character classes and thus have different units, spells as well as strengths and weaknesses. In large 3D battles, you command your units and then try to defeat the opponent through finesse. The very clear strength of AoW 3 is precisely this combat mode, the research aspect and the “builder aspect” are not the focus of the game.
15. THE BANNER SAGA 1 +2
The Banner Saga is a project by ex-Bioware employees and deserves praise for the great music and the lovingly drawn graphics alone. This is accompanied by a dark story that casts you under its spell. The Banner Saga is also a pretty crisp tactical RPG that rewards planning and careful strategy, unfortunately, the game doesn’t explain all the mechanics enough. The challenging turn-based fights make up the majority of the gameplay and are demanding without being unfair, the story motivates you to continue playing.
The second part of the Banner saga is called one of the most beautiful and best turn-based strategy games. The unique artwork and graphics let you immerse yourself fully in the game and you feel part of the story. Your decisions have an impact on the further course of the story, which means that you are responsible for the actions of your warriors. To give your characters a unique look, you can adapt them to your own taste.
16. XCOM + ADDON ENEMY WITHIN
The strategy cracker from Firaxis (Civ sends his regards) and 2K only revolves around one thing: The world is being attacked by aliens and you are responsible for sending these beasts back to their planet (bombs). Together with the addon “Enemy Within” you have a lot of material here to please your strategist’s heart.
The main campaign of the Vanilla game lasts around 30 hours, depending on the difficulty level you choose. You decide on research and expand your base so that your XCOM soldiers advance appropriately armed for the next mission. Even with the “basic building” tactical skills are required, as you have limited time and resources. In the missions, give your soldiers march and fire orders, all turn-based against the aliens. Oh yes, and if your soldiers die, they stay dead. Your tactical skills are therefore constantly being checked.
17. ENDLESS SPACE 2
Endless Space is the slightly older project of Endless Legends creators Amplitude, but by no means worse.
Endless Space 2 is also a 4X game, but this time it’s about the war between galactic civilizations in a sci-fi setting.
As usual, you choose one of many cool extra-galactic races and explore space around your home system. The clear strength of Endless Space: Exploring, expanding to new planets and managing the systems, including luxury resources.
Unfortunately, the combat system is unfortunately the weakness of the game. The 3D battles look cool, but you have little influence on the outcome of the battle. Where the combat system weakens, the rest of the game scores: Cool ship design, fun planet management, great random events and a huge tech tree with race-specific technologies. Definitely worth a look for all TBS lovers who are into space strategy or 4X.
18. CIVILIZATION 5
While many consider the predecessor to be the top of the series, Civilization V is actually the title that has made turn-based strategy games attractive again for a larger player base. Especially after the genre was all but forgotten in the late 2000s.
As one of the best turn-based strategy games ever created, Civilization V is a true masterpiece. To be fair, I have to mention that it could only become this masterpiece with its two extensions “Gods & Kings” and “A Brave New World”. Because the “Vanilla” Civ 5 wasn’t as cool as with the two addons. Only the add-ons brought the necessary depth and feature so that it could overtake its predecessor. I’m talking about trade caravans, all the really cool peoples, espionage, religions, many new wonders of the world and so on. Ergo: If you don’t have Civ5 yet (which I don’t understand ;-), then definitely get the Complete Edition with all DLCs and add-ons.
Hey, why isn’t there a CIV 4 in here ?!
Now it’s inside ;-). To be honest, that’s a somewhat personal opinion of Sascha and he played both parts. CIV 4 is not quite as intense as CIV 5, but enough to get a good idea of it. He never had as much fun with CIV4 as the fifth part and there were several reasons for that.
Nevertheless, the fact is: Civ 4 is a great game and it is not without reason that it has such a high status in the community. That’s why you just HAVE to mention it in a list of the best. It’s best to get both games and get an idea for yourself. Civ 4 now costs nothing, including add-ons, even on Steam.
19. TOTAL WAR: SHOGUN 2
In Total War: Shogun 2 you take over the nine main factions of Japanese feudal history and lead them to fame and glory. From the mighty Oda to the more harmless, but still well-organized Tokugawa clan. Under your leadership, you can lead all of these clans to victory.
With Shogun 2, Creative Assembly returned to the core values of the Total War series: armies that fight each other on epic battlefields, trade, forge alliances and further expand your provinces.
Shogun 2 is also a hybrid between round strategy and real-time strategy and shines despite the AI weaknesses. With a gigantic multiplayer platform and fantastic graphics and sound, Shogun 2 is a highlight for the Total War series with a lot of attention to detail and very motivating gameplay.
20. TOTAL WAR: ROME
The emperor of strategy games: Developed by Creative Assembly, Rome: Total War is one of the best parts of the series alongside Shogun 2. Granted, the Total War series is not a pure TBS, but it still belongs on this list. Rome: Total War brings the epic battles of the Roman era to life. You will be taken to the battlefields of the greatest conflicts in ancient history, and you will control powerful armies led by the most legendary generals in history (e.g. Julius Caesar and Hannibal).
In the beginning, you choose one of the factions with the aim of conquering 15 territories and defeating two of your historical rivals. The Scipii, for example, have to conquer the Numidian Empire and Carthage, the Greeks have to conquer the Macedonians and Thracians.
In addition to managing your empire and your economy, the big battles are clearly the focus here. However, in addition to military units, there are also spies and diplomats with whom you can gain an advantage.
Rome: Total War is without a doubt one of the best parts of the series and has many improvements over its predecessors.
21. HEROES OF MIGHT & MAGIC 3
While the folks at Ubisoft have tried everything to recapture the magic of the older titles, none of the newer titles in the series can match Heroes of Might & Magic III. The community is relatively unanimous on this, and the reviews speak volumes. The newer parts just have too many bugs and teething troubles, not to mention the annoying play.
The graphics of the third part of the HoMM series definitely look a bit dated, but the gameplay is still as good as it was in 1999. Heroes of Might & Magic 3 combines turn-based strategy with RPG elements. The fights are as demanding as chess and are fought on a grid field. You have to explore countries, train your hero, expand your cities and recruit units. The 6 races and the 4 different schools of magic deliver a total of around 80 spells, which gives the game a great variety and replay value. Heroes 3 is basically the StarCraft of round strategy games.
22. JAGGED ALLIANCE 2
Jagged Alliance 2 is a classic that should not be missing in any leaderboard of turn-based strategy games. Geared towards squad management, the game has light role-playing elements and does a lot right and only a little wrong.
No question about it, the game is now very old, but still unmatched in what it does. You are the leader of a gang of mercenaries hired by Arulco’s ex-president to free a fictional third world country from the clutches of his ex-wife. You start the game with only one mercenary but gradually expand your team. In contrast to XCOM, however, these are not just no-names, but real characters with their own skills and personality. Definitely worth a look and meanwhile to have been given as a gift.
23. MASTER OF ORION 2
Please what kind of fleet? You can name your fleet, nice feature in MoO2 😉
“One of the best 4X games of all time”, “Absolutely addicting gameplay with the strong one-more-turn factor” – these are quotes that you read about the first two parts of Master of Orion (avoid the third part of the series by all means !). Maybe it’s not the most complex 4X game, but that doesn’t detract from the great gameplay.
You are forging your own empire in a universe where population growth limits planetary resources. You colonize unknown planets and trade with other races to gain their knowledge. Expansion is at the centre of Master of Orion: you have to conquer extraordinary star systems in order to secure the resources there. Only in this way can you guarantee your supremacy in the galaxy. The ultimate goal is to defeat the evil antarans that lurk in the coldest areas of the galaxy.
Ingenious diplomacy, tactical ship battles, espionage and research – MoO covers all areas. For all Civ fanatics, MoO is a must, because you can finally see what happens when you get your Science Victory.
24. SID MEIER’S ALPHA CENTAURI
Without Alpha Centauri, there would be no top 10 list with round strategy. Admittedly, I never played the game myself (I’m still a little too young for that), but I’ve heard about it everywhere. Maybe I’ll get it, for a few euros you can get the game including addons on GOG.
What is Alpha Centauri? A great spin-off of the Civ series with a cool sci-fi setting. When gamers talk about Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, they describe it as one of the most addicting and perfect round-robin strategy games of all time.
Those familiar with 4X turn-based strategy games will feel right at home. You build colonies, units, research a huge technology tree and fight against other factions (of which there are 7 unique). A clear classic among the TBS games that should not be missing in any leaderboard!