Real-time strategy is still a hot topic for PC gamers, as they can best be controlled with the mouse and keyboard. And good control is important when you send your armies across the battlefields with pinpoint accuracy and feel like a real general. It doesn’t matter whether you lead aliens, orcs, or humans in battle. The genre has plenty of classics to offer, while the core concept of the games works as well today as it did in the 1990s when numerous well-known series saw the light of day. But what are the best real-time strategy games you can get right now? Here is our list:
Command & Conquer Remastered Collection (2020, PC)
Hach, Command & Conquer … one of my favorite RTS series. It is not quite the first representative of this genre, but one of the reasons its popularity exploded over 20 years ago. Westwood’s (RIP) title skilfully combined excellent gameplay with pre-rendered cutscenes and briefing sessions with real actors. Incredibly immersive, not just by the standards of the time.
Every fan of the genre should know the GDI and the Brotherhood of Nod, their leader Kane, the ion cannon. And if not: damn it, what are you waiting for? Make up for that! The Command & Conquer Remastered Collection is without question the best opportunity to do so. Part one as well as a red alert in a revised version with all extensions, modernized interface, newly mastered soundtrack and and and. It shouldn’t be missing in any game library of a genre fanatic!
StarCraft 2 (2010, 2013, 2015 – PC)
Simply put, StarCraft 2 could be described as WarCraft in space. And that wouldn’t be wrong. Hey, this is also Blizzard. What do you expect? Of course, there are differences, if only in the technologies and play style, due to the three StarCraft factions of the Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg. At its core, however, it is a classic RTS. StarCraft 2 represents the entire trilogy, consisting of Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void.
Together, this results in more than 70 exciting missions in which the three parties fight cheerfully. Sci-Fi nerds will be happy with it. You have a space opera here, in which you are the commander of an army. Excitingly told, first-class staged – one of Blizzard’s strengths – and an asset to any collection.
Company of Heroes 2 (2013 – PC)
Speaking of human history, let’s get on with it. But this time a little more modern because Company of Heroes 2 sends you as a commander in the Second World War. Relic’s strategy game does not emphasize basic construction as other representatives of the genre, but the fights are nerve-wracking until the end. Tactics play an even more decisive role here. You don’t command huge armies as in other games, but rather smaller, more concentrated combat units.
It’s a little more intimate, if you will. Things like the suppression fire are considered if you do not want to make your soldiers easy prey for opponents. You conquer strategically important checkpoints to secure more raw materials and produce supplies or replenish your troops in the event of losses. Quality instead of quantity is the motto of Company of Heroes, which the game brings across well in its battles. It was tough fighting in WWII, and Relic’s title gives that feeling very well.
WarCraft 3 (2002 – PC)
Yes, WarCraft 3. Not WarCraft 3: Reforged! That was more or less a shot in the oven and not a remaster worthy of the original. In this respect: if there is a possibility, it is better to use the original, in which night elves, undead, orcs, and humans fight each other. And that’s still as exciting as it was back then.
The predecessors are not worse per se, but WarCraft 3 is the undisputed highlight of the series, lets you experience key moments from the history of Azeroth from these four different angles. Together with the expansion of The Frozen Throne, there are over 60 solo missions to deal with, so you have to nibble on them for a while. And, of course, there are cut scenes in the usual Blizzard quality. Reforged may be prettier than the original, but it’s still great to play.
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition (2019 – PC)
Age of Empires 2, another real real-time strategy classic. And one whose Definitive Edition more than deserves this name. Thirty-five different cultures, tons of campaigns, and there is always new content coming up. The remaster presents the original, published in 1999, in a chic, new look, without losing its aesthetics or charm.
In contrast to the previous games on the list, Age of Empires 2 deals with real human history, guides you through over 1,000 years of wars and intrigues, and promises over 200 hours of gameplay with all of its content. If you don’t want to gamble anything else for a while, you are in good hands here. And the advantage of the Age of Empires is that you also learn something about the culture and history of different peoples. An interactive history lesson, if you will. And where else do you have something like that? In very few games. An exceptional title!
Homeworld Remastered Collection (2015 – PC)
Homeworld, however, regulates things in a different way than all the games mentioned so far. While the action takes place everywhere on two-dimensional battlefields, Homeworld also integrates the third dimension in space. Your mothership is your base here and gradually increases your fleet if you can get the necessary raw materials. And with the Remastered Collection, you get the full load, namely part one and part two, in an improved version with nicer graphics, a revised soundtrack, and more.
The core of the game does not change. Typically for the genre, Homeworld also follows the rock-paper-scissors principle. Depending on the situation, certain unit types are more likely to help you than others. In addition, you use different formations and let your attack from all possible directions, for example, to hit the enemy surprisingly from a direction from which he does not expect it. The inclusion of the third dimension makes Homeworld an outstanding real-time strategy game and demands even more attention from you.
Halo Wars: Definitive Edition (2016 – PC, Xbox One)
You know Halo more as a first-person shooter franchise, but the battle between humans and the alliance can, of course, also be perfectly staged as a real-time strategy, as Halo Wars proves. Originally released in 2009, the Definitive Edition brought the game back seven years later with improved graphics and all of the DLC from the original. And it’s worth playing.
At the same time, it is one of the few RTS that are well implemented on the console. No wonder, since the game was designed with the Xbox 360 in mind from the start. Otherwise, you send your troops across the battlefield, as usual, build your base and expand your army to overrun the enemy in the end. If you are a Halo fan and want to experience everything from a different perspective, you have the perfect opportunity to do so. And non-fans are getting a good sci-fi strategy game. All win!
Iron Harvest (2020 – PC, consoles to follow)
If you like Company of Heroes, Iron Harvest should be at the top of your wish list. This doesn’t occur in World War II, but the gameplay is almost one-to-one, similar to the Relic model. Better to be copied well than poorly reinvented, huh? It shouldn’t be a criticism either. The game benefits from the proven gameplay and takes you into an alternative universe in the 1920s.
After a major war, a new threat looms that could plunge the world into chaos. And it is up to you to stop this threat. You have classic soldiers on the battlefields, but the dieselpunk mechs that replace the WWII tanks here are the biggest visual difference. They have wonderfully elaborated designs and were implemented in the game with just as much animation. Above all, it is chic to look at from a closer look. Just don’t forget to keep an eye on your army and tactics!
Supreme Commander (2007, 2008 – PC, Xbox 360)
Chris Taylor’s Supreme Commander is a spiritual successor to his previous title, Total Annihilation, and is also a classic genre. And this is where it gets big because, with numerous units, you can let off steam on the enormously large battlefields—units in which the correct size ratio was also taken into account. You will notice this, especially when the experimental units – like a huge, spider-shaped monster – come into battle and unceremoniously kick smaller troops flat.
It’s about three rival parties waging war with each other, known as the “Infinite War.” You can imagine that it has been going on for a while. These huge dimensions are the USP of Supreme Commander, and if you want everything a size bigger, take a look at this game. Nowadays, it should run more smoothly than it did back then!
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (2004 – PC)
And another sci-fi war. In the 41st century, alien races and humans fight for control of the universe. Your job is to take over the Elite Order of the Blood Ravens and protect humanity from the threats that lurk in the Warhammer 40K universe. And there are a few, from Orcs to Chaos to the Eldar.
Dawn of War is an excellent real-time strategy from the Company of Heroes makers at Relic. And they understand their craft more than well. Dawn of War also emphasizes tactical aspects such as cover, squad-based combat, and combat morale. It is more than just building as many new units as possible and sending them into skirmishes. And when you’ve mastered the humans, you can also play Orcs, Chaos, and Eldar yourself, each with their skills, weapons, and technologies. If you’re a Warhammer 40K fan looking for an RTS, this is for you.
Dune 2000 (1998 – PC, PlayStation)
It looks a lot like Command and Conquer, you think? No wonder it’s a remake of Westwood’s Dune 2. And in terms of play, it’s no worse than the other horse from the Westwood stable. The story is told in FMV sequences, and you have a total of three houses that fight each other on the desert planet and fight over who gets the most spice. If you enjoyed Command and Conquer and are not averse to the Dune universe, you will get a good real-time strategy game here.