One of the things we always loved doing was playing the Best Strategy Games PC could handle. Heck, back in the good old days we loved playing a turn-based strategy game called “Balance of Power” on Windows (1985), where we tried to win the Cold War (which was an all-too real scenario then). Do you remember that great game? Did you like it as much as we do? Or are you too young to have actually played it?
Well, the truth is that since Balance of Power most of us were hooked on strategy games for the PC.
But in case you are too young to remember, in Balance of Power you either played the POTUS (President of the United States) or the Secretary of the USSR (for those of you born after 1990, that was the Union of Socialistic Soviet Republics, with Moscow, Russia as its main power) and tried to influence, bribe, or conquer the states of the world into following your lead and by that win the Cold War.
The game was great fun, and today you can download and play it for free here.
Since we love strategy games on our PCs so much we decided to ask you, our reader, what your favorite strategy games for the PC are. And to get the ball rolling, we offer our suggestions and give a little review of the games. Perhaps we can bribe you into following our lead?
But this is your page. What is the best PC strategy game in your book? And: WHY? What makes it so special?
Your favorites as the Best Strategy Games PC?
Article Table of Contents
So what are the Best Strategy Games PCs can run? Well, we ask YOU!
Have you already polled on our version of the “Best Strategy Games PC Leaderboard“? Don’t be surprised if you find some new versions of old classics (well, we aren’t teens anymore, you know). But no, Chess or Risk is not among these classics. They are very classic strategy games, yes, but are so simple graphically that honestly an online browser-version makes more sense than a PC version today. No, we are looking for perfect fits for our PCs’ abilities.
In case you love a game here so much that you decide to buy it: Before you do, make sure that your PC can still run the software. For example Cossacks can only run on PC up to Win 98, not on the newer Windows 7 or Windows 8 machines. In that case, you will need to get Cossacks II for your newer Windows PC.
Actually, we are pretty sure you have other ideas and think our Leaderboard sucks. In case you think we got it all wrong, well, why not leave your favorite in the comments? Even better: If you are a big fan of any PC strategy game, why not contact us and write for PC Gamer Hub?
Here is our promise: You tell us about your favorite game and, if it is a PC Strategy Game, we will add your suggestion to the Leaderboard and then others can vote for your personal favorite!
So, convince us! Convince our readers! We challenge you to win us over for your favorite PC Strategy Game! But first, let’s see if we can win you over:
1. Command & Conquer The Ultimate Collection
(Windows Vista / 7) Command & Conquer (abbreviated CnC or C&C) is a series of games which offered us endless hours of fun. The first episode (1995) revolutionized the strategy game genre for the PC with its responsive game interface, the option to give orders to your troops, and an innovate blend of economy (Tiberium mining) and battle (defend the world against the Brotherhood of Nod).
The player starts small with one builder unit and has to decide where to build the first base (ideally close to a Tiberium field). The map stays obscured except for areas where your troops have already advanced to, so don’t be surprised if the enemy attacks by surprise from terra incognita (unknown territory).
You will need to collect as much Tiberium as possible, but the fields are depleted quickly and so your “harvesters” will have to be sent further away to fresh Tiberium fields. A sure way to meet the enemy quickly.
Without Tiberium you cannot build troops or machines and the enemy will overrun you quickly. So the mining of Tiberium is the highest priority, both for you and for your enemy. And so you will need your troops to defend the Tiberium fields and harvesters.
You also need to invest in the development of your base (buildings), so that new technology and weapons become available.
Over the years many add-ons and new parts to this franchise have been released and “The Ultimate Collection” now includes all 17 parts and is updated for Windows 7, so unending real-time strategy fun is guaranteed.
By the way: One of the sequels (“Renegade”) is not a real-time strategy game, but an ego shooter set in the CnC universe. It was also praised for its online abilities.
The series introduced real video sequences to strategy gameplay in a then-revolutionary way, so that playing becomes something like being part of a movie.
One word about the Multiplayer features: We have taken part in massive multiplayer battles, when complete Internet Cafés used their network and computers to have lots of players battle each other in all-nighters. Though this is pretty nerdy behavior and ruined the next day for us, it was great fun!
2. Rome Total War – Gold Edition
(Windows 2000 / XP) Rome: Total War is part 3 of the fantastic “Total War” game series and was released in 2004. It combines turn-based strategy with real-time elements. Its engine (the software that runs the graphics) is so good that the Discovery Channel used it to film Decisive Battles, while the BBC created Time Commanders using the game.
Rome : Total War offers engaging single player missions and a Quick Battle mode, in which you can simply choose your side and opponent and lead your troops to victory. The way Rome : Total War displays your warriors fighting (with you commanding every unit, deciding when and where to engage the enemy) is the best “battle mode” we have seen so far, even slightly better than the great Cossacks engine.
So Rome : Total War makes you the emperor and commander-in-chief of Rome’s fate between 270 BC and the beginning decline of Rome’s power in the first century of our time.
It makes you part of the deadly feud between Caesar (100 BC-44BC) and his former partners in the First Triumvirate (Scipio and Crassus), struggling for power over Rome. Will Caesar win again? Who will you side with?
This is the game I’ve always wanted to play. It has such a superb blend of strategy and real-time action. Ever play a turn-based strategy game and want to really watch your troops battle it out and control the formations and tactics?
For the history buffs among you (and us), the game comes with preconfigured historic battles, letting you relive those historic moments.
A multiplayer mode lets you command your side against your friends, either by connecting computers in a local network or worldwide over the Internet. This way, the game will never become boring and endless hours of strategic gameplay are guaranteed.
What makes Rome : Total War especially interesting is its community and ability to change the game any way you want. You will find many forums and websites about how to mod the game or how to play it better. This community makes the game rather unique and you part of a large group of enthusiasts. In our experience, playing against another human being and discussing a game with (online) friends is what really makes a game your favorite pastime.
Our team had heated debates about whether Rome : Total War really is the Best Strategy Game on PC. The debate could only be settled by looking at the Amazon bestseller list, where Stronghold HD is positioned in front of Rome : Total War.
So what is your favorite? Rome or Stronghold? Please share your views below in the comments section.
3. Stronghold HD
Suggestion # 3 for the best strategy games PC (Windows 2000 / 7 / Vista / XP) If you loved movies about knights in shining armor saving the damsel in distress, you will love this strategy game for your PC. The game comes with High-Definition graphics and 21 missions, with you fighting four insurgent warlords and your task being no less than the reunification of medieval Britain. Build castles, fortresses and armies and never forget: “It’s the economy, stupid!”
So while you wage war on the insurgents, conquer their castles and crush their armies, you need to keep your empire running economically, because you don’t want your peasants to revolt. Believe us, you don’t!
This game even has one mission based on the economy alone. You will find this to be one of the Best Strategy Games on PC as you play for hours at a time.
And since the game is “real-time strategy” (RTS), not turn-based, it feels like you are really part of the game. If you can’t wait to start playing, you can download the game here right now:
We recommend buying the game from Amazon, because they store the game for you in case of a PC crash. You can download the game again for free whenever you need it.
Here is an interesting overview of the game:
4. Age of Empires III (AOE III)
Suggestion #4 for Best Strategy Games PC (Windows XP): With Age of Empires, Microsoft published an absolute classic computer strategy game. We cannot begin to even fathom how many hours our team has spent in front of the PC playing one of the three Age of Empires episodes. The first game was released in 1997 and instantly became a hit. Since then Microsoft has released parts II and III, and each of them has raised the bar for all other PC strategy games.
In Age of Empires, you assume a kind of “god” role, watching your growing empire from a bird’s eye perspective and commanding your people. You tell them where to build buildings, farms, and barracks, and when and where to fight and what to invent.
Each of the three episodes of Age of Empires is set in a different time frame, with Episode III portraying the colonization of North America (1492 – 1850 AD), letting you choose the leadership role of one of eight European superpowers from that time. Episode III, which was released in 2005, also came with several innovations in gameplay, one of them being a combination of real-time strategy and role-playing.
Over the years Microsoft has released several Expansion packs, namely:
- The War Chiefs (introducing three Native American civilization) and
- Asian Dynasties (adding three Asian civiliations).
Age of Empires III has received several accolades, including:
Best RTS game of 2005
Amazon now offers the complete Age of Empires III, including all expansion packs, as an instant download (yes, you can also have the game discs shipped to you), including their guarantee that you can redownload it at any time.
5. Cossacks: European Wars
Suggestion #5 for Best Strategy Games PC (only Win 98):Cossacks is one of the Best Strategy Games for PC ever, but still rather an insiders’ tip.
The development of Cossacks : European Wars started in 1997, inspired by Age of Empires I, with the creators intending a kind of sequel to Microsoft’s AOE I (therefore being set in the 17th and 18th century in Europa). Cossacks was released in 2001 and featured improved gameplay and “management”.
Here are some of the many options and features:
- The player can choose between 16 different European pre-industrial nations, all coming with their own soldiers, economy, and scientific development trees
- player must gather resources (or better make his people do so)
- feed his people, avoid famines
- build and develop armies
- engage the enemy
- historically inspired
- player needs to develop a strategy
- 6 basic resources to manage
- gold (needed to build mines)
- iron (need to build mines)
- coal (need to build mines)
- ability to create military formations (cohorts or armies)
- 15-196 soldiers can make a formation, acting as one
- ability to give commands like “stand ground”
- improved management of digital inhabitants
- cavalry units
- artillery units
- naval vessels
- five long historical campaigns
- unlimited random maps
On a scale of 10 I rate this one a definite 12!!
Cossacks : European Wars is still one of the Best real-time Strategy PC Games out there. If you enjoy military strategy games, you really need to see Cossacks!
In case you would like to try Cossacks but don’t own an older PC with Windows 98 anymore, check out the newer Cossacks II : Battle for Europe. It is a very worthy sequel with very interesting historic facts and can be installed on Windows XP (and if you follow this guide you should also be able to install it on Windows 7 and 8).
6. Sid Meier’s Civilization V
Suggestion #6 for Best Strategy Games PC (Windows 7 / Vista): Civilization is also an award winning strategy games series, with Episode V being the newest and the best. It is turn-based (not real-time), meaning that the player makes his moves and then the computer calculates the results. The gameplay begins in prehistoric times, and the player develops his civilization on a constantly changing map.
This is the most technically advanced and best of the Best Strategy PC Game for civilization building. It does not get any better. Its turn-based gameplay is highly addictive and now you can even play online against others.
The creators of Civilization boast that the game has
- a highly believable world with great graphics and sound effects
- improved user interface for easy gameplay for beginners and pros
- highly engaging battle scenarios (for those who do not want to follow a peaceful strategy)
- Diplomacy is a very important skill
- connect to other players over the Internet and compete with them
- players can remodel the game any way they want
So Civilization has Multiplayer abilities, adding hours of gameplay after you have mastered the in-built missions.
You can download Civilization V instantly from Amazon.
7. StarCraft II
Suggestion #7 for Best Strategy Games PC (Windows XP / 7, Mac OS X): The original StarCraft was released for Windows in 1998 and is a real-time science fiction strategy game. It won numerous awards, including
the best real-time strategy game ever made
In 1998 the expansion pack “Brood War” was released. The successor, Starcraft II : Wings of Liberty (2010), is set 4 years after the end of the StarCraft : Brood War and picks up where the first part ended.
In a far-away part of the galaxy Human (Terran) colonists meet two new races, the assimilating (think Borg) insectoid Zerg and the advanced Protoss, which do everything in their power to keep the Zerg away from them.
As the Zerg attack the Terrans, the Protoss feel forced to attack the Humans also to prevent the Zerg from gaining ground in human form.
In this complicated situation the player assumes the role of Jim Raynor, a renegade within the Terran Dominion (a dictatorial human regime which was established after the attacks began).
Two expansion packs (Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void) complement the game with the perspectives of the Zerg and the Protoss.
With Part II the creators of Starcraft managed to take the game into the 21st century while preserving the magic and the unending hours of strategy fun that was the original Starcraft.
So while Starcraft was one of the Best Strategy Games for PC ever, we feel that Starcraft II is the better choice today with its ability to run on Apple OS and Windows 7 and its improved technical abilities.
Best Strategy Games PC The Ultimate Online Poll
So now, these are our favorites. Do you like them? What is your opinion? What are the Best Strategy Games PC can run? What is your favorite? Share your opinion with us below. What game is missing from our Leaderboard?
Or did we get the “Best Strategy Games PCs Can Handle Leaderboard” right and you will choose one of our suggestions