Our Top Ten 4X Games

Last updated: 12/27/2023
5 minutes read

4X games have been widely popular for several decades now. Taking traditional board game ideas and increasing their complexity, 4X games are perfect for the digital world.

More titles are released every year, and the sub-genre of 4X strategy-based games have stellar titles, unique concepts and broad appeal. But which are the best 4X games on the market?

What Does 4X Mean in These Games?

You might not be familiar with the niche., but the exact definition of 4X games can be broken down into four main steps which are taken from practical gameplay:

  • Explore - scout the map to gain an idea of which territories could make useful bases.
  • Expand - claim new territories by establishing new settlements.
  • Exploit - extract resources that can aid players in the final stage of extermination.
  • Exterminate - eliminate other players, often by force and more specifically warfare.

Are There Also 5X Games?

A 5X game uses the same four steps, but includes another aspect to consider when playing: this fifth aspect can sometimes be expedience - a focus on democracy within the game. The final part can be excavation, with a more focused approach to resource excavation than in 4X games.

Top Ten 4X Games (as of 2023)

1. Endless Legend

Endless Legend sticks out for its exploration aspect. It offers a wide range of differing terrains across the map and a variety of different quests.

You can build major cities or live out a nomadic lifestyle in the game. The tactical combat is slightly lacking in the game which certainly holds it back, but it still offers an immersive experience when it comes to 4X games.

2. Age of Wonders III

Age of Wonders is a legendary fantasy series that has for a long time been a key part of the 4X games genre.

All of the series' titles have been popular and incredibly successful, but the third installment in the series represents the pick of the bunch.

With mythical characters and classical empire-building, the game offers a top experience when it comes to turn-based strategy games.

3. Warhammer 40k Gladius – Relics of War

Warhammer 40k 4X games don't have a reputation for being the leading games on the market. Gladius - Relics of War is a rare example of a Warhammer game that perfectly suits the 4X games genre.

The game has a focus on warfare - you can use tanks which can be upgraded. Your army can be improved in terms of manpower.

There is no democracy in this game, just all-out warfare. Warhammer offers the closest replication to shooter games when it comes to 4X games.

4. Europa Universalis IV

Europa Universalis' niche is that the game offers a level of realism that no other 4X game has touched upon.

The game takes place in a fictional version of Europe including several nations. The game offers a history lesson - the timeline of the game spans from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Reminiscent of games like Civilization, you plot your next move across a map and watch your decisions unfold globally.

Its wide-ranging history allows the player to conquer all of Europe, a level of achievement that most other games simply do not offer. This game is a fairly lengthy commitment, but it's incredibly rewarding.

5. Galactic Civilizations III

Galactic Civilizations III offers a unique experience that cannot be compared to other 4X games. Each save game involves a new randomly generated galaxy for players to conquer.

This means that every fresh game involves a new challenge with different strategies. If gaining control of unique galaxies is your thing then Galactic Civilizations III could be the space-based 4X game for you.

6. Crusader Kings 3

Crusader Kings is almost a sub-genre in itself, as it intervenes the RPG theme with the 4X games genre.

It is a medieval ruler simulator that takes place over a long period of time. Hard work and excellent strategy of a future generation's ancestors could lead to eventual success in this game.

7. Shadow Empire

Shadow Empire does not offer impressive graphics or user interface. But it nails all of the other necessary aspects of a 4X game.

It is a 2D game that focuses on offering in-depth strategic options rather than graphical features. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world and warfare takes precedence in this one.

Shadow Empire is ideal for those in search of a challenging experience in a randomly generated world. It defines the traditional 4X genre without the modern advancements of gaming.

8. Civilization 6

Civilization 6 has been on the market for seven years now and it is still possibly the most popular 4X game available on PC. Known for appealing to a wide range of gamers, Civilization involves guiding your own nation from ruins to huge riches. Your nation is built from land you can transform into major cities by making skyscrapers and other significant architecture.

Added DLC content even offers realistic additions to the game such as global warming. Civilization has fantasy aspect, you must use strategy to solve real-world problems within your own fantasy nation.

9. Stellaris

Stellaris is certainly the leading title when it comes to space 4X games. It offers a galaxy filled with content, especially with added DLC content.

The aim of the Stellaris 4X game is essentially to take control of the galaxy. It is a turnless game, which means players can avoid the tedious wait for their opponent to make their move.

Stellaris may not be the most in-depth offering when it comes to 4X games, but it is a rare example of a 4X game that has been perfectly developed from top to bottom.

10. Old World

Old World is a modern take on the traditional 4X games of the past based on land terrain. The game does not last a significant amount of time, due to its 200 turn limit.

Old World offers a level of immersion that most other games don't. The characters you control have unique personalities and traits. This allows players to become much more connected to their empire than in most 4X games.

Here we have summarized the leading options when it comes to 4X games in 2023. The genre is constantly growing in popularity, and so developers continue to release more and more titles to meet the demand.

From simple turn-based HTML5 games to 4X offerings with modern graphics - there is something for everyone in this genre!