Real-time strategy games are some of the most important foundations of modern gaming. The best ones helped popularize online competitions and tournaments, brought gaming to the masses, and even served as the basis for MOBAs.
Though they might no longer remain on the throne as the most visible titles around, RTS games are still widely played and loved by both veterans and newcomers.
Check out below the 10 best RTS games of all time, and a couple to look forward to.
While the original Age of Empires was a hit, and the fourth entry arrived recently, it's AOE 2 that many remember as one of the best RTS games of all time. Now enjoying further updates and patches with the release of Definitive Edition, AOE 2 is still going strong.
Whether enjoying 1v1 or as experiments to see which classic civilization would come out on top in combat, AOE 2 still holds up.
The Brood War expansion for the original StarCraft helped put RTS games on the map. Brood War popularized RTS games and eSports in Korea, which helped set the standard for the mainstream international competitions held today. With three balanced races to choose from, classic RTS games don’t get much better than this.
One classic and maybe even an obvious choice as one of the most popular games of 2023 is definitely, the absolute classic - Warcraft 3. Warcraft 3 mods gave birth to the MOBA genre, and the original title rereleased still finds a place as one of the most popular RTS games available today. It's not just famous for early illustrations of gamer rage, the quality of competition in WC3 constantly keeps players on the edge of their seats.
Command & Conquer offered many breakout RTS games, and it’s Red Alert 2 that (debatably) reigns supreme. Set in an alternative past, Red Alert 2 faces the Soviets and Allies against each other in a bitter war of science, super weapons, and hammy acting. We’re still hoping for a rerelease of this one.
Some of the best experiences in social gaming come from Warhammer, and Dawn of War 2 builds on this legacy in the RTS games space. The lore might be convoluted and confusing, but if you enjoy larger men and aliens feeding the war machine in an endless battle, Dawn of War 2 is an amazing experience.
Coming back to reality, Company of Heroes 2 takes place in WW2 with a focus on the Eastern Front. RTS games rarely focus on more historically reverential battles, and COH2 stands out in this regard. There’s also a sequel available in Company of Heroes 3, but many players think COH2 offers a superior experience.
Our first single-player focused entry of the RTS games on this list is They Are Billions, a survival RTS where the player defends against an encroaching zombie horde.
This game is a real challenge as the player builds their base and prepares for the eventual enormous invasion. They might not actually be billions, but it sure feels like it.
Star Wars enjoys success in many gaming genres and RTS games are no different. Take up classic units like the AT-AT and speeder bike in Empire at War as you fight for the dominance of the Empire or the resistance of the Rebels.
The standout of the free online strategy games we can't overlook has to be Blood of Steel. This game adopts a more mythological bend than something like Age of Empires, emphasizing heroes and formations to break your opponent's walls and their wills.
Taking a page from StarCraft's book and updating it with gorgeous cartoon graphics, Iron Marines is a fantastic experience and one of the best iOS games of 2023. Feeling a lot like a strategic Metal Slug, Iron Marines shows that RTS games have what it takes to succeed in a competitive modern multiplatform environment.
Where We Are Billions laid the path, Age of Darkness: Final Stand looks to expand the formula. Focusing on broader horror elements, this upcoming title appears to have all the nail-biting tension of its inspiration, with a greater focus on fantasy heroes. We can't wait to get our hands on Age of Darkness: Final Stand, even if the first ten or so runs end in crushing failure.
The Homeworld series of RTS games is one of the popular titles to take the genre to space, but it's been a long time since the last entry. Launching 21 years after Homeworld 2, the third entry has a lot to live up to, but early impressions are keeping hopes high. The developer has some experience with spinoffs for Homeworld, and some other great titles under its belt too, so this is encouraging.
RTS games are those where the player makes strategic decisions for their character or units in real time. RTS games are famous for their suitability for multiplayer competition, though they can be single-player titles too.
The difference between RTS and RTT is debated and a little nebulous, but the general idea is that RTS games include more indirect base building and resource gathering. RTT games focus more on the direct action of positioning and combat.
RTS games let players make their moves simultaneously until one player is defeated. TBS, or turn-based strategy games, have players make their moves in turns. As in chess, one player moves in TBS games, then the other player responds.