Turn-based strategy games offer a strategic playground unlike any other.

They take the thrill of competition and infuse it with meticulous planning, calculated risk-taking, and the sweet satisfaction of a well-executed plan.

Whether you crave building a sprawling empire across millennia or orchestrating tense battles on a tactical grid, there’s a turn-based strategy game out there waiting to enthrall you.

This list dives into the top 15 turn-based strategy games, highlighting their unique features and gameplay styles.

We’ll explore grand strategy titles that span vast stretches of history, tactical adventures that demand precision and quick thinking, online experiences where you can test your skills against human opponents, and even some fantastic free options to get you started.

Grand Strategy Games: Command Civilizations and Forge Empires

For those who crave the challenge of guiding a civilization from its humble beginnings to global domination, grand strategy games offer unmatched depth and complexity. These titles often encompass vast stretches of history, demanding players to master a range of skills from resource management and diplomacy to military strategy and technological advancement.

  1. Sid Meier’s Civilization Series: A true titan of the genre, Civilization has been captivating players for decades. The latest entry, Civilization VI, builds upon the series’ core 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) gameplay loop. You choose a leader and civilization, then embark on a journey through history, researching technologies, founding cities, and developing your culture. Each civilization offers unique advantages and playstyles, allowing for incredible replayability. Civilization VI boasts beautiful visuals, a captivating soundtrack, and a refined gameplay experience that continues to set the standard for the genre.
  2. Crusader Kings III: Developed by Paradox Interactive, Crusader Kings delves deep into the world of medieval dynasties and political intrigue. Instead of focusing on a single nation, you take control of a noble house, navigating the treacherous waters of court politics, religious conflicts, and dynastic expansion. Betroth your children for alliances, plot against rivals, and forge your own legend in a world brimming with historical detail and emergent storytelling. Crusader Kings III boasts unparalleled character customization and role-playing elements, making every playthrough a unique and enthralling experience.
  3. Stellaris: If your ambitions extend beyond the confines of our planet, then Stellaris is the game for you. This grand strategy title lets you take the helm of a fledgling spacefaring civilization, exploring the vast expanse of the galaxy, encountering alien civilizations, and forging your own galactic empire. Will you be a benevolent leader fostering diplomacy and trade, or a ruthless conqueror subduing all who oppose you? Stellaris offers a staggering amount of content, with a variety of unique alien races to encounter, technologies to research, and empires to build.
  4. Europa Universalis IV: Another gem from Paradox Interactive, Europa Universalis IV allows you to rewrite history as a nation during the early modern era (1444-1821). Manage your nation’s economy, build a formidable military, engage in diplomacy, and wage war to reshape the map of Europe and beyond. Europa Universalis IV is renowned for its historical depth and complexity, offering a steep learning curve but also incredible rewards for those who master its intricate systems.

Tactical Strategy Games: Mastermind Every Move

If you crave the thrill of meticulously planning your moves and executing them flawlessly, then tactical turn-based strategy games are your calling.

These titles typically involve smaller-scale battles, where positioning, unit composition, and tactical maneuvering play a crucial role in achieving victory.

  1. XCOM 2: Considered a modern classic, XCOM 2 throws you into a desperate struggle against a relentless alien occupation. You command a squad of elite soldiers, leading them on missions to sabotage alien facilities, rescue civilians, and ultimately liberate Earth. XCOM 2 is known for its punishing difficulty due to its reliance on random chance and permadeath for your soldiers. However, the satisfaction of overcoming insurmountable odds and executing a flawless tactical plan is unmatched.
  2. Battletech: Step into the cockpit of a giant BattleMech and unleash its devastating firepower in Battletech. This tactical combat game lets you customize your BattleMechs with a variety of weapons and equipment, then engage in turn-based battles against enemy forces. The game features a complex damage system that focuses on specific components, making every encounter a tactical puzzle to solve. Battletech also offers a rich single-player campaign steeped in the lore of the Battletech universe.
  3. Into the Breach: If you’re looking for a unique and challenging tactical experience, then Into the Breach is a must-play. This roguelike title throws you into a desperate fight against gigantic Kaiju like creatures known as the Vek. Battles unfold on small, minimalist grid maps, where your focus is on positioning and using your mech’s abilities cleverly to prevent civilian casualties and protect vital structures. Every move counts, forcing you to constantly adapt your strategies and think several steps ahead.
  4. Invisible Inc:┬áTrade brute force for stealth and deception in Invisible Inc., a turn-based tactics game with a stylish espionage theme. You control a team of elite spies infiltrating heavily guarded corporations, stealing sensitive data, and evading capture. Invisible Inc. emphasizes careful planning, resource management, and creative use of each agent’s unique abilities. Its procedurally generated levels and diverse agent roster offer plenty of replay value.

Online Strategy Games: Test Your Skills Against the World

Online strategy games allow you to pit your wits against players worldwide and experience the dynamic thrill of human competition. They often feature persistent worlds, ever-evolving scenarios, and opportunities for both cooperation and ruthless rivalry.

  1. Age of Empires IV: This beloved real-time strategy (RTS) series has ventured into turn-based territory with Age of Empires IV, offering a compelling strategic experience with a strong focus on historical accuracy and authenticity. Lead one of several iconic civilizations across the ages, manage your economy, build mighty armies, and engage in massive battles against human opponents. Age of Empires IV features detailed unit models, beautifully rendered medieval landscapes, and an engaging campaign mode.
  2. Northgard: Inspired by Norse mythology, Northgard tasks you with establishing a thriving Viking settlement on a newly discovered continent. Manage resources, train warriors, explore uncharted territories, and defend your village from rival clans and mythical creatures. Northgard blends elements of city-building, survival, and tactical combat into a uniquely engaging experience. Its charming visuals and seasonal mechanics add further depth and challenge.
  3. Total War: Warhammer III: If your heart yearns for epic fantasy battles on a massive scale, then the Total War: Warhammer trilogy offers an unparalleled experience. The latest installment, Warhammer III, brings together the factions of the Warhammer Fantasy world in a climactic clash for dominance. Command legions of monstrous creatures, towering war machines, and legendary heroes, deploying your troops strategically and employing devastating magic in battles of truly awe-inspiring scope.
  4. Master of Orion 2: A true legend of the 4X genre, Master of Orion 2 has been revitalized with modern visuals and updated mechanics. Explore the galaxy, colonize planets, research new technologies, and build a vast space empire in this classic turn-based strategy game. Engage in diplomatic negotiations or wage interstellar wars as you strive for dominance among the stars. Master of Orion 2 remains a timeless classic offering a deep and rewarding strategy experience.

Free Strategy Games: Start Strategizing Without Spending a Dime

Sometimes you feel the itch to build an empire or command an army on a whim. Thankfully, several excellent free options let you dive into the strategic depths without breaking the bank. These games offer a surprising amount of content and gameplay, and might even become your new long-term favorites.

  1. Freeciv: Inspired by the Civilization series, Freeciv offers a polished and expansive 4X experience completely free of charge. Choose a civilization, explore a procedurally generated world, develop your cities, research technologies, and engage in diplomacy or warfare with rivals. Freeciv has been continuously updated and improved by its dedicated community for years, making it a robust and engaging option for budget-conscious strategists.
  2. OpenTTD: If you have fond memories of the classic tycoon game Transport Tycoon Deluxe, then OpenTTD is a dream come true. This fan-made open-source project recreates the original game and expands upon it with loads of new features, improvements, and quality-of-life enhancements. Build a sprawling transportation empire, manage trains, airplanes, ships, and trucks, and create complex networks of routes and infrastructure.
  3. Battle for Wesnoth: A love letter to retro turn-based strategy, Battle for Wesnoth delivers charming pixel art visuals, a vast array of unique units and factions, and a rich world of fantasy lore. Engage in tactical battles, embark on epic campaigns, and explore the game’s extensive selection of user-created content for nearly endless hours of strategic fun.

Let the Games Begin!

The world of turn-based strategy is endlessly expansive, waiting to be explored. Whether you dream of forging empires from the dawn of humankind, dueling with mechs, battling alien hordes, or even just building efficient train networks, there’s a game out there to captivate your mind and challenge your intellect.