Top 10 Grim-Dark Turn-Based RPGs & Strategy Games

Written by Harry Ted Sprinks

Top 10 Grim-Dark RPGs And Strategy Games

Exploring the dark, twisted worlds of grim-dark PC RPGs and strategy games.

The term “Grim-dark” can be traced back to the original release of Warhammer 40,000 and its tagline: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” This sub-genre often involves a dark and twisted setting and tone, laced with grey morality and dystopian themes.

Grim-dark is a wildly popular sub-genre, thanks in large part to Warhammer 40,000, and there are many great games that fit its description. From deep, open-world sandbox RPGs such as Battle Brothers, to the sadistic dungeon-crawler Darkest Dungeon, these are just a few examples of turn-based games that take place in grim-dark worlds.

The Last Spell

The Last Spell

This combination of rogue-lite and base defense takes place in a war-torn, plague-ridden world ravaged by powerful magic. Players are tasked with building a bastion and defending it from the Clawers, Undead-like creatures that will gladly tear into anything that gets in their way.

The Last Spell doesn’t feature much of a narrative outside of its introduction, but the game’s setting and tone are certainly grim-dark. The gameplay is also unique, combining base defense with tactical turn-based combat and a rogue-lite structure. Its rogue-lite structure also makes it one of the more forgiving games on this list, allowing players to grow stronger over time.

Battle Brothers

Battle Brothers

This tactical sandbox RPG tasks players with leading and managing their very own mercenary company in a low-fantasy, grim-dark world. Players will have to contend with men and monsters alike, caring for their company’s needs and wants in-between contracts.

Battle Brothers is a brutally unforgiving game, and certainly not for everyone. However, the game does feature customizable difficulty settings for those who find it too harsh. Battle Brothers simple gameplay loop is supported by strong RPG mechanics that offer heaps of customization for party members, allowing players to build all manner of mercenaries. This level of customization dramatically boosts the depth and replay value of Battle Brothers, making it the perfect choice for players looking for a game to sink hours into.


Wartales Strategy RPG

Similarly to games such as Battles Brothers, this open-world sandbox RPG puts players in command of a mercenary company in a grim-dark medieval world. Throughout the game, players will seek out and complete missions, participating in brutal turn-based combat and recruiting new party members along the way.

Unlike Battle Brothers, Wartales features a 3D aesthetic and a grid-based combat system. Furthermore, Wartales sets itself apart with a crafting system and even options for online co-operative play.

Tainted Grail: Conquest

Tainted Grail Conquest

This story-driven combination of rogue-like and RPG features a story mode and rogue-like mode alike. Tainted Grail is a turn-based card game supported by deck-building and RPG mechanics. The game also features nine unique classes, adding a lot of replay value.

Tainted Grail’s world is extremely Arthurian, with a dark and twisted spin. The game’s story is particularly strong, and the atmosphere is boosted by well-written dialogue and talented voice acting.

King Arthur: Knight’s Tale

King Arthur Top Strategy Games of 2022

This grim-dark Arthurian RPG adventure features tactical turn-based combat and a tangible atmosphere. The setting is brought to life by an inspired take on Arthurian legend, talented voice actors, and competent visuals.

King Arthur’s combat is the standard strategy RPG affair, featuring a plethora of active abilities, party members, and an action-point system. However, this combat is well-crafted, with a focus on threat assessment and careful positioning. King Arthur: Knight’s Tale can be difficult, but it’s an adventure worth having for fans of Arthurian legends and strategy RPGs alike.

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics

This turn-based take on the classic grim-dark franchise sees players blasting through the Locust and taking them out with chainsaws in gory, tactical combat. Gears Tactics features a fairly basic gameplay loop, a lack of mission variety, and a relatively plain story. However, its combat is so satisfying that it’s worth a try for any fan of the Gears series and turn-based combat alike.

Gears Tactics features a variety of classes, each with their own skill tree. Although there’s at least a handful of boring upgrades, these skill trees are mostly populated with powerful, synergistic skills. Each class in Gears Tactics feels tremendously unique, and the way that each of them can be played off each other is what makes the combat so rewarding.

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus

Mechanicus Warhammer

Given that Warhammer 40,000 is (arguably) the origin of the grim-dark subgenre, it’s no surprise that there is an abundance of grim-dark Warhammer 40,000 games. Furthermore, likely due to the fact that Warhammer games are adapted from the tabletop, many of them are turn-based.

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is just one example of a strong turn-based experience in the grim-dark universe of Warhammer 40,000. The game puts players in control of a team of Adeptus Mechanicus, more specifically, the Tech Priests. These Tech Priests can be augmented in a variety of ways to create a unique squad of killing machines as players progress through the campaign.

Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon

This dark and twisted turn-based RPG draws heavily on Lovecraftian horror and features themes of the occult. The game’s stark, hand-drawn art style, ominous Narration, and harsh gameplay all add to its grim-dark tone and setting.

Darkest Dungeon can be a brutal game featuring a unique stress mechanic. Players’ party members slowly go nuts over a mission, so to prevent this, players must send them to gambling dens, pubs, and churches to regain their spirits between missions. Overall, Darkest Dungeon is a dungeon crawler that’s grim-dark not only in its setting but also in its gameplay.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader

Rogue Trader CRPG

This narrative-driven, turn-based RPG from Owlcat Games (the developers of Pathfinder: Wrath Of The Righteous) sees players exploring the universe of Warhammer 40,000 as a Rogue Trader, a powerful Captain of their very own ship.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is extremely faithful to its source material and, as such, is incredibly grim-dark. The game is packed with deep wells of lore, all tied together with a well-written narrative. It’s clear that the RPG mechanics and story are a focus of Rogue Trader, but the combat is both serviceable and rewarding to engage in.


Quasimorph RPG

Although Quasimorph is in Early Access at the time of writing, it’s already shaping up to be a tremendously promising turn-based extraction shooter. Quasimorph is a unique experience, blending elements of traditional turn-based rogue-likes, extraction shooters, and RPGs alike.

Quasimorph takes place in a grim-dark future in which corporations rule over space and a mysterious disease is turning people into horrendous creatures. Within this world, players take on the role of a mercenary fighting for the highest bidder in tactical turn-based combat. Among other things, the game features a detailed wound system, a cover system, and inventory/resource management.

Quasimorph is a harsh and unforgiving experience, and its gameplay constantly reminds the player that they’re operating in a dark and twisted world. Monsters burst from enemy corpses, corporations control society, and players may even have to resort to cannibalism to prevent starving to death deep in the belly of a dark facility. It’s this gritty, brutal gameplay that elevates Quasimorph’s grim-dark setting and makes it worth more than a passing glance.


While not every game on this list is a truly immersive and fleshed-out grim-dark experience, each of them feature a strong setting and tone that evokes that dark, dystopian atmosphere. Many of the more narrative-driven games on this list excel with their dark themes and detailed worlds, but even the extraction shooter, Quasimorph, does a remarkable job of making its world feel grim-dark without much of a narrative.

All of these games are worth trying out, especially for fans of the grim-dark sub-genre, but those looking for the grittiest experiences should look no further than Darkest Dungeon, Rogue Trader, and Quasimorph.

If there’s a great turn-based game in the grim-dark sub-genre that didn’t make the list, be sure to let us know on Discord, Twitter, and on our YouTube channel.


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Harry Ted Sprinks

With a deep love for strategy games that began when he first played Stronghold as a kid on his parents’ home computer and a passion for linear narrative games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and old-school shooters like Blood and DOOM, Harry loves video games of all shapes and sizes. His knowledge of games new and old is broad, but Harry’s biggest passion is indie games, which he loves to champion in his writing. Harry’s favorite games include old-school rogue-likes like Caves Of Qud, older RTS titles such as Red Alert 3, modern classics like Halo 3, and survival-horror games like Resident Evil. When he isn’t writing or playing games, Harry can likely be found developing small games of his own or making music. Although Harry enjoys the occasional AAA game, his attention is primarily focused on representing indie games.