Ciao a tutti. Today’s list is somewhat different. Rather than search through stores like Steam, this time I’ll use a dedicated game ranking website as my guide. It should be interesting to eventually look at a few such platforms; see where they agree and where they don’t. In addition, this’ll also let us present to our readers somewhat more detailed lists than on these rating-based websites. I’ll start with Ranker, which specializes in making top 10s of everything on Earth – including turn-based strategies. We’ve looked through it, removed the more RPG-like Fallout series – and the result is this top 10 list.
We’ll start at number 10 and make our way down to number 1. After that, it’s up to you to let me know what you think about this ranking – and what’s your Top 10. Also, if you’re interested in our writer’s personal opinions, here’s VeryLowKi’s list of the best strategies and here’s Amwald’s 4x Top 10. Anyway, let’s go!
Top 10 Turn-Based Strategies, according to Ranker
10. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
While Sid Meier’s Civilization needs no introduction, not everyone may have had the chance to try its spinoff – Alpha Centauri. As any Civ player knows, a Science Victory occurs when you send a crewed spaceship to another star system. In Alpha Centauri, the players get to see what happens next.
The game offers classic 4X gameplay with a sci-fi twist, featuring powerful technology and unit modification. 2014s Civilization: Beyond Earth tried to recapture its magic in a new exoplanet setting. Unfortunately, it didn’t resonate with players quite as much as this 1999 classic.
9. Medieval II: Total War: Kingdoms
The Middle Ages are a natural setting for the Total War series. These were the times of bloody battles, long campaigns, and cutthroat diplomacy. Medieval II: Total War features some of the best recreations of this period’s combat. It got even better with the Kingdoms expansion, which added new factions, units, agents, and campaigns to fight through.
Taking a page from Age Of Empires II playbook, Kingdoms also includes as playable factions the forces of pre-Columbian America. The result is a sandbox full of “what-if” scenarios, unmatched until the rise of the Crusader Kings franchise. Maybe it’s time for Creative Assembly to revisit the Medieval Period?
8. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
No discussion of turn-based strategies would be complete without mentioning XCOM. The gold standard in tactical battles, every game in the genre will find itself compared to it at some point. Here, players will write their own stories, beyond the main narrative, as their squad fight a global alien invasion.
XCOM is also famous – or infamous – for its unforgiving combat that seems to take the laws of probabilities into its own hands. Thousands of players have questioned everything they know about statistics after watching an agent die to a headshot that had less than a one-percent hit chance. Don’t let that scare you, though – the difficulty is part of the XCOM experience that keeps fans coming back for more.
7. Civilization II
Civilization II was built on the original’s success, aiming to be the ultimate 4X sandbox at the time. It arguably grants more freedom than any Civ before or since – and for many players winning takes a back seat to just doing cool stuff. It even has a Cheat Menu right on the main interface! According to Sid Meier’s memoir, he was personally opposed to the idea – but relented when he saw just how much the players enjoyed messing around with it.
While its successors boast better graphics and more balanced gameplay, firing up Civilization II every now and then – just to see what happens – can be a real treat. Perhaps more than any other game in the series, it encourages players to “find the fun” and make all of human history their playground.
6. Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword
Beyond The Sword was the final expansion for Civilization IV. Strangely, but it did manage to somehow improve that already-great project. With a focus on the late game, it lets players found corporations, improve the economy and then pressure their rivals. There’s even an option to start at a later period – jumping right into these new mechanics.
Beyond The Sword also features new diplomacy options, including the first Religious Victory. Although, technically, it’s just a Diplomatic Victory achieved by uniting the world under a single faith, with you as World Leader. This expansion was the last release in the old Civ style, and was a fitting end to the great era.
5. Total War: Rome
The Romans had one of the largest, most influential empires of all time, conquered and kept through military might. Rome: Total War lets players serve or resist the Eternal City with the series’ trademark strategic map and large-scale battles. From the Punic Wars to Caesar’s campaigns, the rise of Rome has never looked so good.
The Remastered Edition includes all the content from the original and then some. So, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of earning your triumphal procession, this is a great way to start your journey. Just be sure to watch out for disgruntled senators on the Ides of March…
4. Civilization V
Civilization V took the series in a bold new direction, completely overhauling the way Civ had played up to that point. The hex-based map together with battle mechanics like ranged attacks and hit points turned combat into a much more tactical affair. At the same time, Civic Trees provided unprecedented control over the empire’s growth and culture.
Widely considered the best game in the series, Civilization V did everything right. Its successor, however, took a more experimental approach, trying new mechanics and game modes with varying degrees of success. If Civilization VII can take the best parts of Civ V and Civ VI, it could definitely find itself at the top of a future version of this list.
3. Medieval II: Total War
The fact that Ranker lists both the base Medieval II: Total War and its expansion in its top ten speaks volumes about the game’s fame. There’s just something about knightly charges and swirling melee that captures the imagination in a way no other form of combat does. However brutal and bloody the actual events might’ve been, we can’t take our eyes off the romanticized retellings.
Like Rome, Medieval II also has a Definitive Edition – and it’s a must-have for new and returning players. There’s no better way to see the fields of Agincourt or Jaffa come to life.
2. XCOM: Enemy Within
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was fantastic. The Enemy Within expansion, however, has perfected it. It added just the right amount of options and challenges, without breaking or overshadowing the core game. With new enemies, weapons, and even an additional resource, Enemy Within gives players plenty of reasons to return to XCOM for more alien-blasting fun.
XCOM 2 was also fantastic, but Enemy Within is seen as the pinnacle of the series – at least for the time being. If you’re looking for the ultimate turn-based tactical experience, this is it.
1. Heroes of Might and Magic III
It’s not surprising to see such a legendary title at the top of Ranker‘s turn-based strategies’ list. Heroes of Might and Magic III was beloved in its day, and it still has an active fan base more than twenty years on. While it does suffer from balance issues – something that’s always been true of the series – the game is still so engaging and fun that players truly can’t get enough.
Whether you are trying to restore the Kingdom of Erathia in the grand campaign, or are just conquering a single map, Heroes III is an experience unlike any other. If you haven’t played it, give it a try. This game is one of the all-time greats – not just in terms of strategy games, but of video games in general.
Let me know what you think about Ranker’s Top 10 Strategy Games in the comments below. Ciao!