Top 10 Historical Strategy Games

VOICE OVER: Dan Paradis
Script written by Sasha Erfanian

Strategy is more fun when there's history to back it up! From the beaches of Normandy, the sack of Rome and even the dawn of civilization, join as we check out the Top 10 Historical Strategy Games.

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Top 10 Historical Strategy Games

While most gamers like to play as an undefeatable army of one, others prefer to make like Julius Caesar and lead armies of thousands to glory. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 historical strategy video games.

For this list, we’ll be looking at games that will unleash your inner Napoleon as you spend dozens of hours conquering the world one puny city-state at a time. This sadly precludes games with fantastical elements but what these games lack in magic and monsters, they make up for in devotion to historically-accurate mayhem.

#10: “Castles II: Siege and Conquest” (1992)

Coming out for Macs way, way back in 1992, Castles II: Siege and Conquest is the oldest entry on our list, but its surprisingly refined gameplay has aged like fine wine. Castles 2 was highly robust for its era, as it let players take control of one of five factions during the Hundred Years war and use diplomacy, economics, and warfare to support their bid for kingship. True to its name, the game featured customizable castles that would keep your land safe from peasant revolts as well as invading armies. The bigger they were, the less you had to worry about them falling.

#9: “Battlestations: Pacific” (2009)

Sequel to 2007's Battlestations: Midway, Pacific allows you to take control of and switch between warships, submarines, and fighter planes in massive sea battles as the American and Japanese navies battle for control of the Pacific ocean. While Midway’s single-player campaign focused on the American war effort, Pacific switches things over to the Japanese side of things and even lets you take command of the attack on Pearl Harbor. If committing one of the greatest tragedies to ever occur on American soil makes you uncomfortable, Pacific also features eight-person multiplayer matches where you can decimate your friends in more than one hundred historically-accurate vehicles.

#8: “Europa Universalis IV” (2013)
One of the deepest grand strategy games out there, EU4 makes Civ look like Clash of Clans. Whether you want to rule the world with your crushing military might, shrewd diplomacy, or economic acumen, EU4 gives you the tools to make any path to victory the right one. Also unlike the Civilization series, EU4 takes place in real-time. So if you’re the sort who likes to spend your sweet time admiring the vast dominion of your realm, you might want to hotkey the pause button. While complex, the game is much more inviting than its predecessors with smart design decisions that will let you tweak every aspect of your empire without getting bogged down in too many menus.

#7: “Lords of the Realm” (1994)

One of the precursors to the RTS genre that blew up in the ‘90s, Lords of the Realm is a turn-based strategy game where you build your kingdom on a campaign map before leading your blurry 8-bit knights into real-time battles. In many ways, it resembles a primitive Total War game right down to the random events that will cripple your food supply and leave your poor, starving peasants twisting in the wind. The game spawned numerous expansion packs and sequels, though there hasn’t been a new one since 2004’s Lords of the Realm III.

#6: “Crusader Kings II” (2012)

If there’s one thing that Game of Thrones has taught us, it’s that destroying your enemies with guile and manipulation can be just as satisfying as running them through with a sword. Crusader Kings 2 is a 4x game from Paradox Interactive that lets you unleash your inner Lannister as you guide the destiny of a Medieval dynasty using treachery, assassination, and even diplomacy to become the most powerful family in the realm. However, before you can get around to poisoning nobles and seducing siblings for the sake of political advancement, you have to make it over CK2’s punishing difficulty curve and impenetrable menus. But, if you’re willing to put in the work, no other game makes it feel so good to be bad.

#5: “Rise of Nations” (2003)

Most real-time strategy games tend to focus on a specific period in history, such as the Middle Ages or the Ancient World. Where Rise of Nations differs, however, is that it lets you battle it out in every era you can imagine all in the same match. In Rise, if you don’t eat up territory or advance technologically fast enough, you could find yourself trying to use spears and arrows against tanks and bi-planes. Created by game designer Brian Reynolds, who had previously worked on the Civilization series, Rise had a lot more depth in its economy and diplomacy systems than other RTSs at the time, including a focus on expanding your borders so your units don’t take attrition on enemy soil.

#4: “Company of Heroes” (2006)

While there are plenty of first-person shooters that let you get into the grit and mayhem of World War 2, there are significantly fewer games that let you take control of the action from a top-down perspective and belt out orders like General Patton. But that’s okay, because we have the Company of Heroes series to help us get our fix of tight, tactical combat and historically accurate, WW2-era strategy. In addition to taking control of infantry battalions and tank divisions, Company of Heroes also let players call in airstrikes, laydown artillery bombardment and capture strategic points like machine gun emplacements and AA guns.

#3: “Rome: Total War” (2004)

Ah Rome, home of the Vatican, Fountain of Trevi and birthplace to one of history’s single most successful empires. In Rome: Total War, the third game in the Total War franchise, players got the chance to take control of one the Republic’s feuding families and lead their indefatigable legions to glory against barbarians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and anyone else fool enough to question the might of Rome. Alternatively, you could chose to take control of one of those unique barbarian, Greek, or Near-Eastern factions and make the Eternal City a footnote in world history.

#2: “Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings” (1999)

The second game in the beloved Age of Empires series, AOE 2: Age of Kings flashed things forward a few hundred years from the original game’s Bronze Age setting to Medieval Times. Featuring a plethora of new units from around the world, including mounted knights, Aztec Jaguar Warriors, and even katana-wielding samurai, each faction had a unique flavor that made for some spectacular engagements on the field of honour. AOE 2 also had wide variety in its single-player campaigns that let you follow in the footsteps of famous historical figures like Joan of Arc and Genghis Khan, to less well-known warriors like El Cid and Frederick Barbarossa. Heck, the tutorial even let you play as Braveheart himself, William Wallace.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“American Conquest” (2003)

“March of the Eagles” (2013)

#1. “Civilization V” (2010)

Sid Meier’s Civilization games pioneered the 4x genre of games by giving players options to win beyond just crushing all opposition. Explore, expand, exploit or, yes, exterminate as you see fit with your choice of civilization and leader. While Civilization IV was one of the deepest games in the series, V both simplifies and innovates the formula pioneered by its predecessors to create one of the most refined strategy experiences ever made. It even changed the ground the series stood on by replacing the traditional square grid with a hexagonal one. With a total of 43 civilizations including the ones from DLC and expansion packs, few games offer as much choice, flexibility, and fun as Civilization V.

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Hegemony Gold: Wars of Ancient Greece, expanded from award-winning Hegemony: Philip of Macedon (2010), should definitely be counted in on one of the lower ranks.