Top 5 Strategy Games Every PC Gamer Should Play


Above: Master of Orion 2′s Antarans are not interested in shaking hands.

In an age when even old-school FPS gurus like iD’s John Carmack are defecting to consoles, you can still be sure of one thing: strategy gaming has ever been and will always be the province of PC’s. Whether it’s due to the more cerebral, measured gameplay, or — more likely — the crucial importance of mouse controls, the jump to other platforms is rarely successful. Despite their large market share and stable, unchanging hardware, consoles struggle to sustain a pure strategy game.

PC’s, on the other hand, produce a staggering wealth of different strategy offerings. 2011 kicked off with aplomb thanks to Total War: Shogun II (see our review), and games like Stronghold 3 seem certain to enliven the Fall. The present, however, can hardly compete with the enticements of the past.

Because their emphasis is on gameplay, and not on visual splendor, strategy games have a unique longevity. The 90′s, moreover, with their more PC-centric focus, produced a wealth of classic titles. Some of them became household names: Civilization, Starcraft, Command & Conquer. Others faded into disregard or even relative obscurity — a trend which this article intends to reverse. What follows is a list of five strategy titles of the highest quality. It’s not intended to be a definitive, or even ordered ranking — simply a celebration of great games. Anyone who likes strategy and owns a PC should do himself a favor and play the games on this list, starting with…

5. Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines

Despite being the game on this list that least resembles traditional strategy, Pyro Studios’ Commandos was a triumph of late-nineties isometric game design. With complete control over the tactics and actions of a team of up to six commandos, players accomplish a variety of sabotage-related tasks by carefully making their way through beautifully rendered World War II locations. Snappy voice acting gives personality to characters like the aristocratic “Duke,” the team’s sniper, or “Fins,” the knife-throwing, scuba-diving, inflatable-boat-rowing marine.

The game also pays clever homage to movie classics like The Dirty Dozen and The Guns of Navaronne. What really makes it a great strategy title, however, is the sheer variety of possible tactical approaches to each level. Players have to carefully monitor guard patrol routes and cones of vision, picking Nazis off and hiding the bodies from their comrades, but they decide which commandos to use and how to use them.

4. Homeworld

Though it features both an engrossing story and well-designed RTS gameplay, Homeworld’s immediate impact is made through its breathtaking visuals. Set amidst an ocean of stars and elegant, sunset-hued gas clouds, Relic Entertainment’s space-travelling strategy title also introduced combat that took place in fully three dimensions, creating a sharp contrast to other RTS’ flat action. This innovation made sense for the setting, but ordering units around was anything but intuitive. Thankfully, Relic provided an excellent tutorial, which gets players up and running as they learn to wage futuristic war. Set to an ethereal, ambient soundtrack, Homeworld was a joy when it released in 1999 and is no less entertaining today.

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4 Comments on Top 5 Strategy Games Every PC Gamer Should Play

raptr1244

On October 12, 2011 at 2:50 am

Rly? Where’s Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour!!! :/

Fletcher

On October 12, 2011 at 5:18 am

I have to say I love seeing Alpha Centauri on this list, I loved that game so much.

JosephPS3 Dead State

On October 12, 2011 at 6:01 am

Top strategy games in my opinion: Civilization, Masters of Orion, and Starcraft.

BUT if you want to talk about excellent obscure strategy games then look no further than:

ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS XI for PC

Most North American players never gave this game a try. Its rich in story, character, strategy, and action. Its like you are a ruler in a living breathing empire. Whats best about this game is that every character matter regardless of stats. Previously you’d only look for characters with highest stats in War, Pol, Int, Chr etc but this game includes Skills. Each character has one unique skill that makes even a low stats character valuable. And you can combine 3 characters into a unit making for interesting strategy.

You can also customize your own 255 characters with stats and choose your own unique stats. Its like creating your own army and then unleasing them in the game for conquest. This is a turn based game and like civilization you can play for hours without noticing that you haven’t eaten and slept for 2 days. The game is really cheap making it an amazing value.

DERKA

On October 12, 2011 at 6:23 am

Remove commandos and put in Ground Control 1 pls