In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at the Command & Conquer franchise and taking a stab at what we think are the best Command & Conquer games of all time. Whether you’re an old-school strategist who’s been commanding armies since the ’90s or a new recruit just discovering the epic saga of GDI and Brotherhood of Nod, there’s no denying the impact this series has had on the RTS landscape. Like the monumental battles between the forces of good and evil on the big screen, Command & Conquer has given us countless showdowns to remember. So, gear up as we dive into the nostalgia tank and rank the best Command & Conquer games that left an enduring mark on gaming history!
Are you looking to dive into this legendary series (or revisit it after many moons)? You can’t go wrong with one of these six games.
We ranked the games below from great to good, starting out with what we think is the very best Command & Conquer game.
#1 Command & Conquer (Tiberian Dawn)
Release year: 1995
Ah, the original Command & Conquer! Released in the golden era of the ’90s, this gem didn’t just set the bar for RTS games. We know, we know. The original game as pick #1. How basic.. How dull! Perhaps we hit a mine during our nostalgia trip down memory lane. But bear with us. As we were saying, it didn’t just set the bar, it was the bar. Much like that first groundbreaking Star Wars film or the debut album of an iconic rock band, the original C&C (along with another little Westwood Studios title by the name of Dune) broke open the path for other RTS games, nay, the strategy genre itself to follow. It had a raw, innovative energy that later titles could only aspire to match. The rivalry between The Brotherhood of Nod and the Global Defense Initiative wasn’t just another storyline. It was a clash of ideologies, a dance of power archetypes that resonated with many of us.
The game’s simplicity was its charm. There were no over-complicated tech trees or convoluted objectives—just pure, undiluted strategy and sweet, swift clicking. Remember that adrenaline rush when hearing “Reinforcements have arrived!”? Or the tension of sneaking an engineer into an enemy base, praying they wouldn’t get spotted? It’s moments like these, unfiltered and intense, that modern sequels often overshadow with flashy graphics and intricate mechanics.
The immersion factor was unlike anything players had seen before. C&C didn’t just tell a story; it placed you at the epicenter. Through its clever use of full-motion video (FMV) cutscenes, players felt they were part of a larger narrative, a cog in a grand war machine. The briefings made you feel like a commander, directly responsible for the outcome of each mission. In an era where cutscenes were often rudimentary (not too mention pixelated), these FMV sequences were a breath of fresh air.
The gameplay balance was another stroke of genius. In many missions and particularly on hard difficulty, the duality of GDI’s brute strength versus Nod’s guerrilla tactics presented a chess-like dilemma where every decision, every unit, and every structure mattered. This wasn’t a game where one could mindlessly amass their favorite unit and steamroll the opponent. It required genuine strategy. Players had to think about resource management, terrain advantage, and even the fog of war, introducing layers of depth that would become staples in future RTS titles. The dismay of accidentally running a group of GDI infantry by a Nod flamethrower, the buzzing sound of an Obelisk of Light warming up, an enemy harvester running hog wild through your troops—these were just a few of the indelible moments within Command and Conquer.
The multiplayer experience was another groundbreaking element with the original DOS supporting up to four players in multiplayer. Suddenly, players weren’t just pitting their wits against the computer/scripting by the developers; they were challenging real, human opponents. This brought unpredictability, competitiveness, and a social aspect to the RTS scene. Players developed strategies, formed rivalries, and the game’s community thrived, becoming a precursor to the eSports phenomenon we see today. Westwood Studios actually included two CD-ROM games in every game box so you and your friends could have at each other. Yes indeed, you had to make the dreaded gauntlet run to a physical store and actually buy a box (a rather large one at the time) if you wanted to play computer games in those days. The cool thing is some were chock full of goodies such a collectibles; some game boxes are now even highly coveted such as the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun Platinum Edition featured further down this page.
And let’s not forget that legendary soundtrack. From the driving beats of “Act on Instinct” to the eerie suspense of “Radio,” the game’s music was the pulse of the battlefield. The original Command & Conquer had a soundscape that not only complemented the on-screen action but elevated it. It’ll surely have you chanting “I’m a mechanical man” before you know it. In the realm of RTS, this masterpiece didn’t just command, it conquered our hearts.
#2 Red Alert 2
Release year: 2000
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 was an ambitious follow-up that not only lives up to the original but, in nearly every way, surpasses it. Diving headfirst into the icy water of an alternative history where the Cold War heats up, the game brings to the table a mix of real-world tension and whimsical what-ifs, reminiscent of cult classic alternate history films. From psychic soldiers to squid-wielding navies, Red Alert 2 isn’t just a game—it’s an over-the-top cinematic extravaganza.
At the helm of this RTS spectacle is its impeccable balance. With the Allies and Soviets returning to the fray, each faction was reimagined and revamped, exuding personality in spades. The Soviets, with their brutish tanks and Tesla coils, felt like the lead antagonists in a Cold War epic. In contrast, the Allies, harnessing advanced tech and espionage, played out like the savvy heroes utilizing wits over raw power. Visually, Red Alert 2 painted a vibrant tapestry that was both familiar yet fantastically exaggerated. Its portrayal of locations like a besieged Washington D.C. or a Soviet-invaded New York, somehow all jazzed things up to great effect. Each map and every battlefield came to life in a way its predecessors never were quite able to achieve.
In an era where real-time strategy games grappled with interface complexities, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 emerged as a beacon of intuitive design. The game’s controls were as slick as they were responsive. Players could more easily direct vast armies, toggle between multiple units, and execute strategies with just a few clicks.
Beyond the mechanics and visuals, the game’s storytelling was a video game clinic in narrative engagement. The campy video cutscenes, interspersed with familiar actors and over-the-top performances, added layers of charm and character to the game’s plot. It was as if the player was both the director and the lead, guiding the story’s direction while being engrossed in its unfolding drama. And let’s not even talk about Tanya. In the pantheon of RTS games, Red Alert 2 stands tall, not just as a brilliant sequel but as a testament to what makes the Command & Conquer series so memorable.
#3 Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun
Release year: 1999
In the grand theater of real-time strategy, Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun glows brightly. It was more than just a continuation; it was a leap into a grittier future with a horror-like vibe that both fascinated and unnerved. With a setting that married post-apocalyptic landscapes with futuristic tech, the game presented a world where Tiberium’s ecological devastation wasn’t a mere plot point but a palpable, ever-encroaching threat. This narrative decision added layers to the game, making the Tiberium menace feel real and looming.
The game’s units and structures were both a visual treat and an inventive leap in game design. The signature GDI and Nod factions returned with a plethora of new toys, from the GDI’s hulking bipedal walkers to Nod’s subterranean vehicles. These additions brought fresh tactics and strategies to the table, ensuring players felt like they were always on the cutting edge of in-game warfare.
But what truly set Tiberian Sun apart was its rich atmosphere. Dynamic weather conditions weren’t just for show—they played integral roles in gameplay. An ion storm would quickly dampen your spirit and even wipe out an airforce if left unheeded. Every battle felt intense, orchestrated by the player against a backdrop that was both beautiful and hauntingly desolate.
By the way, in 2010, as a celebration of the series’ 15th anniversary, EA made “Tiberian Sun” and its expansion “Firestorm” available for free, introducing the classic to a new generation of gamers. You can play it now, if you please.
#4 Command & Conquer: Generals
Release year: 2003
Command & Conquer: Generals marked a significant departure from the traditional narratives of the series, embracing the intricate landscape of modern warfare. The game offered a fresh perspective, weaving players into the geopolitical tensions of three distinct factions: the technologically superior USA, China’s unmatched might and numbers, and the GLA’s crafty guerrilla warfare. This provided not just variety in aesthetics but a rich combination of strategic options and challenges.
One of the standout features was the innovative General’s Abilities system. As players progressed and honed their skills, they were rewarded with game-changing abilities and units, lending depth and complexity to the game’s tactical landscape. The unforgettable “Congratulations, General, you have been promoted!” became a rallying cry, signaling a player’s evolution on the battlefield.
Graphics and immersion were other areas where Generals truly shone. From the intricacies in unit animations to the realistic destruction physics and ambient battlefield sounds, the game set a new standard for RTS experiences. Every match felt alive, vivid, and pulsating with tension, drawing players into the world’s ongoing struggles.
Beyond the stunning visuals and compelling mechanics, Generals challenged players with decisions that had both strategic and ethical implications. The choice to harness civilian structures for advantage brought forth the moral complexities of warfare, adding another layer to the player’s decision-making process. With its robust AI and a compelling multiplayer platform, Generals stood out as a landmark in both the series and real-time strategy gaming.
#5 Red Alert
Release year: 1996
Cue the sirens and brace for an alternate reality ride—Command & Conquer: Red Alert burst onto the scene, delivering a heady mix of Cold War intrigue and explosive RTS action. Like the epic sequels in movie franchises that build on the original’s foundation yet carve their own iconic path (think ‘Empire Strikes Back’ after ‘A New Hope’), Red Alert managed to walk the fine line between honoring its predecessor and pioneering new ground. With a time-travel twist and a storyline that reimagined World War II, the game felt like the next thrilling chapter in a beloved book series, where every page-turn beckoned with surprise. While the original Command & Conquer laid the foundation, Red Alert built the monument.
Red Alert was one of the first games in the RTS genre to embrace the modding community. This ensured the game’s longevity, as countless mods emerged, tweaking gameplay or introducing entirely new scenarios. Additionally, the Skirmish mode, where players could battle AI opponents of varying difficulties, offered replay value beyond the campaign.
Even though it came out just a year after Command & Conquer, the units and structures of Red Alert brought an extra level of depth to the gameplay. Who could resist the sweet satisfaction of deploying a fleet of submarines from the Soviet’s naval arsenal, or experiencing the sheer awe of watching the Chronosphere teleport a battalion right into enemy territory? It was these innovations – including those delightfully cheeky Tesla Coils and absolutely metal Attack Dogs – that added layers of strategy, allowing for gameplay variation that felt fresh and exciting.
And the story, cutscenes, and music? Westwood Studios took some pages out of Hollywood’s book. The electric vibes of tracks like “Hell March” and “Crush” not only amped up the gameplay energy but became anthems in their own right. The storyline and video sequences didn’t slouch either. It was more than just a game; it was an experience now. Following Command & Conquer, and now with Red Alert, all signs pointed to the fact that the bridge over the gap between video games and blockbuster films was firmly under construction.
#6 Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
Release year: 2007
After a long hiatus following Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and its expansion Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars arrived like a blockbuster third act, blending both the nostalgic charm of the original titles and the allure of new, cutting-edge features. Set in a world grappling with the escalating Tiberium crisis, players are thrust into a volatile environment, where the struggle between GDI and Nod has reached fever pitch, only to be further complicated by the mysterious alien Scrin faction. The game further delved into the Tiberium universe’s lore, expanding on the effects of Tiberium on Earth—narratively satisfying experienced C&C players while engaging new ones.
The game’s visuals were a leap from the earlier titles with its upgraded SAGE graphics engine. Battlefields, teeming with Tiberium infestations, shimmered in eerie luminescence, while units and structures bore the weight and sheen of modern warfare machinery. Engagements between factions were thrilling. Explosions radiated with energy, the alien Scrin technology throbbed with an otherworldly glow, and the environment bore the scars of every skirmish, leaving players feeling every strike and counterstrike.
Tiberium Wars refined the gameplay mechanics, UI, and pace of the C&C series. It perfected the RTS formula. The game ramped up the pace, delivering fluid and fast-paced confrontations. Yet, amidst this chaos, C&C3 presented a sleek and intuitive user interface. Like the tech-laden dashboard of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, it provided players everything they needed without missing a beat. Efficient, responsive, and brilliantly designed, it ensured that commanders could focus on outmaneuvering foes rather than wrestling with controls.
Electronic Arts also continued the series’ tradition of supporting the modding community, releasing the game’s SDK shortly after its launch, spawning a vibrant mod landscape that lead to a plethora of custom content. Some mods have gained significant popularity and have themselves become a force within the C&C community. Examples include “Tiberium Essence” (which brought the game closer to the older Command & Conquer titles in terms of units and atmosphere) and “The Forgotten” (a mod that introduces a new faction based on the mutated humans affected by Tiberium).
With its combination of cinematic storytelling, jaw-dropping visuals, and refined gameplay, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars proudly carried the torch of its lineage, proving that the series still had plenty of aces up its sleeve.
How To Experience C&C Now: Bundles
Here are two great ways to enjoy C&C.
The Command & Conquer Remastered Collection is a stellar resurrection of the oldest games in the C&C franchise, giving both old fans and new players a chance to experience the titles that defined an era. This collection beautifully remasters the original Command & Conquer and Red Alert, along with three expansion packs, The Covert Operations, Counterstrike, and The Aftermath. It offers a rejuvenated visual experience with 4K support, a remastered soundtrack, and enhanced UI, all meticulously crafted to retain the classic feel while meeting modern gaming standards. Pro tip: swap between the classic and remastered graphics with a press of the space bar for a quick zap of nostalgia.
But it’s not just a visual upgrade. The collection comes packed with quality-of-life improvements that make gameplay smoother and more intuitive. Add to that, the inclusion of bonus FMV footage, a revamped multiplayer platform, and even the ability to toggle between legacy and remastered visuals in real-time. The Command & Conquer Remastered Collection isn’t just a nostalgic trip down memory lane—it’s a testament to how classic games can be reborn for a new generation while still honoring their roots.
The Ultimate Collection
If you’re looking to dive all the way into the C&C universe, or maybe you simply must collect them all, this is the package you want. Command & Conquer: The Ultimate Collection is a compilation of the Command & Conquer series, offering a vast collection of every game released up to its date of publication. Released in 2012 by Electronic Arts, this package was aimed at fans of the series as well as newcomers who wanted to experience the entirety of the Command & Conquer saga.
How do I get it? Download EA’s App first (sorry Valve fans this one isn’t available on Steam) and you’ll then have the liberty to buy 10 base games and 7 expansions for a surprisingly reasonable price of $19.99. By the way, EA’s App game distribution platform used to be dubbed Origin but that name was discontinued in October 2022 when the EA App launched.
Unfortunately, The Ultimate Collection does not include the Remastered Collection (which is available on Steam). If you want the games where it all began in lovely 4K, you’re going to have to shell out some extra dough.
The fun needn’t stop there, however. Be sure to check out https://cncnet.org/ for a wonderful array of community resources, online multiplayer action, and mods.
What’s Next for Command & Conquer Fans?
We don’t really recommend you keep an eye out for a further slurry on mobile games based on the C&C IP, but one interesting game that has grabbed our attention is Tempest Rising. Slipgate Ironworks, 3D Realms, and THQNordic have banded together to bring RTS fans some classic action with modern audiovisuals. The backdrop is a desolate Earth, where remnants of humanity vie for control and survival amidst the ruins of a world after nuclear war. From this post-apocalyptic setting rises the plant-like Tempest, an enigmatic energy source birthed in the planet’s irradiated zones.
Players find themselves entangled in a fierce struggle between two formidable factions: the GDF, determined to reclaim and rebuild, and the Tempest Dynasty, a power with its own vision for the new world order. And whispers in the wastelands hint at a third, mysterious faction awaiting challengers in the multiplayer arena.
We hope you enjoyed this article about the best Command & Conquer games. Happy gaming!