The terrors of war bring out aspects of humanity, both good and bad, that are rarely seen elsewhere. The best military simulation games help you experience the highs and lows of combat from the safety of your own home.
In this ranking, we break down fifteen of the best combat sims from every era, ranging from WWII to Vietnam, to modern day and even some fictional conflicts. No matter your preference, these games will recreate the wartime experience like no other.
Ranked in ascending order, here are the best military simulation games on PC for you to try.
Theatre of War 3: Korea
- Strategy, Cold War
- New binocular view feature
- Real-time mining and demining
Set during the so-called “Forgotten War” in Korea, Theatre of War 3: Korea is first up on our list. Recreating two real ’50s-era campaigns from the Korean conflict — the Korean and the American — players handle all aspects of successful military maneuvers, from reserves to fuel and ammo supplies management.
Adding to the realism is a new strategic mode, non-linear dynamic campaigns, and correct infantry simulation. Fans of the third installment in the Theatre series call it a challenging and realistic recreation of mid-century warfare, and overall, they like that intense force micromanagement is required to be successful.
Positive feedback from a military veteran helped us feel confident putting Theatre 3 in our ranking. We just wish the tutorial was a bit better, though. The game’s also been out awhile so the graphics are far from cutting edge. The pathfinding and UI also aren’t great, reports tell us.
Iron Warriors: T – 72 Tank Command
- Mature 17+
- Cooperative multiplayer support
- Mission, map, structure editor included
Some of the fiercest tanks in Russian military history are under your command in the next military sim game we reviewed. In Iron Warriors, you take control of the T-34-85, T-55A and T-72B in eighteen campaigns, two training missions, five single player missions, and even three multiplayer LAN missions. As a player, assume the role of platoon commander in the Balkans, or a single member of the tank crew — it’s your choice. Once in battle, the terrain is highly realistic and the aerodynamics are also accurate.
Those who’ve played Iron Warriors call it highly customizable with realistic settings. The missions are story-driven, with a good amount of character development on top of the tank simulation. The graphics are again a bit dated, based on feedback, and the controls receive mixed reviews — some say they’re intuitive, while others call them difficult.
- Mild violence
- Wargame, naval combat, strategy
Maritime warfare is the focus of the next game we reviewed, Fleet Command. In the game, there are naval vessels of every sort, from frigates to aircraft carriers and even nuclear submarines. It’s set in the modern era, so missions and campaign objectives are topical, and the 3D environment is richly detailed. Best of all, each type of vessel is outfitted with the characteristics and weapons systems of their real-life counterparts.
Entertaining and realistic, some call Fleet Command the best military/naval command-and-control sims on the market. Even with that in mind, the point-and-click gameplay is overall easy to play without prior knowledge of naval warfare tactics and strategy.
It’s a complicated strategy game, to be sure, calling for tactical creativity, based on feedback. A definite oldie but goodie, just keep in mind that it might take some messing around to get working on a modern game system or OS.
Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault
- Mature 17+
- Strategy, World War II, Singeplayer
- Non-linear campaigns
Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault takes place in the true-to-history Ardennes offensive, better known as the Battle of the Bulge. In this single-player game, you’ll take charge of Allied forces in what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the greatest American battle” of the Second World War. There are three companies to choose from: airborne, mechanized infantry, and support. Each one has four unique and upgradeable abilities, with more than seventy levels on the skill tree to advance through.
Through non-linear campaigns set on a meta-map that realistically recreates the real battle, there are some eighteen scenarios to explore with plenty of bonus objectives to keep things interesting. Fans call it a fast-paced game with modern graphics with easy controls. The dynamic difficulty system expands on the formula of other Heroes games, we found out. Some important things cost money, though — a major drawback for many.
Unity of Command: Stalingrad Campaign
- Strategy, World War II
- Minimalist design
- Aesthetically-pleasing visuals
The Battle of Stalingrad was a pivotal point in the Eastern Front of World War II. An operational-level game, Unity of Command: Stalingrad Campaign recreates the two-year confrontation between the Third Reich and the Soviets in 1942 and 1943. From that conflict the Soviet Union emerged victorious, turning the tide on World War II.
In this sequel to the first Unity of Command, you can play either as the Axis or the Allies in a turn-based strategy system with an intuitive interface. If you’re unfamiliar with strategy-based military sims, this is a great place to start, based on feedback. In the game, you’ll manage supply lines, and encounter tough weather and even more difficult terrain.
Among the realistic aspects of gameplay include bridge demolition, calling on air support, and managing reinforcements. Some call Stalingrad a puzzle game rather than a true war game, though, and it did present too much of a challenge for some players.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
- Mature 17+
- Blood, gore, violence
- Tactical, Action, Simulation
Inspired by one of the great military writers of our time, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon is the next game we reviewed. Set in 2008, war has broken out on the Russian border. In response, an elite Green Beret force known as Ghost is called in.
Their objective is to open a lane for NATO peacekeeping forces. Available online or LAN multiplayer for up to thirty-six players, the game is highly realistic, we learned. There are more than twenty single-player missions, six different multiplayer modes, and eleven multiplayer maps to keep things interesting. Among the true-to-life weapons included in the game are the M16A2, the M4 carbine, and others.
Ghost Recon offers full control of how missions are handled. There are also expansion packs available. The maps are large and open, with true military disciplines available such as riflemen or demolitionists. Those who played Ghost Recon back on PS2 remember a masterpiece, though. For some, this modern-day version doesn’t quite live up to those memories.
Command: Modern Operations
- Simulation, military, strategy
- 2019 Charles S. Roberts Award winner
- Tactical/operational scale
Interested in recreating some of the biggest operations and battles from any war post-World War II? Command: Modern Operations allows players to do just that. In the game, you’ll have everything from aircraft to submarines, and from satellites to infantry in eras ranging from Korea to Desert Storm. The whole-globe interface on which the game takes place is richly detailed, we learned, and the UI is updated from previous versions.
There are also hundreds of official and community scenarios to choose from. And we also like the quick-battle generator for varied conflicts born straight from your imagination. Notably, all the classic Command scenarios are updated and remastered.
Fans of Command: Modern Operations point out the game is less about fighting wars and more about commanding specific operations. It’s the only choice to experience and to understand realistic modern warfare, and it also pairs well with a Tom Clancy novel, according to one report. Reports of a slow UI concerned us, though, and the opponents are scripted rather than AI, we learned.
Wargame: Airland Battle
- Indie, Simulation, Strategy
- Online Co-Op Play Available
- RTS, Military, Cold War
Set in the year 1985 at the height of the Cold War, Wargame: Airland Battle imagines the worst case scenario: all-out conflict in the North Sea, plunging the world order into chaos. Commanding twelve nations and more than 700 units, including tanks, planes, infantry, and others, your job is to strategize and lead one of two sides to victory. Fans say, if you liked European Escalation, the first game in the series, you’ll love Airland Battle, with more anti-aircraft and anti-aircraft units added, among other changes.
The battlefields on which the game takes place are huge, and powered by a new graphics engine. Play the game alone or go online for multiplayer mode with up to twenty players. Missions get harder as gameplay goes on, making it easy to learn for new players while still challenging for veterans. The tutorials are also strong. The AI behind enemy forces is too strong, in some people’s opinion, though, making it an unfair fight in some cases.
Hell Let Loose
- BAFTA Nominee
- Action, Shooter, FPS
- Multiplayer, Simulation, Strategy
Mixing elements of first-person-shooter with tactical planning and strategy, Hell Let Loose recreates some of the most brutal combat of World War II. If co-op play is what you’re after, this game has it in spades, accommodating up to fifty players on each side of the conflict. Otherwise, there are nine realistically rendered maps to play on based on real historical documents. True-to-history battles include Omaha Beach and Carentan, among others on World War II’s Western Front.
In the game, the frontline dynamically shifts as artillery, tanks, and infantry move. As a result, strong action sequences are blended with resource gathering as each sector is conquered. Overall, Hell Let Loose is an epic scale, cooperative shooter, based on feedback. The maps are easy to navigate, and so, too, are the menus for role selection. The slow, tactical approach was not for everyone, though.
World of Tanks
- Mild Violence
- Simulation, Massively Multiplayer
Fans of tanks and tank warfare alike love the next pick in our list of best combat sims. In the free-to-play World of Tanks, you’ll command some 600 tanks from every era, beginning in World War II through the modern day. There’s PVP combat, five additional types of vehicles to choose from beyond just tanks, and a good amount of tactical thinking and strategy required.
The maps on which the action takes place are large and expansive, and skills will be developed along the way. Each vehicle type has strengths and weaknesses, and so do your opponents. Fans of the game enjoy the tactical gameplay. Some describe it like chess but with tanks. There are reportedly some pay-to-win aspects in recent versions, which turned some longtime players off. Overall, though, we had no problem including it in our ranking based on positive feedback.
- Military, Realistic, FPS
- IndieDB Editors Choice – Indie of the Year 2015
- IndieDB Players Choice – Indie of the Year 2015 – Second Place
Earning high marks for realism, Squad is the next military sim we reviewed. What makes Squad worth it, we found out, are 100-player battles with aspects of base building and an integrated VolP system to keep multiplayer communication smooth and seamless. Set in modern day warfare, Squad blends fiction with facts, referencing recent Middle Eastern and Eastern European conflicts. Players can select from soldier classes such as rifleman, anti-tank support, med support, and combat medic.
The eight playable factions include the U.S. Army, the British Army, and Russian Ground Forces among others. Some fans call Squad the best FPS they’ve ever played and the best military simulation game ever. The immersion is also top tier, all of which helped us feel confident putting it in the top five on our list.
World of Warships
- No Blood and Gore
- Naval Combat, Free to Play, World War II
Some of the most dramatic combat in history took place on the open ocean, no time moreso than in World Wars I and II. That’s the setting for the fourth pick in our ranking, World of Warships. In this free to play naval combat sim, there are more than 400 historically accurate ships to command such as the Bismarck, Iowa, and Hood. Otherwise, available vessels representing twelve in-game nations fall into four different classes: battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers, and destroyers.
The maps on which those crafts pitch battle are expansive, and special skills and modifications are unlocked as game play goes on, either solo or in co-op mode. Positive feedback on World of Warships says recent updates have made the game even better. The mechanics are strong, and the PVP combat is fun, in particular — just look out for those in-game purchases.
Hearts of Iron IV
- World War II
- Simulation, Strategy
- Cross-platform multiplayer
Breaking the top three in our list of best military sims is Hearts of Iron IV. In the game, take command of any nation — Axis or Allies — in either competitive and co-op play for more than thirty players. Combat takes place on detailed topographical maps, with historically accurate settings, and geographically appropriate weather patterns. We like that tanks, planes, and even weapons of mass destruction are available, and that diplomacy and negotiation also play a part.
The game’s historical accuracy earns high marks from those who’ve played it, and a free DLC adds a focus tree for Poland. New models for planes, and other types of assets are also available. There’s a very steep learning curve in this grand strategy game, we found out. Most call this well-reviewed game great, though, adding you’ll get addicted. It’s particularly fun to play with friends.
- Mature 17+
- Intense, Violence, Blood, Strong Language
- Military, Multiplayer, Simulation
Set on the fictional Mediterranean islands of Altis and Stratis, Arma 3 is the penultimate military sim game we reviewed. You’ll wage war on an open-world battlefield with both single and multiplayer content. There are some twenty vehicles and forty weapons to choose from. As a single player, you’ll follow Ben Kerry in an episodic three-part storyline. Or instead, join your friends in the Defend and Seize gameplay scenario.
There’s also a good deal of customization available in Arma 3, including weapons and vehicles, as well as an easy-to-use scenario editor. Fans of the game call it realistic with a steep learning curve that’s worth the trouble. The voice chat in multiplayer mode is an especially nice feature, we learned.
Strong combat mechanics and teamwork are required to be successful, based on feedback. Some feel the third edition doesn’t live up to the first two, though. But when actual military veterans rave about Arma 3, we knew we should listen.
- Simulation, Vehicular Combat, Free to Play
- Gamescom 2013 Best Simulation Game winner
In the top spot in our list we have War Thunder. It’s a massively multiplayer vehicular combat simulator that draws from a number of different eras of combat, from World War II to the Cold War and beyond. There are also a number of nations represented, with vehicles ranging from helicopters to tanks and battleships, among others.
The game is massively multiplayer with a few different game modes, such as arcade battles for fast-paced gameplay or simulator battles for a more slow-paced experience. There’s also a great deal of customization available in War Thunder for both vehicles, weapons, and storylines.
You might have a love/hate relationship with the game — in a good way — but it’s worth it, and you may just get obsessed, fans say. The game is overall easy to enjoy but difficult to master, according to one report. Otherwise, in the opinion of many players, it’s the best and most historically accurate and fun arcade style flight simulator/shooter on the market.
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