Do you enjoy strategy games that put your abilities to the test? If the answer is yes, you’ll find that the best RTS games offer an excellent challenge. Real-time strategy games have skill-based mechanics that require lightning-quick responses and tactical prowess. In competitive play, only the dedicated can win.

Fortunately, the real-time strategy genre is incredibly popular and there are tons of different games available to play. This includes a wide range of sub-genres like battle arenas, war games, and adventure titles. The result? There’s a great option for everyone. This article walks you through the top 17 best RTS games currently available, and also peeks at the top 3 upcoming titles. Think you’re up for the challenge? Let’s get started.

20 Best Real-Time Strategy Games

We’ve curated this list of RTS games to help you find your next favorite title. Check ‘em out below.

20. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation

Ashes of the Singularity

Our pick for one of the best fast-paced RTS games

If you’re a fan of fast-paced battle games that keep you on your toes, Ashes of the Singularity is an excellent title. The game features giant maps that can hold thousands of individual troops and units simultaneously, a groundbreaking feat that paves the way for battles of epic proportion. Moreover, the game’s Nitrous Engine boasts tech that introduces exciting new mechanics, allowing for complex strategizing and unique battlefield maneuvering. If you’re looking for a game that’s truly innovative, check out Escalation today.

19. Land Air Sea Warfare

LASW

Our pick for one of the top RTS games on mobile

Originally published in 2010, Land Air Sea Warfare is an RTS that’s available to play on both PC and mobile. Gameplay revolves around building a base and protecting your settlement from enemy provocations. In order to stand a chance, you must collect resources, develop your own technology, and build up a powerful military. Fail, and your empire will fall. Succeed, however, and you will catapult your empire into the legions of legend. Do you have what it takes to win on land, air, and sea?

18. Company of Heroes 2

Company of Heroes 2

Our pick for one of the best battle RTS games

Company of Heroes 2 is another excellent RTS game set during WWII. But this time around you’ll be centered on the Eastern Front as conflict between Germany and Russia starts to heat up. Gameplay revolves around resource collection, building encampments, and sending combat units to war. Strategy plays a major role in Company of Heroes 2, and only master tacticians will make it through the war to end all wars alive.

17. Rise of Nations

Rise of Nations

Our pick for one of the best original RTS games

Rise of Nations is one of the great RTS games of our time. Though it’s a decade old at this point, it remains a top contender for best RTS.

What’s the premise? The game revolves around the area under your command, aka your territory. Settle a city, expand your borders, rinse, and repeat. It’s manifest destiny like you’ve never seen before!

Aside from expanding your territory, other key gameplay elements include the management of resources, troops, technology, and all the aspects of governing. Oh, and war, of course! One strategic mistake could give your rivals a major edge, spelling disaster for your budding empire.

Intrigued? Check out the high risk, high reward game today.

16. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

Homeworld

Our pick for one of the best sci-fi RTS games

Kharak is dying. The desert consumes more and more of the planet as each year passes, and the native clans are in constant conflict. But when a strange object is discovered in the Great Banded Desert, new hope arises. This tactical RTS utilizes immersive storytelling to weave a compelling campaign, and it boasts an exciting array of units and factions to play and explore with. The game was awarded excellent ratings across the industry and provides hours of entertainment for sci-fi and RTS buffs alike.

15. Steel Division: Normandy 44

Steel Division

Our pick for one of the best RTS war games

If you’re a fan of historical war games, chances are you’ll love Normandy 44. The game is set during WWII in Normandy, France, and the plot is centered around the Ally and Axis conflicts. Take control of historical units and use your troops to expertly maneuver about the map and bring down the enemy. There are 3 single player campaigns centered around the real-life Normandy Landings, as well as massive 10v10 multiplayer battle arena modes. Exit the warplane and drop into the action today.

14. Offworld Trading Company

Offworld Trading Co

Our pick for one of the best RTS PC games

Offworld Trading Company puts its own spin on the RTS genre with the introduction of unique sci-fi mechanics and economic warfare. The game is set on Mars, and players must assume control over one of four different giant corporations. The objective? Establish a base and extract up to 13 different resources from the surrounding environment, expanding your sphere of influence along the way. Build your corporate off-world empire and buy a majority stake in the rival corporations to win. Sabotage, black market deals, and shady manipulation tactics are all fair game in this world where winner takes all.

13. Red Alert 2

Red Alert 2

Our pick for best tactical war RTS game

Take up arms as the Soviet or Allied forces in the hottest game from decades past, Red Alert 2.

You have one goal, and one goal only: defeat the enemy. Build up your bases as you and opposing forces trade blows. Strategize your way to victory by managing resources and carefully striking the enemy where it hurts. It takes extreme tactical prowess to destroy all enemy commanders and bring opposing forces to their knees.

Think you’re up for it? Grab Red Alert 2 on Steam, and don’t stop ’til they wave the white flag.

12. Tropico 6

Tropico 6

Our pick for best simulation RTS game

  • Website: https://www.worldoftropico.com/
  • Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
  • Genre: Simulation / Strategy
  • Developer: Westwood Studios
  • Release: 2019

Tropico 6 is a simulation / strategy game that’s part of the best-selling Tropico Series. What’s it all about? Assume the role of El Presidente, the leader of your quaint Carribean island. Then, bring your country through the centuries, from the period of colonialism up to the modern era. Lead by example as you lay the infrastructure for a prosperous and long-lasting civilization.

Are you game? Grab Tropico 6 on PC, Mac, Linux, or your console of choice today.

11. They Are Billions

They are Billions

Our pick for best steampunk RTS game

  • Website: http://www.numantiangames.com/theyarebillions/
  • Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
  • Genre: RTS
  • Developer: Numantian Games
  • Release: 2017

Enjoy the Steampunk theme? You’re sure to dig They Are Billions from Numantian Games and Bitworks Studio.

Zombies have infested the post-apocalyptic world, and every day is a struggle for survival. the good news? You’re not alone. Others just like you must band together to fight the horde and carve out an existence in this hellish plane.

Take the initiative to build a base and equip your person, then help fellow survivors keep safe from the insidious swarm.

You’re in control of the whole process, from resource management to population control. Your encampment needs resources, defenses, and new technology if you stand a chance of survival. The people are looking for a tactical leader. Is that you?

10. The Universim

The Universim

Our pick for best RTS god game

If you’re a fan of games that grant god-like powers, you’ll probably like The Universim. The game combines mechanics from a number of different genres and can best be summed up as a dynamic strategy. You can manage your own planets, alter space and time, and wield the immense powers of an almighty god. In addition, the game features next-level AI that promises to shake up your world and keep things engaging over the long term.

9. Warcraft 3: Reforged

Warcraft 3

Our pick for best remastered RTS Game

Warcraft is often regarded as one of the best RTS games of all time. And, Warcraft 3: Reforged is geared up to carry the torch. Built entirely from the ground up, the classic RTS game is gettings a total reboot for modern 4K gaming. You can expect brand new graphics, animations, units, and more. Moreover, each copy of Warcraft 3: Reforged will come with the original game for hardcore fans.

8. Age of Empires 2: HD Edition

Age of Empires

Our pick for one of the best old RTS games

If you’re a fan of the RTS genre, chances are you’ve heard of Age of Empires. Well, AoE: HD Edition by Ensemble Studios features everything you know and love from the original edition, but with completely rehauled graphics and multiplayer support. The premise? Players are tasked with gathering resources, establishing settlements, and building armies to both protect and conquer their surrounding environments. Rise from the dark ages and see if you can build an expansive empire that stands the test of time. Age of Empires gameplay combines strategic high stakes maneuvering with action-packed adventure for endless hours of entertainment.

7. Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2

Our pick for one of the best shooter RTS games

Halo Wars 2 is an action RTS that’s based off of the wildly successful Halo franchise. Players are tasked with constructing a settlement and gathering resources to build up an army. The goal? Destroy the enemy troops and make your way to their homebase to deliver the final death blow. The combat system features very balanced battle mechanics, and the fast-paced game is sure to provide countless hours of entertainment. It’s a welcomed addition to the RTS genre and a great option for Halo veterans and newbies alike.

6. Northgard

Northgard

Our pick for one of the best RTS games on Steam

  • Website: http://northgard.net/
  • Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Developer: Shiro Games
  • Release: 2018

Northgard is based around ancient Norse mythology, and the game introduces an exciting array of graphics and audio that perfectly sets the atmosphere. As for the gameplay itself? Assume control of a viking clan as they land on a mysterious new continent. Build your settlement, collect resources, and protect your people at all costs. Do you have what it takes to achieve Norse God ranking? Northgard offers a fully-fleshed story mode, and it’s up to you to choose your own path to victory.

5. Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

Starcraft

Our pick for one of the best online RTS games

  • Website: http://us.battle.net/
  • Platform: Windows, Mac
  • Genre: Sci-fi RTS
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Release: 2015

Starcraft is the legendary RTS saga created by Blizzard Entertainment, and the Legacy of the Void standalone expansion takes things to a whole new level. Carry out missions to take a stand against the evil Amon and bring peace to your people, or try your hand at multiplayer and bring down the opposition with expert tactics and strategic battlefield maneuvers. Starcraft 2 is highly rated across every major publication, and the game has even retained a small eSports following.

4. Driftland: The Magic Revival

Driftland

Our pick for one of the best magical RTS games

After centuries of battle between the ancient mages, the war is finally over. But nothing is as it was. The warring factions destroyed the natural world, and it’s on the verge of destruction. The only thing keeping the fragile plane from complete destruction is an ancient spell… and hope for the future.

Assume the role of Mage Overlord, master of your province. Explore the shattered world around you, and connect the pieces of land using newly discovered powers that once seemed lost forever. But be wary. The warlords are at it again, and this time, it’s all or nothing. Can you bring the world back from the brink?

3 Best Upcoming Real-Time Strategy Games

We’ve also assembled a list of the top 3 hottest up-and-coming RTS games.

3. Iron Harvest

Iron Harvest

Our pick for best new RTS game

While there are many WWII-era historical RTS games, it’s rare to see one set prior to that time period. Thankfully, Iron Harvest steps up to fill that void. Set in the 1920s, Iron Harvest boasts an epic campaign mode that features incredible storytelling and tons of unique mechanics. Choose from a number of factions, build a base, and expand your influence with badass special units. King Art is working closely with the community to deliver a well-rounded game, and fans can expect a mid-to-late 2019 release.

2. Project Phoenix

Project Phoenix

Our pick for best multi-platform RTS game

  • Website: https://www.facebook.com/
  • Platform: PS4, Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android
  • Genre: RTS
  • Developer: Creative Intelligence Arts
  • Release: TBA

Project Phoenix launched a successful Kickstarter a few years back and has been in steady development since. While there have been a handful of setbacks, the team at Creative Intelligence Arts is working diligently to get the game on the market soon. What’s the hype about? The game features a mix of Japanese and Western art styles, and it boasts an epic fantasy storyline combined with RTS and JRPG mechanics. It’s a groundbreaking game that promises to shake up the industry after launch.

1. Evil Genius 2

Evil Genius

Our pick for best RTS sequel

Evil Genius is the 2004 cult classic mega-hit that has you assume the role of a criminal mastermind hellbent on world domination. Build your evil underground lair, amass a fortune, and assemble a squadron of minions ready to do your dirty work. Word’s out that Evil Genius 2 is under development and we can’t wait to try it out! While specific details are still heavily guarded in Rebellion’s own evil lair, you can check out their official blog for upcoming posts.

What are RTS Games?

RTS, or real-time strategy, games are a genre of strategy video games that require moment-by-moment player interaction. As opposed to the closely related turn-based genre, players must position and maneuver their characters in real time, and with utmost precision.

While the RTS genre encompasses a variety of other game types, most real-time strategy games are centered around combat units and military structures. The goal? Protect your encampment, expand your sphere of influence, and battle your enemies for territory and map domination. In addition to powerful enemy units, there are often finite resources and other restrictions that pose a major challenge to the player. And, winning requires the perfect amount of strategy and a small dose of luck.

Real-time strategy video games are among the most popular on the market due to their action-packed nature and strategic requirements. Moreover, the genre features some of the hottest eSports games, and the industry is growing even larger over time. The outlook? This category is doing well, and there are dozens of new RTS games just over the horizon.

RTS Example

General Thoughts on RTS Games

We’ve penned some general thoughts on the genre as whole to offer a more in-depth understanding of RTS’ many nuances.

1. RTS games are popular in eSports.

There are several popular real-time strategy titles featured in top eSports tournaments and content streams.

2. Territory is (almost) always key.

Gaining and keeping territory delivers a huge advantage to the player, so long as they’re powerful enough to defend it.

3. Utopia, released in 1981, was the first RTS.

With mechanics that combined turn-based action with real-time character maneuvering, Utopia was a groundbreaking game that birthed the whole genre.

4. Multiplayer modes encourage cooperation.

Many popular RTS games, including the majority on our list, feature multiplayer modes that allow players to cooperate with teammates in order to strategically take out the opposition.

5. RTS games feature a variety of game mechanics.

RTS games feature mechanics from several different video game genres and combine them to create action-packed adventures that require independent and creating thinking.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed our roundup of real-time strategy games, chances are you’ll love our other top 10 lists as well. Check them out below: