Do you fancy yourself an armchair general of deadly space marines or the benevolent leader of the most advanced civilization on the continent? Whether you care about actions per minute or love thinking ahead 15 turns, there's no better feeling than watching a plan come together. With so many strategy games on the market, here are our recommendations for the best ones to keep you busy for hours on end, Commander. — Jorge Jimenez
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
When aliens invade and humanity's survival is at stake, the world calls on XCOM, a secret paramilitary group charged with repelling extraterrestrial invaders. Coming from the strategy game veterans Firaxis Games, XCOM is an addictive strategy game that revitalized the genre. XCOM: Enemy Unknown serves up a good mix of intense turn-based action and base-building mechanics in which you customize your troops, upgrade your weapons and expand your operation. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, every decision matters and death is permanent. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Feral Interactive, Firaxis Games
Twenty years after the events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the XCOM organization has been forced underground as a ragtag resistance group after losing the fight to the Advent. As the people of Earth adjust to the new normal of having alien overlords who seemingly make their lives better, XCOM discovers that the Advent's secret agenda puts the world at risk. In this turn-based strategy game, you put your customizable squads of alien hunters up against insurmountable odds.
Your choices matter. Moving a soldier too far or forgetting to reload could lead to disastrous results, where death is permanent. The War of the Chosen DLC completely remixes the formula by introducing new gameplay elements like the Chosen, three powerful enemies that'll randomly pop up during your missions and make your life hell. If you love making tactical decisions in which you cross your fingers every time one of your soldiers pulls the trigger, XCOM 2 is the kind of stress you need. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Feral Interactive
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Who knew that "Mario meets XCOM" would make for one of the best Nintendo Switch games out there? Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle sees Mario, Luigi and company team up with Ubisoft's mischievous Rabbids in a series of turn-based battles as the Mushroom Kingdom gets a surprise group of visitors. Mario + Rabbids is a great entry point into the strategy genre, but it also allows for a variety of tactical possibilities thanks to Mario and crew's myriad abilities that you can combine in all kinds of fun ways. And this game gets quite challenging toward the end. If you want a fresh take on the Mario franchise that forces you to really use your noggin, Mario + Rabbids is a must-play. — Mike Andronico
Into the Breach
In the future, colossal bugs called the Vek emerge from beneath the Earth and start all sorts of trouble. Thankfully, humanity has access to giant mechs courtesy of time travel. Whenever things don't go your way, you can reset the timeline by sending one of your pilots to the past to try again. The battlefield is designed like a chessboard on which each piece has its own skill and move set. The bugs' main objective is to take out the civilian buildings that power your suits. If the Vek get to these buildings, then you'll have to zip to the past and try again.
The thing that makes Into the Breach so addicting is knowing your troops well enough to look at the battlefield and determine exactly what skills you need to chain together to wipe out those troublesome insects. Now that Into the Breach is on the Nintendo Switch, the bite-size missions are perfect for your train ride. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Subset Games
Based on the widely popular tabletop game set in the MechWarrior universe, Battletech has you manage a mercenary lance of MechWarriors. You'll tackle dangerous contracts and find yourself smack dab in the middle of some galactic political intrigue. When you're not taking part in randomly generated missions all over the solar system, you'll be doing everything to keep your company from going bankrupt. Success in these missions depends on how well you manage your mech's weapons, skills and positioning. One interesting thing about the combat is that you can target specific parts of a mech. Systematically take down a mech without damaging it too much, and you'll score some sweet salvage. The latest DLC, Flashpoint, offers a few dozen more hours of gameplay in a bunch of small, self-contained stories with branching missions and lucrative rewards. More importantly, it's a game where giant mechs shoot each other with lasers and missiles. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Paradox Interactive
The original StarCraft is still one of the definitive real-time strategy experiences, but the sequel is arguably even better. Once again, players take control of the Terrans, the Zerg and the Protoss, three races vying for control of the distant Koprulu sector of space. While the three factions employ radically different play styles, their strengths and weaknesses are almost perfectly balanced. Competitive multiplayer is the star attraction, complete with leaderboards, limited-time events, and a variety of gameplay modes for both casual and ranked players. But the campaign is a treat, too, following the adventures of Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan and Artanis to those stories' exciting conclusions. With gorgeous graphics, inspired voice acting and memorable music, StarCraft II makes it easy to lose yourself for hours and hours, whether you're in it for the story or to crush your competition. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment
Age of Empires II
"Rome has fallen, and the world is up for grabs." Age of Empires II's tag line wasn't an exaggeration; the game really does tell the story of humanity's struggle to emerge from the Dark Ages, up through the scientific advances — and colonial forays — of the Renaissance. In Age of Empires II and its first expansion, The Conquerors, you could play as civilizations ranging from the Goths and the Teutons, to the Britons and the Franks, to the Persians and the Saracens, to the Koreans and the Japanese. Each civilization has a distinct playstyle, from the hit-and-run tactics of Mongolian cavalry archers to the nearly unbreakable buildings of Byzantium. The sheer variety of gameplay options in Age of Empires II explains a lot of the game's appeal, since you don't have to win through military might; you can also secure an economic victory, commit regicide or construct a Wonder to last through the ages. Or, if you're a history buff, you can play through some of the greatest military campaigns of the Middle Ages, including the Hundred Years' War, the Third Crusade and the Mongol conquest of Central Asia. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Xbox Studios
The gold standard for turn-based strategy games, Civilization V lets you play as your favorite historical figures as you take your people from the Stone Age to the modern age. Build world wonders and research devastating technologies to make your empire the envy of all history. Achieve victory in new ways outside of violence. Anyone who has played a Civilization title knows how easy it is to get sucked into a game for entire weekends. At the end of the day, it's always fun to see how George Washington would fare against Alexander the Great.— Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Firaxis Games, Aspyr
A game in which you lie, cheat and steal? Sign us up! Antihero follows the exploits of a gang of thieves, cutthroats and other riffraff. Set up like a board game, Antihero is all about establishing your crew as the very best crooks in the game. Aside from breaking into places, you'll apply other notorious skills to line your pockets. In order to build up your guild, you'll make blackmailing and assassinating your rivals a crucial part of your plan. If you're feeling confident, take your act online against other thieves in ranked matches. The board game look and design will make you wish that Antihero became an actual board game. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Tim Conkling
Europa Universalis IV
Have you ever wanted to create a global empire that lasted through the ages? EU IV might be the nation-building game you've been waiting for. You can micromanage almost every aspect of your budding empire. The enhanced diplomacy system gives you more options to rule, aside from sheer military force, such as trade and even leveraging a royal wedding. The depth of freedom to do whatever you want is unparalleled. Shape the world the way you'd like over hundreds of years with the political gymnastics you've come to know and love from this beloved franchise. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Paradox Interactive
Discover a strange new land as you manage a clan of Vikings trying to survive the elements. If the giants don't kill you, the harsh environment might. Winter plays a factor in everything you do, and you need to make sure your clan doesn't freeze. That's why gathering resources to survive and expanding your territory is important. The most crucial resource in Northgard is Fame. Commit acts of Viking badassery, and it will unlock new bonuses for your people. Inspired by classic real-time strategy games, this title has you gather the materials to build up your base and conquer all you see. Northgard is one of the only games in which feasting is just as important fighting. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Shiro Games
Banner Saga Trilogy
Any time a game opens with the phrase "The Gods are dead," you can more or less predict what sort of bleak adventure you're set for, as happens in the Banner Saga Trilogy. This epic, turn-based Viking game follows your caravan across a land where every decision you make has life-or-death ramifications. The narrative is mostly driven by player choice, meaning every bit of dialogue matters and could result in the ultimate sacrifice for people in your caravan. — Jorge Jimenez
Credit: Gearbox Publishing
Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics may just be the best game in the Final Fantasy series. And since there are more than 50 games that bear the franchise name, that's saying something. In this title, players take control of Ramza Beoulve, a mercenary who leads a team of adventurers through a complicated scenario called the War of the Lions. Based on the real-world Wars of the Roses, Final Fantasy tactics weaves a complex tale of warring houses, political alliances, morganatic marriages and religious influences. However, in this version of the story, there are also magical powers, otherworldly demons and entities capable of destroying the entire world.
The gameplay proves to be just as rich and challenging as the story, as you can customize Beoulve's class, abilities, equipment and party members. While you start off with generic recruits, the game lets you add powerful soldiers with unique skill sets later on, including a certain spiky-haired Final Fantasy VII protagonist who's a little confused to find himself in another world. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Sony Entertainment
It's no secret that the strategy/RPG genre has some problems. Leveling up and improving equipment can be very tedious; moment-to-moment gameplay can feel slow; characters of the same class can feel interchangeable. Valkyria Chronicles does away with all of those problems, all while providing a gorgeous game with a legitimately engaging, unpredictable story. In a lightly fictionalized retelling of World War II, the neutral Europan country of Gallia finds itself caught between two much larger powers. Young soldier Welkin leads a group of freedom fighters against the oppressive Imperial Alliance, but his quest becomes more complicated when he learns about creatures called Valkyria. These blue-haired warrior women have the power to radically shift the balance of power in Europa — and they've suddenly appeared on both sides of the conflict.
What sets Valkyria Chronicles apart from similar strategy/RPG titles is that gameplay unfolds in a mix of turn-based and real-time combat. You can oversee your units on a tactical map of the entire area, then zoom in to control them, one at a time, as they run, shoot and dive behind cover. Each party member has different strengths, weaknesses and preferences, and your relationships with each one will develop as you take them into battle more and more. — Marshall Honorof
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Based on the epic historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," this game puts you in the shoes of a Chinese warlord as you try to unite China through warfare and diplomacy (but mostly warfare).
Three Kingdoms' Romance mode focuses on the relationships between your warlords and generals, who, when they aren't decimating troops single-handedly, are vying for political status. So, be generous with promotions, make alliances through arranged marriages, and play to their likes and dislikes. It's an interesting layer in game that gives you characters with meaningful personalities that need to be managed instead of disposable pawns to throw at opposing armies.
What sets Total War: Three Kingdoms apart from the rest of the often-impenetrable series is how easy it on-ramps you to such a high number of complicated game mechanics like diplomacy, combat and empire building. The battles are huge and beautiful, and when your calvary crashes into the flank of an unaware army, it's a sight to behold. The one-on-one general duels in the middle of a battle are stressful and exciting. Total War: Three Kingdoms has everything you need to fulfill your fantasy of conquering ancient China. — Jorge Jimenez