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Best iOS games 2020

Best iOS Strategy Games

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Best iOS Strategy Game: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (Free; $10 to unlock full game)

The iOS version of this premier historical 4x game had been an iPad-only affair, but now iPhone owners can get in on the world-building fun — provided you've got a smartphone with the horsepower to handle Sid Meier's Civilization VI. (You'll need an iPhone 7 or later.) You're tasked with leading one of Earth’s great civilizations from the Stone Age to the future. Explore the world, exploit its resources and develop your culture and sciences while carefully balancing your military and diplomatic needs in this gripping strategy title, which includes a local multiplayer mode. The game lets you demo the first 60 turns for free, after that, you’ll need to make a in-app purchase for the rest of the game. 

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(Image credit: Feral Interactive)

Tropico ($11.99)

It's time to lead the people to prosperity in Tropico, the infamous tongue-in-cheek simulation that puts you in command of your own Cold War island paradise. As the island's newly elected ruler, you'll have to balance your economy, tourism, global considerations and local politics, doing whatever it takes to stay in power and assure a bright future for your island nation. Featuring a redesigned interface for tablet play, Tropico includes a basic and advanced tutorial to quickly show budding dictators the ropes, while a campaign mode has you achieving objectives and unlocking new islands to play in. You can step into the shoes of historical presidents, revolutionaries and dictators, or even customize your own avatar's traits and unleash them upon the world in an expansive sandbox mode. An update has added iPhone support for the iPhone 6s and later.

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(Image credit: Future)

Minecraft Earth (Free)

Minecraft enters a new dimension with Minecraft Earth, in which your creations leap off the screen and into the real world through the power of augmented reality. Minecraft fans will find a lot that's familiar in this AR version — you'll gather resources, run into mobs and face assorted challenges, all while you build amazing structures in augmented reality. Best of all, you'll be able to find other people's constructions and even collaborate on creations. Unlike other AR-based games like Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards United, there's more open feel to Minecraft Earth, which invites exploration and discovery.

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(Image credit: Midjiwan)

Battle of Polytopia (Free)

Battle of Polytopia pares down the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) genre of strategy games into a mobile-friendly format. Players take command of one of the game’s many tribes with the goal of racking up the highest score possible in 30 turns by exploring the map, developing their civilization, and dealing with neighbors. The game’s quick-playing mechanics and short time limit cuts out the fat from the 4X formula to provide a sleek and mobile-friendly strategy title that doesn’t skimp on strategic choices. The addition of asynchronous online multiplayer adds another wonderful layer of replayability to an excellent mobile strategy game.

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Alien: Blackout ($4.99)

In Alien: Blackout, you're Amanda Ripley, and you're trapped on a disabled space station, with one of those terrifying xenomorphs made famous by the Alien movies hunting you down. But there’s a way to escape — a spaceship just docked on the space station, and if you help the crew find some needed supplies, you can hitch a ride to safety. The challenge, then, is to direct the crew to find those supplies without getting eating by the xenomorph — or without revealing your hiding place. Alien: Blackout is a fairly intense strategy game that doesn't skimp on graphics through seven different levels.

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Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout ($6.99)

Break out of the world’s toughest prisons in The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout, a sandbox prison escape simulator that’s finally made the jump to the iPhone. As a crafty convict, you’ll need to carefully manage your time, reporting in for headcount, lights out and other prison routines while sneaking away to explore your surroundings, steal or craft useful items and tools, and figure out escape routes, patrols, and other info so that you can pull off the ultimate getaway. In addition to the five brand new prisons to explore and escape from, The Escapists 2 features a reworked combat system including blocks and attack chains to provide a more challenging experience.

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Kingdom Rush Vengeance ($4.99)

The classic tower defense series returns with Kingdom Rush Vengeance, flipping the script as you lead the forces Vez’nan against the armies of good. You’ll need to plan carefully, balancing your picks of ranged, magic, troop and artillery towers, as well as powers and upgrades to deal with the enemies across 16 levels. While Vengeance is already a premium game, more tower variants and premium heroes are available as in-app purchases.

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Heroes of Flatlandia ($1.99)

A mobile-friendly Heroes of Might & Magic clone for $1.99 that's actually pretty decent? Heroes of Flatlandia has you leading armies of elves, orcs or undead as you explore a board game-like overworld map, gathering troops, treasure, and resources to upgrade your cities and overwhelm your enemies. Each faction comes with a pair of heroes to choose from as well as seven distinct units that boast their own unique abilities, all of which you'll need to take advantage of to beat the AI or human players in the game's turn-based battle layer. Players can battle it out in skirmishes against AI or play hotseat multiplayer with friends, but at the moment, Flatlandia lacks an online multiplayer option, which is a shame.

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Rebel Inc ($1.99)

The war is over, but now the harder task of rebuilding begins. Take on an entrenched insurgency while keeping your troops safe and winning over hearts and minds in Rebel Inc, the spiritual successor to Ndemic Creations' groundbreaking hit Plague Inc. Players will have to balance their military and political needs, pitting their troops against nimble insurgents on the map while also making sure that you win over civilians by building infrastructure and ensuring a stable government. Press too fast with the military, and you'll likely catch civilians in the crossfire, and if you flood the country with development money, you'll need to watch for inflation and corruption, forcing players to take a measured pace in this challenging but accessible simulation.

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Assassins Creed Rebellion (Free)

Step into the secret war between the Assassins and Templars in Assassin’s Creed Rebellion, a mobile entry into Ubisoft’s historical murder tourism franchise. Combining elements from the movie and the fan favorite Ezio trilogy, players will take command of their own fortress and bureau of Assassins, engaging in stealthy missions to undermine Templar control of the Spanish Inquisition. Players will have to build up their stronghold, recruit their own cadre of Assassins, train them to their full potential, and tailor their teams to match the stealth, traps, and combat challenges of each mission. You will have to deal with free-to-play gacha mechanics and timers, but the game doesn’t feel particularly egregious in its grind mechanics.

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Pocket City ($3.99)

A pint-sized city builder without the pitfalls of free-to-play monetization, Pocket City captures the magic of a proper urban planning game like SimCity, but in a mobile-friendly package. As mayor of a fledgling town, it's up to you to see to the needs of your citizens, laying down roads, zones, and utilities to attract your citizens while keeping an eye on your tax income, spending, traffic congestion, and other variables. It may sound like a handful, but a lot of information is accessible in easy-to-read infographics and charts, giving you a quick look at your city's needs and problems so you can get down to fixing them quick. Pocket City includes a progression system that unlocks new buildings and upgrades as you level up your city, while also adding a light layer of sidequests and objectives to achieve as your city keeps growing.

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(Image credit: Ghanshaam Sewnath)

Infinite West (Free)

A board game-like tactical puzzle reminiscent of Hitman Go, Infinite West has you shooting it out against a posse of bad guys. The catch? Things play out in turns, with players maneuvering next to their enemies to get a snap shot off while also evading each enemy class's unique attack patterns. Powerups let you take a limited number of jump moves or long range shots, and as the challenge ramps up, you can unlock a series of upgrades to help you take down the bad guys in the game's infinite series of procedurally generated levels. Infinite West is ad-supported, with players having to watch the occasional video ad in-between stages, but you can remove those ads with an in-app purchase.

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Iron Marines ($4.99)

Kingdom Rush developers Ironhide offer more mobile strategy madness with Iron Marines. The game fuses Starcraft-style RTS unit and base command with Kingdom Rush’s signature tower defense management as you lead your troops and heroes through a 14-mission campaign doing battle against alien threats. Multiple difficulty modes give replayability, while special levels provide extra challenge. The game is a premium title, but does include in-app purchases to unlock heroes or extra credits.

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Project Highrise ($3.99)

Build the skyscraper of your dreams in Project Highrise. While the building management sim has made the jump from PC to mobile devices, gameplay is exactly what the title suggests. You build, manage and develop your own high rise tower, enjoying hours of gameplay as you add restaurants, stores, apartments, and offices. All the building must balance the budget while keeping your tenants happy. Players can engage in a variety of story scenarios or play the game in sandbox mode. You also get all of the extra content added into the PC version, such as the Tokyo Towers, Miami Malls, and Las Vegas expansion packs.

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Rome: Total War ($9.99)

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Rome: Total War, the iOS port of the PC empire building classic. As head of one of the great noble families of Rome, you manage provinces and march at the head of the legions, as you guide the Eternal City from obscurity to the days of Republic and Empire. Rome Total War is a sprawling empire sim, where you must manage the growth of your noble line, the diplomacy and politics, economics and development, and real time battles against rival empires and barbarian hordes. That translates to hours of strategy gaming fun at a premium price. Previously an iPad exclusive, the game has since received an update to support the smaller screens of iPhones, complete with a reworked interface and control scheme.

Why we love Strategy Games

To accomplish what Sun Tzu called the "the greatest victory" in "The Art of War," you must strategize. And with the correct planning, you may win a battle without actually fighting. Strategy games are more than just fun; they also challenge your brain to solve tactical puzzles. But while you're busy combating conundrums, you also can be totally immersed in fantastical environments filled with rich graphics. Take command and download our top picks for the best mobile strategy games.