Strategy games challenge the mind, providing tactical puzzles and combat conundrums for players to untangle. Whether engaged in far-future combat or immersed in fantasy melees, strategy games let you unleash your inner general. Take command, and try out our picks for the best mobile strategy games. (Photo Credit: Dennizn/Shutterstock)
Who says a full-sized strategy game won't fit on a small screen? Sid Meier's Civilization 6 is the latest in the premier 4x historical strategy game series, and it plays just fine on the latest iPhones and iPads (though for phones, you'll get your best results on larger screens like the ones on the iPhone XS and XS Max). 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. (Normally, that's $60, but the price is currently cut to $25 to mark the game's iPhone debut.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Battle of Polytopia (Android, iOS) 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. The game is free, with in-app purchases unlocking new tribes to play with.
A new game from strategy gaming legend Julian Gollop, who created the original X-COM, Chaos Reborn (Android, iOS) has you waging war against your fellow wizards in intense tactical battles. You summon and maneuver your minions or cast devastating spells, balancing your dual roles as war leader and wizard. The game requires you to carefully husband your wizard's mana, summon beasts, direct your army, and play mind-games with the enemy wizard through the use of illusion spells. Players can engage in multiplayer duels or play through a narrative single-player campaign mode.
A pint-sized city builder without the pitfalls of free-to-play monetization, Pocket City (Android, iOS) captures the magic of a proper urban planning game like SimCity, only in a mobile-friendly package. As mayor of a fledgling town, you lay down roads, zones, and utilities to attract new citizens while keeping an eye on your tax income, spending, traffic congestion, and other variables. The game puts a lot of information 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 addressing them. 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.
Kingdom Rush developer Ironhide offers more mobile strategy madness with Iron Marines (Android, iOS). 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 provide replayability, while special levels offer up an extra challenge. Iron Marines is a premium title, but does include in-app purchases to unlock heroes or extra credits.
Steel your body and soul to do battle against the blasphemous horrors of the Darkest Dungeon, Red Hook Studio’s brutally atmospheric rogue-like dungeon crawler. As inheritor of a cursed estate, it’s up to you to gather a stable of heroes ready to raid the dungeon's depths and rid the ruins of the many monsters and terrors that your ancestor unleashed. The dungeons and their denizens are brutal and merciless, and you’ll have to manage not just your heroes’ bodies but also their stress levels and mental stability. The game features a wealth of hero classes to try out, and while the dungeon crawl can get grindy, its atmospherics are pitch-perfect in replicating a gothic horror feel.
An empire-building classic comes to touch screens with the iOS port of Rome: Total War. As head of one of the great noble families of Rome, you manage provinces and march at the head of the legions, guiding 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; juggled the diplomacy and politics, economics and development; and engage in 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.