Take Command with Top Mobile Strategy Games
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.
Civilization 6 (iOS: Free)
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 $20 in-app purchase for the rest of the game.
Battle of Polytopia (Android, iOS: Free)
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.
Rebel Inc. (Android, iOS: $1.99)
The war may be over, but the task of rebuilding may prove to be just as challenging in Rebel Inc. (Android, iOS) This spiritual successor to Ndemic Creations' groundbreaking hit Plague Inc. has you facing an entrenched insurgency while trying to keep your troops safe and win over hearts and minds of your new subjects. To succeed, you'll need to balance military and political needs, pitting your troops against nimble insurgents on the map while also making sure that you're over civilians by building infrastructure and forming a stable government. Press too fast with the military, and you'll likely catch civilians in the crossfire; flood the country with development money, and you'll need to watch for inflation and corruption. That forces Rebel Inc. players to take a measured pace in this challenging but accessible simulation.
The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout (Android, iOS: $6.99)
Break out of the world’s toughest prisons in The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout (Android, iOS). As a crafty convict, you’ll need to carefully manage your time, reporting in for lights out and other prison routines while also exploring your surroundings. Along the way, you'll steal useful items and tools and figure out escape routes to pull off the ultimate getaway. In addition to the five brand new prisons to explore and escape from, The Escapists 2 includes a reworked combat system that features blocks and attack chains to provide a more challenging experience.
Kingdom Rush: Vengeance ($4.99)
The classic tower defense series returns with Kingdom Rush Vengeance (Android, iOS). But the script gets flipped in this version, with you leading the forces of Vez’nan against the armies of good. You’ll need to plan carefully, balancing your picks of ranged, magic, troop and artillery towers; you also need to manage powers and upgrades to deal with the enemies over the game's 16 levels. Vengeance is already a $5 download, but more tower variants and premium heroes are available as in-app purchases.
Star Traders: Frontiers (Android, iOS: $6.99)
Trese Brothers returns to space with Star Traders: Frontiers (Android, iOS), a persistent world sandbox RPG that puts you in command of your own starship in a dangerous star sector. As inheritor of a Star Trader charter, it’s up to you to decide what you’ll do with your ancestral vessel. Will you go after dangerous bounties, explore alien worlds, haul valuable cargo, or dabble in the politics of the sector’s rival factions? Configure your ship, hire the right crew, and take to the stars!
Shieldwall Chronicles (iOS: $9.99)
Wave Light Games continues its releases of tough tactical RPGs with Shieldwall Chronicles, a return to fantasy form after Strike Team Hydra. You'll build a mercenary band of six heroes, before heading out on adventures in the perilous North, where you'll engage in desperate battles against undead, lizardfolk, demons and other foes. You'll need to make the most out of each of your heroes' abilities as you use superior positioning and tactics to break your enemy's will and send them fleeing from the field. Multiple difficulty modes, a wealth of loot to collect and a range of unique heroes to recruit give Shieldwall Chronicles a lot of replayability for mobile gamers looking for a combat-focused RPG.
Tropico (iPad: $11.99)
El Presidente, it is 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.
Pocket City (Android, iOS:$3.99)
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.
Iron Marines (Android, iOS:$4.99)
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.
Darkest Dungeon (iPad: $4.99)
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.
Rome: Total War (Android, iOS: $9.99)
An empire-building classic comes to touch screens with the mobile port of Rome: Total War (Android, iOS). 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; it's finally available on Android devices, too.
A Planet of Mine (Android, iOS: Free)
A Planet of Mine (Android, iOS) pulls off the neat trick of taking the notoriously complex 4X genre and trimming it down so that it fits nicely into a mobile format. It also offers up a free-to-play monetization scheme that doesn't feel exploitative. Rather than spread itself out, A Planet of Mine focuses on building and developing the planets of your budding space empire, with players assigning workers to harvest resources and build structures on a rotating globe. As your civilization develops, you can colonize other worlds and encounter other species to befriend or wage war upon. The game comes with a number of races to start with and a Discovery game mode, while in-app purchases unlock other races and focused game modes.
Six Ages (iOS: $9.99)
A spiritual successor to the clan management RPG King of Dragon Pass, Six Ages: Ride Like The Wind fuses strategy and RPG gaming together. You lead your fledgling clan council and decide the fate of your people as you balance the physical and spiritual needs of your clan and relations with your many neighbors. Along the way, you'll face magical and monstrous threats, as well as a looming war between the gods of Glorantha. As with the original King of Dragon Pass, the real gems in this game are the more than 400 interactive scenes that present you with moral, diplomatic, military and religious dilemmas. Your choices and outcomes are impacted by your clan's history, traits, and the skills of the leaders in your clan council.
Project Highrise (Android, iOS: $3.99)
Build the skyscraper of your dreams in Project Highrise (Android, iOS), which makes the jump from PC to mobile devices. You build, manage and develop your own high rise tower, enjoying hours of gameplay as you add restaurants, stores, apartments, and offices. All of that 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.
Invisible, Inc. (iOS: $4.99)
Klei Entertainment’s Invisible, Inc. is a stylish cyberpunk infiltration game that’s a peculiar mix of turn-based strategy and puzzle gameplay. As leader of a small team of fugitive agents from Invisible, Inc., you must pit yourself against all the technological might of the world’s great megacorps, infiltrating their strongholds to make off with valuable information, tools and resources. Players are almost always the underdog, carefully planning the actions of their agents and calculating risk versus reward, as the clock keeps turning and the alert level gradually increases. Invisible, Inc. features procedurally generated levels as well as campaign and endless game modes. With a roster of unlockable agents, gear and hacking programs, the game offers a lot of replayability.
Lost Frontier (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Mika Mobile’s Lost Frontier (Android, iOS) is a turn-based tactics game that draws inspiration from portable classics like Advance Wars, while giving the battles a Wild West theme. Players command gunslingers and riders, as well as Gatling guns and fantastical steampunk inventions. You can choose a “Living Legend” to give your troops across-the-board bonuses, and the game offers a 24-mission campaign, themed challenge missions and a skirmish mode where you can take on the AI or other human players in pass-and-play games.
Subterfuge (Android, iOS: Free)
Subterfuge (Android, iOS) is a multiplayer strategy game where diplomatic skills are just as important as strategic genius. Players take command of steampunk nations competing to harvest underwater resources while waging a slow war of attrition and betrayal, building Neptunium mines and sending fleets of driller submarines against their enemies. Games are real-time, but actions such as moving submarines to attack or defend outposts can take hours to resolve, making coordination and inter-player diplomacy a critical element of each match.
Clash Royale (Android, iOS: Free)
Supercell's free-to-play Clash Royale (Android, iOS) may be a surprising addition to a list of old-school wargames, but Clash Royale features a cool mix of tower defense and lane pushing gameplay, all within tight 3-minute rounds. Players must carefully balance offense and defense, and with the quick play rounds, a single mistake can swing an entire match. That said, it is free to play, so expect some grinding as you slog through matches to earn reward chests (which you must also wait to unlock), unless you shell out cash for premium currency.
Templar Battleforce (Android, iOS: $9.99)
Templar Battleforce (Android, iOS) comes from indie strategy game designers Trese Brothers. It's a turn-based squad tactics and RPG game set in the developer's Star Traders universe. As commander of Templars, players must fight off ravenous aliens and rogue human factions across a branching 45-mission campaign. You will face attacks from boarding actions to open field battles, fighting retreats and other tactical puzzles. As you progress through the game, you'll get the chance to customize your battleforce to suit your play style, unlocking new special abilities, troop types and war gear.
Door Kickers (Android, iOS: $4.99)
Door Kickers (Android, iOS) puts you in command of a crack SWAT team engaged in a variety of tactical interventions, ranging from drug busts to hostage situations. Players can meticulously plan out their team’s tactics with an intuitive control scheme of drawing paths on your touchscreen and then execute it all in real time. As the situation develops, players can adjust their team’s movements on the fly by pausing and laying down new orders. A wide variety of maps, scenarios and campaigns provide a rich series of gameplay challenges, and randomized elements and a mission editor add tons of replayability.
XCOM: Enemy Within (Android, iOS: $12.99)
The mobile port of Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown was already an excellent mobile offering, and it gets better with standalone expansion Enemy Within (Android, iOS). The game adds new wrinkles to XCOM's blend of tactical firefights, R&D and crisis management in the form of new training options for your troops, such as the cybernetic MEC Troopers and genetically manipulated fighters. The game also offers up a new enemy to fight in the traitorous EXALT, a human faction attempting to exploit alien technology.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (iOS: Free)
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is that rarest of species: a fun, free and fair digital collectible card game. Players take on the role of the great heroes (and villains) of the Warcraft universe such as Thrall, Jaina Proudmoor or Gul'dan, engaging in epic duels and summoning allies and minions into the fray. Hearthstone features simple, easy-to-learn rules and full cross-platform play. Players earn gold that can be spent on booster packs or the Arena mode, a special "sealed draft" format that rewards canny deck building and smart play.
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (Android, iPhone: $13.99 Android; iPad: $15.99)
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (Android, iPhone, iPad) brings the classic turn-based fantasy game to iOS devices. Combining RPG and strategy game elements, Tactics brings players to the war-torn land of Ivalice as the young knights Ramza and Delita caught up in a brewing civil war. Featuring a revised English translation and a deep, well-written plot that feels like Game of Thrones (by way of anime) War of the Lions is an engaging and challenging strategy RPG.
FTL: Faster Than Light (iOS: $9.99)
If you haven’t already tried Subset Games’ superb space strategy game, do yourself a favor and pick it up now. FTL: Faster Than Light seems simple on the outside. You captain a ship across the uncharted cosmos, making sure you have enough fuel and resources to keep you and your crew alive. But as we’ve all seen on shows like Star Trek, space travel is anything but simple, and you’ll need to think fast and act fast if you want to survive all the dangers of space. Your ship is in constant need of repair, something that isn’t helped by the fact that most of the ships your encounter on your journey will want nothing more than you blow you out of the sky. Be prepared to die — a lot.