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.
The war is over, but now the harder task of rebuilding begins. In Rebel Inc. (Android, iOS), the spiritual successor to Ndemic Creations' groundbreaking hit Plague Inc., you take on an entrenched insurgency while keeping your troops safe and winning over hearts and minds. Players will have to balance their military and political needs, pitting their troops against nimble insurgents on the map while also making sure that they 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; 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.
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 headcount, lights out and other prison routines while also exploring your surroundings, stealing useful items and tools, and figuring 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 including blocks and attack chains to provide a more challenging experience.
The classic tower defense series returns with Kingdom Rush Vengeance (Android, iOS), 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; you also need to manage powers and upgrades to deal with the enemies over 16 levels. Vengeance is already a $5 download, but more tower variants and premium heroes are available as in-app purchases.
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!
Wave Light Games continues its releases of tough tactical RPGs with Shieldwall Chronicles, a return to fantasy form after Strike Team Hydra. Players will build their own mercenary band of six heroes and then go on adventures in the perilous North, engaging 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.