The Ultimate Guide to the Best Games Like Total War for Strategy Fans


By Jack Lin

Update on

Games Like Total War 1

Hey there fellow strategy gamers! If you’re a fan of the epic Total War series, you know the thrill of commanding massive armies across sweeping historic battlefields. But once you’ve sunk hundreds of hours into conquering the world as everything from feudal Japan to Napoleon’s France, you may be craving new strategic worlds to dominate.

Luckily, there are tons of deep, engrossing games like Total War out there for you to sink your teeth into. I’ve put together this guide to walk you through the top games similar to Total War in terms of strategic gameplay, so you can find your next big strategic obsession.

Whether you want to rule ancient civilizations, build medieval kingdoms, or command sci-fi legions, these games will satisfy your hunger for strategic supremacy. Let’s dive in!

An Overview of Total War Gameplay

Before we get into the alternatives, let’s quickly cover what makes Total War so special. These games blend turn-based strategy on a grand campaign map with real-time tactical battles.

  • On the campaign map, you manage settlements, build armies, and maneuver for key strategic positions against other factions.
  • When opposing armies meet, the game zooms down into a real-time battlefield where you command units and maneuver to defeat the enemy.
  • You balance high-level strategic decisions on the campaign map with tactical skill during battles.
  • Historic settings featuring distinct factions and units, along with a mix of magic and monsters in the Warhammer games.
  • Massive, cinematic battles with hundreds or thousands of troops slamming into each other.

This fusion of deep strategic gameplay with spectacular real-time battles has allowed Total War to redefine the strategy genre over the past 20 years. Fans love the feeling of being a great general manipulating armies over a grand campaign before fighting climatic, visceral battles.

Now let’s look at some great alternatives to bring that same strategic rush!

1. Sid Meier’s Civilization Series

When it comes to historical turn-based strategy franchises, Civilization is in a league of its own. Often described as a more strategic, abstracted take on the 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) genre compared to Total War’s war simulator approach.

Games Like Total War - Civilization

Key Gameplay Elements:

  • Turn-based gameplay where you move units and develop cities each turn. Wages war but no tactical battles.
  • Lead a civilization from the Stone Age to the Space Age over hundreds of turns.
  • Deep strategy with where to settle cities, tech research, government types, diplomacy.
  • Build one of history’s greatest empires and compete for various victory conditions.

Fans of Total War will appreciate Civilization’s blend of strategic decisions with historical powers. Deciding whether to build settlers, builders, or military units each turn evokes Total War’s campaign map planning. Just on a broader timescale.

Pick your favorite civilization, from the science-minded Babylonians to the warmongering Huns. Guide them through history, competing with rivals for territory, resources, technological supremacy, and more. Balance military force with culture, science, diplomacy and other factors.

With robust mod support and varied DLC, there’s practically infinite strategic scenarios and challenges to tackle in Civilization. It’s the perfect pick for armchair generals who want to model history from a bird’s eye view.

2. Europa Universalis IV

Paradox Interactive has become synonymous with complex, immersive grand strategy titles. For Total War fans, Europa Universalis IV is a great place to start, with its focus on empire building during the Age of Discovery and Reformation.

Europa Universalis

Key Gameplay Elements:

  • Extensive roster of nations paired with detailed maps and historical events.
  • Manage trade, diplomacy, colonization, technology and more over centuries.
  • Engage in epic multiplayer clashes and alt-history scenarios.
  • Immersive simulation with advanced trade and economy systems.

Pick any nation from superpowers like France and England to regional underdogs like Norway or the Cherokee tribe. Guide your people to prosperity and power over 400 years, competing with both AI and human rivals in a deep strategic simulation.

While EU4 doesn’t have tactical battles, you’ll constantly maneuver armies and navies in a dance of strategic positioning and advantages. Support rebels abroad to weaken your enemies or send explorers to find wealthy new lands to conquer. Politics, espionage, ideas, and technology all factor into your imperial rise.

This is historical grand strategy at its most involved, where every decision can set your nation on divergent courses. For Total War fans who want to dive even deeper into strategic empire building, EU4 is a top choice.

3. Crusader Kings III

For a uniquely personal twist on medieval strategy gaming, Crusader Kings III lets you play as a dynasty rather than a nation. Murder rivals, arrange political marriages, and expand your family’s influence from a minor Count to a globe-spanning Emperor.

Games Like Total War - Crusader Kings II

Key Gameplay Elements:

  • Play as a Medieval noble dynasty, not a country. Focus on politics, intrigue, marriages and more to expand your house’s power over generations.
  • Thousands of interactive characters with shifting alliances, weaknesses, ambitions. Make friends or sinister plots.
  • Roleplaying focus where traits, behaviors, and personalities heavily impact your story.
  • Hybrid of real-time and turn-based gameplay. Pause frequently to issue orders and react to events.

Crusader Kings brilliantly fleshes out the human aspect of the era, from pious kings to greedy lords. Interactions feel more personal when it’s your niece getting married off for an alliance, not just moving pieces on a map.

Use intrigue or brute force to claw your way up the feudal hierarchy, playing the long game over centuries. When your current ruler dies, you continue as their heir, writing a Game of Thrones-esque tale full of power grabs, scandals, glory, and ruin. It’s a uniquely immersive medieval experience.

For Total War fans seeking strategic gameplay driven by vivid characters and roleplaying flavor, don’t miss this genre standout.

4. Unity of Command II

This slick wargame has you re-fighting key battles of World War II from the Eastern Front to North Africa. While small in scale compared to Total War, it delivers tactical WWII gameplay and challenging AI for armchair generals.

Unity of Command II

Key Gameplay Elements:

  • Turn-based tactical battles with squads of infantry, tanks, artillery and more.
  • Scenarios run 10-15 turns of intense, balanced tactical gameplay.
  • Realistic terrain, supply systems, unit capabilities mirror historic challenges.
  • High difficulty and competitive community provide motivate you to master the mechanics.

UOCIIs sharp interface and gameplay cuts away much of Total War’s scale, while retaining the satisfaction of flanking maneuvers and combined arms tactics. With limited troops, you need to use recon and positioning to concentrate force at key moments.

Storm a heavily defended ridge in Tunisia, shatter Panzer spearheads at Kursk, escape the Falaise Pocket – you’ll engage with history across hotly contested, compact battlefields. Tense turns model factors like visibility, supply consumption, high ground, and more.

For Total War players who want to zoom in on history and master core tactics, UOCII is a polished and surprisingly deep wargame perfect for competitive 1v1 matches.

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5. StarCraft II

This iconic sci-fi RTS doesn’t need much introduction. With its impeccable balance, competitive community, and endlessly fun multiplayer, StarCraft II carries on the excellence of its progenitor.

StarCraft II

Key Gameplay Elements:

  • Rock-paper-scissors unit design with iconic races: Terrans, Zerg, Protoss.
  • Emphasis on competitive multiplayer & 1v1 skill over singleplayer.
  • Crisp, proven RTS mechanics like fog of war, unit counters, and resource gathering.
  • High mechanical skill ceiling with professional esports scene.

StarCraft II multiplayer scratches a similar itch to Total War for fast-paced, lethal battles that demand strategic mastery. Effortlessly zipping to hotspots and pulling off precise maneuvers takes dexterity.

Choosing the right units then positioning and flanking with them takes brains. SCII captures war’s tense, chaotic feel within wonderfully balanced gameplay – though on a smaller, more abstract scale.

Visually, it’s a treat with diverse maps and armies bristling with lasers, claws, and plasma weaponry. If you want competitive, heart-pounding tactical challenges, SCII remains a top choice.

6. Hearts of Iron IV

For the ultimate World War II strategic experience, Hearts of Iron IV delivers warfare modeled down to division-level armies and individual vehicles. It immerses you in history like no other WWII game.

Hearts of Iron IV

Key Gameplay Elements:

  • Sophisticated strategic warfare model where you command land, air, and naval forces.
  • Manage production, resources, technologies, politics, and more as any nation.
  • Mod support expands the game from Great War to modern day warfare.
  • Grand strategy extends far beyond combat to diplomacy, espionage, and more.

HOI4 brings Total War’s blend of strategy and tactics into recent history. Use overwhelming force and tactical know-how to break enemy lines. Coordinate armies, armor, and air wings across sprawling fronts. Develop advanced weapons to gain an edge while contending with volatile political dynamics back home.

It captures the interconnected nature of WWII better than any game out there. How the war transformed economies, societies, technologies, and more. If you want to dive deeper into history and master global warfare on a truly massive scale, HOI4 can’t be beat.

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Other Notable Mentions

Beyond these titles, here are a few more excellent games like Total War to check out:

  • Age of Wonders – Fantasy 4X series with epic turn-based tactical battles between sorcerers, demons, dragons and more. City building paired with tactical combat.
  • Battle Brothers – Low fantasy mercenary tactics and strategy game. Assemble, equip, and lead a medieval company in turn-based combat.
  • Steel Division 2 – Competitive WWII division-level tactical battles at massive scale. Realistic maps and mechanics.
  • Galactic Civilizations 3 – Lead humans or aliens into the far future in this addictive, sandbox 4X space strategy game.

Key Takeaways: Finding Your Next Strategy Fix

  • For historical empire building on an epic scale, try Civilization or Europa Universalis.
  • For personality-driven medieval intrigue and dynastic strategy, go with Crusader Kings III.
  • If you want to command armies in tactically deep scenarios, check out Unity of Command II.
  • For competitive, fast-paced multiplayer battles, you can’t go wrong with StarCraft II.
  • For immersive World War 2 combined strategic/tactical play, give Hearts of Iron IV a look.
  • Beyond this list, games like Age of Wonders provide additional options blending 4X and tactical play.

No matter your skill level and strategic interests, games that capture Total War’s blend of big picture thinking and battlefield action exist. Weigh different settings, scopes, and design approaches as you move beyond the Total War series and sample new strategic experiences!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do these games have co-op or multiplayer features?

A: Most of the games listed offer multiplayer in some form, often with both co-op and competitive options. Civilization, Crusader Kings 3, Europa Universalis IV, StarCraft 2, and Hearts of Iron IV all have robust multiplayer communities and modes to play with or against friends.

Q: How difficult are these games to learn for new players?

A: The learning curves vary quite a bit. StarCraft 2 and Europa Universalis 4 are on the more complex end. Games like Civilization have plenty of difficulty settings and tutorials guiding new players. Checking forums and YouTube guides can help ease the initial learning process for any title.

Q: Are there console versions available?

A: A few games like Civilization 6 and Crusader Kings 3 are on consoles, but most grand strategy titles focus on PC. StarCraft 2 has console options too. Generally PC offers the best experience for these strategy epics.

Q: Do I need a powerful PC to run them?

A: Depending on the game, you can often get by with a moderately powerful PC, but performance improves with better hardware of course. The more advanced 3D visuals of HOI4 and SC2 demand more GPU power compared to a game like Civilization.

Q: Are there good options for people new to strategy games?

A: Civilization is likely the most beginner-friendly introduction to deep PC strategy. Crusader Kings 3 does a great job easing players into its unique mechanics. Games like SC2 have helpful campaign modes and resources to gently introduce multiplayer.

Q: How much do the base games cost compared to all the DLC?

A: Base games are typically $40-$60 USD upon launch. There is frequently a lot of optional DLC which can get pricey if you want all of it. But you can enjoy any of these picks immensely with just the core game.

Q: Should I play older titles or jump right into the newest releases?

A: Newer iterations tend to be more user-friendly with quality of life enhancements. But earlier titles are often just as deep at their core. Playing older classics like Total War: Shogun 2 or Civilization V can be a great, cheaper way to try a series.

Q: Are there other game genres similar to Total War’s style I might enjoy?

A: If you enjoy the blend of empire management with real-time tactical battles, also check out games blending 4X strategy with combat like Endless Legend. And the Mount & Blade games provide real-time battles and commanding armies on a smaller party scale.

Now Get Out There and Forge a New Empire!

Alright my fellow armchair generals, those are my picks for deep strategy games sure to please any Total War fan. Each one puts a fascinating lens on different eras and warfare models.

So whether you most enjoy commanding medieval armies or WWII corps, these engrossing and highly replayable titles will satisfy your hunger for strategic dominance. They may lack Total War’s epic real-time 3D battles, but make up for it by enhancing that strategic depth in new ways.

Hopefully this guide helps point you toward fresh worlds and challenges to experience. Now get out there, choose your next mighty civilization, feudal dynasty, or modern superpower. The thrill of strategic control awaits in these immersive worlds. Lead your people wisely and crush your foolish enemies!


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