Top Ten Best RTS Games

The top ten best real-time strategy games of all time.

The Top TenXW

1StarCraft

StarCraft Original lacked in balance between races, so it is incorrect to list it as number one. In fact, it was StarCraft: Brood War that brought the balance to the game.

The fact that top pros in the literally most competitive gaming environment ever managed to completely reinvent their play styles at least a dozen times over the past decade just proves how infinite SC:BW really is when it comes to the freedom a player is given.

SC:BW remains the one and only game that gives the player an absolute freedom in deciding on which element of RTS to focus as well as adjust the pace of the game accordingly - no other RTS has ever done it, as WC3 has a catastrophic macro aspect and zero to none multitasking on 50 different locations for 50 different reasons which you have to decide for yourself in every second of the game. Accordingly, StarCraft 2 has a very specific ratio of micro and macro presence in the game, making it fast but with a pre-determined pace that players cannot alter (i. e. build orders have fixed timings, whereas in SC:BW you could literally do the same build order for 4 years in a row and after 2-3 years you'll notice you're actually doing everything 60 seconds faster or more)

Simply the best RTS game made in history.
Thousands of players over 10 years after release quite speaks for itself.

If in doubt, go buy it now for practically nothing, and try it out yourself!
Pure gold from the time Blizzard still had soul and focused on quality.

The biggest game in the whole game industry. Balanced on a level which has no competitor. Tons of options, no forced gameplay. I'm still in love with Protoss

It was once the best selling game in South Korea

V34 Comments
2Company of Heroes

The best game I have ever played!
This game is always the best Real-Time Strategy game.
You should try Company of heroes Online!
You will like it.

Great game that does best what an RTS should do - focus on strategy.

realistic war. Tank cannot kill with rifle like some other RTS games.

#1 without a doubt

V50 Comments
3WarCraft III

Realy good game, perfect balance.
Handy map editor so you can create very good mods.
One of them (dota) is really nice to play.

WarCraft 3 is the best. Like the other person said, it has a good map editor. The Frozen Throne expansion had an AMAZING story. The four races are:Human, Orcs, The Night Elves and The undead. The units of each race are on a different scale. FORGET THIS! I forgot to mention heroes. The heroes are your generals, your most powerful units. Each level grants you an ability point. For example, the human blood mage, gets phoenix at level 6.

Quality RTS Game. 3D Graphics and 4 Different races.
Uses Battle.net, an amazing game server!
One downside the 4 races may seem unbalanced.

I play this with god mode!

V21 Comments
4Supreme Commander

I BeastmodeGuNs Believe that supreme commander forged Alliance is good RTS for a few reasons, first off is gameplay

There are 4 Different Factions to supreme Commander Forged Alliance Each Having their own units and structures, and in supreme commander FA, you can control 100s of units On maps ranging from the smaller 5x5 and 10x10 to the Larger 20X20 and 40x40 and even 81x81

Each faction has at least 30 different units you can use to defeat your opponent including Land Forces, Air Units, and Naval Units, as well as units called Experimentals which you can use to turn the tide of the battle,

you also have your main Unit called the ACU which you use to start your base if you have the "prebuild base" option off, not only can you use an ACU for constructing a base, building up your resources (mass and energy) and create factories to make units but you can also use your ACU for combat purpose, and the ACU for each faction also has a array of upgrades to choose from including shield generators, upgrades so you can building more things with your ACU, upgrades for its weaponry ETC.
there are also SCUs which are similar to ACUs but have different upgrades and can be built unlike the ACU. And there are also engineers that you can make from any kind of factory to build with

The Graphics if you have them on A higher setting are pretty good I think, and the strategic zoom feature that allows you to zoom out and see the entire battle field can help so you can look around the battle field much quicker and see it from a view that is different from other RTS games, Each Faction also has there own skinning and textures, the User Interface of each Faction is even a bit different in terms of design. But the game does require a fairly decent computer to run on higher graphics and see many things on the battlefield without lag.

The game also has its own "Player Driven Community" due to the GPGNet client's death by THQ, though the community which has patches and cool features that get added to it actually turns out to be better then the official client in my opinion, this community is called FAF or Forged Alliance Forever.

as for mods and Maps, there a decent number of Officially made maps to choose from some can be good as well as many epic community made maps that can be downloaded on the FAF client that can all be played, with each map though, its likely you will have to change your strategy based on the map and opponent and allied players movements in action that can range from small 1v1 matches to the larger 6v6 matches with players.

As for Mods there are many nice mods that include adding new units and buildings, bug fixes and rebalancing, mods that can bring new and different features, and even a mod or 2 that allows for a new faction, though you there are a few on the client.

as for single player campaign I will let you find out your self, but overall I think the game is a pretty good RTS for its time and that even now it is still a great RTS compared to the stuff that is made now,

So I recommend that you try supreme commander Forged Alliance, you can get it off of amazon for only around 10$ I got in at the end of 2010 and thought it was worth it, though you may not find the experience the best on a not that good computer even though I have a better one now, the game is still good for many things,

Despite how unknown it is I think it deserves to be known more then Supreme Commander 2 which Is ok but not near as good as forged alliance...

One of the best RTS's I've ever played, fast, tactical and intense.

This game has the biggest battle scale on the list, you can command hundreds of units at once and then view at it's epic-scale battles, I didn't like the second one personally, not sure what you guys think...

Not better than Total Annihilation, as this "evolution" lost many of its good ideas reducing the maps and unit types.

V106 Comments
5Age of Empires III

Best RTS of all time hands down. Only reason it wasn't more popular than AOEII is that the graphics where ahead of it's time. Took a beefy machine to run this game and not many people could play it unless all of the affects where turned off. The graphics are still ahead of most RTS's that have been released in the last 3 years. That is an amazing thing. There still is not an RTS that even comes close to touching AOEI in any way especially with the Asian Dynasties expansion pack. If you didn't rank this first, it's likely only because you haven't played it yet and have no clue what you are talking about.

Microsoft where complete and utter fools to close ensemble studios. The only bad thing about this game, is it will ruin any other RTS experience for you. Nothing else measures up to date. I'm not interested in playing any other RTS though I've tried almost all of them. Truly sad Microsoft's lack of foresight on this. Even more sad that they are holding onto the rights.

Beats Total War in my opinion. Its has both jaw dropping graphics and easy to learn gameplay. Good for Pros and Newcomers alike. AOE still holds the throne for the Best historic RTS game...

the 3rd edition of the great series moves to America with better graphics - MatrixGuy

Love this game have played out for years

V29 Comments
6Age of Empires II

Yes, the best RTS and one of the best games of all time. Why? Because it was the true definition of an RTS game series of whom got it start before Starcraft. It boasted 13 civilizations, although similar, each has unique units and abilities like faster work rate, stronger infantry, stronger cavalry, and is loaded with variety that changes your approach to strategy with each civilization. Terrain variety; sand, dirt, water, different forest types, and later snow and ice. This game had great graphics not only for its time but it still looks great. Even though I have AOE3 running on a great computer, I still consider AOE2's graphics superior because of the smooth gameplay and uncluttered feel. Not to put Starcraft down but I just do not like it, I have made myself play it so many times just because everyone makes it seem so good that I want to experience that joy, and I only end up with a headache and slight wanting-to-puke feelings. Not only do I feel Age of Empires 2 is my favorite RTS, but I honestly feel it is the best, and for good reason. If you haven't played this, don't watch videos and read about, go get AoE2 with the conquerors expansion, and just play it.

Age of empires 2 two was my third RTS game, the first was dune, then came red alert, then Age of Empires 2. The first age of empires lacked the finesse of being a great game due to the lack of large populations, but once I played AoE 2 I truly fell in love with RTS. Age of Empires 2 has a variety of gameplay that most RTS games lack. The seeded maps tend to make games unpredictable due to the random positions of resources, this meant that I had to come out with strategies on the spot, in addition to requiring base building mobility, my macro and micro were both equally important. If I did not micro my scout and worker positions at the start of the game I could be 7 minutes behind a rival, the most single mistakes could cost me dearly in games. That is not to say that Age of Empires 2 was fun only because of PvP, going against computers was very fun too, in fact it occupied 90% of the time I played AoE 2, 1 vs 6 hardest AIs. The game had very interesting aspects to it, very often when I found creating the most worthless units for situations, there was always a way I could find a solution aside from the nooby villager rush. (I never rushed with villagers because players I played against know how to counter it fast and punish hard). Age of Empires 2 has very good graphics compared to most games for its quality and much more smooth...

I'm surprised people rank age of empire 2 under the others, for no one who is a truly well enjoyed/experienced RTS player would say this game deserves a rank of 11...

Graphics do not determine a very Qualitative RTS, its all about gameplay, compatibility, smoothness, variety, adaptability, and capability to be competitive.

The perfect RTS. The only flaw I can find is possibly the inability to create self-perpetuating income. However, relics and the market do enable even this. Random map is the single most amazing element of any RTS, ever. Three ways to win, not including regicide, keeps everyone in a multiplayer game even after they've been reduced to a single peasant. Four resources creates nice complexity and allows for alternate resource starvation strategies. The thought that was put into the game by the developers, I mean eight different food sources for heaven's sake, is astounding. And balance... Ah balance... While other RTS games claim to have balance, AoE II is the standard for balance, because each race is the same, except for the differences, which are the strategic point of the game and were your choice in the first place. If Age of Empires II were to receive some very minor graphic upgrades, exactly the same proportions, just better animations, better lighting, better water textures and such, it would be the only RTS you need... Just as is Battlefield 1942 the only FPS you need.

Amazing game, my first RTS, simple enough for children to play (I first played it when I was 10) but still provides a challenge at any age.

V47 Comments
7Total Annihilation

The first RTS game to display 3D generated units and terrain (no sprites! ), affecting things like terrain that can block shots depending on high the shot is fired, and turrets that swivel and fire with every pixel.
Various worlds to ravage upon, including metal, beach, volcanic, ice and no land water based worlds (Yes, this game features a lot of sea/amphibious units).
This is a game about awesome game play - not a 'movie'

One of the first mainstream futuristic RTS's without this you wouldn't have half the amount of real time strategy games on this top 10.

Best game ever - hundreds of different units allows true strategy, and having to defend against air, sea and land attacks just makes it all the more awesome. Epic online battles with shared resources allowed strategy of the type not seen in other online Real Time Strategy games, where each player can play their part - some people farming resources - others concentrating on defense or attack, not just for themselves - but for their team.

This was the first RTS game I was ever introduced to, played it when I was 6, 12 years on, still playing it

V32 Comments
8Empire Earth

Empire Earth (along with its expansion, EE:AoC) was an amazing game for its time. I still find myself returning to it from time to time.

It simply is an amazing RTS with gameplay that spans the history of man.

In most RTS games you can end a match in 30 minutes. In Empire Earth a match may last for hours and maybe days. The game also is the only one that has 15 epochs while others RTS games don't have more than 4. That's why its the best RTS game of all time!

Empire Earth is the Best Game of All Time should be Top 5 Atleast its better then Ages of Empires

This and Rise of Nations are great often overlooked RTS games.

V23 Comments
9StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Everything about this game is great, but a few things stand out. First it is simple but can be turned into something complicated for more advanced players. 2nd there are so many different types of completely unique strategys instead of the plain old, build and attack and hope you built faster then the other guy. And 3rd, YOU CAN BUNCH UP YOUR UNITS. This seems trivial but the main thing I notice about other rts games that ticks me off is that the units are so spread out and don't follow a direct path, they just kind of walk arond in circles a couple times trying to get to the objective or they wont get into a small space so you can control them easily.

Best of the bests...
Awesome Graphics, gameplay, sounds.

Just keep me playing months ago...

Been a StarCraft lover since I was 8, but once StarCraft II came out, I thought the original became obsolete. Easily in the top ten, but Blizzard overdid themselves. And with the never-ending possibilities and bug-fixes in the game, it never gets old. How they will top this in StarCraft I (if they make one) is going to be extraordinarily difficult.

I think Starcraft 2 is the best rts game in the world and I am very shocked that brood war beat Starcraft 2

V32 Comments
10The Lord of The Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth

This game is very simple but each races distinct units and abilities balance the all out and make every game wide open for anyone playing. It has a very accurate to the movies campaign and all the heroes from the films. In one moment you can go from being attacked by archers to have a Balrog knocking down your gate and destroying everything, this game gets crazy fast. If you're looking for an rts that focuses on combat and units more than city building give this game a try.

This game is excellent. Not to mention it is great fun to relive the films as RTS. All expansions take you deeper into the world of Middle Earth.

Seriously? This is one of the greatest RTS games in existence! Great campaign mode, multi-playability (until they shut down the online play.. Thank you to Gameranger and other sites for keeping it alive ), and the second one and its expansion are even better! You can't put a price on games like these but sadly you need an older computer to even run the game. Thank you Windows for being stupid!

Simply THE BEST... This should easily be number 1. An excellent RTS - extremely similar to C&C with better gameplay, factions, and units. The second... Even better gameplay, with a little less on graphics.

V14 Comments

The Contenders

11Rise of Nations

While other games may have better graphics and smoother mechanics, Rise of Nations has the nostalgia feel that no other game can match for me. Plus, the stability of it on pretty much any system makes it a must get for any RTS gamer, especially for those who don't have top-of-the-line systems.

Huge variety and complexity, beautifully crafted and presented this is a cracking, immerse game. Full of subtle touches as you progress and constantly varying dynamics. This is my all time favorite game by a mile. On the surface, it may seem like AOE 2/3, but in my opinion it is far better and more interesting.

This is very interesting game. I like it. I need another version of this game.

Best RTS game in my opinion, the only thing I miss, and I don't get why Microsoft didn't include them, are walls.

V29 Comments
12Command & Conquer

The first game.. just because of its epicness.
Awesome music as well. Frank Klepacki rocks! - hassefar60

The original Command & Conquer wasn't only a great game, it had a spirit that most newer games lack. Sure it had it's problems, but the feeling this game produced is completely unique, the first Red Alert being the only one that can even compare.

I played C&C right after I played red alert 2 and yuris revenge, westwood will always hold a special place in my heart when it comes to RTS game, but the C&C serious up till tiberium wars will always be my favorite RTS games

Truely EPIC in its entirety. This game is the father of RTS hands down. No other game deserves as much respect, not even Starcraft

V7 Comments
13WarHammer 40000

This is coming from someone who has played Warhammer 40,000 all throughout his life and sees it as not just a simple hobby but essentially a life long love and something that you must go through with love, determination, and wits to be successful in. Warhammer 40,000 deserves to be ranked higher, but this rank is as we all know good as well. It combines science fiction, tactics, as well as good 'ole blood and gore. All Warhammer players also realize the sheer awesomeness of the chainsword as well

Fast paced, frenetic, squad based combat, 7 playable races, and a sandbox turn-based campaign map for single player. Minimized resource management and maximum unit management. Customize-able squads allow you to change not only the look of the unit and your army as a whole but the functionality of the squad being upgraded, allowing for endless combinations, strategies, and tactics

This should easily be in the top 10. With a much different and overall better take on RTS genre instead of the usual mass worker go gather resource instead you use your army to capture strategic points on the map to generate income take critical location to get a countdown victory a much more varied way to win then just destroy your opponent, adds a lot more strategy to the game. Has a amazing cover system as well as most troops able to melee as well as shoot. I could keep going on how amazing this game is it's just that damn good.

Long live the Emperor! Watch the Imperium of Mankind through its finest hour. It is a great strategy game for all people and easy to understand.

V12 Comments
14Homeworld

After so many years Homeworld still looks fine to me, and I saw in very few space strategies those excellent mechanics of rockets and other stuff dealing damage to enemies at impact, not only ugly and stupid animations like those in Sins of solar empire. That always made this game looks and feels so great for me. Epic storyline, based on original Battlestar Galactica series, joined with excellent soundtrack (Adagio for strings by Samuel Barber especially) and voice acting makes this game just most epic experience in my gamer life.

The 3D world makes you think and play in ways that are fun and difficult at the same time along with intense massive battles with a great story line, combine that with awesome multiplayer and great Ai and you have a perfect game.

I recently got this game, and its 2011! But seriously, amazing game, good story line, and fun gameplay. Pure miracle for its time

Homeworld was my all time favorite when I was growing up, The scale of the fights, the story line in the campaign was great, Heck I even cried in the Homeworld 2 campaign and that is something I've never done before.

V15 Comments
15Rome: Total War

The best of two worlds, turn base and RTS all in one, also one of the best eras for strategy war games. Still playing it, and loving it.

Honestly the most satisfying RTS game and also one that uses true brains and strategy rather than producing more than your enemy can, unit placement and movements are key and morale is what makes this game a true strategy game.

A totally different approach to RTS than other RTS games. If you are looking for a realistic RTS then this is the best. Battles and affairs of state are kept seperate in the game allowing for battles to be extremely realistic.

What this should be top 5 for sure

V10 Comments
16Command and Conquer 3

In C&C series, RA 2 yuri is the best for me, you can out wit others with in 5 min. A lot of fast fast and long game strategies, good story line, good music. Bad side, too many mods and bugs, and map always reveal after explored, make it hard to sneak in. In entertaining perspective, I would rank ra2 yuri only after warcraft 3, only because warcraft3 has ton of custom and ton of players online.

The most best games ever made, yet it is so underestimated these games deserve more.
The stories are very well done and the units are very well conceived.
Over the years the games become more beautiful pity that C ^^ C 4 Tiberium Twilight is different than I expected.
I can not say what's the best but if I had to pick it would be C ^^ C 3, the graphic image of it is just too beautiful it's a demanding game.
It is a pity that they do so as a long game.
On a scale of 1 / 10 I would say a 9.
I can not wait until they release a new game.
It is definitely a game that everyone should play once.

The first rts game. Best rts saga. Great game with great characters and story. The other strategy games compare to this are just crap.

Command and conquer makes he best RtS games

V24 Comments
17Stronghold: Crusader

It's an RTS game mixed with a castle simulator. There are so many ways you can approach any one situation. The enemy has a large castle? Sneak in a bunch of slaves and burn his crops to the ground! What, his gate's are always locked? Send in some knights to attack the walls, and then send in assassins to open the gate from the other side!

Not to mention the genuine feel of running your own castle! The characters are fun to play against, and the dynamic market system was a feature that not many games bothered to introduce into their games yet.

One of the first games I played. And it got my attention since first time I played it. I like how real everything is about managing your castle. The happyness, the combat, building, economy, everything kept me with this game untill today

Best RTS game ever in my opinion. Its simplicity, fused with its fun factor clearly makes game really entertaining! Much better than any other game of its genre.

9/10 game. Just a wonderful castle-building/RTS experience. This game perfectly merges the two, making it one of the best RTS's ever in my opinion.

V14 Comments
18Command & Conquer: Red Alert

The Best RTS hands down. Thousands of people still play this game as well. Red Alert 1, has the greatest campaign I've ever seen, and red alert 2, was perfect for on line gaming. Red Alert 3 is total garbage, and any real red alert would agree.

I'm putting all of the Red Alert games, aldo Red Alert 3 is my favorite because of the graphics, before it was released I used to play Red Alert 2 all the time, and loved it.

First rts game I ever played. I still find myself loading it up! The expansion with Yuri and the mind control... My favorite game of all time.

19Age of Mythology

Age of Mythology was the first game I ever played... So much memories... After 10 years, I still play it, and I enjoy it the same. That says something, doesn't it? It's just something else... It's the very definition of a simple game, yet it's awesome...

AoM for ever! - RigasUT

I love this game to death! My only regret is that it faced a natural death as newer games stole the spotlight. To this day I secretly hope that everyone will discover what a great game it is.

I used to no life age of mythology for so long... Great game! I really enjoyed it because the strategy is a lot like real life!

Very Underrated and surely deserves higher than #17 spot, for it's one of the best RTS games ever made.

V18 Comments
20Warcraft II

On top of nostalgia value, this game has a lot to credit it: an interesting and well developed plot, a quintessential RTS mechanic, cool units, even good atmosphere (including the funny quotes your units say if you click on them over and over again - and who could forget exploding sheep? ). Starcraft is basically just this game set in space (and the leftovers of a lost Warhammer 40k lisence), and frankly Warcraft 3 failed to meet the standard that this game set.

I could go through the hassle of writing a clear and precise analysis on why it's easily the most perfect RTS ever made, but you newbies wouldn't understand anyways.

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1. Rise of Nations
2. Company of Heroes
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2. Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm
3. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
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1. Company of Heroes
2. The Lord of The Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth
3. Command & Conquer Red Alert 2
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