Top Ten Best RTS Games

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

The Top Ten

StarCraft StarCraft Product Image

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 ...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.

This shouldn't need any justification to any serious RTS player.

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

Company of Heroes Company of Heroes Product Image

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.

You need tactics and strategy in this game. In Starcraft any where on the map is anywhere on the map, but in Company of Heroes the map can mean your direct counters loses to its counter because of the map. Cover matters. If you like strategy you like this better than Starcraft, if you are a gamer and like games before you like war or strategy you like starcraft better.

WarCraft III WarCraft III Product Image

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.

Not as revolutionary as StarCraft, however it is one of the most, if not the most unique RTS game of all time. The factions are highly differentiated and the introduction of heroes adds a new dynamic to traditional strategy that adds depth and replayability, whilst additional features such as the superb Battle.net system and the accessible yet powerful world editor make WarCraft 3 a transcending classic. Top that off with what is one of the greatest storylines in gaming, and WarCraft I definitely deserves the title of 'best RTS game'.

Age of Empires III Age of Empires III Product Image

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...

Expansions, greatest RTS ever made.
The sheer complexity of this this game leaves a person learning even after playing it over a 1000 times.
No exaggeration!

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

Empire Earth Empire Earth Product Image

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

Empire Earth is a real time strategy game from Sierra, which you build your civilizations not through ages but epochs. Select from 14 epochs in world history including the Bronze Age, the Renaissance, the Imperial Age, World War II and the Digital Age and establish an empire for the ages. Contained here are links for both Empire Earth and it's expansions

Age of Empires II Age of Empires II Product Image

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 ...more

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 ...more

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 ...more

Hands down, one of the best if not the best RTS games of all time. This was the first RTS game I played to be honest, but the main reason this is way better than the third version is the completely balanced civilizations. The third version never had the balance this one had but was superior in terms of graphics and some mechanics like queuing. And since it's going to have a definitive edition and have those mechanics added, It's going to keep this position for a long time.

Total Annihilation Total Annihilation Product Image

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.

Best RTS ever. Simple economy and ease to play with levels of tech to build up to. Wonderful list of units and the community add on's gave this game tons of play time. Ultimate mech warfare.

Supreme Commander Supreme Commander Product Image

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 ...more

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...

This game adds strategy and scope ranging from quick rushes on 5kmx5km maps to 81km to 81km maps with numerous tactics and strategies at a player's disposal. You can essentially do anything on this RTS game, there's so much diversity. The unfortunate factor is after playing this game, all other RTS games fail in comparison. I recommend watching videos on Praisegugleourmaster's youtube account to see the gist of things. Make sure to google Forged Alliance Forever (FAF) if you're interested in this game.. Its the community driven fan site.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Product Image

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.

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.

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

Just keep me playing months ago...

The matchmaking system is great, the balance is constantly being supervised. Will this game ever be outdated? No!

Rise of Nations Rise of Nations Product Image

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.

Great game, Tough to play with OCD though because the roads were hard to align how I wanted.

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

The Contenders

Stronghold: Crusader Stronghold: Crusader Product Image

Simply the game I go back to when the others bore me. RTS stategy with plenty of options and AI to keep it interesting.

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.

Command & Conquer Command  & Conquer Product Image

Litterally the only reason rts ever became a thing... how it's not number 1 is insane. Until EA destroyed it it was THE most complex rts in terms of pushing the limits of what was available and what a computer could accomplish at the time.

Obviously the king. No question about that. This game as stated before me is the standard at which all RTS games need to live up to. When ever I get a RTS game I'm looking for one that will recreate the same level of fun I had when I first fired up C&C.

There are at least 8 games in the top 10 that suck dogs compared to any C&C game.

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

The Lord of The Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth The Lord of The Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth Product Image

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!

This is hands down one of the most fun and interesting RTS games I've ever played.

Rome: Total War Rome: Total War Product Image

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.

Simply Amazing game that occupied much of my time, I absolutely cannot wait Rome: Total War 2 set to release sometime this year but be sure to play the original you wont regret it.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert Command & Conquer: Red Alert Product Image

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.

Oh, Red Alert 1. The people who invented Chess wished they had Command & Conquer.

CnC Red Alert 1- The best RTS yet of all time, no one has ever reacreated this feeling, this strategy, this simplistic but amazingly complicated game. And even with it's really amusing cartoony caricatures of Stalin, Einstein, & the Allies, games themselves become intense battles for all out world domination.

If you're looking for an RTS and have never played this, play it. People are still playing this game 20 years after it came out. The best players in the world are playing on cnet. I play every day. I literally dream in Q,click, attack, because of this game - Nickalia

Command and Conquer 3 Command and Conquer 3 Product Image

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

I like all the games listed in this top ten, but CNC 3 was one of the last games released (at least good games, not something like C*N*C TT) in this epic series and I like it as one of the best for me followed by RAs (no matter which one) and then other installments in the series.

Going back to its roots, Command & Conquer 3 revives the epic conflict between the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod. There's a third side called the Scrin in the fray now, but you'll remember the Mammoth tanks and ion cannons from earlier games in the series. C&C3 has a good selection of multiplayer maps and Battlecast functionality, which makes spectating games fairly easy.

Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 Product Image

A C&C game is not in the top 10? WORST LIST EVER! This game had it all; though it's story is nothing to write home about, it's music is a memorable selection of techno tunes, it's graphics look good for 2.5D standards, and it's multiplayer was top of the class. I prefer Yuri's Revenge if only because it balanced characters such as Tanya, added new units, a whole new playable faction and team-based skirmishes, but that doesn't stop Red Alert 2 on it's own being worth your time and money.

It's 2015, I'm 16, and believe it or not I've been playing this since I was about 4, I still play it even today (well the expansion) and it never gets old, amazing game. Also if you ever feel you're getting bored of it, there are hundreds of AMAZING modifications for this game. The gameplay never ends. If you love RTS games and don't have this, get it right now. Be sure to pick up the expansion pack as well.

I still play this game today! This is by far one of the best RTS games because if its simplicity and allowing any individual across a variety of ages to get into the game. The soundtrack was superb as well as the graphics for a game made in 2000.

C&C games have to be on the list! Although its hard to pick just one... I'd have to say that Red Alert 2 had some of the best gameplay in the entire series. It's biggest flaw was that it set the bar too high for the new games.

WarHammer 40000 WarHammer 40000 Product Image

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.

I can sum this game up in one simple word. Baneblade. There is nothing like watching the rolling death machine plowing its way through an army.

Halo Wars Halo Wars Product Image

Extremely awesome, I love Halo wars! Halo Wars I like a tower defense (exceptional of the the campaign mode) Combined with a Halo game. Very good! I would really recommend trying the Halo wars demo on the Xbox 360 game marketplace or buying the full version.

Just awesome, one of the things that make Halo Wars better is that it is on a console, as many of us know, most console RTS suck, so it is a great game and for a console for the win

The best RTS ever! It combines HALO and Strategy games! You can't ask for more!

Epic game of all time. At least better than homeworld.

Homeworld Homeworld Product Image

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

I had this game when I was younger and I must say it was one of the most fun and strategy based PC gaming experiences that I have ever had. The gameplay was smooth and fun, and the storyline was excellent. It is definitely one of the greatest RTS games, and most certainly still 100% playable twelve or so years later.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 Product Image

Worst list ever! This game must be in top 10. This is the best simple RTS I ever play, one resources and no worker to build make this game are easy to play but not easy to stop playing

The best RTS game on this planet is RED ALERT 3!

Command & Conquer Generals Command & Conquer Generals Product Image

Good graphics and exciting game play. Campaigns are great. Challenge mode in zero hour is my favorite as well. Spent hundreds of hours to play this game in my collage.

One of the greatest RTS games of all time, a lot of possible strategies, excellent graphics for his period, unfortunately the expansion is a little unbalanced

Best game ever. It still feels current with everything that is going on in the world. Fun and simple game play too!

Amazing gameplay, each faction was well balanced and very different from one another. I still play this today.

Shogun: Total War Shogun: Total War Product Image

Very good game. Much better after playing napoleon total war. But rome total war is much better in my opinion its a must play if you like rts based on history good turn by turn game.

Rise & Fall: Civilizations At War Rise & Fall: Civilizations At War Product Image

For me, this is pretty much the best strategy game I ever played.
Not only that the troops are of a large variety and easy to handle, but the fact that you could SWITCH INTO THE HEROS SHOES is simply amazing.
Playing as a hero and commanding a whole army at the same time is the best thing that can happen to a strategy game.
It's depressing, that there will be no Rise and Fall 2. This game would have deserved to live on through a follow-up.

It's a good game, the naval combat system is the best from all Real time strategy games but is pretty old but I would like to see Rise and fall 2.

One of the most unquie RTS I have ever played, it has good smooth gameplay, visuals where decent and most of all it allowed you to take command of your hero unit and actually take part in the battle and help turn the tide of battle.

Age of Mythology Age of Mythology Product Image

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!

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!

This games was absolutely outstanding! I used to play it since I was a little kid more than 10 years ago and I still play it sometimes. I made this game popular among my friends, and I really hope that this game could be remastered, or renewed

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