HomeEditorialBest RTS Games: A Top 5 of Real-Time Strategy Picks

Best RTS Games: A Top 5 of Real-Time Strategy Picks

RTS games often deal with different factions or races, including their very individual construction mechanics and units. But the most crucial part of competition between players: Balancing.

Many real-time strategy titles can be traced back to games that have absolutely shaped the genre and are therefore still very popular today. Find out in this article who made it into our Top 5 of the Best RTS Games.

Our list consists of true classics that have had a great impact on today’s RTS genre and also revolutionized it in many aspects. Graphics play a rather inferior role here because fun is not measurable.


5. Command & Conquer: Generals

This title was the first part of the Command & Conquer series that allowed freely zoomable 3D graphics. At the same time, this game opened a new universe in which none of the previously known warring parties appeared. Instead, three factions: The USA, China, and a worldwide terrorist organization called GLA. All parties are very well matched, and the game features a very sophisticated combat system with more than 40 different detailed units. By the standards of the time, this title was a true 3D beauty and still enjoys a loyal following of active players today.

Here we see a screenshot from the real-time strategy game Command & Conquer: Generals. This one shows the GBA base from above, which consists of several oriental-looking buildings. There are some vehicles on the base, such as a tank and two pickup trucks. The base is surrounded by a bunch of palm trees and is in the middle of a desert landscape in daylight.
Command & Conquer: Generals (Source: EA)

Command & Conquer: Generals is available on PC, macOS and can be purchased as part of a Collection via EA.


4. Stronghold

This RTS title brought a completely new gaming experience to the genre by combining real-time strategy with a deeper dive into building: In Stronghold, you’ll deal with all aspects of medieval castle creation, trying to build the most magnificent forts. For you to lead units into battle, you must also have enough citizens as well as necessary resources, such as armor and weapons. Production chains, known from city-building games, have to be produced and maintained. Great wars take place, but with caution and at a relaxing pace. Besides the nice graphics, the game also brought other innovations, such as manning buildings or walls with units like archers.

Here is a screenshot from the game Stronghold, where you can see a huge castle in a top-down view and in 2D graphics, which is currently being attacked by enemies all around by daylight. The castle has a large tall stonewall all around and includes three large, round castle towers on which archers are positioned, shooting arrows at the attackers. Around the triangle-shaped castle is a moat. In the upper left corner of the frame, two more medieval buildings can be seen, as well as a field with a straw bale. Next to it are several fir and deciduous trees.
Stronghold (Source: Firefly Studios, Take 2 Interactive)

The game is available on PC and macOS and can be purchased via Steam.


3. Warcraft III

It’s a game that not only set new standards among RTS games but also incidentally shaped new genres, such as Tower Defense, thanks to the available map editor. In addition to an absolutely fascinating campaign, the game also brought new RPG components into play: Heroes could be led into the field, level up, and equipment could be used. A never-before-seen RTS experience that went off like a bomb and has gained a large fanbase to this day, with many still very active players and events in eSports. In 2020, a re-release in 4K/UHD was published titled Warcraft III: Reforged, effectively replacing the original game.

In a top-down view on a green landscape are shown various buildings of the game Warcraft 3. In the center, we see a castle-like building with blue roofs. To the left of it, a human and an orc are fighting with each other, as well as in the top right of the image. At the bottom left, a red dragon is flying along in the foreground of the image. We find the same type of dragon in the upper left background of the image. In the center of the frame, we look at the logo and the title of the game with yellow-orange capital letters "Warcraft 3: Reforged".
Warcraft 3 (Source: Blizzard)

The game is available on PC, and macOS and can be purchased via battle.net.


2. StarCraft II

In this Sci-Fi RTS, the three races, Terran, Protoss, and Zerg, fight each other. The choice of the right race needs to be carefully considered. They differ greatly in their gameplay mechanics: Would you rather go for short-term, fast warfare or invest in permanent upgrades and huge units? The game is fast and dynamic and confronts you with constant development and research decisions. The multiplayer mode has been really well balanced by Blizzard, and players still engage in tireless battles in eSports, trying to scout out the opponent and counterattack in time. In addition, StarCraft II offers outstanding graphics. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best RTS games out there, in our opinion.

You can see a screenshot of Starcraft 2, where an intense spaceship battle is taking place at a base in a top-down view and in 3D graphics. In the upper part of the frame, we see land, on which a base of the Protoss race stands. In the lower part, water is depicted, above which numerous, diverse spaceships are hovering. The title can without question be considered one of the best RTS games.
Starcraft II (Source: Blizzard)

The title can be played on PC and macOS and is available for free as a base game via battle.net.


1. Age of Empires II

Age of Empires II is, in our opinion, the undisputed king of RTS games. For a good reason. This game (released already in 1999) very skillfully balanced the typical components of an RTS: Settlement building, economy, development, and warfare. This still makes for a very exciting and intense gaming experience, both in building and the many battles. In 2019, the popular game shone in new HD glory with the Definitive Edition. At the same time, all previously released add-ons were bundled. This brought numerous new races into the game, all of which have special units and characteristics.

Fight epic battles and lead your people to victory in Age of Empires 2, one of the best RTS games. In this screenshot, in the lower half of the image, you can see a huge massive base built of stones in a top-down view, with various oriental buildings. In the lower right of the frame, several units patrol in formation on the way to the battle, which is shown in the upper half of the frame. There we see both in the upper left corner and in the upper right corner many enemy purple-colored cavalry and infantry. Behind them are three trebuchets set up to bombard the base wall with stone. At the bottom of the picture, there is a light blue river with a stone bridge across it in the lower left corner.
Age of Empires 2 (Source: Microsoft)

The game is available on PlayStation 2, PC, Mac OS, and Mac OS X and can be purchased for PC via Steam.


Did our list of the best RTS games meets what you searched for?

This list contains our 5 favorites, but in the end, it’s a matter of personal taste. However, we hope that this was a good overview. Have fun commanding and conquering your next favorite RTS game!

Are you rather looking for other game genres? Feel free to check out our lists for the best free RPG games, the best free FPS games, Co-op games like It Takes Two, or the best Survival Games on PS4 / PS5.

Did we miss out on some other great RTS titles in this list? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.

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