Best 4X Games On PC 2023

Ready to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate? Then check out this list of the best 4X games on PC you can play right now.

There are four defining pillars to the best 4X games on PC: eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate, and eXplore, with varying degrees for each.

With that in mind, if you’re in the market for more 4X strategy games like Civilization, Warhammer, or Total War, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this list, we’ll highlight the best 4X games on PC, including the best new strategy games that explore grand strategy concepts.

We hope you enjoy!

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Kicking off our list of the best 4X games on PC, we’re suggesting fans of the genre pick up SATUS by Strudio Company.

In this global fantasy strategy game, players take on the role of four unique factions: magicians, dwarfs, dark side, and hell virus.

The goal is to capture every enemy, build a formidable empire, and ultimately arrange the end of the world.

This plays out across three stages: the first, where you strategically build an army, the second, where you enter battle, and the third, where you take on an even tougher enemy.

Set in the fantasy world of Spellforce, Conquest of Eo is a turn-based strategy RPG with 4X-inspired progression.

Assuming the role of an almighty wizard, you’ll learn to master a wide selection of spells from your tower and use them to spread your influence.

This includes summoning powerful minions and warriors to roam the world on your behalf, dominating any lands they cross.

However, since there are rival mages trying to do the same, you’ll find yourself contesting for resources and having to upgrade your tower to keep up.

When it comes to the best 4X games on PC centered around military battles, few are as intensely satisfying as Commander: Modern War.

In it, players get to experience the thrill of modern conficts between warring factions where outsmarting your opponent is key to winning.

This includes honing in on the best positions for ground, air, and naval units while keeping a watchful eye on the enemy each turn.

To this point, Commander offers several ways to gain advantages by capturing locations, using terrain as cover, and dispatching specialized units.

Currently in Steam Early Access, AlexanderBall is a grand strategy game that has you ascending to the Macedonian throne as Alexander the Great.

Reliving the historical figure’s greatest conquests, you’ll fight alongside a host of both formidable and quirky commanders depicted as balls.

Waging war allows you to recruit new units for your army, construct cities under Alexandria, and spread your influence across the world.

If you’re in the mood for a more lightheard 4X game that doesn’t take itself too seriously while still being mechanically competent, this is a great choice.

Next up on our list of the best 4X games on PC is Knights of Honor II: Sovereign by Black Sea Games and THQ Nordic.

Following in the footsteps of the original, it sees you fighting to become the king of Europe in medieval-inspired real-time strategy battles.

To grow your empire, you’ll learn to manage provinces, gather armies, initiate diplomacy, and even dabble with espionage.

There are over 200 kingdoms spanning Europe, North Africa, and Asian continents to play as across single-player, multiplayer PvP, and co-op.

The original Rome: Total War is often credited with setting the standard and tone for the Total War series going forward.

At the time, it was celebrated for introducing fully 3D graphics as well as including a lengthy campaign and robust modding tools for players to explore.

With Total War: Rome Remastered, Creative Assembly sought to refine the game’s graphics and gameplay even further.

In it, players guide one of the most advanced civilizations through history, creating legions of warriors from 38 distinct playable factions.

The Dominions games are a relic of a bygone era of 4X games prior to the rise of high fantasy games like Warhammer 40K and its hulking mech units.

This is evident by Dominions 5’s dated visuals and imaginative setting complete with fantasy-themed factions and magic-driven research systems.

Risk is the name of the game here, with many of the most powerful units requiring you to make big sacrifices in hopes of a pay-off down the road.

Even after all these years, there’s nothing quite as satisfying in the 4X genre as leading an army of Dominions’ mythical units into battle against another.

If you have an interest in Chinese history, Oriental Empires is a great new strategy game that harkens back to 4X’s board game roots.

For one, it utilizes the WEGO system seen in many tabletop games where every player resolves their turn at the same time.

Additionally, the game throws randomized events into the mix to keep things interesting by forcing you to keep vigilant to have any chance of winning.

While the AI could do with some improvements, Oriental Empires makes up for it with meaningful expansions and robust tech that provides significant depth.

Another 4X game that does an excellent job of depicting the civilization it’s modeled after is Aggressors: Ancient Rome.

It offers a deep sense of realism that considers all of the rules and traditions involved with leading an empire during the height of Ancient Rome.

While this has the adverse effect of making the game feel overly complex at times, the degree of challenge is on par with other historical 4X games such as Civilization.

Similar to Oriental Empires, the only drawback with this game is its lackluster combat, which suffers from being far too simplistic in comparison to its other systems.

Another demanding 4X game that’s sure to test your mettle is Shadow Empire, a military-focused wargame from VR Designs and Slitherine.

The first thing you’ll notice is the game’s unappealing UI and average graphics, which aren’t usually the focus of 4X games but worth mentioning.

Thankfully, Shadow Empire makes up for its presentational flaws in spades with satisfying logistics-based gameplay and a post-apocalyptic setting.

There’s a great deal of fun to be had just toying around with the game’s planet generation tool before setting off to conquer it.

Age of Wonders is another popular high fantasy 4X franchise, with Planetfall being one of the more standout entries in the series.

From an abundance of unique and interesting races to complex relations between nations, there’s much to discover across each campaign.

Turn-based combat is modeled after XCOM with a steep learning curve and flexible tactics that let you approach every challenge with aggression or diplomacy.

This aspect is what helps Planetfall distinguish itself from genre behemoths like Civilization while still keeping true to the spirit of 4X games.

In Galactic Civilizations III, players are let loose on a large-scale playground where they can build their own alien race, fleet of ships, and empire.

Unlike most other games in the genre, Galactic Civ 3 places a heavy emphasis on designing your civilization in addition to the usual 4X mechanics.

This includes distinct-feeling factions with extensive ideological traits that spill over and affect just about every aspect of the game.

Anyone familiar with Stardock’s games will appreciate the number of quirks and close attention to detail involved with designing alien races in Galactic Civ 3.

Sid Meier usually comes to mind when thinking of the best 4X games on PC, and for good reason, as they consistently review well.

Civilization VI, in particular, stands out from its predecessors for building on the best parts of Civ V without losing focus of the series’ core principles.

Notable improvements include the ability to expand cities across more tiles, take advantage of the new Districts mechanic, and restack combat units.

Additionally, the game is well supported by modding and official DLCs such as the Gathering Storm expansion that adds natural disasters into the mix.

Next up, Endless Legend is a 4X game about multiple factions that stumble upon a mysterious new planet and compete with each other to colonize it.

Like many games on this list, this entails carrying out military conquests, making scientific breakthroughs, engaging in diplomatic relations, and so on.

Units are assigned unique stats and behaviors that affect their performance in combat and a robust tech tree allows you to explore different tactics and strategies.

In terms of aesthetics, the game combines high fantasy and sci-fi with touches of magic and steampunk that come together in one visually striking package.

Another Amplitude-developed title that’s worth checking out is Endless Space 2, which is often touted as the best-looking 4X game on the market.

Set in the deep stretches of outer space, it sees you carving out your empire across RPG-inspired quests and random events that force you to adapt to survive.

This affords a great deal of freedom in exploring different paths and strategies by the time you reach the endgame.

It also happens to include some of the best in-game tutorials and UI elements compared to more obtuse 4X games, making it perfect for beginners.

Stellaris is another space-faring game that comes highly recommended and offers an enticing blend of grand strategy and 4X-inspired gameplay.

In it, players pick from one of several intergalactic races with the option to create their own before setting out to conquer an entire solar system.

While its scope may not be as large as other games on this list, it does an excellent job at letting players use precision to determine the kind of empire they’ll be.

Similar to the Civilization series, Paradox has launched numerous expansions and additions that bring in fresh features and materials to maintain players’ return.

If extermination ranks higher on your list than other 4X elements, then the Warhammer games are going to be your bread and butter.

One of the best entries to dive into is Gladius – Relics of War, which combines refined combat systems with streamlined resource generating mechanics.

It also does a fine job at drawing influence from the Warhammer universe including distinct-feeling units armed with powerful weapons, perks, and tactics to explore.

The only real con, depending on your personal tastes, is how difficult it is to play the game diplomatically as many situations call for, or ultimately result in, violence.  

Our next suggestion for the best 4X games on PC is Star Ruler 2, which features in-depth diplomacy and planetary development systems.

It’s definitely on the higher end in terms of scale and overall complexity, with many tasks requiring you to micromanage units to get the best outcome.

Additionally, it features a staggering number of systems to juggle and fine-tune throughout each campaign, which can be a bit too intimidating to new players.

However, if you’re a fan of massive space battles with full-fledged armadas, it may be worth the trouble of learning all the intricate ins and outs.

Although many fans consider the series to fall under the more broad grand strategy umbrella, it features enough 4X elements to warrant including it in this list.

Europa Universalis 4 puts a big focus on predicting and planning strategies ahead of time to prevent opponents from gaining a foothold.

As a result, players will work tirelessly to keep other nations in check while still finding ways to provide for their people across lengthy campaigns.

Each playthrough gives you ample time to come to grips with the game’s systems and discover creative ways to outsmart the enemy AI and rise to power.

Another Stardock Entertainment joint, Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes held the title for best 4X fantasy game before handing it over to Endless Legend.

However, this is best described as a wargame first and foremost, one that intentionally pushes players towards battling and away from diplomacy.

There’s a big emphasis on expanding your territories through the use of violence, requiring you to actively be growing and investing resources in your armed units.

As a bonus, units can be customized in meaningful ways that act as a boon to Fallen Enchantress’ replayability even years after its initial release.

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Justin Fernandez

As a fan of both indie and triple-A games, Justin finds joy in discovering and sharing hidden gems with other passionate gamers. In addition to reporting on the latest and greatest titles, he manages GamingScan’s social media channels.

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