Few video game genres are as broadly appealing as RTS games, which tend to focus on historical authenticity, strategic depth, full-fledged power fantasy, or some combination of the three.
In this list, we’ll highlight the best RTS games on PC to play in 2022, including the best free RTS games, best medieval RTS games, best space RTS games, and best WW2 RTS games available today.
We’ll be updating this list in the future with new titles, so make sure to check back and let us know if we missed any of your favorite real-time strategy games on PC!
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Age of Empires IV
Although the original Age of Empires revolved around human history throughout the Stone and Iron Ages, later installments have shifted their focus more squarely on the Middle Ages.
Age of Empires IV is a largely successful attempt at recapturing the original trilogy’s magic while offering new experiences tailored for both veterans and newcomers.
In it, players are tasked with managing their civilization’s workers and military units, eventually turning their small population into a mighty nation.
The game features a lengthy 30-hour campaign that sees you advancing through the ages as you collect resources, wage war with enemies, and unlock new technologies.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Whereas many RTS games center on growing and developing nations of people who need food, shelter, and protection, Three Kingdoms is more concerned with all-out warfare.
Set during the Chinese Three Kingdoms period, Total War: Three Kingdoms has you playing as one of eleven rivaling factions as they battle to become China’s new ruler.
It makes several improvements to Total War’s UI and enemy AI behavior, resulting in immersive RTS battles with less time spent in menus and more on the actual battlefield.
If you’re an RTS fan, chances are you’ll feel right at home controlling units and resources on the battlefield while spreading influence throughout China.
Iron Harvest takes a handful of liberties in depicting WWI-era combat, particularly the presence of bipedal dieselpunk mechs with the ability to level entire forests and turn buildings into piles of rubble.
In many ways, the game feels like a spiritual successor to Company of Heroes if the ground troops were accompanied by hulking machines.
Players are tasked with managing individual squads as they attempt to capture resource-generating points using cover-based tactics and an array of weapons that can be customized and upgraded.
There’s also a bit of base-building mixed in, though that plays second-fiddle in Iron Harvest’s central campaign, which can be played either solo or with a co-op buddy.
They Are Billions
Next up, They Are Billions is a steampunk-themed colony sim set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with flesh-eating zombies at every turn.
As you guide humanity to salvation and try to rebuild civilization, you’ll have to fight massive swarms that frequently attack your settlements.
The game arms you with a host of mechanical defenses you can craft to protect survivors as well as steam-powered weapons for cracking a few zombie heads.
Although battles can get quite intense at times, They Are Billions allows you to pause the action mid-fight to build new structures, issue new orders to your troops, or simply admire its steampunk aesthetic.
Offworld Trading Company
Offworld Trading Company is an economics-driven RTS game created by the Lead Designer of Civilization IV that sees you vying for control over Mars’ resources following the planet’s colonization.
Much like the Civilization series, players start out as one of many different leaders dubbed ‘CEOs,’ each possessing distinct traits and abilities to either help or hinder your business.
Additionally, OTC uses a player-driven market that’s constantly in flux, meaning you’ll have to make many tough calls regarding which resources to sell or hoard until the price is right.
It also includes a robust, highly replayable single-player campaign along with online multiplayer support for up to 8 players.
Halo Wars: Definitive Edition
Whether or not you consider yourself a Halo fan, the series’ foray into real-time strategy with the original Halo Wars is worth checking out in 2022 if you haven’t already.
For one, it’s extremely polished as far as high-profile RTS games are concerned, and secondly, does a fantastic job of adapting the Halo property to a new format.
Players can expect the same high-stakes action found in the series’ FPS installments only from a fresh perspective that sees you leading multiple units into battle at a time.
Word to the wise, pick up the Definitive Edition which includes all DLCs from the original along with new achievements, expanded online multiplayer, and updated graphics.
Next on our list is Bad North, a challenging real-time strategy roguelite with tower defense elements and cute low-poly graphics.
In it, you’re tasked with defending your small island kingdom against hordes of Viking invaders alongside the last remaining soldiers.
Instead of attacking directly, gameplay revolves around positioning and relocating troops to counter different Viking enemy types.
Islands are procedurally-generated and completely unique in layout and appearance, providing the perfect opportunity to develop battle-tested soldiers and crush the Vikings once and for all.
In it, you take on the role of Death herself as she wages war with humanity by summoning literal armies of the damned for 1-bit style battles.
Things start out simple enough as you use barracks to produce troops, mines to harvest gold, and towers to defend your structures.
However, it’s not long before battles escalate and begin posing a serious challenge that will test your might throughout the single-player campaign and local co-op.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a strategic stealth game that sees you controlling a team of specialized spies with extraordinary abilities designed for espionage.
Set during the Japanese Edo period, where a new Shogun has risen to power and organized a group of specialists to deal with a rebellion, you assume control of a team of deadly assassins.
Each mission has you combining your team’s long-range and melee weaponry with distraction tools and traps to take out targets and avoid detection.
Additionally, since they all have unique skill sets, you’ll have to decide which assassin is right for a particular task and devise different tactics for the best results.
Blending real-time strategy with city building, Northgard tasks you with managing a Viking clan by gathering resources, constructing homes and workshops, and managing villagers’ daily lives.
You’re also encouraged to expand your kingdom’s reach to neighboring territories by capitalizing on strategic opportunities when your enemy is most vulnerable.
What sets it apart from other games on this list is its campaign structure, which has you exploring different scenarios and starting conditions across six unique factions.
If you’ve worked your way through all the classic RTS games and could do with something a bit more recent, Northgard is worth giving a look.
Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation
Like many RTS games, Ashes of Singularity: Escalation had to undergo a period of growth after a somewhat rocky launch saw the game criticized for its lackluster campaign and unit options.
Since then, Stardock has continued developing and optimizing the game via post-launch support, resulting in one of the best current large-scale RTS games on the market.
The game takes a few cues from genre heavy hitters like Total Annihilation, Company of Heroes, and Command and Conquer while injecting its own DNA every step of the way.
In particular, the campaign DLC has seen a dramatic boost in improvement despite Ashes’ somewhat hefty hardware requirements that make it practically unplayable on low spec PCs.
Driftland: The Magic Revival
Initially released as a Steam Early Access title, Driftland: The Magic Revival officially launched in April 2019 and has been making waves ever since.
Often cited as one of the most innovative RTS games of the past decade, it sees you taking control of a mage whose realm has become shattered into tiny floating pieces.
To reconnect them, you’ll have to restore each territory to its former glory by gathering resources, developing nations, and defending them invading forces.
While some aspects still don’t quite mesh with the game as a whole, Driftland is a great alternative for anyone left craving more fantasy RTS games.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Serving as both a reinvention of the Homeworld series’ mechanics and prequel to the original, Deserts of Kharak manages to hold players’ attentions with its captivating storytelling and refined gameplay.
Although many were skeptical of its ‘six degrees of freedom’ novelty at the time of the game’s release in 2016, Blackbird Interactive has been able to justify its value across consistent content updates.
The campaign, in particular, is among the best the genre has to offer and backed by satisfying RTS mechanics that for some reason or another are often overlooked by the larger strategy community.
If you’re a fan of the Homeworld franchise at large or simply can’t resist a good deal, we recommend picking it up alongside the Homeworld Remastered bundle.
Supreme Commander 2
Supreme Commander 2 is regarded as a classic that still holds up in 2022 for large-scale RTS battling with big machines.
However, the game shakes things up by offering more varied and interesting progression paths that allow you to research and create experimental units on the fly.
As a result, players can make a host of Frankenstein-like creations before unleashing them on the battlefield to see how much destruction and chaos ensue.
This concept gets explored in-depth throughout Supreme Commander 2’s single-player campaign spanning three character-driven storylines.
Europa Universalis IV
In terms of RTS games, Europa Universalis IV has a lot in common with games like Civilization that focus on planning out strategies ahead of time to prevent your opponent from gaining a foothold.
Since the game is about overcoming historical imbalances, you’ll have to work tirelessly to keep other nations in check while still providing for your people.
The campaign can be quite lengthy, giving you plenty of time to come to grips with its systems and figure out how to outsmart the AI.
Additionally, battles are fought on a much smaller scale than some of the games covered on this list, requiring players to spend more time micromanaging units than issuing general commands.
Company of Heroes 2
Company of Heroes is another classic RTS franchise that’s been around for decades and continues to redefine the genre in its own niche way.
Each installment centers on intensely challenging campaigns in which players have to harness different tools and options to defend themselves or flank enemies in real-time.
If you enjoy RTS games with war-themed settings such as Dawn of War or the Halo Wars series, then you’ll feel right at home in Company of Heroes 2’s WWII-era battlefields.
While the online multiplayer can feel unforgiving of newcomers, you can opt to focus on the single-player content which includes one post-launch campaign DLC.
Steel Division 2
Steel Division 2 is another WWII-themed RTS that’s sure to provide hours of entertainment while offering realistic and authentic war-time combat.
In it, players take command of Soviet forces during Operation Bagration where they’ll have to carry out historically-accurate battles across sprawling maps while micro-managing units.
Due to the game’s massive scale, it can be easy to get sidetracked and forget about a particular battalion only to find them struggling and have to regroup.
This makes it one of the most demanding games on the market, which is perfect for hardcore RTS fans who crave challenge but not so appealing to more casual-minded players.
Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
Only a handful of classic RTS series manage to stack up to today’s games, a detail which has no doubt become a selling point for many upcoming remakes and remasters due out in 2022.
One of the more recent ones to release is Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, which breathes fresh life into the 1999 classic while also expanding upon the HD edition released back in 2013.
In it, you’re tasked with building a city to serve as a base for your army and prepare your people to wage war throughout the ages as you scavenge for supplies and build defenses.
There are several historical civilizations to play as, each with its own strengths and weaknesses that can lead to prosperity or hardship.
Wargame: Red Dragon
If you’re looking to turn your passion for wargaming into a highly organized, tactical operation, Wargame: Red Dragon is the perfect RTS game for you.
The single-player campaign includes a variety of large-scale scenarios that feel both weighty and unpredictable while depicting an alternate history where the Soviet Union never collapsed.
Like other war-time games, it features an abundance of land, naval, and air units to select from and deploy before each battle that can also be moved and coordinated to break enemy lines.
With a total of 17 playable factions and over 1,400 units, Red Dragon can feel overwhelming to the inexperienced, so make sure to brush up on your units’ strengths and any terrain advantages before heading into battle.
The original StarCraft holds a special place in the hearts of many RTS fans whose first exposure to the genre was through the now-iconic Blizzard game released in 1998.
In it, players must create and defend galactic outposts from waves of extraterrestrials while also exploring character-driven storylines throughout the campaign.
While the original is responsible for setting the tone and bar for the genre as a whole, Blizzard would go on to perfect the formula with StarCraft 2’s expanded campaign and multiplayer modes.
In 2017, the sequel went free-to-play, making it an appealing entry point for anyone who wants to explore the RTS genre’s roots or relive some of their greatest gaming exploits.