Whether it’s invading zombies, aliens, or just bad guys in general, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as successfully standing your ground while waves of enemies get crushed by your defenses.
Tower defense games challenge us to explore different strategies and come up with the best solutions for surviving in the face of danger.
The best tower defense games for 2021 take it a step further by introducing unique gameplay mechanics that keep players engaged and battles feeling fresh and unpredictable.
Here, we’ll be highlighting the most impressive and addictive tower defense games to check out on PC, Android, iOS, and current-gen consoles.
If you would like to receive more gaming recommendations, consider reading through our other curated lists:
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They Are Billions
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
When They Are Billions first released in Steam Early Access in 2017, it was immediately clear that Numantian Games had big plans for the Steampunk-inspired strategy game. In it, players are tasked with guiding the last remaining humans as they fight to reclaim civilization from massive swarms of flesh-eating zombies.
Included are two game modes—Campaign, which sees you building and defending colonies from waves of the undead while also researching new technologies and learning more about the zombie virus.
In Survival mode, players are thrown into a randomly generated world with its own unique events, weather, geography, and infected population. Here, you’ll have to build and maintain a successful colony for a specific amount of time as hordes of infected try to swarm you from all sides.
One of the game’s most unique features is the ability to pause the action and give yourself time to build new structures, issue orders to your troops, or just catch your breath after killing a bunch of zombies.
Dungeon Defenders II
Platforms: PS4 Xbox One, PC
If you’re a longtime fan of tower defense games, chances are you already know about the Dungeon Defenders series.
Originally based on a showcase of Unreal Engine 3 named Dungeon Defense, the fantasy-themed action RPG has evolved into a much bigger, more content-packed experience since the release of the first game in 2011, introducing new characters, game modes, and story content in the sequel.
Dungeon Defenders II sees 1-4 player(s) fighting to protect the land of Etheria by building a variety of traps and turrets designed to freeze, burn, or simply destroy piles of monsters.
The game’s roster of heroes is fairly diverse and includes some interesting playstyles such as the popular Gunwitch, a blunderbluss wielding mage with a broomstick that allows her to easily get around maps.
While it can feel a bit grindier compared to the original DD, we consider that a fair tradeoff for upgraded visuals and more playable characters.
Wrack: Exoverse is an interesting blend of first-person shooter, tower-defense, and roguelike gameplay mechanics presented in vibrant cel-shaded graphics reminiscent of the Borderlands games.
Each run sees you constructing maze-like defenses with turrets and walls in order to slow incoming enemies and prevent them from reaching your beacon before you can be extracted.
Once your defenses are in place, the game switches from a top-down perspective to first-person where you’ll be tasked with holding off waves of enemies using different class-based weapons including pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, and alien blasters.
If you manage to come out the other end alive, you’ll be rewarded with some money which can be spent to purchase new defenses and upgrades for your character.
Platforms: PC, Android, iOS
If you’re a fan of games like Satisfactory and Factorio, you may enjoy Mindustry, a resource management focused tower defense game.
In it, players chain together multiple conveyor belts to supply turrets with ammo, produce building materials, and defeat waves of enemies while dealing with random in-game events such as accidental fires and enemy ambushes.
A powerful map generator tool allows players to create unique environments, modifying the shape of the terrain, ore generation, placement of rivers and resources, and even enemy wave layouts.
Mindustry boasts five game modes—Campaign, Survival, Attack, PvP, and Sandbox in addition to supporting cross-platform multiplayer. A wide selection of customizable game rules and tools keep the experience feeling fresh long after you’ve beaten the campaign.
Dungeon Warfare 2
Platforms: PC, Android, iOS
Repetitive gameplay has always been an issue plaguing the tower defense genre; after all, there’s a limited number of ways to combine defenses, enemy paths, objectives, and map terrain unless the game in question uses procedurally-generated assets.
That just so happens to be the case in Dungeon Warfare 2, a strategy-based tower defense game in which players take on the role of Dungeon Lord and try to prevent greedy adventurers from stealing all their loot by filling dungeons with deadly traps and obstacles.
This unique role reversal is made even better by the game’s implementation of simulated physics, which can see enemy heroes flung across the map by swinging death balls or knocked off of ledges and into burning hot lava.
What’s more, three separate skill trees provide a sense of constant progression and improvement as you unlock new traps with special traits that can be used in both handcrafted and randomly-generated maps.
Grim Nights is a casual yet challenging side-scrolling survival game with tower defense elements. In it, you control an entire village, assigning townsfolk different tasks such as chopping trees for wood and exploring mines for valuable ores.
These resources allow you to expand your village and upgrade its defenses, which you’ll want to do sooner than later if you plan on surviving come nightfall.
At night, monsters will appear and try to invade your village, requiring your townsfolk to combine their strengths and hold off the enemy until the morning.
It’s a very challenging game that will see you defeated quickly if you don’t take the time to learn its numerous systems, making it more suitable for hardcore gamers than casual players. However, stick with it long enough and you’ll be rewarded with an engaging gameplay experience complimented by wonderful pixel art.
Zombie Builder Defense
While zombie tower defense games come a dime-a-dozen, there are a few that manage to stand out from the competition by offering glorious visuals, an addictive gameplay loop, or some combination of the two.
Zombie Builder Defense manages to check both boxes, presenting players with an action-packed top-down shooter with high-definition graphics and dynamic lighting effects.
And you’re going to need plenty of light if you want to survive wave upon wave of zombies who will storm your base from every direction. After successfully surviving a round, players are transported to a shop where they can spend any money they’ve collected on barricades, turrets, traps, new weapons, and upgrades.
This creates an appealing gameplay cycle that will leave you saying “one more round…” for hours upon hours, likely causing you to neglect your real-world responsibilities; but hey, someone’s got to kill those zombies, right?
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
X-Morph: Defense is a unique blend of top-down shooter and tower defense that makes for an action-packed experience with plenty of room for strategizing.
The game sees you controlling the X-Morph—a race of aliens that have invaded Earth with the intention of harvesting its resources and reshaping the surface. Missions have you carefully placing extraction towers and various defenses in order to create maze-like paths for your human enemies to follow.
When you throw in fully-3D destructible environments, the entire experience is ramped up to 11 as collapsing buildings, bridges, cars, and trees create a visceral sensation not typically found in tower defense games.
While that comes at the cost of X-Morph: Defense being a much more graphically-intensive game, it’s a great alternative for players looking for a twist on the classic TD formula.
Platforms: Switch, PC
Sleep Tight is an arcade twin-stick shooter/tower defense game that takes childhood superstitions and turns them into a twisted reality. You play as a child who spends their days fortifying a base constructed from pillows and bed sheets in addition to stacking up ammo for your dart gun.
Once night arrives, you’ll find yourself in an epic battle for survival as hordes of scary monsters begin to spawn inside your room.
The game is run-based and sees you attempting to last as many days as possible without dying.
Each night increases in difficulty, spawning tougher and larger groups of enemies that will make quick work of your turrets and defenses if you’re not careful. Sleep Tight’s replayability stems from its wide selection of playable characters, each with their own starting conditions and area of expertise.
Platforms: PS4, Switch, PC
Aegis Defenders is an action-platformer tower defense game in which players control a team of heroes called Ruinhunters as they search for the legendary Aegis weapon.
Set in the fantastical world of Elam, the game sees you exploring forgotten ruins and battling hordes of ferocious beasts by building various blocks, turrets, and traps. This is all done via a unique “fusion build” system which allows the player to seamlessly combine different items mid-battle.
Another highlight is the game’s use of dynamic character swapping, allowing you to easily switch between each Ruinhunter as you set up their positioning.
As the game progresses, players are presented with increasingly difficult scenarios that will see them defending moving targets, targets who can aid in battle, and even uncooperative ones that will reject your protection.
OTTTD: Over The Top Tower Defense
Platforms: Switch, Android, iOS, PC
OTTTD is a real-time strategy tower defense game that sees players commanding a squad of heroes as they travel through trans-dimensional rifts to battle alien creatures.
In it, players choose 3 of 7 available classes to bring with them into battle, unlocking new combat abilities and skills as characters gain XP and level up in addition to unlocking new weapons.
When it comes to defenses, OTTTD provides players with enough variety to keep fights interesting. There are 12 tower types to build and 6 weapon classes, allowing you to try out different combinations and find the best strategy for your squad or for defeating a particularly challenging enemy.
This is all complemented by vibrant 3D visuals and ridiculous writing that fully embraces the “over the top” in OTTTD.
Dig or Die
Dig or Die is an interesting blend of survival, open-world, and tower defense gameplay mechanics. In it, you play as an employee of CRAFT & Co., an automated fabrication tool manufacturer who’s hired you to do some planet-to-planet sales.
After an accident causes your ship to crash-land on a hostile alien planet, you find yourself having to use the same tools you sell along with the planet’s natural resources to keep yourself alive long enough to escape.
Each playthrough sees you building a base that can be equipped with numerous defenses and machines such as turrets, strong walls, drones, solar panels, and more which enemies will react to and try to destroy.
While some may expect the usual slog that comes with survival games that burden the player with managing hunger and thirst meters, you won’t find any such things in Dig or Die as the game is focused on getting you right into the action from the very start.
Orcs Must Die! 2
While we patiently wait for the release of Orcs Must Die! 3, now is a perfect time to revisit the most recent entry in the series. OMD2 maintains the action-packed strategic tower defense gameplay of the original while focusing more on online co-op.
The game sees you and a friend taking on the role of a powerful War Mage or Sorceress as you protect fortresses, dwarven mines, and more from droves of monsters.
The sequel also sees the return of popular defenses from OMD1, in addition to new traps and game-changing magical trinkets. Despite what its name might lead you to believe, there are more than just Orcs to battle in OMD2, with appearances from new creatures like Earth Elementals, Trolls, and Bile Bats.
Those who prefer to do all their Orc-hunting solo will be happy to hear the game is still fully playable in single-player as long as you don’t mind a bit more challenge.
Frontline Zed is one of the newer entries on this list, having been released just last year. The zombie-themed tower defense game sees players exploring an infested United States; days are spent searching for weapons, ammo, and other supplies in addition to preparing defenses.
Once night falls, zombies become much more aggressive and can easily overrun players’ barricades if not dealt with accordingly.
Aside from having all of the visual amenities you would expect to find in a 2019 release, such as high-definition textures, animations, and character models, Frontline Zed manages to crank up the horror by placing players in dark environments with minimal atmospheric lighting.
However, with the right defenses and an arsenal of powerful guns, you’re sure to be ready for any zombie stupid enough to cross your path.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Bad North is a challenging, real-time strategy roguelite with tower defense elements. In it, you’re tasked with defending your small island kingdom against hordes of Viking invaders alongside the last remaining soldiers.
Instead of directly fighting in battle, your role as commander sees you positioning and relocating troops in order 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 capable of defeating the Vikings once and for all.
Despite having beautiful environments and charming visuals, Bad North is a punishingly-hard roguelite that will see you tossed back to the main menu for making the slightest of errors. However, lif you learn the ins and outs of your enemy, you’ll be one step closer to securing your kingdom’s future.
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Minion Masters offers fast-paced, MOBA-inspired tower defense gameplay in which players use cards to summon a variety of “minions” to do their bidding in battle.
Additionally, players select a “Legendary Master” whose special abilities allow them to devise unique strategies that can be further enhanced by building a deck of minions and spells which complement their playstyle.
Once minions are summoned, their movement and attacks are controlled by AI, allowing you to get back to analyzing your opponents’ weaknesses and planning your next move accordingly.
Minion Masters boasts intense, highly competitive online 1v1 and 2v2 battles where you can either go it alone or team up with another player for twice the action.
Kingdom: Two Crowns
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Android, iOS
Kingdom: Two Crowns builds upon the success of the award-winning 2D kingdom-building sim while presenting players with a brand-new campaign tailored for both solo and co-op play.
In it, you’re tasked with establishing a powerful nation capable of defeating an army of enemies known as the Greed. To do so, you’ll have to travel throughout the land acquiring gold and recruiting loyal followers to help your kingdom reach its full potential.
As your kingdom continues to expand, more villagers will request to join you, lending their unique skills and abilities in exchange for a safe haven. However, prosperity comes with a price; the Greed are a relentless enemy who will stop at nothing to see you and your people destroyed.
By researching new technology, units, enemy weaknesses, and secrets, you’ll be able to prepare yourself for any challenge and ensure the safety of your people.
Bloons TD 6
Platforms: PC, Android, iOS
Bloons TD 6 is the latest entry in the long-running and highly-addictive 3D strategy tower defense series.
The game revolves around popping as many balloons, or Bloons, as you can by using a combination of your monkey heroes’ special abilities, each of which can be upgraded to deal more damage or trigger unique effects.
New features include HD animations and cosmetics for monkeys, more visual effects when using abilities and popping bloons, 37 original maps to keep you busy, and new Druid and Alchemist monkey classes.
Additionally, Bloons TD 6 introduces exclusive new game modes designed to put veteran players’ skills to the ultimate test with modifiers like limited monkeys, MOABs with twice as much health, and tough-as-nails CHIMPS rules.