Warhammer 40,000 (often abbreviated as Warhammer 40K or WH40K) is one of those big, influential names in the world of tabletop gaming that has sadly not been represented in the world of video games nearly as much as it should have.
Many of the games that feature this setting may easily come across as low-budget shovelware at first glance, and while some of them are definitely just that, there are quite a few gems out there across several genres that will definitely pique the interest of gamers who are just getting into this unique grimdark setting!
So, without further ado, here are some of the best Warhammer 40K games that you can play right now.
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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
Release date: September 20, 2004
The first game on the list may not be the best-looking or the most recent, but it is easily one of the most popular Warhammer 40K games out there—Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.
Hailing from the early 2000s, Dawn of War has a number of similarities with other real-time strategy titles released in that era, albeit with some unique features that made it stand out from the competition.
Most notably, it is very fast-paced and combat-focused, which is reflected in the way that resources work in the game. Whereas similar RTS titles would have you use worker units to harvest resources that are in finite supply, Dawn of War features resources that are infinite and accrued passively by holding control points on the battlefield and by constructing power generators.
Moreover, both the squad-based infantry units and vehicles are customizable to varying degrees, thus allowing the player an increased degree of flexibility by letting them equip their units with different weapons and abilities based on what kind of enemy they’re facing.
Dawn of War has also received a total of three expansions over the next few years: Winter Assault, Dark Crusade, and Soulstorm, each of them adding new playable factions and additional features to the existing formula.
Overall, Dawn of War hasn’t exactly aged like wine and is undeniably dated and can feel rather clunky by modern standards, but it has still aged surprisingly well and is just one of those highly influential games whose legacy far surpasses the original alone.
In any case, if you like the setting and/or are a fan of RTS games in general, then Dawn of War is definitely worth getting, especially since it’s so affordable right now. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that its age actually gives it a certain retro charm!
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
Release date: February 19, 2009
Platforms: Windows, macOS
Good games deserve good sequels, and while not all of them get one, Dawn of War was a fortunate exception.
With Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Relic Entertainment took the franchise in a somewhat different direction, reducing the scale of the battlefields and adding a number of RPG mechanics to the game’s single-player campaign. This includes character leveling, as well as an array of different weapons, armor, and miscellaneous equipment that can be looted from the battlefield and can improve the squads’ capabilities in various ways.
This, combined with the graphical improvements and gameplay refinements (including a more advanced cover system a la Company of Heroes, another one of Relic’s standout RTS releases), made Dawn of War II a highly engaging and unforgettable experience that is a must-play for any Warhammer 40K or RTS fan.
Moreover, Dawn of War II has also received two expansions: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II — Chaos Rising and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II — Retribution.
While Chaos Rising is a continuation of the base game’s story and has a good (if lamentably linear and short) single-player campaign, Retribution is sorely lacking in this regard and is only really worth getting for its expanded multiplayer features.
So, all things considered, Dawn of War II is an amazing game on all fronts, it is highly replayable, and it has aged much better than its predecessor. As such, we can wholeheartedly recommend it to any RTS fan, especially if you’re a fan of similar titles, such as the aforementioned Company of Heroes.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Release date: September 5, 2011
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
After taking a look at two superb real-time strategy titles, it’s time to turn the spotlight to something a bit simpler with Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, a title that was, sadly, not really appreciated in its time.
Released during a period when third-person shooters all seemed to follow the same cover-based formula popularized by Gears of War, Space Marine was a breath of fresh air that completely scrapped cover mechanics, featuring a more resilient character and a greater focus on melee combat.
Simply put, what Space Marine lacked in terms of depth and variety, it made up for with immensely bloody and visceral combat. Be it with bolter or chainsword, turning enemy hordes into a haze of gore and blood mist just doesn’t seem to get any less satisfying on new playthroughs. On top of that, no other game has managed to get the feel and the weight of a Space Marine in full power armor so right.
Now, Space Marine is far from a perfect game. Upon release, it was met with a lukewarm reception, and for a good reason—the game is, quite simply, shallow in terms of mechanics and offers very little variety over the course of its campaign.
Said lack of variety is evident on virtually all fronts: there aren’t that many weapons or enemy types, melee combos are quite limited, and since the entirety of the game takes place on a single forge world, the levels end up meshing together into a same-ish blend of metal corridors and brownish-gray landscapes.
Nonetheless, Space Marine knows what it’s trying to do and it does it quite well. So, if you’re up for some simple TPS/hack-n-slash fun, it’s yet another older game that you can get quite cheap any time of the year.
Space Hulk: Deathwing
Release date: December 14, 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
While on the subject of games that get the “feeling” of Space Marines right, we can’t forego mentioning Space Hulk: Deathwing. While it’s not exactly the best Warhammer 40K game out there, it definitely has its merits, especially if you have a couple of friends to play it with.
The game puts the player in the boots of a member of a Space Marine Terminator strike team, equipped with heavy armor and heavy weapons that are perfect for scouring the claustrophobic confines of a space hulk and purging it of endless waves of genestealer swarms.
At its core, Space Hulk: Deathwing is a relatively simple game—you navigate your way towards the objective, killing any enemies with the weapon of your choice, and sealing doors at key chokepoints. It’s worth noting that this is a game best experienced in multiplayer, as the class system allows for some very interesting abilities and combinations that are not available in single-player.
Overall, Space Hulk: Deathwing can perhaps best be described as a Space Marine Terminator sim. Though it is not particularly deep and leaves some things to be desired, it looks absolutely stunning even in 2022, and it is definitely worth trying, especially if you have friends to purge xenos with.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Release date: November 15, 2018
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Moving on, we get back to strategy games and to the amazing Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus. And while it is not the most impressive-looking Warhammer 40K game out there, it is an absolute must-play for any fans of turn-based isometric strategy games.
As the title implies, the player assumes the role of troops serving the Adeptus Mechanicus this time around, exploring the tomb world of Silva Tenebris and rushing to complete all of the objectives before the planet-wide Necron awakening is complete.
The player controls a cohort comprised of multiple Tech Priests, who serve as the main “hero” units of the game, capable of equipping a variety of different gear, and who level to unlock various abilities in order to specialize in certain roles. The Tech Priests are also accompanied by several types of specialized Skitarii troops, as well as Servitors that can be used as meat shields and cannon fodder.
An interesting aspect of Mechanicus is the Cognition Points mechanic. Namely, most Tech Priest abilities are powered by these Cognition Points that are collected from the environment or by defeating enemies, which encourages a more aggressive playstyle in place of a slow and safe crawl that players often take in similar games such as the XCOM franchise.
Overall, Mechanicus is not exactly a flagship game, but it does feature a rather engaging and original gameplay formula that offers a good amount of replay value. Granted, the game could use a bit more variety in terms of environments and enemy types, but these are minor flaws considering how well it works as a whole.
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius — Relics of War
Release date: July 12, 2018
Platforms: Linux, Windows
Another title that is bound to catch the attention of those who are into turn-based strategy games is Warhammer 40,000: Gladius — Relics of War. And while Mechanicus delivers a smaller-scale, squad-based experience, Gladius is a large-scale 4X game similar to Sid Meier’s Civilization, Warlock: Master of the Arcane, Endless Legend, and others in this subgenre.
Featuring four main factions (Space Marines, Astra Militarum, Orks, and Necrons) with several others added as DLCs (Craftworld Eldar, Chaos Marines, Tyranids, and Tau), the game features a healthy degree of variety, complete with faction-specific quest lines.
However, this isn’t exactly a story-focused game, and as the popular tagline says: there is only war. Inter-faction conflict is the cornerstone of Gladius, and the combat systems are a bit more complex than they are in other 4X titles. Moreover, there is no diplomacy or trade to speak of, and combat is the focal point of the game.
Ultimately, fans’ main issue with Gladius is that it ends up being a bit shallow, what with its lack of diplomacy that removes an important piece of the 4X formula. On top of that, as is usually the case with 4X games, the combat can easily start to feel relaxing rather than challenging as time goes on.
In any case, Gladius is the first 4X game in the Warhammer 40K setting, so if you are a fan of this particular subgenre, it is a game that you will most likely want to give a try.
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector
Release date: July 15, 2021
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Speaking of turn-based strategy games, another title worth mentioning is the relatively new Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector. This game strikes a middle-ground between small-scale and large-scale combat, delivering a well-rounded Warhammer experience.
Battlesector focuses on a conflict between the Blood Angels Space Marine chapter and the Tyranids, with the Sisters of Battle making something of a guest appearance in the single-player campaign. While the selection is not as varied as some of the other titles listed here, the two main factions and their distinct playstyles are quite enough when the scale of the game is taken into account.
One of Battlesector’s standout mechanics is Momentum, a dynamic resource that fuels certain actions and can provide units with significant bonuses once enough Momentum is accrued. Undoubtedly inspired by the Cognition Point system featured in Mechanicus, Momentum does a lot to encourage aggressive playstyles and discourage safe-and-slow overwatch crawls.
Ultimately, most of the issues that Battlesector faces have to do with pacing during missions and a general lack of replay value when it comes to the campaign, though the skirmish mode can keep the game going for hours after the credits roll on the story.
And so, that would be it as far as our picks for the best Warhammer 40K games go! It goes without saying that this is a franchise spanning multiple decades, and it would be impossible to include every game worth mentioning on a list like this.
In any case, if any of these games turn you into a proper Warhammer 40K fan, you will undoubtedly make your way through most of those games anyway. On the other hand, if you are already a fan, let us know what your favorite game from this franchise is—especially if we missed it!