If someone asked you to name an iconic RTS game, then there’s a good chance that one of the Warcraft titles would be among the first that you think of.
Indeed, the three existing Warcraft RTS games are all acclaimed, beloved classics, though they may be overshadowed by the far more successful MMORPG that followed them in 2004 and that hardly needs any introduction at this point.
In this article, we’ll list all the Warcraft games released so far and provide a brief overview of each one, so if you’re just interested in what the “old” Warcraft was like or are thinking about giving the series a go for the first time, you will probably find it useful!
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Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Release date: November 23, 1994
Platforms: MS-DOS, Classic Mac OS
First, we have the game that started it all – Warcraft: Orcs & Humans! And though it may seem overly simplistic by today’s standards, the first Warcraft game was quite influential in the 90s, primarily because of how it helped popularize multiplayer in RTS games.
Story-wise, the first entry in the series only set a basic premise that the future games would expand upon: Orcs, a once-peaceful race from the world of Draenor, have become corrupted and violent. Using the Dark Portal, they invade the human kingdom of Azeroth, which must do everything in its power to fend off the brutal invaders.
That said, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans doesn’t place as great a focus on the story as its more popular sequels do, but the way it handled the plot was more than adequate for the time.
On the gameplay front, it features only two factions – the titular Orcs and Humans. And just like with the story, the core mechanics established by the first game would be further refined in the later installments: there are only two resources to gather, gold and wood, and the game focuses on small armies that need to be controlled with care.
Needless to say, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans had all that made Warcraft RTS games great, and the sequels would only expand and improve upon the foundation that it set. It was released only for MS-DOS and Classic Mac OS.
Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness
Release date: December 6, 1995
Platforms: MS-DOS, Classic Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation
A sequel titled Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness came out just over a year after the original game, and though it didn’t differ much in terms of graphics or the mechanics, it expanded and streamlined the overall experience. It also received a single expansion titled Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.
The game depicts the events following the fall of Azeroth, with the remaining survivors fleeing to the northern human kingdom of Lordaeron. Naturally, the Orcs attack Lordaeron in what is called the Second War, and there is a greater focus on the story, though much of the lore and the events that take place during Warcraft II and its expansion got retconned later on.
From a gameplay standpoint, not much has changed compared to the first game. Of course, new units were added to the mix, the overall experience was re-balanced and improved, and the graphics look better than in the first game, but it is only with the next installment that the real changes would take place.
The game was originally released for MS-DOS and Mac OS, but it was also ported to the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation in 1997. The Windows version, however, only launched in 1999 on Blizzard’s Battle.net.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos
Release date: July 3, 2002
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Classic Mac OS, macOS
Six years after the second game’s expansion came out, a full-blooded sequel finally dropped – the amazing and unforgettable Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The third game brought the franchise fully into the 3D era, and the graphics were quite something for that day and age.
The game has got a total of four campaigns, as it introduces two new factions into the mix: the Undead and the Night Elves.
The story revolves around a series of events that took place before the arrival of the demonic Burning Legion to the world of Azeroth: the fall of Lordaeron before the Undead Scourge and the Orcs’ exodus into the unknown land of Kalimdor in the east, all building up to the climactic battle against the demonic hordes.
With a total of four factions, Warcraft III is much more interesting and dynamic than the previous installments, as there is a much greater variety of tactics that the player can employ with each faction’s unique strengths.
Add to that the more developed story, the greater focus on individual characters, the 3D graphics, and the stunning CGI cinematics that hold up surprisingly well even today, and it’s not difficult to see why Warcraft III was such a hit when it hit the shelves.
A year later, an expansion titled Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne was released, and it picked up where the story left off in the base game, featuring three new campaigns: Night Elf, Blood Elf, and Undead (the Blood Elves being a tweaked and reskinned version of the Human faction that is only playable in the campaign), all the while the orcs got a short, RPG-esque bonus campaign.
In addition to the new single-player content, the expansions added several multiplayer maps, along with a selection of new units and various minor gameplay refinements, and it was as well-received as the base game.
Warcraft III: Reigns of Chaos was released for Windows, as well as both the Classic Mac OS and the new macOS (OS X), though the Frozen Throne was never released on the Classic Mac OS.
World of Warcraft
Release date: November 23, 2004
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS
After Warcraft III, Blizzard took Warcraft in a different direction. World of Warcraft is a game that definitely needs no introduction, as it is one of the most popular MMORPG games ever made.
Granted, World of Warcraft wasn’t the first MMORPG ever, but it definitely helped bring the genre into the mainstream spotlight, something that led to an avalanche of MMO titles being released in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
World of Warcraft let the player create their own characters by picking from the original eight races that were divided into the Alliance and the Horde, each race with unique racial abilities and passive bonuses of its own.
The player would then level their character up and be able to take part in various PvE and PvP activities such as dungeons, raids, duels, battlegrounds, etc.
But of course, World of Warcraft has received a ton of expansions over the years, and while the first two mostly expanded and improved upon the foundation set by the “vanilla” game, the expansions that would come later would end up tweaking and changing the game beyond recognition.
So far, eight expansions have been released for World of Warcraft:
- The Burning Crusade
- Wrath of the Lich King
- Mists of Pandaria
- Warlords of Draenor
- Battle of Azeroth
All in all, though World of Warcraft is nowhere near as popular as it used to be in its TBC/WotLK heyday, it still brings in millions of players from around the world and remains the most popular MMO in the world to this day.
Release date: March 11, 2014
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
Originally titled Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Hearthstone is a digital Warcraft card game that’s heavily inspired by Magic: The Gathering, like most other card games of this type that have been released over the past few years.
Hearthstone has the player picking one of the base classes from World of Warcraft, each represented by a prominent figure from Warcraft lore. Each class has a unique power that can be used to complement the player’s deck.
Naturally, the game features both single-player and multiplayer modes. There is no campaign, so the single-player content comes down to playing matches against the AI. As for multiplayer, there is a casual and a ranked game mode.
In addition to that, there are several other modes that put a unique spin on the game, such as the Arena, which has the players playing with randomized decks, or tavern Brawls that have some unique deck-building restrictions, among others.
All in all, Hearthstone can be both deceptively simple and deceptively complicated, but what is certain is that it is a fast-paced and highly addictive card game that would most likely appeal to fans of this genre. It is playable on Windows and macOS, as well as on iOS and Android mobile devices.
World of Warcraft Classic
Release date: August 26, 2019
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS
World of Warcraft Classic launched fairly recently in August 2019, and it is just what it sounds like: the original, unadulterated vanilla experience that’s free from any expansion content.
All of the new races, classes, abilities, and areas introduced later on are completely absent and the game is currently in the sixth and final phase, Naxxramas, which was the final patch before the launch of the Burning Crusade.
That said, World of Warcraft Classic is just vanilla World of Warcraft remade to run properly on new hardware. It will appeal to anyone feeling nostalgic for the “good old days,” and it allows those who never played the original game to experience it for the first time.
Moreover, as expected, Blizzard has also launched The Burning Crusade Classic in June 2021, bringing the beloved expansion back to life, although it wasn’t met with the same reception as the vanilla Classic did, mainly due to some changes that it made to the game, the paid boosts, and the way it split the community between the two “classics.”
Much like the current version of World of Warcraft, Classic is playable on Windows and macOS.
Warcraft III: Reforged
Release date: January 28, 2020
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS
And finally, we have Warcraft III: Reforged, which is also exactly what it sounds like—a remastered version of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
Unfortunately, though, what was a highly-anticipated remake of a beloved classic turned out to be a big, undercooked disappointment. The game infamously holds one of the lowest user ratings on Metacritic, but why were the fans so outraged?
Well, many were quick to notice that the final product didn’t exactly deliver what it promised, lacking many features, as well as the promised remade cinematics, in-engine ones and CGI ones alike.
Overall, many felt that Reforged made Warcraft III worse rather than better, particularly when it came to the multiplayer, not to mention that the game was plagued by technical issues at launch.
Ultimately, rather than being a worthy remake of a timeless RTS, Warcraft III: Reforged felt like little more than a prematurely-released, low-effort cash-grab on Blizzard’s part, and it didn’t earn them any fan’s trust.
And those would be all the Warcraft games released so far! Be sure to check back from time to time if you’re a fan of the Warcraft games, as we’ll keep this list up-to-date as new games (or news related to upcoming games) are released.