8 Games Like Advance Wars

Image credit: Nintendo

There’s something to be said for games that take a simple premise and build something insanely complex out of it — and Advance Wars was such a game. It was also revolutionary in more ways than one.

Not only did Advance Wars popularize hardcore turn-based strategies among Western audiences — but it also proved to Nintendo that even their more niche outings with complex mechanics could become popular outside of Japan. While Nintendo’s wargame franchise began in 1988 with Famicom Wars, Advance Wars was the first title released in the West.

To make the game as accessible as possible, the devs created an intentionally generic world contrasted with deep, memorable characters. The fictional continent and the conflict between the Orange Star, Yellow Comet, Blue Moon, and Green Earth nations is reminiscent of the anime worlds of Naruto and Avatar and their simplistic divisions.

Nevertheless, the incredibly addictive “one more turn” gameplay that sprung up from the simple basics of destroying enemy units and/or capturing their HQ resulted in an insanely popular game.

And luckily for us, it spawned half a dozen sequels and remakes — though most of them didn’t have the originality of Advance Wars. However, plenty of games have picked up this game’s many quirks, features, and design directions. Considering that, let’s dive into our in-depth list of games like Advance Wars!

Wargroove

Unfortunately, Nintendo never officially ported Advance Wars to the PC — which is understandable, considering the fact that most of their games are exclusive to their own consoles. Luckily, there are plenty of PC games like Advance Wars, and Wargroove is one of the biggest believers in the Advance Wars formula.

One quick look at the game is enough for anyone who’s played or seen Advance Wars to spot the many similarities. The top-down perspective is almost identical to the one from the old GBA title — and so are the basic game mechanics and the pixelated animation style. Every aspect of Wargroove was made to evoke the Nintendo classic — but with some quality-of-life features for the modern era.

You still choose your army commander before battle, and the goals are either beating the enemy commander’s forces or taking over their headquarters — all in all, extremely Advance Wars-esque.

Not that there’s wrong with that, mind you — plus, the game has a free DLC pack called Double Trouble, which introduces a full multiplayer campaign for two players and a wider range of playable characters.

Into The Breach

Our next pick is less of a straight spiritual sequel to Advance Wars, though it has plenty of the GBA title’s mechanics. We’re talking about Into The Breach — one of the most critically acclaimed turn-based games released in the past ten years.

Its cute pixelated visuals harken back to Advance Wars — and so does its brand of rewarding but challenging gameplay. There’s also a great soundtrack that most fans are still showering with praise.

However, the game was made by the folks behind the equally well-received FTL: Faster Than Light — so you shouldn’t be surprised that Into The Breach has more roguelike DNA in its blood than the likes of Advance Wars.

It’s all about finding the optimal solution to a tactical encounter — but in Into The Breach, the optimal solution is frequently the only one. And disregarding it in favor of another course of action will frequently result in your mech units being smashed to bits by the giant Kaiju monsters you’re battling against.

One wrong move and your campaign to defend humanity from a horde of marauding aliens is practically doomed. Still, if you’re a fan of challenging turn-based strategies, you’ll likely find a lot of thrills in this — and once you do manage to clear the battlefield, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment few other games manage to evoke.

XCOM 2

When the original XCOM was released in 1994, it became to PC players what Advance Wars became to Nintendo fans. And though both games were known for their in-depth, tactically unforgiving gameplay — XCOM was always a grittier, darker older brother to the equally hard but more fun-loving Advance Wars.

It was badass and edgy — and ironically, when Firaxis created a sequel in 2011, they made it far more cartoonish. The same visual style continued with the sequel, which played further into the over-the-top visual style.

However, XCOM 2 is also much harder than its predecessor, which is already visible from the first couple of missions. The game cleverly turns the classic alien invasion trope on its head — it turns out that the canon ending of the first game was that humanity lost and the aliens took over.

And the sequel sees you and a bunch of guerilla fighters conduct covert warfare against overwhelmingly bad odds and an enemy that always outnumbers you. It’s less forgiving, more exciting, and extremely impressive. Plus, it’s also available on PS4, so you don’t need to be a PC player to enjoy the ruthless losses of your best soldiers and the adrenaline rush of making it just in time to escape alien security forces.

The Valkyria Chronicles 4

Really, where does one begin describing the messy genius of the Valkyria Chronicles series? It’s SEGA’s answer to Advance Wars, originally made for the PSP. But that description doesn’t even begin to capture the chaotic awesomeness of this series — more specifically, its fourth outing.

So, just like in Advance Wars, we have a continent engulfed in a desperate war. And there’s also a very specific anime visual style — though it’s more reminiscent of the later 3D Final Fantasy titles than the older pixelated ones.

Storybook aesthetics aside, the gameplay represents a worthy alternative to Advance Wars — though it’s still quite a bit different. First, you play individual characters rather than nameless and faceless armies run by COs. And second, you can actually run around the maps freely until you enter a combat encounter — again, like in the later Final Fantasy titles.

But another key aspect of the game separates it from classic turn-based strategies — you can aim your units’ weapons before they fire. That kind of direct combat, coupled with the usual stats that govern how effective those shots will be, makes Valkyria Chronicles 4 far more engaging than most other titles on this list.

It’s a fairly original representation of turn-based strategy gaming — and one that no game has managed (or really tried) to replicate since. You can play a remake of the old PSP title on the PC nowadays, and we definitely recommend you give it a go.

Unity of Command 2

The first Unity of Command was a true breath of fresh air in the PC wargaming niche. For the longest time, developers of hardcore wargames like Matrix Games and the devs of more accessible titles like Paradox cornered the market on war games.

However, the Matrix games were simply too in-depth for most players — and Paradox games were grand strategy wargames on a global scale, not strategic depictions of specific theaters of war.

Clearly, there was sufficient demand for something in between — and the success of the first Unity of Command can attest to that. The game brought us back to the favorite wargame era: WWII. And it did so by combining an incredibly intuitive and easy-to-use interface with the complex logistics of war on the Eastern Front.

While its cute graphics might lead you to believe you’ll be dealing with something like Advance Wars or even Civilizations, make no mistake — the simple mechanics that govern Unity of Command lead to complex strategic scenarios.

And the second game of the series does this even better, by providing us with bigger scenarios and making them more dynamic and less puzzle-ish. There are more random events and your strategic options are more plentiful — adding a decent amount of unpredictability to each scenario.

Tiny Metal

So, you’ve heard of how fun Advance Wars was — but you don’t have a lot of experience with turn-based strategy games? Have no fear, as Tiny Metal is the game for you! It’s a pretty faithful imagining of what Advance Wars would look like if it were designed in the cartoonish indie era of gaming.

However, although it is fun, it’s not exactly the most challenging experience on our list; we recommend playing it only if you’re unfamiliar with the genre or don’t like much of a challenge. In many ways, it’s a dumbed-down, streamlined version of games like Advance Wars or Wargroove.

Still, every genre newbie needs a decent entry point into the niche of tactical turn-based games — and if you want a first-timer’s title with a cartoonish style and plenty of character, you could do a lot worse than Tiny Metal.

Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mask

Okay, so the name of Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mask is enough for you to conclude that this isn’t so much inspired by Advance Wars as it is by Fire Emblem: Three Houses. First of all, you’re controlling individual characters instead of the artillery and tanks you’re navigating in Advance Wars.

Of course, the block-based, pixelated art and movement styles also resemble GBA-era tactical games. However, unlike most of the other titles on our list, Fell Seal does a lot to innovate on its roots and inspirations. For one, there are dozens of classes for you to choose from.

And each of these (and their stats) can be combined with literally hundreds of special abilities. This cocktail results in a more compelling and fresher version of the old Fire Emblem gameplay experience.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be much of a spiritual successor to Fire Emblem if it didn’t also serve up an enticing story that manages to hook you in and keep you playing for dozens of hours. Plus, all of the combat encounters take place on gorgeous hand-drawn backgrounds.

Also, you can customize your characters’ appearance by changing their colors, outfits, portraits, and every aspect of their visuals. Your army can also be equipped with hundreds of different equipment pieces, which you loot from fallen foes, buy from merchants, or craft from materials.

Grand Guilds

Even its biggest fans will tell you that Grand Guilds is far from a perfect game — it’s a bit rough around the edges, with bugs and quirks that will (hopefully) be ironed out at some point.

However, it’s also a deeply tactical and story-driven RPG that adds deck-building to the classic turn-based combat mechanics. Prepare to journey to yet another anime land about to be ravaged by war — the magical country of Irin!

There, you’ll master all the aspects of challenging tactical combat — and in this game, that means thinking about the terrain, your positioning, and the management of your action points. All of these can mean victory and defeat in any combat situation.

Also, your characters’ abilities are represented by skill cards — you can draw cards and customize your playstyle by building specific decks for each character. Leveling your units and completing quests is how you gain new cards, which you’ll use to upgrade the decks.

And speaking of the characters — all of the playable ones have unique abilities and mechanics, which naturally place them in roles of damage dealers, supports, or tanks. There’s some rudimentary voice acting as well — though the mileage on it varies throughout the game.

Still, the game does a great job of creating procedural quests that enhance replayability and yield enticing rewards — once you get over the somewhat steep learning curve, you’re likely to get hooked and spend a sizable chunk of your free time on Grand Guilds for a week or two.

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