10 Games Like StarCraft
The StarCraft series revolutionized the RTS genre and paved the way for many other brilliant titles that followed it. The first StarCraft game was released in 1998 by Blizzard Entertainment and was created by Chris Metzen and James Phinney.
The success of StarCraft cannot be overstated. This RTS not only contributed to the creation of the esports industry. In countries like South Korea, it changed the entire culture and has become the equivalent of football in Brazil.
The second game of the series, StarCraft 2, was launched in 2010 and was extremely well-received. Its single-player campaign is brilliant and the PvP offers the ultimate RTS experience. But this is not the only title in the RTS genre that’s worth playing, and in this article, you’ll discover 10 games like StarCraft that you should experiment with.
1. Age of Empires IV
Age of Empires IV excels in the diversity department. This RTS was years in the making and finally got released in October 2021 to universal acclaim. It’s hard not to love it if you’re a fan of the series because it offers more of what its predecessors offered but with improved visuals.
AoE IV features 8 civilizations and each of them is unique. Contrast this with what most RTS games will give you, which is 3 – 5 civilizations. The number itself is not important if the game is good, but in the case of Age of Empires IV, it really makes it a lot more replayable than other titles.
In AoE IV you will get to play with one of the following groups:
- The English
- The French
- The Holy Roman Empire
- The Rus
- The Abbasid Dynasty
- The Chinese
- The Mongols
- The Delhi Sultanate
In every single case, you can opt for a highly offensive or highly defensive playstyle. And you can take your civilization in the direction you desire. The more you learn about Age of Empires strategy and the game’s civilizations, the easier you will win.
There are 4 ages in total:
- The Dark Age
- The Feudal Age
- The Castle Age
- The Imperial Age
To advance from one age to the next, you will need resources such as gold and food, as well as various buildings. Naturally, you will want to reach the Imperial Age as soon as you can, but to get there you will need to survive the attacks launched upon your kingdom.
The game offers multiple single-player campaigns, including the following:
- The Normans
- The Hundred Years War
- The Mongol Empire
2. Command & Conquer Remastered
Command & Conquer Remastered was released in 2020 and received a score of 8.7 from players on Metacritic, which is pretty much a guarantee that the game is good. Many titles are favorably reviewed by the critics by the actual player base hates them. In the case of C&C Remastered, everyone was happy with the result.
The original Command & Conquer came out in 1995 and was one of the first high-quality RTS games in history. The remaster keeps everything that was great about the original but adds a lot of features to it, in addition to radically improving its graphics. Even the soundtrack was remastered and it sounds amazing.
Petroglyph Games, the company behind C&C Remastered, decided to go for maximum quality and maximum replayability. The game has more than 100 single-player campaign missions and more than 250 multiplayer maps.
C&C fans will be delighted by both sides of the game, but the primary game mode of any RTS is PvP. And this one excels in that department. If you have friends who enjoy playing against each other, just invite all of them to a lobby and have fun for hours. You can also play against the AI, but nothing compares to winning against your friends.
One cool feature of the remastered edition is the map editor. If you’re a serious fan of the series, you can now fully express your creativity and design your own maps.
3. Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne was released in 2003 by Blizzard Entertainment and has remained, to this day, one of their finest games. This RTS probably has some of the best cinematics in video game history and one of the most memorable single-player campaigns.
Through its characters, playstyle, and mods, Warcraft III contributed to titles like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Dota 2, and many others. The game itself is a pure RTS and features 4 races: Night Elves, Humans, Orcs, and Undead. Each of them has its own units, buildings, and playstyle.
Mastering Warcraft III: Frozen Throne is challenging and can take years. The game’s PvP has unique elements, such as the possibility to create and upgrade heroes to lead your army. These heroes have abilities and can level up by killing not just enemy units but also neutral creatures around the map.
These RPG elements, introduced by Blizzard Entertainment in an RTS game, blew people away and made Warcraft III a hugely popular title.
4. Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War is based on the famous Warhammer 40K Universe and its lore. The action takes place in the 41st millennium and the world has been at war for a very long time. The game’s atmosphere is amazing and you can play with one of 4 races: Space Marines, Orcs, Eldar, and Chaos.
The game is fun to play even if you don’t know anything about 40K lore, but it’s a lot more interesting if you do. In this Universe, the good guys, if you can call them that, are the Space Marines and everyone who’s loyal to the Imperium. At the other extreme, you have the forces of Chaos, as well as the Orcs and others.
When you play the game, such considerations never come to mind and you can choose any race you prefer. Players who are familiar with the lore tend to pick the Space Marines out of loyalty but every single race is fun to play, having distinctive plusses and minuses.
The game’s cinematic does a great job at introducing you to this brutal world, in which war is the only thing there is and the value of any individual’s life is an afterthought. The voice acting throughout the game is exceptional and you are guaranteed to memorize many character lines just by hearing them a few times.
Both the PvP mode and the single-player campaign are very well designed and the developers’ love for the 40K Universe can be felt in every aspect of their game.
5. Rise of Nations: Extended Edition
Rise of Nations: Extended Edition is an RTS that looks and feels a lot like Age of Empires II, but it has enough unique content to differentiate itself and provide an excellent experience for the fans of the genre.
The game was released in 2014 and everybody loved it. On Steam, the approval rate is 90%+, while on Metacritic the scores are high: 89 from the critics and 88 from the players. So it can almost be included on a list of the best RTS games on Steam.
Despite its similarities to AoE II, Rise of Nations is a highly respected title. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say that RoN is to AoE II what Titan Quest is to Diablo 2. In it, you get to play with one of the 18 available nations and control a wide variety of military units. You can train land forces, naval forces, and air forces.
The map types are also diverse, ranging from Amazonian rainforests to Himalayan mountain regions.
The single-player campaign challenges you to conquer the world by being successful in dozens of linked scenarios, and it’s a lot of fun to play through. However, like most RTS games, Rise of Nations’ strongest point is its PvP mode.
If you’re fascinated with history and the great structures built by powerful civilizations, Rise of Nations will give you an even better experience, thanks to its Wonders of the World feature. There are 14 of them available and you will have the chance to build them in your playing sessions.
6. Total War: Medieval II
Total War: Medieval II was launched in 2006 and its score is 90 on Metacritic. The Definitive Edition can be played on Steam and 95% of its ratings are positive. This game was a monumental achievement in its day and continues to be played by tens of thousands around the globe.
Like other Total War games, Medieval II has a brilliant single-player campaign that challenges you to become a great conqueror and use everything you have at your disposal: gold, armies, diplomats, and priests. The goal is to get as much land as you can under your control and manage it wisely.
One thing that makes Medieval II a great game to play is the accuracy with which it depicts the Medieval historical period. There are quotes from great men of that era throughout the game, and the atmosphere is incredible. This title is a lot more than a war simulator and you can actually learn valuable lessons by playing it.
Total War: Medieval II depicts the dark side of organized religion during this period, as well as the conflicts between the various states. There are nearly 20 factions that you can play with and each of them presents unique challenges and opportunities. My personal favorite is The Byzantine Empire but the rest are just as captivating.
Medieval II puts great emphasis on economic development and administrative skills are just as important as tactical ones. Without them, you are doomed to fail.
7. Company of Heroes 2
Company of Heroes 2 is a brilliant and realistic RTS built around one of World War II’s biggest conflicts: the one between Russia and Germany. The game was released in 2013 and its single-player campaign allows you to experience the war from both sides.
Every battle is a mixture of brilliance and tragedy, and it’s hard not to be emotionally affected by the action. The atmosphere in this game will make you relive the actual battles and experience the horrors of war first-hand.
On multiplayer, the game’s PvP is similar to that of the original, but it’s been greatly enhanced. You can play with one of the following 5 factions:
- Soviet Union
- US Forces
- British Forces
- Wehrmacht Ostheer
- Oberkommando West
Because of the environment in which you get to play the game, the battles are highly complex and allow you to fully utilize your tactical prowess. You can make use of poor visibility, high ground, buildings, and other elements that can be found at the scene of a fight. Factors like temperature also play a big role.
To succeed in the PvP game mode, you will need high APM and the ability to micromanage lots of small battle formations. This is not a game in which you can simply select 500 units and press the A key. You will need to maneuver carefully and treat your soldiers and tanks as if they were real.
8. Empire Earth
Empire Earth is one of the oldest RTS games on this list and many people missed it completely back when it was released in 2001. But this game has some very innovative features and differentiates itself through its unique implementation of a common RTS concept: ages.
In games like Age of Empires, when you advance to a new age, everything you own gets automatically upgraded. But in Empire Earth, you still have your cavalry even if you’re advanced enough to start building tanks. This mechanic of the game gives Empire Earth a unique flavor.
In the real world, when you become capable to build tanks, your horses don’t simply turn into tanks just because all of a sudden you are more technologically advanced. So it makes perfect sense when a game tells you: “You can now start to build tanks. But you’ll get to keep your cavalry too.”
One thing that makes Empire Earth a fun game is the depth of its historical evolution. You start at a very rudimentary stage in human history and can work your way up to atomic bombs and sophisticated airplanes. Other games only give you the opportunity to make several advancements. In Empire Earth, the evolution ladder is much longer.
9. Age of Mythology
Age of Mythology is another game that looks and feels like Age of Empires but still manages to distinguish itself from it in brilliant ways. The emphasis here is on war and religion, so you can expect to construct all kinds of buildings dedicated to the gods.
In Age of Mythology, to succeed you need all kinds of resources, such as gold, wood, food, and favor. You might ask what is favor. Simply put, favor is what makes the gods like you. In practice, it’s required for creating myth units, researching various technologies, and building Wonders. In some cases, it helps you to create heroes.
At its core, Age of Mythology is a pure RTS and has all of the elements specific to this genre. If you want to win, you need to use your workers optimally, create structures and place them intelligently around the map, scout the enemy, counter him with stronger army units, and so on.
If you want to play Age of Mythology, you should play the Extended Edition, which was released in 2014. You can find it on Steam. Surprisingly enough, despite being an ancient game, it is still being played by thousands of people. So if you’re interested in PvP, you will certainly find someone to measure your strategic skills against.
10. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is one of the most complex and well-designed strategy games that you can play. It’s not a pure RTS because of its turn-based elements, but it does provide the same level of excitement and has sold millions of copies since its release in 2016.
In Civilization VI, your objective is to build a lasting civilization that outshines the rest. You will get to play with one of the great personalities of history, such as Saladin, Peter the Great, or Gandhi.
The game is all about resource gathering and extending your territory in a safe manner. You need to constantly deal with the threat of war and master diplomacy if you don’t want to find yourself surrounded by enemies.
Like Empire Earth, you start in the distant past and then gradually build your civilization over the course of many centuries. This is not a game that focuses on a short and highly specific period in human history. Rather, it lets you develop across millennia and forge a name for yourself.
This game was designed with complexity and replayability in mind. Usually, in an RTS game it doesn’t take long before you understand everything and start to get bored. But in Civilization 6, you constantly have a feeling that there’s more to be learned and that progress is never-ending.
When you play Civ 6, prepare yourself for administrative tasks, because that’s what the game emphasizes. There’s war as well, but it’s not the focal point of the game.