Top 5 Best Real-Time Strategy Games Like Age of Empires
If you are even a light gamer, you have probably come across strategy games somewhere down the line. If not, I suggest you go through this article and pick one to play today!
Strategy games are usually wargames, and real-time strategy games are ones that allow us to control everything in real time.
The opposite of a real-time strategy game is a turn-based strategy game, where you will only be able to do certain things in each of your turns—in between you'll have to wait for the opponent to react in his or her turn. Personally, I prefer real-time strategy to turn-based games because it feels more natural and gives the ability to control everything in the moment.
Games That Have Defined the Industry
Strategy games comprise a few of the earliest games ever released. These original strategy games were "simple" and did not require much processing or computing power. Age of Empires ran perfectly in 256MB VGA and 512 RAM. That processing power would not be enough for modern-day strategy games due to the significant improvements in realistic movements, natural dynamics, 3D rendering, and artificial intelligence. But still these games require less processing power than modern-day FPS games like Call of Duty or Battlefield.
It is sad to see that there is a declining trend in real-time strategy games among modern gamers. Game manufacturers have even reduced their output of new RTS games.
But enough of the chit-chat. Let's get down to the top five real-time strategy games the world has ever seen.
#01 - Age of Empires
After much internal debate, I decided to give Age of Empires the coveted number one position among top real-time strategy games of all time. This is not merely because I love this game so much but also because Age of Empires laid the foundation for later RTS games.
Age of Empires is a game where you have to conquer your opponents in a given map. For that, you need an army, and to build an army, you need food, buildings, and training camps. This is where the fun begins. You have the absolute freedom to do anything you like with the resources that are available, keeping in mind that resources deplete. So use your resources effectively, build an army, and take on the world!
There are three major versions of the game, namely; Age of Empires, Age of Empires II, and Age of Empires III. After the third edition and its expansions, no more versions were produced.
AoE III Trailer
Age of Empires (1) is really not that good, but it was the first installment of the series. It had minimal graphics and was quite tough to navigate and control. But the second edition, Age of Empires II (2) was a hit. Graphics had been drastically improved and navigation was perfect.
Age of Empires 2 included two expansions as well: Age of Empires: Age of Kings and Age of Empires: Conquerors. These two were the games I played most as a kid. You've been warned: This game is highly addictive.
Age of Empires III (3) was again a significant improvement over the second edition. The game was made to look more realistic with 3D rendering. This required a little more computing power, but nothing that modern machines cannot handle. Age of Empires 3 also had two expansion packs, namely Age of Empires III: War Chiefs and Age of Empires III: Asian Dynasties.
Age of Empires III
#01.5: Age of Mythology
I have put this at number 01.5—yeah, that's right, between 01 and 02.
Age of Mythology is another massively popular RTS game brought to you by the developers of Age of Empires—Ensemble Studios.
It has all the functioning of Age of Empires; the differentiating factor is the type of factions it has. There are three main ones, each an early civilization with rich mythological beliefs: Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse. The mythological creatures and heroes from each culture are available in the game. Although it is RTS, it's a whole new experience.
Age of Mythology came with one expansion pack named Age of Mythology: Titans. It isn't a huge improvement over the standard game, but it is worth having the whole package.
Age of Mythology with Titans expansion pack
#02 - Warcraft
Warcraft is yet another massively popular real-time strategy game gamers have come to love and adore. The concept is same as that of Age of Empires and Age of Mythology, but Warcraft has more of a fantasy nature. Instead of using "real" mythological creatures found in world history, Blizzard, the producers of Warcraft, ran wild with imagination when it came to character development.
There are three main editions of Warcraft named Warcraft 1, 2, and 3. But there are quite a few expansion packs available to these editions.
Take a look at the Warcraft factions available in the picture below.
Warcraft 3 is undoubtedly the best one out of the lot and has two expansions to it: Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The Frozen Throne is one of the best RTS games ever.
World of Warcraft is their online multiplayer version of the game, which is one of the largest online gaming communities in the world.
Warcraft III with Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne expansions
#03 - StarCraft 2
After the massively popular StarCraft I game, Blizzard Entertainment brings you the sequel, StarCraft 2. In the 1980s StarCraft I was highly appraised as one of the best real-time strategy games. And the goodwill has remained with StarCraft II.
The game was released in 2010 and has been one of the top-selling video games since.
StarCraft II has three expansion packs:
- StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty
- StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
- StartCraft 2: Legacy of the Void
To read the full plot of the game visit the Wiki link for StartCraft 2.
StarCraft 2 is based on three types of species. There are:
- Terrans: human exiles from Earth
- Zerg: a species of super powers and capabilities
- Protos: a highly advanced species with special mental abilities
Wings of Liberty is based around Terrans, whereas Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void are based on Zerg and Protos respectively. So Legacy of the Void will be a really really awesome expansion.
In the game, you can fully control your units and are tasked with making the best strategies with the available resources. Different units have different abilities, and combining these will give you the best chance of survival against enemies.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector's Edition
#04 - Command & Conquer
Command & Conquer is another massively popular RTS game. There have been many editions of the game and expansions to these editions.
Command & Conquer is the world's all-time best-selling RTS game. Command & Conquer has a range of settings from the industrial revolution to a futuristic cyber age. There are many factions in each game, and these change according to editions. Sometimes campaign mode plays out real events from the history, and sometimes it's totally fictitious.
The basic goal is to collect resources (which consists only of gold in most games) and build an army to conquer the opponents. The campaign mode gives you more diverse goals.
The Command & Conquer bundle pack below includes the following 17 games from the series:
- Command & Conquer
- Command & Conquer The Covert Operations
- Command & Conquer Red Alert
- Command & Conquer Red Alert Counterstrike
- Command & Conquer Red Alert The Aftermath
- Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun
- Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun Firestorm
- Command & Conquer Red Alert 2
- Command & Conquer Red Alert Yuri's Revenge
- Command & Conquer Renegade
- Command & Conquer Generals
- Command & Conquer Generals Zero Hour
- Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars
- Command & Conquer 3 Kane’s Wrath
- Command & Conquer Red Alert 3
- Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 Uprising
- Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight
Command & Conquer Ultimate Collection
#05 - Rise of Nations
Rise of Nations is another massively popular RTS game, in which you have to develop your nation to become the best in the world.
As your civilization progresses through ages of development (dark ages, industrial revolution, IT era, space age, etc.) your rivalry factions develop through those ages as well. Either you can rush to the most modern era first (before others) and attack others with better weapons and conquer them, or you can have continuous battles to weaken the progress of other factions or even turn them to dust.
Unlike in most other RTS games, in Rise of Nations you have the chance to get your civilization through ages of development and reach the space age. But the game is more complicated than others as well. There are various types of resources, and not all of them are under your control. A new feature may be the ability to dig for oil as you reach industrial revolution, and for ages after. So it is not a walk in the park. A must play for all RTS fans.
Rise of Nations has two expansion packs:
- Rise of Nations: Thrones & Patriots
- Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends
I haven't played 'Rise of Legends, but by the look of it, it seems like there are some mythical creatures of sorts. So it could be a whole new experience.
Rise of Nations with Thrones & Patriots expansion pack
The above list is based on my opinion, and yours may be different. If so, please leave a comment of your revised order or any other games that you would have included in the top five real-time strategy games.