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Top 5 Best Real-Time Strategy Games Like Age of Empires

Updated on September 20, 2016

Real-Time Strategy

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.

#01.5: Age of Mythology

Gods/factions of Age of Mythology
Gods/factions of Age of Mythology
Mythical creatures in Age of Mythology
Mythical creatures in 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 factions
Warcraft factions

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

StarCraft 2 - A Protoss creature named Dark Templar
StarCraft 2 - A Protoss creature named Dark Templar

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: Generals
Command & Conquer: Generals
Special character in Red Alert 3
Special character in Red Alert 3

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

#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

Conclusion

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.

Voice Your opinion

What is your favorite out of the five?

See results

There Are a Lot More Great RTS Games Beyond The Top Five

So vote for these RTS games too

See results

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    • Tonyx35 profile image

      J Antonio Marcelino 3 years ago from Illinois, USA

      I'm a big fan of Warcraft II and III.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Tonyx35

      Yes, me too. Warcraft is one of the top strategy games, which won Game of the Year, as I can remember.

    • profile image

      Dakota 3 years ago

      Civilization isn't a real time strategy it's a turn based strategy -facepalm-

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      Damn, you are right. It never occurred to me. Thanks for pointing that out.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Dakota,

      Thanks for pointing out the error. I've corrected it. StarCraft 2 is an awesome RTS game that deserves a top spot.

    • profile image

      paulb 3 years ago

      Age of mythology killed age of empires, theres a new DLC came out for age of empires 2 7th nov 2013 but nobody ever plays it why? because of mythology.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @paulb

      Agree with you. Age of Mythology was pretty awesome. But I think more people have played Age of Empires II than any other game. Also the latest release in Age of Empires II was a remake of the original with just better graphics (HD). Even all the scenarios and characters are the same. It definitely looks beautiful, but wondering if it would be worth buying it.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      Poll Update:

      Take a look at the results of the poll I have given above. Clearly Age of Empires and Age of Mythology combined destroys all other real time strategy games. Out of 489 votes, AoE and AoM has got 47% and 17% for Command and Conquer and 15% for Rise of Nations.

      Pretty surprised to see that WarCraft is lagging behind.

    • profile image

      Joe 3 years ago

      Wow, no love for Empire Earth?

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Joe

      It's like I said, the list was made out of the games I have played. I couldn't review about something I haven't played. But if you are an Empire Earth fan feel free to leave a comment about it. It might help others a lot.

    • profile image

      Jon 3 years ago

      Starcraft 2, hands down. Oh, and Starcraft was not released in the 1980s, just saying (as I remember it was 1997). I loved Age of Empires 2 (great game, but no decent hotkey system and imbalanced races) and played it for years. Heck, I gave it as a gift to my dad 15 years ago and he still plays it daily.

      However, Starcraft 2 is on a different level. You have much more creativity in strategies, great hotkey system(s), and a balance no other game can match (because this is an E-sports game and Blizzard keeps buffing and nerving stuff till it becomes perfect).

      I highly suggest this one.

    • Marchello profile image

      Marko Vucinic 3 years ago from Cuprija, Sebia

      I'm big fan of Command and Conquer, Red Alert, Stronghold....

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Jon

      Thanks a lot for the valuable input. I will have to recheck the release date of Starcraft, but the game certainly is better than AoE. But somehow Age of Empires is more popular.

      If we look at the votes on this hub;

      46% Age of Empires & Age of Mythology

      10% Warcraft

      17% Command & Conquer

      12% StarCraft 2

      15% Rise of Nations

      This is out of 1195 votes, so pretty substantial. Although Starcraft is in another level many people have not come across the game it seems.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Marchello

      Yes, I loved all of them. Not sure about Stronghold though.

    • profile image

      Thanatos 3 years ago

      i still believe that Star Wars: Empire at War was one of the best RTS out there. with graphics that were a little ahead of the game for '06 and gameplay in both land and space, its just as expansive as Warcraft and as Detailed as AOE

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Thanatos

      I just looked at videos and pics of Star Wars: Empire at War and I must admit it looks very good. There certainly are some interesting characters and graphics looks pretty awesome.

      Personally I don't appreciate Sci-fi stuff a lot. Maybe that's why I didn't come across Star Wars RTS series.

      Thank you for your input.

    • profile image

      Crystal 3 years ago

      Even though its old , i think Star Wars: Galactic battle grounds is my favorite for the year it was made. Sure StarCraft II or Empire at War is better, but it deserves a mention for sure. I bet no one has really played it in forever.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Crystal

      I haven't played Star Wars Galactic Battle. I'm sorry it's not in the list. I'm sure it must have been great. But old games that we played when we were very young sometimes hold an emotional value than just the gaming experience. The same way Age of Empires does for me. Anyway thank you for your input.

      According to the polls,

      First poll is lead by Age of Empires with 47% votes and second poll is lead by Lord of the Rings with 21%

    • profile image

      3 years ago

      Warlords battlecry 1,2, and 3 2 is my favorite but they are amazeing rts games

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Z

      I haven't played or heard about Battlecry. Is it the online game?

      Maybe you should also try out some of the RTS games mentioned here. They are all really good.

    • profile image

      rk 3 years ago

      What about Axis and Allies!?

      I still play that games multiple times a week!

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      I have not played them rk. Maybe I should try them sometime.

    • profile image

      Srsly 3 years ago

      Did a child write this

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Srsly

      Yes, why?

    • profile image

      buzz killington 3 years ago

      Warlords battlecry was an amazing one. But like age of mythology it was just too short. WarcraftIII was awesome, just too bad world of warcraft caught on and blizzard dropped the creation of the expansion pack for it.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @buzz killington

      Yes, but a new Warcraft is coming soon.

      I do agree Age of Mythology was pretty short.

    • profile image

      fate 3 years ago

      I think the earth series would fall into one of the best.

      Earth 2140

      Earth 2150

      Were both brilliant and well

      Earth 2160

      is sorta the twilight of the series cool ideas done horriblely killing it.

      The fact weather,temp,landscape ect effected tanks,aircraft,weapons and buildings was awesome but then add customizeable tanks and aircraft and able to build underground tunnels and mould the land to help in warfare makes it one of the best rts of all time.

      Don't believe me go and give Earth 2150 a go and tell me if you notice any of these things.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @fate

      Thanks for the awesome review about the Earth series. I'm sure it is a great real time strategy game.

    • profile image

      Duckeenie 3 years ago

      Rise of Legends wasn't an expansion, it was a new game with totally different mechanics etc.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Duckeenie

      Thanks for the clarification.

    • profile image

      Arpit 3 years ago

      Hey I don't agree with u... I think age of empires and mythology is awesome. especially d titans expansion

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Arpit

      I think Age of Empires and Age of Mythology are the best!!!

    • profile image

      nao 3 years ago

      Dunno about AOE 3, but both the first and the second only had one expansion. For instance, age of kings in the name of the main game (AOE2) while conquerors is the expansion.

      Also, Starcraft 1 was made in the late 90s or the early 2000s. Do you realize that the 80s were the age of Pong & pac man ? Bring starcraft to a gamer in the 80s and he would have a heart attack.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @nao

      You are right. I dunno how I missed that - I mean the StarCraft thing. Thanks for clarifying. :)

    • profile image

      Arpit 3 years ago

      I have aoe 3 nd aom and aomtx......I like aomtx....but star track lack no words...Its really a good game.....

    • profile image

      Arpit 3 years ago

      where's age of war, age of gods and civillization iv in this list?

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Arpit

      This list was made by the games I have personally played. Even if it wasn't the case I could not include all real time strategy games to this list.

    • profile image

      nav 3 years ago

      Hey , you should try

      1.company of heroes 2

      2. Empire earth 2

      you will surely enjoy that .

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
      Author

      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @nav

      Thanks for the ideas. These games were all played years ago. Now I'm stuck trying to earn some bucks online.

    • profile image

      Arpit 3 years ago

      Strategy games lack no words....I like them more than any type of other games....My friends do not like that type....But for me they r awesome....Did u heard of the game Red Angel?

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Arpit

      I love strategy games as well. I like game like Call of Duty as well. But CoD has a certain limit to it's gameplay. Strategy games have no limits to it's flexibility - the way we want to play it.

      I haven't heard of Red Angel.

    • profile image

      Arpit 3 years ago

      Yes.. Other games doesn't provide the facility that strategy does.... Once we play games like action, after we completed we donot have any choice and can't play as we will be bored but strategy is different we can design our own scenerios and play them so getting bored is far away.

      U should try spartan wars.. Its a mobile strategy games... Believe me its the best strategy mobile game (for me)... U can download it frm play store

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Arpit

      I think you said everything perfectly.

      I will try out Spartan Wars. I'm currently playing Castle Clash.

    • ilikegames profile image

      Sarah Forester 3 years ago from Australia

      Rise of Nations is the best RTS in my opinion (after Age of Empires of course). As far as game like Age of Empires goes AoM is the winner there.

      I'm also actually a fan of the Warhammer 40k series of real time strategy games.

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @ilikegames

      We have similar tastes. :)

    • profile image

      arpit 3 years ago

      Aftr u try spartan be sure to form n alliance betweeen us.... my username of tht game is lonav ...find me out there

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @arpit

      Will do. (Y)

    • profile image

      farooq ghaffar 3 years ago

      you people shoud play stronghold legends.

    • profile image

      Tassen 3 years ago

      Dune II????

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @farooq ghaffar

      it looks pretty badass.

      @Tassen

      The graphics don't look very great.

      Again, I haven't played those games.

    • profile image

      Tassen 3 years ago

      Guess my memory of it have been somewhat glorified:)

    • profile image

      Vaibhav 3 years ago

      Hey anyone up for an aom match

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @Vaibhav

      Multiplayer?

    • profile image

      arpit 3 years ago

      I would sure play vaibhav if i hadn't the gold edition of aom... Aom's gold edition doesn't support multiplayer (on Internet) becoz microsoft makes copy of product codes of gold edition's ...I would love to ply on LAN ....

      :)

    • profile image

      Naveen 3 years ago

      Age of empires is the best game in the world. I am ready for the match @vaibhav

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 3 years ago

      @arpit @Naveen

      This is interesting. Is there any way I can join as well?

    • profile image

      arpit 2 years ago

      i m thinking of buying another strategy game .. which yall suggest?

    • Nimesh De Silva profile image
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      Nimesh De Silva 2 years ago

      @arpit

      Well, Warcraft is great

    • profile image

      arsi 2 years ago

      Age of mythology the titans expanaion

    • profile image

      SEA 2 years ago

      How can u still play aoe or aom online?

    • profile image

      Hades 17 months ago

      The golden horde is a sweet little game

    • profile image

      vio 12 months ago

      No mention here on warzone 2100

      One of the first RTS, still getting updated today with an open source community.

      One of the few games i still come back to play very often

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 2 months ago from Singapore

      It was such a pity AOE went bust. I used to dream about AOE 4 and 5 and how those might feature WWII, the Viet War, etc.

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