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Top Ten Strategy and Simulation Computer Games

Updated on May 8, 2013

Strategy and Simulation Games

This lens is dedicated to the top ten strategy and simulation games for the computer. The time span is relatively loose, but generally the games are from the last decade and represent the top ten greatest hits. Putting strategy and simulation together may seem a bit odd, but this reflects my personal playing style. From personal experience, many gamers who enjoy deep strategy games also enjoy deep simulation games. Ultmately, the line between strategy and simulation is not that clear, with the best games containing elements of both. For example, the differences between Civilization, Age of Empires, and Sim City 4 are not all that substantial. All three require strategic thinking and contain elements of a "simulation". The games are in order of merit, with Civilization IV heading up the list as the best overall in the category. Check them all out, rank them yourself, share your comments, and purchase the games if you like!

Civilization IV

Civilization IV is one of the best strategy games ever created. Designed by the game creation genius Sid Meier, the fourth installment in the series is as addictive and entertaining as the first three. While the latest Civilization V has already been on the market for some time, Civilization IV still represents better value and playability. Additionally, due to a dedicated fan base and talented modification designers, there are numerous add-on mods available for free on the web to immeasurably add on to the fun and replayability of Civilization IV. In my opinion, it is still the better game by a long shot. Taking your nation from the cradle of history to the dawn of the modern age and beyond is simply thrilling, challenging, and satisfying. Civilization IV will give you the ultimate and complete strategy gaming experience. Do not miss out!

UPDATE: When Civilization V was released I was initially unimpressed. It was a bit of a let down after Civ IV. However, the latest expansion pack God & Kings makes this game terrific.

Sid Meiers Civilization IV: The Complete Edition - PC
Sid Meiers Civilization IV: The Complete Edition - PC

Save money by buying the complete edition with all the expansion packs included.

 
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods and Kings [Download]
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods and Kings [Download]

Fact: This expansion pack alone makes Civ V arguably the best of all the Civilization games. If you are going to buy Civ V, you HAVE to buy Gods and Kings!

 
Sid Meier's Civilization V [Download]
Sid Meier's Civilization V [Download]

The new version of Civilization. Initially I was a bit disappointed, especially after all the cool expansion packs and modifications for Civ IV, but with the new Gods and Kings (above) expansion pack, this version really does raise the bar.

 
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Complete with Alien Crossfire Expansion
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Complete with Alien Crossfire Expansion

This is a blast from the past, but is still a fantastic futuristic civilization game. Beware, the graphics are dated. The strategy is still great, however!

 

Video Game Review

Sim City 4

The Sim City series produced by the video game heavy-weight Will Wright (also creator of the Sims) should be a household name for any fan of city building games. A perfect example of the combined genres of strategy and simulation, Sim City 4 delivers an epic performance. You are the virtual mayor (or God) of an entire region populated with individual city plots of varying sizes. For example, you can remake the San Francisco Bay area to your own liking from the ground up, or create a very different end result from the New York City region. Sim City 3 did not give the player a regional map to build with. In Sim City 4 players can use it to create inter-connected regions of commerce, traffic, and various city deals. This all furthers the idea that your individual city is part of a real living and breathing larger universe.

Fans of past Sim City games will not be disappointed with Sim City 4. The options are increased, the graphics are sharper, and the possibilities are virtually without limit. Since there never really was a true sequel to Sim City 4, the game has be generously modded by thriving online communities. This has enabled fans of the game to continue playing with hundreds of hours of new content which is easily available to download and add to your game. Will Wright's attempt to create a spin off with Sim City Societies was widely panned by players and critics a like. While we anxiously await the arrival of a true sequel to Sim City 4, downloading content from free communities online is more than worth the wait.

SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition - PC
SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition - PC

The deluxe edition contains the original version and the Rush Hour expansion pack. Great value for the money!

 
SimCity 4: Rush Hour Expansion Pack - PC
SimCity 4: Rush Hour Expansion Pack - PC

If you have the original, but would like to keep playing, the Rush Hour expansion pack is a must have. It adds many transportation features like avenues, intermodel transport, etc..

 
Cities XL 2011 [Download]
Cities XL 2011 [Download]

While not created by EA Games, Cities XL has been touted by some as a better sequel to the series than Sim City Societies. It's certainly not a bad game and will provide a solid city building experience while you wait for the real Sim City 5.

 
SimCity - Standard Edition [Download]
SimCity - Standard Edition [Download]

This is the new version of SimCity, released in 2013. However, it has received mixed reviews.

 

Sim City 4 Video Review

Rome: Total War

These days the Total War series is renowned for its excellent video game productions, but it was not always this way. It all truly started with Rome: Total War. The magnificent display of part RTS and part turn-based strategy gameplay came together in the genre of Roman glory to deliver a revolutionary game. The creators over at Total War broke the rules by blending two supposedly exclusive types of games and putting them into one package. Part of the game puts the player in the role of leading a Roman faction with Civilization style city building and unit moving. The other part of the game - when the battles occur - is where the RTS element comes in. Your armies are displayed down to the last legionary. You are the the field commander and manuver the units in formation according to your strategic tactics. By this point the game is considered a classic, but the gameplay and graphics are by no means out of date. In fact, many older machines can easily handle this epic game.

Rome: Total War Gold Edition - PC
Rome: Total War Gold Edition - PC

The Gold Edition includes the original Rome Total War with the Barbarian Invasion expansion pack.

 
Rome: Total War - Gold Edition [Download]
Rome: Total War - Gold Edition [Download]

The Gold Edition digital download.

 
Rome Total War Anthology (Total War, Alexander & Barbarian)
Rome Total War Anthology (Total War, Alexander & Barbarian)

This is the complete Rome Total War pack, including the Alexander expansion pack.

 
Rome: Total War - Alexander (Expansion) [Download]
Rome: Total War - Alexander (Expansion) [Download]

If you have the Gold edition, it does not include the Alexander expansion pack. For $5 this digital download is an easy way to extend your enjoyment of the RTW.

 

Rome: Total War Video Review

Age of Empires III

Age of Empires, much like the Civilization series, has become one of the most long lasting franchises in strategy gaming history. The classic RTS model has been updated over the years, always managing to adapt to new graphics, technology, and expectations. Age of Empires III does not disappoint with its vivid detail and solid gaming model. Collecting resources, constructing buildings, and creating masses of units to invade the enemy has never been this much fun. If you were a fan of the previous iterations, Age of Empires III will not disappoint. If you are a fan of strategy RTS games in general, this is a must have game to add to your collection.

Age of Empires III: Complete Collection - PC
Age of Empires III: Complete Collection - PC

This comes with the base game, the Asian Dynasties expansion pack, as well as the War Chiefs expansion. Great value!

 
Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties Expansion Pack
Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties Expansion Pack

Just the Asian Dynasties pack if you already have the base game.

 
Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs Expansion Pack
Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs Expansion Pack

Just the War Chiefs expansion if you already have the base game.

 
Age of Empires III
Age of Empires III

The original base game.

 

Age of Empires III Video Review

Shogun 2: Total War

Shogun 2: Total War is just the latest masterpiece video game of many provided by the Total War series. Each Total War game builds on the success of the previous entry, while bringing some delightful new gameplay element to the table. Like the previous entries in the series, Shogun 2 blends tactical RTS battles with turn based strategic planning. This time the setting is feudal Japan. The world is remarkably rendered graphically, even down to the last samurai. Shogun 2 is simply one of the best new games to hit the strategy gaming market. If you do not have it, get it as soon as possible. Fans of Total War games as well as strategy fans in general will enjoy what Shogun 2 has to offer.

Total War: Shogun 2 - PC
Total War: Shogun 2 - PC

One of the best games to come out in the past year.

 
Total War: Shogun 2 [Online Game Code]
Total War: Shogun 2 [Online Game Code]

The digital download version. Play in minutes.

 
Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai [Download]
Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai [Download]

An action packed expansion featuring the introduction of widespread gunpowder units. Well worth the money to extend an amazing game.

 

Shogun 2: Total War Video Review

Warcraft III

The online version of Warcraft is quite popular among a large fan base. Before the online version, there was the stand alone Warcraft game. Warcraft III may not seem to be in the same category as Civilization and Total War, but despite the fantasy element, Warcraft III should be considered a premier strategy game. Despite its relative age (coming out in 2003), the Warcraft III engine still provides hours of fun and enjoyment. If you like the added fantasy element to strategy games, then Warcraft should be a part of your collection.

Warcraft III Battle Chest - PC/Mac
Warcraft III Battle Chest - PC/Mac

The complete collection of Warcraft III and its expansions.

 
WarCraft III Expansion: The Frozen Throne - PC/Mac
WarCraft III Expansion: The Frozen Throne - PC/Mac

The Frozen Throne expansion. If you have the original, this is a must have expansion pack.

 

Warcraft III Video Review

Caesar III

Caesar III sure is an oldie, but it definitely is one worth remembering (and playing). This is an example of yet another great franchise in strategy gaming. While the latest Caesar IV is a decent sequel to Caesar III, the latter is still the much better game. The game is part strategy, part simulation, and part city building. It is played in real time so thinking on your feet becomes important. You can play sandbox games in open maps, or do the mission sequence which also functions as a tutorial. The game is similar to many of the city building games which game out at the time such as Pharoah (Egyptian themed citiy building). The graphics may seem a bit dated, but the gameplay is addictive and fun. If you would rather have updated graphics, Caesar IV will deliver solid gameplay as well.

Caesar III
Caesar III

The classic Caesar III.

 

Caesar III Gameplay Video

Tropico

You may have heard of some of the more recent editions of this classic game, but the original still provides the best gameplay. Tropico puts you in the shoes of a dictator of a banana republic in a random Caribbean island nation. Your job is to lead your little nation from the 1950s through the modern era. You can use any number of tactics to achieve success. You can rule with an iron fist or meet your peoples needs and rule democratically (elections are held every few years, depending on the history of democracy and the peoples expectations). International politics also comes into play, with your island nation dealing with the dueling super powers of the Soviet Union and the United States. Play your cards well and you may be able to collect foreign aid from both, make a mistake and you could be seeing massive battleships steaming into your waters.

Tropico is a great game that has long gone under-appreciated. It is part city builder and part political simulation. The original game is - as is often the case - still the best from a gameplay standpoint, but the sequels are worth the money as well.

Tropico (Gold Edition)
Tropico (Gold Edition)

The Gold Edition of the original game. Great value!

 
Tropico 3: Gold Edition - PC
Tropico 3: Gold Edition - PC

The Gold Edition of the third Tropico game.

 
Tropico 3 [Download]
Tropico 3 [Download]

The digital download.

 
Tropico [Download]
Tropico [Download]

The digital download of the original Tropico. Easy download, easy install, playing in minutes.

 
Tropico 4 - PC
Tropico 4 - PC

The next edition in the series, out now! Adds numerous new political features and expanded building options.

 

Tropico Gameplay Video

Europa Universalis III

For hardcore fans of strategy gaming, Europa Universalis III is as in depth and challenging game. Over the years the community at Paradox games (the makers of the Europa Universalis series) has grown from a small core fo strategy gamers, to one of the largest and most successful makers of deep strategy games. Europa Universalis puts you the player in the shoes of a territory of your choosing at the dawn of the Middle Ages. You can choose small one plot territories or larger, better positioned multi-territoried powers such as France to begin your quest for power and domination.

A word of warning: Europa Universalis is not a slash and burn game of conquest. Fans of the Total War series or even Civilization may be initially put off by the long term nature of gaining power. Especially for smaller powers, the odds of success are not in your favor. Europe is being consolidated from many disparate parts and chances are you will be better positioned to be gobbled up than to be conquering the globe. That said, when you do find success it is incredibly rewarding.

Europa Universalis III: Complete - PC
Europa Universalis III: Complete - PC

The complete edition with all the expansion packs is definitely the best value for the money.

 

Europa Universalis III Video Review

Rise of Nations

Rise of Nations garnered a fantastic rating from Gamespot of 9.3, yet flew under the radar for many strategy gamers. Rise of Nations was created by one of the lead designers of the Civilization franchise. The best way to describe the game is a combination of Age of Empires and Civilization III. While Age of Empires limits the player to a certain era of human history, Rise of Nations lets you take your nation from the dawn of time through the modern age. The graphics are a little dated, but not all that much by strategy game standards. The game is played in real time - not turn based - which is an interesting spin on the Civilization style gameplay.

If you liked Age of Empires and Civilization, this is the perfect hybrid of both.

Rise of Nations Gold - PC
Rise of Nations Gold - PC

The Gold version includes the Thrones and Patriots expansion pack.

 
Rise of Nations - PC
Rise of Nations - PC

The original stand alone version.

 

Rise of Nations Video Review

Crusader Kings 2

Crusader Kings 2 is quite possibly the best combination of strategy, role playing, and simulation ever created. The game puts you in the shoes of one character of noble blood; either a King (Queen), Duke (Duchess), or Count (Countess). You may be an independent ruler, but if you are anything beneath a monarch you are more likely than not beholden to some other character as a vassal. You play from 1053 all the way into the mid 15th century, playing each successive heir as your own character. That is, if you HAVE an heir. The only way to "lose" the game is to not have an heir (thus ending the line of succession). The game is full of strategy, politics, role playing, and diplomacy. War is fought from a distance and must be planned out well in advance (and only if you have "claims" to press on other territories). The pace of the game may appear slow, but there is always something to be preparing for. This game from Paradox interactive has had a surprisingly massive uptake with the gaming public at large. For a relatively niche gaming developer, Paradox created a game that is accessible enough for most casual strategy gamers while being deep enough to challenge even the most veteran Civilization mastermind.

It is worth playing this game just to experience a brand new meld of strategy gaming. It is unlike anything I have every experienced. Think a mixture of the factions of Rome Total War, without the 3D graphics and with 5 times more politics.

Crusader Kings II [Download]
Crusader Kings II [Download]

This is the download version, a must have for any serious strategy/simulation gamer.

 
Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome [Online Game Code]
Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome [Online Game Code]

Legacy of Rome adds factions to the political mix, allowing for vast plots and intrigues to sweep across a nation, possibly leading to some sort of reform or - dare I say - regime change!

 
Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam [Online Game Code]
Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam [Online Game Code]

This DLC makes the Islamic countries fully playable, with their own set of features, actions, and cultural codes. If you would like a change from playing the traditional Western perspective, this is a great expansion pack.

 
Crusader Kings II: The Republic DLC [Download]
Crusader Kings II: The Republic DLC [Download]

This makes a number of the merchant republics playable, allowing for a different style of game-play.

 

Crusader Kings 2 Video Review

Civ Fanatics Community - For Civilization Fans

This community has become one of the most popular hang outs for avid fans of all of the Civilization games. Not only can you find helpful advice, but there are more mods than you can dream of which have been masterfully created by modders. the modifications are free and can turn the game into a fantasy dark magic strategy game or build on the formula of Civilization by providing hours of new content such as civilizations, maps, technologies, units, and more!

Are there additions to this list you think should be made? Is there a game that should be removed from the list? In your humble opinion, share your experience!

Tell us what YOU think!

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    • profile image

      Anyomous 2 years ago

      I Prefer Europa Universalis 4 to 3

    • profile image

      chickie99 4 years ago

      civ 4 is the best!

    • StephenJackson2 profile image

      StephenJackson2 4 years ago

      Great list of games and well presented lens :)

    • Markwell1 profile image

      Markwell1 4 years ago

      Rome total war, AoE3 and Civ 4 baby!

    • thewafflingprem1 profile image

      thewafflingprem1 4 years ago

      Rome total war! gotta be my favorite strategy game

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I am getting quite old yet crave Tropico, and Caesar. I also have the latest editions. I am not so much into bloodshed. I am into the outsmarting, political, management of a small nation. My friend meets me on weekends and we play. We even discuss, in depth, how to govern better, next time.

      Haxsaw

    • profile image

      LuizAvila 4 years ago

      Include Civilization Alpha Centauri!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Why isn't evil genius on this list. That game was amazing!

    • Alenkita1 profile image

      Alenkita1 5 years ago from Slovenia

      Tropico is one of my favourites. Nice lense.

    • sinclair89 lm profile image
      Author

      sinclair89 lm 5 years ago

      @goodguymedia: Absolutely! Honestly, I still play them to this day whenever I have some down time (which is rare). Romand of the 3 Kingdoms probably deserves a slot as well!

    • profile image

      goodguymedia 5 years ago

      Great lens. Strategy games are my favorite by far. Hate to think how many thousands of hours I probably put into Civ IV. Grew up playing Sim City, Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, etc.

    • sinclair89 lm profile image
      Author

      sinclair89 lm 6 years ago

      @PropheticBlogge1: Thank you! I am a big fan of all of these, but especially close to my heart is SC4. I still play it when I have the spare moment. I have downloaded plenty of modified content from the numerous fansites, and that has really extended the gameplay and enjoyment for me. Good to find a kindred spirit!

    • PropheticBlogge1 profile image

      PropheticBlogge1 6 years ago

      What an amazingly detailed lens. I love these simulation / strategy games and have to say my favourite is Sims City 4. I think you've highlight the best of the best incredibly well.