The whole PC gaming community is probably still camped out in their rooms finishing the single player campaign of Starcraft II or engaging in brutal multiplayer combat over battle.net. The release of Starcraft II reminds us just addictive real time strategy games are. The intense mix of action, strategy and fast thinking is a potent formula that has left many people addicted to RTS games. A lot of RTS titles have been released over the last decade or so and let’s face it, there were some bombs but there were more stellar titles that have become part of the pantheon of the best games ever made. Below are some of the best RTS games you shouldn’t fail to try.
1. Command and Conquer Red Alert 2
The Command and Conquer series is one of the most recognizable among gamers. In fact, Red Alert is so popular it has somewhat overshadowed both the main game and the Command and Conquer Tiberium Wars games. The ‘what if’ nature of the game’s plotline (Hitler was killed before he could start World War II), and the deceptively simple, yet deep gameplay were the elements that attracted fans to the game and made it into the huge success that it is.
2. Dune 2
This game deserves a spot in this list not because it is a great game (it’s actually a decent game) but because it earns the distinction of being arguably the first real time strategy game ever made. The game was based on Frank Herbert’s seminal science fiction series Dune and players can choose to control one of three factions, the Atreides, the Harkonnens, and the Ordos – which was created specifically for the game. Dune 2, which was released way back in 1992, is actually still a fun game to play. The unique units for each side and well balancedgameplay is still worth checking out.
When it was first released, Total Annihilation impressed many gamers. It was the first RTS to employ 3D, which meant beautifully rendered units that looked nothing like what was currently on the market. But more than the eye candy, Total Annihilation offered a very fresh take on the RTS genre. First, it simplified the resource management aspect of the game, thereby putting more focus on strategy and action. The main focus now went to the development of Tech, which is used in upgrading units. This allowed gamers to customize and personalize their units depending on their playing style. And the level of customizability was simply astounding. To make playing the game more addictive, new units were also introduced for download that further increased replayability of the game. The units were so unique in terms of ability that it actually felt refreshing playing an RTS title once again. There was even one special unit upgrade that allowed you to attack your enemy from across the map!
5. Supreme Commander
Total Annihilation was a great game. The genius behind it was Chris Taylor. It came as no surprise then that Taylor’s next RTS game, Supreme Commander, would enjoy the same critical praise lavished on his first RTS title. The game revolves around controlling one of three different factions, each one with an interesting back story and philosophy that is worthy of a movie or, better yet, a science fiction novel. This was a real ‘grown up’ RTS that, of course, also offers addictive gameplay.
6. Rome Total War
The Total War series are critically acclaimed games that put gave real emphasis on tactical strategy – and this became most apparent with the release of Rome Total War. Strictly speaking, Rome Total War is a turn based strategy game, but it’s still included in this list bcause of the real time tactical controls that are an integral part of the gameplay. Rome Total War is notable for successfully melding unit-level tactical strategy with large-scale or macro-level turn-based elements a la Civilization. The gameplay of Rome Total War is intensely deep and will surely suck a lot of your time because of its very engaging play mechanics.
8. Company of Heroes
The release of the Medal of Honor games, movies like Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers TV mini-series brought World War II nostalgia to unprecedented levels. It’s within this fascination for WWII that Company of Heroes was released. But don’t think that this game is just a poorly-made game released just to make a quick buck, Company of Heroes is one of the most engaging and addictive RTS games to be released in the history of the genre.
9. Warcraft 3
World of Warcraft addicts won’t have the game crack they adore if not for Warcraft the real-time strategy game. The Warcraft RTS was one of the early titles on which Blizzard built its reputation and the game that showcased the company as a maker of high quality, and addictive RTS games. And no Warcraft game would better represent the series than Warcraft 3. The third iteration in the venerable Warcraft series introduced a number of innovations to the RTS genre like heroes, mini bosses and upgradeable units – new elements that served to revitalize the RTS genre, which until Warcraft 3, has been viewed as being on its last legs.
Blizzard may have helped build the RTS genre with Warcraft, but it’s space-themed RTS, Starcraft, was the game that not only placed Blizzard to the pinnacle of gaming god-ness, it was the game that made millions rabid RTS addicts.
Starcraft achieved what very few other games, regardless of genre, achieved. It was an engaging and highly refined game that is easy to learn, fun to play, and deeply strategic. No other game comes close to it in terms of immersion. And what other game can boast of becoming a huge national phenomenon? Just ask the South Koreans, who have practically made the game their national pastime.