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10 Best RTS games on PC 2024

From the OG real-time strategy Age of Empires 2 to modern gems like Steel Batallion, we've picked the best RTS games on PC need in 2024.

Best RTS games montage - screenshot from the game Star Wars: Empire at War, key art of American and German WW2 soldiers from Company of Heroes 3, and a steampunk mech from Iron Harvest

This guide profiles the best real time strategy games available in 2024, across every theme and subgenre. We’ve considered games old and new, and we’ve narrowed down our list to the ten that represent the best of the genre.

If you prefer your strategy to have a wider scope and a slower pace, check out our separate guides to the best grand strategy games and the best 4X games.

These are the 10 best RTS games:

Screenshot of Warhammer 40k Dawn of War, one of the best RTS games

Warhammer 40k Dawn of War

The first and still best Warhammer 40k RTS

Dawn of War is a landmark for both the Warhammer 40,000 franchise and the RTS game genre, inventing many of the game design principles popularised by the Company of Heroes series. Dawn of War is the origin of control points, controlling squads of infantry rather than individual soldiers, terrain that buffs units’ defense or hinders their movement, and much more.

Despite the age of the engine, the game looks great in motion. Where the graphics are relatively simple by modern standards, the animation is incredibly charismatic, and the melee kill synchronisation system (another innovation for the genre) means that zooming in on close combat is enthralling to behold.

Between the base game and its three standalone expansions, Dawn of War lets you play as nine different Warhammer 40k factions, from the essential Space Marines and ramshackle Orks to the devout Sisters of Battle and sadistic Drukhari. The Dark Crusade and Soul Storm DLC add a strategy layer to their single-player campaigns that will see you conquer a world or even a whole star system, one territory at a time.

Few RTS games receive as much long-term mod support as Dawn of War. The massive Unification mod, which runs off the ‘Soulstorm’ version of the game, adds 23 fan-made factions to the game, and expands on the base game rosters. The ‘Ultimate Apocalypse’ mod sends the scale off the chart and almost breaks the engine in two, adding the sky-scraping, map dominating Warhammer Titans to the game.

Screenshot of a castle under siege in Stronghold Definitive Edition, one of the best RTS games of all time

Stronghold Definitive Edition

The ultimate RTS for turtling

While the Age of Empires series lets you build a few keeps, walls, and gates, Stronghold is all about turtling up within an impregnable fortress. It’s a game where you’ll construct magnificent bastions of stone and iron, every bit as huge and deadly as the fortresses that dominated the medieval world, and laugh as the enemy’s armies break against them – or weep, as raging fires turn your domain to cinders.

The Definitive Edition of Stronghold, released late in 2023, has enhanced the original game’s pixel graphics for contemporary monitors, but otherwise keeps the core of the game untouched. The two original campaigns, one focusing on the economy and the other more about direct conflict, return, plus one original modern campaign.

The economy in Stronghold is far more detailed than its contemporary Age of Empires, and you’ll have to handle light city-builder elements, like setting the rate of taxation, or determining the food source your city will rely on. Whatever you settle on, your delicate economic system will come under intense strain once battle is joined, the castle gates close, and you only have what’s inside the walls to rely upon.

That fighting is still the core of the game, and medieval siege warfare is represented in all its nastiness. From demolishing enemy towers with trebuchets, to pouring boiling oil onto attackers, if it happened in history, expect to pull it off here. Pathfinding AI does need assistance in some cases, but the sheer scale of battles remains impressive for a game that, at its core, is over twenty years old.

Screenshot from Star Wars Empire at War, one of the best RTS games

Star Wars: Empire at War

The best Star Wars RTS

Star Wars: Empire at War captures the huge scale of the war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire like no other game. Part of it is a very standard, classic RTS, a series of ground battles between Rebel troopers and Imperial Storm Troopers across many planets in the Star Wars galaxy.

It’s a very good classic RTS, mind you. Empire at War was the first project from Petroglyph games, formed from former members of legendary RTS team Westwood Studios, and they hit it out of the park.

Those ground battles are just the first layer of the game. Landing troops on a planet means first clearing the skies above it, and just as much effort has gone into crafting spaceship battles. Seeing a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers jump into a system is always a delight. And the choice of which planet you’re going to fight over next is handled in a higher strategic layer, which will see you directing your forces across the whole galaxy.

The graphics show their age, but they capture the well-worn vibes of the Star Wars universe perfectly. They’re also very well designed, so every unit is recognisable from both its silhouette and helpful icons.

The soundscape is ace – a mixture of music that holds its own with John Williams scores, and the all-important sound effects that make up the Star Wars experience, from the shriek of a tie-fighter to the ultrasonic zap of a blaster.

best RTS games guide - Official SEGA screenshot from Company of Heroes 3 showing a big battle across an airfield, with a transport aircraft in the foreground

Company of Heroes 3

The ultimate WW2 RTS

If you want a gripping, visually stunning World War 2 RTS game with a deep well of single player content and an active multiplayer scene – Company of Heroes 3 is unquestionably the game for you.

Relic Entertainment and SEGA’s squad-based RTS series has been going since 2006, and it’s always been a front runner in the genre. Battles are tense and pacy, with a good variety of missions and modes. Base building is relatively light, but just important enough to play a role in your game plan.

Fantastic graphics, particle effects, and destruction physics make your engagements feel absorbing, impactful, and occasionally chaotic. The visuals underscore the gameplay, which puts a major emphasis on terrain – ordnance will rip apart existing buildings and fences, then create new barricades from the shells of destroyed vehicles.

best RTS games guide - Official SEGA screenshot from Company of Heroes 3 showing various Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) units advancing together for an attack in a North African battlezone

Company of Heroes 3’s Italian Invasion campaign builds on the success of CoH2’s excellent Ardennes Assault DLC, having you coordinate the allied invasion of Italy not just in real-time firefights, but also at the operational level, making decisions and directing troops in a turn-based campaign map.

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While the strategy layer isn’t at the level of the Total War games, it works well and, married to CoH3’s splendid core gameplay, makes for an essential single player experience for RTS fans.

To get the full after action report, read our full Company of Heroes 3 review by Matt Bassil.

Buildings in Age of Empires 2 Best RTS games for PC

Age of Empires 2

The best version of the classic RTS

Age of Empires 2 long ago established itself as the definitive historical RTS. The 2019 remaster brings back everything that made it a success, refines the graphics for modern monitors, and somehow extends upon a masterpiece with high quality DLC.

Combat isn’t overly complex, but extends beyond simply building the biggest army roster to overpower your opponent. Construct a variety of units to rock-paper-scissors your way to victory, and make good use of civilisation-specific units – from samurai, to elephant archers, to mamelukes – to bring the pain.

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Mixed with naval warfare, siege tactics, defensive fortifications, and continuous base-building, skirmishes quickly develop into an onslaught of furious micro-management. You’ll often find yourself heroically commanding your cavalry to push through to the opponent’s town centre, while desperately creating more swordsmen to fend off the enemy archers making mincemeat of your defenceless villagers back at base.

For those who want a serious competitive challenge, the multiplayer scene for AoE II is very active and very, very competitive.

Best RTS games guide - Age of Empires IV screenshot showing War Elephants and Camel Riders doing battle

Age of Empires 4

A smart modernisation of classic Age of Empires

It may not have ushered in a new Golden Age of the RTS in the way superfans hoped, but 2021’s AoE4 is a stellar return to form that hadn’t had a numbered instalment since 2005.

It’s a direct modern evolution on the AoE2 formula that takes an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to the design – not to mention much more modern graphics.

Its ten playable civilizations (ranging from England and France to the Delhi Sultanate and Malians) each play noticeably differently, and its five single-player campaigns are a remarkable merging of gaming and real history.

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In between levels, meticulously produced cut scenes meld in-engine animation with live footage, filmed on location all around the world, while the voiceover explains the true historical context to the battles you’re fighting. It’s pretty much unique, splendid, and arguably worth the price of entry on its own.

An oil rig surrounded by battleships and infantry in command and conquer Red Alert 2

Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2

The best entry in the Command and Conquer RTS series

Few videogame series are as relentlessly tongue-in-cheek as Command & Conquer, and even fewer live up to the fanciful Cold War antics of C&C: Red Alert 2. Charting a hypothetical Soviet invasion of the US, Red Alert 2’s two campaigns task  you with defending each nation with with cartoonish ideological fervour (and missile-armed zeppelins).

Every nation, every character, and every unit presented across the campaign is an obtuse caricature of its real-life counterpart. What starts as a slightly drab, sincere take on heated Cold War tensions, quickly develops into a silly pastiche of overzealous superpower struggles.

Your conventional armoured vehicles are joined by electricity-firing prism tanks, your battleships backed-up by hardened battle dolphins, and there’s a cast of colourful characters that are as silly as they are hilarious.

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All of these theatrics are made even better by FMV cutscenes (pre-recorded videos of real-life actors) played between missions. The crazed Soviet scientist Yuri and the hot-headed American commando Tanya are loving imitations of the best (and worst) 80s B-movie characters.

Skirmishing across carefully-constructed maps to fulfil varied objectives, regularly unlocking new units, and facing additional enemy threats at a consistent pace keeps things fresh. Unit pathing leaves a lot to be desired, and the game’s economy encourages much labored resource-gathering, but its sheer silliness shines through.

Houses in the snow in Northgard best RTS game for PC


The definitive survival RTS

There is one eternal truth – not enough videogames centre around Vikings (yes, we’ve seen Assassin’s Creed and Valheim, but the point stands). Which is odd, because the Norse people’s mythology, aesthetic, and penchant for overseas settlement are perfect fodder for strategy games.

Shiro Games’ Northgard gets this, challenging you to settle and build a colony on an uninhabited island, provide resources to satiate your Vikings’ demands, expand your settlement, and keep watch against all that lurks in the snow.

The basics of Northgard will be familiar to old hands of the historical RTS games of the early 2000s. Starting from a humble town centre with a handful of villagers, you’ll collect enough resources to construct a base of operations from which to attack enemy monsters and rival Viking holdfasts, while defending against their advances.

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Each of the playable clans brings its own particular strengths and playstyles – some hot-headed warriors, others peaceable diplomats – and unique units, including Valkyries or Berserkers. The differences don’t totally overturn how the game plays, but keep repeat playthroughs fresh.

But Northgard places a bigger focus on base-building and resource management than the Age of Empireses or Settlerses that preceded it. You must ensure you have supplies to survive the winter. If you spread yourself too thin, your resources will dwindle, leaving you shivering and vulnerable in the chill winter winds.

Starving in the snow might sound maudlin, but Northgard’s cutesy visuals cut through the tension. It’s a joy to watch your cartoonish Viking warriors bound across the fields – even if they’re doomed to freeze.

Hulking mech in Iron Harvest a best RTS game for PC

Iron Harvest

The best modern RTS

Not all World War 1 games hold fast to the true, harrowing history of the Great War. 2020’s Iron Harvest envisions an alternative first world war in which the massed infantry are joined by bipedal dieselpunk mechs, hulking across fields to level trees and crush buildings underfoot.

Set in the 1920s alternate history world of artist Jakub Różalski, previously best known as the setting of acclaimed strategy board game Scythe, the game plays a lot like Company of Heroes with added mechanical walkers.

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Similar to the Company of Heroes series, you’ll use squads of infantry Squads to capture resource-generating territory points, and using a cover system to keep them out of the worst of the enemy fire. Base-building takes a back seat, beyond some light weaponry research and upgrades.

The game’s primary appeal, of course, are the mechs. There’s the scrawny one that wields a rifle and musket, the spidery one that fires twin sub-machine guns, the stocky one equipped with a gatling gun, and a fair few more. A central campaign provides an enjoyable story, and the opportunity to play each mission with a co-op buddy is a welcome addition to an otherwise competitive-heavy genre.

A few bugs and unit pathing issues at launch held Iron Harvest back. Most have been resolved now, however, and the game makes for quite the dieselpunk caper.

Plasma blasts and buns in Starcraft 2 one of the best RTS games for PC

Starcraft 2

The definitive multiplayer RTS

It’s hard to find an RTS game more refined than 2010’s Starcraft 2. Though it no longer dominates the esports landscape, its multiplayer scene remains strong today. Though be warned –  if you’re jumping in the game for the first time, don’t be surprised to be overrun by Zerglings before you collect even your first barrel of vespene gas.

Don’t overlook singleplayer. The Zerg, Protoss, and Terran factions each offer unique strategic capabilities to match their distinctive graphical styles. The game’s narrative, which extends across all three faction campaigns, is very compelling.

The first part of that story, Starcraft 2’s Wings of Liberty campaign, went free-to-play back in 2017, alongside access to unranked multiplayer. Now you have no excuse not to try this fantastic online game meet the Queen of Blades yourself.

Check out our guide on the best free strategy games for some free strategic fun – or expand your horizons with our guide to the world’s best grand strategy games. Also, if you fancy a break from your screen, get around the table and conquer the world in strategy board games for a change!

This guide was originally written by Alex Evans, and updated by Timothy Linward.