What are the best free strategy games to play? Well, you know what, playing only free card games or free war games is a good strategy for saving money, so your mind is obviously well-built for these kinds of challenges. We’ve got a bunch of awesome game suggestions for you, so buckle yourself up, and prepare to discover your new favorite.
The best free strategy games can often stand as tall as the games you pay for these days. Just because a game is free-to-play, doesn’t mean that it is also free from quality. Indeed, this list has entries from really well-known and respected strategy IPs in it, such as Magic: The Gathering and Fire Emblem.
But we’ve not just gone for the big names – oh no. It is also our humblest of hopes that we can introduce you to some cracking strategy games that you may have never heard of before – games that haven’t had as much opportunity to stand in the spotlight as some of their brethren. Popularity is certainly not the only benchmark of quality that we use.
The best free strategy games in 2024 are:
1. Call of War: World War II
An ideal game for whenever you fancy stepping into the shoes of an armchair general. Call of War: World War II turns the whole of the Second World War into a huge grand strategy game. You’ll be playing with an enormous number of other players, all of whom take control of different key players in the historic conflict, with the entire world as your battleground.
While it is a game that’s based on history, it doesn’t limit itself to what actually happened in reality. You can reshape history and change the outcome of the war. Once you’ve chosen a nation, it’s up to you to decide how they’re going to establish themselves on the global stage. Maybe you want to make sure you’ve got the strongest army, or maybe you want to invest as much as you can in the economy, or new technologies. It’s for you to decide, and with so many options and so many players, no two games will be the same.
2. Conflict of Nations: World War 3
If you found yourself reading about Call of War: World War 2 and wishing that there was a slightly more modern take on the formula, then you’ll definitely want to check out Conflict of Nations: World War 3. In this game, you’re introduced to a world where the current situation has deteriorated to such an extent that a third world war has broken out – then you play a grand strategy game that encompasses all the global superpowers.
It’s really cool being able to take control of the world’s various nations and decide the future of human history. If you’ve ever thought that you could do a better job than the people in power, then this is your chance to prove it against countless other strategy gamers who are all doing their best to assert themselves in this digital arena.
3. Crusader Kings 2
We bet you didn’t know Crusader Kings 2 was free to play now! Paradox Interactive’s 2012 grand strategy game might have been superseded by 2020’s Crusader Kings 3 – but it’s still a fantastic, rich medieval strategy experience, and a landmark title that helped catapult Paradox games to mainstream popularity.
If you’ve not tried Crusader Kings before, you’re in for a treat. Choosing a single noble family and a starting date of your choice between September 1066 and December 1337, you’ll lead your personal dynasty to greatness through the wars, social strife, and religious upheavals of the middle ages.
Unlike the average historical strategy game, you’re not just in charge of economy and warfare – you also need to manage your personal household, keeping things cordial with your relations, and ensuring your characters marry the right people and have enough babies.
Yes, Crusader Kings 3 is much better – but, if you want to give it a try without spending a penny, this is a cracking choice.
4. Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming
Ever fancied throwing your hat into the ring in the Game of Thrones? Well, that’s exactly the opportunity that this game presents. Set shortly after the death of Eddard Stark, you play as a lord or lady striving to secure as much of a power base in Westeros as possible.
This is an MMORTS game that sees you developing a city and building an army as you make a name for yourself in the cold and unforgiving world of A Song of Ice and Fire. With clashes against other players all over the world, we couldn’t think of a better way to translate the complex political web of Game of Thrones into the video game medium. You’re going to have to put your best strategic foot forward to succeed here.
5. Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms
Ever wanted an incredibly accessible, low-effort, free to play strategy game that’s chock full of your favorite Dungeons and Dragons characters? Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms is that game, friends – and we fully recommend you give it a try.
Deep, complex, and graphically spectacular this ain’t – if you want those things, try Baldur’s Gate 3. But ICOTFR is a) free and b) a blast. Basically, it’s a passive hero management game – you’ll be collecting oodles of classic characters “from throughout the D&D multiverse”, putting them into different formations, and having them battle familiar monsters like DnD Dragons and Illithids.
Win fights, get loot, level up, unlock more heroes, visit new DnD cities, win fights, repeat. It’s simple, light fare, with simple, light, cartoony visuals – but it’s good fun.
If you’ve ever wanted to build your own kingdom within a fantasy world, then Elvenar is a game you should download right away. When you start playing this game, you’re given a choice: do you want to play as an elf or a human? Choosing the elves will give you a chance to cultivate a civilization that maintains a strong connection to nature, while the humans will do what humans do best – produce goods.
Watching your kingdom grow can be very rewarding, and the game scratches that strategy itch in two very distinctive ways. On the one hand, there’s the strategy inherent in any game based around city-building, and on the other, you’ll sometimes clash with others in the world, turning it into a turn-based strategy game.
7. Forge of Empires
Did you find yourself reading about Elvenar and thinking to yourself, ‘as much as that sounds like a fun idea, I wish that it was more rooted in reality’? Because if you did, then you may want to give Forge of Empires a look. It’s another game from the same developer, but one that is more firmly planted in real-world history.
In Forge of Empires, you start by creating the most basic of settlements back in the Stone Age, but the more you play, the more time passes by in-game – and you find your settlement changing, growing, and evolving as the real eras of history pass you by. Before you know it, you’ll find that you’ve passed through into the Early Middle Ages, then a little later, it’s the Industrial Age. Time waits for no one, and Forge of Empires even lets you reach into the distant future for a glimpse of what tomorrow’s civilizations might look like.
8. Rise of Cultures
Guess what? This game was also developed by Innogames (the developer behind Elvenar and Forge of Empires) – but we’ll move on to other developers in a moment, we promise. Like Forge of Empires, Rise of Cultures is a strategy game that sees you developing your own civilization within human history – so what sets it apart from the earlier game?
Well, anyone who plays Rise of Cultures will immediately see that it uses actual 3D models for everything, unlike the sprite-based art style of Forge of Empires. However, beyond mere aesthetics, this is a game where you have to keep your people happy – they are the backbone that holds up your entire kingdom, so it’s important to make sure that they have good living conditions, opportunities to rest, and sources of recreation. It’s a fascinating, human-centric approach to strategy.
9. Marvel SNAP
Marvel’s digital trading card game Marvel SNAP dropped in 2023 and, while it hasn’t quite turned the entire TCG world upside down in the way some predicted, it has been extremely popular – and with good reason, too.
Marvel SNAP makes a bunch of very smart design decisions which both differentiate its simple, fast paced, accessible matches from rival games, and make the card collecting experience feel satisfying and moreish.
Deck-building is extremely easy, with only 12 cards to pick (compared with a minimum of 40-60 in most TCGs). Matches are lightning fast, at around three minutes each, and games get a little shot of extra strategic spice from the three game-changing ‘locations’ in the middle of the board, chosen randomly each time from a long list.
We’ll make this simple: if you like any other trading card games, and also superheroes – you should absolutely try Marvel SNAP.
10. Magic: The Gathering Arena
It’s time to talk about a very different type of strategy game. Magic: The Gathering has cemented itself as one of the best trading card games of all time. With the release of Magic: The Gathering Arena, this classic game has started to gain some prominence within the digital gaming sphere as well. Even if you don’t know how to play Magic: The Gathering, this could be a good place for you to start.
Essentially, it just gives you an opportunity to play Magic: The Gathering on your PC, Mac, mobile, or tablet. With options to play against computer players or human beings, it manages to capture all of the fun of this nuanced and strategic card game (with tutorials for newcomers). Plus, if you love the collecting angle of trading card games, that’s still there too – the more you play, the more cards you can unlock for your collection.
11. Pokémon TCG Online
From one trading card game to another, Pokémon TCG Online offers a very similar sort of experience to Magic: The Gathering Arena, except, of course, that it focuses on the iconic Pocket Monsters. Back in 2000, there was a Game Boy Colour version of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and we’ve come a long way since then.
While it may lack the Game Boy Colour game’s overworld, it’s been regularly updated with new cards for you to unlock since 2011. How many Pokémon are there? A lot. So that generates huge amounts of variety for every game.
On top of that, being able to play Pokémon TCG online against friends and strangers makes this well worth a download. If you’re someone who wants to revisit the childhood joy of Pokémon TCG, with the adult perspective of actually being able to appreciate the nuance and strategy in the game, then we recommend you download Pokémon TCG Online today. It’s gone from being one of the best TCG games to now also being one of the best online games.
12. Fire Emblem Heroes
Would you look at that, it’s another Nintendo IP. For years, the Fire Emblem series has provided turn-based strategy experiences that are both challenging and engaging. Fire Emblem Heroes translates that into one of the best mobile strategy games, with turn-based battles that unfold on a grid no bigger than the size of your phone screen.
Though the scale of the battles may be smaller, that doesn’t mean that there’s any less strategic thought needed. Indeed, many have compared the gameplay to solving chess problems, and we think that’s a wonderful comparison. In addition to the top-notch gameplay, this game boasts an enormous cast of characters hailing from every installment in the series (including the Japanese exclusives), with chances to unlock more regularly as you progress through the story.
Check out the Fire Emblem Heroes tier list on our sister site, Pocket Tactics, to get a little insight into the huge selection of unlockable characters in the game.
13. Dota 2
Here we have a game that should need no introduction. Just in case you’ve never heard of it, here we go: based on the community-created Warcraft III mod, Defence of the Ancients, Dota 2 is a real-time strategy game that pits two teams against each other as they each try to destroy each others’ ‘ancient’ structure. With a huge selection of hero characters to choose from, there are many different ways to play, and each game can be very different.
It’s a simple premise, but one that has attracted an enormous number of players, to the extent that it is now one of the biggest games in the e-sport scene. Once you know how to play Dota 2, it’s something you can easily rack up hundreds of hours on, playing game after game. If you’re after a strategy game that you can really sink your teeth into, with a vast pool of players to test your mettle against, then you should download Dota 2 today.
14. League of Legends
We can’t mention Dota 2 without mentioning League of Legends – they’re opposite sides of the same MOBA coin. Also drawing its inspiration from the original Defence of the Ancients Warcraft III mod, there are over 157 playable League of Legends champions, each with their own unique set of skills.
So how’s it different from Dota 2? Well, for one thing, the maps are smaller and the matches are shorter, but also, League of Legends places a stronger focus on the different roles of each champion. This means that you have to think about your function within the team you’re playing on, and prompts a slightly higher level of strategic thinking. Some people are going to prefer Dota 2, some people are going to prefer League of Legends – the only way you’ll find out which one suits you is by playing both.
So those are the best free strategy games to play in 2023. Have you played any of them before? Are you eagerly downloading any of them based on our recommendation? We hope that you have been able to discover a new favorite.