5 Must-have RTS Games

-Last updated Sunday, March 10, 2013



I don't like StarCraft more than any decent RTS, but it gained such a massive popularity that it can't be overlooked. Where this game really shines is in it's incredibly well balanced civilizations. When played well, the only thing that will determine the outcome of Zerg vs Protos vs Terrans battle is the skill of the player, and his capacity to use the civilization's bonuses well. Three factions may not seem like much, but they are all so different from one another that you won't want more. One last important point to mention with StarCraft is the deep and complex story behind the game. You really feel immersed in another world like you would in a science fiction RPG. I have yet to find another RTS that does this with as much success.

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

The Age of Empires series has been a highly successful RTS, some people even calling it "the first popular Real-Time Strategy series". Developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft, they all received highly positive reviews. Still, we chose the second installment because of it's proven longevity. Even today, people play this game intensively, and you can always find a good game on Gamespy or Gameranger. For a 1999 game, this is simply incredible, and the graphics are (well, were) stunning.

Rise of Nations

Another Microsoft-published game on this list, Rise of Nations truly stands out not with it's graphics, or sound, but rather with an excellent gameplay. Here do not simply build a settlement and then fight off your doe with small guerrilla wars! In Rise of Nations, you build up... well... a nation. From the ground up. You start with a primitive city, and with time you build up, slowly getting better technologies and stronger troops. Eventually, you'll have several metropoleis, all armed with nuclear weapons or deadly bombers. One idiosyncrasy of this game is that, unlike other RTSs, there are infinite resources. This can lead to extremely long matches. Another thing to mention is that RON is quite complex and will take a while to fully grasp. Challenging and original, it's biggest downfall is it's somewhat mediocre graphics for a 2003 release.

Company of Heroes

If you want to make a World War II RTS, then you're running after trouble. So many have tried, yet were unsuccessful. After all, reproducing such an intense moment in human history is no task for a neophyte! Fortunately, Relic Entertainement has managed to reach, and even exceed expectations with Company of Heroes. It's not just the great gameplay and typical RTS goodness, it's the formidable graphics, sound, and most of all, the campaign. I'm not crazy about campaigns, and usually I just overlook them. But in this game, it is so intense, so well done... You almost feel as if you were there... Well, this game is not for the faint of heart, and contains several gory scenes (what do you expect, it's WW2!).

Empires: Dawn of the Modern World

Finally comes Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, a hidden gem. For some reason, this game never gained the popularity of it's counterparts on this list. Still, it's a great, yet very "traditional" RTS. In many aspects, it resembles a lot to Age of Empires, only with better graphics and a broader scope. What I like the most about this game is that, even though the it spans over a thousand years of human history, you never seem to enter mad technological rushes, as you would in Rise of Nations of Empire Earth (developed by the same studio as Empires: Dawn of the Modern World). Anyway, my only complaints are the very small civilization choices and some inaccuracies to improve the balance between the factions (ex. V2 rockets cause more damage than atomic bombs). Otherwise, this is a very good game and a suitable replacement to the classic Age of Empires, if you can't bare AoE's graphics.