How do I write a strategy game

The 100 best PC strategy games of all time: From Age to Z

The 100 best strategy games - the big GameStar ranking.

Even with the 100 best role-playing games on the PC, it was really difficult to come to an agreement. Our ranking caused quite a bit of bickering - even our columnist Christian Schiffer was criticized! So what do we learn from this? Well, absolutely nothing.

Because all the discussions and squabbles inevitably lead to 100 passionate texts that celebrate the memories, strengths and peculiarities of the best genre representatives at all. So there is also a big stunt in 2020: This time we will choose the 100 best strategy games of all time! And that's where the discussions start right away.

What is strategy anyway? Tactics, real-time, build-up or round strategy, what do we take in or leave out without the fans climbing us onto the roof? And how do we prevent The Witcher 3 from winning again somehow?

As with the role-playing games, we have opted for a very broad definition for the strategy genre. Because not only the Starcrafts of this world have been able to conquer our gamer hearts over the years, but also MOBAs like Dota, card games like Slay the Spire, farming games like Stardew Valley. This also provides the necessary spice, because let's be honest: It is obvious that Anno, Age of Empires, Civilization, Total War and of course the popular Command & Conquer 4 will take place here somewhere.

So let's celebrate one of the best genres in the world together. Discuss with us, reminisce, disagree, give us our opinions - and ideally have a little fun too! By the way, not only here in the comments, but also on our Discord server, where you can and should exchange ideas with us about the top 100 strategy games.

Video recaps with Stay Forever
Christian Schmidt and Gunnar Lott were GameStar editors like us, but then they got an arrow in the knee. Today they are podcasting about retro games at Stay Forever. As with the role-playing games, we pushed them both in front of the camera to look back with us on the best strategy games. You can expect video reviews with anecdotes and discussions this time, exclusively for GameStar Plus.

How does this ranking work?
The starting shot will be given on August 5th: We will then present the places 100 to 91. After that we will reveal new placements every day (as with the 250 best PC games of all time). On Thursday places 90 to 81, on Friday 80 to 71 and so on. In the top 10, we make it particularly exciting and choose two finalists every day, morning and evening. The last curtain will fall on August 19th - 1st place will be chosen. In the two weeks until then you will find tons of exciting content on the topic of strategy on Podcasts, lots of exciting plus articles and a series of review videos with Christian Schmidt and Gunnar Lott from Stay Forever are published on the subject. You can read everything important in our announcement news about the GameStar ranking.

100. Mad TV

developer: Rainbow Arts | Publisher: Rainbow Arts | Release: November 1, 1991

Géraldine Hohmann: I couldn't have asked for a nicer bottom light for the 100 best strategy games of all time than Mad TV! And I wasn't the only one who had to smile about it at the editorial conference. I think Mad TV is one of those games that you only have feverish memories of and doubt whether it all really happened that way.

Let me tell you: the legends are true. But what did we expect from the normal everyday life of a program director? Put together a television program, place an advertisement, produce films? Also. Mainly, however, playing jokes on the other companies in the house, like swapping the doorbell signs so that their office is blown up ... oops. And of course harass the pretty colleague - excuse me - seduce.

When we're not being yelled at by our boss, we flatter ourselves in the top office with our crush Betty by giving her subtle gifts at the station's expense. Such as a voucher for a cosmetic operation or a honeymoon. She also thinks it's great when we show culturally demanding programs such as “Life at the Nuclear Power Plant” or “Demoscopic Entropy of the Baroque”. Women, huh?

The strange thing: Behind all this madness there is actually still a clever and heavy economic simulation, which is why as a child I rarely reached more audiences than a couple of knitting grannies who couldn't find their remote control to switch off. I've broadcast Phase IV and Columbo reps more often than I can count - but I've had the fun of my life.

PLUS 5:02 game editor at Das Magazin - The most boring job in the world


  • In fact, the aim of the game is not to make the station a success, but to marry Betty. A well-run broadcaster is only a means to an end.
  • In the fan remake Mad TV Online you can play the classic nowadays via browser in multiplayer. The number of players logged in at the same time is usually between 3 and 6.
  • Mad TV got with Mad TV 2 and M.U.D. TV an official and an unofficial successor. But the original remains unbeaten.

99. Worms Armageddon

Developer: Team17 | Publisher: Microprose | Release: January 29, 1999

Petra Schmitz: I never played Worms Armageddon on the PC, but on the Dreamcast. What is that officially called? And only in 2000 or 2001 with one of those wonderfully chunky tube TVs that always cracked a bit when they were switched off. I can't remember most of it, but anyone who has touched Armageddon will think of the holy hand grenade (based on Monty Python's "Knight of the Coconut").

So there I was sitting in front of the box with my boyfriend at the time and we were blasting the floor from under our feet as if there were no more tomorrow. I think I mainly used the bazooka because I could control it best, even though the sheep bomb was by far the coolest.

Fun fact: A patch for Armageddon was released last July - with version number 3.8 .; So Team17 is still working on the thing - for the PC. This is also reflected in the player reviews. The latest are listed on Steam under "Extremely positive". And that's 174.

So it's no wonder that what feels like the age-old game still costs just under 15 euros. But it probably also runs on a Thermomix display - and it's still fun! I guess I haven't touched it since 2002 or so. And at some point I gave away my / my Dreamcast with Lightgun and about 50 games. Given away! Woe is me!

PLUS Archive 6:18 Worms 3D - Video Special: Multiplayer Match


  • Team17 has published no less than 24 Worms titles so far. Somebody cook me a worm!

98. They Are Billions

Developer: Numantian Games | Publisher: Numantian Games | Release: June 18, 2019

Natalie Schermann: If They are Billions taught me one thing, it is this: It takes a really long time to build something up. It only takes a tiny moment of inattention to lose everything.

The real-time strategy game with a steampunk setting and hordes of the undead does not forgive me for mistakes. If a zombie manages to find its way into the settlement, the game is actually already lost. Zombies not only attack my buildings, they also infect them and "convert" my own people - a bit like undead Wololo monks. And there is no turning back: there is no quicksave function.

Sure, They are Billions is not an RTS revolution and in my opinion the campaign offers too little variety. Sometimes my settlement has to last a certain number of days without being overrun by zombies; sometimes I explore dark castles with a hero in search of ancient technologies. You already know everything from other games.

But it's just fun to fight off zombie horde after zombie horde in the free game and always come up with new tactics. By the way, my favorite is the triple city wall - that way I always gain some time and can react to the problem areas. And luckily there is also the pause function!

They are Billions is probably nothing for casual gamers, the potential for frustration is too high if you have to watch helplessly after hard work on day 30 as one building after the next is contaminated by zombie waves, from which new hordes of the green ones are then Brain eater storm. Although I'm a rather impatient gamer, I always enjoy tackling the challenges in They are Billions. In addition, the game has a very nice graphic style that compliments the steampunk setting wonderfully. Despite minor weaknesses, They are Billions is a solid real-time strategy game and has earned a spot on this list.

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  • A campaign was not originally planned for They are Billions. The game only started in survival mode in Early Access. The story was added later in the form of an update.

97. Tropico

Developer: PopTop | Publisher: Take 2 | Release: April 26, 2001

Heiko Blade: Traveling to Disneyland or spending the week in the office? An easy decision, at least for me in the spring of 2001: the office, of course! Because the experienced editors were just fully booked, young trainee Heiko suddenly got the chance to get his first big test article. I didn't want to miss the chance, because my colleague Schwerdtel should take over the tour to Paris! Yes, Tropico was actually my first major test for GameStar and for that reason alone will always have a special place in my heart.

And it really could have hit me worse, because Tropico was one of the surprise hits of 2001, both qualitatively and commercially. The idea, which is as simple as it is ingenious, is to transplant a classic building game into a banana republic. Instead of pulling up modern metropolises like in Sim City or historical cities like in Die Siedler or Anno, we got our own Caribbean island, with everything that goes with it: plantations, corrugated iron huts, hotels, rum distilleries, cigar factories and - not to forget - the finest calypso Music. Tropico set new atmospheric standards for the genre.

The second special achievement by Tropico was how harmoniously it combined a classic building game with economic elements and an astonishingly sophisticated political simulation. Not only did I have to sell cigars, I also had to set rents and wages, maintain diplomatic relations with Russia and the United States, and stand for election every few years.

Tropico simulated every single inhabitant of the island including 50 individual characteristics, such as skills, demands and political opinion. That made the administration of my own banana republic very complex, but also very credible and understandable. In 2001 I gave it an 87 for it, so only one point less than for the then genre kings Siedler 4 and Anno 1602. Personally, I would have placed Tropico a few places ahead. After all, there are not many strategy games for which you willingly forego Disneyland.

PLUS archive 0 Tropico - test video


  • As an alter ego in Tropico you could not only find various historical personalities but also »Mambo No. Select 5 «-One-Hit-Wonder Lou Bega.
  • No other strategy series went through more developer hands: Tropico 1 comes from PopTop, part 2 from Frog City, Tropico 3-5 were developed by Haemimont Games, the German studio Limbic was responsible for the latest series part 6

96. Age of Empires 3

Developer: Ensemble Studios | Publisher: Microsoft | Release: November 4, 2005

Heiko Blade: Yes, when the last great Age of Empires was published (not counting new editions), Gerhard Schröder was still acting Federal Chancellor - that was that long ago. At that time I was allowed to test Age of Empires 3, and the evaluation is certainly one of the most difficult in my GameStar history. After all, the second part of the series was already considered to be one of the best strategy games of all time for us back then, so there were correspondingly high expectations and anticipation for part 3, can you really "only" give an 89? Yes, you can - and even this rating was maybe 2-3 points too high in retrospect. So it's no wonder that Age of Empires 3 is at the bottom of our top 100.

Why is Part 3 the unloved child of the series to this day? For one thing, there is the scenario. American colonization does not exude the same fascination as antiquity (AoE 1) or the Middle Ages (AoE 2). On the other hand, AoE 3 said goodbye to the leisurely pace of its predecessors, which annoyed many series fans. A lot of compromises had to be made in terms of scope, so there were only two multiplayer modes and no more selectable formations. And what annoyed me most as a Stronghold fan: Palisades stopped units, but let rifles and cannon shots through - what an atmospheric mistake!

Is that why Age of Empires 3 was a bad RTS? Certainly not, personally I even preferred to play it than the previous ones. I found the story campaign much better staged and more entertaining than in the very brittle second part.

The grandiose look simply blew me away at the time. And to give me a kind of avatar with my hometown, which I level up in campaign and multiplayer and thus unlock new strategic options, I still consider it a great idea that I am happy to take up again. And so Age of Empires 3 is perhaps not a genre milestone like its predecessors, but still an excellent and for its time very innovative real-time strategy game that is right on this list.

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