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The Greatest Strategy Game Franchises Of All Time

When computer games were first building up steam as a viable means of entertainment, one of the genres that found early life was the strategy genre. Strategy games consist of numerous sub-genres, including real-time, survival, abstract, team, simulation, wargame, and turn-based strategy. They can deal with anything from small combat engagements to outright global war and domination, depending on the series. While there have been dozens of great one-off releases over the years, this list ranks all the best strategy game series.

Since the earliest days of computer games, the strategy series has evolved to become some of the most complex and realistic, and there are thousands to choose from in determining the best. While there are certainly some striking examples of specific titles, the strategy game franchises that grew from a single game tend to stand apart as the most profitable and excellent gaming franchises of all time. 

Ever wondered what's the greatest strategy series ever made? Is Warcraft better than StarCraft? And is Anno better than Total War? You tell us. From Civ and Age of Empires to Command & Conquer, vote up all the best strategy game series ever made, and vote down all the franchises you think are overrated.

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  • 1
    24 VOTES
    Total War
    Photo: Sega

    Number Of Main Games In The Franchise: 14

    The Total War franchise began in 2000 with Shogun: Total War and the realm of real-time tactical strategy games have never been the same. Total War games combine turn-based strategy with resource management, and real-time tactical control to give players (commanders) total control of the battlefield. The games include some of the most important eras in war, including Rome, the Huns, Medieval combat, and Feudal Japan. Additionally, the Warhammer franchise joined forces with Total War to release two games, which helped expand both franchises.

    What Makes It So Popular: Total War games are designed for the PC, Mac, and Linux for good reason. They require a great deal of processing power due to the fact that they manifest whole armies to go up against one another in combat. At any given time, there can be thousands of units animated on the screen, which not only makes the Total War franchise incredibly realistic, but it also makes its games as real-world as possible. These titles are true military strategy games, and they require a great deal of skill to master.

  • 2
    21 VOTES

    Civilization

    Civilization
    Photo: 2K Games

    Number Of Games In The Franchise: 13

    Sid Meier's Civilization franchise is likely the best-known turn-based strategy video game ever made, and it's also one of the most successful. Since the first game hit the PC in 1991, there have been board games, spin-offs, expansions, and multiple sequels making up the Civilization franchise. With each new release, new elements are incorporated, ranging from new enhancements, religion, philosophy, and more, making it one of the most complex and detailed gaming franchises ever made.

    What Makes It So Popular: Playing a Civilization game is often an investment in time, as they can take up to 40+ hours to complete a single playthrough and the way they are structured means that no playthrough is like the last. Players can set the various win requirements, opponents, and more to ensure their gameplay is challenging while also being a refreshing new take on how their game will proceed. Civ games helped develop the norms found in all the turn-based strategy games that followed, and while a new title doesn't hit the shelves every year, they are constantly updated and kept relevant as time goes by, ensuring they remain some of the best-selling games in the genre.

  • 3
    14 VOTES

    StarCraft

    Number Of Games In The Franchise: 2 (with loads of expansions and ports)

    Blizzard spent a lot of time bringing Warcraft to life, but when it branched off to create a space-based version of the game, the StarCraft franchise was born. Much like its predecessor, the StarCraft games utilize many of the core aspects of the real-time strategy game to drive a story and adaptive gameplay through the use of advanced AI. The second installment of the game remains one of the most popular in the genre around the world, and it remains a key title in numerous esports competitions.

    What Makes It So Popular: The StarCraft games featured an intense amount of lore, which helped to create an immersive world and story. Players would take control of one of three great civilizations, and go to war with the other two. Each game remained highly popular for years after its release due to the influx of new material and expansions. The latest release, StarCraft: Remastered re-released the original game with modern graphics, and it was just as popular in 2017 as it was originally in 1998.

  • 4
    22 VOTES

    Age Of Empires

    Age Of Empires
    Photo: Microsoft

    Number Of Games In The Franchise: 28

    The Age of Empires franchise began in 1997, and for more than 20 years, the games released in the series helped to inspire the genre. Each title features a great deal of historical accuracy, and advanced AI that makes playing the computer a challenging experience, every time the game is started. Additionally, the games in the franchise feature excellent multiplayer, which helped push it into new areas, including expansion into the sister franchise, Age of Mythology.

    What Makes It So Popular: Games in the Age of Empire franchise feature some of the best AI of any real-time strategy game. This makes for dynamic gameplay each time a new game is fired up, which in turn makes for exceptional replayability. The games advance the player from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, and the utilization of real-world empires from those time periods inject a real-world accuracy that has set the game apart from many of the others on this list.

  • Command & Conquer
    Photo: Electronic Arts

    Number Of Games In The Franchise: 25

    The Command & Conquer franchise has been around since the first game hit the PC market in 1995, though this was after the 1993 release of Dune II, the franchise's successor. After the developers gave up on that license, they continued developing their real-time strategy game into a new IP, which ultimately became Command & Conquer. Over the years, there have been numerous sequels, spin-offs, and expansions to the tune of 25 games, many of which were remastered editions of earlier successes.

    What Makes It So Popular: Command & Conquer games are typically complex, but not incredibly complex to the point that playing through is overly difficult. Instead, a great deal of emphasis was placed on proper balancing, which helps drive gameplay in a way that's natural and entertaining. One of the best selling features of the franchise was it's expertly designed multiplayer modes, which made for excellent LAN gaming sessions in college dorm rooms, military barracks, and other places gamers enjoyed playing for long hours against one another.

  • 6
    11 VOTES

    Warhammer 40,000

    Warhammer 40,000
    Photo: THQ

    Number Of Games In The Franchise: 53

    Warhammer 40,000 began life as a miniature turn-based tabletop strategy game, but over time, the franchise expanded to include all manner of games. This included turn-based strategy games and more. The first game in the franchise was released as Space Crusade in 1992, and in subsequent years, various strategy games based on the Warhammer 40,000 IP have been released.

    What Makes It So Popular: The biggest draw for any player of a Warhammer 40,000 strategy game is how well the games are based on the detailed lore of the original tabletop game. Playing the games on computers made it possible to play the game without needing another player, though as the series expanded into newer and more innovative titles, multiplayer support helped make playing the games with others into a reality. Essentially, if a player is into the miniatures game, they are almost always into the video game adaptation of the same.