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Every 'Total War' Game, Ranked Best To Worst

Updated October 15, 2020 530 votes 71 voters14 items

What do you think is the best Total War game? Ever since Shogun was released in 2000, millions of players have tested their skills in the famed turn-based strategy franchise. From determining which formations help your army the most to maneuvering through flanking techniques, no other series tests your battle acumen quite like Total War

As one of the most popular strategy series of all time, each game centers on a different point in history. From battling rival armies in feudal Japan to turn-based the Gauls in Ancient Rome, these games seamlessly blend real-time strategy with turn-based mechanics to create an epic series that sprinkles elements of history and lore. Games like Attila and Napoleon: Total War allow you to take part in actual military campaigns. For that latter, campaigns like Waterloo and the Battle of the Pyramids are also available as separate historical scenarios, separate from the main game.

As of 2020, a total of 14 games in the Total War series have been released. Which ones do you find yourself going back to on the PC, and which ones do you think failed to live up to the hype? Vote for your favorite Total War games so that the best one can reign supreme over all of the others.  

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  • Photo: The Creative Assembly

    Release: 2011

    Metacritic Score: 90

    Set in 16th-century feudal Japan, Total War: Shogun 2 sees you picking up in the aftermath of the Ōnin War. Rival clans are available to command as you work toward your end goal of total control over Japan. While the standard edition only has eight factions, the limited edition version of the game comes with an exclusive ninja clan, the Hattori, which is pretty sweet.

    The game blends both real-time and turn-based strategy elements to create an entirely new gameplay experience. An additional DLC makes a 10th clan, the Ikko-Ikki, available. Easily one of the most beloved and well-received installments in the franchise (just look at the epic Metacritic score), Shogun 2 is often seen as one of the best games in the series.

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  • Photo: The Creative Assembly

    Release: 2006

    Metacritic Score: 88

    Medieval II: Total War picks up where the first game left off, with plenty of new features and options to boot. In addition to warfare, you also focus on the politics and religion of Europe, the Middle East, and North African between 1080 and 1530 CE. Your goal is to completely annihilation your enemies as you create formations with different kinds of troops to battle.

    You also take part in several historical battles throughout the gameplay, including the Battle of Hastings, Siege of Setenil, and the Battle of Pavia. That said, one of the coolest aspects of this game lies in the massive battles: the game's able to churn out an impressive 10,000 on-screen characters in a given battle. Pretty epic.

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  • Photo: The Creative Assembly

    Release: 2004

    Metacritic Score: 92

    As the first in the Rome series, the campaign for Rome: Total War takes place between 270 BCE and 14 CE. You assume control of one of three different Roman families, but as you progress through the game, additional Roman factions become available. Gameplay consists of a cross between a turn-based strategic campaign and real-time tactical battles, with the end goal of becoming the Imperator of Rome.

    In addition to battles, players also need to manage their faction's diplomacy, government, and economy. You can build your units out of spearmen and other types of soldiers, but don't overlook the necessity of creating phalanxes and other shields to play defensively against other factions. 

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  • Photo: The Creative Assembly

    Release: 2013

    Metacritic Score: 76

    Released nine years after the original Rome, Total War: Rome II takes place in 272 BCE. As you lead your army to victories across Europe and the Mediterranean during the Classical antiquity period, you engage in single-player campaigns span some 300 years. The blend of real-time tactical battles and turn-based strategy campaigns look fantastic thanks to the game's improved visuals (over previous installments) as well as new unit cameras to let you focus on individual soldiers when they're on the battlefield.

    The game offers no shortage of gut-wrenching story options, and with the upgrade in graphics also comes a more human side of the war as you can actually see soldiers mourn the loss of their brothers during campaigns. 

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