Top 12 Best War Games for Your PC

Co-workers playing video game
Monalyn Gracia/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

European civilization has produced many great works of art, fascinating people and marvelous tales, but it's war which has inspired the most computer games. And let's face it, an online tour is never going to match the numerous emotions of a good pc war game. Here are some of the best.

If you've played the excellent Rome: Total War, and wondered what it would be like set in the Napoleonic era, then this game is for you. "Empire: Total War" sees the action moved to the gunpowder age and opens the map up to include America and India as well as Europe. The game has been polished and deepened, and now you can direct your ships during naval battles (although this is still a bit clunky), as well as hundreds of individual troops in land battle. The result is another critically acclaimed entry into the series.

Set between 1090 to 1530 CE, M2:TW lets you command thousands of individually animated 3-dimensional warriors in battles featuring knights, archers, catapults and even elephant mounted cannon. You also have to build and fund your armies while conquering regions on a map of Europe, the Middle East and even South America (once it's been discovered) with the ultimate aim of becoming emperor. Great graphics, great gameplay and a strong sense of history... An expansion pack is also available.

A sequel to a well-loved game, Company of Heroes bills itself as a 'Next Generation' RTS and does several things very well: it improves upon the original, it offers several gameplay challenges and a multi-player mode, and it switches to the vital but often overlooked Eastern Front. But the latter is a problem, because gamers from across the world have criticized the way Russian forces are portrayed, and while the Red Army generated plenty to complain about, CoH2 lays things on thick. The result is more of a cartoon cliché than the revelation about the behavior of the ignored ally.

Experts in serious military gaming, Slitherine have teamed up with Military History to produce a grand strategy game covering ​World War II. It’s not for you if you prefer 3D graphics to hexes, but it offers a mix of old and new school gaming and multiplayer including email.

This ​real-time strategy has plenty of arcade elements, but the rest oozes World War Two atmosphere. Build your units and send them to your targets on the map, balancing capturing resources with defeating your opponent. This probably won't satisfy serious wargamers, but everyone else should be happy.

The Russian computer game industry is coming along at a great pace, and "Men of War" may be one of the best yet. It’s another World War 2 strategy game, but it mixes the scale, from massive battles to stealth operations. It’s been described by some reviews as the most comprehensive WW2 strategy ever, but with campaigns from a Russian, German and Allied point of view. However, the game is difficult: even die-hard reviewers have said it’s taxing. Oh, and it looks good too.

This massive value-for-money compilation includes every game and expansion released in the Total War series before (but not including) Medieval II: Total War, as well as a soundtrack CD. The price is worth it for just Rome: Total War alone, a game equally as good as M2:TW with a different, but equally superb, atmosphere.

If you value historical accuracy and the ability to use correct tactics over flashy graphics and a rocking soundtrack you'll probably adore this, a turn-based, 3-d game set on the Eastern Front during WW2. It's probably the most accurate game on the market, if not the most attractive.

Pitched perfectly between the simulation of Combat Mission and the arcade of Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2, the original Blitzkrieg was an excellent real-time strategy game set during the Second World War. This sequel opens the game to cover the Pacific theatre as well, but also features cameos from historical figures, adding a 'special character' feeling that can be offputting. Be careful of the copy protection though, as some people have reported issues.

Play as Britain, Russia, America or even Germany in this graphically stunning live-action strategy. You control beautifully modeled 3D units in either groups or individually as you attempt to complete 25 missions; unfortunately, the general theme is special forces behind enemy lines, an all too common setting for WW2. However, you can choose between stealth or outright carnage to achieve your goals in what is ultimately an arcade look at WW2.

As with Medieval: Total War, this is a mixture of 'Civilization'-empire building and large-scale battle simulation, although there is greater emphasis on diplomacy, spying, economics and living out the feudal system; as such, it’s the only game to appear in both 'war' and 'empire' top picks. The ultimate goal is conquering the whole continent, but you’ll need more than a blood thirst to achieve it.

There may have been three more Close Combat’s since this was released, but war and computer gamers have consistently rated this as the best modern era real time strategy game ever, simply because of the sheer realism: you have to use proper tactics to succeed. While arcade style action games are often more immediately enjoyable, Close Combat 2 is more rewarding and even educational. However, the engine is getting a little old and you may require help getting started in modern systems.