War games aren’t exactly a genre – they’re any kind of game that revolves around real-world (or at least realistic) conflicts, like World War II and its campaigns. These games could be shooters, strategy games or survival games, with most focusing on realism in the way of graphics, buildings, tools, vehicles, and tanks. There is usually an emphasis on tactical and strategy elements. Here’s a list of the top war games you should try.
Want to discover more games? Read our list of the 12 best real-time strategy games.
Hearts of Iron IV
Platforms: Windows | Mac |Linux
Released in 2016, Hearts of Iron IV is still one of the best war games out there. It lets you lead any nation you want in WWII, so you have the power to completely change history with your own strategy.
The game has lots of strategic elements, so you don’t win only by using the historically-accurate weapons of mass destruction, but also by negotiating, trading resources, and engaging in the game’s complex political and diplomacy system.
Cross-platform multiplayer is available and you can play with up to 32 friends in both competitive and cooperative mode.
Released in March 2021, Enlisted recreates weapons, vehicles, and buildings from the WWII era in impressive (and historically accurate) detail.
You’ll have to fight in the Battle for Moscow campaign first, then you can try your hand at the Normandy Invasion, Battle for Berlin, and many more campaigns. The best thing is that you can train your own troops based on your own playing style, and they’ll join you as AI squadmates in battle, making for some excellent spectacles.
The battles truly look massive, with thousands of soldiers and vehicles. Plus, the game is free to play, which is always a nice perk (though of course you should expect plenty of in-app purchases).
World of Tanks
In this free-to-play war game, you don’t control soldiers on their feet, but pack squads of them into hundreds of painstakingly recreated real-world (and some ‘concept’) tanks! The game is fully online and multiplayer, in 15v15 mode.
World of Tanks recreates tanks from the 20th century in a historically-accurate way. It’s sort of a strategy game as you have to learn how to find your opponents’ weak spots, protect your own, and find the right combination of vehicle types, but really it’s a combined-arms shooter with a focus on outmanoeuvring the enemy and picking your shots.
You can choose your nation and the tank that suits your gaming style best. The game was released in August 2010 and it’s available on a variety of platforms: Android, iOS, PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch, macOS, Windows, and Xbox One.
Steel Division 2
This is another historically-accurate WWII game, released in June 2019 and still extremely popular. It’s a sequel to Steel Division: Normandy 44, and its storyline takes place during Operation Bagration, an epic military campaign that happened in Belarus in 1944.
With 1:1-scale army management and thousands of soldiers to lead, the game is thrilling and the battles happen in real-time. You can play solo or with friends in multiplayer and co-op modes.
There are 25 maps to explore and over 600 battle units like aircraft, tanks, and rocket launchers.
This War of Mine
This indie game won over 100 awards and it’s a real bestseller, offering an altogether different perspective on the genre. You don’t play as a soldier or a military strategist, but as a group of civilians trying to survive while their city is besieged. You’ll have to deal with food scarcity, snipers, and hostile scavengers.
The pace of the game is set by the alternation of day and night. By day you can’t leave your refuge because of enemies stopping you from doing so. So, you only can hide and craft items you need, like stoves, beds, and weapons. You’ll also have to protect the other members of your group.
By night, you’ll go on missions trying to retrieve other items you need to survive. The focus of the game is making life-and-death decisions: It’s up to you whether you want to protect everyone in your group, or sacrifice a person to save someone else. It packs a hell of a punch.
There are plenty of expansion packs, all of which are bundled in if you go for the ‘Complete Edition’. The Little Ones is particularly powerful as you have to protect children in your group. The accuracy of the kids – who laugh, play, and often don’t understand the terrible things that are happening around them – lends it even more gravitas.
Image credit: Total War: Warhammer III video game. by 123RF