Warhammer 40,000 video games have always been a mixed bag. The likes of Mechanicus have shown us what a good 40k game feels like. However, the likes of Eternal Crusade came close but never quite cut it, while the much-anticipated Dawn of War 3 was a disappointment, feeling like a rather dated RTS instead of moving its excellent series forward.
With so many 40K games to choose from, we’ve whittled them down to the very best ones, ranking them so that you know which ones are worth a look (or, more likely, pointedly tell us in the comments how very wrong we are).
8. Space Hulk: Deathwing
There are surprisingly few enjoyable shooters among 40K games, but Space Hulk: Deathwing just about makes the cut. It’s weighed down with clunky mechanics like slow movement speed, weapon jams, and paper-thin Terminator armor, but grab some friends and the horde shooting becomes a blast to play.
Classes complement each other extremely well and bothersome mechanics like weapon jams aren’t as problematic when you have reliable teammates to cover you.
Deathwing has also crafted the perfect Space Hulk experience. Maps are a claustrophobic and paranoia-fuelled hell; every vent becomes a potential ambush point and players have to keep an eye on every corner for possible threats.
7. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr
Inquisitor – Martyr is an ARPG that plays similar to Diablo or Path of Exile. Players take control of an agent of The Inquisition – a body of the Imperium focused on rooting out corruption. It was released with middling to bad reviews of the game, with the biggest complaints being a weak loot pool, little to no multiplayer, and boring enemies.
Fast forward about a year and a huge patch later, it’s a different story. Animations are faster, attacks feel chunkier, multiplayer is more accessible, and a new class was added with an expansion. The end result is a game that makes the most of the 40k aesthetic, creating a gory, grimdark take on the ARPG. If you gave Inquisitor – Martyr a try on launch and hated it, then be sure to give it a try again because this game has come a long way since those early days.
6. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is an RTS game that simulates void battles in Warhammer 40k.
It earns a spot through its unique focus on strategic gameplay. Ships move exactly how you’d expect massive interstellar vessels to (so ‘slow as hell’), but this provides plenty of time to make meaningful, strategic choices. Once the shooting starts, you’ll be frantically trying to make the most of your original choices and figuring out how to mitigate the damage from your opponent’s decisions.
The campaign does a phenomenal job of getting across the scale of Warhammer 40k. It picks up at the height of the 13th Black Crusade, when the Warmaster of Chaos launches his assault on the Imperial world of Cadia. Once the initial campaign is completed, players can play other factions to get a feel for the other armies in 40k.
5. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
We’re leaving the stars of Battlefleet Gothic and crashing into the battlefields of Space Marine, a third-person action shooter. Space Marines, or the Adeptus Astartes, are the poster boys of Warhammer 40,000, and for good reason. Nothing says ‘grimdark power trip’ like genetically enhanced, power-armored super soldiers blasting through mankind’s worst nightmares.
And in Space Marine’s story you’ll get to do exactly that. Players take control of an Astartes captain and carve through waves of orks (and worse) in gory displays of carnage.
During an age where cover systems defined third-person shooters, Space Marine’s mechanics pulled you toward enemies instead of hiding. Your marine heals by blending enemies in close combat (foreshadowing the much-lauded system in DOOM), and staying in cover merely invites hordes of Orks to hack you to bits. A balance of moving, shooting, and slashing will have your Space Marine carve through threats without the need to hide behind anything other than your power armor.
4. Dawn of War 2
Dawn of War 2 is a real-time strategy game that emphasizes squad vs squad skirmishes.
Dawn of War 2 feels closer to the tabletop game than Dawn of War 1 did. Without base-building, squads have to maneuver against each other to take over strategically significant terrain or capture points. Marines feel like walking tanks, orks attack in sufficiently large numbers with plenty of DakkaDakka, and eldar have tons of mobility to keep players on their toes.
The campaign is still amazing after all these years. Players get to lead and customize a squad of Blood Raven Astartes through their adventures in a system. Fans of 40k’s lore will also appreciate all the name-dropped equipment they’ll find for the Blood Ravens during the campaign.
3. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Featuring gameplay similar to SOCOM, Mechanicus earns a third-place spot on this list through its addictive gameplay and gorgeous art.
Fans will be delighted to see how much of their universe comes to life in this game. The opening monologue immortalizes AdMech philosophy with the ever-memeable line of “from the moment I understood the weakness of my flesh, it disgusted me.”
And the soundtrack? Chef’s kiss. The soundtrack of Mechanicus captures the feel of the 40k universe better than any other game. Future warhammer 40k games should take note from this.
For its gameplay, Mechanicus shines through absolutely insane combos. As your priests earn stronger tools, encounters transform from “how do I complete this without losing units?” to “how do I melt this entire map in one turn?” As a result, the challenge of missions evaporates and what’s left is pure fun.
2. Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters
With Warhammer 40K’s patchy form, you can’t blame us for being wary when we heard about Daemonhunters. It’s technically a very distant sequel to the excellent X-COM-like tactics game Chaos Gate, albeit following the lesser-known Grey Knights chapter as they combat a cosmic pox propagated by the Decay God Nurgle.
And it is, against the odds, pretty brilliant. It succeeds on the battlefield, doing away with most RNG and having a constant ‘Warp Surge’ timer giving the enemy more mutations the longer a battle goes on. But it’s also a compelling story, brought to life by well realized and written characters, and there’s tons to do between missions in the way of events, ship upgrades, squad management, and the relentless outbreaks of the Bloom plague all over the galaxy.
With a bold, bright art style that breaks a little with Warhammer 40K tradition, and a whole bunch of pieces that just fit perfectly together, Daemonhunters is one of the best turn-based tactics games out there.
1. Dawn of War 1
Of all the games in the Warhammer 40k franchise, none scratch the army-vs-army itch quite as well as the first Dawn of War.
Dawn of War 1 flourished with refined RTS gameplay. Where Dawn of War 2 kept battles small and focused on strategy without any base-building, Dawn of War 1 keeps its battles large and chaotic, and uses streamlined yet still meaningful RTS mechanics (like automatic resource gathering and fast base-building) so players can stay focused on the fighting. It had the perfect balance between traditional RTS gameplay and strategic combat with abilities that didn’t run away with the game.
Add to that a stellar campaign, and Dawn of War 1 remains the crown jewel among Warhammer 40k games, even 18 years after its original release.