Everyone loves a good puzzle, right? The thing is, sometimes you don't want a physical 10,000-piece puzzle but a virtual one with units or city districts or even unique characters. Strategy games with tactics and impactful choices deliver the perfect experience to hone your decision-making abilities.
The genre encompasses tons of different kinds of games, from grand strategy to turn-based to real-time and even narrative-based. All that matters is that the choices you make impact gameplay and that extends to all kinds of video games. Here are the best tactical strategy games for beginners.
Updated September 21, 2022 by Ryan Bamsey: Tactical strategy is a very wide umbrella when it comes to describing games. Being a fan of one sub-genre doesn't necessarily mean you'll like another, and there are tons of things to consider such as how much you like a certain type of combat, how much you like sci-fi versus fantasy versus realism, and whether or not you're invested into a particular franchise or not. We've added some more greats to this list, including the soon-to-be-remastered Tactics Ogre.
18/18 XCOM: Chimera Squad
The incomparable strategy franchise XCOM has many stellar entries into its catalog including the most recent XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. However, XCOM: Chimera Squad is a different spin on the classic formula with original characters who have their own progression. Players can set up traps, customize characters, and create their own stories.
For newer players, it provides a nice segue into the world of turn-based tactical strategy. Just don't blame anyone when you become addicted to the familiar yet alien world of Advent and Central.
17/18 Two Point Campus
While the vast majority of titles on this list deal with war and combat and violence, there's definitely cause to include a game like Two Point Campus on this list. While the students don't wield weapons (unless they're learning how to be dark wizards or knights), you'll still need to think strategically if you want to lead them to success.
Compared to its predecessor, Two Point Hospital, this game requires more planning. Not only do you need to keep an eye on your expenditures, but you have staff that need training, timetables to plan, and entire campuses to build and decorate. A lot of the same skills and techniques are put to work in this game as any others on this list.
16/18 Final Fantasy Tactics
This is the game that many people will think of when you say "tactical strategy" - and with good reason. This title is responsible for introducing multiple generations to the genre simply because it is a Final Fantasy title, and it's a fantastic one, at that.
Newer players may need to look up a guide or two as they take their first grid-based steps around the world of Ivalice, but once you have the hang of it, it's a very addicting game. It has a huge array of classes and abilities to experiment with, and secrets to find and take advantage of to discover with every new playthrough.
15/18 Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
This game, like Final Fantasy Tactics, is hailed as one of the greatest to ever be bestowed upon us in this genre. Tactics Ogre follows Denam, a young man who joins a rebellion, meets a lot of very important people, and like any protagonist worth their salt, ends up becoming one of the most pivotal individuals in a world's history.
With a robust class system (narratively and mechanically, in this case!), engaging fights, and a complex story that will certainly never fail to capture your attention, Tactics Ogre is a fantastic way to fall in love with this genre. If you can bear to wait just a short while, at the time of writing, we're keenly awaiting the imminent release of a gorgeous-looking remaster, Tactics Ogre Reborn.
14/18 Dune: Spice Wars
While this game is going to be most accessible to fans of Dune in general, it's also an incredibly solid, fun experience for those with little-to-no history with the sci-fi marvel. Spice Wars takes the 4X formula - explore, exploit, expand, and exterminate - and distills it down to its building blocks, providing an extremely solid base for a newbie to the series to explore.
It's a real-time strategy game, which may appeal to those who find turn-based fare slow and clunky. In addition, with various factions and different ways that you can win any individual match, the game has a ton of replay value.
13/18 Sid Meier's Civilization 5 (And 6)
Sid Meier's Civilization is another historic franchise in the strategy game world and it is also turn-based. However, these games have more in common with city builders than they do XCOM or Starcraft. Players found their own civilizations, building new cities as they explore the map and meet other civilizations.
You can wage wars, broker peace treaties, take city-states, and more. It's an ideal way to get into the grander strategy games that the genre has to offer.
Also worth checking out is the sequel, Civilisation 6! This game is an improved version of Civilisation 5 and while it may not have the same level of mod support or content packs just yet, it's yet another compelling experience that you can lose days of your life to.
12/18 Crusader Kings 3
But then again, sometimes being thrown in at the deep end is the best way to become enthralled with a whole new genre. Crusader Kings 3 is likely the most accessible, beginner-friendly grand strategy game in Paradox Interactive's impressive library. That's not to say it's easy, but there's plenty there to keep you engaged without feeling like a wall of nonsense.
In this game, you take control of a noble during the medieval period, following their line as their titles and lands get inherited by their heirs. You need to manage your realm, your family, and the political dramas that evolve around you. No two games are the same and despite the steep learning curve, this is many players' favorite for a reason.
11/18 Triangle Strategy
Just like Final Fantasy Tactics and its predecessor, Tactic Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Triangle Strategy sees you take the helm of a small party of characters who end up being pivotal in a grand-scale war between more than a few different nations. The game follows Serenoa, a young lord from the kingdom of Glenbrook, a country recovering from a war that might just be starting up again.
The battle system is easy to get addicted to, and it's the perfect entry point into the genre thanks to the game's flexible difficulty options and the way it encourages experimentation, with little to no punishment for accidentally getting defeated. With multiple routes and decisions to make, it even has fantastic replayability value.
10/18 Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Though many fans laud Final Fantasy Tactics as the ultimate tactical strategy RPG, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a fantastic newer option in the genre. Available on the Nintendo Switch since 2019, the tactical RPG features a deep narrative and choices that impact the kind of strategies players can use.
Featured in a familiar setting with noble houses and power dynamics between kingdoms, players engage in top-down perspective combat with various characters. As with XCOM games, characters have a certain amount of actions to perform per turn. Each decision the player makes affects the outcome of any battle. But decisions made outside battle matter, too.
9/18 Expeditions: Rome
Have you ever wanted to take charge of a Roman legion? Expeditions: Rome lets you do just that. On the surface, this game looks just like any other CRPG but it'll quickly dispel that impression. Between the intricate turn-based, hex-based combat system and the large-scale army battles that you get to direct, you'll need a pretty good head for strategy to succeed in this game.
That's not to say that combat is the game's only focus. Expeditions: Rome features a cast of well-written characters, some nods to real history, and an intuitive approach to quest design that should please any manner of player.
8/18 Command & Conquer Remastered
As one of the original big names in the real-time strategy genre, Command & Conquer is the perfect place for beginners who want RTS experience. The retro experience is complete with intermittent live-action videos to further the story. In tandem with the traditional RTS gameplay, players can make decisions that affect the overall outcome of the story.
RTS games entail controlling various units like infantry, artillery, etc, in real-time to make tactical moves against enemies.
Blending storybook graphics with a procedurally generated narrative, Wilderymyth is the dream game for anyone who liked fairytales and grid-based combat. It's a niche pairing, but it works. Wildermyth lets you influence a story exactly as you want, choosing the decisions that your characters take and the relationships they form.
This influence can be felt in the battle system, too. While there are only three classes in the game, it's not long before they feel very distinct as your characters level up - you'll give them skills that change their role in battle significantly, with the game's focus on strategy often feeling subtle but enjoyable.
6/18 Shadow Run: Hong Kong
This turn-based tactical RPG is for all of the cyberpunk fans out there who also want a single-player experience. This entry into the Shadow Run franchise uses isometric graphics and an ability-point combat system where characters use abilities, attacks, items, spells, or movement.
In contrast to an RTS, players can take their time to craft strategies during combat. But the cyberpunk setting makes Shadow Run: Hong Kong a new experience as many tactical strategy games are fantasy or sci-fi in theme.
Othercide was quietly released in the summer of 2020 and is a fantastic turn-based strategy game for any fan of the Dark Souls or Bloodborne games. The setting has a gothic aesthetic while the turn-based combat incorporates rogue-lite elements. In contrast to some titles, the game features two modes of difficulty so that players can choose for themselves.
Each time a player "fails" a run by losing all of their playable characters, they start from the beginning with various boons. The only downside is that the game's aesthetic is greyscale and red which can present a problem from an accessibility perspective. It does have a "colorblind mode", but it's something to keep in mind.
4/18 Ambition: A Minuet In Power
Some might consider a dating sim not to fall under "strategy", but this game has the additional wrinkle of Revolution-era France. Players can romance, yes, but they can use this to grow their influence and status.
The political aspects of the game transform it from something like Dream Daddy into a unique experience infused with drama.
3/18 Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Whether a kid just getting into games or an adult who loves the Mario franchise, this crossover is a perfect mash-up with addictive gameplay. It offers a more whimsical introduction to a squad-based strategy game while still presenting challenges like cover usage, status effects, and hit percentages.
As with games like XCOM, mobility plays a key role in how you develop your characters for combat. Mario + Rabbids® Kingdom Battle also works for parents who want to introduce their kids to strategy games.
In the spirit of games like Homeworld, Stellaris offers a 4X Grand Strategy experience in a sci-fi setting. Players journey across space, create their own empires, construct ships, discover planets, and more. The only caveat is that the gameplay can pigeonhole players into taking a more...militaristic playstyle.
For those curious, "4X" games are those with a focus on technological or economical development and military vs. non-violent paths to success. You can take peaceful approaches, but Stellaris will test even the most tranquil of personalities. Moreover, space snails destroy your civilization, so what more of a reason do you need to try out this game?
1/18 Dawn Of War 2
The convoluted, but wonderful world of Warhammer (regular and 40K) captivates many people including celebrities like Henry Cavill. It features a fantasy setting filled with familiar races like Orks, Elves, and Dwarves. Warhammer 40K adapts that into a space setting with a gothic aesthetic where Tyranids dubbed "xenos" plague the Imperium of Man along with chaos magic, space elves, and Orks that reproduce through spores.
Dawn of War 2 takes place in this gothic sci-fi world, delivering tons of fun RTS action and lots of various factions to play as in the non-linear interplanetary campaign. However, the Skirmish mode (multiplayer) is where new players can really hone their skills if they want to get on the level of the Emperor of Mankind.
NEXT: Warhammer 40K & Warhammer Fantasy Games Every Fan Should Play