Top 5 grand strategy games on PC — Crusader Kings II, Empire: Total War and more

top 5 grand strategy games on PC
Empire: Total War is the first in the series with real-time naval battles

The top 5 grand strategy games on PC include Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV

Have you always wanted to rule an empire, excel in trade, marry your children to the heirs of other royal families to extend your reach, and send your military around the world to conquer your foes? If so, and you are a computer gamer, then these top 5 grand strategy games on PC will let you do just that. And a whole lot more.

As an obsessed grand strategy game player myself, I have my favorites. But here I’ve tried to not just showcase the grand strategy games I think are the best, but also show off some of those other game journalists love.

The five games chosen, though, are still highly objective of course, and in no particular order.

Just remember, though, if you haven’t gotten into grand strategy yet, you will need a lot of time, even more patience and the ability to worry about every minute detail connected to every decision you make and every action you do.

Only then will you stand any chance at all of winning with these top 5 grand strategy games on PC.

So let’s get started.

Crusader Kings II

You will quickly notice a theme running through these top 5 grand strategy games, and that theme is Paradox — the undisputed ruler when it comes to developing grand strategy games, and the developer/publisher of most of the games on this list. Sorry, but they really are that good. In my mind, Crusader Kings II is the best of all.

That’s because Crusader Kings II, while it’s definitely a grand strategy game revolving around strengthening dynasties, is all about people rather than it is about warfare. And that means stories of tragedy and power grabs, assassinations and deceit.


You start the game off in the early Middle Ages as the ruler of your choice. As the game progresses, you marry, have children, and marry those children off in the best matchmaking scenario you can for the good of your empire.  You assassinate your enemies, declare war on the territories you want to control, and do everything you can to advance your dynasty through the next several centuries.

As your character ages and dies, you play his heir and his heir and his heir. The game ends when your character dies and you do not have an heir to replace you, if all your titles are taken from you and your family, or if you get to the year 1453.

Crusader Kings II, of course, is as close to Game of Thrones with a grand strategy game as you are ever going to get. No wonder then that fans of the game and the George R.R. Martin fantasy novels have created a Game of Thrones complete conversion mod that is one of the best mods ever made for any strategy game anywhere.

You can download the Game of Thrones conversion mod here.

Victoria II

Another Paradox Interactive grand strategy game, Victoria II takes place during the reign of Queen Victoria — starting in the 19th century and concluding in the 1930s.

The game is economically and politically-based, with a huge emphasis on growing your economy, improving the lives of your citizens, creating diplomatic ties with other nations, advancing your society’s technology and colonizing less developed countries in an attempt to relieve them off their resources.

Understanding a complex market system is the key to your success, as is the ability to manage the rapidly changing social and political climate. Warfare is not particularly important, although it does occasionally happen.

Europa Universalis IV

Europa Universalis IV has everything a grand strategy fanatic would want as it is huge.

Choose a nation to play, then control every aspect of it from the late Middle Ages all the way through to the 1820s. Establish successful trade routes, administer your government, create diplomatic ties with friends and foe alike, colonize less developed nations that have resources you want and, of course, declare war on anyone who refuses to bow to your will.

It’s entirely up to you, as you can choose to defeat other nations by going to war or by being establishing your dominance in trade. But whatever you decide, you will soon find yourself in the midst of alternative history, and isn’t that a blast!

Europa Universalis IV is only available on Steam, and also has 10 expansion packs, including Wealth of Nations and Rights of Man, and a slew of mods that make the game even more fun and even more challenging.

Be warned, though, it is one of those games you could lose the rest of the year to, it’s that complex and addictive.

Hearts of Iron IV

The best of the Hearts of Iron series, Hearts of Iron IV takes place before and during World War II. The game starts in 1936 as an economics game when you choose any nation in the world and then begin building up your infrastructure and military might so you are ready when the Second World War eventually starts.

Once war is declared, Hearts of Iron IV mutates into more of a war game, in which you decide where troops should be deployed, which cities you are pounding with bombs tonight and which strategies you need to defeat the major powers — the Axis, the Allies and the Comintern.

Hearts of Iron IV is a complicated game that will seem to take you half a lifetime to figure out but, once you do, it is incredibly rewarding.

It also has a multiplayer component that might seem intimidating but, once you get stuck in, you’ll find it is a blast. Check out the start of Quill 18’s Hearts of Iron IV multiplayer series in the video below to see how much.

Empire: Total War

The only game on the top 5 grand strategy games on PC list not developed by Paradox, and released way back in 2009, Empire: Total War is still one of the best.

It takes place in the 18th century with your goal to achieve dominance over every other nation on the planet by military might, diplomacy, espionage, exploration and economics. It was also special because it was the first grand strategy game in the Total War series that allowed players to direct naval battles as well as land battles in real-time.

What makes this game replayable for thousands of hours, however, is its incredibly diverse factions. So, whether you play as Austria, India or Great Britain, your experience in game will be completely different every time.

There is one frustration and that is, in the single player game, the AI is more than a bit loopy, and it probably will drive you nuts until you get used to it.

But, if you enjoy multiplayer and love a challenge, you are able to avoid the AI completely and then the game becomes even more fun.

Michelle Topham

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