Sharpen your sword and tighten your gauntlets as we check out the best Total War games of all time!
If you love games like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy, and Age of Empires, then you’re about to step into a world of tactical excitement like no other.
These games lead the way when it comes to skilful planning leading into tense, action-packed battles, giving you a little bit of everything and real taste of what it means to be both general and soldier.
And in some cases, a fire-breathing dragon!
Let’s cut the waffle and get our hands dirty, shall we? Prepare for blood as we check out the best Total War games in the series and find out which title is the best of the bunch!
Table of Contents
Shogun: Total War takes the 10th spot in our list of the best Total War games. Hey, we had to start somewhere, so why not kick off with an absolute classic!
And it also makes sense to start off with the first game in the series, right? After all, this is where it all started back in 2000.
The game that birthed this successful and super addictive turn-based strategy cannon (that’s the series, not the medieval weapon) is still heralded as one of the greatest PC games of all time, taking players into Fuedal Japan.
One of the features introduced in the very first title that makes this series so special is the different elements of life that all have an impact on how you progress.
Religion, Espionage, Economics; you’ve got to think about everything at once if you plan to get ahead in Total War.
Samurais battling to become the Shōgun; move armies and direct your soldiers in real time, leading one of Japans historical clans to a victory.
The map of Japan is fantastic too for an early 2000s game. The battlefields are big with terrain that could turn the tide of a battle if used correctly. It’s a fantastic title and we’re only at Number 10!
Total War: Three Kingdoms takes the action from Japan to Ancient China, taking us all the way back to 190AD, or 190CE as it’s referred to these days.
Any sentence that starts ‘Pick one of 12 legendary warlords’ is only ever going to bring good things to a game, right?
Once again, being politically minded, gaining the respect of allies and foes alike, and stabbing people in the back (both literally and metaphorically) are the main keys to success.
Let’s talk about the graphics here for a second – not only do you learn about the art of war in this game, but war has never looked so artistic either. The gameplay looks phenomenal, portraying an authentic recreation of Ancient China that you’ll spend hours exploring.
Do you have what it takes to lead a horde or powerful warriors, building an empire that will shape the future of the land and go on to govern the people, or will you fall at the advancing charge of your enemies?
Legendary characters from Chinese history help to keep the action flowing, but compared to the next couple of titles in our list, it felt a little bit on the tame side.
Don’t worry, you’ll find out why in a second.
Total War: Warhammer II takes the 8th spot in this list of the best Total War games of all time, bringing all of the tactical decision making and warmongering of the Total War series to the weird and wonderful world of Warhammer.
If you’re looking for a game that you can easily sink hundreds and thousands of hours into, then look no further. The weapons and armour available in this game as you traverse this fantastic open-world will make you giddy with delight, as will making the choice to parlay with your enemies or wipe them off the map!
Instead of sending men into battle, you’ll be taking a much more ‘Lord of the Rings-esque’ approach to battle. We’re talking dragons, strange monsters, and magic users that can cause havoc at the lift of a finger.
While moving your factions of Elves, Lizardmen, and Undead Pirates is quite methodical and makes you feel a little like Charlemagne, the battles themselves are all real-time and make you sit on the edge of your seat.
Work through the eye of the vortex, immersing yourself in one heck of a narrative that could have dropped straight from a George R. R Martin book.
And, if you’ve got both this game and the next game in our list in your collection, then you can make the most of the free-to-download Mortal Empires too a ‘grand scale downloadable campaign’ that allows players to use any lord from either game to cause havoc in new missions!
Total War: Warhammer is up next, though you might have guessed that from my cryptic clues in the last section.
While I loved both Total War: Warhammer I and II, the first foray into magical battles brought much more surprise and intrigue to the table. We kind of knew what to expect from the second title, but this first one made my jaw drop onto the table!
Taking part in battles between The Greenskins and the The Empire using legendary weapons from the Warhammer series for the very first time felt like every one of our nerdy dreams had come true at once.
This was also the first time that players could use magic in Total War games. Imagine the Battle of Hogwarts on steroids, and you’ll get the general idea!
I guess it’s also not a surprise that this was the fastest selling Total War game too – magic and dragons tend to make everything 100 times better in my book, so I can definitely see why.
And to be honest, historical battles aren’t for everyone. I personally like them, but I can understand people just wanting to get lost in a war campaign without having to know too much about the individual scenarios that the games are based on.
The only thing you really need to know here is to run away from Dragons when their mouths are wide open – job done.
Total War: Attila takes the 6th spot in our list of the best Total War games of all time, and yes, there’s going to be a lot of reference to the Ruler of the Huns in this game.
The game starts in 395AD, however, before Atilla came to power in 406AD. He’ll be in power as the game goes along though, so those of you who know your facts about the Hunnic Empire can rest easy.
As you might expect from a game based around the Scourge of God himself, the skills your character possess must be used cleverly in order to succeed. Your determination and sly cunning will undoubtedly help you overcome your foes so long as you keep your head (and remove your foes’ from their shoulders).
If you get the included DLC, then there are 16 total factions to choose from. There’s also a strong survival element to this game too – how many of you could take a faction of hungry Huns through the Sahara Desert without all hell breaking loose amongst your ranks?
Don’t forget you’ve then got to go into battle afterwards too – It’s not a job for the faint of heart!
The 3D battles once you do get into the heart of the skirmishes is superb. You’ll almost feel like you’re rubbing shoulders with your fellow soldiers as you slay Romans left, right, and centre.
Add a multiplayer co-op campaign in, and you’ve suddenly got no reason to ever be bored on a weekend ever again.
2009’s Empire: Total War is up next, bringing us a little closer to home than the Hunnic empire.
Play as England, America, Austria, and many more nations as you fight to take over areas in Europe, India, and North America.
Build barracks, survey the land for vantage points, and place your troops in the best place to strike when the turn-based strategy runs out and it’s time for all out real-time war.
Let’s talk about the battles; we already know that we can take ranks into war on the land and creating sieges around important landmarks, but Empire: Total War beings sea skirmishes to the table for the first time too.
This is my favourite part of the game, blowing ships to smithereens with cannons and choosing whether to board enemy boats in a bid to swashbuckle them into Davy Jones’ locker.
Up to eight of you can fight on the water, on the land, or dive into a good old fashioned siege. Now you’ll know which of your friends you can really trust, and hopefully none of them will stab you in the back!
Napoleon: Total War takes the 4th spot in this list of the best Total War games ever made, and the cunning Frenchman himself takes the front of the entire cover.
And while it’s essentially Empire: Total War rebranded, this game follows Napoleon’s career from his early beginnings to becoming France’s emperor and finally his defeat at Waterloo.
Did you know Napoleon was exiled to live out his days on a remote island too? I’m not saying the same will happen to you if you don’t do well in this game, but just bear that in mind, alright?
As a French Emperor and military leader, you’ll have to deal with more than just winning battles. Players need to think about disease running through the ranks, deserters, and spies heading into your midst.
You’ll need to repair ships on the go, which unfortunately means you’ll remain open to enemy attack. Still, if you’re about to sink anyway, then it’s worth a shot, right?
Utilise the skills of your generals and admirals, return to friendly territories to recover lost troops, and use all your guile in order to overcome the challenges posed by your foes.
I bet you’ll be wearing a tri-corner hat by the end of this game…
Rome: Total War takes the bronze medal in our best Total War games, and it takes us on a trip back to my father’s homeland.
He wasn’t or hasn’t ever been a Roman soldier, however, more a Napoletan Pizza Chef.
We’re heading so far back in time that the notion of Christ wasn’t even a thing yet. Enter 370 BC or 370 BCE depending on how you view your calendar. We all know the Roman Empire covered most of the Earth, and now you’re about to become a part of that conquering army.
Play as the Scipii, the Brutii, and the Julii families, powerful houses in Rome. Whoever you decide to play as, you’ll end up attacking the other houses and fighting for dominion of Italy and the surrounding territories.
Imagine a big game of Risk where Rome is the epicentre of all the carnage.
Rome: Total War amassed around 876,000 sales in the US by 2006, making it a huge success and the best selling Total War game at the time. I think it’s just because Italy is the greatest country in the world, the same reason why Luca is Disney’s best film, but I’m clealry biased and am definitely digressing!
We’ve got Total War: Shogun 2 up next, the 11 year long awaited sequel to the very first game that sparked the series.
I guess it would be rude not to head back to feudal Japan in this list, especially after how much we loved the first game and most recently joining Jin Sakai on his adventures on the PS5. It’s one of the most interesting periods of history I’ve ever studied, and Shogun 2 encapsulates the tension of the period perfectly.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s just take a moment to look at these epic graphics. This game is stunning from start to finish, with extreme attention to detail in all of the fighters from each faction. Just look at the rippling fabric in the banners and the flowers in the grass.
I guess war can look good, even if it is brutal!
Like all of the Total War games in this list, there’s more to the gameplay than just heading into war and stabbing the enemy with spears.
You’ll need to send out assassins, set up trade routes, and manage the resources that your army needs in order to take over Japan.
And of course, those real-time battles are something else and the main crux of what makes these Total War games so exciting!
The results are in, the white flag has been slashed through, and Medieval II: Total War has taken the top spot as the best Total War game in the entire series!
The year is 1080, deep within the middle ages. We’re talking knights in full armour heading into battle on treacherous terrain, conquering areas spread across the globe in a bid to dominate the entire map.
I think that for me and many other gamers, this is the best Total War game because it mirrors our idea of the quintessential period of war, heading into battle with a sword and knowing you’ve got to battle head to head with an opponent to the death every time.
With only a shield to hide behind and no gun to wield, this is one campaign where you’ll need to have your wits about you from the initial manoeuvring stage right through to the real-time battles.
Like the other games in this list, looking after your people and making sure that they are well looked after is important to ensure that your armies stay in good order and they you don’t have to fight a revolution at the same time as your enemies.
Oh, and to add extra stress to your plate, you’ll need to fulfil certain missions set by the religious leader that you follow too.
Defend your territory, hold sieges and take over castles, make use of forests and hills, and pull every tactic out of the bag to outwit either the computer or your friends in multiplayer matches.
Yes, Medieval 2: Total War is the best Total War game for that all out enemy bashing, strategic manoeuvring, tense battle action!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.