Which are the best war games on PC? It’s a tricky question to answer since war is sort of the default here in the world of PC gaming. It never changes, whether you’re re-fighting WW2 or blowing planes out of the sky in Battlefield. We’ve chosen some highlights from quality war games on PC for your perusal, from calmer free-to-play options to serious strategy games that cover some of history’s most serious conflicts.
This is a living list, and we’re always adding new games in and out, so make sure you check back regularly. The free PC games are up top by default, so if you’re looking for something to play with zero financial commitment, that’s where to look.
The best war games right now are:
World of Tanks
Tanks play a pretty significant role in modern warfare, so much so that Wargaming has given the mechanical miscreants their very own multiplayer game. World of Tanks has been going for roughly a decade now, and in that time, the roster of classic tanks has ballooned to over 400 and even includes some armored vehicles and other WW2 curios.
Those 400+ vehicles all boast unique stats and qualities you’ll get to know over hundreds of hours of tank vs. tank deathmatch, where you’ll constantly be earning progress to the next shiny metal death machine on your chosen upgrade path. With its seasonal events, a ceaseless flow of new hardware to unlock, and plenty of background changes to ensure the game feels fresh. You can even play when you’re out and about, thanks to World of Tanks: Blitz, the mobile version of the game.
After seven years of continual updates and improvements, there are few multiplayer war games as complete as War Thunder. Whether you prefer aerial dogfights, tank combat, or naval battles, War Thunder is essentially three simulation games rolled into one. So you really don’t have to choose – recent updates have even added helicopters and modern military vehicles to the mix.
Whichever battlefield you elect to play on, War Thunder’s realistic ballistics modeling and attention to detail promise as authentic an experience as you could want. Every vehicle has been painstakingly modeled, inside and out, so every shot yields a different result based on factors like range, shell type, the angle of the enemy tank’s armor, its thickness, where the crew is located within the enemy tank, and much more.
That damage modeling is consistent across the whole game, so whether you’re strafing the canopy of an enemy fighter plane or lining up the perfect torpedo strike, you’ll need to do plenty of quick maths before pulling the trigger.
Enlisted is a multiplayer shooter set in World War Two, and at its core is a clever, innovative idea that might revolutionize the genre. You are the commander of an infantry squad composed of soldiers with specialized roles. You can give orders to AI teammates, but you can also swap bodies with them at any time.
Fancy calling down an artillery bombardment on an enemy trench? Swap into your radio operator. Does that guy with the flamethrower look like he’s having more fun than you? Take over and light ’em up. In Enlisted, you can always go wherever the action is, and you can use any of the toys your squad has brought with them.
Rather than dying and respawning as an individual, your squad only respawns once it has lost every soldier. This encourages you to work as a unit, covering each other and bringing the correct specialists for each engagement in order to stay alive and maintain your strength. But if you do die, you needn’t worry about waiting ages to respawn – you can jump into another soldier.
World of Warships
If tanks can get their own world, then it’s only right that warships get the same treatment. World of Warships mirrors its tanky counterpart in terms of its progression mechanics, but the transition from war-torn cities to open waters creates a very different type of gameplay. Torpedoes and cannon barrages travel for seconds at a time before striking their target, creating a fascinating battle of feints and dodges. With very little cover to rely on, warship commanders need to become comfortable blasting from range and reading enemy shots.
Like World of Tanks, Warships is also subject to an unending tide of new ships, gameplay tweaks, and seasonal events that stave off any sense of stagnation. Plus it could soon be among the best submarine games, as Wargaming has confirmed they’re working on bringing subs to the game.
This free-to-play grand strategy game gives you the chance to take control over any of the nations that were involved in the First World War. This massively multiplayer experience sees you playing with potentially as many as 499 other players; games will be long and intricate. It’s a game that’s easy to become very deeply invested in and a war gaming experience quite unlike any other.
As you’d imagine, each of the different countries plays very differently, as they have different resources available and can produce the different munitions they would have historically used. Since the game doesn’t strictly have to follow the path of real history, each game can be very different, and you’ll want to give it a go playing through all your favorite nations.
Call of War: World War II
Following Supremacy 1914, Call of War: World War II gives players a similar formula but applies it to the Second World War rather than the First. There’s a list of ten different playable nations to choose from (including Russia, the US, and Germany), and you and a huge group of other players carve out the course of the war, either following established history or going in a new direction entirely.
A single game will last a long time, and you definitely won’t be able to complete it within a single sitting. This is something you’ll come back to over and over again over a long period of time, all the while becoming more and more immersed in its world of intricate strategy. If you fancy yourself a tactical master, this game will give you a good opportunity to test your mettle.
Conflict of Nations: World War III
While Supremacy 1914 and Call of War: World War II make a grand strategy game out of the First and Second World Wars, respectively, Conflict of Nations does something similar for a hypothetical World War III. Imagining a near future where the tensions of the world have escalated to the point where every nation is out to position itself as the number one global power, this game gives you the chance to take control of any one of an enormous number of nations and battle it out against players who are doing the same thing.
This is a long-term strategy game, so you’ll return to continue huge games that will probably take a couple of months to complete. There’s so much depth and nuance to it that you’ll soon become invested in the nation you’re in control of, whether you’re working to reinforce its military, boost its economy, or further its technological advances. If you ever shake your head in despair at the decisions of world leaders, here’s your chance to prove you could do better.
Panzer Corps 2
Panzer Corps 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the classic war game Panzer Corps. After nine years in development, this new burst through our defenses and overwhelmed us with over 1,000 unit types, 61 single-player scenarios, and a random map generator for solo and online play.
If that’s not enough, there is also 4K support, custom camouflages and insignia for units, and dozens of map skins for various locations, seasons, and weather. It’s already getting a healthy injection of DLC expansions as well, covering each year of WW2 in granular detail and offering scenarios that aren’t always covered in other games set during this period.
Hearts of Iron IV
Whereas Panzer Corps 2 offers a lot of depth and detail, focusing on individual battles and theatres, Paradox Interactive’s WW2 grand strategy game Hearts of Iron IV provides more of a sandbox approach. It provides you with the tools, the actors, and a breadth of potential options. Our Hearts of Iron IV review goes into detail on just how good this strategy game really is.
You won’t be fighting the Second World War, but you will be fighting a Second World War, the nature of which changes with each playthrough. The game is five years old at this point, and it’s been supported by a division’s worth of DLC expansions, plenty of amazing mods, and is still working towards new content as we speak.
People who want something with more historical accuracy may want to look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a massive toy box to throw armies around in, there are few better. On top of that, you don’t have to worry too much about the minutiae if you don’t want to.
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Authenticity is a questionable ask for all the best war games – how can any immaculately recreated battlefield capture the experience of living through its horrors? The first Brothers in Arms made a great go of it, telling the true story of a parachute infantry regiment in the United States 101st Airborne Division dropped behind enemy lines on D-Day.
Levels were designed around historical reconnaissance photographs taken in ‘40s Normandy, and research included both interviews with veterans and classroom lessons on combat tactics. The result remains the closest thing we have to an interactive Band of Brothers, and that is the rarest of things – a respectful shooter and one of the best WW2 games.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
By the time a game’s given you a gun and sent you on your way, you’ve already started pondering the ethicality of war. Valiant Hearts is different from most war games: a procession of gentle puzzles and occasional rhythm action that has you witness the Great War as it ravages France.
It is to Rayman’s Ubisoft Montpellier’s credit that Valiant Hearts doesn’t try to capture the reality of combat – instead opting for cartoon abstraction. But don’t think it holds back on the harrowing detail due to its art style, as its environments are filled with snippets of shiver-inducing real-world history.
The principal characters in this sometimes heartbreaking adventure game are, without exception, just trying to find their way back to each other. Torn apart by the most widespread war ever fought, borders and battle lines are irrelevant to these soldiers and civvies, yet they shake them to a distressing degree.
This War of Mine
In war, not everyone is a soldier. That is the tagline of This War of Mine- a game based loosely on the experiences of the citizens of Sarajevo, who lived under siege for 1,425 days during the Bosnian War.
Practically speaking, that means you’re presented with a cross-section of charcoal-colored buildings and an unflinching view of the people making an existence within. Sampling elements of survival games, you manage their lives, directing them to craft and trade during the day, and then – once the snipers are gone – sending them out to scavenge for food and medicine at night. Think of it as the war games equivalent of Fallout Shelter but with less busy work and much more to say – as we found in our This War of Mine review.
There is no way for you to win this war or even contribute toward it. Your role is to keep going and somehow reconcile your needs with your conscience. This War of Mine isn’t fun, per se, but its uneasy brilliance makes it one of the most important videogames to confront war and has paved the way for Call of Duty: WW2 and Battlefield 1’s more thoughtful breed of war games in the process.
EA had its work cut out when it came to surpassing the seriousness of Battlefield 1’s Great War setting. Few war games have depicted the horror of that conflict as well as Battlefield 1 did, placing you in the boots of a series of young men as they each meet their untimely demise in a desperate last stand against the Imperial German Army.
Battlefield V continues this somber tone as you (once again) gear up for the killing fields of World War 2. Each of Battlefield 5’s War Stories is a single-player vignette intended to “create feelings of despair”. With each death, your character’s name, birth date, and death date loom out to remind you that this war game is about more than just entertainment.
However, Battlefield V rivals the best FPS games on PC when it comes to gameplay. Weapons feel refreshingly janky compared to the futuristic fare of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, offering up a satisfying rattle and kick with every shot you fire. The battlefields themselves change constantly throughout a match as destructible buildings are torn apart, showering players with rubble. It’s a triumph, and if you want to know more, read our Battlefield 5 review here.
Unity of Command 2
Unity of Command 2 is a turn-based war game set primarily on the western front of World War II, although a recent expansion has offered a new campaign that focuses on the eastern front, which was the setting of the first game. It’s one of the brightest lights in the genre’s recent renaissance, and while the original game was good, this surpasses it in almost every way, adding a new campaign layer with off-map support options.
Unity of Command 2 is one of the best war games thanks to its merciless focus on your ability to manage supplies across distance, as well as deploying the forces available to you in the best possible fashion. Winning is about reading the map and planning bold, decisive campaigns that will keep your army rolling, despite perilously long supply lines and the constant threat of being cut off.
It’s a great introduction to the sub-genre of operational war games and a welcome change of perspective for those of us wondering what really makes a war run. If they can’t be fed or equipped, it doesn’t matter how well a soldier is shooting. Check out Wargamer’s Unity of Command 2 review for more details.
This isn’t your run-and-gun shooter, nor is it the flashy, dramatic skirmishes of Battlefield – it’s a serious simulation of modern military conflict and tries to instill a sense of hyper-realism you won’t find in many shooters. Sometimes the most sobering thing you can do to drive home the vulnerability of battle in war games is to strip away everything we’re used to in a shooter – regenerating armor, piles of hit points, copious cover – and show how quickly we’d really last under fire.
Arma 3 has been out a long time by this point and has a wealth of DLC options for you to explore, from new vehicles, locations, and even a single-player scenario DLC featuring… aliens. If you’re looking to challenge yourself, Arma is a great place to do it.
Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault
This one features on both our best RTS games list and our overall best strategy games list, simply for being the best up-to-date Company of Heroes experience available right now. Sure, the original Company of Heroes will forever remain in the hall of fame, but it’s getting on a bit now, and we prefer to keep things fresh.
Ardennes Assault is an expansion to Company of Heroes 2 and builds upon all of the improvements thrown at the base game (which had a bit of a rocky start), offering a new campaign that not only brought back fan-favorite American forces but also a dynamic campaign layer that gave it a very replayable feel. You are in charge of three companies during the 1944 Ardennes campaign and must hold back the German counter-offensive, capturing and holding key towns and regions.
The only thing that could have toppled this incredibly satisfying strategy war game was Company of Heroes 3, but after a middling reception, it looks like Ardennes Assault is still the go-to for the best experience. Check out our Company of Heroes 3 review to see why it currently doesn’t measure up.
Hell Let Loose
Favoring realism over all else lends itself very well to war games, especially those depicting the chaos of WW2. Hell Let Loose is a squad-based multiplayer FPS game that promotes teamwork via proximity chat. It borders on roleplaying at times, but if you give in to the occasion and don’t mind barking the odd ‘Sir, yes, sir!’ then you’ll get on very well with it.
The quiet moments before a battle are strangely what Hell Let Loose does best; stalking through a snow-covered forest, you almost give into that sense of safety before a sniper’s shot cracks through the air, taking your commanding officer out in an instant. It plays slightly slower than the likes of Battlefield but can be more rewarding because of it – check out our Hell Let Loose review if you want to know more.
Conflict is a huge part of games, and there are as many ways of exploring it as there are games in the genre. From the bombastic to the thought-provoking, this list should have a little bit of everything. For more games in a similar mold, our list of the best tank games should have some good recommendations.
This story originally appeared on PC Gamesn