We live in a golden age of mobile strategy, whether in terms of the remasters of classics like Company of Heroes or strikeout new IPs, like Bad North, reinventing classic game formats. What is true for strategy, will always be true, and so it often represents a realm with an elegant simplicity at its heart. Look at Bad North and you’ll see how that ancient strategic simplicity compliments the medium of mobile perfectly.
PC strategy games can be costly, both in terms of time and money. Maybe you don’t always feel like delving into a hundred-hour, eight player 4x-fest, maybe you instead just want a little taste. Being able to outwit an opponent during your morning commute, or to emerge triumphant during your lunchbreak, is what mobile strategy was made for.
But if scale is also what ye crave, mobile in all its great versatility can give you that. Titles like Plague Inc. or Rebel Inc. offer strategy on par with PC games, in short, because they are PC games! And as technology improves, the sky is truly the limit in terms of what strategy can accomplish, when paired with mobile as a platform.
What are the best mobile strategy games?
Company of Heroes
Created by the geniuses at Feral Interactive, this is a smart adaptation of the iconic WW2 RTS. A touch interface is always going to be inferior to mouse when being adapted from the latter to the former, but Feral have done a really admirable job. Check out our Company of Heroes review for more details!
One of the best strategy games for mobile – and in general – Bad North is a wonderful lesson in how minimal design and strategy pair so well. The game is essentially a Viking tower defence, as you position your units to repel invaders, appearing out of the fog to burn the settlement on your island. You travel between these little landmasses, picking up gold and stragglers, always one step ahead of the massive Viking fleet snapping at your heels.
The overall strategy aspect of the game is based in risk vs. reward. Can I defend one more island this turn? If things go wrong and units die, you lose them forever, which can cut short a pretty costly investment in upgrading them, and giving them items. Each of the beautiful little islands is also procedurally generated, and for each house you defend, you get gold for upgrades, thereby completing an extremely satisfying gameplay loop. Bad North is absolutely one of the best strategy games on mobile: a playful exterior and aesthetic, which belies a surprising degree of strategic depth. Want to hear more? Give our Bad North review a look.
Dungeon Warfare 2
We’ve been waiting for Dungeon Warfare 2 for what seems like a while now – it was on our list of 2018’s most anticipated games for sure, but sadly missed its window and slipped into 2019. But it was well worth the wait. Tower defence can sometimes be lazy in terms of bland design, but Dungeon Warfare is definitely not one of those games.
With over thirty distinct traps, this Dungeon Keeper–esque experience offers you a lot of both variety, and complexity, with which to achieve what are the usual tower defence goals. This game isn’t completely unique in its theme, but nowhere else is it treated with so much passion.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, Rebel Inc. shares the same excellent design pedigree. As the newly appointed administrator of a region that’s just suffered a major war, your job is to try and help the population rebuild, while also keeping local insurgents in check. It’s full of tough choices and challenging tactical game-play as you struggle to pin down enemy insurgents and prevent them from doing too much harm. If you’re struggling to get a handle on the game, try our guide of Rebel Inc. tips and tricks.
Dealing with the concept of reconstruction is never an easy feat, and the subject matter could be considered slightly controversial given the recent events that have inspired it. But Ndemic has treated the topic with as much care and attention as they can, even consulting with real-world experts on the subject. For more in-depth analysis, see our Rebel Inc. review.
Element is a PC port that fits right at home on mobile. It’s unique and streamlined design makes it a very accessible strategy game, as you balance the production of resources with the construction of units to either defend your base or attack your foes. The matches are short, and the AI is a pretty decent challenge, so you won’t want for entertainment.
Kingdom Rush: Vengeance
The latest entry in the acclaimed Kingdom Rush tower defence series has caused no small amount of controversy, which is likely to continue with its inclusion in this list. It all depends how bothered you are by the game’s slightly-too-persistent micro-transactions. They are the only blemish on what is otherwise a stellar real-time strategy experience. The in-app purchases are completely optional and unnecessary, but they’re just a tad too pushy.
But if you’re willing to look past that, you’ll find another excellent tower defence game, and one with plenty of humour and content to last you a decent amount of time.
Generally considered brilliant and wickedly simple, Auralux sees glowing orbs skip across the void of space to do battle over planets, which, in turn, spawn more orbs for the controlling player. Gestures are dead simple, tapping to select, and dragging to assign. There is only one type of ‘unit’ and one objective: take over the entire map. From these givens, Auralux has some intense, hair-pulling, and nail-biting levels where the odds are almost ludicrously stacked against the player.
This game deserves to be loved and known for the quality of play it provides, as well as its relatively tasteful monetisation. Dominations is essentially Civilization meets Clash of Clans, with empires spanning the Iron Age to space age, with wonders to build, raids to conduct, and all the usual trappings.
There is a certain likeness to established powerhouses, but the devil is in the details, and Dominations gets them spot-on. Playing it to a satisfying conclusion without shelling out serious bucks will take patience, but the emulation of all of recorded human history and conflict is pretty satisfying to play through. Like all your strategy with a dash of history too? Our best mobile war games list has your back.
The iron marines are a space-trotting, world-saving team of elite squads tasked with putting out fires and defeating hostiles wherever needed. The elevator pitch for the game would be Starcraft but not? There is a home-base which usually has to be fortified and defended, additional refineries to secure more resources, and a handful of units.
From these simple, intuitive elements, the game ekes out a good sense of micromanagement, and delectable real-time tension. Its enemies have unusual abilities and synergies, and its difficulty is no joke, especially on the higher levels. Yet the game also retains Ironclad Studios’ sense of long-term planning and strategy present in its tower defense titles.
Exactly as advertised, Subterfuge is a subtle, long-term game of expedient alliances and stone-cold betrayals, filled with the irrefutable logic, and the uncertainty shrouded in fog of war. A turn just means giving subs and bases a command which will take hours to fulfil, so while it is real-time like warfare is real-time, in Subterfuge the theatre of war sees its stage advance slowly.
Its scale is just grand enough to be deeply satisfying, but be warned that it takes some serious time investment to get a game fired up. The leaders provide asymmetrical player powers, but even these super-units can be captured and bartered. Barring these modifiers and special cases, the bases and subs are more or less identical. The game is simply a question of position, resources, and force, but these factors are always shifting because of partial information and precarious alliances.
Space-base-building and defence are Rymdkapsel’s specialties, alongside some spatial puzzling a la Tetris, and ‘exploration’. Its minimalism is more than just stylistic, going instead to the core of every action, option, and goal. Perhaps the most satisfying bit is the constant packing problem for expanding the base. New buildings can be of any type, and can be placed anywhere the player chooses, but also must have predefined dimensions.
A tightly knit base might come across as more defensible, but reaching and researching far-flung monoliths gives permanent global passive bonuses. The game is a logistics and timing puzzle that for all its stripped-down design, has a really keen sense of efficiency, and management.
Island-hopping Tropical Stormfront pits the United Democratic Alliance against order, discipline, and obedience, in a faux-historical struggle across an archipelago. The graphics are deliberately dated, and the unit mixture, contrary to every other item on the list, is realistic and accurate. Mission scenarios range from typical conquest, to capture the flag, and survival mode.
It’s like a real-time Advance Wars with pretty much no hand-holding, just sink-or-swim gameplay. The touch controls mean a bigger screen is practically a must, for in a game like this, even missing a single swipe or tap can cause quite the setback.
Firaxis’ XCOM set the bar for turn-based, squad-level strategy games in general, and still remains a highlight on mobile that few have managed to challenge. Xenowerk Tactics, a sequel to the twin-stick shooter Xenowerk, probably won’t give XCOM a run for its money, but it’s a decent tactical strategy game, and one making use of more modern design tools.
Placed in charge of a corporate-owned private military force, your job is to go in and clean up after an experiment goes horribly wrong. There’s squad management, base development, and tactical battles, which, while still hectic and satisfying, can sometimes feel a bit more arcade-y than pure strategy. There’s a really tense tug-of-war between the need to secure your objective, and the need to preserve resources, especially when those resources are your veteran troops. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for games like XCOM on mobile.
Ticket to Earth
While an excellent turn-based strategy game, much of Ticket to Earth’s appeal and potential rested on the assumption that Robot Circus would finish the final three chapters of the game. The developer certainly took its time, but nearly three years later episode four was finally released as a free update in October 2019.
With a unique take on turn-based tactics, a genuinely engaging story, and plenty of challenge to boot, the finally-finished Ticket definitely deserves your attention, and can be considered one of 2017’s silent stunners.
While it takes a lot of inspiration from board games with dice-based allocation/drafting mechanics, Tharsis is very much a turn-based strategy experience through and through. As the player, you’re in charge of a group of astronauts on their way to Mars, except everything’s going wrong on the last stretch of the journey. You need to manage your surviving team-members, dwindling resources, and a failing ship to the best of your abilities, so that someone, at least, might make it all the way to the end.
The game is brought to life wonderfully with an excellent 3D engine, and the app plays real smooth. Some might find the reliance on dice-rolls to get anything done frustrating at times, but it does feed into the sense of theatre, created by tension and dread, as you pray that nothing else goes wrong on the ship as it is hastily patched back together. Imagine Apollo 13 except Tom Hanks ends up eating Bill Paxton.
In many ways chess is the quintessential turn-based strategy game, and a classic that many people have tired to reinvent over the years. Some we’ve been fans of, others not so much, but Feud has impressed us the most by far. This free-to-play gem condenses the chess experience into a tied, closed-quarters tactical brawl.
A 4×4 board, with sixteen pieces, leaves no room for manoeuvre, so planning your attacks, moves, and exploitations is paramount. We were very impressed by this bite-sized take on the classic formula, and there’s even cross-platform multiplayer, as well as pass-and-play. For more tabletop inspired games like Feud, give our best digital board games guide a look.
Egypt: Old Kingdom
Clarus Victoria is back with a second entry in its turn-based strategy series based on different historical periods of Egypt. The first game focused on the prehistoric history of the area, while this new game focuses on the ‘Old Kingdom’ period, which lasted around 400 years, ending in 2,100 BC. Back then, the capital of the nation was Memphis, and it is here that the player must work to try and develop their civilisation.
Resource management is key, as you also try to assimilate the other Egyptian tribes through either diplomacy or warfare. It’s a niche-style strategy game on a very niche topic, but a breath of fresh air, and an excellent pick for those looking for something a little bit different.
Given that there are so many ways you can design a turn-based tactics game, for one to come along with a genuinely interesting and clever twist is rare. Farabel’s trick, such as it is, means you start at the end. You begin the story at the height of your power, having just emerged victorious from a long and bloody struggle with the Orcs. But to learn the tale, you have to go backwards in time.
With each level you complete, your forces actually get weaker as you make your way back to the beginning of the war. Within individual turn-based battles there’s also some timey-wimey shenanigans that your hero character can exploit, making for some flexible tactical solutions. There are thirteen scenarios in the main story, and beyond that you can participate in daily challenges, or build an army from scratch to take part in special modes, like survival.
Euclidean Skies is a significantly different game to its predecessor, and the raw ambition it shows makes it all the more compelling. Even the art style is different; more vibrant and aggressive, bringing the world to life in a way that’s unexpected, but also fantastic.
This is a must buy for fans of puzzle tactics games, and while some of the charm is lost in the shift away form Euclidean Land’s simplicity, there’s plenty of character in this boisterous new chapter.
Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind
Some strategy gamers will absolutely love Six Ages’ blend of forced immersion. Fans of King of Dragon Pass, which this serves as a spiritual sequel to, will already be familiar with it. But Six Ages features a smoother interface, and a fresh setting in a new culture.
Forgoing the traditional control and power fantasies of strategic empire-building is a hard habit to give up. But for those willing to make the sacrifice, Six Ages holds a wealth of wonder that few games can match. It wants to tell you a tale of gods and humans, of mysteries, and the mundane, while still taxing your tactics. It’s a bold goal, and the narratives that it weaves are unlike anything else in gaming. If you like strategy, text-based narrative games, be sure to also check out our Silmaris review.
Even years after its release, Darkest Dungeon remains resurgent as one of the most inventive, and seductive, turn-based dungeon crawlers. All you need do is look at the gorgeous art style, the wonderfully rendered characters, and the host of eldritch horrors that they face in their descent through the manor’s many dungeons. Just like the forbidden knowledge of its Lovecraftian subject matter, Darkest Dungeon tempts you into just one more run, then proceeds to kick you in the teeth for it.
If you enjoy building a party of unique rogues and reprobates, and sending them into a dungeon in search of riches, only to meet grisly deaths and insanity, this is the game for you. Red Hook announced recently that it is still working on Darkest Dungeon 2, so there’s no better time to jump into this wonderful nightmare.
XCOM: Enemy Within
Still the golden standard for turn-based tactical gameplay, XCOM: Enemy Within offers extreme, squad-based combat, constantly challenging your ability to scrape victory from defeat. Players make decisions in both the overworld and the inbetween-scenarios, deciding which soldiers to recruit, and what tech to research, which is every bit as important as the choices you make in the heat of battle.
The game has the hallmark lustre of a AAA production, and pushed to the brink storyline; conventions which work in its favour. Keep your squad intact, do the mission, and save the world, piece by piece.
Taking the crown for best Civ-lite, Polytopia shines as a simple, yet satisyfing approach to civilisation building. The game works to miniaturise that genre experience, with tribes that are separated by a single technology, and a map that has been foreshortened to a grid of 256 squares. Units and tech are the same for everyone, but the simplicity of this means a shorter list of decisive, vexing choices.
There is no diplomacy system, but victory is determined by points and not necessarily conquest. The game’s blocky, loose art-style, and simple interface make it an easy game to learn, but a hard one to put down.
The future came and went, and it has been cruel to all but a select few supra-national, extra-territorial megacorps. Your ragtag bunch of spies and specialists scour the globe for intel and supplies so they can make one final run: to wipe their identities from the omni-vigilant database, and live off the grid in peace. Each run escalates if the agents are detected by guards, cameras, or drones, yet the stealth aspect of the game is only one kind of risk calculation among many.
Invisible Inc’s AP and power systems mean that even successful runs can be tight, and sometimes making a clean escape is a failure if the team did not steal enough resources. The game’s generous learning curve belies an experience in which knowledge can lead to perfect play.
Of all Michael Brough’s excellent, sparse designs, Imbroglio has the most player-driven customization, and controlled random inputs. Here is ample proof that roguelikes can offer as much strategic challenge as the classics. Each character has their own ability, and weakness, and the 4×4 grid on which the game unfolds is filled with tiles doubling as weapons. Swiping towards an enemy will activate that tile and fire its ability, with every slain enemy adding experience to the weapon responsible.
The goal of the game is to collect treasure, which heals your character, and cause the walls of the grid to change configuration. Enemies spawn quicker and quicker as the turn count increases, so the whole affair is a race against time to level-up the sixteen tiles, while staying healthy, and collecting treasure at a steady pace. Even with its large number of weapons and characters to unlock, Imbroglio is accessible, rewarding both sustained interest, and focused strategic approaches.
Other good mobile strategy games
Not had your fill? Here are some more great strategy games on mobile:
- Heroes of Flatlandia
- Chaos Reborn: Adventures
- Templar Battleforce Elite
- Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions
- Civilization 6
- This is the Police 2
- Squids Odyssey
- Starbase Orion
- Shattered Plane
- Mini Galax4y
- The Banner Saga
- Plague Inc.
- Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions
- CIV VI
- Mushroom Wars 2
- Rome: Total War