The Best RTS Games on Android, iPad & iPhone

By Michael Coffer 13 Sep 2018 1

When it comes to real-time strategy, the mobile marketplace has big shoes to fill. From Age of Empires to Command and Conquer and Starcraft, the frantic blend of actions-per-minute with grand strategy, the macro- and micro-management required to play this genre at peak performance has inspired many a gamer.

The internet is great, but we don’t always have access to it. Here are some of the best strategy games you can play while offline.

It also presents something of a design challenge – the concept of APM needs to be carefully applied to a touch interface so that players don’t get overwhelmed. Even on-the-go offerings need to provide that similar thrill, with various settings, mechanics, play-modes and distinct pacing.

Here are the best RTS games for android, iPhone & iPad.

Autumn Dynasty

Developer: Touch Dimensions
Platforms:  iOS Universal, Android
Price: $1.99, $4.99 

Autumn Dynasty Besrt RTS

Autumn Dynasty has campaign progression and a bare-bones story to push the action forward with some serviceable if dull reasoning, but what really makes it shine are the battles. Unit types include simple categories like cavalry, pikemen, archers and catapults but this simplicity is complicated by the rock-paper-scissors relationship between them.

In the heat of battle, single moments of positioning and command become crucial, and this constant feeling of decisive command is what makes Autumn Dynasty such a fulfilling RTS title. Its sequel, Autumn Dynasty: Warlords lost some of the pure force and tension of the original in favor of adding map objectives and 4X elements, but the first game is still the best. This one is for all intents and purposes an Android-exclusive, for the developer’s whole portfolio was wiped out with iOS 11 Appocalypse. It works, but only selectively on older Apple hardware.

Auralux: Constellations (Review)

Developer: War Drum Studios
Platforms:  iOS, Android
Price: Free (IAPs)

auralux

Auralux is generally brilliant and wickedly simple. 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 little player that could.

The ‘constellations’ in the title are simply clustered series of levels, each with a gimmick mechanic which must be understood and utilized to power through said levels. The game shows its age a bit, but it also demonstrates how a simple idea with excellent execution can stand the test of time. Another bonus is the variable speed setting, which makes the action go from hyper to sedate, depending on playstyle. Local multiplayer is a nice plus, but the game’s primary draw is solo play.

Mushroom Wars 2 (Review)

Developer: Zillion Whales
Platforms:  iOS, Android
Price: Free (IAPs)

mushroom wars

Mushroom Wars 2 has sent its spores far and wide and proliferated grandly for its efforts. (The series has successfully spawned a sequel and premium versions for the PC and Switch, that is). The soldiers in this battle hail from the kingdom ‘Fungi’ and are constantly churned out by villages as players send them out to capture new turf or perhaps take on a boss. The original’s formula was much the same, but this one adds heroes who function as commanders with special abilities to give some tactical oomph to the feel of play. 

The art and story are merely perfunctory, but this is ultimately unimportant, because the game itself has fair, crisp actions and a robust ranked multiplayer mode. Those here just for the single-player campaign will find a challenge but also a fair bit of repetition, so be warned that while solo play will season you in battle, multiplayer is where it’s at.

Dominations

Developer: Nexon M
Platforms:  iOS, Android
Price: Free (IAPs)

dominations

Dominations deserves to be loved and known for the quality of play it provides and its relatively tasteful monetization, but unfortunately the quickest way to worm its way into your heart and home screen are comparisons, so let’s get those over with. It’s Civilization meets Clash of Clans, with empires spanning the Iron Age to Space Age, wonders to build, raids to conduct, and all the usual trappings.

So, yes, there is a certain likeness to established powerhouses, but the devil is in the details, and Dominations gets those spot-on. Playing it to a satisfying endgame without shelling out serious dinero will take patience, but Dominations’ emulation of all of recorded human history and conflict is pretty satisfying to stretch out and play in pieces. Of course, human history never before ran on a timer...

Iron Marines (Review)

Developer: Ironhide Studios
Platforms:  iOS, Android
Price: $4.99

iron marines

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...in space. There is a home-base which usually has to be fortified and defended, additional refineries to secure more resources, and just 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. Its next update will introduce a brand-new world, the icy Borealis, on September 27th, but this is just an extra check in its favor.

Subterfuge

Developer: SnappyTouch
Platforms:  iOS, Android
Price: Free (IAPs)

subterfuge

Subterfuge is exactly as advertised: a subtle, long-term game of expedient alliances and stone-cold betrayals, filled with the irrefutable logic of hard numbers and the soft uncertainty of 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 does take some 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 modifies 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 the partial information and precarious alliances.

Rymdkapsel (Review)

Developer: Grapefrukt Games
Platforms:  iOS, Android
Price: $3.99

rymdkapsel

Rymdkapsel is about space-base-building and defense, mostly, but also includes some spatial puzzling a la Tetris and ‘exploration’. Its minimalism is more than just stylistic, going instead to the core of every action, options and goal. Perhaps the most satisfying bit is the constant packing problem for expanding the base.

New buildings can be any type and go any spot the player chooses, but also must have predefined dimensions. (all four unit polyominoes) A tightly knit base might come across as more defensible but reaching and researching the far-flung monoliths gives permanent global passive bonuses. The game is a logistics and timing puzzle with a really keen sense of efficiency and management for all its stripped-down design.

Tropical Stormfront

Developer: Noble Master Games
Platforms: iOS, Android
Price: $3.99

tropical stormfront

Island-hopping Tropical Stormfront pits the United Democratic Alliance against Order, Discipline and Obedience in a faux-historical struggle across the archipelago. The graphics are deliberately dated and the unit mixture, contrary to every other item on the list, is realistic and accurate. Missions scenarios range from the 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 while missing a swipe or tap in another genre would be merely inconvenient, in a game like this it is quite the setback. Still, Tropical Stormfront is a smartly realized real-time-strategy game with staying power.

Anomaly 2

Developer: 11 bit studios
Platforms: iOS, Android
Price: $3.99, $4.99

anomaly 2

‘Reverse tower defense’ just means normal protect-and-escort missions, but the moniker is an apt way of conveying the claustrophobic battles and quick wits required to succeed. The ‘morph’ mechanic lets players adjust squad composition on the fly. Variable tools and an expanded suite of power and abilities go hand-in-hand with vexing and varied level design. The game’s five years old but made waves on release for its unusual level of visual pizazz, which has aged gracefully. Most compelling of all is the asymmetrical multiplayer, scored on a point system shared between the attackers and defenders. This series set the standard a half-decade ago, and it still shines today.

Plague Inc.

Developer: Ndemic Creations
Platforms: iOS, Android
Price: Free (IAPs) 

pandemic best RTs

You’re a disaster waiting to happen, a plague carefully evolved to swallow the whole globe in the embrace of black-winged death. Starting life as just a twinkle of a mass pandemic, in an undeserving corner of the world, players pick traits and use evolution points to increase their plague’s rate of infection and severity of symptoms. From the beginning, players must balance virulence against lethality. While the ultimate goal is always to make the earth a human-free zone, this usually requires a skosh of subtlety.

Once the plague is detected and rated a danger to humanity, the globe will mobilize research efforts towards a cure. So the game has a doomsday clock within a doomsday clock. Plagues must spread well enough to get a reserve of points and eventually flip the kill switch. The many varieties of plague types and scenarios give the game massive replayability, and the pacing is surprisingly sedate given the stakes. Still a tense and intense pleasure and the number-one way to strike fear into the hearts of the WHO.

What would your list of the best RTS games on mobile look like? Let us know!

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