The best games like Civilization 6 take place on different continents, worlds, planets, and even universes. Even though the first Civ game came out 30 years ago, Sid Meier’s long-running 4X game (a genre whose main parts are Exploring, Expanding, Exploiting, and Exterminating) is still as relevant as ever because it has inspired so many great strategy games in the meantime. Some of those games are on this list. They ask you to do things like march into battle in China’s Three Kingdoms in the third century or fight for interstellar dominance. Read on to find the best games like Civilization 6 that will satisfy your desire to take over the world.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall
Developer: Triumph Studios
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
The Age of Wonders series, which has been around since 1999, was made to take 4X games away from real-world wars and make them a little more fun. In the first Age of Wonders, elves, orcs, and other races lived in a classic high fantasy world. We go to space in Planetfall, as you might have guessed. Age of Wonders and Civ are very similar when it comes to building a civilization, but their combat systems are very different. In Planetfall, for example, battles happen more often, so they needed a fun, turn-based system to represent them. This led to ground battles like in XCOM, which are a nice break from counting and look great, too.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Developer: Creative Assembly
If you’ve ever wanted to lead some of the most famous armies in history, you can’t avoid the Total War series, which is a good name for it. Here, you put history on a big virtual stage, whether it’s Attila or Napoleon. Total War: Three Kingdoms gives many players from the West the chance to learn about China’s Three Kingdoms period and meet some of its brave generals. Civilization is more focused on your own people and how they grow, but here you know you’ll eventually get to the heart of the matter: huge battles that happen in real time. In Three Kingdoms, your generals have a bigger role than ever before. This is the best game if you want to do something big, but also get to know the characters on a more personal level.
Developer: The Freeciv Project
Platform(s): PC, iOS, Android
The first work on Freeciv was done as a hobby by three college students in 1996. Even in 2020, people still play the game a lot. It’s easy to see why people play it now: it’s free, open source, and can be changed, it works on almost everything from anywhere, and it plays like Civilization 2. It still does exactly what it was made to do all those years ago: it gives people who want to play one of the old Civ games without any trouble a fun way to play with other people. It’s also great for people who have never read in this genre before and just want to try it out.
Europa Universalis 4
Total War lets you explore a lot of different historical events through, well, war. Civ, on the other hand, has always tried to keep things as global and neutral as possible. Europa Universalis is only about Europe, with all of the historical differences between the countries there. Because of this, no two groups start out in the same place. Overall, the gameplay is similar to that of Civilization, but EU IV lets you make decisions on a much finer scale. There is also less pressure because there is no endgame. Basically, Europa Universalis is a more complex and challenging version of Civ because it has more ways to run things.
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Stellaris, the deep space grand strategy game from Paradox Interactive, was a big hit. Next to Firaxis, Paradox Interactive is the company that makes the most strategy and 4X games. Compared to 4X games, grand strategy is more about going to war and making peace, though this difference can be small depending on the game. All you need to know is that Stellaris has a great diplomatic system that lets you meet and deal with alien races that were made with a lot of care. Before you start, though, you should know that games from Paradox, in particular, don’t stop being fun after the base game. Stellaris has 11 DLCs and content packs, which include story missions, new species, and a lot more.
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Space is cool and all, but maybe you want something more like an Age of Wonders for our time. Enter Endless Legend, which is part of the Endless series, which also includes Endless Space I and II. Like Stellaris, Endless Legend has factions that make you play in a way that doesn’t let you give in. Each faction has different stats and acts in a different way. In Endless Legend, battles happen without your direct help. You plan a strategy at the start, then watch it play out with few ways to change it, which can be a bit boring.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
Alpha Centauri was made by the creators of Civilization to be a space-age version of their own game, but it is more than that. It’s about making a harsh environment more livable and building a society that’s ready to do what needs to be done. You often have to deal with morally uncharted territory, and Alpha Centauri wasn’t just “Civ with spaceships”; its view of the future and the problems people might face was ahead of its time. What a great job telling a story in a strategy game!
Civilization: Call To Power
Activision’s ambitious but sloppy attempt at the Great Empire-Builder will be laughed at by purists, but it’s an interesting blip in the series’ history.
Call to Power was made because Activision and Microprose went to court over where the “Civilization” trademark came from: a board game. It was the first Civ game that Activision made without Sid Meier, Jeff Briggs, and the rest of the team in charge. This may explain why it seems like every idea that could possibly fit in a single game is in it.
Call to Power was a very ambitious game. It had crazy ideas like space wars and cities under the sea. It also had a lot of sneaky units like lawyers, slavers, televangelists with TVs for heads, and, um, steampunk blimps that sent ads to enemy Civs. But it had a bad interface and was poorly put together. All of the extra content made the game feel bloated and unfocused, and the late game felt like a hellish rabble of ideas that, to be honest, wasn’t very fun to be a part of. Just call it “Franken-civ” and get on with it…
Civ II probably should have been put in a different line than the black sheep of the family, since it is a much better game. It changed the series from a top-down view to an isometric view, which is more immersive. It also added more techs and playable civilizations and made war and peacemaking more complex.
Yet when I upgraded from Civ 1 to Civ II, I remember that for all its added polish and depth, it felt somehow colder than the original; little things like the fact that leader screens were just generic portraits, the static city view, and those awful video clips of advisors dressed up like they were going to a Roman-themed uni party.
Even though it had some problems, I still spent a fifth of my life on it and still remember its sweet, 90s-style music. Like all the other Civ games, it is one of the best games ever made. When the game turned 25 years old, we thought about it again.