You know how some people think that PC gaming isn’t as good as console gaming? This could be talked about for days, but when it comes to strategy games, the PC is the clear winner. They were designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, after all.
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Most of the time, Mac gamers have to deal with the fact that some of the best games only work on Windows, but strategy games are an exception. All of the best choices can be found on macOS.
The best strategy games for Mac have always been great, but in the past few years, they’ve gotten even better. This list has something for everyone, whether you like fast-paced real-time strategy (RTS) games, complicated turn-based games, or games that are just for fun on your MacBook.
The latest game in a series I thought was already perfect is called Civilization 6. I thought that Firaxis, the company that made Civ 5, couldn’t make the game any better, but they did.
In Civ 6, you take charge of a civilization and guide it through time. You can look into new technologies, make a religion, build trade routes, an army, and more. This game is very addicting because there are so many options and ways to play it. We’ve all been there. You just need to make one more archer before going to bed, but now it’s 3 a.m. and you still have to finish that last tank.
Civilization 6 was also the first game to have city planning. Within cities, you can build districts and special buildings for the first time. And if that wasn’t enough, the Gathering Storm expansion adds more units, civilizations, and brand-new game mechanics.
Civ 6 has surprisingly good graphics for a turn-based game, and Aspyr did a good job porting it to MacOS without any bugs. Even so, this is still a tough game that needs a strong computer. My 2016 MBP has a hard time keeping up…
Crusader Kings 3
Crusader Kings 3 is best described as a political life simulator, kind of like The Sims 4 with a big focus on politics.
At first glance, this might not sound like a very exciting game, but CK3 is one of those strangely addicting games. Fight your neighbours in wars, make alliances, marry the wrong people, and take part in pagan rituals. You can do whatever you want with your kingdom, as long as you can keep it.
CK3 is also known as one of the best role-playing strategy games, with customizable characters and daily events that make you feel like you’re living in the Middle Ages. This game can be played over and over again because there are so many ways to run your kingdom. It’s the kind of game where you think you’ll be able to go to sleep after making an alliance with France, but you end up staying up until dawn fighting the Byzantine Empire.
StarCraft 2 is the sequel to one of the most famous real-time strategy games ever made.
In this space RTS, the war between the Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss is very interesting to watch. But what makes this game stand out is how it is played. StarCraft 2 is fast, accurate, and has factions that are perfectly balanced. The game is easy to understand and play, but it’s very hard to get good at it. I stopped trying to get “good” at it a long time ago, but I still enjoy playing the campaign, a co-op mission, or the occasional skirmish against the AI.
StarCraft 2 was almost our top choice. The only reason it wasn’t a budget pick was because there was no other game that could be better. StarCraft 2 is as cheap as it gets. Most of the game, including online matches, co-op missions, and the Terran campaign, can be played for free.
StarCraft 2 also has good graphics that have stood the test of time and system requirements that are not too high. It runs at 33 frames per second on our 2013 MBP without any trouble.
Good for: Mac gamers who want to play only the best RTS games. StarCraft was the first game in its genre, and StarCraft 2 keeps pushing the limits. Also, gamers who want free options… For more benchmarks, read our in-depth review of how well the Mac works.
Into the Breach
The same people who made FTL: Faster than Light also made the tactical strategy game Into the Breach. Set in the far future, you’ll control huge mechs to save the world from hordes of huge monsters.
This sounds a lot like Pacific Rim, but the game has a twist: saving cities and people is more important than killing monsters. So get ready to make some hard decisions, because this game can feel like chess, and you’ll often have to cut your losses and accept smaller defeats.
Into the Breach is a game with retro graphics that is very easy to run. Even if your computer is really old and can’t run it smoothly, the turn-based gameplay won’t be affected.
Good for: MacBook owners who like slower turn-based strategy games that require focus, patience, and a lot of thinking. For more benchmarks, read our in-depth review of how well the Mac works.
Total War: Warhammer 2
When Total War: Warhammer 2 finally came out, it changed the way people thought about strategy games on MacOS.
Total War: Warhammer 2 doesn’t take place in real history. Instead, it takes place in the fantasy world of Warhammer and has all the monsters and flying creatures you’d expect. This turned out to be a bigger change than expected because the units not only look different, but also act differently and allow tactics that weren’t possible before. Even so, this is still a Total War game, with both turn-based strategy and real-time battle modes.
TW: Warhammer 2 is also a beautiful game to look at. It has huge battles in real time with hundreds of units on huge battlefields. Warhammer 2 had the best graphics until Total War: Three Kingdoms came out. It was powered by Apple’s Metal 2 graphics API.
Good for: Fantasy strategy game fans and people who like the high-level strategy that Total War games have always required.
We haven’t seen many “mech” games for the Mac, so we were glad to see BattleTech’s action with giant robots come to the Mac along with the PC version.
BattleTech isn’t a fast-paced shooter like the PC-only Titanfall, so you can’t go around in your giant’mech robot suit stomping on enemies and scenery. BattleTech, on the other hand, has a more strategic, turn-based way of fighting, kind of like the excellent X-Com, but with more big robots.
In this game, which takes place in the year 3025, you start out as the bodyguard for Lady Arano, who is the heir to the House of Arano and rules over the Aurigan Reach. In the future, it doesn’t look like people have made much progress, so noble Houses that are at odds with each other are always fighting. But Lady Arano also has to deal with political fighting in her own country, so it’s your job to protect her from enemies on all sides. As the game goes on, you move up the ranks until you can lead the Arano forces into full-scale battle with your crack team of stompy mech-warriors.
At the beginning of the game, there is a simple tutorial that shows you how to move and fight with your own mech. Like most strategy games, BattleTech gives you an aerial view of the landscape, which is shown in detailed 3D graphics, and lets you choose your location or target with a simple click of the mouse. In this mode, your mech doesn’t look very big or impressive. However, once you’ve given your orders, the game changes to a closer view where you can see your mech stomping or jumping towards your target and then firing its weapons.
At first, these frequent shifts in perspective can be a little disorienting, and the methodical way of fighting can be annoying if you just want to let loose with your giant mech and smash your enemies into tiny dots on the landscape. But the main single-player campaign has a lot of tactical challenges for strategy fans, and there’s an online mode called Skirmish that lets both teams and single players fight against each other.
The game’s nice 3D graphics do require a good graphics card, so check the recommended system requirements before buying.