It’s hard to figure out which Total War games are the best. Everyone has their favourite game. It was the one that got them into the series or let them explore a time in history that they were always interested in. Sometimes, like with Shogun 2 and Three Kingdoms, you learn about a time in history that you didn’t know much about and it makes you want to learn more.
This is more than ever before. Total War: Warhammer 3 is introducing survival battles, there has been an announcement about a new Three Kingdoms game, and Total War Saga: Troy is experimenting with mythology for the first time. However, some of the classics are still there as well. One of the main things that people like about Total War is that even though each game is different, there is a common thread that runs through them all. You can pick and choose which you want to try and there will always be a connection.
Total War is also very special to a lot of people, so it’s always fun to go back and play old games from the series from time to time, depending on what you’re in the mood for. The Fall of the Samurai, Attila, and Rome 2 are just some of the games that I always go back to. That’s not the same for everyone. But no matter which one you choose, they all have that same mix of conflict and conquest, failure and victory.
1. Rome 2 (2013)
I think this shows how much people care about Total War. The game that came last on this list isn’t a bad game, but it’s not as good as people thought it would be. Still, the original Rome set a high standard. Rome 2 had a bad start and looked like it was trying to move to a new game engine (which it was). Because of that, it’s hard to love the game.
Today, the game has a bad reputation because it has a lot of bugs and AI that isn’t very good. When it works, it’s as deep and rewarding as any other Total War game. It also has a lot of different factions, making this one of the richest games in the series.
2. Medieval (2002)
Much of what made Medieval great has been made better and better in the sequels. There’s still a lot to love about it, though. It takes a risk and widens the scope of the strategy layer, adding things like loyalty, religion, and espionage. Because of this, it feels like a good representation of the brutal, tumultuous setting. It’s also the game that really got the “feel” of how Total War’s battle system worked. Lines of armoured troops smashing into each other, rousing music, and better graphics.
It looks simple when compared to the most recent games, but it had a big impact at the time. The Shogun started it all, and Rome made it better. Medieval added to the series in a way that belies its simple appearance.
3. Shogun (2000)
Shogun isn’t at the bottom of the list because it’s bad, but because it feels like a game from another time. That makes it even worse. It also has a sequel that stands out as being one of the most dramatic and compelling in the series. However, the original Total War game still has moments that stay with you long after you’ve played it, like charging into a line of spearmen with a Kensai sword saint.
If you want to play a Total War game set in feudal Japan, you’re more likely to play the next one. But this is worth playing for the record. It’s a beautiful, moving picture of the series in its early days.
4. Empire (2009)
When it came to Empire, there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong. The game moved away from melee units, the range of ranked rifle fire, and the specificity of naval conflict, but it did an excellent job at making sense of new systems that weren’t part of the game before. Because of the creases, it took until Napoleon to get them smoothed out, so If you’re used to Medieval 2, you might not be able to handle the AI or the size and scope of the game. It’s still a great game, though. There are things in this game that would not have been possible in earlier games, and the technology trees have a much more direct effect on the game (plus, there is a hopeful tone to the idea that slavery will be abolished).
They don’t have the muscular impact of melee-focused Total War games, but the sound of cannons roaring in crowds of soldiers is still a great thing to hear. And one more thing: the theme song from the main menu is amazing.
5. Attila (2015)
The most interesting parts of classic Total War games usually happen on their own, like the brave mercenary army on the edge of your empire or the feckless offspring of crusading generals. Attila is the first game that has worked well when it comes to putting these stories into the game itself. It almost doesn’t make Total War the right name. In Attila, you’re not just fighting. It’s also about politics, feasting, famine, desolation, and migration. It’s set in one of the most fragile and interesting times in history, when Europe is still a concept that you can shape or destroy.
If you’re used to Total Wars games that were simple and clear, this one will be perfect for you. It also does a great job of incorporating more complicated elements like weather and guerilla warfare. It’s not whether Attila and his army from the Huns will come, but when they will arrive. A strategy that is brutal, unforgiving, and amazingly complex. Total War is a video game that lets you play as
6. Total War Saga: Troy
The “Total War Saga” project is still trying to figure out where it fits in the world. In the beginning, these smaller games were thought of as more experimental spin-offs from the main historical series. They focus on important flashpoints in history, such as conflicts that last a generation or less rather than a lifetime or more.
In some ways, they’ve been getting better with each new game. The setting of Thrones of Britannia was great, but it used old technology and was a little hard to play as a game. Fall of the Samurai is a great game, but it was released more than a decade ago as an add-on for Shogun 2. It doesn’t really count. Total War Saga: Troy, made by Creative Assembly’s new Sofia studio, is the best game of its kind. It can’t figure out what it wants, though.
If you don’t like Troy’s strategic layer, you can’t deny how lively it is. The Sofia team has been very creative with how they’ve combined lessons from the games with the flair of Total War: Three Kingdoms. Multiple-resource economy: It’s not as revolutionary as a new historical game, but that’s fine because it’s one of the best ideas in the series and makes for one of the richest campaigns in it.
Total War Saga: Troy is now available on Steam. You can read our review and check out the Mythos expansion, which came out at the same time as the game, now that it’s no longer available on the Epic Games Store. Another thing to note: Troy’s help is coming to an end.