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The best Total Wars - All 18 strategy games in the top list

 Which Total War is the best? Which one causes disappointment? We rank all the titles in the acclaimed strategy series from worst to best.

The best Total Wars - All 18 strategy games in the top list

With its epic battles, almost every Total War offers a fantastic gaming experience. Nevertheless, there are a few clear highlights and a few titles that tend to fall behind. We are therefore listing all 18 games in the series here, sorted from weakest to best. Selected according to the opinion of our editorial team.

We limited ourselves to independent series parts: expansions are always part of the main game. And we only count real Total Wars - we simply leave Kingdom out as a shameful footnote to history.

By the way, before we get to our top list, you can vote for your favorites yourself! Let us know which Total War you think is the best!

18th place - Total War: Arena

Free2Play online battles, only three squads per player, and then without a campaign - you could hardly develop more consistently to avoid the classic Total War target group. So it's no wonder that Arena also comes in last place with our editorial strategists. The online spin-off simply lacks too much of what constitutes a Total War at its core. In addition, Arena even knew how to frustrate because unlocking new technology levels turned into a brutal grind.

But it wasn't just Total War superfans who were apparently disappointed by this spin-off. The arena was also not well received by players to warrant further development. The game is now discontinued.

17th place - Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia

Thrones of Britannia dared to experiment a few times: It was the first saga spinoff that wanted to use an existing engine to explore a more narrowly defined area of ​​history than usual and turned many classic game mechanics inside out. It introduced a completely new recruiting system and threw agents completely overboard.

While these innovations worked surprisingly well, Thrones failed due to classic pillars of the series: the economy turned out to be far too shallow and the AI ​​was so weak that the game never really challenged us. Overall, the first Total War Saga is still a decent medieval strategy game, but by no means Total War at its best.

16th place - Total War: Pharaoh

Total War: Pharaoh is in a difficult situation. Actually, it would only be decent to look at this game completely detached from its surroundings. Then you get a very versatile strategy game that gets an astonishing amount out of its rather limited era. Especially since Ancient Egypt actually represents a very interesting scenario in itself. Coupled with the so-called downfall of the Bronze Age, Creative Assembly has opted for a highly explosive and therefore incredibly fascinating setting.

But alas, Pharaoh still has a few problems. Because even though it feels like a standalone add-on for Troy most of the time, the game was treated and priced like a full-fledged series part. And this at a time when fans were already prepared for a riot due to the blatant handling of Warhammer 3 and its DLCs. Ultimately, Pharaoh is considered to be the most unsuccessful game in the series - even though it's actually plenty of fun on its own. Just not if you've had your fill of Troy and expect more from a full-fledged Total War than conquering a tiny section of the ancient world.

15th place - Troy: A Total War Saga

Like its saga predecessor, Thrones of Britannia, Troy also focuses on a very specific section of human history, but with a twist. Since the Trojan War cannot be reconstructed historically, we know the story mainly from the lyrical songs of the poet Homer. But even though it would have been ideal to turn Troy into a primarily fictional Total War after Warhammer, Creative Assembly decided to take the hard route.

Instead of flooding the battlefields with mythological monsters and divine work, Troy shows a realistic version of the Bronze Age. But Creative Assembly doesn't really make anyone happy with that. Troy does attempt a few exciting experiments, but, as in the case of the five new resources, they often fail due to execution. As a result, the game emulates Thrones of Britannia in a negative sense. It's still fun thanks to the strong series DNA, but it's not nearly enough for the Total War Olympus.

At least there was later a DLC that conjured up a purely mythological scenario from the setting, complete with hydras, harpies, or cyclops. However, this costs a whole 25 euros.

14th place - Shogun: Total War

Such a low place for the game that started it all? Shogun doesn't have to be ashamed of that: his successors have all expanded his concept in a sensible way! But when it was released back then, there was hardly anything comparable, so clever was the integration of realistic real-time battles with the turn-based map.

Originally, Creative Assembly simply wanted to make an RTS under the Command & Conquer brand! That might have been good, but it might also have simply been lost - while the distinctive Total War formula survives to this day.

13th place - Napoleon: Total War

Napoleon was the series' first standalone expansion, making it an improved Empire at heart. But not on all fronts, and that's why it was met with mixed reactions. In terms of game mechanics, it added some useful innovations such as wear in snowy areas, but these were used in a much more limited playground. Several campaigns traced Napoleon's campaigns, but all only traced a specific part of them - lacking the huge world map of an empire.

Conversely, some fans were disappointed that Napoleon's mechanical improvements didn't make it into the main game and Napoleon was sold as a standalone game. Overall, that's only enough for one of the lower places on this list.

12th place - Total War: Attila

Attila had a lot to prove when it was released: its predecessor, Rome 2, appeared with serious bugs and AI errors and, on top of that, gameplay weaknesses such as a political system that did not fulfill any of its promises. In fact, Attila not only delivered a much more well-rounded experience and brought back popular features like the family tree, but it also added exciting new ideas. As the Hun King, we roamed the country as a marauding horde that, unlike usual in the series, didn't build any cities at all.

The weaker performance diluted the fun a bit and fans of the ancient world are missing some of their favorite peoples like the Greeks and Macedonians in Attila's Age, but the game remains an excellent Total War to this day. And on top of that, a playground for great mods like Ancient Empires!

11th place - Empire: Total War

In many ways, the Empire was the most ambitious Total War: it sent us onto the largest world map in the series to date, fighting for Europe as well as America and India. And because we had to go far across the sea, the game introduced sea battles for the first time - as a completely new game mode with its own rules, like the wind, one of the biggest innovations in Total War history.

However, the result divides the editorial team. For some, Empire occupies one of the last places in the series ranking, others put it almost at the top. Where one person thinks the game is just colossal, another considers it overloaded. While some missed the classic melee battles of their predecessors, just as many were happy about the new feel of the gunpowder age. The polarizing title is placed right in the middle.

10th place - Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai

The best standalone add-on to date: Fall of the Samurai managed to improve the already famous Shogun 2 even further. The arrival of Western powers brought new game mechanics and dynamics to Japan. So we can now use “modern” weapons such as ironclads, bomb enemies on land, and quickly push armies across the map by train. However, this modernization causes dissatisfaction among our tradition-conscious subjects.

So why isn't it higher on the list? Because it was just an expansion: Other Total Wars built more impressive game concepts completely from scratch, while despite all the innovations, many of the strengths were already known from Shogun 2. And subjectively, many in the editorial team like the classic samurai era better than industrialization. Nevertheless: Fall of the Samurai is a first-class Total War!

9th place - Total War: Rome 2

In its released version, Rome 2 would have landed significantly lower on this list. The game was released with a lot of errors and AI problems and wasn't entirely convincing in terms of game design. The much-heralded political system turned out to be so lame that we could almost be grateful for how meaningless it was. Rome 2 actually had a lot of exciting innovations: it combined land and sea battles for the first time so that we could attack from sea and land at the same time during a siege.

Since then, the developers have been patching and adding DLC ​​to the game for years. They've fixed most of the bugs, fixed many of the major weaknesses, or at least made improvements and added new content. Rome 2 is now a much better game than it was when it was released, even if it's still not quite enough for a place on the series Olympus. But Rome 2 still proved to be groundbreaking: its new province system has been used in almost every subsequent Total War since then.

8th place - Total War: Warhammer

With Total War: Warhammer, Creative Assembly fulfilled years of fan dreams: Ever since mods existed, the community had been recreating their favorite fantasy universes in Total War. Because what other series could bring the mass battles of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones or Warhammer to the screen so well? And now Warhammer actually came as an official game! For the first time in the series, we led flying units, magicians, and huge monsters into battle and were able to use completely new strategies. Never before has there been a Total War in which every nation was truly unique down to the last unit!

However, Total War: Warhammer oversimplified the gameplay in some places. The imperial administration in particular was a tad too simple. Nevertheless, the game is one of the highlights of the series with its strategically diverse and incredibly atmospheric fantasy mass battles.

7th place - Medieval: Total War

Medieval was exactly the sequel Shogun needed to ensure Total's future as a successful series for years to come. The game continued the then-still revolutionary principle of turn-based world map strategy and epic real-time battles, but simply made everything bigger and better - and placed Total War in the era for which it was probably created more than any other: the Middle Ages!

In addition, there were new game mechanics such as the idiosyncratic Pope, whose mere mention still gives Total War fans headaches to this day. On the strategy map, we were given significantly more options, while the real-time battles contained even more troops. We also now led our knights into much more realistic siege battles. What would a medieval strategy game be without them? Medieval is now showing its age.

The pixelated sprites don't look much anymore and subsequent Total Wars have significantly refined and expanded the mechanics. But for its contribution to establishing the series in the first place, Medieval more than deserves its fifth place. We always remember it fondly.

6th place - Total War: Warhammer 2

The second fantasy part wasn't as big of a revolution as the first - the jump into the crazy Warhammer scenario had already been made. But Total War: Warhammer 2 got a lot more out of it: even more unusual factions, even more diverse units, and even more epic battles! The campaign map still felt a bit too simple in terms of economy, but with more unique buildings and special racial mechanics, the second part brought a touch more depth to the game than the first.

But Total War: Warhammer 2 also made one major misstep on the campaign map: the new victory mechanic, in which we fight for control of a magical maelstrom, turned out to be not fully thought out. Above all, it caused annoying time pressure - until we realized how easily we could outsmart it. However, the game scored points after its release with the huge alternative campaign Mortal Empires, which allowed peoples from both Warhammer games to collide on a huge world map - without any maelstrom. A highlight that no fan of epic fantasy should miss!

5th place - Total War: Three Kingdoms

Before Warhammer or behind it? We had to think about it for a while with Three Kingdoms because it is basically the mirror image of the Warhammer parts: On the battlefield, it dares to innovate significantly less - and they don't work nearly as well - but on the campaign map, Total War has been making innovations for years no more big steps!

Three Kingdoms finally makes diplomacy a really central (and fun!) part of the game, offers more economic depth than it has in a long time, and on top of that there are some other interesting new ideas like its own espionage system. Its biggest weakness is the battles, which lack variety in the long run due to the factions being quite similar. But because they're still classically good Total War battles at heart and Three Kingdoms doesn't have such a big horsefoot as the annoying Maelstrom mechanic, we decided that it just barely deserves the place ahead of Total War: Warhammer 2.

4th place - Total War: Shogun 2

Shogun 2 was neither the biggest nor the most ambitious Total War - but that's precisely why it was one of the best. Because it returned to the series roots in Japan and only had to represent a single country instead of a huge map of Europe, the developers were able to concentrate even more on fine-tuning the game mechanics. The Japanese clans were perhaps as diverse as the Romans Greeks and barbarians of Rome 2 - but everything was just right in Shogun 2. Every system worked, everything worked together sensibly and the game never seemed overloaded.

This also makes it one of the best Total Wars for newcomers. In hardly any other game can you get to know the basics of the series in such a polished manner without being overwhelmed with too many features. And Shogun 2 is young enough that it still looks fantastic and scores with modern usability. It can't shake off all of the classic series weaknesses; the AI ​​sometimes acts stupid here too. But it is still a strategy masterpiece.

3rd place - Total War: Warhammer 3

Warhammer 3 is the pinnacle of fantasy Total Wars. No wonder, after all, it benefits from the constant work on its two predecessors. Warhammer 2 in particular grew and grew thanks to some great DLC. In addition, there were extensive improvements for the existing factions. Creative Assembly learned better and better how to implement unique mechanics in an exciting way for each race. This learning process bears rich fruit in Warhammer 3. Because the game not only offers the most factions in a Warhammer Total War right from the start but also some of the most varied.

However, Warhammer 3 makes a similar mistake to its predecessor and offers a campaign that is only entertaining for a very short time at best. In return, however, there are many more fundamental optimizations than its predecessor. The (somewhat streamlined) diplomacy of Three Kingdoms helps a lot, as do exciting innovations such as recruiting units from alliance partners. All in all, Warhammer 3 is one of the best things Total War has ever produced. Especially if you venture onto the huge Immortal Empires map in combination with the two predecessors.

2nd place - Rome: Total War

Rome was a milestone for the series: full 3D for the first time! No more pixelated sprites, here incredibly impressive polygonal armies fought each other in mass battles the likes of which we had never seen on screen before. The campaign map also took its modern form for the first time in Rome. It now also shined entirely in 3D and was also much more sophisticated in terms of game mechanics than the board game-like version from Shogun and Medieval.

Rome also started one of the most beautiful series traditions: it offered almost endless possibilities for modders! Fans crafted everything from gameplay improvements to huge total conversions that let us play Lord of the Rings or Warhammer in Total War for the first time. Some of the modders back then are now even professional game designers: Lusted was brought on board by Creative Assembly and led the development of Thrones of Britannia, while the DarthMod maker designed the Ultimate General games.

If you want to experience this milestone again today, you can start the game quite easily thanks to the revised remaster version.

1st place - Medieval 2: Total War

The Undisputed King: Medieval 2 won our community vote for the best Total War and also won comfortably in the editorial team. No wonder! To this day, it is Total War at its best. Incredibly epic mass battles in the series' most popular scenario, diverse factions, and a whole host of unique mechanics on the campaign map make it a strategy masterpiece. The game knew two different types of settlements, the economically strong cities and the militarily important castles. Smart strategists had to keep these in balance.

Of the early Total Wars, Medieval 2 has aged best by far. Even though it has been around for a few years now, it still impresses with its gloriously staged knight attacks. The campaign map seems a bit more old-fashioned in comparison but by no means unbearable. Even series newcomers can still access it today with a clear conscience. Especially since the game still has an active modding community. Our recommendations: Stainless Steel polished to a high shine for classic medieval battles and Third Age: Total War for the best Lord of the Rings battles you've ever played.