The Medieval period in human history is, curiously, one of the least covered eras in the strategy genre, with the vast majority of Medieval strategy games that do explore the Middle Ages centering around either Europe’s High Middle Ages or the Japanese Sengoku Jidai (Warring States) period. The Medieval aesthetic has found massive success in fantasy strategy gaming, but that’s a conversation for a different time.
The dearth of strategy games covering the Medieval period does mean that there’s a goldmine of potential for developers to unleash their creativity and love for history. This also means the few high quality strategy games set during this fascinating era are all the more notable and stand out in their respect for history. To give players interested in the strategy genre and the Middle Ages a jumping off point, we compiled this list of the best Medieval strategy games of all time with one entry per franchise.
The Best Medieval Strategy Games
15. Medieval: Kingdom Wars
Developer: Reverie World Studios Publisher: Reverie World Studios Platform(s): PC
Grand strategy, base (or in this case, castle) building, and combat are some of the most common elements of any Medieval strategy game. There’s something alluring about the idea of complex politics, strategic decision-making, and warfare done behind the walls of impressive fortifications. Medieval: Kingdoms Wars certainly brings plenty of grand strategy, construction, and combat features for players to enjoy.
In essence, Medieval: Kingdom Wars is similar to Knights of Honor in its large-scale campaign, but opts for a more traditional classic RTS approach to combat with base building and squad command, a la Battle for Middle-Earth. This hybrid approach to illustrating history provides ample opportunity for players to immerse themselves in the setting and engage in fun strategic and tactical decision-making.
The game’s low budget does hamper the experience with janky graphics and clunky UI, but the fun and chaotic combat is enough to make Medieval: Kingdom Wars a solid strategy game in its own right.
14. Expeditions: Viking
Developer: Logic Artists Publisher: THQ Nordic Platform(s): PC
Not all Medieval strategy games are set during the High Middle Ages, as the Viking period is arguably one of the most popular settings for gaming in general, fantasy or otherwise, with the likes of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Northgard, and many others. Expeditions: Viking is the only historical game to make the list and it also ends up as one of the more unique strategy games. Unlike most of its strategy brethren, Expeditions focuses on turn-based tactical role-playing, a la XCOM or Baldur’s Gate, as its central feature.
The Viking age serves as a perfect setting for the game as it explores the challenges of living in harsh conditions of Scandinavia and the desires of various personalities to find glory, riches, and new land to farm. The combat is engaging and the dialogue is gripping enough to keep players interested in the plight of their own avatar and the warband they form to go on raids.
The game has a slew of technical issues, which keep it from being higher on the list, though its extensive character creator and customization system is second-to-none and makes Expeditions: Viking one of the best Medieval strategy games of all time.
13. Vedelem: The Golden Horde
Developer: Castle Roaches Publisher: Breda University of Applied Sciences Platform(s): PC
The only free strategy game to make the list, Vedelem is a small-scale castle builder and RTS hybrid that’s, in some ways, similar to the Stronghold series. However, Vedelem has been significantly influenced by the survival genre of games as players are tasked with expanding and building their settlement, while under constant pressure from ever-increasing hordes of Mongol forces.
Though not reflective of any specific period in time, Vedelem at least implies that the players take command of the Hungarian kingdoms resisting the Golden Horde’s attempt to break into Western Europe, which is perfectly fitting for a survival strategy game.
Vedelem’s quality comes from its accessibility and overall simplicity. Players will need to earn resources, purchase plots of land, build up their castle, and recruit a variety of troops through either a timed skirmish or endless mode. It may not be innovative and the game never really goes beyond its premise, but the fact that Vedelem is free and its systems work as well as they do definitely makes it one of the most fun bite-sized strategy experiences to date.
12. The King’s Crusade
Developer: NeoCore Games Publisher: Paradox Interactive, 1C Company, Snowball Studios Platform(s): PC
From Eastern Europe to the Middle East, The King’s Crusade is set during the Third Crusade where players take command of both the European Crusader forces and the Saracens under Sultan Saladin. The developers at NeoCore Games previously developed another Medieval-inspired game, King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame, adapting Arthurian legends and tales and the mechanics found in The King’s Crusade are a refinement from NeoCore’s previous game. Though similar, they fit into a historical setting quite neatly.
The major components of The King’s Crusade are the turn-based campaign and real-time battles. Generally reminiscent of the Total War series, the campaign side of things emphasizes character abilities and role-playing, making the strategic layer less open-ended, but no less engaging, while the tactical battles are consistently challenging and engaging.
At this point, graphically and from a UI standpoint, The King’s Crusade may be clunky and outdated, but it still serves as an excellent example of merging multiple genres into a solid package.
Developer: Shining Rock Software Publisher: Shining Rock Software Platform(s): PC
Castles and fortifications may be emblematic of the Medieval period, as the innumerable towns, villages, and settlements formed the bedrock of economic life. While Banished is set in an abstracted generic version of the European Middle Ages, the architecture, resources, and aesthetics all reflect the period without indulging too much in artistic liberties.
In Banished, players will take the lead of a band of exiles with the goal of creating a self-sustaining village that will survive the elements. At its core, the game is a city-builder with an increased emphasis on careful resource and population management.
The constant threat of resource deficits, population, health, and general wellbeing are all presented well in Banished and provide for a grueling, yet engaging experience. Banished can get punishing and it may wear the player down with the pressures of management, but that’s precisely part of the charm that makes it one of the best Medieval strategy games of all time.
10. Ancestors Legacy
Developer: Destructive Creations Publisher: 1C Entertainment Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
The popularity of Company of Heroes’ brand of classic RTS has also translated to Medieval games, the most prevalent being Ancestors Legacy from Destructive Creations. Ancestors Legacy has the player commanding squads of troops from a variety of Medieval cultures, like the Vikings and Slavs, and engaging in either open-ended skirmish fights that include base-building, or in narrative campaigns detailing the exploits of various historical personalities.
By far the biggest highlight of the game is the presence of a healthy amount of campaigns covering different factions. While their structure is similar to that of classic RTS games, there are plenty of missions that do their best to spice the game up with small stealth sections.
Ancestors Legacy is also quite micro-intensive as each unit type has strengths and weaknesses versus other types and most units have abilities and formations to improve their performance. This can certainly be daunting when trying to get into the game, but Ancestors’ campaigns do a solid job of comfortably introducing players to the various tools at their disposal, helping it to become an excellent Medieval strategy game.
9. Stronghold Crusader HD
Developer: Firefly Studios Publisher: Firefly Studios, Gathering of Developers, Take-Two Interactive Platform(s): PC
The Stronghold franchise is one of those game series that has remained remarkably stable throughout its two decades worth of titles. This is both a boon and a bane, as each game is immediately recognizable, but innovation, especially in the more recent titles, is scarce and the outdated game engine is in desperate need of a facelift.
However, Stronghold Crusader HD, a remaster of Firefly’s second ever Stronghold title, is the exemplar of the series and combines the series’ strengths and weaknesses in a charming and fun package. In the game, players will engage in city-building, resource management, and real-time tactical combat to defeat opposing lords.
Stronghold Crusader HD’s graphical style is 2D and pixelated, but there is so much color, animation detail, and incredible audio design that it makes the game hold up quite well, despite the clunky controls and UI. The success of Stronghold Crusader still lies in its compelling mix of systems, allowing players to balance various elements at once, making it a highly engaging strategy game.
8. Carcassonne: Tiles & Tactics
Developer: Asmodee Digital, Firma Studio Publisher: Asmodee Digital Platform(s): PC, macOS, Nintendo Switch
The tabletop board game industry has been much kinder to the Middle Ages, with some classics even making their way onto virtual platforms. Carcassonne is one such classic board game that made a successful jump to the PC and other platforms, and while some board games get mired in terrible UI design and technical issues, Carcassonne has luckily avoided such a fate.
Similarly to Vedelem, Carcassonne’s strength lies in its simplicity as players just need to lay out random tiles and collectively lay out a Medieval landscape with roads, towns, monasteries, fields, and rivers, all the while gaining points through completing specific landmarks. One of its most exciting elements is simply seeing the resulting map at the end of any match.
Carcassonne does suffer from repetition, as the game never really does anything extra with its base systems, but the variety of tiles and the inherent compelling process of building out a Medieval landscape is as timeless as it is fun.
7. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
Developer: Forgotten Empires, Wicked Witch Software, Tantalus Media Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Platform(s): PC
No Medieval list would be complete without mentioning one of the pillars of the classic RTS sub-genre, Age of Empires. This series did for historical strategy gaming what the Command and Conquer series did for pulpy, absurd, and cheesy sci-fi.
Age of Empires’ strength undoubtedly lies in its tried and true mix of microintensive real-time tactical combat, base building, and resource management. It makes for highly engaging, and most importantly, competitive skirmish matches, especially in multiplayer.
This can end up as a double-edged sword, as since so many things are going on at once, it can be highly intimidating for new players to enter the franchise. Luckily, Age of Empires 2 has plenty of faction-specific campaigns and incredible faction variety that all help to smoothly introduce players to one of the best Medieval strategy games of all time.
6. Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun
Developer: Byzantine Games Publisher: Slitherine Software Platform(s): PC
For something slower-paced, Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun is the first Far East focused strategy game to grace the list. Slitherine is known for publishing high quality strategy and tactics games rooted in hardcore wargame design, and Sengoku Jidai is no different.
Despite its name, Shadow of the Shogun doesn’t only focus on Japan’s Warring States period, but also covers underrepresented events, such as the Imjin War or the Qing invasion of Ming dynasty China. Such coverage gives the game a leg up over many of the games on the list, as the game authentically recreates the oft-overlooked styles of warfare in the Far East of the Late Middle Ages.
Aside from its uniqueness for the setting, the turn-based tactical combat system is second-to-none, allowing players to recreate epic battles of the era through deliberate, almost chesslike planning and execution. Shadow of the Shogun’s definitely not a looker, but it more than makes up for it in tactical depth and historical authenticity, making it one of the more realistic Medieval strategy games on the list.
5. Knights of Honor
Developer: Black Sea Studios Publisher: Paradox Interactive, Sunflowers Interactive, Atari Inc. Platform(s): PC
The most interesting strategy games are those that balk conventions and approach the genre in refreshing ways. Knights of Honor is one such game, being one of the first games (alongside the original Crusader Kings) to model the Medieval grand strategic landscape through a real-time system, rather than a turn-based system like the Total War series.
In a lot of ways, Knights of Honor follows the same general structure as other Total War games with an open-ended victory condition and mix of both strategic and tactical modes. On top of the aforementioned real-time take on grand strategy, the game brings a fresh province management system that adds depth to both resource generation and war planning.
Though the tactical mode is simpler and smaller-scale than others, Knights of Honor makes up for it with an authentic area-of-recruitment system, letting players build up unique armies based on geography, and an excellent strategic espionage system that gives the player unprecedented options for subterfuge. The 2D pixelated graphical style hasn’t held up as well as, say, Stronghold Crusader, though it still gives Knights of Honor a colorful charm and a utilitarian quality that cements one of the most memorable strategy games out there.
4. Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence
Developer: Koei Tecmo Games Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games, Koei Tecmo, Broadmedia Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch
Now how about a Medieval strategy game about Japan from a Japanese studio? The Nobunaga’s Ambition series is quite obscure but is one of the most long-running strategy series covering the Sengoku Jidai period in Japan.
As per its name, the game focuses on the exploits of famous daimyo or feudal lord, Oda Nobunaga, in their pursuit to consolidate power, modernize Japan, and become the next Shogun. In essence, this game is an excellent alternative to Creative Assembly’s own coverage of the era.
While it may be a bit bloated with content and the clunky UI makes it difficult to navigate its systems, Nobunaga’s Ambition’s best system is character management, where players can utilize a vast cast of historical samurai personalities to carry out various tasks, including economic development, leading troops, or diplomacy. It may look and feel quite different from European-made strategy, but Nobunaga’s Ambition lives up to the same quality and then some – it’s absolutely worth looking into.
3. Field of Glory 2: Medieval
Developer: Byzantine Games Publisher: Slitherine Software Platform(s): PC
From the same developers and publisher that brought you Shadow of the Shogun, Field of Glory 2: Medieval is a spin-off of the historically authentic Field of Glory series and so happens to be an adaptation of the eponymous tabletop miniatures wargame. Compared to Sengoku Jidai, Medieval focuses on the Mediterranean during the High Middle Ages for its setting, resulting in a compelling virtual illustration of Medieval warfare.
Shadow of the Shogun suffered in the visual and UI department, but luckily Medieval rectified that by massively improving the visual flair of the game, representing beautiful and colorful heraldry on knights and their support troops. From a tactical standpoint, this game maintains all the complexity and depth its predecessors brought, while also authentically modelling combat of the era, giving it a kind of clunkiness and weight that’s fitting of the period dominated by levy troops and mounted knights.
The campaign system in Medieval leaves something to be desired, but of the games based on the Field of Glory ruleset, it’s the most accessible due to the overall simpler nature of the period-specific combat. The absolutely insane number of army lists representing various regions and factions of the Middle Ages alone, solidifying Field of Glory 2: Medieval as one of the best Medieval strategy games of all time.
2. Total War: Shogun 2
Developer: Creative Assembly Publisher: Sega Platform(s): PC, macOS, Linux
Shogun 2 has the honor of being not only the best Total War game of the series, but also one of the best Medieval strategy games of all time, though Total War’s own Medieval 2 comes very close. The Sengoku Jidai period is one of the most popular eras for strategy games, with Shogun 2 capitalizing on that popularity to great effect.
While it may not necessarily be as historically authentic as Shadow of the Shogun or quite as detailed as Nobunaga’s Ambition, Shogun 2 finds a happy medium where there’s just enough depth in the strategic systems and excellent visual representation to help it overshadow its two counterparts. Most importantly, CA did a great job of balancing the pace of the game between the solid turn-based strategic mode and the intense tactical combat mode.
By far Shogun 2’s greatest success, though, is its incredible and innovative avatar conquest multiplayer system, a (bafflingly) one-of-a-kind system for the series and Medieval strategy games as a whole. Combined with the excellent visual design that will hold up for many years to come and robust character skill system, Shogun 2 is a Medieval strategy game for the ages.
1. Crusader Kings 3
Developer: Paradox Development Studio Publisher: Paradox Interactive Platform(s): PC, macOS, Linux
There’s no question that the best Medieval strategy game of all time is Paradox’s Crusader Kings 3. The core of the game’s success lies in its incredible character and relationship system where the development of the world is defined by how different lords view each other as much as economic development and war.
The trademark real-time strategy approach to grand strategy games also gives Crusader Kings 3 a sense of dynamism as there’s always something going on and things to do to exploit personal bonds or plan out a massive alliance and go to war. It also helps that the game’s scale is incredible with players being able to play almost any Medieval culture from the loveliest count to the most powerful emperors.
Crusader Kings 3 is the dream of any Medieval history enthusiast as it puts people squarely in the center, yet avoiding sacrificing mechanical and systems depth to economics, religion, and war. It’s truly the pinnacle of Medieval strategy game design and is a must have for those interested in the genre and the era.
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