Real-time strategy games feel like they’d be a perfect fit for mobile, but they’re trickier to pull off that you might think. The traditional mold of base-building and micro management can work on touch screens, but needs to be carefully honed so that it doesn’t end up too overwhelming.
Few titles on the App Store get this right, but the games below are all nail it in their own, unique ways. Check them out. Oh, and click here to check out all the other great lists we’ve been making lately.
Kingdom Two Crowns doesn’t look anything like a real-time strategy game, at least in the conventional sense. If you reimagine your mounted leader that gallops across the countryside as a mouse cursor it really makes sense. You move across the land, gathering and deploying coins to build up your encampment, hire new recruits, and attack enemy portals just like you might in Starcraft.
The only real difference is you are limited by your own ability to move, see, and do everything you want to do in a given day. This limitation makes it really easy to stack up a lengthy list of strategic to-dos, which makes it easy to get lost in for long, satisfying stretches.
Speaking of Starcraft, Ironhide Studios basically took on the task of trying to make Blizzard’s iconic title work for mobile with Iron Marines, and did a pretty incredible job with it. This game presents paired down and streamlined versions of classic real-time strategy design and mechanics that feels easy enough to control via touch and challenging enough to be satisfying.
Iron Marines has a full and lengthy campaign that has you encountering every alien archetype from popular media you can think of. It is also littered with all kinds of sci-fi tropes and references that are fun to discover and don’t feel forced in any way. Pick this game up if you want some conventional, comfortable sci-fi strategy.
Xenowerk Tactics is a space marine management game where you build and upgrade a base of operations and operators while also sending them out on dangerous missions that you control directly. The game uses a lot of procedural generation and is somewhat open-ended, allowing you to build your team the way you see fit and even pursue different kinds of endings to your overall missions.
When controlling your marines in a hostile environment, the game can move pretty quickly. Thankfully though, Xenowerk Tactics has a pause button you can use at any time so you can think through encounters, queue up abilities, and do all the micro-management you want at your own pace. This made the initial release of the game a little too easy, but the game’s since been updated with a hard mode that feels more balanced.
Somewhat of a spin-off of Plague Inc., Rebel Inc. is a real-time strategy game about the stabilization process in war-torn regions. Each game starts with you setting up a base of operations and trying to build infratstructure to support the populace. Inevitably, lingering rebel forces pop up, and you need to control or otherwise destroy them to make sure they don’t hurt your people, tank your reputation, and send the region back into chaos.
Upon release, Rebel Inc.’s challenge felt a little too easy to overcome using a single strategy, but this has been upended since. The game also continues to receive support, including an all new difficulty mode that will definitely test your abilities.
The easy way to describe Bad North: Jotunn Edition is FTL but with Vikings. Leaving it at that would do it a disservice though. Despite the similarities, Bad North feels like its own blend of roguelite, tower defense, and real-time strategy that is unlike anything else on this list.
You play as a small group of soldiers on the run from an overwhelming force. Along the way, you have to stop at islands and protect them from enemies as they hit the shore. If you defend them well, you earn resources that can help your troops be more capable against the more powerful foes you’ll face later on. It sounds simple, but has a surprising amount of depth and nuance. Definitely check this game out if you haven’t already.