Building an empire that will last for centuries is not an easy task, but thanks to the civilization-building games you can give it a try without facing any consequences in case of a failure. Who knows, maybe you will be able to create another Holy Roman Empire?

However, don’t be discouraged if you fail after your first try – learn and improve as you play, and soon enough you will be witnessing your empire grow and prosper. Check out our list below to find out the best civilization-building games you can play right now.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V

Developer:Firaxis Games
Release year:2010

The first position on the list is an iconic title – it would be hard to find someone who didn’t hear about the Civilization franchise. Although the fifth installment of the series brings some serious changes in comparison to its predecessors, it’s still that one great game that allows you to become the leader of one of world’s superpowers.

Sid Meier's Civilization® V

Starting from the Ancient Era, you will be responsible for leading your nation through ages in order to create the most successful civilization. The game is played on a hex based grid with each hex representing some kind of resources. As the game progresses you will be able to create new settlements, recruit and move your units, and so on, all in a turn-based fashion. It’s a great game that lets you truly unleash your strategy skills. Will your empire stand the test of time?

Key features
  • Turn-based strategy with hex-based map
  • Complex nation management with multiple win conditions
  • 18 playable civilizations

Europa Universalis IV

Developer:Paradox Development
Release year:2013

While Civilization games are considered quite complex, they are still pretty simple and serve as a more accessible alternative when compared to the Europa Universalis series. EU4 brings empire management to a whole new level, where you will be responsible for doing an incredible amount of tweaks in order to create the world’s next superpower.

Europa Universalis IV interface

EU4 lets you control one of many nations that existed in real life between 1444 and 1821 – choose the one you like the most and lead it through centuries. The game lets you control different aspects of your growing empire, from changing the type of its goverment, adjusting taxes, recruiting an army and conquering other provinces to researching new technologies and making important dimplomacy and religion choices.

Key features
  • Hundreds of playable nations to choose from
  • Tons of events, including nation-specific and historical ones
  • Surprisingly complex – requires quite a bit of learning and practice

Hearts of Iron IV

Developer:Paradox Development Studio
Release year:2016

Speaking of complex games one should not forget about Hearts of Iron IV, which is basically EU4 set in the Second World War era. It’s an oversimplified definition but it describes the idea pretty well – although the game bears some similarities with EU4, it also comes with some important solutions that wouldn’t make sense in the medieval times.

Hearts of Iron IV Eastern Asia

One of the interesting things in HoI4 is national focus represented by a special event tree that is unique to every major nation. The tree consists of historical events you can trigger manually once certain conditions are met – this allows you to somewhat alter the history to a certain degree, as the events don’t usually have to occur in the same order and time they did during the real war. Among the events you will find, for example, Manhattan Project if played as the United States, or Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact if played as Germany.

Key features
  • Real-time simulation of the war
  • Many playable nations from the Second World War era
  • Lots of options that allow you to take full control over your nation

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord

Developer:TaleWorlds Entertainment
Release year:2020 (Early Access)

Let’s take a break from big strategy games and take a look at the game that offers quite a different approach to the empire-building genre.

Mount Blade II Bannerlord

In Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord you will be able to rule your medieval kingdom and enter the battlefield in person – that’s correct, you will have the opportunity to fight alongside your fellow men in deadly battles for wealth and glory. Experience the thrills of a war yourself and lead your army to victory. Choose your class, manage your settlements, use siege weaponry to take over enemy fortifications, and roam the continent while trying to make your empire great again.

Key features
  • A combination of strategy and action
  • Medieval setting with siege battles
  • Take care of diplomacy, trade with merchants, and manage the settlements

Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition

Developer:Forgotten Empires
Release year:2019

When speaking of civilization-building games one can’t forget about the classics, and one of such games could be, of course, Age of Empires 2. Although the original was released back in the 1999, the game received a new life in 2013 with its high-definition remaster version, and in 2019 with AoE II: Definitive Edition.

Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition

The last one is especially interesting as it comes with several quality of life improvements that make the original game even more enjoyable. Those who are not familiar with the title should know it’s a real-time strategy where you can build and expand your empire while trying to stop the other players from doing the same. As the game progresses you will be able to advance through epochs which gives access to new technologies and allows you to use that advantage to defeat the opponents.

Key features
  • Develop your medieval empire and fight for resources with other players in real time
  • Play through ages and unlock new technologies
  • 35 playable civilizations, each with its own unique units and buildings

Stellaris

Developer:Paradox Development Studio
Release year:2016

We’ve already had some games from Paradox on the list, but since the company knows how it’s done, here is another one. Instead of managing a civilization in a traditional sense, Stellaris focuses on conquering the space by allowing you to command a space empire that entered early stages of interstellar exploration.

Galactics in Stellaris

During the game you will need to make important decisions that will shape the direction of empire’s development. You will also need to take care of your space fleet and use diplomacy options when necessary. All in all, it’s a great title that will surely put your strategy skills to the test.

Key features
  • Real-time grand strategy in the futuristic setting
  • Advanced diplomacy and interstellar warfare
  • Stunning sci-fi visuals

Total War: Attila

Developer:The Creative Assembly
Release year:2015

Those familiar with the Total War franchise may already know what they could expect from this particular title. Just like virtually every Total War game, it combines turn-based strategy with real-time battles, giving you the possibility to micromanage your empire and develop cities on the campaign overview map in a turn-based fashion, and resolve battles on the battlefields by directly commanding the participating units in real time.

Total War Attila

What makes Atilla unique and worth giving it a try is its setting and certain game mechanics that turn the game into an ultimate survival challenge. One of the interesting features includes the possibility to play as The Horde – in case of Hordes, army and settlement is the same thing, encouraging you to rush and plunder everything.

Key features
  • Lead one of 14 different factions
  • Play as The Hun Horde – raid and plunder, leave no settlement behind
  • Conquer the Europe, Middle-East, and North Africa

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Developer:Creative Assembly
Release year:2019

As we speak of Total War games, here’s another one. Three Kingdoms focuses on the conflict between the warlords during the Three Kingdoms period in China. Due to Dong Zhuo’s manipulations, the entire China plunged into chaos.

Total-War-Three-Kingdoms.jpg

New warlords arose and formed the coalition to fight against him, but they also have their own ambitions – your job is to find a way to unite China under your banner and bring peace to the battle-torn land. An interesting feature lies within the game’s two play modes – romance and records. Depending on the choice you make, you will be playing a more romanticized or a more realistic game. The main difference between the two is how strong generals are – in romance mode they are given nearly superhuman powers which gives the gameplay more of a fantasy feel.

Key features
  • Experience the conflict between opposing kingdoms and unify China
  • Perfect combination of turn-based strategy with real-time battles
  • Two game modes – romanticized and realistic

Imperator: Rome

Developer:Paradox Development Studio
Release year:2019

And there we have yet another game from Paradox. But it’s not without a reason – Imperator: Rome offers some great gameplay for those who dream of building their own empire.

Imperator Rome Game

The game focuses on the Roman Empire era and lets you become the ruler of one of many nations of these times in order to lead it through centuries and possibly turn it into the world’s greatest power. In the simplest words it’s a heavily modified version of Europa Universalis IV to better fit the chosen timeframe. Unlock unique bonuses, do trades, invest in infrastructure – take the responsibility and command your people.

Key features
  • Real-time grand strategy with an active pause
  • Set in the Roman Empire era
  • Hundreds of nations to choose from

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

Developer:Firaxis Games
Release year:2016

We’ve already mentioned a Civilization game before, but the sixth installment is also worth being put on the list of the best civilization-building games as it builds upon the solid foundations set up by the previous game and strikes a balance between complexity and accessibility.

Sid Meier's Civilization® VI

Although it’s similar to Civilization V, it introduces several new things, some of which were never seen in the franchise before. One of these includes districts – a completely new feature that adds a new layer of strategy and requires you to expand, or unstack, your cities. Now you can replace the resource tiles with district tiles that allow you to construct new buildings and provide additional specific bonuses – experiment and utilize new mechanics to gain an advantage.

Key features
  • Turn-based strategy with hex-based map
  • Dozens of charismatic leaders to choose from
  • Well optimized – can run even on older computers

Crusader Kings 2

Developer:Paradox Development
Release year:2012

It’s the last title from Paradox on the list, we promise. It’s here because of its unique take on the grand strategy genre. It’s very similar to EU4 in some aspects, yet it’s drastically different.

Crusader Kings 2

The main difference between the two is the fact, that while Europa Universalis focuses on managing your empire as a whole, Crusader Kings focuses more on your dynasty. For example, you have to put more thought into planning mariages, developing royal family bonds, and making sure there’s always a successor to the throne. On a side note it’s also been said that this game is a bit easier and more casual-friendly, so if you had a hard time understanding what’s going on in EU4, then you may want to give CK2 a try.

Key features
  • Grand strategy set in the medieval era
  • Focused on managing the royal dynasty of the chosen kingdom
  • Dozens of playable kingdoms to choose from

Anno 1800

Developer:Blue Byte
Release year:2019

Anno 1800 is quite unique, at least when compared to other titles on the list. It’s a city-building game taking place in the 19th century. The title is focused on meeting the needs of your townsmen by constructing required buildings and supplying production chains on demand.

Anno 1800

You will need to build houses for the people to live in, farms, factories, mines, and so on, so your settlement may grow and prosper. Combat-wise, the game puts emphasis on naval action, allowing you to test the strength of your own fleet in a battle against the enemy ships. It’s not the most complex game out there, but quite fun nonetheless, making it a great title for players who take their first steps in the empire-creation strategies.

Key features
  • City-builder with naval battles set in the 19th century
  • Easy to learn, hard to master
  • Beautiful and detailed graphics

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Developer:Ironclad Games
Release year:2012

Now, to the last but not least game on the list. This one lets you develop a space empire as it conquers nearby planets and distant star systems in order to secure its dominant position in the galaxy.Sins of a Solar Empire

Rebellion is a standalone expansion of the original game and it comes with multiple new features and some new content, all designed to make the game even more enjoyable. For example, the expansion introduces new playable factions, new titan super-capital ships, and unique research topics. It also uses an updated graphical engine that allows players to experience better visuals, so every battle is a pleasure for the eye.

Key features
  • Real-time strategy in a sci-fi setting
  • Huge maps with dozens of planets to conquer
  • Manage diplomacy, research new technologies, expand your empire

Summary

Civilization-building games are usually not easy and they require commiting some of your free time to learn how to become more efficient at managing your kingdom, empire, city, and such. However, learning all the strategies and tricks is worth it, as watching your civilization grow under your smart leadership can be extremely satisfying. Being able to build the power that others need to reckon with is a reward in itself for all the hours you will spend on mastering the tactics.

Once you decide you’re ready to test your empire-management skills, getting one of the games mentioned above would be a great introduction to the strategy genre. Keep in mind that games can be quite different from each other, even when speaking of games within the same genre – this means you shouldn’t immediately give up if you don’t like a certain title. Simply pick another one and you may end up finding something you’ll instantly fall in love with. Good luck and have fun.