The grand strategy genre is unique in its complexity and scale. Even other strategies don’t often have quite as many moving parts, factors to consider, and breadth of systems meant to simulate every aspect of a country or faction’s functioning.

In fact, few games in general do, and the undisputed royalty of the genre are Paradox games, of which we have quite a few on this list already. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no competition, especially from games usually assigned to the 4X genre, which is grand strategy’s closest sibling.

With that in mind, we’ve prepared a few suggestions of strategy games you should have a jolly good time playing if you’re looking for a game where you control a country or faction as a part of a complex landscape.

The best grand strategy games
GameReleaseGenreDeveloperSale
Crusader Kings 3 Royal Collection 2012-02-14 RPG Paradox Development Studio Read more
Crusader Kings 2 2020-09-01 Strategy Paradox Development Studio 57% Read more
Sid Meiers Civilization 4 2005-10-25 Economy Firaxis Games 71% Read more
Sid Meiers Civilization 5 Complete Edition 2010-09-23 Economy Aspyr (Mac, Linux) 78% Read more
Sid Meiers Civilization 6 2016-10-20 Economy Aspyr (Mac, Linux) 91% Read more
Europa Universalis 3 Collection 2007-01-23 Strategy Paradox Development Studio 76% Read more
Europa Universalis 4 2013-08-13 Economy Paradox Development Studio 86% Read more
Total War Warhammer 2016-05-24 Strategy Creative Assembly 82% Read more
Total War Warhammer 2 2017-09-28 Strategy Creative Assembly 78% Read more
Total War Warhammer 3 2021 RTS Creative Assembly 17% Read more
Stellaris 2016-05-09 Strategy Paradox Development Studio 86% Read more
Endless Legend Classic Edition 2014-09-18 RPG AMPLITUDE Studios 76% Read more
Hearts Of Iron 3 Collection 2009-08-07 Strategy Paradox Development Studio 82% Read more
Hearts Of Iron 4 Cadet Edition 2016-06-06 Simulation Paradox Development Studio 84% Read more
Total War Rome 2 Emperor Edition 2013-09-02 Strategy Creative Assembly 82% Read more
Total War Three Kingdoms 2019-05-23 Strategy Creative Assembly 62% Read more
Galactic Civilizations 2 Ultimate Edition 2011-12-02 Strategy Stardock Entertainment 96% Read more
Galactic Civilizations 3 2015-05-14 Indie Stardock Entertainment 80% Read more
Field Of Glory Empires 2019-07-11 Strategy Ageod 43% Read more
Distant Worlds Universe 2014-05-23 Simulation Code Force 98% Read more
Victoria 2 2010-08-30 Strategy Paradox Development Studio 85% Read more
Dominions 5 Warriors Of The Faith 2017-11-27 Indie Illwinter Game Design 52% Read more

Crusader Kings 3

Release: 2020-09-01
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Paradox Development Studio

Crusader Kings III is both a roleplaying game and a grand strategy, and it’s extremely proficient on both fronts. You get to create your own ruler using a very robust character creator and set them as the head of a noble family. CK3’s map is huge, covering Entire Europe and stretching out to India, Arctic, and central Africa, plenty of space for political machinations and increasing your family’s status.

Crusader Kings 3

Of course, climbing the Medieval social and political ladder isn’t easy, and you may need to engage in diplomacy and armed conflicts even within your own dynasty, let alone foreign powers. The map helpfully can inform you on various aspects of its regions, including culture and religion, but what you with that info is up to you. Crusader Kings 3 is a complex but thrilling Medieval dynasty sandbox.

Key features
  • Very complex, but also very satisfying
  • An excellent anecdote generator
  • Large map of a medieval world, stretching beyond just Europe
  • Roleplaying game on a scale seen nowhere outside of the CK series

Civilization VI

Release: 2016-10-20
Genre: Economy
Developer: Aspyr (Mac, Linux)

The Civilization series is better known as a classic 4X game, but it does have the scale and the abstraction that fans of grand strategies could find alluring. The premise is simple: you pick a civilization at the start of the game, and as its immortal, anachronistic leader you have to take it from a one-town culture to a global power via conquest, diplomacy, or a few other paths to victory.

Civilization VI

Civ6 introduced a few interesting features to the series, including a rework of the way city expansion works. It also retains the series’ famous, and dangerous ability to consume hours of your time. Every civ has different traits, which predispose it towards a certain playstyle, and the maps are procedurally generated, opening up the way to virtually endless, engaging future playthroughs.

Key features
  • The latest (at the time of writing) installment of a long-running series
  • Satisfying time sink
  • Several substantial expansions and a few culture DLCs
  • Diplomacy and research are as important as military strength

Europa Universalis IV

Release: 2013-08-13
Genre: Economy
Developer: Paradox Development Studio

The second Paradox game on the list, and not remotely the last, because nobody does grand strategy like Paradox. While Crusader Kings III is interested in the Middle Ages, Europa Universalis IV plays out between 1444 and 1821, and is more interested in nations and kingdoms than family feuds and big personalities. EU4 fully embraces the grand scale, and, by extension, the complexity.

Europa Universalis IV

Even the map itself is complex, containing hundreds of regions, any of which can gain power, expand, and become more than just a province in the backyard of a grander nation. Once you get the hang of the systems you can drastically change the course of history, and since the map covers pretty much the entire world, you can form truly ambitious plans… and contend with many enemies.

Key features
  • Hundreds of nations
  • Complex, deep, and broad systems simulating running a country
  • Covers almost 400 years of history from 1444 to 1821
  • A large number of expansions and DLCs

Total War: Warhammer 1-3

Release: 2021
Genre: RTS
Developer: Creative Assembly

The Total War: Warhammer trilogy deviates greatly from the previous Total War formula and instead of a historical setting it decided to skip genres and make a fantasy game. Warhammer Fantasy’s Old World is a perfect setting for a grand strategy. It’s filled with species, nations, and regions, a rich and satisfying canvas on which to paint the tapestry depicting your species and faction’s way to victory.

Total War: Warhammer 1-3

Each entry takes place in another region of the world, but if you own more than one game in the series you can merge the maps for a massive Mortal Empires mode, featuring all the species and regions from contributing games. Much of the game happens on the strategic map, but when armies meet, the view shifts to the real-time tactical battlefield with hundreds of units on-screen simultaneously.

Key features
  • Three games, exploring various corners of the Warhammer Fantasy setting
  • Plenty of factions to play as in each installment
  • Satisfying tactical and strategic gameplay
  • Plenty of free and paid extra content

Stellaris

Release: 2016-05-09
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Paradox Development Studio

Not satisfied completely by earthly matters, Paradox created Stellaris to take their grand schemes into space. Stellaris has a truly galactic scale, but your chosen (or designed) species has barely left its own star system. As you create a species, you not only pick their physical traits, but also a number of aspects that define the kind of empire the species will hopefully find among the stars.

Stellaris

Stellaris also happens to be beautiful, presenting the galaxy and its many stars and planets in 3D, and each planet might hide a story or a species with which you might initiate diplomacy, or add to your growing empire only to be overthrown later. The game has also been frequently updated since its 2016 release, significantly changing the experience compared to the initial state.

Key features
  • A galactic-scale grand strategy
  • The galaxy is absolutely beautiful
  • Plenty of complex systems to excite fans of robust simulation
  • Mod-friendly

Endless Legend

Release: 2014-09-18
Genre: RPG
Developer: AMPLITUDE Studios

Endless Legend would probably appeal the most to fans of Civilization: it’s also mostly a turn-based 4X game set in a fantasy world divided into convenient hexagonal tiles. There are over a dozen different factions once you add the expansions, and each presents not only a different theme, a different preferred playstyle, and a different goal to accomplish in this storied setting.

Endless Legend

Unlike many 4X, Endless Legend pays attention to regions as a whole, so when you found a city you also gain control over the adjacent region. Since there’s no place for two cities in one region, conflicts are inevitable, and not all of them you’ll be able, or willing, to avoid through diplomacy. EL also has minor RPG elements thanks to the quests, which bring a lot of storytelling to the game.

Key features
  • Several DLCs introducing new species, stories, and more
  • The tile-based map looks gorgeous
  • Conquer the land through diplomacy or conquest and save the planet
  • Many quests add plot background to your campaign

Hearts of Iron IV

Release: 2016-06-06
Genre: Simulation
Developer: Paradox Development Studio

Europa Universalis IV’s campaign ends in the early 19th century, leaving history hanging in the air. Hearts of Iron IV pick it up a century later, just in time to give you time to prep for World War II. The campaign starts either in 1936 or 1939 and can run to 1948, presenting a more detailed experience than either CK3 or EU4 which run for centuries. What stays the same is your ability to change history.

Hearts of Iron IV

As one might expect, the gameplay of HoI4 focuses on warfare, with your military split into grounds, air, and naval forces which you can use to defend and conquer provinces. Of course, there’s still a lot of room for diplomacy, which might be a big help if you choose a small and/or weak country to play as. You’ll also conduct research, which might eventually lead you to develop the atomic bomb.

Key features
  • Deep, detailed grand strategy about World War II
  • Despite the military focus of the game, diplomacy will still serve you well
  • Short, yet intense, timeline, ranging from 1936 to 1948
  • Several expansions adding and improving content and mechanics

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Release: 2019-05-23
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Creative Assembly

Total War: Three Kingdoms is an interesting entry in the series. It takes place during the, well, Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, but it offers two visions of it. One is in the Records mode, which is more down-to-earth and historically accurate. The other mode, Romance, takes a more magnificently heroic route, inspired by the famous epic, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Other than that style divide, the game plays mostly like the rest of the Total War series, with a few thematic twists. One is that in the Romance mode generals are powerful hero units that can turn the tide of battle. The other part is the social layer of the game: generals have well-defined personalities, and they form connections throughout the game. Your plans should take it into account.

Key features
  • Two modes: realistic and heroic, to capture different stories about the period
  • Based on the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China
  • An interesting social layer expanding the relationships between characters
  • Aesthetically stunning

Distant World Universe

Release: 2014-05-23
Genre: Simulation
Developer: Code Force

Before Stellaris was a twinkle in the devs’ eyes, Distant Worlds (and the “Universe” edition) was a grand-scale space-bound science fiction strategy game. It might now wow you with its graphics the way Stellaris does, but if complexity is your jam, Distant Worlds has that in spades. It also has a massive universe to drop you into, boasting about up to 1400 star systems and 50 thousand planets.

Distant World Universe

The Universe edition includes the original Distant Worlds as well as the expansion packs, tossing all that content into one package. Thankfully, DWU for all its complexity also features useful automation, so so you don’t need to micromanage everything to maintain the forward momentum. It frees you to deal with the most important things, like diplomacy, expansion, or running a tight military.

Key features
  • A massive map with hundreds of stars and thousands of planets
  • Very moddable
  • Helpful automation
  • Satisfyingly complex

Galactic Civilizations III

Release: 2015-05-14
Genre: Indie
Developer: Stardock Entertainment

Another large-scale science-fiction space-based grand strategy game on the list, Galactic Civilization III should excite fans of robust strategies. GC3 is a turn-based game putting you in control of one of many species, both human and alien, and lets you do pursue whatever goals you set for yourself…or you can follow the storyline if a directed campaign is something you’re more interested in.

Galactic Civilizations III

Galactic Civilizations III includes a number of intriguing features, including deep customization of spaceships your faction is using, and a Mega Event system introducing random boons and obstacles to your playthrough. With the DLCs GC3 becomes incredibly feature-rich, gaining new systems, including a faction creation, in case the pre-made ones have lost their luster after a few playthroughs.

Key features
  • Very multiplayer-friendly
  • Many interesting expansions
  • There’s a story campaign if you don’t fancy a sandbox
  • Tons of random events, both beneficial and challenging

Conclusive victory

This ends our list of suggestions. We covered games with all sorts of settings, from the high fantasy of Warhammer to the gritty historical simulation of WW2, and we brought some competition to the grand strategy masterclass of Paradox-developed titles. Hopefully among this mix of complex titles, you’ve found one that sparked your interest and you’re already forming plans within plans.