In the world dominated by first-person shooters and TPP games, games with an isometric point of view are a rarity. Not many players remember that back in the early 2000s, the camera panning over the field of the game, showing the vast area the player could explore was a go-to for many genres, from real-time strategies and RPGs to action-adventure titles. What these games lacked in accuracy and details, they made up in engaging and entertaining gameplay.
Nowadays, when the realism and top-notch graphics are in high demand, isometric view games are slowly becoming obsolete, moving to the indie market where inexperienced developers and old dogs alike try to reclaim some of the glory of the good old days.
The Best Isometric Video Games of All Time
In our list, we will present both the classic isometric titles as well as newer production that use the slanted camera angle. Here you will find games from across the spectrum – real-time strategies and RPGs, simulators and shooters, hack n’ slashes, etc. Maybe you’ll notice the titles you’d played as a kid and relive some of that nostalgia or a game that ill pique your interest if you’ve never given isometric games a chance before.
|Developer/Publisher||Black Isle Studios, Interplay Productions|
Fallout 2 is a true classic among isometric RPGs. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the nuclear war has decimated most of the human population, turning civilization into ruins, the game features gameplay mechanics typical for the genre. The player can freely roam about the open-world environment, interacting with NPCs and accepting side quests from them.
The combat mechanics feature battle points, which can be spent on a variety of actions. Receiving damage during the battle reduces the available pool of points, which can be regained through healing. Defeating enemies and completing quests grants the player experience points, which can be spent on upgrading the character’s stats. Fallout 2 received positive reviews and was deemed a worthy follow-up to its cult-classic predecessor.
|Developer/Publisher||BioWare, Interplay Entertainment|
In the same year the players got to roam the post-nuclear wasteland in the sequel to Fallout, they could also explore the fantastical environments of Baldur’s Gate. Set in Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms, BG tells the story of a young ward of mage Gorion, sent away from the stronghold of Candlekeep, which is soon attacked by mysterious assailants. The protagonist travels to Baldur’s Gate, a bustling metropolis, inhabited by all sorts of races. There, they will find out about the plot, which has led to the shortages of iron across the realm.
Baldur’s Gate mechanics are no different than those of any other RPG, albeit the amount of info included in the interface might be a bit intimidating. The player creates their character and leads them through an open-world environment, carrying out quests, searching for items – magical or otherwise – and gaining experience points to level up their party. Baldur’s Gate was met with critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Best Game of the Year 1998 from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.
|Developer/Publisher||Firaxis Games, 2K Games|
The Civilization series has given the player a chance to lead a nation towards a glorious future. The fifth installment is no different. The player can select from a group of 18 core civilizations, including ancient nations such as Rome, Greece and Egypt, but also younger ones – England, Russia and America, among others.
The gameplay mechanics are based on developing the nation from a small settlement to a bustling civilization. There are no rigid winning conditions – victory can be achieved in several ways, by conquering neighboring nations or developing your own to its max potential. Other mechanics include diplomacy and war as a means of forging alliances or subjugating other civilizations. Civilization V received critical acclaim, with reviewers praising overall gameplay mechanics and the scope of the game.
StarCraft is considered one of the most important and one of the greatest games of all time. Not without a reason obviously – the game is credited with changing the way RTS games are made. The introduction of three distinct playable races was at its time a groundbreaking feature. Thanks to a robust world and intriguing deep space setting, the game spawned several expansions and a sequel game, as well as a series of novels set in the same universe.
Gameplay-wise the game offers a solid experience – the player can choose from one of three races, which they will lead against others in the quest for galactic domination. The player can expand their armies and build structures by collecting two resources – minerals and vespene gas. The game features a multiplayer mode, in which the players can compete against each other in a variety of match types. StarCraft received universal acclaim and quickly received the title of one of the best games in history.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is probably the most quintessential of isometric real-time strategy games on our list. The third installment of popular series, WC III takes the player back to the world of Azeroth. This time, the Burning Legion of the Undead tries to conquer the land, and Humans Alliance and Orcish Horde, once enemies, must now unite to fend off the threat.
Reign of Chaos adds two new playable races to the previously available humans, orcs, dwarves and high elves. The Night Elves, focusing on druid magic and the Undead, wielding the power of Necromancy. Another new additions is powerful Hero units, available for the player to be summoned during battle. Other gameplay mechanics remain similar to previous installments – the player explores the world of the game, securing resources, establishing bases and fighting enemies. The game features a multiplayer mode, in which the players can compete against each other in destroying their bases and units. WC III: RoC received very positive reviews from the critics.
Divinity: Original Sin II
Lauded as a “back-to-the-roots RPG”, Divinity: Original Sin II is a quite competent RPG, featuring solid if not innovative gameplay mechanics. The player begins their adventure in the fantasy world of Rivellon, as a Source hunter called Sourcerer – a person who tracks those using dark magic for nefarious purposes.
D: OS II features typical RPG gameplay mechanics – the player travels an open world environment, interacting with NPCs for quests. The combat system emphasizes the clever use of elemental spells, which can be combined for different effects (casting rain and lightning spell on the enemy will cause them to be electrocuted, etc.). The game features a cooperative multiplayer, in which the players control one of the Source hunter protagonists. Divinity: Original Sin II was met with solid reception from the critics, who praised its classic gameplay style. The game is considered by many players and gaming journalists as one of the best RPG games of the last two decades.
|Developer/Publisher||Black Isle Studios, Interplay Entertainment|
Planescape: Torment is one of those RPG games that have player solve their problems with the force of argument, not the argument of force. As the Nameless One, an immortal being who returns to life each time he is killed, the player has to piece together the clues about the previous lives of the character by exploring the world and interacting with NPCs through dialogue.
Aside from usual RPG mechanics, the game features Dungeons & Dragons’ alignment system, where the player’s choices place the character on Good/Evil and Lawful/ Chaotic spectrums. The Nameless One’s reputation among the NPCs in the game is dependent on that alignment. Planescape: Torment received positive reviews for its writing, dialogue-based mechanics and the variety of outcomes depending on the player’s action. Planescape: Torment is considered one of the greatest video games of all time.
Pillars of Eternity
|Developer/Publisher||Obsidian Entertainment, Paradox Interactive|
PoE follows in the footsteps of classic RPG titles like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. In the game, the player controls the Watcher – an individual able to see and communicate with souls. Cursed with their gift by a group of cultists, the player must find those responsible and find a way to reverse the effect before the curse drives them mad.
Much like Planescape: Torment, the game allows the player to act in a non-lethal manner. The player gains XP points necessary to level up by completing quests and exploring new areas. Killing enemies is not rewarded, therefore stealth is a perfectly fine way to approach the gameplay. Pillars of Eternity was well received by the critics, who noted that the game would attract the players with its nostalgic vibe, but was a competent RPG in its own right as well.
The Sims 4
|Developer/Publisher||Maxis, Electronic Arts|
You did not see that coming, did you? But yes, The Sims 4 is an isometric POV game, which warrants it a place on our list. We’ll not deliberate on the gameplay mechanics, because everybody knows what the Maxis’ series is about – playing God with an artificial family.
The Sims 4 added a few new tricks, such as removing the sliders in Create-A-Sim mode, but the gameplay mechanics remain the same. The player controls the sims by sending them to work, meeting their needs, and choosing aspirations that they strive to fulfill. There is also a variety of expansions, which add new features to the game, such as professions, aspirations or locales, making The Sims 4 one of the best simulators of artificial lives. The Sims 4 was met with critical acclaim.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
|Developer/Publisher||Crystal Dynamics, Square Enix|
While the 2013’s reboot of the Tomb Raider series might have been a breath of fresh air, the 2010’s Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was a revolution in the history of British archaeologist’s adventures. Its sequel, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, pushes the envelope even further. Featuring an isometric view, four playable characters with unique abilities and a cooperative multiplayer, the game is a unique treat for the fans of Lara Croft.
The story of the Temple of Osiris takes place in Egypt, where Lady Croft unites with her rival, treasure hunter Carter Bell, and two Egyptian deities – Horus and Isis – to defeat Set, the God of Evil. TToO received a positive reception from the critics and was nominated for An Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition at D.I.C.E. Awards.
Commandos 2: Men of Courage
|Developer/Publisher||Pyro Studios, Eidos Interactive|
Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines is set during the height of World War II. An elite team of Allied soldiers is sent to carry out top-secret missions on enemy territory in different parts of the war-torn world. These missions will require precision and cooperation, and losing even one member of the team will result in failure.
The main feature of this game is that it combines action and tactical mechanics to a great effect. The player controls a team made of six commandos, each with different skills necessary to complete a given mission: the Green Beret, the Marine, the Driver, the Sapper, the Sniper and the Spy. The player can employ different tactics to get rid of the enemies, most of them relying on careful planning of each move and perfect execution of the plan. The game received positive reviews from the critics, who praised its challenging and unique gameplay.
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales
|Developer/Publisher||CD Projekt RED, CD Projekt|
Set in the world of Witcher, Thronebreaker tells a brand new story of a time long before the events of the game series. The main protagonist of The Witcher Tales is Meve, queen of Lyria and Rivia, two of the fictional realms from Andrzej Sapkowski’s series. As war rolls through the territory, Meve has to forge alliances and build an army to take back her country.
The game combines RPG and digital card game elements. The player explores the maps of the game seen from a top-down isometric perspective, while combat is carried out through mechanics similar to the card game Gwent – the player plays one card in their turn and victory is dependent on the card value or its special abilities. The player victory is complete if they win three turns. Another feature of Thronebreaker is a system of choices and consequences, which influence the outcome of the story. Thronebreaker received solid reviews and won several awards for its story, gameplay and soundtrack.
A game about a man disillusioned with society and taking his frustrations by killing everyone in its path – that’s the whole premise of Dectuctive Creations’ controversial shooter. The mechanics of the game are quite simple – the player has to kill a specific number of people on the map, both civilians and authorities alike. Certain maps have some side objectives, which also revolve around death and destruction. The game includes a survival mode, where the player faces waves of soldiers and his goal is to survive as long as they can.
The character, known as the Antagonist, can carry a variety of weapons, from pistols and rifles to grenade and rocket launchers, as well as grenades, Molotov cocktails, and other throwables. He can also drive a car, and use it to run down pedestrians and law enforcers. Hatred received generally solid reviews for its gameplay, which were grossly overshadowed by the negative commentary on how the game glorifies nihilism and violence, fueling the discourse on the destructive influence of such titles.
Age of Empires II
|Developer/Publisher||Ensemble Studios, Microsoft|
Similarly to Civilization V, Age of Empires II casts the player as a leader of a nation, whose task is to guide their country to glory through various historical periods. While Civ V focused on presenting gradual development of the player’s nation from ancient times to the future, AoE II gives the player a fairly restricted timeframe of periods based early Middle Ages to Renaissance.
The gameplay of AoE II follows the patterns of other RTS games – collecting resources to build strongholds and raise armies, the conquest of the territories on the map and engaging other nations in combat. The game features a single-player campaign and multiplayer mode. In the former the player leads their faction through various conflicts, including the Wars of Scottish Independence, Hundreds’ Years War, the Crusades, etc. In multiplayer, the participants can take part in the various types of competitive matches. AoE II received positive notes from the critics, who praised the variety of new gameplay elements.
|Developer/Publisher||Blizzard North, Blizzard Entertainment|
Diablo II is an undisputed classic on our list, and one of the best action-RPGs in the history of the genre. The game improves greatly upon its predecessor, introducing new mechanics, character classes and multiplayer features.
The player can now choose from 5 character classes: Amazon, Necromancer, Barbarian, Sorceress, and Paladin. Each class has a unique skillset and favors different playstyle. Diablo II improved upon the item system of the first game, making it more complex. They are divided into several categories, which determine their strengths and weaknesses. Multiplayer has also been refurbished, with gameplay mechanics emphasizing cooperation between players, building strong parties and taking on foes together, as well as competition in a variety of PvP and PvE matches. Diablo II received universal acclaim from critics and is to this day considered as one of the best action-RPGs in the history of electronic entertainment.