The very best turn-based games
Whether used as the central combat mechanic in a tactical strategy game or a fantastical role-playing epic, certain tentpole games of the past have made a point of proving that it can sometimes be better to take turns. Letting players weigh up the situation and slow things down a bit, turn-based games have made a name for themselves as being timeless, tactical, and somewhat niche as of late.
To help solve that, we here at IGCritic have taken it upon ourselves to list the top 10 turn-based games. Those that tend to scratch a more calm and calculated itch, when you’re not in the mood for rushing in to hack and slash your enemies.
- Fire Emblem Awakening
Setting itself apart as not only one of the best turn-based experiences but one of the best games period on the platform, Fire Emblem Awakening on the 3DS never fails to draw you in with its absolutely gorgeous art style and simple yet effective turn-based grid combat system. Whereas later series entries would overcomplicate the set up with separate campaigns, Fire Emblem Awakening lets you build up your team and dominate across a landscape of enemy territories in various engaging turn-based battles.
- Sid Meier’s Civilisation V
Taking the established formula and combat set-up of prior Civilisation titles and ramping it up to the nth degree, Sid Meier’s Civilisation V lets you control a specific world ethnic group letting you progress from a prehistoric society to the future in beautiful turn-based fashion. Direct your own military units, experience the changing world around you, and manage your own’s civilisation’s growth. Sid Meier’s Civilisation V is the best in the series, even more so than the recently released VI.
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
As stylistically impressive as it is engaging, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based game chock full of gameplay systems and combat options that makes kicking alien ass thought-provoking and thrilling. Upon release nobody expected the return of this franchise to make as big of an impression as it did, but thankfully it wasn’t long before players realised how much control they could exert over a battle when placed in the role of commander of an elite military organisation, keeping a watchful eye from an isometric top-down perspective.
- Pokémon Crystal
Although you could pretty much take your pick of any traditional Pokémon game and have yourself an adventurous good time, Pokémon Crystal really represents the time when developer Game Freak truly believed in their formula, which included a simple turn-based battle system with an ingenious rock-paper-scissors system layered on top. Capture, battle, and evolve your ultimate team of pocket monsters, learning the weaknesses of each on your quest to be the best – like no one ever was!
- Worms Armageddon
A game series reminiscent of a time when third party franchises were at their wackiest and most experimental, Worms Armageddon stands out from the pack, oozing full of colourful animations and character which plays out in glorious turn-based gameplay. The fun of Worms Armageddon comes from discovering the quirks of each weapon and obliterating the environment around you, sentiments especially amplified when taking the bombastic action online with others.
- Final Fantasy Tactics
One of the most important and highly popular role-playing games released within the past two decades, it can’t be understated just how intrinsic to the experience Final Fantasy Tactics’ turn-based combat system was. Character skills and abilities are very statistic heavy, with battles triggering frequently across an isometric grid map in a bid to defend the seven territories of Ivalice. Thank god then, that Final Fantasy Tactics’ story was enthralling with amazingly animated bitmap sprites.
- Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Overtly Japanese in every way with tutorials that probably go on for a little longer than is ideal, the Disgaea franchise is certainly an acquired taste within the pantheon of turn-based strategy games, but it’s definitely one of the most robust and content packed. Hour of Darkness represents the very best Disgaea has to offer letting you command multiple units of humanoids and monsters across beautiful battlefields while being able to enjoy some quirky humour too.
- Advance Wars
Often considered the slightly less popular cousin of developer Intelligent Systems’ other turn-based tactics franchise Fire Emblem, the original Advance Wars is equally as good, forgoing the fantasy setting to instead focus on the modern efforts of the Orange Star Army. With over 18 different kinds of unit to control and terrain types that range from reefs, woods, and airports, the original Advance Wars on the Gameboy Advance is a bit of a forgotten turn-based gem.
- Persona 4: Golden
In many ways a conventional Japanese turn-based RPG in the vein of Pokemon and Final Fantasy, what makes Persona 4 Golden shine and stand apart from the rest, are the intricate relationships you can build with others as the new student tasked with solving a town mystery. Dungeon battles in the TV world are turn-based and tactical, requiring you to summon the right personas at the right time if you are to have any hope of succeeding.
- Skulls of the Shogun
A relatively new turn-based tactics game that was first made popular thanks to an ingenious release on Xbox Live Arcade, Skulls of the Shogun is notable for being accessible yet still providing a challenge. Plus you get to fight across feudal japan as a team of samurai and that’s always good. Skulls of the Shogun is quite unique in the genre due to its encouragement for players to roam, and with such a stylish hand-drawn look why wouldn’t you want to?