Possibly the best PC war game franchise of all time, Total War has some of the best strategy games in the industry. As a fan of this franchise for over a decade, I was eager to write a list of my top picks. And I think there is no better time to do it than after the masterpiece that is Troy.
Here I will give an overview of the funniest Total War Games to date, including the best Sagas titles, but excluding the most recent spin-off that was released for mobile devices. As a veteran of the series, I tried out some of the older titles and spent the good days of my youth conquering the world in Empire, unifying Europe in Rome, and having an angry pope cross my cities in Medieval II. Now is the time to rank the games to see which ones are the best and which ones aren’t that great (let’s face it – they’re all fantastic). Hang on to your hats, folks!
Table of Contents
Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia
I know a lot of people thought Thrones of Britannia was quite a disappointing game. But I don’t necessarily share that opinion. The game leaves a lot to be desired in the campaign, but I think the illustrations and units in this title make it worth buying if you can find it at a discounted price. Thrones of Britannia take you back to the time when Britain was being attacked and colonized by Vikings and allows you to take on the role of any civilization you wish in your quest to conquer the British Isles and ultimately establish solid dominance over them.
The gameplay of the Thrones campaign doesn’t really feel right. But the extremely detailed map makes the vibe of this game something that I really like. Although it does not live up to expectations, the title is wonderful and the battles are fantastic. Speaking of battles, if you’re one of those Total War players who tend to steer clear of the Campaign game and just like to play the actual historical battles (or online battles, for that matter), then Thrones is a game that you could really enjoy more than the average gamer. The battles are great and the units really transport you back to one of the darkest periods in Britain’s history. I just wish the campaign was a little better, but the title itself is really fun to play. I recommend that you choose this one if you find it selling online at a discounted price.
Total War Saga: Troy
The only reason Troy doesn’t rank higher on my list is that this game is a Saga title and not a full Total War game. Because I think this thing is an absolute masterpiece. Out of respect for the other Total War titles, I put it a bit lower here… but it could easily rank second or third, to be honest. Total War games have always been known to accurately represent the art of the time. But Troy takes it to the next level. The Greek artwork in this game, and the way it integrates with the campaign map, makes for very satisfying gameplay. The day and night cycle, which is not linked by turns, is also completely outstanding. Now one of the reasons I loved Troy so much is because there isn’t as big a focus on horses and riders as there are in other Total War titles.
Greek warriors of the time were not known to use cavalry as much as in other time periods. So the battles here are mostly decided by the strength of your melee units and how you use them. Troy feels like a game where flanking plays a much more crucial role than other Total War titles, and I love every second of it. In fact, as I write this article, I can’t help but feel the need to start another campaign and try my luck with Paris of Troy (the most annoying faction out there, if you ask me). With a ton of historical precision and the fact that Achilles is a whiny asshole for most of the campaign, Troy has taken a place in my heart and in the hearts of many fans of the franchise.
Rome: Total War
I still remember when Rome was liberated, man. This title attracted so many people to the franchise that I would say it is the most influential Total War game released to date. I don’t think anyone can argue that, and the only reason it ranks eighth on my list is that the game hasn’t aged too much (the graphics and gameplay would make it unfair for this title to be at the top, where it probably deserves to be). Rome was the best title ever released by Creative Assembly in 2004. And even though it was only the third installment in the franchise, I’d still say it’s a great deal.
The campaign was absolutely fantastic and almost as good as the one we had a few years later in Medieval II. What makes this game an even more impressive work of art is that it set the tone for the many Total War titles to come, focusing on both campaign gameplay and battles. I wouldn’t recommend playing it now, solely because “the graphics are too old for modern standards.” But if you come across a time machine, don’t go kill Hitler. Go back to 2004 and experience this game when it first came out. The hype was really unreal.
Napoleon Total War
Napoleon Total War, also known as “my troops will die in the snow simulator”, stands as one of those Total War games that you loved or hated until you finished the campaign. Napoleon came right after the masterpiece that was Empire. So it’s only natural that the expectations were quite high.
It didn’t live up to them as much as other titles later in the franchise, but it’s still a brilliant game. The main problem players had with the Napoleon game was that there were a ton of mechanics that would basically decimate your armies if you weren’t paying attention. This made the campaign game a bit tricky, even though the battle game was arguably better than the one we had in Empire (which was brilliant when the game was released).
Napoleon also had this thing where online gambling felt really fun, man. I don’t know why, but it’s still my favorite Total War online experience right behind Medieval II. The mods that were released for this game were also some of the best in the franchise. If you get a chance to play it, I highly recommend that you take a look at the WWI mod that some crazy bastards created for Napoleon. It’s really crazy how good it is. Even if you’re not a huge fan of mods, but love the Total War franchise, I think Napoleon is a must-play game if you haven’t tried it before. It may not be the brightest of games. But it served as a good representation of what we expected to see in a Napoleon-themed game.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms has been one of my favorite Total War campaigns to date. This beauty truly recreates the state of China during the Three Kingdoms era and gives you the opportunity to shape the destiny of the country yourself. Just like any other Total War game.
However, Three Kingdoms takes generals to the next level. This title is one of the first in the franchise that made the generals feel like real units, and not just a bunch of running horses. As had been the case with the generals in the last games of the franchise. The duel aspect of the game is amazing. You’ll find yourself zooming in on battles more than you would in any other game in the franchise. The graphics are amazing too. They take you on a journey through the diverse landscapes of China as you spill the blood of your enemies on the battlefields. Three Kingdoms has a difficult campaign, incredible gameplay, and a plethora of fantastic units to enjoy in battle. Not to mention a host of free mods to keep the game exciting.
Total War: Shogun 2
I don’t care what they say: Shogun 2 has the most difficult campaign of all Total War games. Finishing this was really a headache. And I’m pretty sure that’s why I love this damn game so much. Shogun 2 takes you back to feudal Japan on a mission to unify the entire country under your shogunate. The abundance of samurai and medieval Japanese armor makes this game one of the best Total War titles ever released, and it is also the one that set the precedent for the “Saga” game that followed shortly after Shogun 2 was released.
If you didn’t know, the first “Saga” was actually a DLC for Shogun 2, and not Thrones of Britannia per see. It’s called Fall of the Samurai and you should check it out if you haven’t played it yet.
Anyway, let’s get back to this amazing title. Shogun 2 will have your hair pulled out in frustration when your allies betray you as soon as you become the Shogun. So make sure you don’t leave anyone alive on your way to full Japanese unification. Many people love to play Shimazu in Shogun 2 for the simple fact that they are in the western part of Japan, on the island of Kyushu. Not only will you be able to completely dominate European trade routes, but you won’t have to deal with treacherous pseudo-friends either. Shogun 2 really changes the perception that one has of his allies in Total War. PTSD, man. PTSD.
Total War: Rome II
Rome II was a fan favorite and Rome’s spiritual successor. Which means it honored the original game as much as it could. This title was probably one of the most anticipated releases in the franchise, and Creative Assembly knew that hopes for this game were high.
I am very happy that they complied because I would not have been able to bear the outrage of social media if they had not. There is something about the factions of Rome II that I can’t help but love. They really feel unique and unlike other Total War games where you don’t feel the need to play with the game’s ‘flagship’ civilization every time you start a new campaign.
Here, starting like the barbarians in the north is just as much fun as starting like the Romans in the south. It might just be me, but I really feel that playing as a minor civilization in Rome II is the best way to go. Sure, choosing Rome and conquering Europe is fun. But it’s not as fun as unifying Europe under the barbarian tribes of Great Britain. In any case, Rome II was a brilliant game. One that you can still pick up to this day and enjoy. It sure has a lot of replay value and stands as one of the most entertaining Total War games ever released. The historical battles of Rome II are my favorites in the franchise.
Empire: Total War
Empire was the Total War title that introduced us to the beauty of naval battles. But that’s not the only reason this game ranks third on my list. Empire took ground battles to the next level and made gunpowder fights feel extremely immersive, leaving the days of older graphics behind and presenting players with truly unique strategic gameplay. I always associate Empire Total War with the technological discoveries of the campaign. Your armies will be decimated by your enemies if you don’t research the proper military technologies early on, like line shots and faster reloads.
Empire will have you scrolling through and researching the earliest technologies in the game, in case you’re looking for a military victory, to gain as much access to advanced tactics as possible. I remember using these perks to win battles where I was outnumbered 10 to 1. Man, Empire was a really influential Total War title. It’s a must-have game regardless of the year you’re reading this, especially if you’re a fan of colonial-era naval battles. Watching those cannons fire on enemy ships is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever had playing a TW title.
Total War: Warhammer 2
I wasn’t a big fan of Warhammer when it came out. But the second installment of the game had me playing the campaign over and over again, testing all the different civilizations that make up the story. This is a must-have Total War game, even if you’re unfamiliar with the Warhammer franchise (40k is so much better, don’t do it to me).
However, if you are a true Warhammer fan, you will have a field day playing this beautiful game. All armies and races are unique, and the campaign map is as you would imagine if you just read the books before playing it. The custom battles and battle scenarios in this game are brilliant. And watching dragons slaying goblins has to be one of the best things you can do in any modern Total War game. A truly unique sensation that fans of fantasy stories will fall in love with this majestic title.
Medieval II: Total War
I must say: Medieval II is the best Total War game. There is no discussion. This iconic title may have outdated graphics and no naval gameplay, but the whole concept of the game is magical and superbly executed. You will find yourself getting crossed by the Pope if you expand too much, while religion plays as much of a role in this game as it did during this game’s time period. Conquering territories and watching your armies decimate enemies, all while wearing shining armor and wielding pointed swords, I think will turn non-believers into true fanatics.
If you had a chance to play M2: TW when it came out, then you know why I hold it in such high regard. If Medieval III is ever released, expectations will be so high that we will need a new metric unit to measure hype.