When it comes to the RTS, the mobile marketplace has big shoes to fill. From Age of Empires to Command & Conquer, the frantic blend of actions-per-minute with grand strategy, the macro- and micro-management required to play this genre at peak performance has inspired many a gamer.
What are the best RTS games on iOS & Android?
- Company of Heroes
- Bad North
- Dungeon Warfare 2
- Rebel Inc.
- Element RTS
- Kingdom Rush: Vengeance
- Auralux: Constellations
- Iron Marines
- Tropical Stormfront
Without further ado here are the best RTS games for android, iPhone & iPad to play in 2020:
Company of Heroes
Publisher: Feral Interactive
Platforms: iPad Only
I know when we first started creating these lists I said I didn't want to duplicate games across different articles if I could help it - but Company of Heroes is a good enough experience that it deserves to be in two places at once. Created by the geniuses at Feral Interactive, this is a smart adaptation of the iconic WW2 RTS to iPads. A touch interface is always going to be inferior to mouse when being adapted from the latter to the former, but Feral have done a pretty admirable job.
It's worth noting that, at the time of writing, the CoH port only includes the single-player campaign and 4v4 skirmish content from the vanilla game. The two expansions and multiplayer support are (hopefully) coming further down the line.
We knew Bad North would be perfect for mobile when we first heard about it back in 2018... it got waylaid some-what, beaching on PC first before finally setting sail for mobile a few months ago - it was definitely worth the wait. The PC version went through a lot of updates and changes, culminating in the free 'Jotunn Edition' update that elevated the game to a more 'definitive' state.
That version is what landed on mobile, and we really enjoyed it. As a 'micro' strategy game it personifies minimalist, simple design. Some of you might find it too simple at least but for those who aren't bothered by the very meagre, but raw tactical options, you'll find a game that's challenging and quite rewarding. It's got rogue-like elements where you can unlock improvements for later runs, and then you must command and nurture your army from island to island as you fight off waves of blood-thirsty vikings. New enemy types will warrant a change in tactics, provided you survive.
Dungeon Warfare 2
We've been waiting for Dungeon Warfare 2 for what seems like a while now - it was on our list of 2018's most anticipated games for sure, but sadly missed its window and slipped into 2019. Still, as Richard can attest in this review, it was well worth the wait. The tower-defence genre has always been prone to to lazy or bland design, but in Dungeon Warfare everything is turned up to 11.
With over thirty distinct traps, this Dungeon Keeper-esque experience offers you a lot of variety and complexity with which to achieve what are still fairly basic TD goals. This game isn't completely unique in its theme, but nowhere else is it treated with so much passion - a must for TD strategy fans.
Plague Inc. this is not, but Rebel Inc. still shares in its predecessor's excellent design pedigree. As the newly appointed administrator of a region that's just suffered a major war, your job is to try and help the population rebuild was also keeping local insurgents in check. It's full of tough choices and challenging tactical game-play as you struggle to pin down enemy insurgents and prevent them from doing too much harm.
Dealing with the concept of reconstruction is no easy feat, and the subject matter could be considered slightly controversial given the recent events that have inspired it, but Ndemic have treated the topic with as much care and attention as they can, even consulting with real-world experts on the subject. Rebel Inc. is a challenging and tense game, but just as rewarding, making this one of the year's best real-time strategy/simulations.
Platforms: iOS Universal
One of the top RTS releases of 2018 to date, Element is a PC port that fits right at home on mobile. It's unique and streamlined design makes it a very accessible strategy game - you've got to balance the production of resources with the construction of units to either defend your base or attack your foes. The matches are short, and the AI is a pretty decent challenge, so you won't want to for entertainment.
It's just shy of being a 'must-buy' - the inclusion of a multiplayer mode would probably cement it as one of the best RTS games in mobile history, but we'd settle for an Android version. According to the devs, the game's been able to run on android devices for a while now, and they're just putting on the finishing touches before they announce a formal release date.
Kingdom Rush: Vengeance
The latest entry in the acclaimed Kingdom Rush tower defence series has caused no small amount of controversy, which is likely to continue with it's inclusion in this list. It all depends how much you're bothered by the game's slightly-too-persistent micro-transactions. The only blemish on what is otherwise a stellar real-time strategy experience, these IAPs are completely optional and unnecessary, they're just a tad pushy.
If you're like Dick, who was a bit more forgiving in his review, then you'll find another excellent tower defence game, and one with plenty of humour and content to last you a decent amount of time - each level can take up to thirty minutes to complete. The way Vengeance handles towers as well is also fairly unique, requiring a bit more thought and planning. All in alll, unless you really want to take a stand against micro-transactions, there's a great game here waiting for you to discover and enjoy. Read our review for more.
Auralux is generally brilliant and wickedly simple. Glowing orbs skip across the void of space to do battle over planets, which in turn spawn more orbs for the controlling player. Gestures are dead simple, tapping to select and dragging to assign. There is only one type of ‘unit’ and one objective: take over the entire map. From these givens, Auralux has some intense, hair-pulling and nail-biting levels where the odds are almost ludicrously stacked against the little player that could.
The ‘constellations’ in the title are simply clustered series of levels, each with a gimmick mechanic which must be understood and utilized to power through said levels. The game shows its age a bit, but it also demonstrates how a simple idea with excellent execution can stand the test of time. Another bonus is the variable speed setting, which makes the action go from hyper to sedate, depending on playstyle. Local multiplayer is a nice plus, but the game’s primary draw is solo play.
Dominations deserves to be loved and known for the quality of play it provides and its relatively tasteful monetization, but unfortunately the quickest way to worm its way into your heart and home screen are comparisons, so let’s get those over with. It’s Civilization meets Clash of Clans, with empires spanning the Iron Age to Space Age, wonders to build, raids to conduct, and all the usual trappings.
So, yes, there is a certain likeness to established powerhouses, but the devil is in the details, and Dominations gets those spot-on. Playing it to a satisfying endgame without shelling out serious dinero will take patience, but Dominations’ emulation of all of recorded human history and conflict is pretty satisfying to stretch out and play in pieces. Of course, human history never before ran on a timer...
The Iron Marines are a space-trotting, world-saving team of elite squads tasked with putting out fires and defeating hostiles wherever needed. The elevator pitch for the game would be Starcraft...but not? There is a home-base which usually has to be fortified and defended, additional refineries to secure more resources, and just a handful of units.
From these simple, intuitive elements, the game ekes out a good sense of micromanagement and delectable real-time tension. Its enemies have unusual abilities and synergies, and its difficulty is no joke, especially on the higher levels. Yet the game also retains Ironclad Studios sense of long-term planning and strategy present in its tower defense titles. Read our Iron Marines review for more!
Subterfuge is exactly as advertised: a subtle, long-term game of expedient alliances and stone-cold betrayals, filled with the irrefutable logic of hard numbers and the soft uncertainty of fog of war. A turn just means giving subs and bases a command which will take hours to fulfil, so while it is real-time like warfare is real-time, in Subterfuge the theatre of war sees its stage advance slowly.
Its scale is just grand enough to be deeply satisfying but be warned that it does take some time investment to get a game fired up. The leaders provide asymmetrical player powers, but even these super-units can be captured and bartered. Barring these modifies and special cases, the bases and subs are more or less identical. The game is simply a question of position, resources and force, but these factors are always shifting because of the partial information and precarious alliances.
Rymdkapsel is about space-base-building and defense, mostly, but also includes some spatial puzzling a la Tetris and ‘exploration’. Its minimalism is more than just stylistic, going instead to the core of every action, options and goal. Perhaps the most satisfying bit is the constant packing problem for expanding the base.
New buildings can be any type and go any spot the player chooses, but also must have predefined dimensions. (all four unit polyominoes) A tightly knit base might come across as more defensible but reaching and researching the far-flung monoliths gives permanent global passive bonuses. The game is a logistics and timing puzzle with a really keen sense of efficiency and management for all its stripped-down design.
Island-hopping Tropical Stormfront pits the United Democratic Alliance against Order, Discipline and Obedience in a faux-historical struggle across the archipelago. The graphics are deliberately dated and the unit mixture, contrary to every other item on the list, is realistic and accurate. Missions scenarios range from the typical conquest to capture the flag and survival mode.
It’s like a real-time Advance Wars with pretty much no hand-holding, just sink-or-swim gameplay. The touch controls mean a bigger screen is practically a must, for while missing a swipe or tap in another genre would be merely inconvenient, in a game like this it is quite the setback. Still, Tropical Stormfront is a smartly realized real-time-strategy game with staying power.
More Excellent RTS Games on iOS and Android
We want to keep this list lean, so as new comes come into the lime-lite other games will get rotated out. We don't want to forget about them though, so we've added this hall of fame section so we can remember them forever.
- Anomaly 2
- Mushroom Wars 2
- Plague Inc.
- Teen Titans GO! Figure
- Autumn Dynasty
- Cosmic Frontline AR
- Front Armies
- A Few Minutes of Glory
What would your list of the best RTS games on mobile look like? Let us know!