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5 Best RTS Games of All Time (1980s to 2024)

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5 Best RTS Games of All Time (1980s to 2024)


Innovation and iteration are two of the core concepts that are responsible for the creation of some of the best games ever. Games like Half-Life, Doom, GTA, and many more, have led to the creation of all-new genres. But despite that, it seems one genre is still stuck in its ways of old, and judging from the fan reception it seems to have been the correct choice. It is none other than the RTS genre, yes the very same genre that gave us gems like Age of Empire and StarCraft. And while many of you might wonder, hasn’t the RTS genre been innovated upon the answer is not as cut and dry. Because the innovations in the genre have strayed from the core concepts and have created other new genres, such as the SRPG or the TRPG. This means that very few pure RTS games exist, of which the following are the best of all time.


Table of Contents
  1. GAL WARS Kyapi-kyapi-run (1988)
  2. Dragon Force (1996)
  3. Hundred Swords (2001)
  4. Star Maidens Chronicle: Definitive Edition (2010s)
  5. The Touhou Empires (2024)

GAL WARS Kyapi-kyapi-run (1988)


[Image: gal_wars-1.jpg]
Figure 1-1. GAL WARS Kyapi-kyapi-run Cover Art

First on the list we have a game I am sure many of you are not even aware of existed, as it comes from the early days of gaming as a medium. This was the time when instead of home computers and consoles people used to go to arcades to play games. This is why it is so fascinating to see how these early arcade games laid the foundations for the legends that would follow. In that regard let me tell you of a game that is most likely the first-ever Japanese RTS game, and may even be the first-ever RTS depending on your viewpoint of adventure games. Regardless of that fact, this game is none other than ギャル・ウォーズ きゃぴきゃぴるん or GAL WARS in English. Now while looking at the gameplay on YouTube many gamers might consider it the furthest thing from an RTS, as it does not feature all the features we attribute to the genre in the modern age. But if we look at it from the context of its time we can easily see how it is an RTS game. This is because the player has to select the actions of the units before and then get to see them play out in real-time. While the CPU in this scenario responds after we have given our commands. Some might say it’s a turn-based game, but unlike say your Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest there is no simple attack or action command. As you will have to think of the optimal route for your multiple units to take so that when they fight they have the best match-up. Another thing that sets it apart is the fact that the units fight on their own, you only give commands on where to move and who to fight. While some of these things might be considered exaggerations, one can early see the skeleton of the genre that would one day be known as RTS.

[Image: gal_wars-gameplay-1.jpg]
Figure 1-2. GAL WARS Kyapi-kyapi-run Gameplay


Dragon Force (1996)


[Image: dragon_force-1.jpg]
Figure 2-1. Dragon Force Cover Art

The 90s would see the modern RTS genre take the form we all know and love. But this process was not an easy one, as after the massive success of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Series and the rise of Ogre battle tactics many simply had no interest in real-time strategy. But despite all the odds it seems that SEGA thought otherwise with their release of the fan-favorite Dragon Force. Now this is where modern gamers can see the core aspects of the RTS games shine through. Aspects such as big armies, large maps, multiple units, multiple strategies, and a decent AI opponent. But one thing many gamers will question is the camera angle, but in the purest sense, an RTS game does not need an isometric viewpoint. While it might help in controlling and commanding large forces, it was only made popular by the Total War series. Games before that used a 2D side-scrolling viewpoint, as the one shown in Dragon Force. Aside from the gameplay, this is also where developers started using RTS games as an allegory for war and its harmful after-effects. The game is only playable on the SEGA Saturn and the PlayStation 2.

[Image: dragon_force-gameplay-1.jpg]
Figure 2-2. Dragon Force Gameplay


Hundred Swords (2001)


[Image: hundred_swords-1.jpg]
Figure 3-1. Hundred Swords Cover Art

Next, we have a game that came out in the golden days of the RTS genre. This was the time when every developer was either making a unique RTS game or trying to copy the best ones. Falling squarely in the former we have Hundred Swords a game that was developed by again a subdivision of SEGA. Learning from their previous endeavors and competition the game now featured an isometric viewpoint to make controlling the large armies more manageable. It also followed the regimented system that groups multiple units into one single unit, so that formation and path following could be improved. As for the story, it featured a new cast of characters that were based on the tropes of their time, but due to the masterful execution of the game by SEGA, no trope lingered for too long. Resulting in a fun little story that does not overstay its welcome. So if you wish to witness a piece of RTS history then do give the game a try as it was later ported to the PC from the Dreamcast.

Figure 3-2. Hundred Swords Gameplay


Star Maidens Chronicle: Definitive Edition (2010s)


[Image: star_maidens_chronicle_definitive_edition-4.jpg]
Figure 4-1. Star Maidens Chronicle: Definitive Edition Cover Art

Improvement in video games is not a new process as it is what is responsible for the creation of some of the best moments in gaming. But it also poses a risk to the core identity of the game, as with too much change we can lose what we fell in love with in the first place. This is why few games have survived the process, but one game that came out in 2008 and maintained its continued evolution via updates without losing what fans loved is Star Maidens Chronicle. A game developed by Project YNP that came out when the decline of the RTS genre had started, and but despite that managed to stay relevant with the fans until the revival of the genre and the release of the Definitive Edition in 2020. Which earned it the title of the best RTS game of the 2010s from many fans.  As for the game it has all the hallmarks of a good RTS game will great unit variety, multiple maps, and AI that will have you changing whole battle plans at the drop of the hat. So if you wish to witness this absolute gem then head over to Steam where the game is an exclusive.

For Star Maidens Chronicle, You can visit the AEG Esports Tournaments to find out an esports tournament opportunity with a cash prize, or join the Discord to connect with multiplayer friends.

[Image: star_maidens_chronicle_definitive_editio...play-7.jpg]
Figure 4-2. Star Maidens Chronicle: Definitive Edition Gameplay


The Touhou Empires (2024)


[Image: the_touhou_empires-5.jpg]
Figure 5-1. The Touhou Empires Cover Art

Last on the list we have a game that manages to encapsulate all the aspects of the genre that the fans love. It is none other than Neetpia’s magnum opus to be The Touhou Empires, a game that takes the world-building of the Touhou universe and the gameplay of the Age of Empire series to create a game that will no doubt stay with the fans long after the credits roll. But the game isn’t just some random cash grab or a cheap copy as it features multiple new quality-of-life changes that fans have been complaining about for ages and alongside them it also features some unique mechanics inspired by the Touhou series. The story will also be a direct nod towards the original bullet hell games from the Touhou series. So if you wish to witness a game that can trace its lineage back to an obscure 80s arcade game, and features a small part of all those that came before it then The Touhou Empires is the game for you.

For The Touhou Empires, You can visit the AEG Esports Tournaments to find out an esports tournament opportunity with a cash prize, or join the Discord to connect with multiplayer friends.

[Image: the_touhou_empires-gameplay-9.jpg]
Figure 5-2. The Touhou Empires Gameplay


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