Let's get this out of the way. You wanted to get a ranked list of Total War games because you wondered which is worth playing after you’ve sunk your hours into another title.
That, or you want definitive strategy genre experience and heard many good things about Creative Assembly’s little series. In that case, look for no other games.
From tactical battles in… well a tactical map with real-time tactics, to strategy games and diplomacy on world map – no matter the Total War game, it’ll have scheming warlords and tools to do said scheming.
Without further ado, let's list them, in a biased order, because of course, it is.
7. Empire: Total War
Total War Empire had a… flawed launch at best. Not only was it a buggy mess, it also had an incredibly dense and dull-witted AI. Among other things, it did a complete 180°, considering your overall tactics and approach to warfare. Melee units? Afterthought choice. You felt really out of place.
From a personal perspective, I also felt that unit roster was… limited. As if every unit was exactly the same, no matter the faction.
So why is it even on the “Best Total War games” list? Because it is still a really good game. For starters, it expanded its diplomatic system, so you don’t have to manually haul an agent some half a continent away just to establish trade rights. It introduced a research tree that feels impactful, and it’s a good game because it’s in the era of BLACK POWDER.
No other game at its time allowed you to recreate the scale of conflict in the 17th-19th time period.
With volleys of line infantry, supported with artillery cannonades, both of which cover the area in smoke, no other Total War game quite got the feeling and power of gunpowder to the same level. And with a physics engine, you will have fun seeing what happens when a cannonball hits an infantry line… Also…
This was the very first Total War game, in which Creative Assembly introduced warfare across the seas. Naval battles in Empire was what hooked me up with the title. It’s just so good when you maneuver your whole fleet in elaborate tactics to *SMASH* your enemy with three broadsides at the same time.
You can see cannonballs flying, smashing masts and hulls to splinters. You can board the ships, after perforating them and their crew, with grape shot… I want to revisit the title just from writing about it!
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Napoleon: Total War
To be honest, there’s not much to say about Napoleon: Total War because it’s literally Empire: Total War with all its kinks and problems ironed out. It covers the same period of warfare, focusing on the little drama that unfurled around Napoleon. If you want this particular campaign gameplay and/or a better multiplayer experience, choose Napoleon. Otherwise, I recommend Empire.
But… why not trying out both games? The bundle with Total War: Empire - Definitive Edition and Total War: Napoleon - Definitive Edition Steam are available on RoyalCDkeys!
6. Total War: Rome II
Another title with a rocky start, but thankfully, the second installment of Rome Total War survived and not only grew but became great. Set in the historical period of ancient Rome, it allows the players to make or break history as we know it.
Ok, but why is it one of the best? How about combined naval-land battles? Because you can recreate D-Day from Private Ryan.
Or how about revamped ambushes that allow you to set traps and attack enemies on flanks? It’s Teutoburg Forest all over again! Thanks to legion customization, you can specialize your army in sieges or battles.
There’s just a mass of features. Every faction is unique, every tactic is viable, and if you don’t want to fight, you can always use expanded diplomacy. That, or agents, with their own skill trees, that allow you to bribe, kill or convince any obstacle to get out of your way. Overall, Creative Assembly did an excellent job of translating the ancient world into glory that is Total War: Rome 2!
Mass of DLCs
There’s a DLC for when Rome was forming as a Republic. There’s a DLC for Rome, when it was struggling with internal conflicts in 300 AD.
Don’t like the Immortal City hogging all the spotlight? How about legendary Spartans and the Peloponnesian War? How about getting into any of the many, many cultures around the Mediterranean? The campaign map is big, and so is your choice for gameplay.
If you find that the game may be a good match for your taste, RoyalCDkeys stock offers numerous editions of Total War: Rome 2 CD keys, so choose the one according to your preference!
5. Total War: Attila
One word that perfectly describes Total War: Attila – Challenge. If you’re interested in history, you know that 395 AD was harsh. Rome is divided into east and west, famine is widespread, public unrest is at its highest.
It reintroduced a mechanic for religion, where you can not only convert others to your faith but also adopt beliefs of your people, if they are on the raise. As for raising, or rather razing, you can now enjoy the tactic of scorched earth by burning enemy settlements to the ground!
Prove You’re the Baddest Emperor to Rule Rome
This is the best Total War game for those who want to test their skill and mettle against unforgiving conditions. Play as Western Roman Empire and relieve the hell on earth that was Rome’s fall. Allies leave you, Byzantine hates you, raids from migrating hordes are constant, uprisings will happen, your cities will be razed and… worse of all… Attila is coming.
The Total War: Attila Steam CD Key is available on RoyalCDkeys.
4. Medieval 2: Total War
Welcome to Middle Ages!
Many would call Medieval 2 the definitive total war title. It has everything. Annoying politics with the pope and your neighbors, CRUSADES, holy and not-so-holy orders for you to recruit, priests to turn your enemy’s population nuclear against themselves, and so much more!
It might not have all the features of later titles, like skill trees and technology development (here it’s just a case of getting the next building), but it’s one of the best total war games because it's polished, tight, and knows what it’s doing.
Also, and that’s a weird one, this is the game where the cavalry charges feel the best. Even without the physics engine, you could feel the weight of every impact. Odd, isn’t it?
This game will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s the one I’ve spent the most time on. Not only because of amazing gameplay, but also because of a ton of pure quality mods. The first Warhammer Total War had its start right in this title, as a colossal conversion by the name of Call of Warhammer.
Medieval 2: Total War: Kingdoms
Kingdoms Total War expansion adds more goodness to the incredible game of Medieval 2. Basically, it’s a pack of campaigns that allow you to have fun in Britain, Kingdom of Jerusalem, Eastern Europe during Teutonic expansion, or… Cortez and his little escapade against Aztecs.
Why do I mention it? It adds many nasty units in its campaigns, like FLAMETHROWERS for the Byzantine Empire. It provides more of a challenge after you master the main campaign (just invest in economy), and… no modern Medieval 2 mod works without it. If you want to have fun in Medieval 2: Middle Earth, you need it.
3. Total War: Three Kingdoms
After Total War: Warhammer, Creative Assembly decided to return to historical periods and did so with a BANG. Welcome to the Three Kingdoms period!
While overwhelming at first, with all its features, after a while you’ll enjoy it. The attention to detail is astounding, both from the graphical and historical point of view.
The biggest point of contention between Total War players, since time immemorial, was always diplomacy. Whether you love it or hate it, all will agree that it’s clumsy or lacking most of the time.
Diplomacy Feels Like Making Treaties, Not Fighting Dumb AI
Three Kingdoms not only gave you all the diplomatic goodies from Warhammer, but they also expanded it. It even runs on the same engine. With systems for schemes, betrayals, relationships and everything else, diplomacy finally feels good.
Coalitions got to be the best part of that. Basically, you get a circle of mutual adoration, where if someone wants to join, all members have to vote. Yeah, we get that you’re under attack by a bigger foe, whom we also hate, but you’re too poor for our taste. ACCESS. DENIED.
Characters are also expanded upon, and are the narrative focus of everything that happens. With expanded diplomacy, this can create quite a mess, if you’re not the shrewd leader that you pose yourself as.
Duel Enemies for the First Time!
Settle grudges, kill off opponents, or just motivate your army with the gentle art of murdering each other. 10/10 gameplay. Especially since if you do it during battle. Nobody will wait for their generals to finish.
Seriously, there are not many things as cinematic as your leaders doing acrobatic murder-stunts, while a clash of steel and volleys of arrows happen in the background.
Narrative Driven by Those Who Survive
Lastly, as I said, there is a story to each character and their struggles to unite China. It very much depends on those who survive all the scheming after the fall of Han Dynasty.
I mean, the dynasty is still there, but its emperor is a child, controlled by a corrupt governor and… you know what? Just play it yourself because this thing gets complicated and compelling very quickly.
Choose your Total War: Three Kingdoms CD key and start your adventure!
2. Total War: Warhammer
We are talking about the whole trilogy, because if you get one Warhammer, sooner or later, you’ll have all three.
Total War: Warhammer is a beast. No other way to describe it. The scale of the campaign map is through the roof, even with just Warhammer II added. The units are mental, the narration is handcrafted for each faction, and most importantly: FANTASY. You get elves, dwarves, orcs, beastmen, dragons, treemen… Believe me, unit variety isn’t a problem here.
Everything has magic and monsters. Every army has powerful heroes that learn their war… craft as they win and lose!
So come! Gather relics, resources, allies, or slaves and experience this Creative Assembly’s foray into the fantasy of Warhammer games and lore!
It’s a setting very close to my heart because I’m one of many fans of Warhammer. At this point, it is pop culture, and I couldn’t be happier… I’ve warned that this list is biased!
I Cast Fireball From the Top of My Wyvern!
Here you have magic. Here you have a mythical beast great and small. You get lore and special abilities for your characters, and you get so many factions, which are radically different, that the game’s replayability value is insane.
Whether you start as the Empire — a federation of human counties, united by their faith, steel, and gunpowder; or you choose orcs — ape-ish, green-skinned brutes that care only for fighting and looting and do so with wild abandon… No matter what faction you choose, you’ll have a different experience
Heroes With Capital H!
Lords and heroes are an integral part of Warhammer Fantasy and always were. Here, when the world has come to your PCs, it is no different. They gain experience, skills, artifacts, and powerful new abilities as they defeat other legendary lords. You also literally can’t have an army without a Hero. Kind of sad, but it’s buried under all the positives, so I don’t mind.
The best part? You can specialize every hero into whatever you need from him.
A general? Sure, give him abilities that boost morale, or straight up remove it from allied units to make them unbreakable.
A duelist? Grab Sword of Khaine — added in Total War: Warhammer 2 — a good armor and have fun killing everything in your path. Including your allies, because that’s how Khaine rolls.
Just… go and play it. Really, there’s not much to add.
Grand Campaign is Really Grand
Mortal Empires is a small DLC for those who own multiple Total War: Warhammer titles, with no extra cost attached. If you have all three titles, guess what? You can combine all the maps into a giant mess of a world for you to save, raid, or conquer. Or all at once, depending on your beliefs.
Get your Total War: Warhammer CD key and find out about all that yourself!
Best Total War Game: Total War: Shogun 2
Set in the XVI century of feudal Japan. That means it’s the middle of Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States Period, which was the most turbulent time in the history of this land. Total War indeed. Also, it’s a return to the very first game in the series, and what a glorious return it is! People from all around the world have been playing this one for over a decade, so believe me!
Certified Total War Classic
Out of all the titles in this list, this is the definitive one. It might not be one of the recent games, but at its time? It was a breakthrough, adding complexity and new core mechanics to the series, setting foundations for future titles. This is where the skill tree for characters was introduced. This is where events really started to impact your gameplay.
You’re stomping everyone around? Have fun with Shogun, who declares you enemy of the land. Now everyone rushes to stab you!
Those Christian traders? Befriend them, and gunpowder is yours! Along with religious unrest, because they are assholes like that…
It’s of Such Quality that You Can Call It Art
It is also the most polished and frustration-free of all Total Wars known to me. Units are beautiful and varied. Bugs are nonexistent. Every issue was fixed in time, like the morale of armies breaking instantly after contact.
It feels even better because it’s a much smaller scale of the conflict. It may sound odd, but it’s good to make things more personal. In other Total War games, you're usually just… travelling around the world, conquering all in your path. Here, you have to use diplomacy at the very beginning, or Shogun will be disappointed.
It’s just quality content.
AI’s Gonna Getch’Ya
AI is another demon entirely. On Easy, you’ll smother them with brain-dead tactics, but any higher difficulty? Be prepared for AI’s aggressive expansion, using agents to their full potential, and having battle tactics that will leave you crying in the corner after a complete defeat.
This title is a classic. And I’ve hyped myself so much while writing this that I’m going to replay it.
And, of course, it has add-ons. Like Mongol invasion expansion! And sooo many DLCs.
Just… just get your Total War: Shogun 2 CD key and and play it!
- Rome: Total War — straight-up amazing. Lovely… and old as dust. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great title at its time, easily overshadowing many other incredible strategies, but today? Even with the remastered version, it’s hard to enjoy it when you know there’s Rome 2 for you to play. Well… unless you want to relive the glory of Alexander the Great! In one expansion for the original Rome, he got one of the hardest campaigns ever. Do you have what it takes to become the greatest general in history?
- Shogun Total War — The OG. It’s here, because without it, there would be no Total War series. Think of it as a tribute to the beginning of gaming splendor.
- Any Total War Saga title — look, just because they’re not on the list doesn’t mean they’re bad. If you don’t have the same issues as me, go for it. Play Saga: Thrones of Britannia and conquer it as Ireland. There’s Bronze Age Troy, from Greek mythology, with Hector, Achilles, Paris, and Odysseus!
We Got to the Finish Line
While making this list, I tried to include all the time periods and diverse mechanics that each title presents. All, so that you, dear reader, can decide what’s best for you. Because gaming is about gamers enjoying games.
Whatever the title, just remember to have fun. I might be back with more lists later, in the meantime, if you want to get any of those titles quickly, check out RoyalCDKeys stock. It contains the best games on the market in really affordable prices.