Total War games are a wonderful treat for any avid gamer looking for a fix of adrenaline. These games have everything a gamer could wish for in a total package. When it comes to strategy play, Total War games are the most demanding of the lot, with the tactical control requiring concentration like no other. When you pair that up with a turn-based play, you’ve got the ingredients for a perfect game boasting action, drama, suspense, and thrill.
The wealth of diversity offered by Total War games will make you keep playing without ever getting bored. What’s more, the stunning graphics, along with the in-depth detail available make these games the best strategy games in the market.
But dipping your toe into the vast world of the Total War franchise can seem like a challenge for any newbie. It’s hard to decide where to start exploring these games for two reasons: the adaptability of the games on offer, and the sheer indescribable size of the franchise with a wide range of options to select from.
Ranking the Total War Games
If you’re looking to explore the Total War games, you’ve come to the right place. Of course, these are just our views, so if you dig these series and see some of your favorite games on this list, be sure to give them a whirl.
Based on preference, here are our best to worst-ranked Total War games.
1. Shogun: Total War
It’s fitting that Shogun kicks off this series. What the game did was almost unbelievable when it came onto the scene. It allowed you to control a whole strategic campaign, from all sides, as well as take charge of classic real-time battles. A dream come true for any gamer!
Moreover, Shogun is an elegant, beautiful game in a manner that not many of its offshoots have been able to replicate. The throne room for conducting diplomatic affairs, the hand-drawn map featuring miniature figurines representing agents and armies stationed in the field, the traditional music that was played during battles…
Shogun does all it can to leave you feeling like you’ve been taken to another time and place. On the field of war, where each province boasts its own map, armies fight over a mythic Japan topography where they fire arrows from steep slopes and cavalry rolls down like thunder through deep valleys.
Shogun has its faults and odd touches like geisha killing your foes with the same precision a cat attends to its litterbox, or smooth mini-movies showing the tragicomic deaths of ninjas while on missions. The strategic aspect itself is superficial, and the twin-like factions were interchangeable. However, those problems can’t change the fact that this Total War game is amazing.
2. Napoleon: Total War
Napoleon refines everything that Empire did well, improving and streamlining the best parts of its rambling, often slack predecessor. More than a mere upgrade, Napoleon represents Creative Assembly’s efforts at properly applying a story to a game. Napoleon is a nod to Bonaparte’s genius, and the invasions are significant as they’re done with impartiality and humanity.
Apart from being an amazing Total War game, Napoleon is an interesting way of looking at one of Europe’s turning points. You get to feel the highs and lows of an unbelievable military mind, plus it’s an uncommon, often touching way of seeing an event that still reverberates through history. Experiencing warfare through the viewpoint of a few individuals makes Napoleon a brilliant, humbling, absolutely essential experience.
3. Attila: Total War
Set around 395 AD, Attila traces the ascension to power of Attila of the Huns, one of the most fearsome rulers in history.
As the ninth game in the Total War series, Attila comes with a number of improvements to the user interface, A.I, storytelling, graphics, management of armies, and sound design. In fact, all features introduced in earlier titles have received considerable improvements in Attila. The Horde faction is one old feature, first introduced in a Rome: Total War expansion that takes center stage.
Various factions, for instance, the Huns, start out as Hordes. Since Hordes are nomadic, they don’t begin with a province or capital. This allows them to have greater mobility, as well as a range of other benefits. For example, sanitation is hardly their concern, so they don’t need to clean after themselves (yuck!) They also gain most of their profits from pillaging and sacking settlements, and from tributes coming from some states. For this reason, they’re forced to move from one region to another to look for settlements to attack.
Playing one Horde faction is much different from playing the regular stationary faction, making this game a great switch of pace from previous titles. Furthermore, Attila has been acclaimed for its accurate depiction of the Attila of the Huns era. True to the dismal, violent time period in which Attila is set, the game is steeped in a doomsday cloud, complete with gloomy lighting and inclement weather.
Warhammer 2: Total War
This is probably the biggest of Creative Assembly’s titles and the most complex as well. With the inclusion of fleshed details and more detailed campaigns, the second installment jumps one step ahead of Warhammer, the predecessor. You’ll enjoy the real-time combats that, despite being numerous, never seem to be repetitive.
The story has all the makings of a thrilling narrative, with four factions battling it out to take over the Vortex, an exhausting and costly affair in itself. While construction of unique buildings in certain locations was hard enough, shielding them from attack by other factions simply added to the stressfulness and craziness of Warhammer 2. The end game is the takeover of the Vortex since it’s involved in everything from battles, conquests, and missions.
Throw in some dark and high elves, dinosaurs riding lizardmen and madmen turning into rats, and you’ll have the craziest yet fun game Creative Assembly has ever created.
Warhammer 2 is one of the best Total War games thanks to its compelling story centered around taking control of agents of chaos, commonly known as the Vortex. This makes the game one-dimensional and simple to understand. And with the detailed tutorials, epic-scale battles, and well-designed campaigns—Warhammer 2 is just the perfect choice for a beginner to start playing the Total War games.
Total War: Shogun 2
While other Total War games on this list have more units, grander settings, and greater scope, Shogun 2 is the most cohesive of Creative Assembly’s titles. Instead of globetrotting conquest, there are frantic attempts to unify Japan, which can make the game seem small but it’s not.
In fact, the narrow focus is what makes this game a rich, absolutely immersive experience, with an amazing campaign during one of the most haunting moments in the series. Shogun 2 also fixes numerous traditional problems in Total War. The A.I. now knows how to ride boats and expands destructively the more difficult the game gets. Clans seem distant.
Most importantly, the Shogun has the power to declare you a foe if you get too powerful, stopping you from winning with ease—instead of vanquishing factions one after the other, you’ve got to preserve the resources you’ve taken time compiling. Shogun 2 is also beautifully designed, enabling new players to adopt its systems easily, while Total War veterans can relax and let this lovely, brilliantly-crafted game deliver all the memorable moments that make everyone love the series.
Warhammer: Total War
The best Total War moments are in seesawing conflict, in which new powers replace fallen old powers. The popularity of these moments is what makes Warhammer one of the best Total War games. It’s a selfish survival battle that distills the series’ best parts, and it’s enhanced by a relatable, rich, and low-fantasy setting.
While the battles feel massive, it’s the lurking threat posed by Chaos that turns each game into a fraught story—when races finally arrive, they scramble into shaky alliances and each failed invasion is like a pant for air. Warhammer is also the most diverse Total War game—each race is meticulously eased into the game’s systems, and they’re dissimilar enough to make Warhammer feel like a hugely generous game (that is if you don’t mind forgiving Chaos pre-order nonsense).
Warhammer is far from perfect—the pacing of the campaign is off, which means that grand victories may feel like a floating afterthought accompanied by several unreadable stats. All in all, it’s gaming’s best representation of a world of Warhammer that doesn’t exist anymore.
Rome 2: Total War
As far as video games are concerned, it’s uncommon for a predecessor to trump its sequel. But that’s exactly what Rome did to Rome 2. While still a reputable title in itself, Rome 2’s release was mired in a host of technical problems.
On the positive side, its sports greatly improved visuals, even letting the camera zoom in on items to show the dismay on people’s faces when their friends get slaughtered. For this reason, Rome 2 has a sense of individual drama that’s not found in earlier Total War games.
There are also more types of battle in Rome 2. Some combine naval and land battles, while others involve river battles, sieges, and ambushes.
Medieval 2: Total War
Medieval 2 is an upgrade on Medieval, obviously, but it’s not easy for newbies. The deep gameplay, daunting battles, and need to plot are quite difficult to pull off. And with easily the largest number of battles you’ll ever find in any Total War game, Medieval 2 offers a pleasant yet daunting perspective on gameplay. While it may be stressful, you’ll come around to really enjoy this dark game set in the Middle Ages.
The plot is fascinating, and the battles look as though thousands of masses are on each other’s throats. It doesn’t get bloodier than this, does it? The entire game is centered around two goals: the first, naturally, is seizing the known land in order to rule the kingdom. But there’s another new layer to Medieval 2: you have to decide between capturing castles and cities. Cities provide more revenue, but capturing a castle means more military units. In addition to the already daunting gameplay, this piece of micromanagement makes Medieval 2 one of the most engaging Total War games.
Medieval 2 is one of the best Total War games due to the better graphics that enhance the feel of battles, as opposed to stick figures battling it out. It covers the daily aspects of the Middle Ages life, including the Pope’s election and religion. This detailed gameplay with new ideas scattered all over makes Medieval 2 one of the best games in the Total War series.
Medieval: Total War
Although the Total War series started with Shogun, the franchise really expanded with the release of Medieval. Today, Medieval is considered a milestone when it comes to the history of the Total War franchise. The improvements added to Shogun not only made Medieval a far more advanced game but also made it more thrilling. Due to the risk-style maps that facilitated repeated attacks at the most inopportune moments, Medieval can leave you very frustrated yet impressed.
Medieval was Total War’s first game to achieve an almost perfect style that was simple but engaging. The inclusion of religious factions will also keep you on your toes. At any moment, you can trust a religious fight to happen and burn everything down. The espionage and loyalty aspects sprinkled in Medieval further added to the appeal, making Medieval one of the most interesting games in the franchise.
Medieval is one of the best Total War games as it was the first one to introduce the archetypal features that are now a trademark of Total War games—hordes of soldiers with glittering armor battle charging into each other. The addition of the villain Pope and religion not only made Medieval more exciting but also more difficult to play.
Empire: Total War
On first viewing, it might seem easy to see Empire as a spinoff of Attila or Medieval—but we urge you to try it out. There’s more to Empire than its predecessor’s archetypal features. Of course, you can fight it out to take over lands and cities and rule the kingdom. But there’s plenty more—you can engage in naval battles and establish new trade routes, as well as micromanage cities as much as you want. Empire is perfect for those who like to personalize everything—from villages to battle plans.
Empire boasts two overarching plays—the first one is conquering towns, expanding your territory, improving your army, and managing your resources. More exciting is the second one, where you engage in strategy and tactical-based battles based on real-life which requires you to plan in advance, engage in diplomacy, and use espionage.
There’s a lot more to ensure you’re hooked on Empire, from senate missions and family trees, the establishment of trade routes, spying, the appointment of governors, and subverting traders. Be sure to give Empire a try and you’ll surely be hooked on this epic fantasy.
Empire is one of the best games in the Total War franchise as it was among the first to introduce improved graphics. The gameplay is massive and there’s a diverse range of features to keep you satisfied and engaged.
Total War games span different settings and timeframes, with varying degrees of strategic complexity and scope. Admittedly, the franchise’s A.I. is a little infamous for its rather clumsy strategy at basic levels, but it’s definitely improving over time. But all in all, we do hope we’ve shared a bit of information on which Total War games to try out. Whichever game you pick, you’re sure to have a good time!
FAQ’s About War Games
Total War is a war that’s uncontrolled when it comes to the combatants or territory involved, the weapons used, or the goals pursued, especially one where there’s a disregard for the laws of war.
Total war basically means that you can best defeat the enemy by attacking everything, including citizens, soldiers, food, supplies, and so on. The warfare is overseen by ancient civilizations like Rome or Persia, and the modern war waged during World War 2 by the Nazis are both perfect examples of total war.
Warhammer is the fastest ever selling game in the Total War series. According to the developer, Creative Assembly, it sold more than 500,000 copies within a few days of being on sale.
To play Total War: Warhammer 2, your system should have about 8GB of RAM and not less than 5GB of RAM. When it comes to game file size, your system should have at least 60GB free disk space.