Ready to put on your thinking cap? Our list of the best free strategy games will outline ten games that will test your gaming prowess, from military simulators to lore-filled card games. Strategy games aren't always the easiest to get to grips with, so we've got a breakdown of some good choices if you're just starting out, with some familiar names sprinkled within.
In our list, we'll run through some of the biggest and best strategy games that you can download right now without paying a penny. We'll explain what they each consist of, as well as the unique spins that make them worth your time. We've covered all the bases from cartoonish tower defence games to medieval fantasies, meaning there's something for everyone.
On top of that, check out our list of the best free RPG games for some story-driven and engrossing freebies. We've also got a list of the best shooting games to test your aim, as well as the best free multiplayer games if you feel like diving into an adventure with your friends.
Here are the best free strategy games
- Eternal Fury
- Forge of Empires
- Magic: The Gathering
- Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming
- Fallout Shelter
- Bloons TD Battles
First on our list is Eternal Fury, a turn-based browser game. Set in a fantasy world, you play as one of three classes, controlling military forces while battling against rival factions. In many ways it plays like the classic RTS army builder you'll no doubt be familiar with franchises like Civilisation. However, the fact that it's free means there's a vast player base ready to do battle with you.
You take the reigns of your small empire, choosing which forces to train up, how much money to put into your fledgling town hall, and crucially when to go to war. You take a more detached hold on combat by tapping the forces you want to attack at any time, requiring a balance of patience and reactions: ready to counter enemy moves, but also not using all of your forces too early on. With massive PVP arenas that let you test your mettle against other players as well as guilds to play with friends, you'll need your military leader cap on to succeed in Eternal Fury.
Forge of Empires
Next on our list is another browser game quite similar to Eternal Fury, with a slightly more realistic outlook. In Forge of Empires, you lead your small community throughout history and the distant future, from the Stone Age to far-flung regions of interplanetary exploration and technological advancements. You control your region's entire economy in that time, choosing which goods to produce and sell for profit, as well as whether or not you should go to war to expand your territory.
Combat takes on a very strategic role too, with a battle system that works like a game of rock paper scissors. Certain units are most effective against other forces, so it becomes a battle to match up effectiveness to ensure you win your skirmishes. But equally important is keeping your citizens happy by upgrading your town hall, decorating your land, and ensuring everyone is well fed. There are a lot of plates to spin, which makes Forge of Empires very engrossing.
Magic: The Gathering
Magic: The Gathering is a very different type of strategy game to the ones we've highlighted before. It is considered by many to be the single definitive card game, and the free-to-play video game version is no different. Players on PC and mobile can download Magic: The Gathering Arena and dive into the extensive world at no cost. This free-to-play version of MTG is constantly updated, with new cards and limited-time events ensuring there's always something new to collect.
Even better though, the game makes a great effort to assist newcomers to the franchise, with a virtual assistant called Sparky there to explain the mechanics and walk you through until you feel comfortable. For a franchise that's dominated table-top strategy gaming for decades now, it's good to see MTG welcoming newcomers with open arms. With a variety of game modes including general battles as well as a digital-only Alchemy mode, MTG is more accessible than ever.
If it's historical town-builders that take your fancy, then look no further than Tentlan. Set in the pre-Columbian Americas, you build your own community in a period of history rarely touched upon in gaming, making for a very unique experience. It has its own fantastical spin though, combining real-life technology and resources of the time with magical powers.
Yes, Tentlan lets you harness the weather-changing powers of the gods to shake things up when you're in RTS combat sequences. Performing rituals prior to a battle lets you harness supernatural abilities in the midst of warfare, which can totally shift the tide of a fight that looks destined to go wrong. Strategic timing and precise pre-battle planning are the name of the game in Tentlan - and that's alongside the resource management that goes hand-in-hand with building your own town.
If you like the sound of Tentlan but would prefer a more medieval spin on things, then Elvenar is definitely for you. In terms of gameplay, it's practically the same as the former, because they share the same developer, InnoGames. The main difference is the world design and visuals, which focuses more on fantastical themes and lush green forests that'll remind you of Middle-earth.
What makes Elvenar so unique is the range of armies and military forces you can build up. Instead of harnessing ancient powers, you recruit different troop types like Treants, which are tree men, and Elves. It's more laidback than its contemporaries due to the charming greenery of its visuals and the more cartoony aesthetic, but the strategic gameplay is still at the heart of Elvenar.
Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming
Game of Thrones may have finished broadcasting several years ago, but this free-to-play military RTS based on the hit show is still going strong. Available on PC and mobile, you play as the leader of one of the seven houses in Westeros. The focus is more on military training and combat rather than expanding your region of George R. R. Martin's world, due to it taking place within the predetermined geography of the show.
There's still plenty to do, however, as keeping your citizens happy is very important. You'll spend upgrade points to boost the food yield of your region, as well as developing new barracks and other buildings to ensure you stand toe to toe with the likes of the Starks and Lannisters. While it may be very similar to other games on this list in terms of gameplay, there's nothing else that lets you take control of Westeros. You may miss the glory days of Game of Thrones, and Winter Is Coming will let you relive that.
When it comes to free-to-play card video games, there are none more popular than Hearthstone. Initially designed as a TCG spin-off of World of Warcraft, it quickly became a phenomenon of its own, and now it's one of the most popular games on PC. With your deck of 30 cards, you'll take on players worldwide, destroying their hero character and managing your mana resources to land the best attacks possible.
Similar to MTG, it's a game that has a very engrained meta and may not be the easiest for new players to learn. However, Hearthstone is slightly more accessible due to its casual playlists, which walk you through the mechanics without leaving you to learn the hard way. It also has a timer to ensure matches zip by quickly, and the range of different packs you can open and cards to collect mean you'll never run out of things to do. If MTG is a bit too overwhelming, then give Hearthstone a go.
Next, for something totally different. Released a few months prior to Fallout 4 back in 2015, Fallout Shelter takes the satirical 2D animation of Vault-Boy and gives him his very own vault management spin-off. In this game, you control and manage your own Vault-Tec vault, and look after the growing population kept safe within.
If the charming Vault-Tec vignettes in mainline Fallout games always appealed to you, then Shelter is definitely going to hit the spot. You can expand your vault entirely to your liking, with new rooms and perks to unlock using the series' classic SPECIAL skill tree. What's most endearing though is that Fallout Shelter never forces you to purchase microtransactions. If you want to speed up a task, you can do so by 'rushing' - but that will raise the risk of horrifying beasts invading and ruining your progress.
Another spin-off of a triple-A RPG, Gwent takes the card game that we all loved from The Witcher 3 and makes it its very own game. No more bartering with the Bloody Baron to progress; instead, all the fun comes down to turn-based strategy. Gwent is certainly more easily accessible than its contemporaries like MTG and Hearthstone, with fewer card types and a simple numerical battle system where, unsurprisingly, the higher number wins any 1v1 duel.
The main draw to Gwent is the simplicity of the gameplay, which requires far less skill but still feels very satisfying when you manage to win. It may not be especially different to the version seen in Wild Hunt, but is perfect if you want a quick play session and don't want to dedicate tens of hours to learning the game. Plus, you can get a Geralt card in Gwent. Who wouldn't want that?
Bloons TD Battles
Last on our list for now is Bloons TD Battles, a streamlined free version of the hit tower defence series. Gone are the single-player missions, with a keen focus on PVP combat as you shore up against real people trying to swarm your defences with wave after wave of enemy troops. If you've ever played Bloons before, you'll know what to expect, though it's definitely got a unique charm due to its F2P streamlining.
You may not get as much time out of Bloons TD Battles as other games in the series, but the addictive nature of doing battle with real people never wears off. You can play as either attacker or defender, with the former option giving you the chance to play on the other side of the coin, as the attacker you'd usually be staving off. Pair that with winner-takes-all Battle Arena modes and plenty of wacky defences, and you'll find plenty to enjoy here.
That's it for our breakdown of the best free strategy games! If you're a budding military commander or just want to build up your own town and keep the residents happy, you should be able to find something here. Be sure to also check out our list of the best free war games, if you want to put on your military cap and hit the battlefield.