Not all strategy games require an encyclopedic knowledge of skill trees and hotkey finger speed that would put a piano virtuoso to shame.
Yes, you’ll still get mercilessly crushed in online ranked matches in lots of the games below but I’ve picked them because they are great for casual play, too.
The best casual strategy games (overall)
- Age of Empires II (PC)
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)
- Civilization 5 (PC)
- Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun (PC, PS5, Xbox)
- Jeanne d’Arc (PSP)
(Disclaimer: There are obviously too many good strategy games to fit into a single article – the ones I have included are simply my favorites for casual sessions.)
Casual strategy games for PC
Age of Empires II
The game that got me into RTS and, actually, gaming in general. RTS is not dead: AoE 2 is a timeless classic that has enduring appeal not only among casual gamers but also in esports.
The memorable single-player campaign – rooted in real historical events – is super approachable even for the freshest of newcomers to RTS. The music is amazing, the speed is amazing, and the graphics and scaling are perfect.
You can ramp the difficulty up to hone your chops for multiplayer if you like (if you’re new to online PvP, these tips for how to get better at RTS games should help), but even the PVP lobbies have plenty of casual servers for less intense competitive play.
If you’ve never played Age of Empires, my recommendation would be to start with this one. If you’ve played loads of Age of Empires, go back and play some more AoE 2.
Another old game that, like AoE 2, continues to pull in an impressive number of players today despite several sequels having been released. I think it’s one of the best casual turn-based strategy games of all time.
Civilization 6 is arguably more friendly to the absolute beginner, but Civ 5 is nevertheless a much easier game to get stuck into than the first four entries in the series.
Other than that, the art style and simplicity of play are, for me, the two main things that make Civ 5 more appealing for a casual player than Civ 6.
Tons of active players means there are thriving online communities for multiplayer gameplay as well as mod development.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
If you’ve never been into Warhammer, don’t be put off by the fact that this is a Warhammer game.
I may have painted a few models back in the day but I’ve never rolled dice in anger, know nothing about the Warhammer 40,000 lore and I still really enjoyed this one.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is a turn-based strategy game. I like turn-based strategy on Game Boy Advanced, but often struggle to get into this genre on PC (outside classics like Civ 5).
However, I was pleasantly surprised by this. It seems super difficult at first, but learn the glyphs and mechanics and you’ll find it actually gets easier as the game progresses.
Grim-dark fantasy is quite a hard style to get right in my opinion but the writing and atmosphere in this game are absolutely on point. Well worth a try even if turn-based strategy isn’t usually your thing.
There are a huge number of good free indie games on Steam, including piles of strategy games. Free and free-to-play games are a bit hit and miss – War Selection is definitely a hit.
War Selection is classic base building, resource collection, and combat real-time strategy with surprising depth for a free game.
There are more than 100 buildings and over 200 different units plus several different game modes beyond the classic skirmish format (including a survival mode and a battle royale-style mode). The gameplay is relatively slow for an RTS which only makes it more friendly to the casual player.
Check it out – there’s literally nothing to lose.
The Riftbreaker is a pretty damn great execution of what, on paper, seems like an overly ambitious conflation of several different genres.
Classic elements of real-time strategy like base building and resource collection are added to by tower defense style gameplay, top-down shooter action as well as an RPG-like crafting and upgrades system.
It all sounds a bit intense for a ‘casual’ strategy game, right? Well, the story mode really holds your hand as the difficulty is cranked up so it’s surprisingly easy to get up to speed.
The late game can get stressful, for sure, but if you’re happy to learn by failing a few times first then achieving objectives is incredibly rewarding.
It’s impressive how all these different mechanics blend together in The Riftbreaker without feeling overwhelming.
Sim City 2000
One of the first video games I got seriously addicted to. I still prefer it to the later Sim City installments – there’s just something so charming about Sim City 2000 that is seldom replicated.
Sim City 2000 is the OG city builder. Randomly generated maps provide tons of replayability and the game is very forgiving for those who simply want to have a chill time.
The music and sound effects are absolutely iconic and the natural disasters and challenge modes are weirdly hilarious.
These days, you can emulate Sim City 2000 on DOS right in your browser. How cool is that?
Now, for something different altogether.
In Mini Metro, players take on the role of city planners to devise the best subway map design for a growing city.
The minimalist visual design and warming soundscape make Mini Metro inherently relaxing for what is essentially a resource-management survival horror game.
It’s a game that generally resolves much more quickly than other strategy games for the PC, but you can nevertheless manage to maintain your subway system for well over an hour once you know what you’re doing.
The developers, Dinosaur Polo Club have since released a spiritual successor, Mini Motorways, which is also worth a try. However, as in real life, smart and efficient public transport makes for a tidier, cleaner experience (Mini Motorways can get a bit stressful!)
Mini Metro’s small file size on Switch is a plus for people (like me) who have packed their console’s internal storage to the brim.
Casual strategy games for PS5
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
I really like this game.
I played Commandos 2 to death back in the day and this is the best stealth strategy game since that.
The visuals are gorgeous and each playable character has more than enough nuance to make using them worthwhile: You start as Mugen, a champion type, and progressively unlock other assassins with different traits encouraging different playstyles.
You can switch between each character in real time to take advantage of their particular skills.
These sorts of games are traditionally pretty tough, but I think the standard difficulty mode on Blades of the Shogun is easier than on the Commandos series, so it’s not a big barrier to entry for new players.
The game is most enjoyable when you slow down and really think about your next moves. It’s perfect for a casual session.
World War II may have turned out somewhat different if the mech weaponry on show in Iron Harvest were available to either side.
Iron Harvest is pretty forgiving for casual players in multiplayer mode, while the campaign presents some tricky moments so it’s a win for a wide range of players.
I find that many real-time strategy games don’t work so well on consoles without a mouse, but I don’t find this too clunky at all.
The story mode is quite varied in terms of objectives that need to be completed and the narrative cutscenes are actually quite absorbing.
XCOM 2 is one of the best turn-based strategy games out there and it plays really well on the PS5.
Your squad members – humanity’s last hopes against an alien invasion – all have particular skills and abilities to help you navigate the procedurally generated maps and varied mission types.
One issue with XCOM 2 is that the tutorial doesn’t come close to covering all the useful mechanics and options available to you when playing.
Thankfully for those of you who don’t have time to work all this out for yourselves, there are loads of in-depth beginner guides on Reddit, YouTube, and wherever else.
Casual strategy games for Xbox
Before We Leave
Before We Leave is certainly the coziest game on this list.
It’s a city builder with an incredibly relaxing vibe. Your role is to rebuild civilization in the open air after decades spent living underground.
There aren’t really any mind-blowing or truly innovative gameplay features compared to other city builders, but there is a really unique charm to Before We Leave that gives it super replayability.
Exploring and colonizing the various Earth-like worlds to find new technological advances and upgrade your buildings is therapeutic.
The gameplay loop is addictive and it’s very easy to pick up and play with no prior knowledge of the concepts or mechanics used.
Halo Wars 2
The first console I bought with my own money was the original Xbox and I bought that almost exclusively to play Halo: CE. I’ve copped every Halo game since and, while some disappoint, Halo Wars 2 is not one of them.
Even if you couldn’t care less about Master Chief and his antics, Halo Wars 2 is well worth a blast.
The campaign is relatively short and you’ll have no trouble blasting your way through it as gameplay is focused more on action than hardcore strategy.
Halo Wars 2 is probably not one for the RTS purists who generally consider it to be altogether too easy, but that’s part of what makes it such a good option for casual console players.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination
Evil Genius 2 is silly and it knows it.
In a genre that’s typically dominated by serious civilization building and species defending, it’s refreshing to get stuck into a game that’s almost the complete opposite.
You can play as one of four evil geniuses in a single-player campaign with the goal of creating an epoch-ending weapon of mass destruction.
This game reminds me a bit of Theme Hospital (remember that one!) in terms of its style and tone, and that can be nothing but a good thing.
The attention to detail on voice acting and animations during cutscenes is impressive and helps to really hook in the casual player.
Best casual strategy game on Game Pass
Crusader Kings III
Crusader Kings III was a day-one release on Game Pass. It’s almost certainly the best strategy game you can play on Xbox.
The RPG, sandbox-style gameplay means you can sink hours into Crusader Kings without any real pressure to follow one particular direction over another.
PC Gamer has gone as far as putting the PC version straight in at position 3 of its top 100 games, and it’s a joy on Xbox, too.
This is probably the most beginner-friendly entry in the Crusader Kings series to date, so casual players will have no problems absorbing the basics and getting used to the gameplay mechanics.
Switch casual strategy games
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The turn-based strategy RPG is the 16th release in the Fire Emblem series and, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, the first one I’ve actually played.
Even as a series newbie, though, I found Fire Emblem to be the perfect pick-up and play. To add, each Fire Emblem game has a standalone story so you won’t get drowned in a narrative that is totally lost on you if you’re new to it all.
One tip for casual players is to make sure to select casual mode over classic when prompted at the start of the game.
In casual mode, you don’t suffer any huge permanent penalties for defeat in battle. In classic mode, characters who are defeated in combat are lost forever.
No surprise, really, that Three Houses was named Best Strategy Game at the 2019 Game Awards. It’s very good.
Triangle Strategy’s Metacritic scores tell you all you need to know about its quality.
Square Enix really has smashed it out of the park with this turn-based tactical RPG. There are more than 20 playable characters to enjoy through tens (more likely hundreds) of hours of play.
The story heads off in different directions depending on the choices made, so there’s tons of replayability – you really do get your money’s worth.
The HD2D style visuals are, frankly, incredible and I am truly grateful that this style is becoming increasingly popular across both big-budget and indie titles in all genres.
Hard mode is predictably brutal but the easy or very easy modes make it much more approachable to players who aren’t quite up to chess grandmaster level of move planning (like me).
Into the Breach
A Nintendo Switch indie release with very modest graphics, Into The Breach shows that you can make a gripping modern game without relying on memory-intense textures and cinematic cutscenes.
Into the Breach is a turn-based strategy game where players take charge of futuristic mechs to help save the world from an alien threat.
Nothing too original about that, but the premise doesn’t have to be original when the gameplay is so good.
The replayability meter is off the charts thanks to customizable mechs and randomly generated levels. It’s fun, it’s quick to learn for casual players, and – warning – it’s addictive.
You can pick up Into the Breach for $15 – that’s great value compared to some of the more expensive Nintendo Switch games.
Ganbare! Super Strikers
If you don’t like sports games then look away now. For those of you that are partial to that, the turn-based format applied to soccer on the Switch is a cool novelty.
It takes a while to level up your players and team to reach the same level and unlock the same abilities as your opponents can use from the word go, but that’s all part of the fun.
You can also modify the appearances of your players – the options aren’t as extensive as other Switch games with character customization, but it’s a bit of fun nonetheless.
There’s all sorts to keep track of during every game with things like weather affecting players’ stats. The AI is relatively predictable meaning this is a pretty beginner-friendly game.
There’s a (fairly average) story mode as well as an Arcade mode that supports multiplayer.
GBA casual strategy games
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
I’d argue that the Game Boy Advance is one of the best platforms for turn-based strategy. It just works so well and there aren’t many games more suited to this list than Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
The storyline is charming and the level and character design are easy on the eye. It’s pretty easy for a first-time player to pick up and play, too.
It’s perfectly possible to sink hundreds of hours into this one without encountering any throw-the-console-at-the-wall moments of frustration or impossibly tricky tasks.
There’s a good reason Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is on many GBA fans’ list of all-time favorites.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is another cozy turn-based strategy recommendation for gamers seeking out a casual yet rewarding experience.
The story follows a loveable cast of characters who set out to thwart the ambitions of the Grado Empire and save the Sacred Stones from destruction.
This is the third GBA installment in the Fire Emblem series (although the first – The Binding Blade – was not released globally) and I picked it for this list because it’s considered to be a more straightforward, more accessible game than its predecessor.
Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town
More Friends of Mineral Time is the second Harvest Moon entry on the Game Boy Advance and it hit the shelves in North America in the summer of 2006.
This sequel sticks to the same core gameplay as its predecessor with several new features and additions.
For example, players play as a girl rather than a boy, raise a daughter rather than a son, can change outfit color, and can now sell items to Won at the shop. There are also a few new items to collect.
The quality of the Harvest Moon games more than makes up for the lack of other farming sim options on the GBA, and Friends of Mineral Town is casual GBA gaming to a tee.
Casual strategy games for PSP
Given that it has to compete against the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, it’s perhaps not so surprising that Jeanne d’Arc sometimes gets left out of discussions around the best PSP strategy game.
However, I think it’s the best option for casual players and certainly one that may have slipped through the cracks for many gamers (it did for me).
As far as gameplay is concerned, Jeanne d’Arc is a pretty conventional strategy RPG – the mechanics are fun and have nice depth without feeling too over the top.
The story is fantastic and the main game clocks in at more than 40 hours. That’s plenty of afternoons curled up on the sofa sorted.
Pixel Junk Monsters
Yes, tower defense games existed before smartphones. Pixel Junk Monsters Deluxe includes both the main game released on PS3, plus the Encore DLC.
Your role is to take control of Tikiman and help him protect his cute little tribe by building defenses against the waves of strange monsters that are hell-bent on savagely murdering the tribespeople.
The music and visuals are fantastic and so perfect for the handheld form factor – this game wouldn’t be nearly as engrossing if it weren’t possible to play it on the go.
There are loads of different towers and you’ll need to know which one to use when and make sure they’re leveled up in time for the big boss monsters that arrive after a series of waves.
The tutorial makes all this very clear, though, so it doesn’t really present problems to new players.
Worms Open Warfare 2
Worms is a classic video game franchise and, while some of the newer games have (in my opinion) absolutely sucked, those that stick to the tried and tested turn-based 2D worm-on-worm warfare have aged fantastically.
Worms Open Warfare 2 is firmly in the latter category. It packs in way more content than any Worms game before it, including online multiplayer, loads of customization, and plenty of extras.
The comedic presentation will be familiar to anyone that’s played Worms before. For those that haven’t – it’s a load of worms making jokes about how they’re going to annihilate each other.
The widescreen display of the PSP means you can see plenty of the battlefield and, even if there isn’t anyone playing online anymore, the career mode is long enough to keep you occupied for ages.
Casual strategy games for Android
Bad North: Jotunn Edition
Bad North: Jotunn is a charmingly presented strategy game for Android. Your job is essentially to defend your tiny island from waves of Viking attackers.
The more islands you successfully defend, the more you’re able to upgrade your units.
It blends rogue-like elements with classic base/tower defense mechanics and is very easy to learn but hard to master.
The minimalist art style is absolutely fantastic and rather unique when compared to other mobile games and the premium price tag (a whole $3.99) means you won’t be bothered by microtransactions. Well worth it.
Battle of Polytopia
Battle of Polytopia has been out for a few years now, but it’s seldom been beaten by any other casual strategy games on Android.
Players take control of a polygonic tribe to explore, build, upgrade, and go to war in turn-based gameplay.
It’s got amazing depth for a mobile game and single matches can easily take more than 30 minutes.
The visual design is incredible. It’s colorful, smart, and charming. Mobile is arguably the platform where developers have to do the most to differentiate their games from others visually, and Midjwan has truly delivered.
Bloons TD 6
Bloons TD 6 is (you guessed it) the sixth Bloons game.
In this $5 game, you pick a team of monkeys, each with their own unique weapons, and place them in the best possible positions to be able to pop a variety of different balloons which float along a path.
Quality of life features like being able to speed up easy periods of gameplay where you’re just popping balloons for fun make it much more fun even when you’ve had plenty of practice.
The microtransactions in the game are easily ignorable (they aren’t critical to progression) and overall, the Bloons TD 6 has a really premium feel to it.
Mobile games are casual almost by definition and you can’t really go wrong for five bucks.
Casual strategy games – conclusion
Casual strategy games are the perfect tonic to the busy pace of life. Sit back, relax and dive into any of the games on this page for a chill yet challenging experience.
While I recommend all of these games, I think the best casual strategy games are:
- Age of Empires II (PC)
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)
- Civilization 5 (PC)
- Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun (PC, PS5, Xbox)
- Jeanne d’Arc (PSP)