These top strategy games have wowed expert judges and public voters alike over the last seven years.
The best strategy games at The Game Awards
Age of Empires IV is the only real-time strategy game to win the award for Best Strategy Game at The Game Awards to date. Other winners include Civilization VI (2016), Into the Breach (2018), and, most recently in 2022, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.
This article lists every winner of the Best Sim/Strategy Game or Best Strategy Game award at The Game Awards from 2016 (the first year this category was featured) to the present, and also takes a look forward at potential winners for 2023.
2016 – Civilization VI
It’s fitting that one of the greatest strategy game franchises of all time won The Game Awards’ inaugural Best Sim/Strategy Game title in 2016.
A new art style and overhauled mechanics which don’t reward players so much for controlling as much map area as possible have proved controversial among lovers of Civ V, but I think these changes of direction are refreshing.
As casual strategy games go, there are few better than Civilization VI and it’s arguably the most beginner-friendly entry in the series to date.
The other nominees in 2016 were Fire Emblem Fates, The Banner Saga 2, Total War: Warhammer, and XCOM 2.
2017 – Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a delightful turn-based strategy game that introduces Rabbids (characters who are originally from Ubisoft’s Rayman series) into the Mushroom Kingdom.
The 2017 Game Awards were a success for Nintendo, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild winning the overall title (still the only Switch exclusive to win Game of the Year) and Mario Odyssey picking up Best Family Game.
It took a bit of time for the concept to really bed in, with some early reviewers questioning the inclusion of Rabbids at all, but Kingdom Battle is today regarded as one of the best turn-based strategy games of recent years.
Combat is nice and simple which makes this a very accessible game, and the overworld looks excellent and is fun to explore.
The other nominees in 2017 were Halo Wars 2, Total War: Warhammer II, Tooth and Tail, and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen.
2018 – Into the Breach
Into the Breach is one of my favorite casual turn-based strategy games. It’s easy for less experienced strategists to pick up and play, and customizable mechs and randomly generated levels mean endless replayability.
It’s one of the most feature-packed small Switch games, with all the action-packed into just 400MB.
If you’ve played it before, Into the Breach is worth picking up again now because a free update dropped in mid-2022 with five new mech squads, almost 40 new weapons, new challenges, new abilities, and an ‘unfair’ difficulty mode.
The other nominees in 2018 were The Banner Saga 3, BattleTech, Frostpunk, and Valkyria Chronicles 4. I can’t believe Northgard isn’t on that list: It’s still my go-to slow paced RTS.
2019 – Fire Emblem: Three Houses
I was never a huge Fire Emblem fan but Three Houses changed that. It’s a great pick-up and play experience but also has enough depth to keep you occupied for many, many hours.
If you are a newcomer to the series like I was when I first played Three Houses, it’s probably best 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.
This also happens in the Fire Emblem GBA games which I’ve started playing recently and can highly recommend to anyone looking for casual GBA games.
The other nominees in 2019 were Age of Wonders: Planetfall, Anno 1800, Total War: Three Kingdoms, Tropico 6, and Wargroove.
2020 – Crusader Kings III
In 2020, The Game Awards changed the best strategy game category to include simulation games, too. That’s why Microsoft Flight Simulator won the award.
However, I want to talk about strategy games, so I have decided to ignore the facts and select the strategy game that I think would have won had sims not been grouped in with strategy games: Crusader Kings III.
The RPG, sandbox-style gameplay means you can sink hours into Crusader Kings III without any real pressure to follow one particular direction over another.
This is probably the most beginner-friendly Crusader Kings game to date, so casual players will have no problems absorbing the basics and getting used to the gameplay mechanics.
Seasoned players will surely find that this third title in the series is comfortably the best – it’s a worthy winner of my fake Best Strategy Game at the 2020 Game Awards title.
The other nominees in 2020 were Desperados III, Gears Tactics, and XCOM: Chimera Squad.
2021 – Age of Empires IV
Is RTS dead? No, was the answer given by The Game Awards voting committee and public voters in 2021 when Age of Empires IV scooped the Best Sim/Strategy Game award.
It is the only real-time strategy game to win this award to date which, while 2021 was a relatively quiet year for strategy games, still tells you pretty much all you need to know about its quality.
Age of Empires IV also has a Mod Editor which you can use to create your own game modes, maps, and more. The possibilities are endless.
To add, if you want to get better at strategy games, Age of Empires games are always great for practicing your skills.
The other nominees in 2021 were Evil Genius 2: World Domination, Humankind, Inscryption, and Microsoft Flight Simulator.
2022 – Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a huge improvement on what was already a fantastic game – Best Strategy Game winner at the 2017 Game Awards, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle).
Exploring the overworld between battles is just good old-fashioned fun and there are plenty of puzzles and unlockables to discover.
However, it’s in the turn-based gameplay that Sparks of Hope really shines. There is no traditional TBS grid for player movements. Instead, each movement is totally free within a character’s set range and this range can be extended via certain unique abilities and perks (the Sparks).
This makes gameplay look and feel as smooth as butter. It’s a must-buy if you have a Switch, with my only tiny gripe being that I wish there were character customization options to change outfits like in Mario Odyssey.
The other nominees in 2022 were Dune: Spice Wars, Total War: Warhammer III, Two Point Campus, and Victoria 3.
All I want in 2023 is Red Alert 2 remastered (even just confirmation that it’s happening would be enough).
Back in reality, some of the strategy games that I think may be in the mix for the Best Sim/Strategy Game award at the 2023 Game Awards are Company of Heroes 3, Fire Emblem Engage, and Frostpunk 2.
Best strategy games at The Game Awards – summary
The best strategy games – based on the games that have won this category at The Game Awards – are:
- Civilization VI
- Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
- Into the Breach
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses
- Crusader Kings III
- Age of Empires IV
- Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope