I can’t even begin to count the many thousands of hours I’ve spent across the Total War franchise since first picking up Rome: Total War in 2004. Since then, we’ve had countless titles and spin-offs released, and these are the top five Total War games.
Five Best Total Way Games Ranked
Total War: Warhammer 3
Yes, as of this writing, I realize that Total War: Warhammer 3 is currently sitting at relatively low mixed reviews on Steam. It’s heading downward quickly for the final release in the fantasy strategy series with the recent communication woes, DLC pricing concerns, and subtle threats to the community about stopping all development on the game.
With that out of the way, Warhammer 3 remains one of the most prominent and most accessible titles in the franchise, with so many unique factions and units to explore. It also boasts one of the largest worlds in its Immortal Empires campaign, which requires the previous Warhammer titles to enjoy. However, the ability to conquer an entire world as a plague-riddled daddy is unbeatable.
Total War: Rome 2
Yes, many would prefer I include Total War: Rome, the original entry, instead of its sequel. This one launched with several issues, including bugs, crashes, and lackluster content. But over the years, with numerous quality-of-life updates and a few expansions, it has blossomed into one of the most enthralling and accessible Total War titles.
You have numerous factions to select, many of which play entirely differently from each other, and a massive landmass to explore and conquer, including Spain, Egypt, Gaul, Greece, and the Italian Peninsula, for those Carthage players out there. You have a clear-cut entry for the top five Total War titles when you add in the exceptional siege battles, the ship-based combat, and the overall aesthetic of Roman legionnaires marching across the field!
Total War: Medieval 2
Let’s take a step back in time to explore Total War: Medieval 2. I cannot begin to express the joy I felt every time I launched Medieval 2. I would play as France and Venice, launching campaigns against my neighbors as the former and building an economic empire as the latter. And even as an aging game, it looks gorgeous. I mean, seriously, look at those knights above. The aesthetic is unrivaled!
Alongside its exceptional single-player campaign, which you can play for hundreds or thousands of hours over your lifetime, you have many unique complete conversion mods. Some of my favorites include:
- Third Age – Total War
- Rise of the Three Kingdoms
- The Elder Scrolls: Total War
Total War: Empire
I’ll come clean here: Total War: Empire is one of my least-played Total War games. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy the few campaigns I ran through, but it released when I was busy with everything else. It fell by the wayside, sadly. That said, it’s still one of the best and fully deserves a sequel. It’s an exciting time to explore, with gunpowder and cannons dominating the battlefield and the iconic square formations.
Total War: Empire shook up the franchise by adding line infantry and musket-based combat alongside its exceptional ship combat. Before this, these mechanics were lackluster, if included at all. The 18th century provided a unique arena to tackle nations in, and every unit served a purpose based on their type from the time period. We need an Empire 2!
Total War: Shogun 2
For many, Total War: Shogun 2 remains the epitome of the Total War franchise, surpassing the Warhammer trilogy in quality and replayability. The small-scale setting of Japan and its islands, the colorful factions that didn’t vary significantly but still provided a unique perspective into warfare based around the noble Samurai.
That said, it also included Realm Divine. It was the “total war” feature of the game, with all other nations declaring war on the player if you grew too powerful. It was the first iteration of the end-game crisis that we now see in Total War: Warhammer 3.
Hate or love it; there’s nothing quite like seeing an army of Samurai charge across a field, arrows raining overhead, and katanas raised high as they fight to the last man.
I genuinely cannot list the “top” Total War titles without also mentioning Total War: Three Kingdoms and Total War: Napoleon. Sadly, they’re two fantastic entries that were abandoned well before their time. With a few quality-of-life updates, perhaps an expansion or two more, both would have gone on to greatness. And seriously, Three Kingdoms sold well but below Creative Assembly’s expectations, so they walked away. It had potential!
The Total War franchise is on shaky ground right now but fills a niche, unlike any other strategy game on the market. Here’s hoping Creative Assembly regains its footing and listens to the community that has stuck with them through so many releases for the next big Total War game!