We have all been there before it’s 3 a.m. in the morning and we are conquering province after province and finally closing in on our mortal enemies capital city with our vast armies. At this point, sleep becomes a secondary concern as a primal instinct kicks in for the pursuit of the final victory!

Welcome to the world of 4X turn-based strategy games. There is nothing quite like building an empire from scratch, turning it into an economic powerhouse, building a massive army and then taking over the world. The depth and complexity of 4X games offer a whole new level of immersion versus playing an FPS shooter, platformer and even most MMORPGs.

Have you ever had dreams of conquering Europe playing the role of Napoleon or stampeding across Asia with the calvaries of Genghis Khan? How about commanding entire countries under a historically accurate backdrop while helping to build their economies, fund cutting-edge technologies and raising armies? If so then you’re going to want to check out this list of the most popular turn-based 4X grand strategy titles gamers are playing today.

1. Europa Universalis IV

Coming in at number one is Europa Universalis IV. This Paradox game is considered by many to be a 4X masterpiece. It takes place starting in the Middle Ages and runs up until the 1800s. It’s the most complex historically accurate nation builder and war simulator during this time period.

It features a gorgeous in-game map engine of the entire known world back then. It has advanced economic, diplomatic and military simulators within the main game itself that will keep even the most hardened turn-based strategy player engaged for months on end.

2. Heroes of Might and Magic 3

The second most played turn-based strategy game is Heroes of Might and Magic 3. This game is 20 years old and still kicking strong for the number of active players. This just goes to prove that a game is much more than its graphics even though for its own time HOMM 3 looked pretty damn nice.

The Might and Magic franchise was something special back in the 90s being the WoW equivalent prior to the age of MMOs. This turn-based strategy series incorporated the awesome Might and Magic universe along with an easy to learn and in-depth roleplaying, empire building, and turn-based strategy battle simulator and did I mention magic?. All  of this combines to help create a 4X experience like no other. And to top it off it has a mesmerizing musical score which still sounds good today. If you’re looking for near endless replayability set in a fantasy turn-based setting this is without a doubt the game for you.

3. Hearts of Iron IV

For all of you, World War II junkies out there don’t worry because the third most popular turn-based 4X strategy game today is Hearts of Iron 4. This is another Paradox title though and not surprising because they are the SSI (Strategic Simulations Inc.) of the modern age. All of you old timers will know what I mean by that statement.

This is the fourth installment of the grand World War II strategy series. There was no larger historical conflict to simulate which is why it is a popular background in many strategy games including Hearts of Iron. You can play virtually any nation during this dark period in history including any one of the major powers all the way down to the smallest of minor states while either attempting to conquer or save the world from the axis of evil.

4. Civilization 5

Coming in at number 4 for the most played turn-based strategy game in 2018 is Civilization 5. This one is considered by many to be the best 4X turn-based strategy game of all time. Interestingly more people are still playing Civ 5 today versus the sequel Civ 6 which came out a couple years ago. It’s that good!

What makes civilization so great is that you basically start out with just a single settler set way back in the Stone Age and over time you’re able to turn this humble beginning into a vast futuristic empire to conquer the known world. If fighting on the battlefield is not your preferred method you can also win with several other less aggressive victory conditions if you play your cards right.

Every game in Civ 5 is different due to the random world generator and the mixing up of various world leaders in each game. If there was ever a video game out that was begging for you to take just one more turn this is the one known famous for it. This is a game you never want to start playing if you have things to do that same day because they simply will not get done.

5. Civilization 6

The next most popular 4X turn-based strategy game players are playing today is civilization 6. A good game in its own right and the official successor to Civ 5. It definitely adds a different flavor and introduces a lot of new gameplay elements to the civilization series.  It has in fact received some criticism from Civ fans for venturing a little too far off from the winning formula that made Civ 5 such a great hit. Let’s face it a sequel no matter how good was likely to fall a little short because civilization 5 was just really that good.

6. Stellaris

The next most played the turn-based game takes us deep into space. If building a galactic empire while exploring, discovering and interacting with new alien races while developing new technologies and waging epic battles with your massive Starfleet then Stellaris is your game. This is another paradox gem but this time it takes us off of our tiny planet and into a vast cosmos filled with limitless opportunity and danger.

Okay, so there you have it. These are the games 4X players are spending most of their time on today. So if you’re getting tired of mindlessly fragging other players in Fortnite or starting to develop carpal tunnel syndrome in your wrist or maybe you cringe at the thought of venturing on another raid for the thousandth time in World of Warcraft.

Why not try something with a little more depth and complexity? Anyone of these great grand strategy titles will certainly provide you with almost endless playability as well as a level of satisfaction and accomplishment that few other games can give. It’s time to conquer the world!


Stephen Steighner

Emerging Blogger, Author & Blog Writer, Content Marketing Specialist