The long-running RTS franchise may open your mind to the genre. So, we’ve compiled a list of games like Age of Empires for a blend of historical RTS, story-driven campaigns, healthy multiplayer, and constant developer support.
Decades after its debut, Age of Empires 2 remains at the genre’s top. It’s also about to become the most successful game of its kind for the console, as it will debut for Xbox Series in 2023.
Microsoft added to the saga’s medieval legacy with 2021’s Age of Empires IV, which debuted 16 years after the third installment. Let’s see what we can find for fans of any of the AoE entries.
- Developer: Shiro Games
- Publisher: Shiro Unlimited
- Release Date: May 2018
- Platform:Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch
Northgard is a real-time strategy game with a Viking setting. You must conquer “Northgard” on a lengthy campaign with one of the available 6 clans. The enemies are mythological monsters, a nasty winter, wolves, and other clans.
The core gameplay is about building a settlement. But rather than creating villagers, Vikings can move into your city if happiness is above a certain level. Then, you can assign your Vikings to various jobs, for example, warriors, sailors, loremasters, farmers, explorers, fighters, and more.
Aside from managing Vikings, players need to manage resources carefully to survive long winters. On top of that, the game also has co-op modes and PvP modes on top of the campaign.
- Developer: Wildfire Games
- Publisher: Wildfire Games
- Release Date: Alpha State
- Platform:Windows, Linux, macOS X
0 A.D. is an open-source RTS game. The developers created it as an Age of Empires mod. However, it debuted as a fully-fledged free-to-play game.
There are still over 100 people working on the title, and it receives plenty of developer support even though it’s in the “Alpha” stage. That said, as an Age of Empires alternative, it covers the time era of the original title by focusing on 1 C.E.
The gameplay is similar to AoE. You build structures, gather resources, train the military, and battle. However, the economic system is more profound as it includes more research, tech tiers, and more. You can experience these systems through an extensive historical campaign.
Rise of Nations: Extended Edition
- Developer: Big Huge Games, SkyBox Labs
- Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
- Release Date: April 2014
Brian Reynolds, a Civilization II designer, created Rise of Nations as another medieval RTS. It uses the Age of Empires formula as its backbone, but it covers the entire history of humanity.
In particular, it has 18 civilizations, each featuring unique units and perks, but no historical facts. Then, the game includes seven eras ranging from the Ancient Age to the Information Age. You can experience these systems on the campaign or multiplayer (it has a ranked ELO ladder like on Aoe games).
Lastly, the “Conquer the World” campaign combines board-like features like the Total War series. You control your cities and empire and move your armies through a board-like interface. These happen in turns, and when you move into custom scenarios, the goal is to use your army to conquer the enemies.
Empire Earth III
- Developer: Mad Doc Software
- Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
- Release Date: November 2007
- Platform: Windows
Empire Earth III takes the mechanical pillars of AoE and adds Civilization-like features. But unlike AoE, the campaign is a non-historical “World Domination” that allows players to conquer the planet.
Notably, it has five modern eras to deliver focused and complex experiences. You gather resources, build, research, train units, and age up. It also has the classic rock-paper-scissor counter system, a lengthy campaign, and board-like features.
Elsewhere, each civilization has sub-factions as well, like for example, Japan and China for the Far East civ. Additionally, players can customize civilizations by mixing preset characteristics.
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
- Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
- Release Date: July 2010
- Platform:Windows, macOS
Starcraft II is a fast-paced RTS that introduces three vastly different “civs,” plus limited resources on every match or level -unlike farming food indefinitely. So, the struggle is often about conquering expansion sites or denying your enemy’s expansion sites.
The three asymmetrical factions are Zergs, Protoss, and Terrans. The basics are the same (tech tiers, unit tiers, and resources), but the units are quite different. Even so, winning is about mastering the counter system, using unit abilities, and micro-managing your armies rather than mastering the macro.
And like AoE titles, SCII has an amazing, three-part campaign. The first part is free (Wings of Liberty), perhaps the best. The story follows a galaxy-wide war between stars between the three races, one of which (the Zerg) poses a threat to every living being.
Age of Mythology: Extended Edition
- Developer: SkyBox Labs, Ensemble Studios
- Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
- Release Date: May 2014
Xbox Game Studios is yet to release an Age of Mythology remastered. Without the AoE treatment, the Extended Edition is the best we’ve got on. It includes the base game, The Titans expansion, the Golden Gift campaign, enhanced visuals, new maps, and multiplayer support.
Age of Mythology is the fantasy RTS version of Age Of Empires for those unfamiliar. There’re four asymmetric factions, and each one features different mythological units.
Similarly, aging up requires choosing a favor of a God, which is also different for each faction. Aging rewards perks unlock mythological creatures and grant powers. Then, the campaign enemies are mostly mythical monsters, enemy factions, and even Titans.
Dawn Of Man
- Developer: Madruga Works
- Publisher: Madruga Works
- Release Date: March 2019
- Platform:Windows, Xbox One, PS4, macOS
Dawn of Man is a survival and city-builder title. The core gameplay is about advancing through various ages. In particular, the starting era is the Stone Age, and the end-point is the Iron Age, 10,000 years later.
You start by ordering your people to hunt wild animals for food, bones, and skin. Then, each era requires different resources, but the most important stat is “Happiness.” It determines whether or not more NPCs will move to your villages, towns, and cities.
As you gather resources and advance through the ages, the setting rewards you with new challenges such as seasons and changing weather. There’s also a technological tree, so you can reach radiators over time to better resist weather conditions.
- Developer: DESTINYbit
- Publisher: Slitherine
- Release Date: March 2018
Empires Apart is an indie free-to-play medieval RTS game that takes many ideas from Microsoft’s saga but lacks a single-player campaign. It offers skirmishes against the A.I. or other players in various game modes.
For example, one of the game modes is Survival. It’s about constructing your economy during the day and surviving hordes of enemy attacks at night. There’re also Challenges, which are several tests that require mechanical and tactical skills.
The setting is medieval, as it’s a homage to AoE games. There’re various unique factions, customization options, and multiple victory conditions. Lastly, the resources in the game are the same as AoE – food, wood, gold, and stone.
Total War: Warhammer III
- Developer: Creative Assembly
- Publisher: Sega
- Release Date: February 2022
- Platform:Windows, Linux, macOS
The Total War saga doesn’t share a lot of elements with the Age of Empires saga. However, it’s the RTS evolution, and one of the most popular games in the genre. That said, Warhammer III is a high-medieval fantasy with several unique factions and heroes.
As part of the saga, it works as usual. There’s a turn-based world map where you control every aspect of your empire. You micromanage your cities, diplomacy, economy, and military structure while moving soldiers and agents on the map.
Then, if armies meet on the map, you manage armies that may include, for example, 12 squads of 40 soldiers. You then use simple orders such as skills, formations, and stances to meet the enemy in battle.
- Developer: 11 bit studios
- Publisher: 11 bit studios
- Release Date: April 2018
- Platform: Windows, macOS, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, Android
Frostpunk is a post-apocalyptic city-builder survival. The developers changed the classic medieval formula for a frozen wasteland where gas and heat are vital for survival.
The core gameplay is managing a city with an overhead view. You go through a series of levels presenting different challenges, and you have to manage resources to grow your city, keep the citizens warm, and keep political support.
You can experience the game in various single-player modes. There’re scenarios, an “Endless Mode,” a campaign, and others. Additionally, there’re three expansions available on the game’s Season Pass.
Tooth and Tail
- Developer: Pocketwatch Games
- Publisher: Pocketwatch Games
- Release Date: September 2017
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4
Tooth and Tail is an RTS game where you control an army of anthropomorphic animals. Food is low, the population is angry, and it’s time to lead a revolution of boars and skunks to ensure your survival -either online, co-op, or offline!
The goal of each match and level is to destroy the enemy’s resources. You can do so by harvesting resources to build structures, create units, and command your units to attack. Also, you start matches by selecting one of the available commanders.
Lastly, the gameplay is quite different from other RTS. You move your commander with a WASD controller scheme and an isometric version. The only thing you have at the beginning is a farm, and you can expand to other abandoned farms. Then, your commander must build structures, command soldiers, and trade resources to keep the empire growing.
Crusader Kings III
- Developer: Paradox Development Studio
- Publisher: Paradox Interactive
- Release Date: September 2020
- Platform:Windows, macOS, Linux, PS5, Xbox Series
Crusader Kings III is a turn-based RTS game that plays like a board game. There’re no battles, but it features a medieval setting and focuses on the politics of a noble house in the Middle Ages.
You choose a noble house, and the goal is to lead the dynasty through power across the ages. That means establishing a reign and managing many complex systems like diplomacy, politics, man-at-arms, knights, warfare, peasants, vassals, and more.
The campaign happens between 867 and 1066 A.C in Europe. The timespan is full of historical factions, facts, and events. Because of this, Crusader Kings III is also a medieval simulator. Moreover, you’re to customize your royal family members and rule with an iron fist.
- Developer: King Art Games
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Release Date: September 2020
- Platform:Windows, PS5, Xbox Series
Iron Harvest is an RTS game with classical mechanics and a diesel-punk setting. Its plot follows an alternate 1920 history, a universe created by Polish artist Jakub Rozalski.
The game has three factions, over 40 unit types, and nine heroes. Each hero has unique abilities to change the course of the battle. Then, military units include mecha, infantry, and hero units.
You can experience the game through 20 campaign missions, co-op, or custom skirmish modes. Regardless, the gameplay is about controlling mechanized units into battle and using advanced tactics like cover and stealth.
STAR WARS Galactic Battlegrounds Saga
- Developer: Ensemble Studios
- Publisher: Disney, Lucasfilm, LucasArts
- Release Date: November 2001
Galactic Battlegrounds comes from AoEII and AoEIIi creators. As such, it uses the same mechanics and designs, but you can play with far-away factions and units.
The factions are Galactic Empire, Rebel Alliance, Wookies, Gungas, Royal Naboo, and the Trade Federation. Each faction has a campaign you can play, and the story happens during the prequel era.
The gameplay is full-on classic RTS, with a sci-fi setting. However, the battles rely heavily on land, sea, and air vehicles. These battles happen across the single-player campaign, custom skirmishes, and only PvP.