The sci-fi franchise blended turn-based combat with modern scenarios. If you played the reboot series and you’re eager for more, you’re probably looking for other games like XCOM.
X-COM debuted in 1994. After four entries plus various expansions, Firaxis Games rebooted the series with 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown. In 2016, we saw the highly-regarded sequel, XCOM 2016.
Yet, the latest entry in the saga, Chimera Squad, failed to impress most fans – it achieved a 4.7 user score on Metacritic. You may be one of these disappointed fans, hungry for other top-tier turn-based tactical games like XCOM.
Selecting Games Like XCOM
Even though we’re considering both the classical and the reboot titles, We believe saga fans would want games similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
So, finding games like XCOM requires us to understand the elements of the reboot and its sequel.
- Genre: XCOM is a strategy turn-based / squad-based shooter with RPG elements.
- Setting: You play in a sci-fi setting as the commander of a squad fighting against an alien invasion.
- Combat: The core experience is turn-based ground combat. Each team takes turns moving, using abilities or items, or attacking within grid-like scenarios.
- Combat mechanics: The action is complex and relies on various systems like accuracy, evasion, “insta-kills,” skills, cover, stealth, mind-control,…
- Combat animations: Whenever you or an enemy engages in an attack, most XCOM games change to a third-person perspective for the animation.
- Tactical action: The gameplay systems focus on tactics and flexibility. Tactics include stealth, ambushes, and raising fallen comrades.
- Open-ended gameplay: XCOM has a hub base where you decide your next missions and manage the operation.
- Micro-manage: On XCOM 2, the Avenger ship’s base allows you to micro-manage other aspects of the mission.
- Upgrades: The next customization layer is researching technologies to upgrade weapons and armor.
- Questing: You enter a map for a long battle and complete a quest, and the map is a grid full of enemies. When you finish the quest, you go back to base.
- Recruiting: As you’re the commander, you can recruit soldiers along the way to create your squad. If a soldier dies in battle, he can’t return to the game.
- Soldier classes: The soldiers you recruit have various classes. They also level up to unlock skills on different skill trees.
- Loot: The latest games also focus on loot. You can find or buy gears and artifacts to customize further your character builds.
- Challenge: XCOM games are challenging and feature many enemies, scenarios, boss battles, and goals.
- Mod support: Lastly, there’re hundreds of mods for XCOM and XCOM 2. These allow you to customize the experience and iron out the remaining bugs.
Games like XCOM would feature a mix or a twist of the elements below. Most importantly, they should rely on tactical or turn-based combat, seamless character progression, and easy-to-understand plots.
Games Like XCOM
- Developer: Goldhawk Interactive
- Publisher: Goldhawk Interactive
- Release Date: June 2014
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Xenonauts is a turn-based strategy game with graphics that resemble the original XCOM games. In fact, lead developer Chris England said the studio took XCOM: UFO Defense as a primary inspiration.
And the inspiration is clear in mechanics, visuals, and even sound. It’s a “modernization” of the classical XCOM titles or a spiritual successor of the ’90s entries. So, you should be familiar with the story. During a Cold War era, you play as soldier squads fighting against an alien invasion.
The goal is to eliminate the aliens and seize their technology. The setting opens up ground turn-based combat where you use a group of soldiers and vehicles. Soldiers also level up to develop attributes and get better gear.
New inclusions include real-time air combat with a pause button, customizing soldier loadouts, a cover system, friendly NPCs, and various win conditions for each mission. Also, the title delivers non-scripted missions. Instead, there’re broad rules to set the pace of the invasion, but every gameplay is different.
Lastly, the game includes the strategic management of planetary defense systems. This is what you do outside of combat. It revolves on balancing limited funds to spend on equipment, research, scientist, and weapons.
- Developer: inXile Entertainment
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Release Date: August 2020
- Platform: Linux, MacOS, Windows, PS4, Xbox One
Wasteland 3 is a turn-based and squad-based RPG. Your characters progress, the quest is open-ended, and you make decisions that alter the paths and lead to various endings. In fact, the title comes from former Fallout developers, so it has in-depth consequences and branching paths.
You play a squad of Colorado Rangers in a post-apocalyptic world. The goal is to restore order to Colorado. You receive the mission from the self-proclaimed leader of the state, the Patriarch, who sends you to take care of his three sons before they seize power.
You start the game by creating a character or choosing an original way. Along the way, you can recruit as many rangers as you want by creating characters. The creation and progression allow you to allocate stats, upgrade gears, choose perks, and unlock skills. However, if a soldier dies in battle, he can’t return.
Then, you explore the maps by freely walking with a top-down perspective. But when a battle begins, the map turns into a grid, and both teams take turns to move, attack, and use abilities and items. The combat mechanic includes perks, skills, sci-fi guns, machines, weapon swaps, and ammo micro-management.
Lastly, the game has an open world, albeit small. You use a tank to travel through a highway to reach other areas for quests and side quests. Outside of these linear areas, you also have a base where you can walk freely to check your arsenal and vendors and talk to NPCs you have recruited for your quest.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
- Developer: The Bearded Ladies
- Publisher: Funcom
- Release Date: December 2018
- Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Mutant comes from an indie studio. Former Payday and Hitman developers united in delivering a tactical, turn-based game. In particular, the game’s description explicitly says it uses XCOM’s turn-based grid combat system -even down to the third-person combat animations. Yet, it adds real-time/top-down exploration.
The setting is a post-human world where beasts become sentient and walk on two legs. You play with a duck-person and a boar-person. The humanoid squad is searching for salvation, traveling to search the legendary Eden of Legends.
Year Zero is a linear game. You play through a series of linear areas as you defeat mobs or bosses and find clues. Your characters will level up along the way, which unlocks skills and better gear. In particular, your skills come in the form of “mutations,” offering you a wide range of options.
You explore the areas moving in real-time with a top-down perspective. You can enter combat while in stealth, or combat starts once enemies see you. Each character packs two guns, and you take turns to shoot, move, and use your skills and items. Moreover, the environments are dynamic and destructible.
Lastly, the duck and the board have strong personality traits and attitudes. Despite being an indie game, the voice-over and character design are top-tier, reason enough to play through the end. There’s also an expansion, Seed of Evil, which introduces a new main character.
- Developer: Overhype Studios
- Publisher: Overhype Studios
- Release Date: April 2015
- Platform: Windows
Battle Brothers is a turn-based and tactical RPG title. You play as the leader of a mercenary company, and the setting is a gritty and pixelated medieval fantasy world.
Like XCOM, you have a main hub, which is your camp. Here is where you manage many aspects of the quest and your soldiers. In particular, the quest is open-ended. You can decide where to go, which mercenaries to hire, whom to fight, and how to progress your characters.
The plot is about taking contracts to help different groups in the world. Along the way, your characters will level up to unlock skills, stats, and items. Many of your soldiers present unique skills, perks, traits, weapon skills, backgrounds, stories, and personalities. There’s no class system, though.
Then, the open world is procedurally generated. Moreover, there’s a dynamic event system that shakes things up further. Every item, loot, enemy, encounter, and most quests are randomized. The world map offers money contracts, places for looting, enemies, supplies, and recruits.
And as usual, combat happens on a grid-like map. Your team takes turns against the enemy to move, attack, or use skills and items. Unique mechanics include injuries, permadeath, and dead recruits who come back as undead. And aside from combat, the score, visuals, and storytelling are equally top-tier.
- Developer: Splash Damage, The Coalition
- Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
- Release Date: April 2020
- Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & S
Gears Tactics is a straightforward turn-based and tactical squad combat game. It has a linear campaign with no other systems to manage other than your squad’s progression and gear. And it works because combat is deep, creative, and thrives with excellent action-set pieces.
But everything is about combat, loot, and XP. You could miss extra systems outside of combat, like a base, research, or choosing where to go next. For that reason, there’s almost no exploration on Gears Tactics, just like on XCOM.
That said, this is a spin-off of the Gears of War franchise. The story is a prequel to the first game, and you play as a commander of a squad pushing against an alien invasion. So, the setting is quite familiar.
The combat is deep, tactical, and challenging. You have dozens of skills to master and a wide arsenal of sci-fi firearms and explosives. There’re also auras, hacking abilities, and other elements making combat highly dynamic.
Lastly, the title introduces enemies not present in other GoW titles. Similarly, there’s a great variety regarding enemy AI, behaviors, skills, weaknesses, advantages, and resistances.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
- Developer: Larian Studios
- Publisher: Larian Studios, Bandai Namco, Entertainment
- Release Date: September 2017
- Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, macOS, iPadOS
Original Sin 2 is one of the most highly rated and popular turn-based RPGs ever. It blends various layers of character customization, progression, and D&D mechanics.
You play with a squad of heroes fighting against The Void. It’s a “battle for Divinity” that doesn’t bring anything new in terms of story but in mechanics. Moreover, the story varies depending on your character build and actions, determining how combat and NPC interact.
You start the game by choosing one of the original characters or creating one of your own. There’re various classes and races to pick, and, as you level, you’ll also unlock skills, traits, and gear. Most talents are vastly unique, and most have a distinct purpose and use on the battlefield.
Then, you gather a party of AI companions to travel on linear maps and finish the 50-hour plus story. These companions have strong perks and key roles in the story. Moreover, you can influence them through dialogue and action to open up a friendship and romantic options.
Lastly, combat is the shining beacon of the game. It’s slow-paced and vastly strategic. You play, as usual, in grids, with a vast array of skills, status effects, and mechanics. Moreover, the environment is dynamic: you can explode barrels, attack from high ground, take cover, push enemies off ledges, etc.
The Last Spell
- Developer: Ishtar Games
- Publisher: The Arcade Crew, Gamera Game
- Release Date: June 2021 (Early Access)
- Platform: Windows
The Last Spell is a tactical turn-based game with base building and rogue-lite mechanics. It also has a grim medieval fantasy game and a day and night cycle. In particular, the gameplay is different in each part of the day.
During the day, you’re rebuilding a city, positioning defenses, and overall preparing for battle. Here’s where you manage your resources to buy items like gear and potions or build and upgrade buildings.
Then, at night, you have to exterminate hordes of monsters on grid maps with turn-based combat—your squad of heroes levels up to unlock stats, skills, traits, perks, and more. The game’s system procedurally generates gear and items, so the freedom to customize playstyles is great.
The gameplay loop will repeat itself for 12 days and 12 nights. You’ll have to start the long siege from the top if you die. However, you’ll go back stronger for the next run until you eventually survive the whole peril.
As for the plot, you’re to defend a group of mages as they are casting a spell to defeat all evil. While they do, you’ll face hordes of enemies, dozens of enemy types, and multiple enemy behaviors and skills. Whatever happens in battle may destroy your building, so you must be ready to rebuild the city the next day.
- Developer: Harebrained Schemes
- Publisher: Paradox Interactive
- Release Date: April 2018
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
BattleTech is a turn-based strategy RPG game with mechas. So, you control mechs in combat, and you can customize the aesthetics, weapons, skills, and other aspects of these machines. These elements come straight from the board game Battletech, which debuted in 1984.
Powerful noble houses rule BettleTech’s world in a war against each other. You select one or more houses to serve, determining how your campaign rolls. The year is 3025, and the galñaxy is in a cycle of a war you can stop.
The protagonist is a mercenary commander, leader of a combat vehicle team. You’re responsible for choosing every mech’s pilot, armament, armor, model, and skills. Then, you control four mechs in combat on grid-like maps. The entire map is a grid, so you go in for a quest and go out.
Outside of combat, you hang around an interstellar base of operations. Here, you manage contracts with noble lords and repairs, maintenance, recruits, and other quest aspects. Additionally, you select where to go from the base.
The map is fully open, and you can go anywhere. Yet, there’re exceptions, as you need to progress the story to unlock some areas. Lastly, the game uses third-person animations for almost everything you command on the maps, even though you view the game from a top-down perspective.
- Developer: Benjamin “ThingOnItsOwn” Hauer
- Publisher: Goblinz Publishing, Maple Whispering Limited
- Release Date: March 2022
- Platform: Windows
Hero’s Hour is a 16-bit, top-down strategy turn-based RPG. You play as a hero, explore the world, fight massive battles, level up, amass an army, and defeat the enemies before they defeat you.
The turn-based system is for exploring the overworld and developing your towns (upgrading, building, researching, and building soldiers like an RTS). However, you fight in real-time, where you cast spells, issue commands, and make tactical decisions as your soldiers fight. There’s a pause button to ease out combat.
There’re 22 hero classes to pick, 50 skills, 11 unique factions, dozens of spells, nearly 200 different units, etc. Developing towns have their own layers of complexity, including technologies, research, perks, traits, barracks, conscription, defensive structures, and more.
Additionally, a system procedurally generates the open-world map, enemy armies, and encounters. Every time you play, there will be new areas to explore and new buildings to improve. In particular, the journey is about searching for relics and resources you can need to destroy a demon army.
Lastly, you can play the entire game in co-op, locally or online. You can also play with an AI companion. Either way, the game is highly challenging, and if you lose all of your troops and your hero, you lose the campaign and have to start over.
- Developer: Klei Entertainment
- Publisher: Klei Entertainment
- Release Date: May 2015
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4, iOS, Nintendo Switch
Invisible, Inc is a turn-based tactical stealth game with roguelike elements. You play as a covert agent squad on missions to acquire resources and support. The plot is about relocating the espionage agency to a new base.
Your agents are infiltration masters. So, your job is infiltrating dangerous corporations in grid-like scenarios. You’ll manage precision, stealth, and teamwork to complete missions largely devoid of combat. You take turns to move and hack, but your actions raise the alarm level over time.
Then, agents can level up to unlock augments, programs, and items. Then, the gameplay is mostly about going undetected across various defensive systems. If guards detect you, you can fight, but you have a limited number of turns before you have to start the level over.
Moreover, there’re 10 different agents in the game, plus 6 additional variants. These are your “classes,” but you need to unlock the agents as you play the linear campaign. That said, the story includes voice-over and animated cut-scenes. And if an agent dies in battle, he also can’t go back.
Lastly, the world is randomly generated but not open. That means loot, locations, and threats are randomized, so each playthrough is vastly different. There’re also 5 game modes plus further ways to customize your experience.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
- Developer: Bulwark Studios
- Publisher: Kasedo Games
- Release Date: November 2015
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
The Adeptus Mechanicus is one of the many games within the Warhammer 4,000 universe. This one is a turn-based strategy RPG. Here, you command a group of Tech-Priests against mechanical enemies.
The questing is linear, but it has branching paths according to your decisions. Moreover, you can upgrade and develop your warriors with weapons, mechanical augments, support items, disciplines, and classes. These decisions greatly influence how combat goes.
The combat is strategic and happens in turns. You take turns to use your skills and items, move, and attack. Because it’s a sci-fi setting, combat feels and looks like XCOM, but it still uses Warhammer’s deep lore as fuel.
Then, your decisions forge the future of the game’s characters and the world. Your playthrough leads to various endings and pathways. For example, most gameplay is about exploring tombs, and the further you explore, the greater the reward and the threat.
Lastly, the story comes from author Ben Counter, a Black Library author. He crafted the plot and the characters to meet the game’s genre. Then, a high-standard presentation delivers the story with tension, devotion, and great visuals and audio.
- Developer: Firaxis Games
- Publisher: Aspyr Media
- Release Date: October 2016
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Civilization VI is a 4X game. You manage a civilization through the ages as you explore the map, expand frontiers, exploit resources, and exterminate other civilizations.
These four core elements revolve around a turn-based system. On each turn, you need to make tactical decisions. The result is a grand-strategy game that asks you to consume time and mind-power to understand its many systems.
You can win a campaign in various ways. In essence, you advance via technological and cultural advancement, war, economy, and diplomacy. And as you advance through the ages, you’ll meet historical leaders with historical traits. These may be part of your civilization or NPCs of other cultures.
You play on a massive map, a planet divided like a grid you must explore. Your empire will spread across the map, and each city takes up multiple tiles in the grid. Moreover, you can customize your cities to match the local terrains.
Lastly, there’s no combat in the game. Instead, you lead army units across the map. They can meet other armies in battle, but the result is automatic and depends on your technologies, unit types, unit numbers, and many other variables.