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Best Overall: The Banner Saga 3 at Microsoft
"The story is compelling enough to have earned the game 4 BAFTA nominations."
Best Graphics: Shadow Tactics - Blades of the Shogun at Amazon
"If you want a beautiful strategy game that blends slow, methodical tactics with fast-paced action, this is the one."
Best RPG: Valkyria Chronicles 4 at Amazon
"An excellent combination of a RPG and a strategy game with all the trappings of a great anime."
Best Story: Thronebreaker - The Witcher Tales at Microsoft
"Has a beautiful art style, and an RPG complete story with full narration."
Best Multiplayer: XCOM 2 at Amazon
"Features the same tactical, turn-based gameplay of previous entries in the series."
Most Customizable: South Park - The Fractured But Whole at Amazon
"You’ll get to create your own superhero to fight for South Park and team up with other characters from the show."
Best Indie: Insane Robots at Microsoft
"The game consists partly of a board game and a battle card game."
Best for Fighting: Mutant Year Zero - Road to Eden at Amazon
"Combines that XCOM-style, turn-based tactical gameplay with stunning visuals."
Courtesy of Microsoft
The Banner Saga franchise has consistently proven itself to be among the best strategy games out there, and that all culminates in The Banner Saga 3. The superb entry in the series is the final chapter to the story, and it’s definitely worth checking out the previous chapters before continuing into this one, especially as save files from the previous games can have effects on the story of this game.
The story is shown through masterfully hand-drawn cartoon animation with full voice acting, and player decision factors into the outcome of your journey, with the lives of your game’s characters at stake. The story is compelling enough to have earned the game 4 BAFTA nominations.
Of course, a story along isn’t enough. The Xbox One game also features an engaging, turn-based tactical combat system. The fighting takes place with numerous characters arranged on a grid. How you fight is up to you though, as your characters have different abilities. And, as you progress in the game, so can your characters, letting you focus even more on certain combat strategies.
Not all strategy games have to be slow-paced, turn-based games. That’s a fact proven incredibly well by Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. While the game may have the familiar top-down perspective so common in strategy games, the view can be rotated to gain a fresh perspective on the beautifully rendered levels.
Further distancing itself from other strategy games, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun sees you take control of any one of five unique assassins with an array of special abilities. You’ll navigate the levels, sneaking through enemy defenses as you see fit. You may lure guards out on their own to pounce for a stealth kill, or you might distract guards from defending the route you want to take and pass through without a hint of combat.
The game’s use of multiple assassin’s and the ability to approach situations using different tactics allows for significant replayability as well. So, if you want a beautiful strategy game that blends slow, methodical tactics with fast-paced action, this is the one. For a game with graphics this strong, you may want the Xbox One S.
If you’re a fan of Japanese RPGs (JRPGs), and you want to combine that love with some solid strategic gameplay, then Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a game you should definitely check out. It combines the character design and doesn’t fail to include the character personality, with a delightful hand-drawn watercolor art style for an anime-esque game rich in story and tactical gameplay.
The story is both animated and voice-acted, following a military squadron as they face overwhelming odds on the battlefield. Fortunately, you’ll have unique characters with abilities that can help you get an edge over your opponents. And, even if you have a unit about to die, there’s a new “Last Stand” mechanic that can help you turn the tides.
The gameplay combines some turn-based character movements with real-time, third-person combat. That mix lets you take some time to think tactically about how you want to approach each battle, but it also puts the pressure on when you’re engaged in combat. For an excellent combination of RPG and strategy game with all the trappings of a great anime, don’t miss Valkyria Chronicles 4.
Fans of the Witcher franchise can get even more into the lore of the series with Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. It may not have the vast, explorable open world of the other Witcher games, but it does still contain a 3D game world that you’ll explore. Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales follows a veteran and queen named Meve, and you’ll get to explore regions of the Witcher world not shown in other games. And, as you explore, you’ll have encounters that bring in the gameplay.
The actual strategy gameplay takes the form of a card game. You’ll build and improve your card decks to challenge opponents. Given a diverse array of cards with abilities that can have profound effects on the other cards on the field, there’s plenty of room for creative strategy in the game. And, special puzzle challenges can really test your creativity.
Better still, the game has a beautiful art style, and an RPG complete story with full narration, plenty of characters with complex relationships to your character. So, some of the same decision mechanics found in previous Witcher games will be right here as well.
The XCOM franchise has been around for decades, and all the while it has offered engaging tactical combat as you face off against alien invaders. XCOM 2 took the franchise to another level and saw the military forces of XCOM on an all-new side of the battle.
While previous games had the aliens invading the planet, in XCOM 2, aliens have already taken control of the planet, and the remnant XCOM forces have to lead a worldwide resistance. Effectively, you’ll lead a guerilla war against the alien invaders that are now in charge of the planet.
XCOM 2 features the same tactical, turn-based gameplay of previous entries in the series. You’ll control a team built out of units from five distinct soldier classes that can all level up with unique skill trees. You’ll also have stealth options to approach battles your own way, and can challenge yourself with extra tasks, like saving VIPs, looting special gear off enemies, or trying to rescue wounded units. XCOM 2 also has a multiplayer model to challenge real players to a game of strategy.
If you enjoy the raunchy comedy of South Park and think you’d enjoy combining it with tactical, turn-based gameplay, then you’ll want to check out South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The game follows up on South Park: The Stick of Truth, a South Park RPG that followed the exploits of the new kid in town.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole continues on the adventure but replaces the fantasy, Tolkien-esque storyline of the first game with a superhero narrative that features many of the South Park characters’ alter egos. In South Park: The Fractured But Whole, you’ll get to create your own superhero to fight for South Park and team up with other characters from the show.
The big change in this game compared to its predecessor is the more tactical gameplay. In South Park: The Fractured But Whole, you’ll need to move your characters strategically on a combat grid and choose from a variety of attacks to win. Given the game’s RPG elements, there are plenty of ways to customize your characters to your preferred playstyle.
If you like smaller, indie titles, you can check out the superbly executed Insane Robots. In the game, you’ll play as a robot rebelling against an evil robot despot. And, the game consists partly of a board game and a battle card game.
As you navigate the map, you’ll face off against robots in one-on-one battles. And, you’ll use your card deck, hacks, and glitches to your advantage to defeat the enemy robots. You’ll also have your pick of 46 different robots to play with, each with augments that can improve their combat capabilities.
The game has a 15-hour single-player campaign as well as randomly generated arenas to continue the challenge. But, you also have the option of local and online multiplayer for a true challenge. And, since there is no insane deck customization or paid-for expansions, you can be sure you’re getting a fair fight against the competition based solely on your strategy and not the depth of your wallet. Better still, this is an affordable indie title.
If you love XCOM’s gameplay and get psyched out about post-apocalyptic settings, then Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is the game for you. It combines that XCOM-style, turn-based tactical gameplay with stunning visuals and an Earth inhabited by mutants after a nuclear war has ravaged the earth and erased mankind as we know it.
In Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, you’ll control a team of mutated humanoids and animals on the hunt for a refuge from the chaos all around. The search for Eden will involve lots of fighting, lots of sneaking, and a whole lot of looting to be sure you have the best gear to get through every fight.
You’ll navigate dangerous environments strategically to gain an advantage over the hostile mutants or remain undetected until you’re in position for battle. Each character has a unique personality and can unlock further mutations to grant them special abilities. And, with plenty of freedom in how you approach each engagement and build your team, you’ll find plenty of replayability in the game.