A Guide to the Civilization Strategy PC Game Series

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Civilization is a series of grand turn-based strategy PC video games that was started back in 1991 with the release of Sid Meier's Civilization. Since then the series has seen four additional main titles and ten expansion packs released. With a few exceptions, both the main titles and expansion packs are a 4X style strategy game main the main objectives are to "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate". In addition to the general concept/objective, the overall gameplay has remained fairly consistent over the years with enhancements being made to game mechanics, graphics, research technology trees as well as feature new units, civilizations, wonders and victory conditions. Games in the Civilization series have become a benchmark that all other strategy games are held up to and each release in the series have been a must-have for casual gamers and die-hard strategy enthusiasts alike.​

The list that follows details all of the games in the Civilization series starting with the earliest release and includes both main titles and expansion packs.

01
of 18

Civilization VI

Civilization VI Screenshot

Firaxis Games

What We Like

  • Improves upon many of the features introduced in Civilization V.

  • Stunning music and visual presentation.

What We Don't Like

  • Newcomers to the series may be overwhelmed by all of the features.

  • The enemy AI often doesn't present much of a challenge.

Oct 21, 2016

Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer

Civilization

The next chapter in the "Civilization" series, "Civilization VI", was announced on May 11, 2016, and some sweeping changes related to city management were teased in the announcements and related press reports. "Civilization VI" cities are broken down into tiles where buildings are placed. There will be about a dozen different types of tile which will all support various types of buildings such as a campus tile for education buildings such as the library and university; Industrial tiles, military tiles and more. There will also be updates to research and leader AI as well.

02
of 18

Civilization: Beyond Earth

Sid Meier's Civilization Beyond Earth

2K Games

What We Like

  • Multiple victory conditions based on diplomacy adds diversity to gameplay.

  • The alien units are more interesting than the barbarians in other Civilization games.

What We Don't Like

  • The quest system feels somewhat predictable.

  • The favors system often feels too unpredictable.

Oct 24, 2014

Strategy

Sci-Fi

Single player, multiplayer

Civilization

Sid Meier's "Civilization: Beyond Earth" is a sci-fi version of the Civilization grand strategy game. Beyond Earth puts players in control of a faction who has left earth behind and tries to establish a new civilization on a distant planet. Many of the same features that are found in "Civilization V" are included in "Beyond Earth" including the hexagon grid game map. It also includes unique features such as a non-linear tech tree that allows players to pick and choose technology paths. "Beyond Earth" is the spiritual successor to Sid Meier's "Alpha Centauri."

03
of 18

Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide

2K Games

What We Like

  • The new frigid biome and primordial biome look outstanding.

  • New ability to capture aliens and make them fight for you makes combat more interesting.

What We Don't Like

  • The overhauled diplomacy system can feel overly complicated.

  • Human leaders still lack distinct personalities.

Oct 9, 2015

Strategy

Sci-Fi

Single player, multiplayer

Civilization

"Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide" is the first expansion pack that was released for the sci-fi Civilization game "Beyond Earth". Included in the expansion ​are an upgraded diplomacy element, floating cities, hybrid affinities and a reworked/new artifact system over what was included in the base game.

04
of 18

Civilization V

Civilization V Screenshot

2K Games

What We Like

  • The UI is more user-friendly than in previous entries.

  • Integrated support for mods is quite convenient.

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks the exceptional voice acting of Civilization IV.

  • The game runs slow while playing on larger maps.

Sep 21, 2010

Firaxis Games

2K Games

Turn Based Strategy

Historical ​

Single player, multiplayer

Released in 2010, "Civilization V" makes a break from previous Civilization games by changing a few of the core gameplay mechanics, most notable are the shift from a square grid format to a hexagonal grid which allows for cities to become larger and units are no longer stackable, one unit per hex. "Civilization V" also includes 19 different civilizations to choose from and a number of different victory conditions.

05
of 18

Civilization V: Brave New World

Civilization V: Brave New World

2K Games

What We Like

  • More competitive endgame makes combat less predictable.

  • Players aren't as constrained by decisions they make early on.

What We Don't Like

  • The World Congress remains in constant gridlock.

  • Laggy performance remains a problem.

July 9, 2013

Firaxis Games

2K Games

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer

"Civilization V: Brave New World" is the second expansion pack for Civilization V. It features a new cultural victory condition, new policies and ideologies on top of new units, buildings, wonders, and civilizations.

06
of 18

Civilization IV

Civilization IV
Civilization IV.

What We Like

  • Voice acting by Leonard Nimoy brings an epic feel to the series.

  • Streamlined gameplay makes this a great entry point for newcomers.

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't introduce any revolutionary elements to the series.

  • The multiplayer UI is cumbersome to navigate.

Oct 25, 2005

Firaxis Games

2K Games

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer​

"Civilization IV" was released in 2005 plays much like its predecessors, unlike "Civilization V", the maps are played on a square grid and units are stackable. Civ4 is also the first game in the series to offer an extensive software development kit which allows for a lot of user modifications from everything to updating rules and data in XML to reworking AI in the SDK. There were two expansion packs and a spin-off game released for "Civilization IV". Like other Civilization games, Civ 4 received overwhelmingly positive reviews and won multiple awards for 2005.

07
of 18

Civilization IV: Colonization

Civilization IV: Colonization
Civilization IV: Colonization. © 2K Games

What We Like

  • Trade and economic simulation are vastly improved.

  • The graphics and UI look much better than in the original.

What We Don't Like

  • Having only four playable civilizations feels limiting.

  • Victory conditions are equally limited; you can only win through warfare.

Sept 22, 2008

Firaxis Games

2K Games

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer

"Civilization IV: Colonization" is a spin-off from Civ 4 and remake of the 1994 turn-based strategy game Sid Meier's "Colonization". In it, players assume the role of one of the settlers from one of four European empires; England, France, the Netherlands or Spain and struggle to fight for independence. The game takes place between 1492 through 1792 with a single victory condition declaring and gaining independence. The game uses the same engine as "Civilization IV" with some updated graphics but is in no way related and Civ 4 is not required to play "Colonization".

08
of 18

Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword

Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword
Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. © 2K Games

What We Like

  • Improved AI makes gameplay more fun and challenging.

  • The abundance of new units, leaders and mods is impressive for an expansion pack.

What We Don't Like

  • Battles require a huge time investment and lots of micro-management.

  • Combat feels unbalanced and the endgame relentless.

Jul 23, 2007

Firaxis Games

2K Games

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer

"Beyond the Sword" is the second expansion pack released for "Civilization IV" which focuses on features and enhancements to the game after the invention of gunpowder. It includes 10 new civilizations, 16 new leaders, and 11 new scenarios. In addition "Beyond the Sword" also introduces some new features such as Corporations, new random events, expanded espionage and other minor game options. The expansion pack also packs in 25 new units and 18 new buildings along with updates to the technology tree.

09
of 18

Civilization IV: Warlords

Civilization IV: Warlords

2K Games

What We Like

  • The new scenarios are challenging and unique.

  • The freedom to play as barbarians feels cathartic.

What We Don't Like

  • The new additions are too few in number.

  • Increased emphasis on warfare causes other gameplay elements to suffer.

July 24, 2006

Firaxis Games

2K Games

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer

"Civilization IV: Warlords" is the first expansion pack released for "Civilization IV", it includes a new category of Great People know as the Great Generals or "Warlords", vassal states, new scenarios, new civilizations, and new units/buildings. The new civilizations include Carthage, the Celts, Korea, Ottoman Empire, Vikings and the Zulu.

10
of 18

Civilization III

Civilization III

Infogrames

What We Like

  • New mechanics are introduced gradually as not to overwhelm new players.

  • Integrates and improves upon elements from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

What We Don't Like

  • The UI feels a bit cluttered.

  • You have to wait a long time between turns in the late game.

Oct 30, 2001

Firaxis Games

Infogrames

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player

As the title suggests, "Civilization III" or "Civ III" is the third main release in the "Civilization" series. Released five years after it's predecessor, "Civilization II", in 2001 and marked an upgrade in graphics and gameplay mechanics over the first two "Civilization" games. The game included 16 civilizations which were expanded in the two expansion packs that were released; "Conquests" and "Play the World". It was also the last "Civilization" game that only included single player game mode. (while the expansion pack did enable multiplay for Civ III and Civ II).

11
of 18

Civilization III Conquests

Civilization III Conquests

Atari

What We Like

  • The new types of civilizations you can choose from are extremely diverse.

  • Multiplayer mode is mostly functional.

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't include graphical enhancements.

  • Occasional bugs and grammatical errors bog down the experience.

Nov 6, 2003

Firaxis Games

Atari

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player

"Civilization III Conquests" is the second expansion released for Civilization III, it includes seven new civilizations, new governments, wonders, ​and units. The new civilizations include Byzantium, Hittites, Incans, Mayans, Netherlands, Portugal, Sumeria and Austria. This brings the number of civilizations for Civ III to 31 if you include those from Civ III, Play the World and Conquests.

12
of 18

Civilization III: Play the World

Civilization III Play The World

Infogrames

What We Like

  • New victory conditions make battles quicker and more engaging.

  • The new tribes, units and leaders are impressive.

What We Don't Like

  • Online multiplayer mode is unreliable.

  • The included user-made content is unorganized and overwhelming.

Oct 29, 2002

Firaxis Games

Infogrames

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer

"Play the World", the first expansion for "Civilization III" adds multiplayer capability to Civ III. It added new units, game modes, and wonders as well as eight civilizations. "Civilization III Gold" and "Civilization III Complete Editions" include both "Play the World" and "Conquests" expansions as well as the full game.

13
of 18

Civilization II

Civilization II

MicroProse

What We Like

  • Highly addictive gameplay.

  • Greatly expands on the mechanics of the original Civilization.

What We Don't Like

  • The graphics and music haven't held up very well.

  • The AI is a bit too passive.

Feb 29, 1996

MicroProse

MicroProse​

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player

"Civilization II" was released in early 1996 for the PC and out of the box the game had many updates when compared to the first Civilization game, but the graphics were updated from a top down two-dimension view to an isometric view that made it look someone three dimensional. "Civilization II" has two different victory conditions, conquest, where you are the last civilization standing or to build a spaceship and be the first to reach Alpha Centauri. This was also the first and only "Civilization" game, including expansions, that Sid Meier did not work on due to his departure from MicroProse and subsequent legal dispute.

14
of 18

Civilization II: Test of Time

Civilization II: Test of Time

MicroProse

What We Like

  • The music and graphics are moderately improved.

  • New gameplay modes add depth to an already addictive experience.

What We Don't Like

  • The menus are more difficult to navigate.

  • Lack of new scenarios is disappointing.

Jul 31, 1999

MicroProse

Hasbro Interactive

Turn Based Strategy

Sci-Fi

Single player, multiplayer

The "Test of Time" is a remake/re-release of "Civilization II" that had a sci-fi/fantasy theme to it. It was primarily released in response to complete with Alpha Centauri, released by Sid Meier in 1999. "Test of Time" included the original "Civilization II" campaign with all new art and unit animation as well as sci-fi and fantasy campaign. The game was generally panned and not well received by both critics and "Civilization" fans.

15
of 18

Civ II: Fantastic Worlds

Civ II: Fantastic Worlds

MicroProse

What We Like

  • The scenario editor allows extensive customization.

  • New space and fantasy themed scenarios are clever and original.

What We Don't Like

  • The scenario briefings are a little too brief.

  • Gameplay isn't quite as addictive as the source material.

Oct 31, 1997

MicroProse

MicroProse

Turn Based Strategy

Sci-Fi

Single player

"Civ II: Fantastic Worlds" was also released after Sid Meier's departure from MicroProse and for legal reasons has to be titled "Civ II" rather than using the full Civilization name. The expansion adds new scenarios that, as the title suggests, covers far off or sci-fi/fantasy based worlds and themes.

16
of 18

Civilization II: Conflicts in Civilization

Civilization II: Conflicts in Civilization

MicroProse

What We Like

  • Fan-made scenarios add even more depth to the game.

  • The new soundtrack is far superior to the original.

What We Don't Like

  • Aside from the new scenarios, there are no new notable game mechanics.

  • The Civilopedia feature is disabled.

Nov 25, 1996

MicroProse

MicroProse

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player

"Civilization II: Conflicts in Civilization" is the first expansion released for "Civilization II", it includes a total of 20 new scenarios created by both fans and game designers. These scenarios contain new worlds, new maps units and update technology tree. It also allows players to create their own custom-made scenarios.​

17
of 18

Civilization V: Gods & Kings

Civilization V: Gods & Kings
Civilization V: Gods & Kings. © 2K Games

What We Like

  • The sound effects, voice acting and graphics are all top notch.

  • A revamped Civilopedia ensures that you never feel lost.

What We Don't Like

  • The AI tends to be overly aggressive.

  • The music, while decent, sounds too generic.

Jun 19, 2012

Firaxis Games

2K Games

Turn Based Strategy

Historical

Single player, multiplayer

"Civilization V: Gods & King"s was the first expansion pack released nearly two years after the main "Civilization V" title. "Gods & Kings" packs a lot of game for an expansion pack. It includes 27 new units, 13 new buildings, and nine new wonders to go along with a whopping nine new civilizations. It also includes customizable religion, tweaks to diplomacy and city-state cities.

18
of 18

Civilization

Civilization Screenshot
Civilization Screenshot. © MicroProse

What We Like

  • The presentation is solid compared to most DOS games of the era.

  • References to real life historical figures and events make the game feel timeless.

What We Don't Like

  • The graphics and music are primitive by today's standards.

  • Modern audiences may find the lack of complex features too limiting.

1991

MicroProse

MicroProse

Turn Based Strategy ​

Historical

Single player

"Civilization" was released back in 1991 and it is the game that is most credited as revolutionizing strategy gaming. Originally developed for the DOS operating system, it quickly became a hit with strategy gamers and has been produced for numerous other platforms such as the Mac, Amiga, Playstation and many more including Windows. Starting out with one settler and one warrior, players must build a city, explore, expand and eventually conquer. "Civilization" is a must have for any strategy gaming buff and for the serious collectors, the original boxed version can be regularly found on eBay.