Top Real-Time Strategy Game Series

These RTS titles are all classics

Shuttlestar in Earth Orbit

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There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great real-time strategy (RTS) games available for the PC. Some of the best are in our Top 20 Real-Time Strategy Games list, but what are the great real-time strategy video game series? Is the number of sequels or games a good indicator of quality? Well, that's not always the case. Follow-up titles or sequels often try too hard to change things or re-package what made previous titles great. The list that follows contains the top five RTS series of all time, franchises whose games are critically and commercially successful release after release.

01
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StarCraft

Starcraft Series
Starcraft Series.

Activision/Blizzard

  • Number of Games: 2 + 4 Expansions
  • First Release: StarCraft (1998)
  • Latest Release: StarCraft Remastered (2017)
  • Upcoming Releases: TBD

The StarCraft series started with the release of Starcraft by Blizzard Entertainment back in 1998. The series' two games and four combined expansions center around three factions fighting a war for dominance of the Milky Way Galaxy. The franchise is well known for the gameplay balance between its three factions, as well as its addictive multiplayer skirmishes. Both games and their expansions include a single-player story campaign as well. All titles in the StarCraft series were commercial and critical successes, each winning many awards, including game of the year, when they first released.

02
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Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes Series

SEGA

  • Number of Games: 2 + 5 Expansions & Numerous DLC/Content Packs
  • First Release: Company of Heroes (2006)
  • Latest Release: Company of Heroes for iPad (2020)
  • Upcoming Releases: TBD

Like the StarCraft series, Company of Heroes has just two full releases in the series, but they're two of the best RTS games ever. The first title, Company of Heroes, was released in 2006 and focuses on the Western Front of the European Theatre of War. In addition to the main release, it has two expansion packs that add more armies, multiplayer maps, and a new single-player story campaign. Company of Heroes 2 released in 2013 and has three main expansions/DLCs. A free-to-play massively multiplayer online game, Company of Heroes Online, briefly launched an open beta in South Korea in 2010 but was canceled the following year. Developer and publisher Feral Interactive created an iPad version of Company of Heroes that released in February 2020.

03
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Age of Empires

Age of Empires Series

Microsoft

  • Number of Games: 3 main games, plus numerous expansions and spinoffs
  • First Release: Age of Empires (1997)
  • Latest Release: Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (2019)
  • Upcoming Releases: Age of Empires IV

The Age of Empires series is arguably the most popular and highly regarded franchise in the RTS genre. There are three main titles in the series (four if you count the Age of Mythology spinoff). Starting back in 1997, the original Age of Empires takes players and their chosen civilization from the stone age into the Iron Age. The subsequent releases of Age of Empires II and Age of Empires III move the historical timeline forward, with Age of Empires II beginning in the Dark Age and ending in the Imperial Age, while Age of Empires III starts in the Discovery Age and ends in the Industrial Age. A fourth entry is reportedly in development and will move the franchise into the 20th century.

04
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Total War

Total War Series

SEGA

  • Number of Games: 14 main games + 4 spinoffs
  • First Release: Shogun: Total War (2000)
  • Latest Release: Total War: Three Kingdoms (2019)
  • Upcoming Releases: TBD

The Total War series combines turn-based strategy gameplay with real-time battles and historical themes. It's also one of the first RTS series to feature battles containing thousands of units on a single map. The franchise's 14 games and four spinoffs span many historical time periods involving major warfare or conflict, such as the French Revolutionary Wars, medieval Japan, and the Roman Republic. Most Total War games were very well received critically, with each release offering upgrades in graphics and gameplay features. The first title in the series was Shogun: Total War, which released back in 2000. The latest, Total War: Three Kingdoms, came out in 2019.

05
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Command & Conquer

Command & Conquer Series

Electronic Arts

  • Number of Games: 14 + 8 Expansions
  • First Release: Command & Conquer (1995)
  • Latest Release: Command & Conquer: Rivals (2018)
  • Upcoming Releases: Command & Conquer Remastered Collection

The Command & Conquer series of sci-fi real-time strategy games is one of the earliest entries into the RTS genre. Command & Conquer, which was released back in 1995, introduced many of the same gameplay elements found in newly released RTS games today. It spawned a franchise that includes 13 main titles across three sub-series: Tiberium, Red Alert, and Generals. There are also eight expansions and a mobile title, Command & Conquer: Rivals, that launched in 2018.

While the Command & Conquer series is one of the first and most popular, some of the more recent releases were not as well-received as earlier games. Publisher EA is currently working on a remastered collection for the series' 25th anniversary.

06
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Warhammer 40,000

Warhammer 40,000

Games Workshop

  • Number of Games: A lot
  • First Release: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (2004)
  • Latest Release: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III (2017)
  • Upcoming Releases: TBD

Warhammer 40,000 is a sprawling franchise filled with turn-based strategy games, real-time strategy games, action games, flight simulators, and more. All of them are based on Games Workshop's tabletop miniature wargame of the same name. The first RTS title, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, released in 2004 and contains four playable factions from the Warhammer universe; Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, and Ork factions. It was very well received by both gamers and critics alike, as were its three expansions: Winter Assault, Dark Crusade, and Soulstorm.

The Dawn of War series had a few sequels over the years. The latest is Dawn of War III, published by Sega in 2017.