RTS (Real-Time-Strategy) games are some of the most popular PC games. Instead of controlling just one character, RTS games offer the freedom to control an entire army or city. Unlike turn-based strategy games, players must react to their opponent’s moves in real time.
A lot of the most popular RTS games for PC need to be purchased, however there are a few games that can be downloaded or played online legally for free. Below are some of the best examples of free RTS games for PC.
Warzone 2100 was released all the way back in 1999. To this day, it remains a very popular strategy game.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear attack. As the name suggests, Warzone 2100 is a war game – however the focus is on artillery and radar technology, making it stand out from many of its contemporaries. The gameplay is very action-packed (expect lots of explosions!).
You can play Warzone 2100 for free on Steam.
Politics & War
Politics & War is a massively-multiplayer-online real-time-strategy game that allows you to create a nation.
You compete against other nations to become the richest and the most powerful. Every nation is controlled by another player. You can choose to form alliances in order to strive for mutual prosperity. Alternatively, you can wage war on other nations.
The game is browser-based and completely free to play. Sign up and create your own nation today!
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun
This strategy game is a classic. It pretty much paved the way for many of the RTS games you see today – and it still holds up!
Players build bases, gather resources and create armies. The units available range from infantry to vehicles that can burrow and hovers. The storyline meanwhile has a sci-fi flavour but is fairly realistic (there are no aliens).
You can now play the game online for free. You can download it from the game’s site.
Spring: 1944 is an RTS game set in World War 2 during the Normandy campaign. It’s site describes it as a ‘cross between Company of Heroes and Supreme Commander, as designed by someone who played neither’.
The game allows you to play as one of 8 factions. Units range from infantry to tanks – each designed to be as realistic as possible. The battles are pretty insane and there are various arenas to play in. Updates have been recently made to its graphics, which make it even more thrilling.
The free open-source game is available to play on the game’s website.
Starcraft 2 was released in 2010 and has become one of the most iconic RTS games. It’s a sci-fi themed strategy game that revolves largely around 1v1 battles featuring an array of units.
You can choose between three armies and four game modes. The game allows you to play AI opponents or real-life opponents. There’s also a campaign mode, which unlike the original Starcraft game takes a non-linear approach allowing for multiple outcomes each time you play.
The game was made free-to-play in 2017. However, there’s lots of additional content that you can purchase.
League of Legends
League of Legends is a popular MMO that blends elements of strategy and RPG. It was born out of a Warcraft 3 mod in 2005 – now arguably becoming more successful than its originator.
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The game’s basic premise is this: two teams of five players fight each other on a battlefield made up of three lanes. While battling each other, players also have to battle neutral monsters on the battlefield. You gain XP as you kill monsters and opponents allowing you to level up and shop for new items. It’s got a pretty steep learning curve, but is a very fun and addictive game.
League of Legends sometimes gets accused of being a ‘pay to win’ game – while it is free to download and the majority of the content is free to access, players can progress much faster by paying money. That said, aside from a few skins, you can achieve pretty much anything in the game without having to pay anything, provided you’re willing to put the hours in.
Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II is a medieval RTS game certain to appeal to fans of games like Total War.
Players control a medieval kingdom between the years 1066 and 1453. In that time, you must try to maintain rule while dealing with various random events from war to rebellion to disease. It’s largely a single-player game, although there is a multiplayer mode.
The core content of the game is free. There’s a lot of DLC that you can pay for – these provide new nations and time periods – but you don’t have to buy these.
Zero-K is a sci-fi RTS game featuring robots and aliens. It was released in 2010 and has garnered quite a following.
The unique thing about Zero-K is the ability to play with the terrain. While building your base, you can carve out canals, construct bridges and even move mountains. The landscape can also be damaged by explosions during battles, often leading to crater-filled wastelands afterwards. Units can also interact with much of the environment – some units are able to hide and camouflage while others are able to climb over obstacles.
Zero-K is completely free to play. You can’t pay to be better than other players – everyone is on the same level playing field, which makes it fun for all.
Little War Game
Little War Game is a charming indie RTS with an old-skool feel. You start with a castle and workers and must build up an army to defeat your opponent.
The game is deliberately quite simplistic, making it quite easy to get to grips with and quite refreshing if you’ve been playing lots of complex strategy games beforehand. There are single-player and multiplayer modes.
Little War Game is a free browser based game – you won’t have to pay anything to play it. There’s not even any sign-up required.