There are very few game series that can boast of the ingenious mix of tactics, strategy, and history evident in The Creative Assembly's Total War video game series. For most of the series' fans, it is hard to choose the best Total War game from the numerous current titles spanning the franchise's 20 years.
Like many other video game series, the Total War franchise has seen periodic swings in quality with each release. There are variations related to the replay quality of the games, graphics, and historical accuracy.
What is arguably the best element of the titles in the entire franchise is the gameplay thrill. What is the best Total War game?
The best Total War games ranked
What is Total War? Commonly abbreviated as TW, it is a series of strategy video games developed by The Creative Assembly.
The games combine resource management and turn-based strategy with real-time tactical control of battlefields. Here is a look at the games in the Total War series ranked from the worst to the best.
13. Shogun: Total War (2000)
This was the first installment in The Creative Assembly's TW series. Released in 2000, it is a historical grand strategy game set in the Sengoku Jidai (The age of the country at war) period of feudal Japan.
The game combines turn-based development with real-time battles. The player assumes the role of one of seven daimyos in his attempt to unite the country and become Japan's new Shogun.
12. Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia (2018)
Thrones of Britannia could have been great if it was released as an expansion for Atilla or Rome 2 at a much lower price point. The numerous changes were great, but the price has always seemed too steep for what one gets.
Unlike most other titles in the series, Thrones of Britannia does not have much in the way of replayability. Due to the time period and the setting, most factions use basically the same units with only slight differences.
11. Total War: Attila (2015)
After Rome 2, it was hard to be optimistic about the Total War franchise's future. Attila changed several elements synonymous with the previous games.
Cities burn, regions are devastated, and an endless onslaught of nomadic tribes attempt to burrow their way into the Roman empire and carve out a place in the sun.
Meanwhile, Roman generals turn against successive emperors, and the Huns hit with terrifying devastation.
10. Total War: Shogun 2 (2011)
Shogun 2 is unique among TW's modern entries, as it was the last entry in the franchise to feature all factions as even entities.
All clans feature roughly the same unit roster and buildings that allow every player to eventually be on equal footing with anyone but the shogunate.
While every TW title has had some form of Hollywoodian portrayals and expectations, Shogun II is arguably the worst offender in this category.
The battalions fighting in perfectly rectangular formations make up one of the many aspects that contribute to historical inaccuracies related to the game's period.
9. Total War: Warhammer 2 (2017)
2016's Total War: Warhammer changed the course of the TW Franchise. It took the series in a bold new direction, introduced varied faction mechanics, and redefined its aesthetic with a major gameplay engine overhaul.
The Warhammer sequel took everything the original did and pushed it. Its core campaign features more outlandish races, a more colorful and expansive world map, and a deeper story told through gorgeous artwork.
What is the best Total War game to start with? Unless one would really prefer the original Warhammer races, this is the best Total War game for beginners.
8. Total War: Rome II (2013)
Total War: Rome II's reputation is somewhat unfair. The game had a flawed launch and seemed like an uneasy transition to a more advanced system. For these reasons, it is a significantly hard game to love.
While it is undoubtedly not as good as many had hoped, the numerous bugs and unsteady artificial intelligence have been patched, and when it works, it is as deep and rewarding as any other game in the series.
7. Napoleon: Total War (2010)
Napoleon: Total War changed very few aspects of the tried-and-true formula of its predecessors, preferring instead to apply it to this new setting while executing a few tweaks and updates.
Notable additions included powerful, historical generals, as well as weather and attrition effects. The game also introduced multiplayer options, better graphics, and an improved interface
6. Medieval: Total War (2002)
Medieval: Total War, like its predecessor, Shogun, is both a turn-based strategy game and a real-time tactical combat game featuring massive armies containing hundreds or even thousands of troops.
The graphics improved marginally as compared to Shogun. However, it is still quite a pain in the eyes to look at the pixelated units, especially when they clash in melee.
Unlike the more recent titles in the series, soldiers in Medieval turn into a pixelated blob, especially when zoomed in.
5. Rome: Total War (2004)
Rome: Total War masterfully blended two complete game types, a turn-based strategy game steeped in history and a real-time strategy centerpiece that was more tactical battlefield simulator than a game.
The turn-based half allows gamers to manage everything in the strategic theater like the board game Risk, but the battlefield is where the action happens.
4. Total War: Three Kingdoms (2019)
There are a lot of questionable design decisions when it comes to strategy in Three Kingdoms, but nothing can be said about its characterization.
Drawing heavily from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms -a dramatized version of real Chinese history- the game makes brilliant use of mechanics, visuals, and text to bring Ancient China to life.
Creative Assembly has always been proficient at perfectly capturing the soul of a historical period (or a world, in the case of Warhammer), but Three Kingdoms pretty much knocks it out of the park.
3. Medieval II: Total War (2006)
Released in 2006, this is one of the oldest games in the TW series, but one that many fans of the series insist has yet to be surpassed. Perhaps it is the turbulence and romance of the Middle Ages setting or its more challenging, old-school gameplay.
If you can look past the game's aging graphics, Medieval II is bursting with fascinating content.
2. Empire: Total War (2009)
There was so much that could have gone wrong with Empire: Total War ranging from the shift away from melee units to the flimsiness of ranked rifle fire, but it did an admirable job of integrating systems that were alien to the series' games.
Following a similar style of interface and play to earlier TW titles, gamers choose a contemporary 18th-century faction and set out to ensure that faction's domination over the known world through military force, politics, diplomacy, espionage, and economics.
Although the campaign element of the game is turn-based, players can direct battles in real-time.
1. Total War: Warhammer (2016)
Which Total War game is the best? The answer is Total War: Warhammer. When it was announced in 2016, some fans were skeptical of the game's significant departure from the historical-based themes that previous games were known for.
By adding magic and flying mechanics while jumping into a fantasy setting, Warhammer was a huge step away from the typical TW formula, but in the end, it all worked out.
If you are a fan of the traditional Warhammer universe and you also enjoy this genre of games, Total War: Warhammer might be the best game you ever checked out.
The Total War franchise is irrefutably one of the best-known video game series of the modern-day. If you are a fan, which has been your best Total War game to date? If you are considering trying out the series, which title will you try out first?