The 50 Best Indie Strategy Games

40. Gratuitous Space Battles

Gratuitous Space Battles

It might be hard to tell from the screenshot above but I’m pretty sure that space battle looks 100% Gratuitous. It seems the inherent violence of homo sapiens can spread far beyond the firm ground of Earth and, as in Gratuitous Space Battles, to the very stars themselves. So, throw diplomacy out the window and get ready to take command of huge, devasting fleets of starships capable of immense destruction.

This fast-paced fusion of RTS and tower defence elements offer no explanation for the ensuing carnage instead asking you to follow orders, design a fleet, a crush the enemies that stand before you. Despite the chaotic nature many of the screenshots give off, this is not twitch-based RTS but a more thoughtful and tactical game that forgoes the importance of a single unit and instead thrives in the big-picture strategy. Although the sequel wasn’t as well received, Gratuitous Space Battles still holds up as an addictive and challenging RTS that lets you wreak havoc among the stars with your ravaging swarm of spaceships.


39. Cities in Motion

Cities in Motion

This one’s for all you daily commuters out there cramped up on the underground thinking you could surely do a better job. What you’ll most likely find out from this cathartic exercise is that transit systems are not easy to design or implement, especially in a bustling city. In fact, you might just doom your surrogate NPCs to a fate similar to your own if you’re not careful – maybe there’s some poetic sense of justice in that. I’m sure many a Sim has been on the rough end of human malice.

Digital torture fantasies aside, Cities in Motion and its subsequent sequel offered a refreshing take on the city builder looking at management simulation from a very specific angle. Advancing through time from the 1920s up until the modern day you’ll have to find the available transport needs to meet a changing population whilst all the time balancing profit and public opinion. It’s an interesting take on the genre and inspired a range of other games that may well be on this very list.


38. Democracy 3

Democracy 3

If you haven’t realised it yet, governments are pretty corrupt, or at the very least exploitative. It’s a sad fact that I hope the secret service don’t shoot me over for putting into words and publishing. But, on the bright side, in Democracy 3 you have the chance to change all that, in a virtual world albeit. So, if you’ve ever looked at a world leader and thought you could do a better job (ahem) then this might be your chance to prove it to all the people you lecture on Facebook about the world economy.

Screenshots of graphs might look pretty boring but I don’t think that does the Game of Thrones-esque hustle of the political game justice. Tackling problems like crime, unemployment and terrorism are seriously stressful endeavours. Let’s hope those corporate bribes sooth your woes – if you take them that is. In a simulated system, there might not be as much risk, of course, but the troubles you face will be eerily similar, and you’ll have to solve them not just moan about them. Winning voters is no easy task, you might have to do things you consider unethical. But, remember, politics is a dirty game. Democracy 3 isn’t though, that’s pretty good.


37. Driftland: The Magic Revival

Driftlands The Magic Revival

A magical apocalypse sounds like a devastating thing to happen so it makes sense that all the land is torn asunder in Driftlands: The Magic Revival. As it happens, it was a destructive war between a couple of ancient mages that ripped the world apart, and now it’s all held roughly together by a powerful spell. Although the warring factions of wizards worked together to save the planet tensions remain high. As new mages start to appear across this shattered land old conflicts reignite, and that’s where you come in.

As a Mage Overlord, which sounds suitably epic, your goal is to extend your control and bring order to this world plunged into chaos. This goal is pursued through thoughtful RTS gameplay sending your units forth to conquer neighbouring islands. Of course, tanks aren’t going to do you any good here, unless they’ve got wings that is. Your soldiery will have to tame the exotic flying beasts of this floating land if they ever hope to unite it under one banner. Fingers crossed you can click and resource manage this broken world back into one whole thing again. That way you can argue over whether the newly formed landmass is flat or spherical and start another war.


36. Invisible, Inc.

Invisible Inc

I imagine we’ve all wanted to be a spy at some point, there’s just a certain mystique about it. They’re smart, cunning, and always one step ahead of the game – who wouldn’t want to be that cool. Well, Invisible Inc. will make you feel like a spy without the added danger of dying that certainly comes as part of the job. You’ll get to hack, manipulate, and infiltrate your way into the world’s most dangerous corporations eager to uncover their most precious secrets. One turn at a time, of course, you can’t rush perfection.

You won’t be a one-man army either, teamwork is essential if you want to get out alive. After all, James Bond would be nothing without Q. Using stealth and precision you’ll navigate the world of high risk, high reward missions where one false move can end your life. Customisation will be the key to survival, as you utilise the agents, items, augments and programs at your disposal to adapt to your treacherous surroundings. I guess the Martinis and fancy sports cars will have to wait, there are life-threatening operations at hand, so let’s get to it.


35. At The Gates

At The Gates

If you’re starting to catch a theme, it’s that most strategy games involve conflict of some sort, and At the Gates is no exception. Created by Jon Shafer, designer of Civilization 5, this 4X grand strategy thrusts you into the dark ages amongst the crumbling Roman Empire. With kingdom building on your mind, you set off to gather an army, harvest resources and build the mightiest economic and military machine the world has ever seen. So, not exactly you arrange your arrange day in the life of.

uniting the clans across the lands you’ll have to endure the variety of the challenging landscapes weather conditions as you struggle to understand where each strength of empire lies. management and planning are at the heart of this grand strategy as you face survival in a gruelling landscape filled with dangerous rivals. Wits, not fate will decide if your rule usher in a new era of European history. Or, maybe your struggle will be forgotten, buried in the annals of time. Although not as well received as his previous games, At the Gates still itches that conquerer urge, albeit on a smaller scale.


34. Production Line: Car factory simulation

Production Line: Car factory simulation

It’s always interesting when games try to do something a little different, and Production Line: Car factory simulation does just that. Instead of grand armies or enormous cities, it gives you a car factory and a company to manage. This simulation, tycoon hybrid demands keen organisational skills and an entrepreneurial spirit to get the most of it. Pushing your production line to become a well oiled efficient machine is no easy task, especially not with your rivals nipping at your heels.

Profit, of course, is at the heart of things, and if you want to see any you best strive for near-perfect process management. Gone are the days of row after row of human workers clambering to piece together the finished product. Now a seamless row of engineering robots dances in unison to the pre-programmed beat. That all sounds great right? But you’ll face many challenges along the road to perfect efficiency. Factory design isn’t easy when trying to meet huge global orders on time, you may have to cut corners, and profit for that matter. Machines also break down or need replacing, you’ll need expert research to best the big corporations. Big profit mean big stakes and if you want to be the next Elon Musk you’re going to have to get creative.


33. Warparty

Warparty

I think we can all agree dinosaurs are pretty cool. And, although not historically accurate, that it would be all kinds of awesome to control a human army with these ancient beasts at their disposal. Enter Warparty, an RTS set in the stone-age, a time of apparently fierce combat and dino battles. It hits all the usual suspects in terms of genre norms. Build a base, recruit soldiers etc. But, then there’s also the opportunity to tame our fierce prehistoric buddies and unleash them against your rivals.

It’s not all tooth and claw though, you’ll have to manage resources and pay attention to the odd skill tree if you want to achieve victory. This combination of fast-paced battles and thoughtful management of your armies create an exciting combination of tactics. RTS’ aren’t as popular as they once were but Warparty is a great example of how the original formula can still hold up against today’s strategy greats. Plus it has dinosaurs, which instantly makes it game of the year.


32. AI War 2

AI War 2

AI War 2 is a good example of why we should not trust sentient machines. I mean we’ve all seen Terminator, you know how this goes. Artificial Intelligence ahs judged humans inferior and decided to wipe them from the galaxy. There one mistake is that they underestimated you, the human now in charge of our defence against this robotic scourge. This RTS, strategy hybrid puts you up against the greatest enemy of all, the unfaltering machine.

The AI may have conquered the galaxy but it’s now up to you to turn that decisive victory around and show them that the meat bags still have a little fight left in them. Starting out with what remains of the human fleet you have retake bases, fortify them and expand your defences ready to launch the counter-attack.  The enemy may be distracted, even disinterested for now but this fight requires a careful strategy to survive as the Al’s power is massive oif brought to bear. That, in itself, is this game’s shining quality, the tight rope walk of strategy and tactics it takes to retake the galaxy one piece at a time.


31. They Are Billions

They Are Billions

A zombie horde is a terrifying thing to behold. A ruthless, hungry mass of knawing creatures ready to devour the living with unflinching cruelty. A couple of thousand is unthinkable but how about millions, even billions! Now, that truly is an unimaginable horror to be tasked with holding at bay. Well, in They Are Billions, you’re the last surviving humans on a post-apocalyptic planet, so that job falls to you.

Strategy comes at you fast in this game as once the infected get a whiff of living humans they turn up in droves. Building and management are at its core but you’ll also need a capable army of defenders if you want to survive the horde. You’ll have to build strong, tall walls and train brave troops if you hope to live through even the first week on this hostile planet. In survival mode, it’s all about how long you can last. The populace almost comes second as every resource you have is pumped into defence.

There’s also a campaign mode, where you help the remaining humans to reconquer their country back from the zombie menace. With the long game in mind, you can spend more time researching and understanding the horror you face. this way you can better design and implement the method of its destruction. It’s fast-paced, it only takes a single zombie to break through and the infection will start spreading among your citizens. Infections spread rapidly, so it’s all about instant containment. Thank god there’s the option to pause, and ponder your tactics whilst the undead await their next meal.

Next up: Prison showers, messy parties and more dinosaurs!