Rome: Total War
Topping off this list is a no-surprise entry, at all. Rome: Total War is pretty much the game that every single other game on this list (and on the genre) is trying to be. And for good reason, it has impressive gameplay, wonderfully detailed visuals, and a combat system that truly makes you feel that you are war. At the time of writing, this game is already past a decade old, and yet it is still on top of its game.
TW balances planning with combat execution –you spend a fair amount of time in the turn based system of the game. You expand your territory, gain resources, train troops, and more. Then, when you go into active combat, the game switches to real time –with you commanding thousands of your troops against the enemies' (often) also massive numbers. The combat is nothing short of stunning as hundreds to thousands of your troops on the screen charging into battle. You can go for a super zoomed out perspective overseeing the battlefield (useful for making tactical choices) or you can get so close to the action that you can watch individual soldiers duke it out against their enemies. And seriously, the only thing more awesome than Rome: Total War is its' sequel.
Total War: ROME II
Is it unfair that the UK dev team of Creative Assembly is pretty much monopolizing this list? Nope, they earned it; the Total War series of game is just so astoundingly epic that the only thing we want is Total War versions of other games (no, we're not kidding, there's even a Total War: Warhammer coming soon). Anyway, back to topic, Rome: Total War II is exactly what you would expect, a streamlined, and graphically enhanced version of the original game. The only reason this one is on spot number 2 is that the first game was a literal game-changer for the entire genre.
So what's new? Pretty much everything, Rome: TW2 lets you take part in some of the Roman army's largest battles in Africa, against the German clans, the Hoplites, and more. If you love history, this game is a massive brain-candy. There are a lot less walled cities this time, but the sieges are even more intense. And yes, with the lack of walls, there is now for focus on street-level warfare (literally).
Total War: ATTILA
By this point, we have already made it clear why the Total War series is really good. But what's the deal with TW: Attila? Sure, it has the usual gameplay already seen in the previous titles, but its' premise is what makes it shine. In this game, players start out at a massive disadvantage –and we mean more than just the fact that they are starting out. In the very opening part of the game, Rome is already in trouble. The players are in control of the Western Roman Empire, currently separated from the East thanks to the fact that the kingdom has been split between the two sons of former emperor, Theodosius. And while you can expect the usual Game of Thrones level internal problems they are having, there is also the threat of the Visigoths on one side, and the Sassanids on the other, and the Huns causing even more trouble.
Total War Attila does not play like the others, instead, it feels as if the vast number of threats are always forcing you to keep moving forward and attempting dangerous plays in order to stay on top of things –and that level of excitement is hard to find in a game.
Rome: Total War - Alexander
And by Alexander, we mean the Great. This game puts you in control of the Macedonians and is pretty much a prequel DLC pack for the original Rome: Total War game. Players will face off against the barbaric Dahae (a mixed group of tribes near Byzantium), Scythians, and Illyrians. Then there are the powerful kingdoms of Persia and India.
Most of the game's campaigns are historical battles that follow the path of Alexander's rise to power, but of course, the game takes a few liberties in how the story is told –even better is the fact that Alexander's early death at the age of 33 is not followed, and you can keep on playing the game past it. And speaking of historical battles, there is a special mode in here that is actually called "historical battles" –these are special missions that are specifically designed to re-enact certain battles like the Battle of Issus or the Siege of Halicarnassus (there are a total of 6 stages in this mode).
Hegemony III: Clash of the Ancients
As impressive as Hegemony can be, we do warn you, it is an acquired taste. On the surface, the game is quite rough looking with its not-so impressive visuals (and it is a relatively new title), and the game balance can be somewhat skewed or even downright horrible at times (imagine having your entire army getting slaughtered by a small group of randomly spawned raiders). But if you can muster the patience to bear with the game's idiosyncrasies, you will find that there is quite an impressive game hiding deep within.
The game makes great use of "tactical advantage". Doing a charge downhill, overwhelming enemies with sheer numbers –the usual, yes. But there also other factors in play, like troop morale. If you are facing off an opponent with an equal fighting force, it may seem like a gamble to spread out your forces –but if you do it and successfully flank the opponent, you also gain a moral advantage over them. And demoralized troops fight like pansies so be sure to make your enemies feel horrible (as funny as it sounds, it is a perfectly valid tactic even in real life).
Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar
In case you were wondering where Hegemony II went, it is the exact same game as the first one. The sequel to Hegemony Rome is just a massive graphical upgrade of the exact same game. So what is Hegemony? Much like Total War, Hegemony is a game that cycles between planning and combat. Hegemony does what Roman Building Games should do during planning, you build, train, upgrade, and everything else. When combat comes, you switch to battle mode. Unlike Total War, the battles in this game are not nicely presented, and there is a lot less control and it can feel as if tactics can be hard to pull off.
But, if practice with the game's complex controls and get past the in-depth city management mechanics, you will uncover that this game is an excellent way combine playtime with history study. Rise of Caesar is an unmistakably great way to deliver the events of the past, making historical accuracy one of this game's strongest points.