Throughout the holidays, I stayed in and took things slow by treating myself to some good old fashioned gaming. It was a great time to use games that let me connect with my inner strategist. No surprise that the expansive offerings of Xbox Game Pass also include the best strategy games.
While strategy games weren’t initially the bread and butter of Game Pass, they’ve grown to become a crucial part of the subscription service. By expanding onto PC and adding some desktop exclusive classics into its offerings, PC Game Pass has inevitably swelled its library with some great strategy games.
Whether you have PC Game Pass as a standalone subscription or as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, here are the best strategy games that Game Pass has to offer.
Crusader Kings III
Crusader Kings III is one of those “Dad Games” that require some patience and ample reading time. But once you get the ball rolling on this empire management sim, its meticulousness and delivery makes it a compelling game. If you’re looking for a game that has that old school management sim feel but has the bells and whistles of a modern game, give Crusader Kings III a shot.
If you’re looking to get lost in a massive universe of lore with very tight game mechanics as well as massive mechs, Battletech by Harebrained Schemes is an amazing entry. Based on the long-running tabletop wargaming and role-playing saga, it features an immersive single player campaign and crunchy combat. (PC only)
Yes, Your Grace
This charming game puts a sense of urgency on the choices you make managing a small kingdom under your rule. As a king and a father, you have to weigh your choices for the betterment of both your subjects and your family but some compromises have to be made. Made in beautiful pixel-art, Yes, Your Grace is definitely a must try even if it’s just to interact with your wife and daughters.
This game is considered the inheritor of the SimCity legacy by most city building fans. As usual for its genre, Cities Skylines lets you play in a sandbox, growing a small town into a big city over the years while balancing costs, traffic, citizen’s happiness and safety as well as improving their lives. What makes the Xbox version special is it plays really damn well on a controller, so you can lounge around while you build.
Set in a world where winter has not only come but appears will never go away, your people look to you for leadership as you make difficult choices in this strategic management simulation game. Each night can be fatal if you don’t plan out well enough. Only one thing is for sure in the world of Frostpunk: sacrifices need to be made to ensure survival.
This hybrid RTS and top down shooter asks you to do it all in a hostile alien environment. In The Riftbreaker, you set up and manage mining routes and resource gathering nodes as well as automated defenses for the inevitable alien attack. All the while, you’re upgrading your mech and exploring the alien biomes. Your skill in managing these facets of the game will be put to the test as hordes of aliens try to amass and overwhelm you from all sides.
This tactical turn-based game is set in the Gears of War universe. Set long before the events of the original Gears of War trilogy (and its sequels, Gears of War 4 and Gears 5), you command a small retinue of COGs as Sergeant Gabriel Diaz and fight hordes of Locust. It’s basically XCOM but with a distinct Gears flair. Rev up that Lancer, soldier!
Before We Leave
A charming little world builder, Before We Leave is an increasingly cute take on the city building genre. It’s a tile based, civilization builder where the overall goal is, well, to leave this rock at some point. You’ll manage resources, research tech and set up trade routes to move resources around. Despite its lovable look, Before We Leave has its complexities but is a friendlier approach to the city building genre.
This spiritual successor to XCOM was developed by a team led by original XCOM creator Julian Gollop. Another tactical and turn-based game, it delivers a slew of Lovecraftian horrors to blast away and bringing with it of course, the dread of taking a shot only to realize you’ll still miss when it matters most.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination
Despicable Me’s Gru has nothing on you as you play as your very own international super villain in Evil Genius 2. Rebellion’s take on a management simulation tasks you with creating your own villain lair complete with minions, secret gadgets and a whole load of traps to take out those pesky spies.
Two Point Hospital
A spiritual successor to Theme Hospital, you are a hospital manager charged with constructing rooms, hiring professionals and maintaining the hospital for profit and sustainability. It takes to heart its quirky nature with all kinds of funny illnesses like one where a patient’s head is just a light bulb. Now that’s a condition! (PC only)
Age of Empires 4
As the long-awaited follow up to the famed historical RTS series, Age of Empires 4 does not disappoint. Reenact pivotal moments in history as you play a beautifully narrated campaign that introduces game mechanics to you as well as historical moments in this wonderful revival of a beloved classic. (PC only)
There you go, some of the best strategy games on Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass. There’s actually even more to find in the hundreds of games available on the subscription service, so players definitely won’t be at a loss for games to try out. If these games don’t tickle your fancy, maybe you prefer some JRPGs? If so, check out my list of the best JRPGs on PC Game Pass.