Company of Heroes 2 - Ardennes Assault screenshot
Image Credit: SEGA
World War Two frequently inspires historical fictions across books, television series, movies and games. The setting had already been used for toys and table top games for some time, but from the late 1990s in particular World War Two became an established well of inspiration for game developers.
Cut straight to the action with our list of the best World War Two Strategy Games below. You can also use our list of the best World War Two shooter games, the best Battle of Britain games and the best tank games.
Partisans 1941 (2020)
Partisans 1941 screenshot
Image Credit: Daedalic Entertainment
Captain Zorin is a Red Army officer with an inexplicably Cockney accent and a penchant for throwing knives. He’s the central character in Partisans 1941, a solid real-time tactics game about resistance fighters on the Eastern Front.
When you meet him he’s in a German prisoner-of-war camp. After escaping into the forest to meet comrade Fetisov, who’s handy with a submachine gun, and youngster Sanek, who can leap over walls, Zorin establishes a guerilla headquarters. As its commander you must manage recruits and plan missions on which to take them: sabotaging bridges, assassinating commandants, and the like.
Company of Heroes (2006)
Company of Heroes screenshot
Image Credit: SEGA
Surely the best Real Time Strategy (RTS) game set in World War Two, Company of Heroes puts players in the boots of soldiers who took part in both The Battle of Normandy and Operation Cobra, the Allied mission to push the Axis powers out of France.
Requiring a deft touch and an eye on troop movements, Company of Heroes boasts a fantastic campaign and an online mode in which players can play on both sides of the Allied/Axis fence. It’s a superb game which, in addition to its excellent sequel, is well worth exploring on PC.
Company of Heroes 2 (2013)
Company of Heroes 2 – Ardennes Assault screenshot
Image Credit: SEGA
The impressive physics and smart real-time strategy of the first game made it in an instant classic. In Company of Heroes 2, the action shifted to the Eastern Front. Its base game gives players the chance to command the forces of the Red Army and the Wehrmacht Ostheer, and layers its tactical gameplay with dynamic weather conditions.
The game later added the US, British and alternate German forces as playable factions. Relic Entertainment’s work on Company of Heroes has secured their status as real-time strategy game developers of the highest calibre. Expect another entry on this list when Company of Heroes 3 is released in 2022.
Commandos 2: Men of Courage (2001)
Commandos 2: Men of Courage screenshot
Image Credit: Kalypso Media Digital
Commandos 2: Men of Courage is a tense, taught puzzle game that follows the missions of a group of Allied troops trapped behind enemy lines. Unlike many games set in this time, charging in guns blazing isn’t an option. Instead, players have to act like infiltrating spies, gathering documents, distracting patrols, planting bombs on targets and the like.
While it’s setting doesn’t dovetail into any historic narrative, Commandos 2: Men of Courage gives players a taste of the near-the-knuckle experience a lot of clandestine operatives had in World War Two.
Hearts of Iron IV (2016)
Hearts of Iron IV screenshot
Image Credit: Paradox Interactive
Hearts of Iron IV is a staggeringly deep strategy game for PC, in which you control a single nation from the mid-1930s through to 1950. It’s fascinating because while some real-world events are scripted, they only take place if the story develops a particular way. For Anschluss to occur, Germany must first tick off certain boxes in-game.
Later expansions added the ability to experience the war as smaller countries, such as Romania and Hungary.
Men of War: Assault Squad 2 (2014)
Men of War: Assault Squad 2 screenshot
Image Credit: 1C Entertainment
The less famous real-time strategy that approaches World War Two is the Men of War series, and Assault Squad 2 is the favourite. It’s a dense, deep experience but doesn’t make it easy for new players to get to grips with it.
It’s loaded with interesting features, such as multiplayer that scales to 8v8 and a mode called “Direct Control” which enables third-person control over a unit on the battlefield. Released in 2014, it’s no longer actively supported and performance varies.
Steel Division 2
Steel Division 2 screenshot
Image Credit: Eugen Systems
Steel Division 2 invites players to manage military campaigns at 1:1 scale during World War Two. There are thousands of troops to be moved into position, supply lines to be managed, and absolutely massive maps to get familiar with.
It’s an involved game, perhaps more involved than casual players have the patience for, but Steel Division 2 is a well-received title with a high standard for authenticity.