Before anyone even says it, yes, I realize strategy games SHOULD be played on computers, not on consoles. But there ARE some out there which have been released on consoles, and there are even some people out there who like playing them on consoles. I’ve played my share of console strategy games over the years, and decided why not put together a list of my favorite ones. So here you have it, in my opinion, the top 5 real time strategy titles out there.
Honorable Mention – Command & Conquer: Red Alert (PlayStation)
So let’s start off with the one with the one which barely missed the list. Command & Conquer: Red Alert on the original PlayStation. Red Alert is the only game I can remember having ever gotten a friend to bring their PS console over so we could system link them and play a game that way. The Red Alert series was just great for a number of reasons, and it actually translated decently well to the console without sacrificing much at all.
5 – Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II (Xbox 360)
While it came out several months after the PC version, those months were apparently put to good use polishing the title for console play. The control scheme was simple, intuitive and easy to master. The graphics and audio were great. And the multiplayer was a blast. At least it was right up until EA was forced to take the servers down due to the Lord of the Rings license changing hands.
4 – Halo Wars (Xbox 360)
While Halo Wars may not have received the best scores from critics; it is definitely one of my favorite strategy games out there on a console. The story was very engaging and greatly enhanced by the incredibly well done cutscenes. There was a good bit of variety to the gameplay through the course of the campaign. Multiplayer felt a little limited due to the exclusion of the Flood and a limited number of game modes, but it was still fun enough. And most importantly, it felt like the Halo universe we all know and love, just in strategy form instead of FPS.
3 – Starcraft 64 (N64)
There’s no shortage of great things about the Nintendo 64 console. And there’s little doubt out there that the original Starcraft is one of the greatest real time strategy games ever made. So what happens when those two things meet? One great console RTS title. Granted, it didn’t have the multiplayer aspects of the PC version, which is one of the greatest things about the game. But it did include the entire original campaign as well as the Brood War expansion missions. And if that wasn’t enough, it even included some bonus content not found on the PC version of the original title or the expansion. And even though it didn’t have the competitive multiplayer that the PC version had, it did have a split screen cooperative mode that was really fun.
2 - Dune II: Battle for Arrakis (Genesis)
While Dune II isn’t really the granddaddy of all strategy games, it wasn’t the first after all. But it did bring a lot of major changes to the early attempts at strategy games that still exist today. Things we take for granted today in strategy titles, such as world maps, technology trees, different factions, etc all got their start in Dune II. And an interesting trivia tidbit that most people don’t know, changes that were made to Dune II to port it from PC to the Genesis, such as the context sensitive cursor, would make their way into all future Westwood titles, even on the PC.
1 - Herzog Zwei (Genesis)
So the top two titles in the list are both on the Sega Genesis. I promise there’s no bias there. The Genesis was apparently just really receptive to early strategy games being ported to it. While Dune II may be credited with bringing more features to the genre that still exist today, Herzog Zwei is considered by most to be the first true real time strategy game out there. From the game’s own manual, it is described as “As the high commander, you're in charge of mobilizing and controlling all troops. You must occupy the neutral bases and gain control of the enemy's advance bases. You decide what weapons to deploy and where to place your forces. You must also protect your occupied territory from enemy attacks. Your final objective --- and the final battle --- is destroying the enemy's base camp.” If that doesn’t scream real time strategy at you nothing will. The most surprising thing may be that the game was pretty universally blasted by critics at release, receiving scores as low as of 4 out 10 from numerous sources. But even so, it went on to gain a huge cult following and basically defined a completely new genre of games.
So there you have it, the top five, well, six real time strategy games on consoles. There are a couple others that barely missed the mark, such as Tropico 3, Pikmin, Goblin Commander, Full Spectrum Warrior, etc. Contrary to popular belief, there are some decent strategy games out there for the different consoles, especially the older consoles. What do you think? What are some of your favorite RTS console games? And join me next week when I count down my favorite turn based games on consoles.