The Total War series from Creative Assembly and SEGA is one of the most well-known strategy game series. More than a dozen entries span over 20 years of gaming history, offering gamers tight control of various historical periods.
Each game has built on its predecessor’s foundation, so it’s no surprise that newer games fared better on our list.
Total War: Shogun is the game that started it all, but it does not make the list of best Total War games. It is worth playing if you’re a die-hard fan, but Shogun’s barebones nature compared to later games in the series is very apparent.
All of the early Total War games from before Rome II are worth playing for die-hard fans, but modern gamers should start below (the order below is our subjective opinion, of course).
Napoleon: Total War – Definitive Edition – 2010
Napoleon: Total War is the first time the series focused on the specific exploits of one general, rather than an over-arching point in history. Napoleon gets points for being one of the most historically accurate games on this list, right down to the battle suits.
The vast, bloody battles possible with one of the first introductions to gunpowder warfare are also satisfying. A handful of DLC experiences improve the base game, but none are entirely necessary to enjoy this entry in the Total War series.
It was also one of the classic Total War games that got a Definitive edition upgrade late last year and medieval II and Empire.
Total War: Warhammer II – 2017
Total War: Warhammer was the series’ first foray into a fantasy strategy and empire management world. The game wasn’t well-received despite the new setting, mainly because of several missteps with the design and execution of underlying game systems.
Total War: Warhammer II fixed most critics’ complaints about the first game while renewing interest in the new Warhammer fantasy setting. It should be the starting point for any fantasy fan interested in the Total War series since it refines everything about the original release. Just be aware that there is plenty of DLC for this one, and most factions will need to be purchased this way.
Total War: Empire – Definitive Edition – 2009
Total War: Empire brings the series into the Age of Enlightenment and the first true 3D naval combat in the series. It offers a pretty good look at how naval combat in the 18th century worked. While the game debuted in 2009, it was spruced up as part of the definitive edition update late last year.
Total War: Warhammer – 2016
Total War: Warhammer was a surprise for fans of the series since it was the first foray into a fantasy world. It’s a practical release, even if it is a bit barebones. Plenty of DLC released in 2016 made the game easier to play, but even Creative Assembly felt some need to start over. Warhammer II was released in 2017 and is the better game of the two.
Rome II: Total War – Emperor Edition – 2013
Rome II: Total War was long considered the worst Total War game in the series, but the Emperor Edition re-release has helped a lot. Dynastic politics are still a feature in the series, though none of the helping systems from Shogun 2 made it through.
Fans also protested that the version of Egypt that appears in Rome 2 appears very cartoonish. Both Rome II and Empire were not well-regarded at release, and later games outshine them.
Total War: Medieval II – Definitive Edition – 2006
Medieval 2: Total War didn’t revolutionize the series, but it did bring a return to pike-and-shot warfare. The recent definitive edition update helped with the aging graphics, but the game’s diplomacy side is severely lacking.
If you prefer to manage your kingdoms as a warlord, you’ll find a lot to like about Medieval 2: Total War. Economic and diplomatic-minded fans were left wanting with this release, though.
Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia – 2018
Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia got a lot of flak at release for systems that felt very related to Total War: Attila. The cities and region devastation introduced for that game are present here, which is the primary cause for that comparison.
Thrones of Britannia is a standalone game with a focus on an entirely new geographical area. Starting in 878 AD, players find Alfred the Great and his defense at the battle of Edington upon the Viking Invasion. Much of the game functions like Total War: Attila, so if you like that game, you should follow-up with Thrones of Britannia.
Total War: Three Kingdoms – 2019
The next game from Creative Assembly is Total War: Three Kingdoms. It will be the first time the series has looked at the epic conflict to Unite China during the Three Kingdoms period. Players can choose from 12 legendary warlords and conquer the known world.
Total War: Three Kingdoms was released in 2019.
Total War: Shogun 2 – 2011
If you only want to play one Total War game to see whether you like the series, make it Total War: Shogun 2. Shogun 2 is the sequel to the first game but features new content in the Fall of the Samurai expansion. The Fall of the Samurai expansion makes it in-line with other gunpowder-era Total War games.
Shogun 2 looks gorgeous, and its graphics continue up well, even though the game is nearing ten years since release. Everything that made conquering Japan impressive in the first game is present here, with gorgeous execution and deep gameplay arrangements that work well together.
Total War: MEDIEVAL II – 2006
This total war game allows you to take the reigns of your army to expand your territory. During it, you will take command and direct massive battles that feature up to 10,000 troops on a 3D battlefield.
The game takes place in one of the most turbulent eras that have ever been seen in the Western world. Your hungry quest for power will take you through various continents, allowing you to expand your reach as you continue to grow your army to impossible heights.
You can expect bigger and better battles with this game than ever before seen throughout the Total War series. You will battle faster and finish single fights with bloodier and more visceral moves than ever before.
It comes with a brand new and exciting single-player campaign that takes you to three different continents.
Likewise, it offers 40 brand new and never before seen features, including a much-enhanced user interface and the ability to condense your campaign to ensure you can have the kind of experience you want out of it.
Likewise, you will be able to take place in intense multiplayer battles that help you wage war against other Total War: MEDIEVAL II players with 8-way games.