The problem with strategy and simulation games has always been the niche nature of the genres. Even with that, I’ve always been able to find quite exceptional examples of both when I’ve covered the top titles from previous years. Whether separately, with strategy games in 2016 and 2017, simulation games in 2016 and 2017 as well as the two combined in 2018.
As before, to avoid having to stretch the word “best” and include titles that wouldn’t regularly make it onto a top list, strategy and simulation games will be combined. Only new and published titles will appear on the list, so no early access or remastered titles (Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition won’t feature, though it’s exceptional) and only those we’ve actually played will make the cut, though we won’t. may not necessarily have reviewed all of them.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best strategy and simulation games of 2019.
Previously on Wccftech’s Best Games of 2019: Action, Adventure, Horror, Indie, Fighting, Platformer
Total War: Three Kingdoms (10/10)
Genre: Strategy (Grand Strategy). Platform: pc.
In over seven years of game reviews, Total War: Three Kingdoms is my first and only 10/10 score. It’s a score I swore not to give, even if there was always the rare chance that such a game would change this policy. Total War: Three Kingdoms is the game that completely changed my mind. Featuring the most comprehensive Total War launch experience, the game only got better after launch.
Did you want the traditional Total War experience, recording mode, or maybe a new romance mode experience, based on stories from that time period? Larger-than-life characters you’ve come to know and who fought for you in a stunningly beautiful and colorful depiction of China. All of this tied into an intuitive town development system that fostered tactical thinking, as well as a focused army system, where character personalities and abilities all matter.
Seven months ago, confounding classic Chris composed a classic Total War: Three Kingdoms test, one that stated this:
Total War: Three Kingdoms is as close to flawless as you’ll find, with a fantastic balance of 4X strategy, character-driven development, and emergent storytelling. Battles are frenetic, with increased tactical opportunities through duels. City development is more intuitive and less restrictive, but still requires thought and it all takes place on a downright fantastic looking China, where even the UI and menus look great. It’s the Total War experience and a new high for the series.
Planet Zoo (8.5/10)
Genre: Simulation. Platform: pc.
Frontier Developments is a strange company, which has struggled a lot in the past due to its failure to develop The Outsider, announced in 2005 and officially canceled in 2011. Frontier has always been strong in simulation games, from porting RollerCoaster Tycoon to the Xbox to the development of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, they also developed titles like Kinectimals and Zoo tycoon for Microsoft. Their real rise came with the Kickstarter and the release of Elite: Dangerous, then the release of Planet Coaster and now Planet Zoo. Jurassic World Evolution was okay, but not on the same level.
Planet Zoo, their recent release, gives you the ultimate zoo-building simulation, refining what came in Jurassic World Evolution, but replacing Velociraptors with Penguins. With a complex level of control, allowing you to control everything from buildings and paths to complex control of temperature, water, breeding, etc. The animals are also adorably detailed.
I liked what I saw when I previewed it and loved playing it after it was released. Our own Rosh had this to say in his review:
Planet Zoo is a great management game that lets you impose your own goals and always gives you something to strive for. With incredible graphical fidelity, a huge range of overlapping mechanics to balance, and incredible detail, the only problem is the sometimes annoying controls.
Genre: Simulator (?) Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch.
So, I don’t even know if it’s a simulation game. Is it? I assume you are simulating the movements of a very mischievous goose. Sometimes that’s all you really need in life. In the case of Untitled Goose Game, it’s exactly that – it’s a game that’s as compelling as it is charming, which is in spades. Why? It’s great stealth mechanics that work perfectly with the slapstick nature of the game and the simple yet hugely rewarding puzzles.
What’s so rewarding is the way they work within the confines of the game and the fact that you’re a goose. As the titular goose, you need to see exactly what mischief you can do with just a few options. You can use your beak to pick things up or pull something, you can flap your wings, or you can use your surprisingly strong and expressive. honk! It’s a nice brief but thoroughly enjoyable experience thanks to every little thing about the game perfectly crafted to achieve its end goal.
As you play Untitled Goose Game, you’ll laugh, smile, and enjoy discovering exactly how to get a weird man to put on his summer hat with the awesome powers of being a goose.
John Wick Hex (8.5/10)
Genre: Strategy (turn-based tactics). Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
If there’s one thing that can be said about John Wick, it’s that the movies feature some of the best choreographed action in movie history. There’s something special about the attacks and counters, the use of the environment, every object in John’s hands and even the clothes on his back. To have a game that features the same action and style is so rare.
To achieve this excellent choreography, Bithell Games has broken down all of these actions into their smallest components, all taken piecemeal as time freezes, but with real-time consequence. This allows you to watch an enemy action, consider your natural reaction time and the time it takes for your body to move, and choose your actions accordingly. Do you throw your weapon at a bad guy, only to then smoothly dodge another, which then allows you to launch that second enemy into the first? It all plays out brilliantly and creates what appear to be fantastic action sequences similar to those found in Superhot.
If there’s one other thing to say about John Wick it’s got Keanu Reeves being number 1 with Sean Bean and me as ‘best guy in the world’ more stuff that are sorely lacking in video games, Keanu unfortunately not reprising his role here. Still, you get the image of Keanu in what is a great game. Our own Dave Aubrey wrote a bit about John Wick Hex and he enjoyed it, saying:
Ultimately, John Wick Hex is an outstanding licensed game, and a wonderful strategic shooter, even far from it. It’s the kind of high quality and enjoyable game, even if you have no idea about the John Wick movies themselves. The perfect type of licensed game, which works both as an introduction to the franchise and as an extension of it. Really worth playing.
Genre: Strategy (turn-based tactics). Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch.
Wargroove is an excellent Advance Wars-style turn-based tactics game with an extremely colorful visual style, a simple but sufficiently compelling story in the campaign, and most importantly, a slew of game modes to sink your teeth into. The most important part is that it emphasizes combat and mission design, offering enough challenge to keep you invested, but not so far that wise tactical decisions can’t win the day.
Francesco, our own RPG enthusiast – so much so that he kept calling it a tactical RPG, I’ll forgive him though – had this to say about Wargroove:
Wargroove is the game that tactical RPG fans have been waiting for. The massive amount of content and game modes, solid gameplay almost completely free of RNG, and excellent presentation make this a game no fan of the genre should pass up.
Football Coach 2020 (9.5/10)
Genre: Simulation. Platform: PC (base game). Nintendo Switch & Mobile (mobile version).
Football Manager is a series of small steps and giant leaps. From big leaps like 2017 to small steps taken in iterations like 2019, the series is constantly refining and improving. Originally, I firmly believed that 2019 was going to be the last of the small steps forward, with me believing that the game had reached a point where another leap would be taken.
That hasn’t been the case and even with seemingly smaller improvements such as compressing multiple facets into a single development center and increased focus on club vision, Football Manager 2020 is more engrossing than it looks. has never been before by promoting and rewarding a longer term approach than ever before. Slated to be Unai Emery’s full-time replacement at Arsenal (Note: this role may have been filled by the time this post is published), hugely talented manager Chris Wray had this to say regarding the game:
Football Manager 2020 is the purest, most engaging and accessible football management game to date and marks another highlight in the series. From improved accessibility and usability, to improved AI and long-term gameplay features in new features like the Dev Center and Club Vision, this is a game that takes a look more realistic about the beautiful game than any before it. Slight issues still prevail, but it’s the closest to perfection the series has ever come.
Strategy & Simulation Games 2019 – A Year in Review
Strategy and simulation have been strong genres in recent years, with the steady growth of the PC being a big factor. It also helps that the genre finally seems to be looking good on consoles thanks to well-designed ports like Tropico 6, Wargroove, John Wick Hex, and They are Billions. Developers finally get those annoying controllers under control.
Another interesting point is that, compared to the last few years, 2019 saw more great titles than your usual collection of indie titles. Certainly, John Wick Hex, Wargroove, They Are Billions, and Unity of Command II show the continued strength of the Indies. As always, SEGA appears on the list thanks to Total War and Football Manager.
Like every year, there’s always a chance that I missed a few games that most likely should be on the list. We’ve only played a number here at Wccftech and I’m also incredibly
drunk forgetful. There are also so many things I want to play but time is unfortunately always limited.
On that note, if you missed any of them, I will definitely recommend giving them a chance if you can. Stay tuned for our most anticipated strategy and simulation games of 2020.