The real-time strategy (RTS) genre has captivated gamers worldwide with its unique blend of strategic planning, resource management, and intense real-time combat. These rts games challenge players to gather resources, build bases, and command powerful armies with the goal of outwitting and defeating their opponents. From classic franchises like RTS StarCraft  and World of Warcraft RTS to groundbreaking new titles like Stormgate game from Frost Giant Studios, the RTS landscape continues to evolve and push boundaries.

rts game development

At its core, an RTS game requires players to carefully manage economies (rts economy games), construct fortified bases (RTS builder), and produce a steady stream of military units – whether hulking mechs, elite commandos, or mighty medieval warriors. However, the true thrill lies in the real-time battles where players must master combat tactics (RTS combat games), control unit movement with precision (RTS micro games), and make split-second decisions that can turn the tide of war. This seamless integration of strategic planning and reactive gameplay creates an exhilarating experience found nowhere else.

The diversity of the RTS genre is one of its greatest strengths. Players can immerse themselves in rich science-fiction settings ( so called sci-fi RTS, futuristic RTS games, alien RTS genres) like the beloved Warhammer 40K universe. Fantasy worlds laden with magic and mythological beasts await in games derived from franchises like Warhammer’s Age of Sigmar RTS. For a more grounded experience, historical rts titles like Age of Empires and Empire Earth allow gamers to relive pivotal moments from humanity’s past.

Some games put creative spins on the traditional RTS formula. Titles like Grey Goo game and the cult classic Impossible Creatures enable players to design and mutate unique units. Others like Iron Harvest units blend RTS mechanics with uncommon settings like the dieselpunk aesthetic of 1920s’ era machines of war. The genre is rapidly expanding to encompass new gameplay concepts (evolution RTS, ancestors RTS), themes, and art styles.

Whether played on PC (RTS on steam), console, RTS mobile device or even in RTS VR game, the real-time strategy genre delivers endless replayability and limitless potential for innovative new experiences. With both industry veterans like Relic Entertainment and creative RTS indie developers pushing the genre forward, the future for RTS gaming looks brighter than ever.

StarCraft and Warcraft

Two of the most iconic and influential RTS franchises are RTS StarCraft and Warcraft 4 RTS. Blizzard Entertainment’s SC2 RTS series defined the modern military sci-fi RTS, pitting three unique factions – Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg – against each other across the galaxy. Its finely-tuned gameplay, pro RTS eSports legacy, and memorable storylines have made it one of the most revered games in the genre. The WOW RTS universe translates the epic high fantasy aesthetic into immersive RTS campaigns and player-vs-player battlegrounds filled with orcs, humans, undead, and other mythological races.

Age of Empires

One of the longest-running and most beloved historical RTS series is Age of Empires from Microsoft. Age of Empires defined the classic formula of advancing through antiquity’s major civilizations and RTS ages by gathering resources, constructing cities, researching technologies, and marshaling armies of era-specific units. Age of Empires II and III received definitive modern remasters packed with new content to delight longtime fans and engage new generations. The series’ broad historical scope and compelling campaigns exploring ancient cultures like Greeks, Egyptians, and Mongols have made it a perennial favorite among strategists.

Command & Conquer

When it comes to modern military RTS gaming, few franchises are as iconic as general RTS Command & Conquer. Westwood Studios’ original Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn revolutionized the RTS scene in 1995 with its focus on non-stop base building, unit production, and furious combat between the globalized GDI force and cultish Brotherhood of Nod. Subsequent entries like Red Alert introduced wildly innovative factions and mechanics like allied naval forces and Soviet mind control. Recent entries like Command & Conquer 3 and remasters have revived the meteoric real-time warfare for a new age of RTS fans.

Warhammer 40K RTS Games

Workshop’s dark, gothic Warhammer 40K science fantasy universe has been a fertile ground for RTS games from developers like Relic Entertainment. Truly capturing the grim essence of unending futuristic war, the Dawn of War series allows gamers to command the bioengineered superhuman Space Marines, technologically advanced Eldar, ravening Orks, and other iconic 40K factions. Standouts like Dawn of War II went for a more tactical approach with superb unit customization. As one of the best warhammer 40k rts titles, Relic’s upcoming untitled game in the franchise has fans salivating over the prospect of experiencing the grim darkness of the far future in a new evolution of the 40K RTS experience.

Upcoming Titles

rts combat

The future of the RTS genre looks incredibly bright with several major new releases on the horizon. Leading the charge is Stormgate games from storied developers Frost Giant Studios. This interstellar RTS looks to redefine the classic sci-fi real-time strategy experience with its stunning graphics, deep gameplay systems, and lore rooted in an original IP from the creator of StarCraft. Another hugely anticipated title is Iron Harvest 2 which blends old-world European influences, futuristic dieselpunk machinery, and weighty RTS gameplay for a unique visual and gameplay experience. The grim survival city-builder Frostpunk RTS is also being adapted into this genre by the developers at 11 Bit Studios, challenging players to lead their frost-ravaged society to survival against the bitter cold and snarling automatons. These three titles represent just a small slice of the innovative new RTS games in active development.

Subgenres and Unique RTS Experiences

Historical RTS Games

For gamers who crave authenticity and realism, historical real-time strategy games allow you to relive iconic eras and command the greatest civilizations that shaped our world. Franchises like Age of Empires and Empire Earth are exemplars of this subgenre.

rts web

Classic Historical RTS Games:

  • Age of Empires series
  • Empire Earth series
  • Cossacks series
  • Rise of Nations
  • American Conquest.

These games masterfully recreate ancient societies from the Stone Age up through the modern era. Players advance their civilization through the ages by managing resources in RTS economy games, researching technologies, constructing cities and wonders, mustering armies of period-specific units like longbowmen and catapults in medieval RTS titles, and conquering rival empires.

Sci-Fi RTS Games

The science fiction realm provides a vast canvas for RTS developers to design imaginative futuristic settings, factions, units, and technologies. Some of the most acclaimed titles:

  • RTS StarCraft universe
  • Grey Goo video game
  • Halo Wars RTS series
  • Terminator RTS game.

In-depth resource mechanics like harvesting Vespene gas and constructing interstellar gateways create a uniquely futuristic real-time strategy experience.

Fantasy RTS Games

Drawing from rich worlds of magic, mythology and sword & sorcery, fantasy RTS games immerse players in battles between realms of elves, dwarves, wizards and more. Leading titles include:

  • Warcraft universe RTS
  • Warhammer Age of Sigmar RTS
  • Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth strategy games
  • SpellForce series.

These games combine awesome heroes, mythological units and a dash of magic to produce epic conflicts. Unique fantasy units include:

  • Gryphon Riders
  • Treemen Ancients
  • Slayers
  • Goblin Wolf Riders.

With vibrant art styles and deep lore, fantasy RTS allow you to live out your wildest adventuring dreams through strategic warfare.

Unique Twists

mario rts

While many RTS games adhere to traditional formulas, others dared to be innovators by introducing wild, new gameplay mechanics. These unique RTS titles include:

  • Impossible Creatures game – Creatures composed of mismatched animal parts
  • Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey – Guide primate ancestors over millions of years
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden – Evolution-based unit creation
  • Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution – Creatures that evolve based on combat performance
  • Black and White RTS series – Units can be good or evil based on player’s actions.

By inverting typical RTS tropes, these innovative titles aimed to breathe new life into the genre with original adventures in genetic engineering, evolution, morality and more. The creativity on display is daring and inspiring for the future of RTS game design.

RTS Games on Different Platforms

The real-time strategy genre has expanded far beyond its origins on PC gaming rigs. Today, RTS experiences are available across a multitude of platforms and devices.

RTS Mobile

Mobile gaming has allowed RTS titles to go truly portable. While most straightforward RTS games can be tooctic for mobile controls, these games have adapted well. Here is our RTS list of games:

Mobile RTS Games Key Features
Iron Marines Tactical battles, hero units, base building
Rusted Warfare Online multiplayer, steampunk theme
RIOT: Civil Unrest Crowd control tactics, riot shields
Extreme Wizards Spellcasting, wizard duels
Mushroom Wars 2 Mushroom tribes, cartoonish art style

Top Mobile RTS Developers:

  • Keepsafe (Goalkeeper games)
  • Rubicon (Great Little War Game)
  • RXBX Games (Clash of Rage).

Simple tap/swipe controls, streamlined resources, and bite-sized gameplay sessions make these rts mobile and rts game mobile titles perfectly suited for on-the-go warfare.

RTS Unity

The Unity game engine has emerged as one of the most prolific and accessible engines for developing RTS games such as:

  • Iron Harvest (unity rts engine)
  • They Are Billions
  • Kingdoms and Castles
  • Bronze Age
  • Bannermen.

Unity RTS Game Development Resources:

  • Unity RTS Engine (Free, includes multiplayer, pathfinding, unit grouping)
  • Unity RTS Tutorial (Series covering basics like camera, UI, unit selection)
  • Unity RTS: Multiplayer Tutorial (Networking, server/client sync).

With Unity’s flexibility, ease of use, and portability across platforms, it has become a prime engine for both AAA and indie RTS game development (rts development).


The immersive nature of virtual reality provides exciting new frontiers for the RTS genre. By placing you directly on the battlefield, these vr rts games deliver a commander’s perspective:

Top VR RTS Games Key Features
Brass Tactics Tabletop miniatures style, solo/co-op campaigns
Skyworld Voxel-based worlds, build flying islands
Landfall Procedurally generated planets to conquer
Final Assault World War 2 setting, motion controller unit commands

While still an emerging space, real-time strategy VR RTS games have vast potential to recreate the fog of war and put you in the armor of a general calling the shots in the theater of battle.

RTS Online

In the age of live services and always-online gameplay, RTS developers have embraced persistent online worlds and multiplayer battles. Some prominent examples:

  • Grey Goo (grey goo online)
  • Ashes of the Singularity
  • Petroglyph Games Titles
  • Planetary Annihilation.

These rts online experiences emphasize competitive multiplayer combat while providing constant updates, metagame progression systems and ongoing content support to keep players engaged.

RTS on Steam

For PC gaming, Valve’s Steam platform serves as the premier digital marketplace for both classic and modern RTS games including:

  • StarCraft II
  • Total War: WARHAMMER Saga
  • Age of Empires Definitive Editions
  • They Are Billions
  • New Upcoming Releases (Stormgate, Iron Harvest sequels).

Steam’s rts on steam catalog provides a centralized hub for purchasing the latest RTS releases while also preserving beloved classics from decades past with community features like multiplayer matchmaking and user mods. It remains the primary destination for high-fidelity PC real-time strategy experiences.

Community and Modding in RTS Games

Why Modding is Important for RTS Games

  1. Keeps games fresh for a long time
    • Mods add new modes, units, missions, etc. to classic games
    • This lets players keep enjoying old favorites for many years
    • Games like StarCraft stayed very popular over a decade thanks to mods.
  2. Testing new ideas
    • Mods let players try out totally different gameplay concepts
    • Successful new mods can inspire official games/expansions later
    • The “Desert Strike” StarCraft mod inspired parts of StarCraft II.
  3. Brings communities together
    • Creating and sharing mods connects fans of the same game
    • Allows creative players to build and share their passion projects
    • Promotes collaboration and creativity within the game’s community.
  4. Makes games more accessible
    • Some mods remake classics with modern engines and features
    • Others strip away complexity to help new/casual players learn
    • Let curious players freely experiment with everything the game offers.

Popular Types of Mods

  1. Total Conversions
    • Fully remaking entire games in new engines (e.g. StarCraft: Mass Recall)
    • Brings back classics with updated visuals, controls, etc.
  2. New Game Modes
    • Adding totally new ways to play the base game (e.g. tower defense)
    • RPG story campaigns, puzzle challenges, and more.
  3. Extra Units and Factions
    • Expanding the game’s roster of armies, soldiers, etc. to choose from
    • Rebalancing existing units’ stats and abilities.
  4. Quality of Life Upgrades
    • Improving AI behavior, user interfaces, camera controls
    • Making older RTS games more user-friendly for modern players.
  5. Visual Overhauls
    • Remaking graphics, models, textures, etc. with new art styles
    • Giving classic games a complete fresh look and atmosphere.

How Developers Support Modding

  1. Official Mod Tools
    • Level editors, data editors, coding tools to create mods
    • Blizzard, Ensemble and others release these for their games.
  2. Online Mod Hubs
    • Websites to share and download mods (e.g. CNC World)
    • Developers interact with modders and get feedback.
  3. Hiring Modders
    • Studios hire talented community modders to work on projects
    • Blizzard hired creators of popular DOTA mod for StarCraft ideas.
  4. Mod Contests
    • Contests and prizes to inspire creation of new mods
    • Developers showcase and promote the best fan mods.
  5. Documentation and Resources
    • Game coding references to help modders understand the engines
    • Allowing modders to really unleash their full creative potential.

The modding community keeps RTS games alive and generates new ideas to push the genre forward. With support from developers, this relationship sustains RTS gaming for many years.

Game Engines and Development Tools for RTS Games

Engine/Tool Description Key RTS Features Notable Games
Unity RTS Engine Free middleware toolkit for creating RTS games in the Unity engine Multiplayer, pathfinding, unit grouping, terrain tools Iron Harvest, They Are Billions, Bronze Age
Unreal Engine 5 RTS Native support and frameworks for developing RTS games in Unreal Engine 5 Massive scale battles, advanced physics, photorealistic graphics Stormgate, Upcoming Warhammer 40K RTS (Relic)
GameMaker RTS GameMaker Studio 2 extension providing RTS specific functionality Fog of war, line of sight, path management Bomb Patrol: Ultimate Insanity, Dungeon of Memories
Game Engine for RTS Free open-source engine designed specifically for developing RTS games Multiplayer networking, AI scripting, terrain management Kernel Panic, Airships: Conquer the Skies
PyGame RTS Python library for creating RTS games with minimal dependencies Grid-based gameplay, basic physics, unit controls PyGame community projects, learning tool
SAGE Engine Proprietary engine used by Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires) Advanced path finding, multiplayer, world builder Age of Empires series, Age of Mythology
Planetary Annihilation Titans Engine “Nitrous” engine used in Planetary Annihilation games Seamless planetary terrain, massive unit scale Planetary Annihilation games, Ashes of the Singularity
Ashes Multiplayer RTS Engine Game engine created to support large-scale RTS battles Deterministic lockstep networking, asynchronous AI Ashes of the Singularity series
Warcraft III World Editor Toolset used to create maps, campaigns and mods for Warcraft III Data-driven gameplay scripting, model importing Warcraft III, DOTA mods

The table outlines some of the most popular game engines, middleware tools and frameworks used by developers to create real-time strategy games. It highlights their key RTS-specific features and some notable games made with each engine. This provides an overview of the diverse tools available for RTS game development across various platforms and requirements.

The Future of RTS Gaming

rts future

Upcoming titles and franchises

The real-time strategy genre has an incredibly bright future ahead with several major new games and franchises on the horizon. Leading the charge is Stormgate from veteran developers Frost Giant Studios, aiming to redefine the classic sci-fi RTS experience with stunning graphics, innovative gameplay systems, and rich lore. Another hotly anticipated release is Iron Harvest 2, blending a unique dieselpunk aesthetic with chunky mech warfare combat. Fans also eagerly await new entries in established franchises like Warhammer 40K, Age of Empires, and StarCraft.

Emerging technologies

Cutting-edge technologies are poised to revolutionize how we experience RTS games. Cloud gaming platforms could make even the most demanding large-scale battles playable on modest hardware by leveraging remote servers. Integrations with advanced AI systems may one day provide infinitely adapting strategic opponents that evolve counterplay based on each player’s tactics. Virtual reality already offers thrilling new perspective for commanding armies, and continual VR advancements will only increase the immersion.

Potential impact of new platforms and distribution models

The rapid growth of portable gaming via cloud streaming, handhelds, mobile devices, and remote play opens up exciting possibilities for the RTS genre to reach new audiences in mobile-friendly formats. Likewise, new digital distribution platforms on consoles, PC, and the open internet enable indie and AAA developers alike to get super niche games in front of a massive audience craving innovative takes on the RTS formula. Game subscription services bundling multiple RTS titles together are lowering the barrier to entry.

Next Step

The real-time strategy genre has come a remarkably long way since its origins as a niche style of game. Spanning rich science fiction, fantasy, and historical settings across alien worlds, medieval realms, and ancient civilizations, RTS games offer a staggeringly diverse array of imaginative backdrops for strategic warfare. With a wide spectrum of gameplay experiences on offer – from classic large-scale base-building epics to offbeat genre fusions introducing wild new mechanics – there is an RTS adventure awaiting virtually any type of gamer.