Anurag loves playing video games. His guides and listicles revolve around popular iOS, Android, PC, and console games.
While there are plenty of turn-based strategy games available on the App Store, there are not many real-time strategy (RTS) games for the iPhone. Perhaps developers find it difficult to build a full console-like real-time strategy game for the little screen of a mobile phone. However, a few have created excellent iOS titles that are as immersive as PC RTS games. Here’s a rundown of some of the best real-time strategy games for your iOS device.
Top 10 RTS for iPhone
- Autumn Dynasty
- First Strike
- Land Air Sea Warfare
- Line of Defense: Tactics
- Total War: Battles
- Warlords RTS
- Alien Tribe 2
- Machines at War 3
- Warfare Incorporated
1. Autumn Dynasty
Autumn Dynasty (AD) is a gorgeous RTS game. It reminds me of epic strategy titles like Total War. With an Asian backdrop, AD lets you relive epic wars fought by the feudal lords of China.
When it comes to strategy, the game does not fail to deliver. It has plenty of unit tactics up its sleeve. There are several pre-built abilities for your units, as in Romance of the Three Kingdoms IX, which can be unlocked as you progress through a campaign.
Autumn Dynasty sticks to standard RTS mechanics when it comes to base-building and resource management. It offers a simple drag-and-drop base-building concept, making it simpler for gamers to focus only on strategy. Like Total War, the game allows players to take advantage of the environment. Units can be hidden behind dense forests, and players can take advantage of elevation.
One of the best aspects of AD is its amazing cel-shaded visuals. The smudgy paint-dab look is just too beautiful on a Retina display. With plenty of tactical surprises, beautiful graphics, and simple base-building/resource-management, Autumn Dynasty offers a never-before-seen mobile strategy experience.
I always wanted an RTS game based on a totally out-of-the-box theme or concept, and Amoebattle is the game I was looking for. Taking place in a world of microbes, the game pits players against "bad amoebas" planning to destroy the microbial ecosystem.
Instead of base-building, Amoebattle focuses more on unit management. Resource management takes the form of food that needs to be fed to omnivore, herbivore, and carnivore amoebas to help them grow, acquire abilities, and level up. Special powers let you unleash “probes” that infect opponent amoebas or slow them down during RTS battles.
Like Spore, Amoebattle also allows you to mutate your tiny creatures into more powerful units. You can collect a variety of units that will help you devise appropriate strategies in your battle against rival amoebas.
In Amoebattle's excellent touch-based control system, players tap, drag and drop, and use other standard touch-based gestures to control the game. This game is best played on an iPad, though you can try it on an iPhone.
3. First Strike
First Strike’s gameplay is quite similar to DEFCON and Plague Inc. This real-time strategy game lets you take control of a nation’s nuclear stash. Your goal is to destroy enemy nations. As you progress, you will be able to unlock new opponents and nations, which will open the doors to chaos and destruction. Unlike DEFCON, this game does not have a multiplayer mode. But the single-player mode boasts decent AI, which makes the game quite challenging.
Your set of tasks before the penultimate missile launch includes researching new technology and building new missiles. Launching missiles serves more than one purpose—to destroy a country or shoot down incoming missiles. Every decision you take affects the entire scenario, so think twice before researching new technology or deploying nuclear weapons.
First Strike’s visuals and presentation will appeal to the cold-blooded sociopath in you. Fans of you-become-the-villain type of games will enjoy every gameplay moment. Unfortunately, it’s not available for iPhone, but iPad users can enjoy the destruction on their large tablet screen.
4. Land Air Sea Warfare
LAS Warfare reminds me of Command and Conquer Red Alert 3. With battles of epic proportions, this game provides a solid RTS gameplay experience on your iOS device.
The best part of the game is the random maps it offers to its players. Every new map has a totally new terrain and features, making battles more exciting and challenging.
Another excellent feature of LAS Warfare is the adjustable AI difficulty. You can enjoy a good strategy game against clever AI opponents at the level of difficulty you prefer. This compensates somewhat for the lack of a multiplayer option. Another thing lacking is a storyline or plot, as in C&C Red Alert. But all in all, LAS is one of the best iPhone real-time strategy games, with its large-scale land, air, and sea battles, great graphics, and random maps.
5. Line of Defense: Tactics
Line of Defense: Tactics is a real-time squad-based RTS game set in a sci-fi world. You need to make the most of each space marine’s unique abilities, which expand and become more powerful as you gain experience. As in Battlefield, LoD’s squad is class-based. You will need to take advantage of each of the four classes to fend off enemies.
The game’s 16 action-packed missions will take your team to abandoned spaceships, planets, and space stations. Battling enemies will require proper planning, including setting up defensive positions, securing abandoned weaponry, and using grenades and futuristic weapons, which is fun. The tactical leeway given in this game makes it somewhat easier to defeat enemies. There’s also a stealth option that lets you sneak up on the enemy for a surprise attack.
All in all, Line of Defense: Tactics is a great game and tactical RTS in its purest form.
6. Total War: Battles
The iOS adaptation of Total War: Shogun is stunning, to say the least. This and Autumn Dynasty are some of the few historical RTS games available for iPhone. Brilliant graphics, an interesting plot, and the medieval Japanese setting are some of the highlights of this top-notch strategy title.
A key feature of Total Wars: Battles is the inclusion of puzzle-like features in many missions. While building your base, the game will force you to try different layouts in order to defend it.
TW: Battles is not exactly like its PC counterpart and does make you feel a bit constricted for space and unit management. There’s actually no moving back, so you will need to have a good strategy in hand before you begin your battle campaign. There are plenty of combat tactics to employ.
The visuals in TW: Battles are top-notch. The game’s hexagonal grid pattern might be a turn-off, but trust me, this isn’t anything like a turn-based strategy game. Developers might have devised a grid pattern just to make it a bit easier for players to place their units and construct buildings.
The troop animation is amazing, and each unit class has a unique set of animated battle actions. You can zoom in to watch these tiny soldiers fight their hearts out. Looks very impressive, I must say.
Total War: Battles is an engaging game that offers interesting tactical play and is worth the money.
7. Warlords RTS
Warlords RTS is a mobile real-time strategy title set in a Tolkien-esque fantasy universe. In this game, you control a band made up of a mage, a ranger, a huntress, and a warrior, with complementary skills and abilities. There’s also an inventory system as in most role-playing games; amulets, weapons, and rings collected from treasure chests help defeat large numbers of orcs and goblins.
Warlords RTS has impressive graphics that look straight from an animated movie. The bobblehead-inspired artwork is just too adorable. Everything from the presentation to the interface looks quite flawless and polished. If you are into fantasy worlds and love real-time strategy games, you should try it.
8. Alien Tribe 2
Alien Tribe 2 is an open-world sandbox game that combines tower defense with 4X real-time strategy elements. The game lets you explore the universe, hunt for materials on asteroids and planets, build weapons platforms to research new technology, and battle enemy spacecraft in real-time space battles.
The game has over 40 missions in randomly generated environments, each one a little more challenging. After successfully completing a mission, a player can get access to new research and building options. The game has plenty of weapon platforms and ships to build, with which you can attack enemies or defend your space station.
The game’s top-down graphics are excellent, and the visuals and interface really make it easy for players to command spaceships. AT2 is probably the only 4X space real-time strategy game available for iPad (but not for iPhone it seems . . . sigh!).
9. Machines at War 3
From the developers of Land, Air, Sea Warfare comes another Command and Conquer-like game with RTS elements. This iOS port of a PC title keeps you on your toes as you look for the tiniest of spaces by which you can squeeze through a building, or for defensive cannon for maximum protection.
The game’s top-down visuals give you ample opportunities to set up a strong base, but it’s the right choices in space management and structures that decide the winner. The game has single-player and multiplayer modes. It also has fun skirmishes to keep your fingers busy tapping and dragging for hours. If you love military RTS games, then Machines at War should be the right game for you.
10. Warfare Incorporated
A sci-fi-themed real-time strategy game for the iOS platform, Warfare Incorporated (WI), has a good plot and equally good gameplay. It's for those who want a StarCraft-like game for their mobile device. The best part of WI is that it takes advantage of the touchscreen pretty well, giving you total control over your units and troops.
Warfare Incorporated provides plenty of mission variations. Apart from a full-scale RTS war, there will be separate missions where you will be charged with defending your base, gathering resources, or sending a stealth unit to destroy the enemy base. With such mission variety, WI guarantees fun and exciting gameplay moments.
Game controls are based on standard touch gestures. You can select groups and individual units, and tap on the enemy unit you wish to attack. The interface menu is optimized to suit an iPhone's screen, giving you an easy control system. The graphics are good, though not spectacular. Overall, WI is one of the better space strategy games, with lots of variations and a great unit management interface.
All Screenshots Courtesy of their Respective iPhone Game Developers/Game Publishers
Ariana Johnson from United States on April 19, 2018:
Wow nice list. I have played just three of all the games listed above. Gotta try them all. Also I played a few more adventure games which are good & can be added here. I got to them about them here: https://goo.gl/EUZiqE
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 10, 2015:
suraj punjabi from jakarta on October 10, 2015:
Looking at all the games we can play nowadays, I really wish I had the time to get into it. Alas, adulthood gets in the way. Come to think of it, Adulthood itself is kind of like a real time strategy game right there. Great hub!!
Anurag Ghosh (author) on July 02, 2015:
iSaltZz on July 02, 2015:
I also play totalwar and autumn dynasty looks awesome
iSaltZz on July 02, 2015:
Awesome article really helped me find rts games like Starcraft!
Corb. on May 07, 2015:
No Star Wars Commander?
AlainTrep on January 25, 2015:
On ios, I play Age of Booty: tactics every days ... It't the best strategy games i've played And I played a lot... First strike also can be fun rts. Xcom enemy within is wow. And Spymaster deserve to be look at.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on January 17, 2015:
I think that was an augmented reality game. There are several of them available for Android and iOS devices. Will make a list soon.
Chris L Edmister from Elmira, New York on January 17, 2015:
What iPhone games use real time maps of the city you live in. Years ago I had a google tablet and it had a game that was like a crime city type thing and it used the real gps map of my city and even stores and businesses. Do you know of any games like that?
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 28, 2014:
@Andy the list is in no particular order.
Andy on October 28, 2014:
How come Machines at War 3 is lower on the least than the game it replaces, Lan Air Sea Warfare? It is its official sequel you know, and bests it in everything, including having a multiplayer option and storyline as you described.
It is my favorite.
Stefan Ritter on October 08, 2014:
Alien Tribe 2 is now universal (iPhone and iPad) and it got some great updates in the past! The game is currently ranking in the Top 25 (Games / Strategy) in more than 20 countries.
srijan on August 29, 2014:
try tankboom game available on googleplay store.
Samuel Franklin on August 24, 2014:
I find real time strategy games still very disappointing on mobile platforms. Starfront Collision is my favourite and I recommend you check it out.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on June 11, 2013:
Lala on June 10, 2013:
This is a really nicely written article. Just wanted to point out that Autumn Dynasty is now universal and on the BB world too.
I'm an android user and am really hoping for some of these games to appear on google play :(
Gamer_boy on April 29, 2013:
Don't you mind starfront collision for this list?
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 27, 2012:
aykianink on October 27, 2012:
Dug up some Blades of Fury gameplay. Interesting. Thanks, Anurag.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 27, 2012:
@aykianink You can try Blades of Fury. There aren't many fighting games for iPhone. May be such games aren't comfortable to play on a touch-screen device. Blades of Fury is a good game IMO. There are a few iOS versions of top fighting games like King of Fighters, SF IV and Ultimate Mortal Kombat. But games like SF2 and MVC2 aren't developed yet AFAIK.
aykianink on October 27, 2012:
You seem like the guy to ask, so I'll ask you: Are there any games like SF2 or MVC2 on the iPhone or iPad?