9 Best 4X Games That Will Satisfy Your Strategy Cravings


Do you want to become the master of the universe and show your mental prowess by strategically capturing the vast horizon of uncontested lands or different planets across the galaxy? Well, you’re not alone. We crave strategy as it makes our minds grind and provides plenty of challenges.

If this sounds enticing, then 4X games are for you. 4X games are a sub-genre of strategy games and stand for eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate, and eXplore. Most 4X games are turn-based; however, you’ll also find real-time 4X games that rush you with decisions to beat your opponent.

In this article, we’ll look at the best 4X games. Let’s get started.

Rewards and Challenges of Playing 4X Games

4X games differ from general strategy games such as Age of Empires and Command & Conquer. They’re challenging because of their sheer scale and the addition of diplomacy as you navigate your way through allies and foes to become the best conqueror the game offers.

The challenge starts as soon as you load your game. You’ll need to focus on building an empire on Earth or any other fictional world set by the game. Like you, there’ll be other players (real or AI players) pursuing the ultimate glory. The opponents can include nations or factions with different strengths and weaknesses, including racial, military, and economic differences. 

On top of all these, you then have research and technology. Most 4X games come with a technology tree. The tree lets users unlock advancement in economy, tech, and other aspects of the game. And that’s not easy, as you first need to acquire resources and then unlock them.

Rewards and Challenges of Playing 4X Games
Source: Steam

Then you have combat and diplomacy. As you start small, you can’t afford to become an enemy to everyone. And that’s where comes the diplomacy to choose allies and maintain relations with them.

Overall, the whole aspect of the 4X game is to provide the player with a challenging, complex world to navigate with unparalleled strategic depth. The core three pillars of any 4X game include economics, diplomacy, and research — which are different from traditional strategy games that focus on combat. The player needs to always think ahead with long-term planning while taking care of short-term events such as managing the economy, paying maintenance costs, ensuring proper population control so it doesn’t impact productivity, and so on.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a sci-fi-themed 4X game created by experienced 4X developer Triumph Studios — the makers of the Age of Wonders series. This version of Age of Wonders is also turn-based combat meaning you get ample time to think about your next move when you try to find your allies and defeat your enemies in the age of a fallen galactic empire.

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The fantasy world is gigantic, which multiple strategic layers to ponder and understand. Once you know how Planetfall works, you can quickly go 4X to show your might on the enemies. During your journey, you also get to explore new planets with different strategic layers and associated stories.

As for factions, you get six options — you can choose the dinosaur-riding Amazons to military Vanguard. Each faction has its missions, which you can complete using different strategies – force or diplomacy. Overall, Age of Wonders Planetfall takes you to the roots of well-crafted 4X gameplay, where you can choose different paths to victory. You can enjoy the single-player campaign or generate a random map for endless replayability.

  • Developer: Triumph Studios
  • Estimated time to complete: 53 hours for the main story and 83 hours for main + side quests.
  • Release Date: August 6, 2019

Check it out on Steam.

Endless Legend

Endless Legend is a faction-rich 4X game where you fight against your foes on a mysterious planet, giving you new ways to explore the formula of 4X. Here, you need to do all the basic 4X things, such as grow food, increase population, build science points for research, and collect wealth to show everyone else who is the boss!

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The vast map of Endless Legend is full of mysteries and ruins. Once you explore them, you get bonuses for your civilization. Like any other 4X game, you start with a city, a bunch of troops, and a loyal populace. And you’re at the throne to take your people to new heights, exploring a mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Here, you can choose from 8 civilizations, each with its own storyline and gameplay mechanics. 

As a 4X lover, you’ll find Endless Legend a unique experience, thanks to the developer’s effort to offer seamless visual design and sound. You also get a dedicated battle screen and a fancy tech tree to progress your cult, with the option to accumulate minor factions with special traits and units. 

  • Developer: Amplitude Studios
  • Estimated time to complete: 16 hours for the main story and 71 hours for the completionist.
  • Release Date: September 18, 2014

Check it out on Steam.

Europa Universalis IV

Don’t want to play a 4X game on a sci-fi or fantasy world? Then, try Europa Universalis IV, which creates an excellent Earth replica. You can play as any nation with a deep historical setting from 1444 to 1821. However, only pick the game if you’re already familiar with 4X games, as Europa Universalis IV is one of the most challenging 4X games out there. The tooltip is good but can confuse newcomers.

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The game developers, Paradox Development Studios, took special care to ensure historical accuracy, meaning you can experience the most historical events, including the Protestant Reformation. You also live in the scientific revolution, witnessing 400 years of trade, wars, administration, and technology. Apart from that, you also get to make trades, build alliances, and destroy your enemies — taking your nation through the rollercoaster ride. 

  • Developer: Paradox Development Studio
  • Estimated time to complete: 94 hours for the main story and 900 hours for the completionist.
  • Release Date: August 13, 2013

Check it out on Steam.

Galactic Civilizations III

Galactic Civilizations III is a space-based 4X strategy that lets you uniquely explore the galaxy. You start your journey by choosing any race, whether Altarian, Human, or others. The game puts you in a sandbox experience where you can play against 16 to 100 opponents.

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You must meet one of the six victory conditions to conquer the galaxy. For example, you can defeat everyone or ascend to a higher existence plane. The customization is also great, where you can set the frequency of galactic events, black holes, and starts, directly impacting all galaxy races. Other unique features include faction customization, where you can upload a high-res photo (bonus point if you upload Commander Sphered or SSV Normandy). 

Galactic Civilizations III offers everything you would want from a 4X game. It comes with a full-fledged story-baed campaign, massive technology tree, ship customization, deep economy, planetary governors, and more!

  • Developer: Stardock
  • Estimated time to complete: 23 hours for the main story and 72 hours for the completionist.
  • Release Date: May 14, 2015

Check it out on Steam.

Master of Orion

Master of Orion re-invites you to the 4X spacefaring strategy subgenre, which includes the Master of Orion 1 and 2. It follows the nostalgic path in the Master of Orion reboot, making it a memorable experience for old players. However, don’t expect too many changes in the reboot as it only adds a fancy new real-time combat and new star-voice cast that can only excite “few.”

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Despite adding nothing substantially new, it does stay true to the core of Masters of Orion 1 and 2, providing a thrilling Galaxy exploration full of animated galaxies, hostile civilizations, mysterious aliens, and much more!

The core features stay the same with 10 original Master of Orion races, 75 researchable technological advancements, 100 different solar systems, customizable ships, and multiple ways to win!

  • Developer: NGD Studios
  • Estimated time to complete: 13 hours for the main story and 126 hours for the completionist.
  • Release Date: February 26, 2016

Check it out on Steam.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

If you’re new to 4X games, then Sid Meier’s Civilization games, including their latest version Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, is a great starting point, thanks to its highly-detailed tutorial. It is a full-fledged and highly-complex 4X game that needs full player attention. You’ll need to learn every turn-based strategy aspect to defeat your enemies through diplomacy, wits, or force.

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You start your 4X dominance journey by choosing one of the available factions. From there, you make a small city that expands with every turn you finish. In your path, you may encounter other players which you can handle with dynamic diplomacy or outright neglect their wishes. With time, you create new units, build new places, provide technological advancement, and create new cities to cover the vast lands available. It also offers a Civics tree that provides new ways to play the game as it adds cultural and government policies.

The customization aspect is also well-done, where you can customize each city. You can also create libraries, spaceports, and commercial hubs. During exploration, you can find a district that adds resources and bonuses.

Before buying the game, you can try it out by checking it on Xbox Game Pass. Get the first month or a 14-day trial code to test it out. And it is one of the few games that are available on Mac.

  • Developer: Firaxis Games, Aspyr (Mac).
  • Estimated time to complete: 23 hours for the main story and 277 hours for the completionist.
  • Release Date: October 21, 2016

Check it out on Steam.

The Battle of Polytopia

The Battle of Polytopia is one of the market’s most acclaimed 4X turn-based strategy games. Here, you can play as one of 12 available civilizations on a flat word of SQUARE. Yes, you read it right! This makes the game unique in its presentation, gameplay, and 4X elements.

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Despite its cartoonish take, you get the complete thrill of 4X gameplay. You can learn and enjoy the game by playing through its single-player content, and once you’re confident, you can jump right into its online multiplayer that supports up to 12 players. 

With 15 individual tribes to choose from and auto-generated maps, there is a lot of replayability attached to the game. You get to start across a corner of the SQUARE and then build your empire from there — with one objective, i.e., win the game! However, you must pick the tribe carefully, as each has strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and characteristics. 

The Battle of Polytopia is welcoming to new 4X players. Also, it has low-system requirements and is also supported on Mac.

  • Developer: Midjiwan AB
  • Estimated time to complete: 2 hours for the main story.
  • Release Date: August 4, 2020


As the name suggests, Total War: ROME REMASTERED (2021) is a remaster of the original Total War Rome (2004) game. It takes advantage of new technologies and enables players to play the game in a complete visual remake with support for 4K and ultra-wide support. But, it stays faithful to the original experience as the core game engine remains unchanged. After all, it is a remaster and not a remake!

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However, is the game still fun to play? Well, it is! It starts with three factions trying to expand in three directions until they meet to fight each other to the death! But sadly, it doesn’t keep up with the recent changes of 4X games such as Civilization VI or Endless Legend. Other improvements that may enhance your experience include heat maps, a broader zoom level, an improved in-game camera, better diplomacy, security gameplay mechanics, etc.

So, pick up Total War Rome Remastered to feel nostalgic or learn what 4X strategic games in 2004 offered.

  • Developer: Creative Assembly, Feral Interactive
  • Estimated time to complete: 34 hours for the main story and 128 hours for the completionist.
  • Release Date: April 29, 2021

Check it out on Steam.

Warhammer 40000: Gladius – Relics of War

Are you a fan of the Warhammer universe? Then, you’ll like what Warhammer 40000 Gladius – Relics of War offers. However, it is not an authentic 4X experience that you’ll expect from other games in the genre — as it only has to provide WAR.

And that’s not bad, considering it carries the war aspect pretty well. You can choose from 4 factions: The Savage Orks, the Elite Space Marines, the Trippers, and the Necrons. 

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The game brings forward one-unit-per-tile combat where each type of unit has a role to play — be it a tank, an elite space marine, or an overpowered artillery. This brings a new way to tackle combat: prioritizing your target before the enemies do.

Gladius’s other aspects are basic, where you only build one city, resources, and units. There is no long-term planning, but you do get to research tech. And it lacks diplomacy, which is at the core of any 4X game.

  • Developer: Proxy Studios
  • Estimated time to complete: 34 hours for the main story and 128 hours for the completionist.
  • Release Date: July 12, 2018

Check it out on Steam.


When you talk about 4X, it means the best way to play a strategic game. 4X players don’t like simplicity and thrive games that put them under challenging scenarios. By now, you would have noticed that all the best 4X game in our list matches the definition of complexity, empire building, capturing, researching, and turn-based or real-time combat system.

If you’re new to 4X, don’t get intimidated by its challenges. I recommend checking out Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (due to its excellent tutorial) and The Battle of Polytopia due to its fun polygon field maps, units, and action. The veteran 4X players can pick any of the games they like — after all, they know how to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. That’s it! Conquer the world or the universe!

You might also want to check out these websites that allow you to rent games!

Nitish Singh
Nitish Singhhttp://www.techaltair.com
For the past 20 years, Nitish has been an avid gamer. His primary focus is on PC games, but he also enjoys exploring the worlds of Nintendo, XBOX, and PlayStation. Nitish is always looking for new games to try out and is particularly fascinated with emulation.

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