If you've ever searched for war games on your iPhone/Android device, you'll know what we mean when we say it's like walking through a swamp to find your wallet. Hundreds upon hundreds of tower defense, sniper-and-risk, and RTS clones can often feel like they're drowning out any other type of game. Like the "strategy" genre as a whole, gacha games and Free MOBAs are now filling app stores and proving nearly impossible to resist.
But PC isn't the only place to find good war games. If you take the time to watch, there are still some amazing series out there; gems hidden in plain sight, adapting both the conflicts of the ancient world, military history and modern warfare. War games are very lively and dynamic, and this can be seen in all the games on this list. Equipped with the latest swamp draining technology, we were able to assemble a crack squad of some of the best war games currently available on Android and iOS.
WHAT ARE THE BEST MOBILE WAR GAMES?
A company of heroes
While it doesn't fit the traditional definition of a "war game", Company of Heroes is nonetheless one of the best WWII RTS experiences of the past twenty years, and it's finally on the iPad. Feral Interactive has done a great job of porting this classic to mobile, with a reworked interface to handle touch controls and a reduced screen size. It's still a bit messy in places, but it still plays great.
As of this writing, Feral has only ported the single-player campaign, plus the ability to play in skirmish matches against an AI. We expect multiplayer to arrive at some point, along with the two Company of Heroes expansions. An Android port wouldn't hurt either. For a more in-depth review, check out our Company of Heroes review.
New entries in this category are truly rare, but luckily 2019 gave us a real indie gem to add to this list. Wirraway's Pacific Fire is a cheap, yet surprisingly deep, combination gun war game that immerses you in the peaceful theater of World War II. There are many scenarios that depict both sides of the conflict, and it's your job to make the most of the land, sea, and air resources you have to capture and secure your objectives.
It's been a solitary experience, but the developer has said on several occasions that they're fully committed to adding content to this game, as well as working on new titles that follow the same format. What's particularly interesting about this is that it uses a "WEGO" turn-based format, where all turn orders are resolved simultaneously. This is a great war game available at a great price. Take a look at our Pacific Fire review for more details.
Heroes of Normandy
Not only is it an adaptation of a pretty decent physical war game of the same name, but it's also a pretty decent war game on its own. Drawing inspiration from classic hex-and-cons type games, Heroes of Normandie instead used a square grid and more "scale" counter pieces that depict squads of troops, vehicles, and individual commanders. Really, it's a team-level tactics game that involves dice rolls and action cards, but also careful use of your units' abilities and the surrounding terrain.
Slitherine has done a great job adapting this game to digital, retaining the larger than life art style of the board and game pieces, while providing a way to play the game without having to try to read the convoluted rulebook or to manage all these parts. Slitherine was perhaps a bit ahead of the curve when it launched in 2016, as it didn't quite get the post-release support we expected, despite the growing popularity of digital board game ports. At $14,99 (£12,50), it's definitely one of the more expensive games out there, but if you want something meaty but portable, it's worth the expense. Unfortunately, Slitherine has always been pitted against Android, so we doubt it'll ever appear there.
Wars around the world
Presenting a universal take on the wargaming system, Wars Across The World tackles a range of scenarios and settings throughout history. You could be fighting in the forests of Tannenberg one minute, storming the beaches of Normandy the next, before finally facing the Syrians in the Six Day War.
We were very impressed with how well the mechanics were translated from one era to the next, providing a consistently fun and challenging experience. The bespoke flavor is introduced through the card system, which can offer significant tactical and strategic choices. The base game only comes with the tutorial and an additional scenario - hence the cheap price - but so far none of the cheap scenario offerings have disappointed. The Berlin 1945 storyline is currently our favorite.
The core mechanics of Vietnam '65 simulate the nature of counter-insurgency warfare in a plausible and realistic way. Constant pressure to maintain a presence in the field makes it difficult to muster the forces you need to destroy enemy bases without compromising elsewhere. The result is a demanding one-turn experience.
The developer has made a follow-up game, Afghanistan '11, which is also very good and covers the events following the 2001 war in Afghanistan. You are in charge of US forces as you try to build the “hearts and minds” of the local population, while battling Taliban-sponsored insurgents. Unfortunately, Apple removed the game from the App Store and it hasn't returned yet. You can still grab it on PC, if you want.
This war game is often hailed as the "spiritual successor" to the 1990s series, Panzer General. Panzer Corps is a lightweight, operational-level World War II game that lets you play a series of linked scenarios where your forces evolve over time through approximately 800 unit types. The challenge is to complete a specific goal within a time limit, while maintaining your strength. But it's probably not a good choice for anyone more interested in real-life simulation or order-specific battles.
Carrier Battles 4 Guadalcanal
It is an outstanding carrier combat war game played at the operational level in the Pacific. The excellent AI, easy interface, and accessibility, combined with its realism and plausibility, make it a must-have if you have a vague interest in naval operations. Above all, we love how this game wastes no time in confronting you with tough decisions, while still throwing you into the thick of things.
A successful Kickstarter means this game will also be coming to Android – and desktop PC – in the near future.
Drive on Moscow
This is an operational level area activation game that lets you defend or drive over Moscow. Struggling with realistic units and the clock, you'll face a series of agonizing decisions. Drive is a war game that keeps you on the edge of the precipice, trying to figure out if it's the right time to move forward or back.
The outcome is determined by your skill in judging these moments correctly. Realistic, tense and accessible, this is a truly excellent game.
MODERN CAMPAIGNS by John Tiller
This is a series of four operational level games, covering the Arab-Israeli Wars, a hypothetical Cold War in 80s Germany, and the Quang Tri Offensive in 1972. These games provide a detailed order of battle , a large fog of war and a tactical combat element. However, the core system is admittedly dated, the AI isn't great, and the experience doesn't provide a particularly plausible command simulation if that matters to you.
If you don't like endless drop-down menus, these games won't be for you; accessibility is not a major plus here.
- Modern countryside: Quang Tri '72
- Modern Campaigns: Middle East 67
- Modern Campaigns: North German Plain '85
- Modern Campaigns: Fulda Gap '85
THE CIVIL WAR BATTLES OF JOHN TILLER
There are a ton of civil war battle games on various storefronts and most of them are a complete waste of time from a war games perspective. However, the JTS Civil War Battles series offers tactically sound gameplay with a strong order of battle, backed up by good combat mechanics.
However, like Modern Campaigns, the core system is dated and the overall ordering experience simulation doesn't look right. You'll be hard pressed to find a better hardcore tactical war game, and with 11 games in the series, you'll have plenty to play. It's important to note that unlike the Modern Campaign games, not all installments in this series have been released on Android yet:
- Civil War battles
- The Battle of Antietam
- The Battle of Shiloh
- The Battle of Chancellorsville
- Peninsula Battles
- The Battle of Chickamauga
- Battles in the Ozark
- The Battle of Corinth
- The Petersburg campaign
- The Battle for Atlanta
- The Battle of Franklin
There are more JTS games on iOS than Android, but in addition to the above, JTS has released some of its Panzer campaigns, as well as an air war and a naval war game. All are worth seeing, and some are even free! Also be sure to check out our best mobile strategy games list, if you want something more general than war games.
Joni Nuutinen's Conflict Series
The Conflict series covers a huge series of WW2 operational level games. The main thing about these war games is that they are very accessible, and this is probably the main reason for their success, along with their reasonable price and effective design. On the downside, these games don't look particularly good; they are all quite similar from a visual point of view. The AI can also be poor, which without two players makes the games' long-term viability somewhat limited.
Nuutinen's titles are a bit too numerous to list here, so check out this link for the full catalog of games he's created. Plus, if you're into tile-based games, you'll definitely enjoy our guide to the best digital board games on mobile.