16 best Total War games, ranked

Total War Three Kingdoms Dynasty Warriors Fighting
Image: Creative Assembly

Total War is a long-running series with 16 mainline games. The series has seen many improvements over time, but some are better than others.

We’ve put together a list of every single mainline Total War game and ranked it from worst to best. Keep in mind that we won’t touch the spin-offs, so Total War Battles won’t be discussed.

Every Total War game ranked

16 – Shogun: Total War (2000)

Total War Shogun Warmap Table With Some People
Image: Creative Assembly

We’re putting Shogun Total War because it is incredibly dated. Yes, there were a lot of great things about this game, and the idea was almost completely new. However, the game has shown its age, and at this point, it’s hard to look at it without thinking of the time it’s from.

It’s a great Total War game and built a series that has lasted the test of time. Many of the early mechanics are here, from conquering a map to building upgrades to provinces to real-time battles. It’s a great game but can’t compare to those that came after.

15 – Medieval: Total War (2002)

Total War Medieval Soldiers Lined Up For Battle
Image: Creative Assembly

Medieval: Total War moved the series to Europe. The game had a diverse range of factions and units further enhancing the experience, and providing players with the flexibility to tailor their playstyle to their liking. Diplomacy was improved, allowing players to make trade agreements and use different units. It’s an okay game by today’s standards and was quickly beaten by the sequel.

14 – Rome: Total War (2004)

Total War Rome 2 Army Charging Toward Battle
Image: Creative Assembly

We are talking about the pre-definitive edition, technically the definitive edition is in its own category.

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Total War Rome shines with its vast and intricately detailed campaign map, offering a huge map of the ancient world for the player to explore and conquer. Rome: Total War’s has more complex gameplay mechanics than its predecessors, including a new city management system and political dynamics. This provides players with a deeper and more challenging strategy experience. The game also pushed the graphics way further than previous games and seemed almost cinematic at the time.

13 – Total War Saga: Troy (2020)

Total War Troy Spearman Fighting Another Soldier
Image: Creative Assembly

I am unsure why the developers went so far into mythology with this one, but they paid for it. The series fans love historical accuracy, and while the War of Troy is only known because of the Illiad, you can tell what is mythology and what could be said as historically accurate.

There are the bugs and much of this game, but Troy was relatively uninspired and didn’t introduce any significant new features to the series. Not only that, but it was repetitive, especially in the later stages of the campaign. Without an endgame, you were essentially just fighting over and over just to get to the end.

12 – Total War: Pharaoh (2023)

Total War Pharaoh Land Of Egypt With Buildings
Image: Creative Assembly

There were a ton of issues with Total War: Pharaoh. The diplomacy system was way too simplistic for an age where you had to handle some unstable empires. Somehow, they decided to make the resource system overly complex and confusing. I get there were different resources, but it shouldn’t have been this many.

On top of all that, the AI was really simple and you could beat it every single time if you wanted. While it is better than the previous game, it’s still one of the worst Total War games ever made.

11 – Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia (2018)

Total War Brittiana Soldiers In Combat With Wardogs
Image: Creative Assembly

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia is still well-liked for many reasons. Its focus was on a specific historical period and region, namely the British Isles in the late 9th century, which offered players a more focused experience. It introduced new gameplay mechanics like the food supply system, settlement management, and a political system. This made the game much more difficult because you weren’t a modern government head, you ran a clan.

Thrones of Britannia is also one of the few Total War games to focus so much on diplomacy, requiring players to skillfully manage faction relationships to achieve their objectives. Overall, it’s a fun game but really hard because it’s not forgiving.

10 – Empire: Total War (2009)

Total War Empire Ship Combat At Sea
Image: Creative Assembly

Empire: Total War was one of the few games that got close to the modern age. It’s not easy to make a game with rifles very strategic, but they did a great job on this one. You could play as the United States, Great Britain, France, and many other countries on their path to modern dominance.

This is one of my favorite games, and it’s because I get to reenact the American Revolution. It’s got such a cool way to make George Washington seem both powerful and the underdog.

9 – Napoleon: Total War (2010)

Total War Napoleon Box Formation
Image: Creative Assembly

Napoleon: Total War took what made Empire: Total War so good and pushed it further. The bugs were fixed, adjustments were made to combat, and you felt more like an almost modern warlord. However, the focus on Napoleon really hurt the game in my eyes. Yes, it was great to be shooting, but it wasn’t much better than an improve Empire that was restrictive. It’s a great game, but not good enough to me to have warranted a full release.

8 – Total War: Warhammer (2016)

Total War Warhammer Army In Combat
Image: Creative Assembly

Total War Warhammer combined the Warhammer franchise with Total War. To be honest, the bigger battles are more accurate to the tabletop game than the RTS games made a while ago. Sure, there are points where you’re fighting squad to squad or warparty to party, but when you’re fighting with entire armies, it’s really like this.

The game does everything Total War games normally do with alliances and diplomacy but it added fantasy and Warcraft. Definitely worth trying if you love Warcraft. It’s honestly one of the best games I’ve ever played and only gets better from here.

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7 – Total War: Attila (2015)

Total War Atilla Soldiers Near Fire Guarding
Image: Creative Assembly

Total War: Attila is one of the hardest games I’ve played in the series. It has a darker and more atmospheric tone, setting it apart from its predecessors. It emphasizes survival, demanding players to carefully manage food, water, and shelter resources to maintain their armies and cities, adding a gripping layer of strategy. The game introduces new and distinctive factions like the Huns, Sassanids, and Vandals, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses, contributing to a rich diversity of gameplay experiences.
The Horde system makes players to constantly relocate armies in search of resources. This is only made harder because of the climate change system, which makes the game world dynamic and more demanding as climates shift across regions.

6 – Total War: Three Kingdoms (2019)

Total War Three Kingdoms Buildings Blowing Up And Getting Stormed
Image: Creative Assembly

I liked Total War: Three Kingdoms, and not just because I like Dynasty Warriors. The developers changed a lot about the series for this game. There’s a much better diplomacy system that’s hard to master, proxy wars, real reasons for vassalage, and a whole lot of territories to conquer.

This game gets hated because it’s not like the other ones, and upgrading those things I just mentioned meant the developer needed to change the way the game played. It’s not bad at all, it’s really good, but it changes so much that some people just can’t get into it.

5 – Total War: Warhammer II (2017)

Total War Warhammer 2 Campaign Map With Ship
Image: Creative Assembly

So this game started by doing everything the last Warhammer did but added more factions. What was cool is that it also made sure to reward you for being a longtime fan. You get to use all of the units from the first game with a new upgraded look for each one. So it was like playing a remake but with more factions.

You could also fight on a huge map made just for this and have every faction available out to get each other. It’s a ton of fun and is definitely worth trying if you’re a fan. It really led to some bloodshed.

4 – Total War: Rome II (2013)

Total War Rome 2 Army Yelling And Ready For Combat
Image: Creative Assembly

I personally did not enjoy Total War: Rome II as much as everyone else because I got the definitive edition. This gave me so many playable factions that it took forever for my turn. This is because those factions replace rebels, so they act as real empires and need turns. That’s on me though, and overall, the game is amazing.

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While the AI is pretty dumb, the developer did fix a lot of the issues from launch. You can play multiple campaigns and you feel like you’re trying to keep an unstable empire going. There’s diplomacy, wars, and everything you expect. In my opinion, this one was better than the original Total War: Rome.

3 – Total War: Warhammer III (2022)

Total War Warhammer 3 Army In Combat
Image: Creative Assembly

This was a good game without the other two games, don’t get me wrong. Total War: Warhammer III gives huge upgrades to the demonic factions and gives players their own avatar to really do damage. That alone was a huge leap that was fun to play with.

Yet, if you own the other two games, this one was pretty much one of the best Total War games ever made. If you were eager for Warhammer 3, then you most likely played the first two so you know what I mean. Every faction from before was given a graphics upgrade, and a much bigger map was given for every faction to fight each other in. This included DLCs, so it is a grand time. This is as close as you can get to the tabletop game without being on a tabletop.

2 – Medieval II: Total War (2006)

Total War Medieval 2 Definitive Edition Scaling Walls In Battle
Image: SEGA

For the longest amount of time, Medieval 2: Total War was my favorite Total War game. There was so much to like about it, from the huge map you have, being all of Europe and some other places too. You could use princesses for diplomacy, fight heretics, and even fight in the Crusades. There was so much introduced like guild units and the map being beautiful while changing based on what you built. This is still a game worth playing today and I wish they’d make a sequel.

1 – Total War: Shogun 2 (2011)

Total War Shogun 2 Samurai Duel In Rain Near Lightning
Image: SEGA

This is by far my favorite Total War game and it’s because I think it’s the best in the series. They took their first game, Shogun: Total War and upgraded the graphics, combat, diplomacy and every little thing. The diplomacy goes further than before, being able to bribe in newer ways, and you have to be careful about how your populace thinks.

This was the first game where I used the opponent’s religion against them to cause rebels to take over. It’s such a great game, and if you only play one Total War game, it should be this one.

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About The Author
Aggy has worked for multiple sites as a writer and editor, and has been a managing editor for sites that have millions of views a month. He's been the Lead of Social Content for a site garnering millions of views a month, and co owns multiple successful social media channels, including a Gaming news TikTok, and a Facebook Fortnite page with over 600k followers. His work includes Dot Esports, Pro Game Guides, Attack of the Fanboy, Try Hard Guides, Android Police, N4G, WePC, Sportskeeda, and GFinity Esports. He has also published two games under Tales and is currently working on one with Choice of Games. He has written and illustrated a number of books, including for children, and has a comic under his belt. He writes about Starfield and CS2 for PC Invasion, among other things.