The best iPad strategy games

by Simon Sage

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite strategy games on the iPad for the deep thinkers out there. These more than just simple puzzles games - these require careful planning and forethought to emerge victorious. You’ll find some great replay value in games like these too, since the same strategy won’t always work twice.

Strategy gamers, pop on your thinking caps and get downloading these outstanding iPad games.

Anomaly 2

Anomaly 2 brings the same reverse-tower-defense mechanics as the original, but the updated graphics, new transforming tanks, and multiplayer mode make this sequel more than adequate. In the multiplayer mode, one player gets to be in charge of the alien defense, complete with consumable special abilities.

If you're looking for loads of tactical depth and eye candy to boot, Anomaly 2 delivers.

Autumn Dynasty

Autumn Dynasty is a finger-friendly real-time strategy game set in feudal China. Players direct a varied force to victory across a wide range of terrain types in a single-player campaign or or skirmish mode. There’s a full tech tree to research and buildings to construct. Commands are made with a variety of gestures, each leaving a stylish calligraphic trail (though standard button input is included for more traditional control as well).

Autumn Dynasty is the best traditional real-time strategy game you’ll find on mobile.

Devil’s Attorney

Devil's Attorney is a strategic law game that revolves around a skeezy lawyer in the 70s called Max McMann. With twists logic and befuddling charisma, he dismantles lawsuits against shady characters, earns a profit, and decks out his apartment in the gaudiest things you could imagine. The game has a cartoony, colorful art style, and excellent voice acting that fully conveys McMann's sleaze and depravity. The game mechanics are also solid. Every round in the courtroom, action points are spent on abilities like "Reverse Psychology" to reduce the credibility of evidence, lawyers, and witnesses. Home decor enhances materialism, decadence and vanity scores to unlock new abilities.

Devil's Attorney is a lot of fun, and you'll get at least a few chuckles out of the dialogue.

Kingdom Rush Frontiers

Kingdom Rush Frontiers brings the acclaimed tower defense game to the next level. In addition to the same goofy, frantic fantasy tower defense that you remember from the first Kingdom Rush, there are a whole slew of new heroes to pick from, each with their own special abilities that you can upgrade as you progress through the single-player campaign. Of course, there are also a ton of new towers, enemies, and bosses to explore across a wide range of difficulty ratings.

Though Kingdom Rush Frontiers can be extremely challenging, its lighthearted take on tower defense keeps you coming back for more.

Plants vs. Zombies 2

Plants vs. Zombies is a venerable iOS franchise for a good reason. The bizarre premise of protecting your back lawn from hordes of undead with sunflowers is certainly part of that, but there’s a lot of tactical thinking in terms of plant choices before the attack begins, and placement. In Plants vs. Zombies 2, you’re taken back in time to defend against zombies dressed in era garb, and try out all sorts of new mechanics. The zombies are getting smarter, and challenge your reaction speed in a number of ways, though you also have a whole new complement of plants to use. Stages also have new terrain features to keep every round fresh. Plant food can be collected to super-charge any plant when things get especially hairy.

All in all, Plants vs. Zombies 2 presents deep strategic gameplay in a fun, colorful package.

RAD Soldiers

In RAD Soldiers, players build out a squad of deadly mercenaries and fight over missile crash sites at locales across the globe (for some reason), earn cash, and spend it on recruiting new members and kitting them out. Game maps are sectioned off as a grid, and are riddled with low cover and high cover locations which can mitigate incoming fire. Each character has a certain number of action points they can use in a turn, a selection of special abilities, and health bar that varies in size by character. You can chew on single-player challenges for awhile to earn rewards, or you can take the fight online against other players. Expansion packs can be bought through in-app purchases, or you can pick up the in-game currency to fast track your mercenary outfit’s gear.

RAD Soldiers is a fine mix of strategy and action, with plenty of progression, customizability, and cartoony humor.

Rymdkapsel

Rymdkapsel combines Tetris-style base building and real-time strategy resource management in a minimalist and finger-friendly package. Players have to build residences, feed the populace, and expand towards objectives, all while fending off wave after wave of progressively more difficult enemy air strikes. Rymdkapsel is decidedly unique in both its art and play style.

Rymkapsel prunes away all of the extras in real-time strategy games and leaves players with a clean, pure experience.

Star Command

Star Command is a sci-fi strategy game with a retro pixel art style. Players take command of a spaceship that vaguely looks like it could have been pulled out of a Star Trek movie, and recruit a crew, upgrade facilities, and embark on intergalactic adventures that usually end in a firefights with grotesque aliens. Battles take place between ships with different mini-games for each weapon system, or against boarding parties, where you need to move crew members into position, put out fires, and make sure your people don’t get sucked out into the cold void of space when there’s a hull breach. Over time, your crew increases in skills, enabling them to man the ship’s various stations with increasing effectiveness.

If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted single-player experience with great writing and a lot of long-term progression, Star Command is where it’s at.

Worms 3

Worms 3 is the touch-friendly evolution of a classic turn-based strategic shooter. Players build a team of squeaky-voiced invertebrates armed to the teeth in order to blast their opponents to smithereens. To do so, they’ll use the unlikeliest of weaponry, including the Old Lady, the Homing Pigeon, and the Concrete Donkey, and deploy them with cold calculation across randomly-generated, destructible stages. New to the series are strategy cards which can turn the tide in your favor. Though the heart of the game remains 2D, richly animated-backgrounds and a slew of new visual effects make Worms 3 a proper new generation for the beloved franchise.

For some truly ridiculous warfare, get Worms 3.

XCOM

XCOM’s mobile port keeps the addictiveness of the game’s tactical combat in one piece. Players form an elite squad of secret soldiers attempting to defend humanity against an impending alien threat. Over the course of that mission, players recruit, equip, and improve squad members. Missions require careful consideration for who you take along - picking the wrong guy from the wrong job can mean a quick failure. In addition to the extensive single-player campaign, there’s also online multiplayer so you can test your skills against friends online. Combined with the full-bodied base-building and research elements, XCOM has earned its venerable status across all platforms.

Hardened strategy fans shouldn’t bat an eyelash at the pricetag; XCOM is worth every penny.

Honorable Mentions

That should be enough for you to chew on for now, but what are your favorite games right now, iPad fans? We’re looking to keep this list updated regularly, so keep the suggestions coming!

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