Let’s Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

Let’s Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

Hey, Pecking Order! It’s been a while. So let’s ease in with a ranking that’s very dear to my heart.

Creative Assembly’s Total War series has been massacring infantry for over a decade now, and in that time has gone from Shogunate Japan to Medieval Europe to ancient Rome the age of sail then…right back around again.

My Steam statistics reveal an embarrassing amount of time spent playing these games. We’re talking thousands of hours. I like to think that, over those hours, I’ve developed a taste for what I like, and what I don’t like, about the series.

Before we go any further, though, two things to note! The first is that this is my list. Just mine, not Kotaku’s. You may disagree, and are welcome to make your arguments in the comments below!

The second is that, like other Pecking Order lists, we’re only dealing with main games here. Any spinoffs or major expansions (like Fall of the Samurai) will be lumped in with the game they were released for.

1) Empire: Total War

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

I know. I’m crazy, right? Empire is many people’s least favourite Total War game, but even with its AI issues and bugs I still love this game to death. Partly because it’s my favourite time period of any Total War game (omg history bias), but mostly because of its scale. I can forgive the bugs if it means I can manage campaigns that span from the Great Plains to Sri Lanka (and, unlike in Rome 2, actually have them remain manageable).

2) Rome: Total War

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

In some ways the peak of the series, because everything just clicked. The politics, the unit variety, it all just came together. You might call it a fluke, since CA’s return to Rome was nowhere near as memorable, but I like to think it’s just that lightning doesn’t strike twice.

3) Total War: Shogun 2

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

I get the argument that it’s dumbed down. That campaign map is as linear as a modern FPS, for example. But in other ways Shogun 2 is an exercise in how CA can do wonderful things when they keep a short leash on their ambition. Shogun 2 has the sharpest focus of any game in the series, and the best historical immersion.

4) Medieval 2: Total War

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

The last of the “old school” Total War games (before Empire’s complete overhaul), its campaign management is showing its age, but its battles are still surprisingly attractive. One thing I’ve noticed as time has gone on: it’s a very “grim” game. Which might be authentic, but it’s also a real downer.

5) Shogun: Total War

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

It might seem simple at glance, but there’s still some fun to be had in those old battles. They’re so fast, and simple. It’s almost like an arcade version of Shogun 2.

6) Medieval: Total War

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

Just go play Medieval 2 already.

7) Total War: Rome 2

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

Oh dear. A series of patches and a pretty good expansion have salvaged what was shaping up to be a disaster, but only just. From unwieldy management to an overblown campaign map to some farcical siege AI, Rome 2 is the anti-Shogun 2, lacking in any sense of focus or ability to keep its campaigns fresh and interesting.

8) Napoleon: Total War

Let's Rank The Total War Games, From Best To Worst

This was not a Total War game. It was a glorified expansion pack. Some neat ideas (it introduced “liberation” of conquered territories, and had a great expansion) and sharpened AI couldn’t disguise the fact that this was too close to Empire: Total War for comfort.


  • Rome 2 No.7? Seriously? And EMpire No. 1? I’m sorry, you’re crazy. Empire was a buggy disaster on release just like Rome 2 was – the difference is that Rome 2 was fixed. Empire as at the last patch still had the most broken siege AI of any Total War game – not only was it impossible to defend a fort in a way that wasn’t utterly laughable, but if you created too many breaches in the walls when you were attacking, the pathfinding would lock and all the units would move like they were at 1FPS (but the graphics engine was running fine).

    This last bug was NEVER fixed. They just left it. Didn’t care.

    I’d rank Empire well below Napoleon, which was everything that Empire should have been.

  • 1. Medieval 2
    2. Shogun 2
    3. Rome 1
    4. Empire
    5. Napoleon
    6. Rome 2

    and I haven’t played the others.

    If Empire had had a little more unit variety and complexity it would be much higher. It definitely has the best campaign map.

    Medieval 2 is definitely the best though. The variety, gameplay, map, timespan, setting, and technology just beats everything else. Here’s hoping they make a Medieval 3 and don’t balls it up like Rome 2.

    • CA have gone on record as saying that there won’t be any total war games with a 3 on the end anytime soon, probably a licensed War-hammer fantasy game next.

    • Best of all, Medieval 2 was made in BRISBAAAAAAANE! But seriously, that, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, Fallout Tactics, Heroes of the Pacific, Destroy All Humans… The early 2000s were the height of Aussie game development!

      • You forgot Mercenaries. Might be a little too late to fit into early 2000s but that game was absolutely spectacular.

        • I get confused about that, actually; I think Mercenaries was made by the USA branch while the Brisbane one made Destroy All Humans. Although honestly, I don’t know which Pandemic Studio did what!

    • I really want to put Medieval 2 high on my list… but I love to play strategy games as co-op with friends, and for some odd reason there is absolutely no AI for Medieval 2’s multiplayer. And nothing to fix that… no patches, no unofficial mods, no explanation, nothing…

  • 1. Empire
    2. Rome
    3. Medieval 2
    4. Shogun 2
    5 Medieval
    6 Rome 2
    7 Napoleon

    only one I haven’t played is Shogun one.

  • 1. Rome 1
    2. Empire
    3. Medieval 1

    Every other Total War game i just couldnt get into… i still have a copy of Shogun 2 awaiting about 30GB worth of patch updates before I can even play it though. Not bloody likely that will be happening anytime soon. Thanks Creative Assembly for that one!

  • Rome
    Shogun 2, having the excellent fall of the samurai just pips it above Empire
    Medieval 2
    Equal last place goes to Rome 2 and Napoleon, Rome 2 was too buggy and a resource hog(still no sli or proper quad-core support) and Napoleon was just an expansion that didn’t add much.

    I haven’t played the early games.

  • The list is pretty close to what my list would have been……….I liked empire the most too. I hope they revisit it……with a few tweaks.

  • Barbarian Invasion is the best. There should be one for Rome 2.
    Also the title made me think of Dragonball Z Abridged. “Listen up, maggots!”

  • Medieval 2
    Shogun 2 and Rome 2 – Shogun 2’s a lot better but the Roman period is my favourite history period

    not played Napolean yet.

    Disagree about Mediveal 2 campaign map showing its age though. Plus, the map on Empire is just too much to take in in one go

  • I’ve only played 3 and the expansion Fall of the Samurai. Shogun 2 Fall of the Samurai is easily my fave, Shogun 2 was just awesome. It was the first one I properly played so that gives it some bias but I played the hell out of it and its expansions. Loved its sense of time and how it connected each expansion into one another.

  • I can’t wait to see what creative assembly do with the warhammer license they got.

  • Medieval 1 was the best, it was the age where they had inbreeding mechanics and they weren’t afraid to add real life consequences to incest.

    It just got more casual and pushed away from adult themes.

  • Yes in some way the order makes sense.
    I would rate Empire as 1, its buggy and in many ways the A1 makes some very drunk decisions. But the cope and the variety of enemies to fight, from europeans to indegenous Americans. Plus the scope of economic/political dominationm adds an extra level of enjoyment.

    Wait wait wait. Im not in the ranks of a RTW 2 hater, it should have been better, much better. But its not a bad game anyway.

    Why do people hate Napoleon TW? the A1 is much better and fights, in the field, very well. It has little scope, compared to Empire becouse it covers a very very specific period of European history. Comeone people for the job the A1 needs to do, it does it very well

    MTW 2 would need to be second rated, due to the scope and range of tech advances. Not mention heading off to the new world and getting to call a crusade/jihad

    3rd is RTW lovely game its a pity I cant place it with second place. MTW and RTW are very closely matched.

    Then Napoleon, then RTW2 Yes yes yes but its still fun to play and yes it does get repedative. But hay you get to name a legion after you wife/self/girlfriend…..priceless

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