The 17 Best 4X Games To Play on PC

best 4x games
Who doesn't want to control a race of futuristic dwarf themed race of humans.

Explore, Expand, Exterminate, Exploit, what else do you need?

We all need a break once in a while from the gray everydays, sitting in your comfy chair, sipping the beverage of your choice what better way to spend your precious free time than deciding the fate of entire civilizations.Yes indeed, that's exactly what you do in a 4X game, be it in space as a hideous warmongering alien race, or as a just king protecting his vast kingdom. Your goal is to bring your nation to prosperity, often at the cost of others.

Let's look at the 17 best 4X games available in the market.

17) Star Ruler 2

Star Ruler 2 Offical trailer

As far as space 4X games go, this one is special, recommended especially if you are a veteran of the genre. Starts simple enough, like any other space 4X, with a single planet, a custom race, floating in the vast nothingness of space.However, you soon discover that this is unlike any other similar game. First of all, It's possible to play with multiple galaxies, a dream of many sci-fi fans.

Also unlike other games where each planet is a self-contained world, here planets can only grow if they get resources from other planets in a complex web of imports/exports.Similar to the economics, the diplomacy is as unique if not more. Where in other games races interact through a simple system of menus like some weird socially awkward shut-ins; here each race gets a seat in a galactic parliament and vote on issues, not dissimilar to Mass effect or Star Wars.

Battles can get out of hand.

16) Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion HD trailer

If you are tired of the slow paced scheming of a traditional 4X, this one is up you alley. Sins of a Solar Empire combines the best parts of a RTS and a 4x game into a fast, straightforward, action packed game.The player can choose between six well balanced factions each with a different tech tree and ships. Visually, it's one of the best on the market, watching a wing of bombers flying through the battle as a gargantuan capital ship casts it's shadow on them is glorious. The replay value is huge as the modding scene is big with a list of amazing mods for the game. A must have for multiplayer matches as the fast paced nature of the game complements it nicely.  

Sometimes you just have to fly to you inescapeable doom for cool pictures.

15) Master of Orion 2: Battle at Antares

Master of Orion 2 Gameplay video

Master of Orion 2 is the World of Warcraft of the 4X games. After it came out, it defined the whole genre and spawned a ton of copy cats. Has all the classic marks of a 4x game, customization, interesting races, tactical battles and fun events.The 2d art provides a visual style that still maintains it's charm after many years. The mechanics of the game are as creative as the art with interesting playable races like trans-dimensional underwater mini-cthulhus, or the repulsive rock like lifeforms.The endgame provides an interesting challenge in the form of the Antares, a hyper-advanced race from another dimension that occasionally invades real space.

Spoiler alert: purple wins

14) Civilization 5

Civilization 5 Gameplay trailer

When somebody hears 4X, the most likely image that is going to appear in their mind is Civilization, the flagship franchise of the genre. The gateway drug to 4x games, Civ is easy to learn but provides enough depth that even the veteran players are learing new things.The player can take the role of real historical civilizations and lead their people through the ages. This sense of groundednes in real history helps new players and keeps old time fans. The nature of the game makes for amusing scenarios; if you ever wanted to send thousands of knights against German panzers, this is the game for you.

Yes, the famous Great Wall of Ethiopia.

13) Civilization 4

Civilization 4 gameplay trailer

We cannot talk about Civ 4 without comparing it to Civ 5. The comparison between the two games are like the comparison between vanillia and chocolate ice cream, it depends entirely on the person.

What Civ 4 may lack on the visual and(also subjective) combat side of things, makes up for endgame content and the modding community. If you are a Civ 5 veteran playing Civ 4 for the first time, nuking away happily you quickly discover that it is possible to trigger climate change and turn the planet into a dusty wasteland, changing the game into a post-apocaliptic nightmare.

Thanks to the many mods the fans offer, it is also possible to turn the game into a high fantasy world, or play as stone age caveman and enchanced future humans, the limit is only how many turns you have the time for.  

When there are more roads than trees and cities combined.

12) Age of Wonders 3

Age of Wonders 3 trailer

An interesting mix of Heroes Of Might And Magic and Civilization, Aow 3 offers a unique combination of RPG and 4X. You take the role of a custom hero who leads a race of fantasy creatures on a journey to domination. The different classes and races offer a different playstyle for each playthrough, increasing the replay value. Unlike many other 4x, Aow 3 has multiple fully fleshed singleplayer campaigns.

As you make your way through the randomly generated(or hand crafted campaign) maps, you terraform the surrounding lands to fit the demograpfics of the different races that inhabit your empire; be it faires, or dragons. So if advanced and fun tactical combat, an abundance of playstyles and races interests you; you might want to pick this one up.

Just your reagular fantasy city.

11) Endless Legend

Endless Legend Dust to Dust trailer

As far as art style is concerned, this game wins by a landslide. But it wouldn't be on the list if it was only the visuals. The different factions each offer a wildly different playstyle, and this asymmetry is what makes the game.You can play as the industry focused, rock worshiping humans who came with a spaceship, or a crazy cult-like faction of ancient robots and slaves who are not allowed to have more than one city; and we haven't even talked about the dragon like reptilians whose role is a peacekeeping faction who are able to force diplomatic actions on other races. This is just three of the many interesting races.

With each passing turn, the air gets colder around your subjects, trees loose their leaves and the chilling winds bite into your skin as winter arrives, as the game boasts an interesting season mechanic where summer and winter changes the landscape and as the game progresses each summer is shorter while the winters become more severe and the planet turns inhospitable.

A game too pretty not to like.

10) A.I War: Fleet Command

AI War: Fleet Command 8.0 Trailer

If you are looking for a smart, unqiue, and strategic game, this one is for you. If you can look past the jarring visuals and steep learning curve, you find an extremly interesting game.

Unlike most other games, you start this game where a typical 4x game has ended, and you lost. Humanity made an artificial intelligence which revolted and wiped out most life from the galaxy, not just humans, but other races as well. The few pockets of resistance that survived are too insignificant for the A.I who has turned it's gaze onto other galaxies.

You play as the last remnants of the human race. From the beginning the game makes it clear that you have no chance against the A.I. The only way to survive is to stay under the radar. Your task is simple, kill the A.I and reconquer the galaxy by playing mind games with the A.I so that you can stand against it's might, easy right?

Yes, Those are all ships.

9) Imperium Galactica 2

Official Imperium Galactica 2 Launch Trailer

One of the most ambitious 4x games of the of the 90s, Imperium Galactica 2 offers you an experience that is unique even today.Unlike most 4x games, you can actually visit the surface of the planets and build cities or invade rival colonies and destroy them in fully fleshed 3D ground combat.The combat/galaxy map is also in full 3D, and even though the game is old, the combat visuals still hold up to this day, that combined with the amazing Bafta awarded soundtrack it is worth a try.

Base building, ground combat, a rare treat.

8) Galactic Civilizations 2

Galactic Civilizations 2 gameplay

Galciv 2 is considered a classic with exceptional A.I and loads of content. Did you ever want to build a ship that looks like a pyramid or a floating temple? Thanks to the detailed ship customization, you can make truly unique ships.

Unlike other turn-based 4x games here, everything is on one huge map, no instanced solar system/planets. This gives the player the feeling of an open galaxy even though it's 2D.

The combat itself is automatic and the ships will make choices based on how you built them, but they are fully 3D. You can customize a race or pick one of the premade ones with traditional roles like the industry focused race, or the science aliens.

The awkward moment when you realize, you don't know which star is yours.

7) Endless Space

Endless Space trailer

So you want a 4X game with great visuals, fun gameplay and interesting sci-fi concepts but also something that's simple and clean? Endless Space is the game for you then.

The game offers highly unique and different races, like the Horatio who are a faction of clones, or the Harmony, a primordial flock of sentient crystals.

The combat, while not as interactive as some other 4X games, is a treat to the eyes, huge intricate alien ships floating through space, firing volleys at each other. Each battling side has a set of cards that they can use to alter the battle.

If you want to get into the space 4x genre, be sure to pick this one up.

You don't need funcionality if you look badass.

6) Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension

Dominions 4 gameplay trailer

Giant monolithic gods, underwater cannibal races, armies of mages and monsters clashing, a fantasy fan's wet dream.

If you ever wanted to play as a god, you are in the right place, while the game has a really steep learning curve and basic U.I, if you get past the rough rockhard cover, you find a soft delicious stuffing.

The game allows you to customize a unique god and choose a fantasy race to lead. Each race has a different theme and associated mechanics, but far the most interesting part of the game is the level at which you can manage your empire/armies. The battle is played out real-time, but you have to plan out the movements of your soldiers(or weird monsters) in advance.

If you are the type of person that can put up with rough games to find the rare gems, take a look at this one.

Better start conquering soon.

5) Sword of the Stars 1

Sword of the Stars Complete Collection Release Trailer

One of the most all around solid space 4X game on the market right now. The game to pick up if you want to have a good, simple space 4x experience where every aspect of the game is good.

Each race has a different FTL travel method, making them feel unique. The ship customization allows for sneaky tactics like bio-ships with the ability to virus bomb a planet, or destroyers disguised as trade ships.

Playing this game is a lot like eating a really good sandwich, you always find something new in it to enjoy.

One of the many interesting random events.

4) Space Empires 4

Space Empires 4 Let's play video

An old classic, only play it if you can tolerate clunky U.I. A great bridge between the more hardcore titles and a classic 4x game. Some features are surprisingly complex, like the different resources or customization, while others are more of the same ordinary 4x, like the tactical combat, or diplomacy.

While the combat is top-down view and looks basic with arcade-like sounds, thanks to the amazingly detailed ship building, has a surprising amount of depth with different sub systems and weapons.

Lots of buttons to press and get confused by.

3) Europa Universalis 4

Europa Universalis IV - Video Developer Diary: Exploration

The creme of the crop when it comes to realistic 4x games. If you ever wanted to play as a historical country in the context of actual history, play this. Just pick any nation on the face of the earth, make some goals and try to survive the coming centuries.

You begin the game at the start of the renaissance and play until the early 1800s as you wage wars, plot schemes and colonize and exploit the new world. There is nothing more fun than making some small change in the political landscape of the world and seeing what kind of alternate history will happen.

Uniting the North American native tribes and repelling the European nations, rebuilding Rome and disbanding the Papacy, you can do al of this and more in this history simulator.

Seems legit.

2) Distant Worlds:Universe

Distant Worlds trailer

While it may look like this is another low-budget 4x game, riding the high waves of the genre, this is far from the truth. Distant Worlds offer, in many cases the ultimate space 4x experience right now.

At the start of the game, you pick a starting galaxy, where you can even change the age of the races there which can affect a great many thing gameplay wise. An old galaxy with many small races starting out, scavenging the carcass of precursor empires, or a young, lively place full of powerful nations, your choice.

The most interesting part of the game is the economics wich will leave you wanting for similar mechanics once you got back to other games. Every celestial body has a chance of producing a resource (out of the many present in the game, like a LOT), each does something different.

Every ship has an inventory which they use to haul goods across the galaxy working for different trading companies, making the universe a place that feels alive, and where even small choices change the game in ways you cannot foresee. Highly recommended.

It is a big universe out there.

1) Stellaris

Stellaris gameplay trailer

If Distant Worlds is the game to play when it comes to economics, Stellaris is the same, for the lovers of diplomacy.

Randomized races where two playthroughs are never the same. Huge amounts of interesting events, from extra-dimensional invasion, to A.i rebellion, the replay value of the game is big.

In many ways, the game has standard space 4x features, the different interactions between the races are unique. For the lovers of Star Trek and Mass Effect, it is possible to form federations, change the domestic policy of your empire. If you wanted to a xenophobic slaver race, go ahead just change a few laws. The options are truly amazing.

Ringworlds should be a selling pont in sci-fi games.

Through the ages, up in space, or in some mithical land, you can lead many types of civilization, just pick one from the list and go. The limits are the stars.

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Hello there, I have been a passionate gamer ever since I set eyes on my first game, I always wanted to share my opinions and infinite wisdom with the world.
Gamer Since: 2001
Favorite Genre: FPS
Currently Playing: Red Orchestra 2, Cities: Skylines, Faeria, Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dragon Age: Origins, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Europa Universalis IV
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