As 2019 draws to a close, it's time to look back and offer you our own selection of what we consider to be the best games in the large and diverse family of management, strategy and tactical games released this year. There's a little bit of everything, but what they all have in common is that they're all good games in their respective genres.
We would have liked to be able to offer you an individual list for each genre, but there aren't tons of tactical games worthy of the name coming out every year either, much to our regret.
Several games that we had been counting on have really failed to enchant us, including Phoenix Point, which was released way ahead of schedule, and Warcraft 3 Reforged, which isn't likely to be released until 2020. You'll also notice the absence of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which we've decided to include in our selection of the best RPGs after much internal debate. Even if its tactical side is not very successful, it is still a good game that would have had its place here.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Not everyone likes Warhammer, the real world and history have their charms too. With Three Kingdoms, Creative Assembly takes a step back in time with a solid gameplay, with colorful characters at the center of the story and the way to play, with innovative mechanics that don't lack charm in this highly romanticized era: fight to unite China, build alliances, create a coalition, betray, spy, then use gigantic weapons to prevail on the battlefield, or defeat the opposing general in a duel. More accessible and clearer than previous games, this is a good episode for fans to revisit, and a good choice for those who have always wanted to take the plunge.
After a futuristic episode that didn't convince many people, Anno came back to his roots, or almost, with the industrial revolution. Settle your colony on a deserted island, then turn it into a radiant, lively and smoking Victorian megalopolis. Pretty and easy to take in hand, but not superficial, it will ask you to manage the town planning, its population, the maritime trade, the commerce, while offering you a little story to make it more engaging. It's a game that can seduce those who are looking for something other than pure city-building.
PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Years after the demise of Advance Wars, the genre makes a modernized, but medieval-fantastic comeback under the aegis of Chuckle Fish. Easy to pick up, but far from easy to master, this little turn-based tactical marvel that's both cute and full of humor is a great way to pass the time, whether it's a few minutes or a few hours. Capture buildings with your pixelated army and take advantage of your hero's groove to prevent your opponent from causing a surprise defeat. Available on all platforms, being able to play it on Switch will allow you to have a moment of nostalgia and fight anywhere.
Who hasn't dreamt of caging animals and making the crowds pay so that they have the right to make fun of their sad fate? Strangely, this is not the trip of Frontier Developments, which offers a zoo management game that is both accessible and very complete, but which also takes sides with the animal cause by making their comfort and health a central point of the game. Not only will you have to sell overly salty fries or soy cut steaks, but you'll also have to arrange their habitat, manage the stress caused by visitors, and try to find the right balance between entertainment, financial demands, and preservation.
Oxygen not Included
Klei's back after the popular Don't Starve, but this time heading for space and the asteroid belt. You'll have to colonize different asteroids, sometimes in extreme conditions, and set up a small, dysfunctional company and a coherent production line in order to survive, and maybe be able to go and colonize the next hostile rock floating in space. So you have a mixture of Don't Starve for survival, but also Factorio for management, and a little bit of simulation, especially in gas and temperature management. Once again, this makes it a good game that can be instantly fun for beginners, even if they're going to die quickly and often, and it offers challenges and content even for the most seasoned player.
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition
It would have been sad to conclude this article without at least one real-time strategy game. For lack of something really new, here's some old refurbished. AoE2 makes a comeback in its best light in this quality remaster. With gargantuan content, simple and effective gameplay mechanisms that have proven themselves in both solo and multi, it makes it a good choice for RTS lovers, as well as for those who missed their great era and want to discover a classic without having to suffer the dust.