XCOM is one of the longest-running series of turn-based tactics games on PC. Although the modern reboots are less than a decade old at this point, the original series launched way back in 1994. Over the years we’ve seen dozens of games marketing themselves as XCOM like in an attempt to cash in on the successful formula. However, only a few of them actually managed to pay homage to the classics in a meaningful way. With XCOM 3 nowhere in sight, we figured now is as good a time as any to take a look at some of the other turn-based tactics games floating around.
If you’ve been browsing around for similar lists you probably noticed that they tend to include a lot of 4X/grand strategy games or RPGs with turn-based combat. Including those feels a bit like cheating so we tried to stay away from them as much as we could. Instead, we did our best to focus on titles that are as similar as possible to the original X-COM series, or at least the first three games. The series sort of went in a weird direction after that.
By extension, the games on this list will also be similar to modern XCOM games since they’re nearly identical to the originals in many ways. Chimera Squad not so much, but let’s pretend that one doesn’t exist and take a look at the best XCOM like games currently available on PC. Some of these can be played on consoles as well.
15. Urtuk: The Desolation
We’re kicking off our list of XCOM like games with a newly released title. Urtuk: The Desolation is an indie turn-based tactics game that came out in February of 2021. The title plays a lot like Battle Brothers and is very similar to Darkest Dungeon in terms of aesthetics. Meanwhile, the combat draws inspiration from XCOM, with a pinch of Heroes of Might & Magic sprinkled into the mix. If you’re a fan of any of those games you’ll probably enjoy what Urtuk has to offer.
14. Into the Breach
Developed by the makers of FTL, Into the Breach feels a bit like a game of chess between mechs and aliens. Despite looking fairly simplistic at first glance, Into the Breach ends up offering a surprising amount of difficult challenges. The main downside of the game is that it’s very short, requiring only around 5-6 hours to beat on average. However, you can easily extend that if you want because Into the Breach has very good replay value.
13. Massive Chalice
Speaking of short titles, Double Fine’s Massive Chalice is another turn-based tactics game you may want to check out if you’re a fan of XCOM’s combat. An interesting thing to note here is that the characters you control age over the course of the game and eventually pass away. Characters can, of course, also die in combat, and death in Massive Chalice is permanent, just like in XCOM. There’s also a bloodlines system and a couple of other neat features but, just like Into the Breach, you’ll be able to beat the game in a matter of hours. So there’s that.
12. Partisans 1941
Partisans 1941 is a WW2-themed tactics game released by Daedalic Entertainment in late 2020. This is the same publisher that brought us Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun a few years back, which is another XCOM like game that puts a lot of emphasis on stealth. All the aforementioned games are very different in terms of theme but you’ll notice a lot of similarities between them when it comes to the combat. Unlike most of the other titles on this list, Partisans 1941 is real-time rather than turn-based but we still recommend it in spite of that because it’s a very solid game.
11. Jagged Alliance (series)
There was a time when Jagged Alliance was the only XCOM like series of games out there. The original Jagged Alliance launched in 1995, not long after X-COM: UFO Defense. Unfortunately, the series fizzled out shortly after the release of Jagged Alliance 2. There have been multiple attempts at reviving the series in modern times but none of them have been particularly successful. If you don’t mind retro graphics, we recommend checking out the classics.
10. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel
Fallout Tactics is a pretty divisive game that still sparks debates to this day because of its story. But let’s not get into that because it’s not really relevant to this list. Instead, it’s worth noting that Fallout Tactics was the first game in the series that focused on tactical combat more than role-playing. The game also lets you customize your squad members to a much higher degree than its predecessors and features a mix of real-time and squad-based combat, somewhat similar to X-COM: Apocalypse.
9. Invisible Inc.
Invisible Inc. is a must-play if you’re into corporate espionage. This criminally underrated game features an in-depth customization system, multiple game modes, randomly generated maps, a wide variety of agents to choose from, and more. You shouldn’t expect an XCOM like challenge here because the game is based on stealth rather than combat but Invisible Inc. can certainly be difficult at times all the same. But if you need another reason to check it out, know that Invisible Inc. was developed by the same folks who brought us Don’t Starve, Oxygen Not Included, and Crypt of the Necrodancer, among other great games.
Battletech is a tactical wargame based on the pen & paper game bearing the same name. The title was created by Harebrained Schemes in collaboration with Paradox so you know it’s going to be extremely complex and challenging before even playing it. Battletech easily has some of the most in-depth tactical combat outside XCOM and its campaign map isn’t too shabby either. The fact that you’re controlling giant mechs instead of regular-sized soldiers might feel jarring at first but you’ll get used to it in no time.
7. Gears Tactics
Ever wondered what Gears of War would look like as an XCOM game? There’s no need to imagine because that game is already a thing and it’s called Gears Tactics. Spin-offs in a different genre than the rest of the series often don’t work very well but that’s not the case here. Gears Tactics is a surprisingly deep turned-based tactics game that draws a lot of inspiration from XCOM while still managing to feel fresh and bringing something new to the table.
6. Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus
You can find Warhammer 40K titles in pretty much every genre, so of course there had to be at least a couple of games similar to XCOM as well. More than a couple actually, but Mechanicus is arguably the best of the bunch. A turn-based tactics game set in the grimdark future of Warhammer 40K works perfectly and comes with that sense of dread you often associate with XCOM. Plus, you get to fight undead robots while serving the Omnissiah. What more could you ask for?
5. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
You probably saw this one coming a mile away. Mutant Year Zero was practically sold on the back of having combat reminiscent of XCOM. It even says so in its Steam description. However, it must be said that you can blaze through large chunks of the game while avoiding combat altogether because the game focuses on stealth more than anything else. There’s also more emphasis on the story and characters, which end up being the most memorable part of the game. Especially Dux the Duck.
4. Phantom Doctrine
Phantom Doctrine is a tactical espionage game set during the height of the Cold War. That may not sound very XCOM like but don’t let the setting fool you. Everything from the combat and customization system to many of the aesthetic choices pays tribute to the series in a less than subtle way. There aren’t any aliens here but the game does have multiple factions and randomly generated characters to keep things interesting. There’s also a neat investigations board where you get to piece together clues gathered in the field to unlock new missions and technologies.
3. UFO (series)
Placing the UFO series so high up on this list probably seems a bit odd because these games are basically like a low-budget version of XCOM. UFO games follow the XCOM formula to a T both in terms of theme and gameplay. During the long stretch of time between the classic X-COM games and the modern reboots, UFO was essentially the only worthwhile real alternative to the series. And I do want to emphasize real alternative. UFO is such a faithful copy of XCOM that it’s amazing developer Altar Games (now part of Bohemia Interactive) was able to make these titles without getting sued.
You can’t have a list of best XCOM like games without including this little gem. Much like the UFO series, Xenonauts is a re-imagining of XCOM and an attempt to keep the spirit of the series alive in a time when very few developers were working on games in this genre. As faith would have it, though, Xenonauts took a long time to develop and in the meantime Firaxis ended up launching XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Despite being newer than Enemy Unknown, Xenonauts looks more dated due to having a significantly smaller budget. However, the aesthetics actually work in its favor thanks to its 70s-era theme. As far as the gameplay is concerned, it’s essentially like XCOM but even more punishing in many ways. Definitely a great selling point for a lot of people.
1. Phoenix Point
Last but not least we have Phoenix Point, a title helmed by Julian Gollop, the designer of the original X-COM games. Phoenix Point got a bad rap even before launch due to the whole Epic Games Store exclusively debacle, which is a shame because the game itself is quite solid. Gollop set out to create a faithful spiritual successor to his original work but ended up drawing inspiration from the modern series in equal measure. Phoenix Point can feel slow-paced and imbalanced at times so don’t go in expecting the same level of polish as XCOM 2. But if you don’t mind games that are a bit rough around the edges, you’re definitely going to have a blast with this one.
If you’re only now thinking about jumping into this genre, you can read out XCOM 2 review here to find out why we consider it the best turn-based tactics game to date. We also have an XCOM 2 guide on how to defeat every type of alien in the base game should you need some help with that.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about the science behind XCOM’s Psionics make sure to check out this article right here.
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