Strategy and simulator games are wildly popular on PC, and they're starting to creep up in popularity on Xbox One, too. Many strategy games fare better with a mouse-and-keyboard control scheme, but more and more developers are finding new and innovative ways to make more complex games play well with controllers. Whether your desire is to command huge armies of space marines against roaming aliens, or build your own city from scratch, Xbox should have you covered.
★ Editor's Choice
Mutant Year Zero is the only strategy game in the world that lets you play as a giant humanoid duck. If that alone doesn't sell you, know that Mutant Year Zero is a tough, dynamic, and equally rewarding turn-based strategy RPG, set in a distant post-apocalypse. The survivors scavenge through the remnants of destroyed civilization, on a mission to defend their last stronghold. It's on you to save them.
Save the galaxy
Halo Wars 2 is an epic strategy game set in Microsoft's flagship Halo franchise. Taking place after the events of Halo 5, the crew of the UNSC warship Spirit of Fire emerge from deep stasis, only to find a rogue alien coalition attempting to take control of a galaxy-killing super weapon. Its up to you to train your units, construct your buildings, and end the fight.
Farm 'em up
Stardew Valley is a cutesy farming simulation game, set in a rich and vibrant 2D world. In Stardew, players must plant crops, sew seeds, manage budgets, all while maintaining relationships with a neighboring town. Stardew Valley is a relaxing and accessible sim, great for chillout sessions.
In XCOM 2, you control an army of elite fighters to defend Earth. As a turn-based strategy game with a base management component, you position and move several units of different classes, facing off against aliens who have their own array of tools designed to mercilessly destroy your squads. XCOM 2 is dynamic, engaging, and incredibly challenging.
Among the stars
Elite Dangerous is one of the most accurate and detailed intergalactic flight simulator in the universe, giving you access to a 1:1 scale map of the Milky Way to play with, complete with huge travel times, deep and complex economic and political systems, and an ever-expanding feature set. Elite Dangerous takes place in a persistent online world, allowing you team up, trade with, or destroy other players.
Sheltered is available for Windows 10 and Xbox One, and it's a post-apocalypse survival simulator that revolves around protecting your family, rather than taking care of a range of throwaway units. The turn-based combat, vicious resource management, and a punishing trauma system make Sheltered a great game for aspiring apocalypse preppers.
Fancy some toast?
For those of us who can't even start the day without a couple of rounds of toasted bread, this game is for you. I am Bread is the single greatest bread simulator game ever made. The entire objective is to awkwardly flop yourself into a heat source to get toasted. Seriously.
Life on Mars
Surviving Mars is a gorgeous and dynamic simulation title that takes you onto the surface of the Red Planet. In Surviving Mars, it's your job as a budding space investor to set up and maintain the galaxy's first human colony on Mars. You'll have to navigate planetary hazards, manage resources like water and oxygen, and still have plenty of opportunities to get creative.
Tower defense on steroids
X-Morph: Defense is a strategic tower defense game with action shoot 'em up combat. While piloting an upgradeable jet fighter, you must also manage defensive towers along an array of attack routes as streams of aliens attempt to invade and destroy your base. The game takes place across dozens of maps, and is good, action-packed, strategic fun.
Build 'em up
Cities: Skylines is one of the most addictive, relaxing, and therapeutic simulation games ever made. Featuring great gamepad controls and vibrant visuals, Cities: Skylines allows you to construct the metropolis of your dreams. Manage industry types, infrastructure, energy economy, and much more, with tons of post-launch support and expansion packs.
When I want to chill, Surviving Mars has been my go-to game in the past. The relaxing, therapeutic Martian construction sim is great for exercising your creativity, while also challenging your strategic brain to cleverly manage resources. Mutant Year Zero is another favorite, for its engaging atmosphere, fun combat, and great dialogue. However, XCOM 2 is arguably the best strategy game on this list, though, granting potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay you can really sink your teeth into.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!