The best RTS units of all time

Our favorite knights, tanks, ships, and giant aliens to ever be clicked into combat

Loved by: Chris Antista

The (relatively) recent "tower defense" genre of strategymustn’t go unrepresented, and the iconic Peashooter is synonymous with PopCap's hit, Plants vs. Zombies. Don't fool yourself into thinking that the Repeater is a simple sentry left to the slaughter... although, actually, it can be! After all, Repeaters aren’t all that pricey,but they're every bit as versatile as they are expendable. Early onslaughts are easy-peasy and when you’ve got horticulture to protect, planting them closer to the frontlines greatly increases their 2x rate of fire. If that weren’t enough, these little green badasses can be upgraded to helmet-clad Gatling grade to become virtually unstoppable. If you’re playing your money right, you’ll never consider heading into a daylight match with anything less than this dual shot godsend.

Supreme Commander 2

UEF Noah Unit Cannon

Loved by: Matt Keast

SupCom 2 has many hilarious Experimental units, all of which require massive amounts or resources and time to build, but they turn out to be worth it, not only because of their power, but also for the intimidation and entertainment factors. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the Noah Unit Cannon has to be the most awe-inspiring. It’s sort of a building, since it doesn’t move, and it builds other units. It looks like a pyramid with four transparent “barrels.” You construct units inside it - say a few tanks, a few anti-air missiles, and a few artillery. As the units finish constructing, instead of popping out on the ground next to the Unit Cannon, you can actually see them loading one-by-one into the barrels.

Once you’re ready, you designate a target point (it can be completely across the map), you click “launch,” and the glorious Unit Cannon fires off its payload.I can’t help but cackle in glee as tanks and artillery go arcing across the map, landing miles away inside the enemy base, and, of course, your units instantly unload their weaponry on your stunned opponent.

Starcraft II

Zerg Queen

Loved by: Tyler Nagata, who totally won PC Gamer's StarCraft II tourney, so trust him. (We love you, PC Gamer.)

I love StarCraft II’s Zerg Queen - she's an incredible force.She can place tumors on the ground to expand the creep around your base, allowing you to build over a wider area. Her transfusion ability restores a ton of HP to any unit or building, allowing you to buffer your defenses when in a tight spot. But it’s her Spawn Larva ability that makes her so indispensable. Casting Spawn Larva on your Hatchery creates four fresh larvae, allowing you to increase the number of units you can pump out exponentially. Since the Zerg specialize in strength by numbers, constantly casting Spawn Larva on your base is key to maintaining a larger army than your opponent.

Above: Junk in the trunk

Bonus! Aimless ruminations

They missed out on the moniker, but real-time strategy games are far more like sandboxes than “sandbox” games. They encapsulate the dichotomy of creativity and destruction which dominates children’s play, and that’s probably why they’re so fun.They give us the power tobuild fortresses, develop technology, construct legions of mechanized war machines, and then blow it all to hell, which is exactly what sandboxes were all about to the grubby little playground soldiers we once were.

As with most genres, the popularity of RTS games has waxed and waned. The Command & Conquer series has fallen out of the favor it once boasted, and we rarely see “Warcraft” used to describe anything other than an MMO these days. But 12 years after StarCraft blew the hell up, StarCraft II is doing it again, and resurgence seems to be the theme of late.

Street Fighter IV brought fighting games back to the forefront, and acronyms like MvC and MK are entering a new generation’s lexicon. Digital distribution and indie developers have spurred a new generation of 2D side-scrollers - who’d have thought that we’d ever get another 2D Donkey Kong Country? It’s starting to feel a lot like the 90s. Are RTS gamesstarting an upswing too?

Jul 28, 2010

Environments worth dying for

With a first half this good, who needs the rest of the year?

Can't tell your Zergling from your Zealot? We'll guide you from newbie to master


Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer
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