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Games like XCOM and XCOM 2 for more tough turn-based trials

games like XCOM
(Image credit: 2K Games)

The best games like XCOM and the best games like XCOM 2 think about their every move carefully. They're intelligent, thoughtful and can go from zero to one hundred in the blink of an eye/poorly executed tactic. Whether it's bashing aliens or your own head against a wall after sending your favourite foot soldier to their untimely demise, the way these games balance risk versus reward is masterful. But what other games exist out there that operate in a similar vein? After all, Firaxis' XCOM is an evolution of the formula first popularised by Julian Gollop's 1994 classic X-Com: UFO Defense. Read on for the best games like XCOM and the best games like XCOM 2 that are available today.   

Games like XCOM and XCOM 2

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Mutant Year Zero

(Image credit: Funcom)

Think XCOM, but your sniper is an anthropomorphic duck and your tank is a boar with an explosive cannon. Road to Eden’s turn-based combat will feel immediately familiar, with its ample cover spots and seemingly harsh dice rolls, but it peels away from XCOM in original ways. First, there’s the post-apocalyptic setting, inhabited by animal-human hybrids with dark senses of humor. And second, there’s all the sneaking and looting that happens before any firefight.

Upon travelling from your home base, The Ark, to any location you first scout it out, moving your three-animal squad through enemy blindspots. As long as you stay hidden you can set the terms of the ensuing fight, positioning your squad for a perfect ambush on a large group, or triple-teaming an isolated enemy from the shadows. This pre-fight stealth is a welcome twist on the XCOM formula. 

Available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC (Free demo on Steam)

Invisible, Inc.

Best stealth games - Invisible, Inc

(Image credit: Klei Entertainment)

A turn-based cyberpunk spy adventure where speed is paramount. Your enemy’s alert status ticks up every turn even if you’re not detected – getting in, grabbing the gubbin you’ve come for and then slipping out is the best outcome. But inevitably, you’ll be spotted by a camera and the alarm will sound, triggering turn-based combat that mixes well-explained rules with the chaos of aggressive enemy AI, not unlike XCOM.

The similarities don’t end there: you decide which missions to take from a world map, you lose operatives for good during missions if you leave them behind, and you slowly build up your squad with new recruits. Hacking lets you consume a power resource to control cameras, reveal safes and tag guards, and gives Invisible, Inc.’s battles a sense of strategic depth. It’s one of the best indie games ever made, and won’t feel like a step down from XCOM – trust us.

Available on PS4, iOS, and PC

Xenonauts

Xenonuats

(Image credit: Goldhawk Interactive)

Xenonauts is far closer to the original 1994 X-COM: UFO Defense than the modern XCOM games — in fact, it’s essentially a faithful indie remake, steep difficulty curve and all, with a few much-needed quality of life tweaks. The UI is cleaner, although still complicated and without a tutorial, and you can still rename your squad of soldiers, which we love, but also means it hurts more when they die. Fresh additions include the ability to reserve time units (action points) between combat turns as well as tactical aerial combat when you scramble your jets. 

Outside of combat you build and manage radar stations and bases to track alien activity. You’ll start by covering a small corner of the world, which means the rest is out of your control — watching casualty reports roll in makes it all feel urgent, and the pressure from nation members of the Xenonauts project, mixed with a Cold War USA-USSR conflict, keeps ramping up the pressure. 

Available on PC

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Don’t let the bunnies and catchy soundtrack fool you: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a proper tactics game, and a heavy one at that. It’ll feel streamlined compared to XCOM, and the strategy isn’t quite as deep, but the mobility of your enemies, and their sheer numbers, constantly throws up tricky challenges. Don’t be surprised if you’re stuck on a level for an hour or more.

The whole cast has over-the-top abilities, including the team jump: walk Mario over to Luigi and he’ll spring off his brother’s hands, flanking the hulking icicle golem ahead. Developer Ubisoft (yes, it’s a strange mash-up in every way) has built detailed animations for almost everything in the game, and watching your squad bounce and prance around levels, blasters in hand, is a joy. It’s that mix of Mario magic and tough tactics that makes Kingdom Battle special.

Available on Nintendo Switch

Warhammer 40,000 Mechanicus

Warhammer 40,000 Mechanicus

(Image credit: Games Workshop)

Mechanicus’ gothic world is simply an enjoyable place to be: you control a group of devout cyborg scientists in turn-based battles against hordes of glowing green skeletons that refuse to die, and between fights they’ll bicker playfully. Watching them argue is genuinely some of the best bits of the game, but the fighting is fun too.

Mechanicus is for those that want something easier than XCOM: the challenge isn’t necessarily in clearing each map, but in doing so in the most satisfying way, kitting out your mechanical priests with the perfect combination of gadgets, gizmos and guns. It’s less a strategic puzzle, more a power fantasy.

Available on PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC

BattleTech

Battletech

(Image credit: Paradox)

Control 60 tonne mechs as they blast rockets and rip each other’s arms off. BattleTech’s turn-based combat has no grid, which is freeing: you can go anywhere, exploit any angle of attack, and position your squad in unconventional ways. Firing a weapon is incredibly granular — you can target one of 11 body segments on enemy mechs, and taking out specific body parts will hamper them in a different way. A leg with busted legs will tumble to the ground, for example. 

That’s not to mention the heat management — heavy weapons on hot planets are a no-no — and the endless mech customisation between battles. You’re tweaking your loadout down to the individual pound of weight, trying to find a way to get an extra heat sink without making your Centurion too heavy to move. If it’s XCOM’s freeform campaign and the constant threat of permanently losing your soldiers that you want, BattleTech has you covered there, too.

Available on PC

Skulls of the Shogun

Skulls of the Shogun

(Image credit: 17-Bit)

A XCOM-lite with samurai swords. Skulls of the Shogun’s streamlined strategy might be the perfect way to wind down from an XCOM campaign, and it’s short, sharp battles tempt you to hang around for one more. Each team is limited to five moves per turn, which makes it feel compact and manageable, and the stylish visuals lend weight to every slash of your sword. 

That’s not to say it’s mindless: you’ll be capturing resources, avoiding environmental dangers and protecting your general at all costs: if they die, you lose, no matter what’s happening elsewhere. There’s no grid, so the movement lets you take any approach you want, and no two fights play out the same. It came out six years ago, but it still holds  up today.

Available on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC

Battle Brothers

Battle Brothers

(Image credit: Overhype Studios)

Battle Brothers mixes mercenary management with medieval turn-based battles. Your job as leader of a band of brigands is essential to stay afloat financially, wandering a procedurally-generated open map and earn money by taking on jobs, such as clearing bandit camps and murdering goblins. It makes you feel like a handyman, expect with an axe and shield instead of hammers and nails. The core loop is satisfying: accept jobs, stab orcs, collect coins, use the money to recruit new soldiers and buy gear, and then stab more orcs.

The hex-based combat factors in things like line of sight and the sort of armor you’re wearing, and is utterly unforgiving. It’s easy to run into foes way above your level, and injuries sustained on the battlefield, such as a mauled eye, stay with your soldiers throughout the campaign and hamper their skills. If they lose too much morale, they’ll even down weapons and flee. Its brutal, but brilliant.

Available on PC

Shadowrun: Dragonfall

Shadowrun

(Image credit: Paradox)

Originally an expansion for Shadowrun Returns, Dragonfall ballooned into its own game, and we’re so glad it did. It’s a combat-heavy RPGs in a grungy sci-fi setting, and the variety of characters make each turn unpredictable: grenades, bullets, drones and spells collide while your hacking character plays a separate mini-game to stem enemy reinforcements. 

Arenas littered with cover and percentage chances to hit will feel familiar to XCOM fans, but if you want to avoid combat altogether, the option is there. If well-written stories are your jam, Shadowrun’s is one of the best in recent memory.

Available on PC

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity Original Sin 2

(Image credit: Larian)

Okay, hear us out. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is, in many ways, nothing like XCOM — it’s a 100-hour RPG with complex dialogue trees set in a magical fantasy world, and there’s not a gun in sight. But it has one important thing in common with the sereis: deep, surprising turn-based battles. The idea is to combine your party’s abilities in chaotic, inventive ways, dousing a whole enemy squad in oil before setting them alight, to pick a simple example. These interactions grow more complex as the enemies get trickier, and figuring out new ways to win with the tools at hand never gets old.

Being an RPG, party management comes to the fore. Not only are you constantly handing your characters new items, a la XCOM, but you’re digging deeper into their backstories than you will in Firaxis’ games, which makes you feel more attached to your mages and knights than XCOM’s soldiers — and that’s saying something.

Available on PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC

Sam's gaming PC is literally held together with masking tape, and he bought his PS4 from a friend of a friend of a (dodgy) friend for a tenner. He wishes that games still had paper manuals, mainly so he could get the satisfaction of ignoring them. He grew up in Essex, and now lives in London.
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