The counterweight drops and the long arm of the trebuchet sends a flaming projectile high over the curtain wall. The well’s poisoned and the granary’s burnt down. The moat’s filled and the bastion’s being undermined. Please, m’lord, we’re out of time. We need to make a list of the best games like Stronghold.
The Stronghold series invites players to construct vast castles capable of withstanding the machinery of siege warfare, while managing a fortified town’s economy. It’s tricky and satisfying. While the first Stronghold game was released in 2001, it was never the only castle building game. Fortunately, it’s been followed by more since. We’ve listed the best games like Stronghold below.
1. Stronghold: Warlords
The most recent addition to the classic castle building series didn’t meet all Stronghold fans’ expectations when it released in 2021, but Stronghold: Warlords is nonetheless a substantial castle builder that follows in the same tradition of siege warfare and economic management.
In Warlords, the classic castle building series finds a new setting in East Asia. Featuring Mongol Khans, the Japanese Shogunate and imperial dynasties of China, the game spans 31 campaign missions and 16 multiplayer maps.
Having entered Early Access in early 2021, Becastled’s minimalistic visuals and straightforward setup have won it high praise on the Steam store. Directing players to build and defend a castle from successive hordes of troops, Becastled does not venture to innovate on a proven source of video game satisfaction.
3. Kingdoms and Castles
In a fairly crowded field, Kingdoms and Castles stands out for its accessibility to casual players and its bright visuals. Stick around long enough for your medieval municipality to transform into a crenelated masterpiece. The medieval city-building simulation of Kingdoms and Castles takes place in a world with a dynamic cycle of seasons, cloud and tree growth.
4. Going Medieval
Going Medieval lets players build large fortresses, first from timber and then from stone, as they secure themselves in an alternate history where plague has devastated the human population. Going Medieval is also on our list of the best medieval games.
In addition to protecting villagers against the elements, the player has to contend with raiders hauling siege engines towards the settlement. The smooth building mechanics combine with cunning defence and trap placement to create a satisfying defensive, castle building game.
5. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
Age of Empires II should be an early port of call for those who want to build fortifications without being constrained by too many rules or much economic management. Having said that, Age of Empires is premised more on real-time combat than siege warfare. Its real-time strategy is notoriously tense and has given rise to numerous tournaments, including our own.
While more of a city builder like 1999’s Pharaoh than a castle builder, Nebuchadnezzar lets players construct monumental, multi-layered ziggurats inspired by those built by the eponymous Babylonian monarch. Shorn of the siege warfare that defines the Crusader games, players instead confront fire, crime and pestilence.
7. Caesar 3
A beloved ancient city builder that was contemporary with the original Stronghold, Caesar 3 takes the player to an ancient Roman colony, where they’re let loose to build the next Eternal City or be beaten back by invaders in the attempt. While the campaign is possible to play without invaders, there are still earthquakes and fires to respond to.
8. Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom
Using the same 2D isometric perspective as Sierra’s Caesar and Pharaoh, Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom also embraces the historical city and military management of those games. Its seven campaigns span 3300 years of Chinese history, from the Xia dynasty to the Jin dynasty. Vast fortresses can be built and other cities can be conquered too.
Foundation is a sandbox city building game set in the Middle Ages. With a relaxed approach to management, Foundation lets players turn a rudimentary hamlet into an idealised medieval city. Players will have to harvest resources, find ways of storing them, deliberate on new trade routes and establishing power-projecting monuments.
10. Stronghold series
Both Stronghold and Stronghold: Crusader were re-released as “HD” versions, and in 2014 a sequel to Stronghold: Crusader was released. It bundled familiar gameplay and the eastern Mediterranean setting of Crusader with graphics and physics enhancements. While these upgrades mean increased visual clarity, players may find themselves longing for the pixelated charm of its predecessors.