What are the best games like X-COM?
While turn-based tactical strategy games aren’t traditionally the most prolific out there, in recent years we’ve seen a resurgence of quality titles in the genre.
XCOM Chimera Squad was released on April 24, 2020, with several disappointing bugs, but fans of the series have already completed it and are looking towards other games like XCOM to scratch their itch.
We’ve managed to round up a few titles, both old and new, that will satisfy your needs.
The 10 Best Games Like X-COM
Without further ado, here’s our list of the 10 best games like X-COM to play:
10. Jagged Alliance 2
Initial Release Date: April 1999
Platforms: Linux, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Sir-Tech Canada
Publisher: TalonSoft (Microsoft Windows), Titan Computer (Linux)
Jagged Alliance 2, released in 1999, is a game that belongs on any list of titles similar to XCOM. Drawing inspiration from X-COM and Fallout, it offers a combination of strategic world exploration and turn-based tactical combat.
In Jagged Alliance 2, players create their main character and assemble a team of mercenaries with the goal of liberating the fictional country of Arulco. Hired by Enrico Chivaldori, the former ruler of Arulco, your mission is to overthrow the despotic queen Deidranna Reitman, who seized power through less-than-honorable means.
The game begins with a world map that represents Arulco divided into sectors. Players must explore, conquer, and control these sectors as they progress through the game.
The world map also serves as a hub for hiring mercenaries, purchasing weapons and equipment, and assigning tasks to your squad.
When your squad reaches an enemy sector, the gameplay shifts to a separate tactical screen for combat. The combat is presented from an isometric viewpoint with smoothly animated 2D sprites. While movement and actions occur in real-time, the game switches to a turn-based system once an enemy is spotted, utilizing the familiar action point system seen in X-COM.
Jagged Alliance 2 is known for its depth and challenge, offering a lengthy and engaging experience. To enhance the game’s visuals, players can install unofficial patches and mods to increase the resolution.
Often hailed as the best game in the series, Jagged Alliance 2 is a highly recommended title for fans of XCOM and tactical strategy games.
9. UFO: Afterlight
Initial Release Date: February 9, 2007
Platforms: Microsoft Windows
Developer: Altar Games
Publisher: TopWare Interactive
UFO: Afterlight, part of the UFO series developed by Altar, draws inspiration from the XCOM titles that came before it while introducing some fresh elements. In this installment, Earth is under attack by aliens, and humanity’s survival rests on our ability to salvage what remains and reclaim the planet.
However, this time the action takes place in a 3D environment, with a real-time with pause combat system.
Set 50 years after the first game and running parallel to its prequel UFO: Aftershock, UFO: Afterlight follows a group of humans who have been exiled from Earth to a Martian colony. On Mars, the original inhabitants, dormant until now, awaken due to human colonization and terraforming efforts.
The game allows you to alternate between the planet map, where you can explore and expand your territory, manage resources, conduct research, and build structures, and the tactical view, where combat takes place on the ground.
Unlike the turn-based combat of XCOM, UFO: Afterlight features real-time combat with the ability to pause and issue orders to your squad members, similar to modern RPGs like Dragon Age. Characters, including soldiers and scientists, gain experience points for their roles, allowing for stat improvements and the acquisition of new skills.
While the 3D graphics may not have aged as well as the 2D visuals, UFO: Afterlight offers a distinct and familiar experience for fans of the XCOM series. It presents a unique blend of strategic and tactical gameplay, offering a fresh take on the alien invasion theme.
Initial Release Date: June 17, 2014
Platforms: Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X
Developer: Goldhawk Interactive
Publisher: Goldhawk Interactive
Xenonauts pays homage to the original XCOM game in a way that goes beyond mere inspiration. The developers’ love for the series is evident, and they aimed to create a game that captures the essence of the 1994 release.
While they refer to it as a reimagining, it often feels more like a remaster or remake, faithfully recreating the experience of the original game.
The game is set in an alternate history, starting in 1958 when a hostile UFO enters Earth’s atmosphere. The governments of the world realize the need for a united effort against this threat and establish the clandestine organization known as Xenonauts. In 1979, the aliens return with a massive fleet, and it becomes your mission to defend Earth and find a way to save it.
Xenonauts retains the core elements of the original XCOM, including the Geoscape and Battlescape, a fixed isometric view during combat, and a simplistic yet functional art style. While there are some additions and improvements, such as enhanced aerial combat, alternate victory conditions, and a cover system, the overall gameplay remains faithful to the original.
If you’re craving a deep and complex game like XCOM, Xenonauts offers a satisfying experience. However, be warned that it can be highly addictive and may consume a significant amount of your free time.
7. Invisible Inc.
Initial Release Date: May 12, 2015
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, iOS
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Invisible, Inc. takes a departure from the traditional X-COM formula by incorporating roguelike elements into its gameplay.
Instead of defending against aliens, the game focuses on futuristic corporations, security guards, and stealth.
Set in the year 2074, megacorporations have taken control of the world after overthrowing national governments. You assume the role of a commander of Invisible Inc., a private intelligence agency serving corporations. Your objective is to lead a team of agents on various missions, typically involving heists, and successfully complete them while avoiding detection. The game features a stylized art style and is viewed from a classic isometric perspective.
Invisible, Inc. emphasizes stealth gameplay, with the goal being to avoid killing enemies whenever possible. As you progress through the game’s story, you unlock additional agents, each with their own unique abilities and playstyles. The missions, levels, and gear are randomly generated, adding a level of unpredictability and replayability to each playthrough.
While Invisible, Inc. is not a traditional XCOM game, its blend of tactical gameplay, randomized elements, and customizable options make it a compelling and enjoyable experience.
The focus on stealth and the strategic choices you make throughout the game add depth and challenge to the overall gameplay. If you enjoy tactical games with a roguelike twist, Invisible, Inc. is definitely worth checking out.
6. XCOM 2: Long War 2 Mod.
Initial Release Date: January 19, 2017
Platforms: Microsoft Windows
Developer: Pavonis Interactive
Publisher: Pavonis Interactive
Long War 2, although technically a game mod, is a significant addition to XCOM 2 that can be considered a total conversion mod, offering a unique and challenging experience for hardcore players.
Developed in partnership with Firaxis Games, Long War 2 was officially sanctioned and supported by the game’s developers.
Released in January 2017, Long War 2 introduces a plethora of new features and enhancements while keeping the core plot intact. The goal remains the same: overthrow the alien overlords, uncover the truth behind the Avatar Project, and eliminate their sympathizers. However, the mod significantly ramps up the difficulty and strategic depth of the game.
Right from the start, Long War 2 throws players into the deep end without much hand-holding. Missions are much more challenging and require careful planning and utilization of squad classes. The mod increases the maximum number of troops that can be deployed to 12, although it discourages sending a full squad due to the new infiltration mechanic. Infiltration is a delicate balance between the number of troops brought on a mission and the risk of alerting the aliens, leading to reinforcements or mission failure.
Combat mechanics have been overhauled and rebalanced, providing a more strategic and varied experience. Weapon customization options are expanded, armor functions differently, and classes have been revamped, including the addition of a new class called the Technical, which brings a heavy arsenal to the battlefield. The Geoscape, the strategic layer of the game, also receives significant changes. Events and missions occur at a higher frequency, requiring careful resource management and personnel assignment in different regions.
Long War 2 takes the existing elements of XCOM 2 and pushes them to the extreme, creating a deep, complex, and lengthy war that feels like a modern, streamlined version of XCOM. While it may require a steep learning curve and a dedication to the game’s intricacies, Long War 2 offers an unparalleled level of depth and challenge for XCOM 2 enthusiasts.
Initial Release Date: April 24, 2018
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Battletech, ranked as number 5 on our list of games like XCOM, offers a different perspective on the iconic MechWarrior universe.
Rather than piloting the giant robots, players take on the role of a commander overseeing the battlefield. Based on the tabletop franchise of the same name, Battletech provides a strategic and immersive experience.
The game is set in a world controlled by five noble houses engaged in a devastating, long-running war. As a mercenary commander, you lead a squad of four mechs, known as a lance. The story unfolds as you choose which houses to serve and take on side missions to earn money and access the main plotline, which involves political intrigue and conquest.
Battletech’s gameplay may feel more complex and less streamlined compared to XCOM. Movement is not based on a grid, and mechs are more than just health bars to deplete. Mechs have armor plating on different body parts that must be targeted and weakened before dealing significant damage. Choosing which body part to attack and the direction of the shot can have significant consequences, such as immobilizing the mech, disabling weapons, killing the pilot, or destroying the entire mech.
Each mech and pilot can be specialized for specific roles and purposes, with mechs categorized into light, medium, heavy, and assault classes.
Terrain and level design play a vital role in combat, with hills, mountains, forests, and other features influencing tactics and the outcome of battles. While the game may have a slow start and some mechanics that require time to grasp, the depth and satisfaction of Battletech become more apparent once everything clicks together.
With numerous stock mechs and countless parts to customize and optimize, players can create their own formidable war machines to dominate their enemies.
4. Phantom Doctrine
Initial Release Date: August 14, 2018
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Developer: CreativeForge Games
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Phantom Doctrine offers a spy-themed experience that combines elements of XCOM 2 with the atmosphere of an ’80s Bond movie. While it bears a striking resemblance to XCOM, the gameplay flow and combat mechanics set it apart, both for better and for worse.
Set during the Cold War, players assume the role of a CIA, KGB, or Mossad agent tasked with uncovering and dismantling a conspiracy orchestrated by the fictional organization Beholder. The plot can be a hit or miss for players, with some preferring a more in-depth storyline while others may find the additional tidbits obtained through the conspiracy board minigame less appealing.
Similar to XCOM, the game features a world map where players can choose missions, build bases, and manage resources and squads. While there is some customization available for agents, the game’s focus on stealth makes individual progression paths feel less significant. However, events throughout the game can reveal backstory details about characters, adding depth and personality to the agents.
Choices such as investigating, confronting, or ignoring tips about double agents or hidden identities can further shape the narrative and character development.
During missions, the game offers an isometric 3D view reminiscent of newer XCOM titles. Navigating the map stealthily, timing agent movements to avoid detection, and infiltrating heavily guarded compounds create an exhilarating cat-and-mouse experience, despite the turn-based nature of the gameplay. Combat, on the other hand, is often a last resort and can feel clunky and limited, with some exceptions like melee takedowns and long-range sniper shots.
Phantom Doctrine is a tactical spy game with an ’80s flair. While it may not appeal to everyone, those who enjoy stealth games or have ever wondered how Hitman would play as a turn-based experience will find it to be one of the best games similar to XCOM worth checking out.
3. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Initial Release Date: November 15, 2018
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux
Developer: Bulwark Studios
Publisher: Kasedo Games
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus offers a fun and grimdark experience within the Warhammer 40k universe. Instead of controlling space marines, players lead a cohort of Tech-Priests on a quest to salvage ancient technologies from the mysterious catacombs of the Necron Tomb World, Silva Tenebris.
The game presents a refreshing take on the genre, featuring the Adeptus Mechanicus and their religious devotion to the Omnissiah, as well as their adversaries, the Necrons. The lore of the Warhammer universe, along with the atmospheric presentation, music, and well-written plot, adds depth and immersion to the game.
Players start with two Tech-Priests and can summon cannon fodder Servitors to aid them. As the story progresses, the squad can be expanded and customized by allocating points to the available classes or skill trees. The isometric view and square movement grid provide a familiar tactical experience.
What sets Mechanicus apart from other games like XCOM is its special resources: cognition and cogs. Cognition is used for special abilities and summoning troops, while cogs power weapons. Balancing these resources becomes a crucial aspect of gameplay, requiring strategic decision-making.
While Mechanicus is generally well-received, one criticism is the lack of difficulty and challenge toward the end of the game. However, it remains an easy recommendation for fans of the genre and the Warhammer 40k universe.
2. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
Initial Release Date: December 4, 2018
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, based on the tabletop RPG Mutant Year Zero, takes players into a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by mutated anthropomorphic animals. Set in the Ark, one of the few remaining bastions of civilization, the game follows the story of Dux and Bormin, a duck and a boar mutant, as they embark on a mission to find a missing stalker.
The game blends stealth and combat mechanics, providing a unique gameplay experience. Each character’s physical mutation affects their abilities and skill trees, defining their role within the squad. As you explore the environment in real-time, you must plan your approach carefully, utilizing stealth to set up the perfect ambush. Once combat begins, the game transitions to a turn-based system, incorporating cover, high-ground advantage, and hit percentages.
Mutant Year Zero offers a challenging combat experience that rewards strategic planning and punishes mistakes. The enemies are formidable and demand careful consideration to overcome. The game’s mix of stealth and tactical combat may appeal to players who enjoy a meticulous approach, while those seeking a more action-oriented experience may find it less appealing.
With its unique world, humor, and story-driven gameplay, Mutant Year Zero provides an engaging adventure for players. Combining mutant RPG elements with XCOM-style combat and tactics, it offers a distinctive and challenging experience, even for veterans of the XCOM series.
1. Phoenix Point
Initial Release Date: December 2019
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox One
Developer: Snapshot Games
Publisher: Snapshot Games
Phoenix Point, created by Julian Gollop and Snapshot Games, takes the top spot on our list of XCOM games. This turn-based tactical masterpiece stays faithful to the mechanics of its XCOM: UFO Defense origins while offering the biggest and deepest experience in the genre to date.
Set in a future Earth where the melting polar icecaps unearthed an unknown extraterrestrial virus, the world is overrun with Lovecraftian abominations. The mist emitted by these mutated creatures infects and transforms those who are unable to find shelter. As the commander of the Phoenix Project, an organization formed to aid humanity, you lead the fight against extinction.
Similar to XCOM, the Geoscope map returns, but this time you’ll explore various points of interest across the planet. You can choose to assist, hinder, or attack other surviving factions, shaping the outcome through your relationships and completed missions. Customize your soldiers, improving their stats or purchasing new abilities and even changing their class.
Combat resembles modern XCOM titles but with unique features. You can target specific enemy body parts, crippling them or aiming for weak points. Additionally, bullets are physically simulated, interacting with walls, enemies, and allies. The evolving alien creatures adapt to your tactics, forcing you to strategize and design perfect squads for each mission.
The complexity and depth of Phoenix Point offer a fresh and captivating experience in the XCOM genre. As the genre evolves, we eagerly anticipate more games with intricate mechanics, hoping they maintain the balance that makes them truly exceptional.
There you have it; that brings us to the end of this article on games similar to X-COM.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best games like X-COM:
- Phoenix Point
- Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
- Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
- Phantom Doctrine
- XCOM 2: Long War 2 Mod.
- Invisible Inc.
- UFO: Afterlife
- Jagged Alliance 2
If you enjoyed this list, you might want to check out the following articles:
- The 10 Best Games Like Civilization
- The 10 Best Games Like Age of Empires
- The 10 Best Games Like Sims
- The 10 Best Games Like Clash of Clans
Are there any other games like XCOM you would add to the list? Leave a comment below.
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