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Classic Strategy Games With Timeless Graphics

Highlights

  • Classic strategy games from the 1990s and early 2000s have timeless graphics that still impress fans to this day.
  • Some games like Civilization 3, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, and Advance Wars have visuals that hold up well even after two decades.
  • From Warcraft 3 to Age of Empires 2, these games boast revolutionary graphics and gameplay mechanics that make them timeless classics in the genre.

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There is a plethora of classic strategy games out there, and most fans of the genre still flock back to them, often going as far as the 1990s and early 2000s, times in which many believe the genre peaked. While most hardcore fans won’t really care how a game looks, instead preferring how it feels to play – the same can’t be said for everyone. Most classic strategy games have aged really well in terms of mechanics, map design, and combat, but only a select few have timeless graphics.

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While the recent burst of incredible and gorgeous strategy games such as Triangle Strategy and The Banner Saga is a welcome revival for the genre, outlined below are some of the classic mainstays that still look amazing decades down the line.

5 Civilization 3

An Aesthetically Pleasing & Revered Classic

Civilization 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization 3

Platform(s)
Microsoft Windows , macOS

Released
October 30, 2001

Genre(s)
Turn-Based Strategy , 4X

While newer fans of the Civilization series might be more familiar with the cartoon-esque graphics the franchise has now adopted, Civilization 3 was arguably the peak of the more realistic style the series initially championed. The game was the perfect blend of the subtle visual changes Firaxis Games has been making in each entry. While Civilization 3 may get overshadowed by some of the more popular games in the series, it improved the core gameplay loop while maintaining the franchise’s identity.

An underrated feature many don’t point out is how good this game still looks. The visuals in this game don’t look out of place in any era of strategy games, and they certainly look great for a game over two decades old. This is also a big reason why many fans replay it to this day. The importance of U.I. in strategy games cannot be overstated. Players need to manage tons of different menus and contrasting information at once, and in Civilization 3, the U.I. still looks solid. Some even prefer it over those present in newer titles. While the character portraits aren’t great, the map itself is amazing, and every buildable on it blends in.

4 Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade

Flashy Animations Galore

Cover art for Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade

Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade

Released
November 3, 2003

Genre(s)
Tactical RPG

Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade is the quintessential Fire Emblem game. As the first in the franchise to grace the Western market, it made quite an impact. By virtue of its solid gameplay mechanics, challenging maps, intricate map design, and fun characters, it quickly became a fan favorite in the genre. The Blazing Blade still holds up as one of the best GBA games ever released.

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One of The Blazing Blade‘s best features is its timeless graphics. The beautiful pixel sprites with flashy animations still look cool today, and so do the bright and vibrant maps with different terrains. The character portraits also still look exceptional. Overall, everything in this game has a timeless feel to it, which has allowed it to hold up in every aspect since its release.

3 Advance Wars

One Of The Best Looking Games On The Game Boy Advance

Advance Wars 2001

Advance Wars

Released
September 10, 2001

Genre(s)
Strategy

The original Advance Wars still stands out as one of the best games released on the GBA and is a staple of the strategy genre as a whole. Similar to The Blazing Blade, not only did this game harness critical and commercial success, but every aspect of it is seemingly timeless. While the core mechanics and gameplay loop are still an inspiration in games today, what is really striking is how well the graphics have aged over time.

The character portraits and sprites still look great and have a rustic charm to them, but what really stands out is the maps. Most maps are glowing with rich colors and are littered with terrain. Be it the all-important roads, forests, or any building, they all look great, and what’s important is they look great over twenty years later post-release. It almost seems like GBA strategy games are timeless in every way.

2 Warcraft 3: Reign Of Chaos

Features Revolutionary Graphics That Still Hold Up Today

Warcraft 3 Reign Of Chaos

Warcraft 3: Reigns Of Chaos

Platform(s)
Microsoft Windows , macOS

Released
July 3, 2002

Genre(s)
Real-Time Strategy

Warcraft games have always been ahead of their time, and Reign of Chaos follows that trend perfectly. Warcraft 3 was the first game developed by Blizzard to feature 3D models, and they did an incredible job with them. The cutscenes were a big leap for the genre at the time, and nothing in them would be jarring for a player to witness today. Moreover, the character portraits and in-game battles, while not entirely polished, look great and easily hold up.

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A game released to universal appraisal, it can still be highlighted as one of the best in the genre. With incredible leaps in gameplay and graphics, this game has aged incredibly well. Notably, the vibrant and colorful environments and the fantastical set pieces are still solid to look at, and they were easy to support on older computers back in the day.

1 Age Of Empires 2

An All-Time Classic Strategy Game That Still Looks Incredible

Age of Empires 2

Age of Empires 2

Released
September 27, 1999

Genre(s)
Real-Time Strategy

Age of Empires 2 is lauded as one of the greatest video games ever made and is universally loved to almost a fault. AoE 2 has had countless waves of players flocking to play it over the past quarter-century. Despite the release of some incredible games in the genre, it may still be the industry standard.

What sets it apart is how timeless it is in nearly every aspect. The combat units look great, and the variety of different buildings across different empires have all been given equal care; most of them look solid to this day. While the map may look a bit dull in some areas, it still looks great in the grand scheme of things. Consequently, AoE 2 has thematic menu screens and U.I., and overall, it makes for a great graphical package. Though a remaster currently exists, it’s hard to deny the timelessness of the original.

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