Playing the Total War games in order is not necessary. There is no link between the games, and each game is normally an entirely new campaign and time period, some of them even fantasy-based.
The order of the Total War games in terms of release is:
- Shogun: Total War (2000)
- Medieval: Total War (2002)
- Rome: Total War (2004)
- Medieval 2: Total War (2006)
- Empire: Total War (2009)
- Napoleon: Total War (2010)
- Total War: Shogun 2 (2011)
- Total War: Atilla (2015)
- Total War: Warhammer (2016)
- Total War: Warhammer 2 (2017)
- Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia (2018)
- Total War: Three Kingdoms (2019)
- Total War Saga: Troy (2020)
- Total War: Warhammer 3 (2022)
- Total War: Pharaoh (2023)
As you can see, there is no lineage of the games in terms of story. Shogun, Medieval, Rome and Warhammer had sequels, but these are simply new games set in the same era.
If you are undecided about which Total War game to start playing, then the best thing to do is to take a look at all the Total War games and assess which period of history you are interested in. Or perhaps you’re more interested in fantasy titles, so you might have an interest in the three Warhammer titles.
What is the best Total War game?
The highest rated in terms of the community’s opinion generally comes down to these five options, and then the choices between them come down to preference.
- Three Kingdoms
- Warhammer 2
- Shogun 2
- Medieval 2
At Gaming Kingpin, we personally think that Three Kingdoms is the best Total War that you can buy at the moment.
It’s the most recent Total War out of the favourites too, so you will enjoy the crisp graphics and the slick gameplay. The diplomacy system is also highly developed, and the artwork is some of the best in the entire series.
Picking your first Total War game
Picking the best Total War game for you also depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to learn about a certain period of history, for example, the Napoleonic Wars, then you might want to consider either Napoleon or Empire as one of your first instalments. Napoleon is more of a focused campaign, centred around the eponymous historical figure, and Empire is more of a broad focus on global expansion.
If you’re into naval warfare, these games have an advanced naval battle mode.
While all Total War games have their place in the series, some are a little dated now, and if graphics and AI performance are important to you, you might want to consider newer titles. Medieval 2 is one of the highest-rated Total War games, but being released in 2006, it can’t compete in terms of performance against some of the newer titles.
If you’re still set on playing an older title, then mods are definitely something to consider, as some mods are purely designed to bring older titles into the modern era.
The modding community for Total War is strong, and if you find the right mods, you can mould most Total War games into any game you like, in terms of history and gameplay. A lot of the mods are focused on making the gameplay tighter, such as the series of Radious Total War mods.
Check out our articles on the best mods for:
Each has a list of mods that upgrade the performance and look of the games, as well as plenty that add new content. Several Lord of the Rings Total War mods exists across multiple Total War titles, so you can turn your Total War game into Middle Earth.
Historical or fantasy Total War?
The historical Total War games are generally the favourites, and are really at the heart of the series. No other games quite capture the feeling of historical battles as Total War games, and it’s games such as Rome and Medieval 2 that have really paved the way for Creative Assembly.
There were genuine concerns that Total War games were heading in a direction that the fans didn’t like. It wasn’t necessarily the move into more fantasy titles, as Warhammer 2 is one of the favourites, but it was the development of the gameplay into hero-based battles. Instead of strategically using units to win, heroes and champions were becoming more relied upon in battle, with some pointing to the difference between Romance and Records mode in Three Kingdoms.
Future of Total War
Total War: Pharaoh is up for speculation at the moment, and set to release in October 2023. The creators have assured the fans that this is going to be a historical Total War title, but we’ll have to wait and see when the game is released.
Check out our Total War section for future updates on the series.