10 best tower defense games to play in 2021

Hold down only the worthiest of fortresses.

Image via Robot Entertainment

Probably the most neglected genre, tower defense games are most known for their popularity during the renaissance of the Flash game era. However, in the last decade, the genre has seen some of its best games. Unfortunately, with so many indies and AAA games bogging down digital and physical game stores, many glorious tower defense titles tend to go unplayed. So, to make life much easier for you, here is a look at the handful that deserves your attention.

10. Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break

Image via Modus Games

For tower defense fans hoping to sink hundreds of hours into one experience, 2020’s Rock of Ages 3: Make and Break has enough content to last you eons. Firstly, it is one of the few games in the genre that has a story mode (one based on the epic tale of Sisyphus) and a multiplayer portion that allows up to four players to compete against each other.

Like its predecessors, Rock of Ages 3 very much continues to use the Super Monkey Ball-inspired mechanics, as players can roll down and control various boulders from their fort to squash enemy forces. However, this iteration’s biggest selling point is its new Make & Break Worlds mode, which gives players the power to create their levels and paths.

9. Sanctum

Image via Coffee Stain Studios

We cannot stress enough that Sanctum is a diamond in the rough. The underground game blends spectacular first-person shooting with more than enough options for wave defense to make it eligible for this list. Sanctum will have players wishing more games would explore this immersive FPS aspect. We believe any PC or Mac owner really should give it a try, as the eight-year-old gem rarely shows signs of aging.

8. Defense Grid 2

Image via Hidden Path Entertainment

Maybe the most visually pleasing on the list, this sci-fi title throws players in the role of a space station commander to hold off waves of robotic aliens landing on various bases. It is a much more demanding take on the typically straightforward tower defense, as players will have to constantly keep tabs on weapon health while maintaining a safe fortress. Although its difficulty may be a problem for some, it’s filled with over 100 challenges to keep you well-practiced and an excellent story mode.

7. Castlestorm

Image via Zen Studios

Zen Studios’ CastleStorm is mainly for those who want the iconic medieval castle battles. As users hold down a gigantic fort, their primary responsibilities will entail dropping cannonballs on the enemy’s territory, while finding creative ways to halt oncoming soldiers. As you can imagine, the title shares most of its traits from games like Angry Birds, but lends off enough of its creativity through its whimsical art style and weapon gameplay.

6. Dungeon Defenders: Awakened

Image via Chromatic Games

Although it doesn’t quite hit its stride like the original, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a much more smooth and graphically pleasing installment to play in 2021 due to it being playable on current-gen hardware. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, the third-person fantasy series blends elements of RPG progression with tower defense-style missions, with players earning XP and unlockable weapons of all sorts throughout its campaign. In addition, its developer has periodically delivered new DLC that has featured new modes, weapons, and cosmetics.

5. X-Morph: Defense

Image via Exor Studios

The 2017 top-down shooter X-Morph: Defense is slowly becoming a cult classic to tower defense fans with its genius take of having the player become the invader. In either split-screen co-op or the campaign, users will be manning an alien spaceship, watching over their galactic army’s duties of harvesting resources from Earth. As militaries come in to halt this process, the spaceship will be tasked to either take enemies down via weapon upgrades or blow up nearby buildings to topple them.

4. Kingdom Rush: Frontiers

Image via Ironhide Game Studio

If your primary console is the Nintendo Switch, look no further. It’s the same experience on other platforms but is easily one of the best tower defenses on the eShop. Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is best described as a comedic war-simulator with absurd tower defense elements. Like Bloons TD, you’ll survey a path, but with dozens of soldiers, gorillas, ninjas, and more, breaking down your equipment. The twist: users can eventually unlock these characters and have them turn on enemy forces. It’s a fast-paced tower defense title that truly masters the best features of the genre.

3. Orcs Must Die! 3

Image via Robot Entertainment

Released in July 2021, Orcs Must Die! 3 is the newest title to make our list, with it being one of the best tower defense games to come out in the last few years. Its charmingly cartoonish and bright art style is a refreshing boost to the series, and the same can be said for its gameplay. It is a third-person game pitting spell-casting mages against deadly Orcs that look to overtake one of 18 castles. For veterans of the series, this fourth entry finally introduces weekly-updated challenges, a new campaign, and a wave-based Endless Mode that sees just how long you can last.

2. Bloons TD 6

Image via developer Ninja Kiwi

Another series born from the great Flash game boom of the early 2000s, Bloons TD 6 proves why the series stands the test of time. It’s still as simplistic as remembered, with users gaining control of a monkey army that’s bent on stopping a variety of bombastic balloons from advancing to the end of a level’s path. Those who are successful in doing so will then add cannons and archers to aid you. However, what’s so fascinating about Bloons TD 6 is its dazzlingly graphical upgrade, making it hard to ever go back to its predecessors. 

1. Plants vs. Zombies 2

Image via Electronic Arts

Of course, there are other spin-offs and sequels we could choose from, but nothing has quite felt the same since Plants vs. Zombies 2. The game’s soundtrack and zany gameplay alone make the game miles better than most tower defenses. It doesn’t vary much from the famed original; however, it fills in what was formerly lacking. For one, level designs are kinder to the eyes, as each world has its dynamic theme and variety of zombies. Yes, it’s a mobile-exclusive title, but you’ll find yourself playing for hours from anywhere.