If you’re in the mood to tackle the monumental task of guiding a nation from its infancy through to the stars, there is no better series of games to dive into than Sid Meier’s Civilization. The franchise has sold millions over the years and has become the dominant name in the 4X strategy genre. While some of the games are very much products of their time, most continue to hold up years after their initial release. Here are all the games in the Civilization series ranked from worst to best.
Every Civilization game, ranked
In addition to the six mainline games in the Civilization series, there are several spin-off titles to contend with when ranking every entry in the franchise. For the sake of clarity, we’ll be omitting Alpha Centauri, which is not related to the Civilization series despite having the Sid Meier prefix on the title, and Colonization, which changed the formula so much that it became a vastly different game. We also won’t be including remakes or ports of previous games which didn’t add significant gameplay changes.
10) Civilization: Call to Power
While this game does have the Civilization name in the title, it and its sequel are only tangentially related to the main series. Released back in 1999, this was an Activision-developed game that took advantage of some murky legalities surrounding the copyright to the Civilization name. Unfortunately, they couldn’t replicate the magic of the original game and many of its systems fell flat with existing fans.
9) Civilization: Beyond Earth
The Civilization franchise was always destined for space travel, dating back to the Alpha Centauri spinoff. However, the removal of historical leaders and Earth nations took away a lot of the charm. When it was originally released, Beyond Earth also had a lack of diplomatic options and felt more narrow in scope than the mainline games.
The original Civilization is certainly a product of its time. While it is easy to play a match and see how it spawned the series, this game simply doesn’t stand up to the improvements made in later entries. The systems were basic and there were only two victory options available. While it enjoys cult status to this day, each of the subsequent Civilization games would improve on the foundation laid here.
7) Civilization Revolution
While the Civilization series has been most at home on the PC, there have been attempts to bring the games onto consoles and mobile devices. Civilization Revolution was one of the best attempts at this task, streamlining the gameplay and interface to work with controllers. It was mostly successful, but many of the features that players came to expect had been stripped away. It is still a solid game but doesn’t stand up to the full Civilization experience.
6) Civilization Revolution 2
Just like its predecessor, Civilization Revolution was an attempt to replicate the gameplay of the 4X mainstay on both home and mobile consoles. Civilization Revolution 2 is just a bigger and better version of the original, with more leaders and more nations to choose from. It still doesn’t stack up to the mainline games but it is a good choice for those without a PC that can run them.
5) Civilization II
The first sequel in the series, Civilization II introduces the isometric view that subsequent games would adopt as well as deeper trade and diplomatic mechanics to explore. While it is still basic compared to what would come in later games, this is the first game in the series that would look and feel familiar to fans going back and trying it for the first time.
4) Civilization III
By the time the third game in the mainline series rolled around, the focus was clearly on making a more coherent, feature-rich game. Borders are introduced to the series for the first time, giving empires a more coherent feel. Culture became a viable tool for expanding those borders, expanding them naturally rather than just through combat. It gave yet more ways for players to grow their nation.
3) Civilization VI
Why is the most recent game in the series not at the top of the list? In many ways, it should be. It is a great sequel that improves on nearly every other feature the series has introduced. However, it falls short of greatness because the base game is lacking many of those features. If you want the complete Civ VI experience, you have to invest in multiple DLC packs. If you do get the Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm expansion packs, then this is easily the most complex Civilization game out there. However, the giant death robots are unbelievably fun to unleash.
2) Civilization IV
Civilization IV feels like the first modern Civilization game, with 3D graphics and a sweeping score that would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement. It also included religion as a viable way to control other nations and had a stronger focus on non-military units like spies and settlers. For many people, this is where the Civilization series finally found its groove and has a legitimate claim to being the best game in the franchise.
1) Civilization V
Just edging out its predecessor for our top spot is Civilization V, which did away with some of the most tedious tasks such as unit stacking, and allowed cities to defend themselves. It also includes some of the most engaging AI personalities in the franchise, making even single-player games fun to play. With hexes replacing the standard grids of previous games, empires could expand in more directions and more naturally. Even with some features like religion locked away in expansion packs, this is easily the best Civilization game ever made.