Stronghold Games Ranked From Worst to Best

A real-time strategy game taking place in a historical setting, Stronghold focuses on military conquests with elements of infrastructure and economic development. Campaigns focus on these elements and are at the player’s discretion.

The first game in the series takes place around 1066 in medieval Britain and there is no time limit on the scenarios produced. The original gained commercial success and its legion of fans spawned a community of gamers dedicated to creating new content through the in-game Map Editor/Scenario Creator.

Inspiring several sequels, we count down to find the best Stronghold game in the series.

5. Stronghold: Crusader

image of Stronghold: Crusader game
DeveloperFirefly Studios
Release Date 25 September 2002

The second game in the series shares much in common with the original, but is instead set during the time of the Crusades in the Middle East. Skirmish mode is another new addition that allows an alternative to the linear campaign of its predecessor.

A limited country release named Stronghold Warchest was also released that added a new Crusader Trail and expanded cast of characters. With its Middle Eastern influence, the game also has an Arab-inspired cast of real and fictionalized characters.

Fans new to the series might find the learning curve a bit steep, especially when one considers the campaign options on offer. The games interface could have been a bit more streamlined, as one sometimes has to wade through unnecessary info to find relevant messages.

The AI opponent might be a little too easy to beat at times and one’s own AI-controlled allies do sometimes require a bit of micromanagement to keep sieges ticking along.

All that being said, it is well worth the investment and a strong contender in the genre.

4. Stronghold 2

PC cover of Stronghold 2 game
Developer Firefly Studios
Release Date18 April 2005
Platforms PC

Set in the Middle Ages, the game also introduced a new 3D graphics engine and a slew of new features. As ruler of a medieval castle, the player has control over a lot of the features the game is known for, such as building, food production and other civil duties, only this time around peasants automatically choose their jobs which reduces the micromanagement issues that plagued earlier titles.

New peace and military campaigns have been added in addition to the standard game modes such as Siege, Custom scenario and Kingmaker.

The 3D-rendered graphics also allow for an unprecedented level of detail which proves useful when dealing with issues of rat and waste management.

Aside from the new 3D engine, the graphics still appear a bit outdated when compared to other games in the genre like Medieval: Total War or Castles II.

The lack of multiplayer support also makes competing with AI-controlled enemies dull and repetitive over the long term. There have also been several complaints regarding jagged frame rates and lag issues experienced in certain sections of the game.

3. Stronghold Legends

PC cover of Stronghold Legends game
Developer Firefly Studios
Release Date 13 October 2006
Platforms PC

Unlike its predecessors, the new installment gives players a choice of rulers to start the game with, on offer is; Siegfried of Xanten, Count Vlad Dracul and King Arthur.

Cooperative multiplayer allows one to team up with a friend against the AI-controlled opponents and various online game modes like Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and Deathmatch are also available.

Dragons are available to all units and rulers are not bound to their set historical placement and players have the option of customizing the experience as they see fit. Although it used the same graphics engine as Stronghold 2, the visuals saw a definite improvement with the inclusion of some new tracks as well.

Fans of the series may not appreciate the deviation from the historical setting as the game delves into more fantasy-inspired storytelling.

Combat is a decidedly dull affair and the building mechanics that the franchise has been known for are almost wholly absent.

Voice-acting can be grating at times and micromanagement frustrations also crop up every now and then. The complicated interface and departure from its castle-building roots and one would be forgiven for giving this one a miss.

2. Stronghold 3

PC cover of Stronghold 3 game
Developer Firefly Studios
Release Date25 October 2011
Platforms PC, Mac OS X, Linux

The seventh instalment in the series also brings with it a new publisher, namely SouthPeak Games in favor of Take-Two Interactive.

The original stronghold presented players with the classic tale of revenge, where The Boy had to rise to power in order to defeat his enemies The Wolf, The Pig, The Rat and The Snake.

Stronghold 3 takes place 10 years later and The Wolf has survived and recovering from his painful injury, wages campaigns of terror against The Boy and his forces.

Players choose between the story-driven military campaign or the economic campaign. Havok physics are applied to give the game a greater sense of realism along with several new gameplay mechanics that improve upon the overall gameplay.

The shoddy interface and frustrating micromanagement that plagued its predecessors makes a return. The impact distracts from an otherwise pleasant take on the real-time strategy genre.

While the sound is good in general, the graphics feel flat and hopes of innovation in this department is not met. Patches were promised to fix the bugs that cropped up, but were far and few between.

One is left wondering whether the developers actually completed the game before they decided to launch it on an unsuspecting public.

1: Stronghold

PC cover of Stronghold game
Developer Firefly Studios
Release Date 19 October 2001
Platforms PS, Mac OS X

Stronghold surpassed expectations and managed 1.5 million units sold by 2004. It is the real-time strategy game that defined a genre and its community grew with every new installment with a large variety of new fan-generated content to explore and enjoy.

The basic premise as the lord of a kingdom responsible for the creation of a strong military and maintaining a stable economy, is part of the appeal that saw later titles deviate from. Playing out across a map of England and Wales, the king is taken hostage and his kingdom divided among four lords.

An inexperienced commander is joined by two lords loyal to the king as they set out on a journey to right this injustice. Purchasing the correct units for combat become essential to victory as well as careful attention to ward off fire, as it is an essential gameplay element with players encouraged to store water in order to put out fires as soon as they start.

The isometric view certainly has its shortcomings and the graphics are a bit bland by many standards. The few glitches and drawbacks in the game does not distract from its lasting appeal.

Stronghold takes what made the genre great in the first place and made it better. Its influence can be seen in games that followed and racking up several awards along the way it goes on to win our nomination for best Stronghold game.