best tower defence games

Best Tower Defence Games

Latest posts by Victor Espinosa (see all)

Hi there. My name is Victor, and I’m addicted to tower defense games.

They say the first step in fixing your problem is admitting you have one, so here I am, admitting I have a problem with tower defense games.

I don’t think I took a college class where I didn’t play tower defense games. I would set up in the back of the classroom, ensure I was next to a power source so my laptop wouldn’t run out of juice, and grind away on a TD.

After school afternoons, cross-country road trips, lazy Sundays–I have so many memories punctuated by TD games that it’s a little embarrassing.

When I die and stand before the pearly gates of heaven, and St. Peter pulls out the scroll that details every minutia of my life, he will be utterly shocked at how much of it was spent playing TD games.

I won’t be shocked. A little ashamed, but not shocked. These aren’t mere hours, nor are they days. We’re talking years that I’ve put into TD games, people.

Tower defense games have matured over the decades. When the first Orcs Must Die was released, it was rudimentary and simple. Build towers, kill your enemies, survive; that’s all fairly straightforward. Look at the series now, and you’ll see a perfect metaphor for the genre as a whole.

The genre has evolved over the years, and now a game with nothing but towers is pretty bland. Most TD games have introduced other features and mechanics to spice up gameplay.

Heroes, boss fights, infinity modes, resources gathering, PvP, deck-builders–all are twists on the old genre that are rapidly becoming commonplace these days.

00As such, the TD games of today feature much more than just towers to build. They have complex strategies, impressive graphics, upgrade trees to unlock, and stories with deep lore.

If I were in college today, I’d probably just drop out and stream TD games all day.

Yes, I have a problem. I’m working on it.

Bottom Line Up Front

Overrun by orcs with no towers to help
Overrun by orcs with no towers to help

While most of these games are modern and playable on a mobile device, some are classic titles for anyone interested in the genre. Some of the games listed are more than a single game, they’re a suite of games, such as Kingdom Rush or Orcs Must Die.

And while some titles feature other elements as much as they feature tower defenses, they are all classified as TD games.

Criteria

arknights
So many anime troupes in Arknights, you’ll forget it’s a TD game

This was tricky to quantify as these games are spread across mobile and PC, and not all are rated. However, I leaned more into mobile games, as those are more accessible and have a standard measurement of ratings and downloads.

I did include a few PC and console titles for those looking for nostalgia or more quality games, and in those cases, nothing under Very Positive was selected.

  • Longevity: Can the game be played at length and not feel repetitive? If the game simply recycles enemies and environments, they’re disqualified. But it qualifies if I can play the game all day and still have tons of progression to unlock.
  • Ratings: When it comes to mobile games, nothing with a rating under 4.6 was considered. And for PC games, nothing under Very Positive was selected This is to show general player sentiment. 
  • Downloads: Where downloads are applicable, nothing under 1 million downloads was chosen. This is to show popularity.
  • Relevancy: Is the game still played today? Is it still relevant? Or has it fallen to the wayside like so many other forgotten titles? Some titles were released over a decade ago but remain a challenge to players today and remain relevant to the genre.

Bloons

baloons
Monkey towers in Bloons

Developed by Ninja Kiwi

Play Store: 4.8 Stars

Bloons is more than a single game; it’s a whole series of games. You’ll find Bloons Battles, Bloons Adventure Time, Bloons Pop!, and Bloons TD. All of them feature an element of tower defense and strategy, but their main series–Bloons TD 1-6–wears the TD title with pride.

Bloons is a solid TD game that’s geared more toward younger audiences and features a monkey motif throughout. Monkey characters, monkey vehicles, monkey towers, bananas as currency–you get the point. The enemies? Balloons. Not just any kind of balloons, but bloons

Bloons 6 takes the cake as a truly impressive accomplishment for a TD game. There’s every kind of mode you can think of in Bloons 6: PvP, four-player co-op, Boss rush, and plenty more.

It might not be the prettiest TD game and it can get absolutely chaotic once you’ve built enough towers, but it has a ton of content for you to play through. 

Kingdom Rush

kingdom rush
A good set up in Kingdom Rush Origins0

Developed by Ironhide Games

Play Store: 4.8 Stars

Kingdom Rush is one of my all-time favorite TD games. They don’t just have funny cutscenes and an actual story for you to follow; they have some genuinely challenging maps that feature unique puzzle mechanics. And isn’t that what TD is all about? Challenging yourself with some strategy?

The puzzle mechanics aren’t intricate riddles like in Silent Hill or anything. But you will find the map change and present new problems for you to solve halfway through your campaign.

Like Bloons, Kingdom Rush is an entire suite of games. We have Kingdom Rush Origins, Frontiers, Vengence, and regular old Kingdom Rush.

Heck, there’s even Legends of Kingdom Rush, but that’s technically not a TD, so we’ll forget it exists for now. These aren’t just reskins of the same game, either. They’re entirely different games.

Origins focuses on elven characters and is meant to take place early in the Kingdom Rush timeline, and in Vengence, you play as the bad guys taking revenge on the Kingdom.

Orcs Must Die

orcs must die
A man in control of all the traps in Orcs Must Die 3

Developed by Robot Entertainment

Metacritic: 77%

Orcs Must Die is a beloved entry in the TD genre. They’ve been around since the early 2000s, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere. The third and latest entry in the series, Orcs Must Die 3, only continues the whacky, frantic feeling of the past two titles.

In Orcs Must Die, the only thing that remains certain is, orcs must die. How you choose to kill them is where the fun comes in.

Orcs Must Die 2 was one of the first co-op TD games, where players could select a character, party up with others, and defend their home base from slobbering orcs. In Orcs Must Die 3, the graphics are better, the traps crazier, and the orcs meaner.

Orcs Must Die 3 is wildly fun time and only gets more enjoyable with friends. Try it out now, thank me later.

Arknights

arknights
Nothing but cute anime waifus as far as you can see

Developed by Yostar Limited

Play Store: 4.6 Stars

You didn’t think I’d make this list and not include a video game with cute anime waifus, did you? And cute anime husbandos for all the ladies out there.

Enter Arknights, a bold spin on the traditional TD game model that uses heroes as towers. In Kingdom Rush, you get towers and heroes, allowing you to adapt your strategy as the game moves.

But in Arknights, you only get heroes. Despite that, the game doesn’t feel rigid, as your characters have special abilities and powers you can activate to turn the tide of battle. 

Also, Arknights has by far the most expansive universe and the most lore of any game mentioned on this list. No, screw that; Arknights has more story than every game on this list combined. It’s a legit visual novel with more character backstories than Naruto.

And it’s also voiced by professional voice actors, which gives it a sense of quality the other games lack.

Both Japanese and American voice actors recorded hundreds of lines for this game, which is more than can be said about any other game. Some of them might have a few professional voice actors, but dozens? In both Japanese and English? I don’t think so.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

defense grid: the awakening
Early level in Defense Grid

Developed by Hidden Path Entertainment

Metacritic: 81%

Oh man, this is a classic. Defense Grid: The Awakening is a sci-fi tower defense game set on a distant planet overrun by alien lifeforms.

You act as the chief strategist tasked with protecting your precious power cores. You can’t decide where to set up your base, this isn’t No Man’s Sky, but you can decide just how formidable you make it.

You’ll be assigned a helpful AI assistant informing you of everything happening throughout the level, including when aliens attack your base. Build towers with advanced technology, uncover the mystery of these attacking aliens, and protect your power cores!

Defense Grid is an intimidating challenge. They ease you in with some fun maps and a quirky AI assistant but rapidly increase the difficulty to frustrating levels.

That and sweet graphics are what keep Defense Grid relevant and with Overwhelmingly Positive reviews on Steam.

Some of the mobile TD games of today can be too easy for someone like me who wants a challenge, or they take too long to unlock that serious challenge. Defense Grid throws you right into the deep end of the pool and apologizes for nothing.

The strategy in Defense Grid comes from their wide-open maps. In most TD games, you’re fairly limited in where you can place your towers, and frequently you can only put them alongside your enemy’s path.

But in Defense Grid, where you place your towers can influence the direction your enemies take, drastically altering the course of the level.

I played levels repeatedly to learn the best routes for enemies to take and where to build my strongest towers. Just because I beat the map doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. I must beat the level with a perfect score, or it means nothing to me.

Perfection or bust.

Sanctum 2

sanctum 2
FPS and tower defense? Intriguing

Developed by Coffee Stain Studios

Metacritic: 77%

Ten years old, and still getting positive reviews and strong ratings. Sanctum 2 might have some of the twistiest twists of all the TDs mentioned on this list. For starters, it’s an FPS. Yeah, try to figure out how that works with a TD. Second, you’re the bad guy. Who saw that coming?

In Sanctum 2, you choose one of four characters and set out to battle. You’re protecting the valuable and lucrative oxygen-producing spheres at the core of your base. Those oxygen-producing spheres are more than essential; they’re your life.

Unfortunately, your oxygen spheres directly harm the alien life that’s been living peacefully in space all this time. So these normally peaceful aliens are now hellbent on destroying your stuff since more of them die every day it’s allowed to stand.

The whole time I played the game, I couldn’t help but think that’s a pretty horrible premise for hostility. We can’t find a way to rectify this so the aliens that have lived peacefully for millennia can go back to not being aggressive? Really? No other solution aside from genocide, huh? Well, okay then.

Infinitode

Infinitode
Perfection

Developed by Prineside

Play Store: 4.7 Stars

Infinitode takes the crown as the most comprehensive, battle-tested, wildly addicting TD game on the market. They figured out the formula. It cannot be perfected more than this.

Infinitode 1 & 2 features nearly a hundred maps that all have an infinite number of enemies. You can’t win. You’re not designed to win. You will never win. You can only try to last as long as possible.

The higher the enemy wave you reach, the more rewards you’ll unlock. And that’s where Inifinitode gets even more addicting; when you’re introduced to its progression system.

You can unlock passive bonuses in Infinitode, granting powers that apply to all your towers. Bonuses like more starting currency to set up more towers at the start of each level, quicker target acquisition for all towers, more experience gained from defeated enemies, etc.

But you can also upgrade specific towers with the same passive bonuses. So if you gravitate towards certain towers over others, you can upgrade those more and leave the others alone.

Infinitode 2 only adds to the dangerous formula of Infinitode 1. Now there are daily missions, daily levels often created by players within the community, and they added resource crafting. Resource crafting! Now, it isn’t on the same level as resource crafting in Valheim or Minecraft, but it’s pretty damn complex.

Never in my wildest video game dreams did I think Infinitode could add more complexity to the mix, but they certainly proved me wrong with resource crafting. You must combine resources to create keys and chests to unlock passive skills and continue your tower’s progressions.

You could lose an entire day inside Infinitode 2 and have only unlocked the first 20% of the game, if that.

But since your towers have stronger passive skills after grinding for so long, you can always go back to earlier levels and see how much longer you can last.

Dungeon Defenders

dungeon defenders
Jumping her way to victory in Dungeon Defenders

Developed by Trendy Entertainment

Metacritic: 80%

Dungeon Defenders was on par with Orcs Must Die. Both series were neck and neck with each other during development.

But as Orcs Must Die continued to foster their community and build, Dungeon Defenders slowly atrophied. The game is still playable on Steam and has Mostly Positive reviews, but it’s looking more and more dated with each passing day.

That said, the gameplay is as wild, chaotic, and fun as Orcs Must Die. You select your hero, place a few traps and towers, and defend your area from invading attackers.

Dungeon Defenders feels like the precursor to the MOBA genre, as gameplay heavily revolves around the character you choose instead of the towers you build.

And players end up falling into roles, much like in MOBAs, with responsibilities and consequences if they mess up.

Defense Zone 3

defense zone 3
Flash games are rarely pretty

Developed by Artem Kotov

Play Store: 4.6 Stars

Defense Zone 3 was not created by a large team. Clearly. Just take a look at their art style and graphics and you’ll have flash backs to the early days of Flash gaming on the internet. Well, I had flashbacks.

Maybe I’m just that old. Regardless, Defense Zone 3 will not be remembered for its graphics.

It will be remembered for its stupidly hard maps. If you thought Defense Grid was a challenge, think again. Defense Zone 3 is downright masochistic.

It doesn’t feel like it was designed for you to win, but in the same way as Infinitode. Every level feels like it only has one single correct way to beat it, whereas other games provide multiple avenues to success.

The results are that you’ll be painfully frustrated more often than not. But if you’re looking for a challenge, this is definitely it.

Stick War: Legacy

stick war legacy
Stick figures. Stick figures everywhere in Stick War

Developed by Max Game Studios

Play Store: 4.7 Stars

This game is the most downloaded game on this list. It’s not even close. Combine all the Bloons games, and maybe they break 70 million downloads. Combine all the Kingdom Rush downloads together, and they get close to 100 million. But Stick War: Legacy is a single game with over 100 million downloads.

How, you ask? Simplicity. It’s just stick figures fighting. But that’s also its downfall; it’s just stick figures fighting. I will say they somehow managed to add some variations with their sticks, which I didn’t expect.

And they do introduce different classes, weapons, and strategy dynamics in later levels. But this game has even less visual quality than Defense Zone 3, and that’s saying something. But if you’re someone who enjoys profound simplicity, this is the TD game for you.

Wild Sky: Tower Defense

wild sky tower defense
Purely a copycat is Wild Sky

Developed by Funovus LLC

App Store: 4.7 Stars

Wild Sky: Tower Defense has respectable reviews above 4.6 and over 1 million downloads. It’s even selected as an Editor’s Choice Award winner in the Google Play Store. Which means it’s got a solid foundation and the game doesn’t suck.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great. Wild Sky meets all my criteria for a solid TD game, but I never enjoyed my time playing it. It feels too bland, like devs just reskinned a Kingdom Rush game to capitalize on the mobile TD gaming market. There’s nothing unique or original about it.

And the art style is the same as every Clash of Clans game in existence, which is to say it’s pretty worn out. And when I say they probably just reskinned Kingdom Rush, I mean it.

The picture above illustrates my point perfectly: the UX is exactly the same. The tower building menu, your heroes faces on the bottom of the screen, your tower choices are arrows, defenders, and bombs, and they’re in the same placement as in Kingdom Rush.

I could go at length about how much they stole. But hey, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and they chose one of the best games to imitate.

That said, if you’ve exhausted your supply of TD games and absolutely need something to play, you could do way worse than Wild Sky. After all, it does have a 4.7, over 1 million downloads, and awards from Google.

War Troops 1917: Trench Warfare

war troops 1917 trench warfare
Pixelated warfare never looked as good as in War Troops

Developed by Newry

Play Store: 4.7 Stars

War Troops 1917: Trench Warfare is for those TD gamers who are also history buffs.

War Troops aims to tell the story of the intense trench combat of WW1 with tower defense mechanics. It isn’t a traditional TD where you place towers and wait for enemies to attack.

In War Troops, you command waves of soldiers at a time instead of placing single tower units. But you’ll find the gameplay loop is precisely the same as other TDs.

When playing War Troops, I learned that I actually prefer goofy, cartoonish themes for my TD games. Bloody combat based off real conflicts doesn’t actually make the game any better for me.

Granted, I did like the pixelated art style and the challenges provided by War Troops did keep me playing longer than I expected. I actually got very invested in several levels, as once harder enemies and larger waves start attacking your base, it feels like you’re under immense pressure.

I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a hidden gem, but it’s close. It’s challenge is comparable to Defense Grid, and that’s saying something. It’s not stupidly hard like Defense Zone 3 but not too easy like Bloons.

It sits right in the Goldilocks zone. Until you get to more advanced levels and need to grind a bit to get ahead. 

South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Game

south park let's go tower defense game
You fight old people and gnomes in South Park because of course you do

Developed by Doublesix

Metacritic: 72%

Bless Trey Parker and Matt Stone for creating the most crass, disrespectful group of fictional characters the world has ever known. TV shows weren’t enough so they made movies. Movies weren’t enough so they made games, and boy, are those games wild.

South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play is a South Park episode brought to life.

Play as the loveable deliquints we all know as they defend their beloved town from all the usual suspects. Ginger kids, hippies, hillbillies, and goth students will plague the streets of South Park.

The thing about South Park games is that they’re actually not bad. Pretty fun, actually. This is no different. It’s a genuinely fun experience, and you will absolutely laugh your ass off while playing.

Yes, Arknights and Orcs Must Die 3 have stunning graphics and AAA quality loops compared to South Park, but I dare you to play Let’s Go Tower Defense Play and not have fun. I dare you.

Honorable Mentions

  • Sol Survivor
  • Plants vs Zombies
  • Chain Chronicles
  • Taur
  • Tower Madness
  • Savage Moon
  • Rock of Ages
  • Eden Rising: Supremacy
  • Aegis Defenders
  • Dungeon of the Endless

FAQs

Question: Which TD game has the most content?

Answer: Infinitode 2. Hands down. It’s infinite. The content is limitless. Game over. But when it comes to non-procedurally generated games, Bloons TD 6 and Arknights are pretty much tied. There’s so much to do in Bloons TD 6.

It’s as if they crammed every game that came before into a single title. But Arknights is a legit JRPG tower defense game. Its story and lore are up there with Final Freaking Fantasy or Dragon’s Damn Dogma. It’s a real game, not just something you play on the crapper to kill time. It’s legit, with seasons, VO artists, and a passionate community. 

Question: Which TD is the hardest on the list?

Answer: That’s a good question. I’d say Defense Grid is probably the hardest standalone TD game on this list. But Infinitode has to be considered since you technically can’t ever win.

That’s a strong argument for the hardest game. But damn, did I beat my head against the wall with Defense Grid. Some later maps are so convoluted and later enemies so deadly, you’ve lost before you realize it. 

Question: If most TD games have way more than TDs, why do we still call it TD? And what will the future of TD games look like if they keep evolving?

Answer: Okay, that’s more than one question, bud. And who knows what the future of tower defense games will look like? Maybe Fortnite will add the ability to build towers instead of just walls and stairs.

Would that make Fortnite a tower defense? A 3rd person battle royal shooter tower defense abomination?

Look, we call them tower defense because they involve protecting a centralized area from waves of enemies by building autonomous engines and commanding characters. Variations will come and go, but that core mechanic will remain, and that’s why they’re called tower defense.

Best Tower Defence Games: Conclusion

Tower defense games are plentiful across multiple mediums, but their quality varies wildly.

Sometimes the twists and gimmicks added can turn the TD game into an entirely different experience, like Arknights or Sanctum 2. Other times, the good old-fashioned formula still works. Just look at Bloons and Infinitode.

Tower Defense games have found a good home on mobile devices, and that makes accessing them much easier. Not many TD games capture your attention in the same way AAA quality games can, which makes pulling out your phone to play for 10-20 mins the ideal way to play.

If you’re like me and you enjoy a challenge, TD games hold literally limitless gameplay hours and lots of worthwhile frustration. Strategize, plan, and conquer every map that stands before you!

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