The XX Show #12 – Top 12 4X Games of All Time.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to discuss the top 12 4X games of all time as of July 1st 2018. So, what qualifies for Greatest of all Time, aka the 4X GoaT, many things, but the game needs to not only stand the test of time, but must truly introduce multiple mechanics (new or polished).

Yes, we know that you disagree with us and you haven’t even heard our choices and/or reasoning, but so be it. Don’t give up just yet, listen to our thinking and let’s discuss why we are completely wrong… Or right.

eXplorimate Music by MangaDrive

Show Notes:



38 thoughts on “The XX Show #12 – Top 12 4X Games of All Time.

  1. I’m not gonna lie, I did expect Endless Legend to be at number 1. Civ 4 is a solid pick though, though these days I have grown quite averse to its doomstacking.

    I think you make a solid case for your choices. I agree with a lot of things you said, too. Good list.

    For me personally, Distant Worlds ranks somewhere near the top. That is simply a judgment by the fun I’ve had with it in the past, in spite of its flaws (and boy does it have flaws). What I do want to say about it is that in my opinion it does micromanagement absolutely right. There’s a lot of it, but that’s not a bad thing! It is a commonly held opinion that “micromanagement is bad”, but I don’t agree with that. Micromanagement is only bad when it is tedious and repetitive, such as using the same combat tactics with the same armies over and over, something Age of Wonders 3 sometimes falls prone to. But if every detailed decision or operation is a one-off thing that has its own impact and needs not be repeated ad nauseam, then micromanagement is *fine*. Saying micromanagement is inherently bad is a fallacy; by that reasoning you would only ever play idle games that play themselves, because clicking on a button yourself is too much work.
    In my opinion the micromanagement in Distant Worlds avoids becoming tedious thanks to its automation features. even so I usually play with most of them off.

    As for the Endless games… I don’t rate them very highly, I’m afraid. It’s a shame because I would like to like them. They universally look and sound great and Amplitude is a very respectable developer. But though I’ve played every endless game with the exception of Dungeon, I’m hard pressed to think of a time I genuinely had fun with any of them. It is what it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I disagree that “micromanagement is only bad when it’s tedious and repetitive.” It’s bad whenever it’s something the player prefers not to be bothered with. For example, an expert Civ player would never dream of automating workers, but every time I’ve tried micromanaging workers (inside and outside of cities) it has ruined the game for me. It’s a chore I do not want to do. It’s not tedious and repetitive; it’s just irritating to me, as it distracts me from the things I want to focus on and control.


    1. That’s a fair take on things. Why each person chooses the games they do is always very… Personal. What pushed Civ 4 to the top for us was the modding community and it’s mods. Simply put, Civ 4 has insane mods.


  2. Interesting thing about EL – if you look at early Steam ratings they are ‘Very Positive’ but if you look at ‘recent’ Stream ratings they are ‘Mixed’. The game got worse over time, not better.


    1. I would disagree with that on a personal level. I think it has to do with redshell. To me, EL improved greatly with each expansionLC aka ELC ™. But again, I’m speaking for myself here.


    2. I actually agree with this to some extent.

      I still love the game, but I did feel like the expansions turned the game into a bit of a mess as they added more and more mechanics.

      Guardians was great, and I really liked Shadows, but after that I felt they went a bit downhill. I loved the faction in Shifters, but I really didn’t enjoy the changes to Winter or the Altar mechanic – it started to feel like there were just too many numbers to keep track of (in terms of buffs and negatives) and I really hated the Pearls as they just felt so gimmicky to me (and annoying having to go around the map collecting them). :-( It felt like an unwanted mini-game on top of the 4X I wanted to play.

      Tempest was another expansion where I loved the new faction but struggled with the new sea structures and mechanics – again they felt like more things I needed to keep track of in order just to keep up, rather than actually being something I enjoyed. Maybe I just got lazy with all these new things and missed the simpler life of the base game along with Guardians and Shadows. I did really enjoy the way they handled Spying though, so it’s not that I disliked everything they added post-launch.

      Inferno looks a bit more interesting, but again there are these new Cornfluxes which appear all over the map and (just like the Pearls) you have to go around collecting them for buffs at certain points… it’s just not something I find enjoyable. The Dust Eclipses looks great (graphically) so I can’t argue with those and I think they provide each faction with a buff separate from the Cornflux stuff so at least you don’t have to do anything for that one. Also the new faction itself looks very nice.

      Sorry for the long post. My main point was that while Endless Legend is still one of my favourite 4X games of all time, I actually found myself playing it less and less after Shifters as I just wasn’t enjoying what they were adding, and I hope with Amplitude’s new owners they don’t start adding more and more stuff just for the sake of it.

      Very nice podcast though – I really enjoyed it! :-)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You get money back than destroying your ships in MoO1 – I think it’s a third from the current price of that model (if the model is very old the current price would be very low though).
    The hard limit was 32000 ships per stack (or per model – I’m not sure) – a quite significant number, specially if an AI has it.


      1. The ‘antagoniser’ I think it was called. Didn’t make much difference.

        The first hour or so of ascendancy was the greatest gaming experience of my life. I have never been so excited and drawn into a game. Then I realised that the AI had no clue how to play the game….


  4. I’ve got a lot of love for EL, and so does Amplitude. And they are masters of UI. I’m hoping of something great from them again, whatever that is. Maybe EL2? Or just add DLCs to EL.


  5. Despite a horrid AI, I loved Ascendancy. I do not rate it as a great game though. It had great sound for the time. I still fire it up once a year.


  6. You really should at least mention Space Empires 4/5 for their amazing PBW (and PBEM) multiplayer experience coming from truely simultaneous turns (movements and battles being influenced by players only before they actually happen during turn-processing).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem though is that Space Empires 4 has aged very badly indeed, and Space Empires 5 was never really any good to begin with. I would not recommend either game to players today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I strongly disagree: Space Empires 5 has given me by far the best multiplayer experience of all 4X games (using PBW and mods) so in this regard it’s certainly exceptional and my 4X multiplayer experience begins with MoO1/Civ1 ending in Stellaris, thus it’s definitely not the case of me not having a sufficient point of reference. I agree that without simultaneous turns SE5 looses all its appeal and in singleplayer even with them it’s not very interesting.

        BTW, it’s nice there is Aurora4X mentioned – this game is also exceptional in its attention to detail in realistic generation of space and spaceship designs. It also has a great idea of turns that can last different amounts of time. If it had Newtonian movements and delays in flow of information (better UI would also be nice) I would even like it better.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice list. Initially I was a little surprised by the omissions of Colonization and Civ 2 but then i realized this would begin to rapidly turn into an “Everything I loved about Microprose” list.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yeah, I played Ascendency and never loose. It was interesting that they later on released an Antagonism module and I never loose with that either. Where does the recent 4x game “Star Ruler 2” which just released the source code belong in this list?


  9. I hate these Top X lists, no matter for what, because they are bound to do more wrong than right, but at the same time they usually offer some food for thought and discussion.
    That said, I’m quzite disappointed with this list, because I feel there are a couple of omissions and a very serious error. Master of Orion, as good as it is and as much that game may have coinde the 4X monniker, is not the first 4X space game.
    That honor should probably go to Spaceward Ho! (released in 1990); that game should be included in the list due to “Multiplayer” as well (and the AI isn’t too bad either).
    Then … Civ 1 or 2? I mean, come on, guys, Civ 1 has been THE game, and the only question is whether the inclusion of MP option is worth more. Civilisation should be in there as a franchise, and quite probably at the top spot.
    Then there is Gal Civ 2. Isn’t Gal Civ 2 everything that bogged the genre down into endless micro-management, SINGLE ship nonsense, mindlessly blown-up research diagrams? I mean, when you press Next turn in MOO you’ll see a lot of ships move on the screen, and when you get down on it it’s virtually HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS (when the Alkari are in it as well). How many will you see in Gal Civ 2? And that’s third best? For being a bookkeeper’s dream? This on the heels of MOO 2, which, in my opinion laid the foundation for games developing in that direction…


    1. Oh, another miss on my part. SO, what does your list look like? Anyways, this list represents Troy and I as far as how we line up with the thread on the forum.

      Also, thanks for the thoughtful feedback.


    2. My personal favorite 4X game of all time was Reach for the Stars, which was released in 1983, well before Spaceward Ho!

      I played it for countless hours against the AI and other players and had a blast. But I don’t blame the reviewers for not including it — because of its age probably not many players have even heard of it, let alone played it.


  10. Emperor of the Fading Suns would be in because of the original concept and mind-blowing scope and setting.
    As I said, I’d probably put the whole Civ franchise in, but if I had to name one specific game I’d pick Civ II – Test of Time. It had Multiplayer, and it was, if I’m not wrong, the first game offering something like a “modding box”; the additional scenarios, the Dino society, Midgard and the scifi scenario were basically mods, and the game was designed to encourage players to mod it. I also think it was the last game that allowed fundamentalism as religion with the building of fanatics who’d do terrorrist attacks, a very prophetical thing dropped after 9/11.
    Yes, Spaceward Ho!, possibly the most downsized, concentrated of them all without any kind of “filler” material.
    When it comes to long space games with lots of micro management – do we really have to go further than Stars!?
    I would give a honorable mention to SSI’s Stellar Crusade; published in 1988, graphically non-existant, it’s probably the godfather of the optimization type of 4x games.
    I agree that Ascendancy was fun. For a time. Honorable mention.
    Master of Orion would be in, Master of Magic as well.
    Endless Legend is kind of majestic, since it is actually delivering what it wants to. So it’s in.
    Stellaris I didn’t play – probably a mistake, but you’d want to delve deep and with AoW3 still my favorite game to play and since I’m eying to plunge myself into Battletech I don’t see me changing this, so I can’t comment on that.


  11. My opinion is that CIV IV is the pre-eminent 4X – but you have SMAC/X at #5? And you have EL rated higher then Alpha Centauri is a big leap – aesthetically better for sure, but the mechanics and immersive gameplay of SMAC is far superior to EL, imo..

    Also, I think you guys missed Imperialism 2 and Rise of Nations on your list.In fact these may be #2/#3 all time. Imperialism not so much because of dated UI/graphics, but RoN is still an awesome, awesome game. UI and mechanics are superior to anything out even now.

    Good show though, and I can definitely tell that you guys are fans of the genre. Although Thea? Is crafting that important guys? lol



Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s