Top 10 Tower Defense Games [Best Recommendations]

Introduction:

Tower defense games are some of the best games out there, and have a particularly long history for those who have frequented flash sites over the years (AddictingGames, Armor Games, and so on). They are the perfect blend of strategy and simplicity, which makes them perfect for both casual and hardcore gamers. Though the genre holds to a specific style of gameplay, this top ten list is proof that creativity matters and even the smallest changes can make a huge difference. Without further ado, lets get to the top 10 tower defense games.

10. Defense Grid: The Awakening

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Aspyr
  • Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment
  • Release Date: Jul. 29, 2009

Released in 2008, Defense Grid: The Awakening takes us into a sci-fi setting that has us defending a military base from waves of aliens. This game is like the rest in that it provides a fun, strategic experience for just about anyone. However, there is one thing in particular that this tower defense game proves. The first is that graphics can make a difference. Note that the word used was ‘can’. Graphics definitely do not make a game, but they can help push one into new territory. The level of detail in this tower defense game really draws the player in. It makes the experience immediate and makes each moment feel much more impactful.


9. Dungeon Defenders

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Trendy Entertainment
  • Developer: Trendy Entertainment
  • Release Date: Oct. 18, 2011

In Dungeon Defenders, we are given a unique and powerful crossover between the tower defense genre and an action RPG. It puts players in control of one of four unique heroes, who has the job of defending the castle by setting up traps and defenses throughout the castle to stop countless waves of enemies. There are two things in particular that make Dungeon Defenders an extremely addictive tower defense game. The first is how much you can level up and customize each hero’s style of fighting. The second is in the fact that you can play online or in split-screen local multiplayer, which adds a massive amount of replay value.


8. Orcs Must Die!

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Robot Entertainment
  • Developer: Robot Entertainment
  • Release Date: Oct. 11, 2011

Orcs Must Die! came out the same year as Sanctum (another game on this list), providing another genre-defying push for tower defense games. In this particular game, you play as a War Mage who must defend magical rifts from a horde of orcs. Why? Well, because you are the last remaining member of he Order who has been guarding the Rifts, which have ensured that the respective worlds of this universe run properly. Orcs Must Die! plays like a RPG, with you running about the level, setting traps, and personally attacking the enemy orcs if you so desire. Overall, it’s a nice mix of strategy and story.


7. Kingdom Rush

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Ironhide Game Studio
  • Developer: Ironhide Game Studio
  • Release Date: Jan. 6, 2014

There are two things in particular that Kingdom Rush does correct in providing a truly recommendable tower defense experience. The first is that it definitely captures the aesthetic of what people expect when they hear tower defense game. It puts us into a medieval setting with our towers being classified as Mages, Archers, Barracks, or Artillery. Having such a setting has a certain sense of nostalgia for those who have been playing tower defense games for over a decade or so.

The second aspect that Kingdom Rush capitalizes on is the number of enemies the game showcases. There are 48 in Kingdom Rush and that is no small number. In any game, the variety of enemies can make a huge difference. Different enemies require different strategies, and they also just add a splash of color and vitality to a game. It’s much better to have a variety of enemies rather than simply facing off against the same one.


6. Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Level Up Labs
  • Developer: Level Up Labs
  • Release Date: Jan. 20, 2012

Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is the game for those who want to mix some RPG elements into a tower defense game. More than simply taking on waves of enemies and then leveling up, you actually progress with a character-driven story that centers around your hero and the people you recruit. It’s a nice touch, and the game infuses this story and the gameplay quite well by having the characters you recruit, whether they are knights or ice mages, act as the towers. It’s also important to mention that the dialogue is quite impressive. The only aspect that might let some people down is that the graphics are quite retro.


5. Sol Survivor

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Cadenza
  • Developer: Cadenza
  • Release Date: Mar. 15, 2010

In Sol Survivor’s campaign, the story follows the rise of one young commander whose job is to prevent the Ascendancy, a race of cult-like aliens, from stealing resources and overrunning the last bit of humanity. With solid graphics, a decent story, pretty environments, and decent tactical gameplay; Sol Survivor is consistently a cut above most tower defense games. However, where it truly shines is through the additional features that the creators bestowed upon us. One of those features is how there is a support mechanic that enables players a more direct ability to destroy the aliens as they heads towards your base. The other features are numerous modes to play the game in. You can do co-op with a friend and defend a shared base against waves of aliens. Or you can do “Duo” which splits the turret building and support roles between two players. There’s even a glorious mode called “Wars,” which lets players go head-to-head as they send creeps at one another, while simultaneously defending their own base.


4. Sanctum

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Coffee Stain Studios
  • Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
  • Release Date: Apr. 15, 2011

You can’t have a tower defense games list and not include Sanctum. In this game, you take on the role of Skye, an elite solider, who is tasked with protecting her home town of Elysion One from a range of alien creatures. The reason why you simply can’t ignore this game is because it was one of the first to miraculously combine the first-person shooter genre with that of the tower defense genre. To those who think such a mixture can’t work, then you clearly have not played Sanctum. Running about as Skye on absolutely gorgeous maps and defeating an array of monsters is thrilling. The only downside to this video game is that the save points occur at annoying times. Instead of simply getting the option of saving after each level, the game auto-saves at checkpoints, which aren’t as frequent as you would hope.


3. GemCraft

  • Platform: iOS
  • Publisher: NTT Resonant Inc.
  • Developer: NTT Resonant Inc.
  • Release Date: Apr. 14, 2011

GemCraft is another flash game to grace this list and it came out in 2008. This game gathered a pretty large fanbase quickly and started trending in all of the flash websites, not simply its publisher’s website of Armor Games.

Like all tower games, GemCraft demands a certain amount of strategy from all who decide to play it. A lot of this strategy comes from deciding where to put your towers and what type of towers to put in a certain location. This is standard for practically all tower defense games. However, GemCraft goes beyond the norm with its fusion principles that allow you to customize your gameplay in a manner that supports your interests. Having such unique builds available to you also allows for quite a bit of replay.


2. Bloons Tower Defense 5

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Ninja Kiwi
  • Developer: Ninja Kiwi
  • Release Date: Dec. 15, 2011

If you have ever played a video game on any flash site, there is a good chance that game was Bloons. Bloons is one of the most beloved online games out there and has essentially branched off into two main games, each having quite a few sequels. First, there is the shooter type game where you control the angle and power of a monkey throwing a dart to pop balloons. Then there is the tower defense version of the game, which we’re going to focus on.

What’s amazing about this tower defense game is the level of difficulty that ensues in the later levels. With such cute monkeys and balloons acting as your invaders, you might not think it would get tough, but it does. Back in the mid-2000’s the amount of balloons invading your screen would pile up to the point that most desktops would start glitching or slowing down tremendously. It actually required quite a bit of strategy to beat the later levels and most importantly it was extremely addictive. The amount of balloons and addictiveness has only increased substantially in this latest addition.


1. Plants vs. Zombies

  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: PopCap
  • Developer: PopCap
  • Release Date: Aug. 18, 2009

When Plants vs. Zombies first came out in 2009, it took everyone by storm. Zany and ridiculous, Plants vs. Zombies captured a certain sense of humor that made it accessible to everyone. Whether you were a 30-year-old adult or an 8-year-old kid, the video game was capable of making you laugh. Though the humor clearly brought a lot of life to the game, and is definitely a factor that helps put it so high on this list, the game also demonstrated great gameplay and replayability.

With an assortment of plant types, you can really pick and choose how to defeat the oncoming hordes of ridiculous zombies who want to take over your home. This factor combined with the humor is what has allowed the game to have so many installations. It gives the game its own lore and characters that we can attach our interests to.


Final Thoughts:

Tower defense games are an interesting genre, because they show just how much little details matter. For the most part, these games are extremely similar and yet each has their own unique quirks that make them special. It goes to show just how much a tiny difference can make. Now, are there any tower defense games that you feel have a certain unique quality that needs to be shared?

Yoko Dev

Writer

Author: Yoko Dev

Hello, my anime peers. I’m from the states, but have taken an indefinite leave to travel while freelancing. Outside of a deep admiration for anime that started long ago, I love to read, write, and play video games. The main issue of traveling so far has been not having a console.

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