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Whether you like hardcore simulation and strategy or the explosive thrill of mecha anime, games about big stompy robots have always had a home on PC. And with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and the turn-based BattleTech coming in 2018, it's never been a better time to be a fan of games about 100-ton death machines.
While mech games span all kinds of genres, they are bound together by the simple truth that piloting suits of mechanized armor into combat is a fantasy that never gets old. It's an aesthetic that dates back decades to the very first MechWarrior in 1989 and now lives on in newer games like Titanfall 2 and Brigador. That's why we've rounded up a diverse selection of our favorite mech games spanning multiple genres—from the traditional hardcore sim to button-mashing character action. Whatever your preference, there's a mech game for you.
Respawn Entertainment gave mech games a much-needed adrenaline shot when it released Titanfall in 2014, but it's Titanfall 2 that fully realized the potential of a shooter that contrasts parkour running and gunning with slow, strategic mech combat. What came as a complete shock, however, is that Titanfall 2's campaign turned out to be one of the best the FPS genre has seen in years.
Each level is an inventive execution on a single brilliant idea, like snapping back and forth between the past and present, that binds together a surprisingly affecting story about the bond between a pilot and his loyal mech companion. It's not nearly as tear-jerking as The Iron Giant, sure, but Titanfall 2 proves that even a story about giant steel robots can have a lot of heart.
Sadly, Titanfall 2 also became one of the bigger gaming tragedies of 2016. Despite packing in a much more robust multiplayer, the sequel couldn't compete against the other popular shooters of that year and its population quickly declined. Don't make the mistake of thinking Titanfall 2 is dead, however. It's multiplayer community is small, but there's still plenty of players in the more popular modes like Attrition—meaning Titanfall 2 is still one of the best mech games ever released.
MechWarrior Online inherited the august legacy of classic titles like MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries—both games we’d love to include in this list if they weren’t so damn hard to get running on modern hardware. But make no mistake, MechWarrior Online is a great mech game in its own right. The free-to-play shooter might not have a singleplayer campaign, but it captures the tense thrill of attrition-based warfare in its excellent competitive matches.
Each game is a 12v12 slugfest that ends with players earning currency and experience, and customizing their rides in between rounds. While that comes with its own share of problems like a long grind and microtransactions, MechWarrior Online excels at capturing the slow pace of combat that made the series so revered to begin with.
Unlike most first-person shooters out there, where players can correct their mistakes with lightning quick reflexes, your life in MechWarrior often hangs with decisions made 30 seconds ago. Being behind the wheel of a lumbering robot makes it impossible to get yourself out of trouble once you get into it, making cooperation with teammates a crucial part of victory.
With an overly complex skill tree and an unintuitive menu system, MechWarrior Online isn't exactly friendly to newcomers. But it has a devoted community that is genuinely welcoming to newbies and has created abundant out-of-game resources to get new MechWarriors up to speed. And once you've gotten everything figured out you'll be able to customize hundreds of different mechs with over a hundred unique weapons systems, with all of it steeped in rich lore born from a classic game franchise.
There’s an appeal to the lumbering tank-like combat of some mech games, but Strike Suit Zero captures the thrill of piloting an agile death machine packed with more missile launchers than the entire US Navy fleet. It’s space-faring Japanese mecha at its best.
You start off piloting a fairly standard space fighter, but pretty soon come across an experimental piece of military hardware called the Strike Suit. This suit is capable of switching between fighter mode, where you to fly about space Freelancer-style, and giant killer robot mode where you turn into a Macross-style mecha capable of taking down clouds of enemy fighters at the touch of a button.
The first time you line up your crosshairs on some 30-plus incoming enemy fighters and let loose that wave of missiles will give you chills. It's a mech power fantasy unlike anything else. Power, agility, and flitting from objective to objective while raining death and destruction wherever you go makes you feel like a robot god. And things get even more intense when you start taking on capital ships—the miles-long battlecruisers that will make you look like a bug, but never feeling like one. Thanks to two capital-ship-busting autocannons, you can crack open that battlecruiser faster than they can shout "nani?!"
BattleTech is the fantasy of being a warrior-engineer. You trade missiles and lasers with other bipedal tanks, you win or lose, and then you head back to the drawing board to repair damage, refit weapons, reallocate armor, and rethink your all-PPC 80-tonner.
MechCommander was the first game in the series to add 'tactician' to that job description, and it holds up remarkably well as a real-time tactics game. Over dozens of escort, search and destroy, and scouting missions, you command as many as three lances (12 mechs) at a time, waypointing them away from explosive fuel drums and out of the range of turrets as you duel with light, medium, heavy, and assault-class enemy mechs. I love the rhythm of the combat—the plentiful gaps as mechs take a breath to reload, rotate, or take aim. In those moments, you're anticipating an arm being blown off, or whether your Raven will dodge that Gauss cannon.
While MechCommander's progression system for pilots is limited by modern standards, mechwarriors can permanently die, have a set of individual voice lines (the death cry of Rooster, a clumsy yokel, is particularly haunting), and are charming enough. More fun is the battlefield work of trying to shave off just enough of that enemy Masakari or Thor so that you can salvage it, repair it, and bring it into your next battle.
Double Fine's not-quite-a-tower-defense-game spin on mechs is one of the most unique thanks largely to its campy B-movie vibe and WW1-era aesthetic. Don't make the mistake of thinking Iron Brigade is yet another tower defense game where you place rows of static defenses that usher waves of stupid enemies into killboxes, however. Yes, each level has you fighting off waves of aliens, and yes there are towers, but your primary defense is your hulking mech that you stomp around in as aliens rush your defenses—and it's simply a ton of fun.
There's a good deal of variety to play around with too. Your mech can equip a variety of different weapons that each bring a distinctive kind of destruction to the battlefield, and there's always an upgrade to work towards in between each mission. There's a balance that you'll want to maintain, however, as more powerful mechs mean weaker stationary tower defenses. New enemy types are readily introduced as well, which gives Iron Brigade a steady pace that makes it hard to pull yourself away from.
But the real star of this show is the weird B-movie quality of the characters and writing. Mech games are often gloomy and overly serious, but Double Fine brings a fun absurdity that perfectly complements the simplistic joy of blowing aliens back to hell.
When it comes to sheer scale, nothing compares to Supreme Commander 2. This real-time strategy game is the exact opposite of the intimate brawling of MechCommander, instead reveling in the chaos as legions of robot units blast each other across sea, sky, and land. Battles frequently feature hundreds—if not thousands—of units that you can customize in real-time to adapt to your enemy's strategy. And if that weren't cool enough, you can even build towering experimental units—colossus-sized mechs that dwarf everything else on the battlefield.
With hundreds of units to manage, Supreme Commander 2 can be intimidating for those who already struggle to keep up with RTS games. Fortunately, an improved UI and the ability to instantly zoom out to see the entire battlefield help to keep things manageable even when fighting on multiple fronts while managing production chains. There's a lot of depth here too, as each faction has their own strategies, like the Cybran navy's ability to sprout legs and walk on land.
While the campaign serves as a good introduction to all these layers of strategy, Supreme Commander 2 really shines while skirmishing in multiplayer or against the AI. If you can find a friend to play against, few games will rival the insane scale of Supreme Commander's battles.
Brigador is the rare kind of game that feels both nostalgic and refreshingly modern. Its '80s synthwave soundtrack, isometric angle, and gritty retro sci-fi aesthetic mask a brutally punishing indie roguelike that revels in chaos and destruction. When it originally launched in 2016, it was so difficult that it was actually hard to enthusiastically recommend, but the recent Up-Armored edition smooths that curve out while adding even more mechs, pilots, and missions to an already robust game.
With over 56 mechs to pilot and 40 weapons, there's an intimidating amount of customization and playstyles to account for. While the temptation to go in guns blazing is always present, hit-and-run guerilla tactics are often the better strategy. No matter how you approach combat, Brigador always shines in the moment-to-moment action. It's both extremely fast-paced and precise, and you'll need to choose your shots carefully even as you frantically weave down city streets avoiding fire from dozens of enemy units.
The appeal of mech games has always been closely tied with their destructive firepower—the ability to level entire city blocks with the push of a button—and Brigador captures this sensation wonderfully. Environments are fully destructible, and it's a literal blast being able smash through a skyscraper rather than skirt around it. It's still a punishing game where one split-second mistake can spell defeat, but Brigador rewards those who can stomach its challenge.
It's been almost three years since Double Fine Productions released the alternate-history tower defense/shooter hybrid Iron Brigade on Steam. That's a long time to wait to release the game's first update, and yet here it is: Some bug fixes, some tweaks, and, most important of all, the end of Games for Windows Live.
There's actually a pretty good reason for the new update, in spite of the years-ago release date. Double Fine announced yesterday that it has acquired the rights to the property from original publisher Microsoft, and thus it will now be a self-published game. "The great thing about this change is that now there are no obstacles to us creating the best possible experience for players," Iron Brigade creator Brad Muir said. "We have fixed all known issues as well as provided a great matchmaking experience for multiplayer. Vlad and his Monovision Menace are on the move again! In the best possible way!"
Iron Brigade was originally released in 2011 for the Xbox 360 under the title Trenched, although the name was quickly changed to Iron Brigade after a pre-existing trademark for a tabletop wargame named Trench came to light. The PC version, which includes the Rise of the Martian Bear DLC, came out a year later.
If you're curious, now might be the time to give Iron Brigade a shot. To celebrate the update, Double Fine has put the game on sale for 80 percent off its regular price, dropping it to $3/ 2 on Steam until June 2.