XCOM is a tactical strategy role-playing series that began on the PC all the way back in 1994. The first game is still considered to be one of the most influential games ever made. The game’s influence can be seen in the original PC Fallout games and more recently the Divinity: Original Sin RPG series. It's also one of the most accessible tactical games on the market next to the Fire Emblem series.
Despite the cult following and great praise on most of the mainline XCOM entries it hasn’t always a smooth ride for the series. There were two canceled projects, disagreements between developers which unfortunately carried over into one of their games, and some badly reviewed games.
Thankfully, the series has found its way back with the rebooted series released on the PC and on consoles lets take a look at all of the best and worst games in the series.
9 X-COM: First Alien Invasion
X-COM: First Alien Invasion was a two-player turn-based strategy game that required email responses to play. It was a simplified version of its mainline predecessors which meant that nearly anyone could play the game without too much trouble or worrying about the complexities of the mainline series.
The main advantage of using email as the platform for gaming sessions is that even the most underpowered PC’s could play it. However, for fans of the series, there was just too much missing from the core series to make it worthwhile.
8 X-COM: Enforcer
X-Com: Enforcer was released on the PC in 2001 and was the final entry in the original series developed by MicroProse. Unfortunately, despite being set in the X-COM universe the game has very little in common with other entries in the franchise.
The game was a straight-up run and gun third-person action shooter. None of the strategy elements were present and there was very little thought involved when working through the game’s levels. X-Com: Enforcer was spliced together in a rush using leftover resources of two canceled games X-COM: Genesis and X-COM: Alliance.
7 X-COM: Interceptor
X-COM: Interceptor is Wing Commander-like space flight simulator with elements of the mainline series and was released 1998 on the PC. Interceptor’s timeline is a prequel and is set before the events of X-COM: Apocalypse.
In addition to the space flight simulation aspects, the game expands on the business management where you are managing space colonies instead of a base on earth. It wasn’t a terrible idea for an X-COM title, however, the execution of the story was so bad that it made the Command and Conquer cutscenes seem Oscar-worthy by comparison.
6 X-COM: Apocalypse
X-COM: Apocalypse was released in 1997 on the PC and was the third title in the series. It’s a traditional turn-based strategy game just like its previous two entries – although it did have an additional real-time option.
Unfortunately, it suffered from a troubled development due to disagreements between Mythos Studios and MicroPose both having very different visions. This did have an effect on the final product with the game’s city simulation and management aspect being at odds with a full-scale alien invasion many critics considered too ambitious.
5 The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified was a spin-off title that was developed by 2K Marin - who worked on Bioshock 2 - and released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013. The game’s events take place in the 1960s before events of the reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
As a third-person tactical shooter, The Bureau played quite differently from the turn-based strategy seen in the mainline entries. However, the game retained certain elements like permadeath for the protagonist’s squad members. Many of the game’s mechanics didn’t quite work and the sense of loss one would feel when losing a character in the mainline series is lost on The Bureau. The game's greatest strength is the story and the twist ending helps flesh out the overall narrative of the rebooted XCOM series.
4 X-COM: Terror From The Deep
X-COM: Terror From The Deep is the second game in the series and was released in 1995 on the PC and was later ported to the PlayStation in 1996. This time game takes place underwater and requires the player to both participate in a real-time base building and the series staple turn-based combat.
Despite the underwater setting, Terror From The Deep felt the same as its predecessor. However, X-COM: UFO Defense is still considered to be one of the best strategy video games ever developed and the difficulty is high enough to challenge even the most seasoned gaming strategists.
3 XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Released in 2012 on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was the first game in the rebooted series developed by Firaxis. The was the recipient of several games of the year awards and received huge critical acclaim from fans and critics alike.
Enemy Unknown managed to take everything that was so good about the original games and improved nearly every aspect of it. In addition, Firaxis proved that complex strategy games could work just as well on consoles as they did on the PC which was a feat in of itself. Additionally, the expansion XCOM: Enemy Within added new features, resources, new squad members and more.
2 X-COM: UFO Defense
X-COM: UFO Defense is also known as X-COM: Enemy Unknown was released for the PC in 1994. It is still considered as one of the most influential and greatest PC videogames of all time. It was later released for the PlayStation and was one of the few games to make use of the PlayStation Mouse.
Despite its age, the game is incredibly complex and deep combining its brilliant turn-based combat system and its business management sim aspects. The game provided an incredible amount of tension which provided a horror element that has continued with the rebooted Firaxis series.
1 XCOM 2
XCOM 2 was released on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 3 in 2016 and was a direct sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown. In this game’s story, the aliens have already won and the player is once again put in the shoes of a commander trying to save what’s left of the Earth.
The base of operations is now a reverse-engineered UFO giving the player total control over the business side of the game. The turn-based tactical combat is faster, more accessible, and exciting than ever before. Additionally, the number of alien-based enemies has increased and the mission variety was expanded even further with the huge War of the Chosen expansion.