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6 best Warhammer 40,000 video games you should play before Space Marine 2

Adeptus Press-Startes.

Image: Saber Interactive/Games Workshop

While battling it out with miniatures on a scenic battlefield is satisfying enough, there's a wide range of fantastic Warhammer 40,000 video games to sate your curiosity away from the tabletop, especially if you're brand new to Warhammer.

In particular, the upcoming release of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 is one to acknowledge if you appreciate the hack-and-slash genre while learning about the grimdark universe.

Best Warhammer 40k video games

Games Workshop’s history of Warhammer video games has been an expansive yet mixed journey. With its early forays into video games, the publisher embraced its tabletop releases as a baseline for these digital adaptations, where Space Hulk was one of its early experiments. Even now, the 1993 video game and its 1995 expansion Vengeance of the Blood Angels remain deeply appreciated as iconic tabletop releases from the mid-90s.

Games Workshop often highlights Space Marines, Imperial Guard, the Inquisition and Adeptus Soriatas (known as the Sisters of Battle) within media as these are human-facing factions and remain popular options with players on the tabletop. There is a smattering of video game expansions centred around alien factions such as Aldeari (known as the Eldar), Tyranids and Necrons, but these often don’t see as much representation compared to their human-facing counterparts. When it comes to attracting new players to Warhammer 40,000, providing a hook through human familiarity is one of the many clever ways Games Workshop can grow its audience, which is why so many of the best Warhammer 40k video games primarily feature these factions.

Accessibility of some older Warhammer video games remains tricky due to lack of backwards compatibility but fear not - there's a solid array of Warhammer 40,000 video games you can dig into now in preparation for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2.


6. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

"I didn't think it could be done, but I'm even betta."

Dawn of War II took the Warhammer 40k video game series in a new direction by adding action-roleplaying elements to its real-time strategy. Image: Relic Entertainment/Games Workshop

Published by THQ in 2009, Dawn of War 2 was Games Workshop's answer to a real-time strategy (RTS) video game blended with a smattering of action-roleplaying elements you often see in the likes of the Diablo series.

Built on the tremendous success of the first Dawn of War, you play as the Force Commander of the Blood Ravens, a Space Marine faction where you'll oppose Orks, the Aldeari and Tyranids. While the campaign is linear, you have plenty of choices with mission selection where your Space Marines "level up" by eliminating enemies and completing objectives.

It's Orks versus Guardsmen as we play Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team

Despite a selection of the boss encounters feeling somewhat cumbersome, being overwhelmed by a massive swarm of Tyranids as a compact Space Marine squad on the defence is remarkably fun, given how Warhammer 40,000 is all about surviving in the face of adversity. In addition, the two expansions in Chaos Rising and Retribution are essential if you want to combat the evils of Chaos or want to play as other factions, such as the Imperial Guard or Tyranids.

Available on: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux

Buy Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II on Fanatical.


5. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus

“From the moment I understood the weakness of my flesh, it disgusted me. I craved the strength and certainty of steel.”

Mechanicus takes inspiration from the turn-based battles of XCOM as players fight their way through a Necron tomb world. Image: Bulwark Studios/Games Workshop

A deep turn-based tactics game, Mechanicus is a take on Warhammer 40,000 blended with compelling gameplay from the popular XCOM series. You take the role of the Adeptus Mechanicus, a faction of tech priests who revere science and doctrine above anything else.

The campaign takes place in the Necron Tomb World of Silva Tenebris, where the goal is to salvage ancient technologies from the mysterious catacombs. There are over 50 missions to complete with multiple paths to take. You can also customise each Adeptus Mechanicus character, including disciplines and assigning unique classes to each.

Admittedly, the story doesn't quite stand out compared to Dawn of War or Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 despite Ben Counter, author of Warhammer 40k books Galaxy of Flames and Battle for the Abyss, writing the story for the adaptation. If you are a long-time fan of Warhammer 40,000, you'll appreciate some of the nods within the lore, but if you are new to the franchise, many of the cues will feel lost.

Available on: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS

Buy Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus on Fanatical.


4. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

“A good soldier obeys without question. A good officer commands without doubt.”

Space Marine is basically Gears of Warhammer - and it's one of the best video game adaptations to date as a result. Image: Relic Entertainment/Games Workshop

Developed by Relic Entertainment, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is Games Workshop's third-person hack-and-slash offering inspired heavily by the popular Gears of War series.

Taking the role of Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, you'll encounter Orks and Chaos Space Marines that meet your path and slash them down with an array of impressive weapons. Combat is the biggest attraction to playing Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine; you can execute Mortal Kombat-style fatalities on your enemies which, ironically, replenishes Titus's health, making these actions an important aspect of the game.

The reveal trailer for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2

Despite the linearity of the story and dull environments, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine offers a bite-sized approach to understanding the multiverse if you are unfamiliar with the franchise.

If you are keen to play the upcoming Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 upon release, it's highly recommended you play the prequel as the story follows from the first, otherwise you could be left confused about what is happening. Fortunately, the game clocks in at around 15 hours of playing time, making it shorter than most of the other Warhammer 40,000 video games on this list.

Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows

Buy Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on Amazon US and Amazon UK.


3. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2

"An icon will fall. A God will awaken. A Primarch will rise. The galaxy will burn."

The Battlefleet Gothic series is based on the sweeping ship combat miniatures game of the same name. Image: Tindalos Interactive/Games Workshop

Based on the now-discontinued miniature wargame, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is a real-time strategy game where you take enormous spaceships into battle within the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

At base, the gameplay is simple - you deploy a custom fleet from one of 12 factions against an opposing force in either one-on-one or two-vs-two battles. There is a single-player campaign with three factions to choose from (the Imperium, Necrons and Tyranids) for those who want to opt out of online combat with other players. Given the breadth of the environment, you'll face various obstacles during missions such as asteroids and deadly space miasma that will either progress or hinder your strategy.

The narrative experience follows a similar trend seen in Creative Assembly's Total War: Warhammer series; there's this sense of grand strategy gameplay married with strong storytelling allowing for a memorable experience.

Whether you are enfranchised or new to Warhammer 40,000, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is one of the best real-time strategy games you can play within the franchise.

Available on: Microsoft Windows

Buy Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 on Fanatical.


2. Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters

"We fight for the Imperium, not our souls. They are already lost or saved.”

The recent Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters is another turn-based strategy game that follows a squad of Space Marines. Image: Complex Games/Games Workshop

If Mechanicus doesn't completely sate the grimdark XCOM experience, Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters is a great alternative. You play as the Grey Knights, a secret yet mysterious Space Marine faction who combat the daemonic entities of the warp. Basically, Ghostbusters in space.

One of the unfortunate drawbacks of Chaos Gate: Deamonhunters is its difficulty and how the game scales sharply. In particular, you are locked into your starting difficulty setting and will need to restart the game if you find it challenging or don't know how to proceed. Considering Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters is almost a 40-hour game, it's best to play on a lower difficulty for the first time to encourage the best and most fulfilling experience.

A look at Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters gameplay

Difficulties aside, Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters opens up to a deep yet exceptionally fun Warhammer 40k video game where you'll research new tech, repair your ship (called The Baleful Edict) and customise your Grey Knights to create the most effective kill team. If you adore the sci-fi nonsense that XCOM brings but want the decoration of divine righteousness, then Chaos Gate: Deamonhunters is for you.

Available on: Microsoft Windows

Buy Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters on Fanatical.


1. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

There is only the Emperor, and he is our shield and protector.

The original and still the best: Dawn of War is a true Warhammer 40,000 video game classic. Image: Relic Entertainment/Games Workshop

Perhaps unsurprising, but the best Warhammer 40,000 video game is the first Dawn of War. Unlike its sequel, the 2004 release is a true RTS experience with structure creation, deployable units and a complete resource management system to utilise.

In Dawn of War, you can play as Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar and the Orks, with Tau and Necrons appearing in expansions. In the single-player campaign, you play as the Blood Ravens, who help to resist the recent Ork invasion of Tartarus.

Even with the different playable factions, they aren't drastically different from one another in terms of functionality, as they share similar units. However, these parallels help reduce the learning curve when switching factions which is ideal for newer players, but the most significant difference is the personality that comes from playing them.

Our friends from Eurogamer check out the most recent Dawn of War video game

The detail, design and animation give individuality to each faction, especially how they create their structures and units. The Chaos summon their buildings through arcane rituals, whereas the Orks' structures brazenly appear from piles of junk parts.

Another success of Dawn of War is how it translates the tabletop elements of Warhammer 40,000 into a real-time strategy video game. Take strategic points as an example, which form beacons on a map and play a similar role to objective markers in the tabletop game. The more strategic points you hold, the more passive resources you gain, along with the ability to build more units and structures. Like with objectives in the tabletop game, opponents can re-capture these to their benefit.

In addition to the core Dawn of War game, there are three expansions in Winter Assault, Soulstorm and Dark Crusade, with the latter regarded as the best of the bunch. Despite being almost 20 years old, Dawn of War holds up amazingly well and offers the best Warhammer 40,000 experience in a video game for both casual and enfranchised players.

Available on: Microsoft Windows

Buy Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War on Fanatical.

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About the Author
Emma Partlow avatar

Emma Partlow

Contributor

Emma is a freelance writer who loves helping players dive into Warhammer and Magic: The Gathering. She's big on games of all kinds and always happy to jump in on the fun. You can find Emma shuffling Magic cards, accidentally drinking paint water or referencing The Simpsons.

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