Not the Best Tank Games for PC!

Gunner, Heat, PC!, Steel Beasts Pro, Panzer Elite SE, Steel Fury, Steel Armor, M1 Tank Platoon II, Armoured Commander 2, Tank Mechanic Simulator, War Thunder, and Iron Warriors. There you go. Easy. Any wazzock can put together a respectable Tank Games Top Ten, but it takes real vision, bloody-mindedness, and chutzpah to assemble a ‘Not the Best Tank Games for PC but, Hey, They’re All Cheap or Free, and Highly Entertaining’ list.

Mass Destruction

The demo disc that came taped to the front cover of the November 1997 edition of PC Gamer (UK) introduced me to this truthfully titled time-killer. Back in those days I used to buy both PC Zone and PC Gamer and try everything on their circular smorgasbords, so it’s pretty remarkable that my memories of the Mass Destruction trial have endured. What impressed me then – the trashable scenery, the cagey foes, the unstructured missions – impress me today. Trundling about, blowing the sherbet out of everything, while cover-fond enemies take potshots – is a hoot, and anyone that claims not to enjoy squashing the game’s fleeing grunts is probably a liar. Weirdly, the version of MD available through Steam is an awkward PS1 port not the DOS game I remember. To experience the PC release, go here. Dabbing ‘Tab’ reveals the level map and objectives, and, as with Wild Metal Country (see on), often it’s better to pivot your tank to aim rather than twirl your turret.

Wild Metal Country

One of the reasons I clung to Windows 7 for so long was that I was worried that an OS upgrade would mean I could no longer play old favourites such as Wild Metal Country. The work of DMA Design, the studio that became Rockstar North, this misunderstood 1999 curio is as dear to me as any wargame or sim. In 2011 I penned a heartfelt retrospective for Eurogamer which explained why I’m so fond of it. Some extracts: “The limitless combinations of topography, foes and weaponry mean no two engagements are ever the same.” “Having separate forward and reverse keys for each caterpillar track permits wonderfully subtle manoeuvring.” “Add bumps and explosion shockwaves, great physics and various surface types, and you’ve got the recipe for amazingly tactile, improbably interesting movement.” I’m happy to say WMC seems to work just fine with Windows 10, and thanks to Rockstar’s generosity you can download it from abandonware sites with a clear conscience.


Lumpy terrain, agile angry houses, frenetic yet thought-provoking violence… the moreish ThinkTanks has a fair bit in common with WMC. Crafted by three ex-Dynamix devs, it was a minor indie hit at a time – 2003 – when few studios dared to go it alone. The player pilots a cyborg tank that gains new weapons and repairs damage by running into the power-ups that spew from KOed foes. Those foes operate in packs, come in three forms, and exhibit some pleasingly human tendencies at times. Modability and well-executed multiplayer modes such as the rugby-style ‘scrum’ gave ThinkTanks surprising longevity. As it still works perfectly on modern machines and supports pretty high resolutions (1920×1080), Cerebral Clash, a faithful/competent/cheeky £4 ‘homage’ that hit Steam in March, isn’t exactly essential.

Threads of War

The ‘maze tanks’ genre is almost as ancient as I am, and has many members, the comeliest and worthiest of which has to be Threads of War. Due in Q4 but already trialable, ToW renders its labyrinths, menus, and war machines with striking sprites inspired by Ukrainian embroidery, and bases its levels on important battles in year one of the Russian invasion. Game design and graphics are down to the chap behind the fantastic Football, Tactics, & Glory, Andrey Kostyushko, and Andrey’s son, Askold, did the programming. Not inappropriately bearing in mind the theme, low ammo is often a concern for the player, enemy AFVs sometimes toss turrets or trundle on post-mortem, and a portion – 25% – of the profits will go to support Ukraine’s admirable armed forces. The demo launches in Ukrainian. To switch to English click the second tab on the main menu, then use the arrows at the top of the next screen to change languages.


If the Threads of War demo gives you an appetite for armoured Pac-Man in destructible mazes, then TANKS should be your next port of call. The fact that Oleksandr Savostianov’s creation is gratis shouldn’t be taken as a sign of low quality. Clever level design, well-judged complexity and difficulty, and unpredictable enemies combine to produce some extremely tense moments. Sometimes turtling is exactly the right thing to do. Sometimes you’ll need to destroy the walls that shelter you, and scuttle around the screen, in order to eliminate foes attacking your HQ from awkward directions.

Armoured Commander

A Sherman fixation and maps subdivided by irregular grids rather than hexagons make the free Armoured Commander much closer in feel to its analogue touchstone than the £9 multi-steed, multi-theatre AC2 is. One of the best free wargames around, AC doesn’t sugar-coat WW2 armoured combat. Many of the Allied M4s that rumpled Normandy greensward in the summer of 1944, perished before potting an Axis AFV, and University of Manchester lecturer, Gregory Adam Scott, isn’t afraid of reflecting that. That honesty together with intimacy rare in the genre (every turn, before rolling virtual dice, you task individual crewmen) ensures AC’s randomly generated, roguelike campaigns, whether short or long, invariably grip and ring true.


Not an avid 3×3 reader? Well then, you probably won’t be aware that this $2 Battle Zone channeller, available only through, is properly ace. In January I deployed adjectives such as ‘lively’, ‘spectacular’, and ‘simmy’ while rapid-reviewing Executanks. I praised the retro wireframe aesthetic, the new twists, and the way enemies exploded into battlefield-complicating fragments when clobbered. These days very few games make me care about my High Score Table position. This one somehow accomplished the feat. My proudest gaming achievement of 2024? As things stand it has to be nailing 282 AFVs during one frantic, brow/palm-moistening Executanks excursion.

Theatre of War

Too RTSy for some grogs, and too wargamey for some RTS fiends, ToW earns it place in this list of admirable also-rans mainly by recreating rucking armour rucking realistically, and being ludicrously good value for money (At the moment, if you go to you can pick up the entire six-title franchise for the price of a loaf of supermarket sliced white). The AI isn’t stellar, but believable ballistics, roomy battlefields, good looks, and a knack for producing eye-catching sideshows, allow Theatre of War to evoke the great Graviteam Tactics far more often than it has a right to.

Road to Glory

In this memorable campaign-equipped WW2 freebie, tanks aren’t your steeds, they are your targets, protectors, and charges. From the jump seat of one of the Wehrmacht’s ubiquitous mechanical centaurs, the player scans Eastern Front killing fields for Red Army AFVs. Once sighted these AFVs quickly find themselves on the receiving end of vicious howitzer bombardments. The spotting process is extremely stylised (Basically, you just place your targeting reticle over a foe and, seconds later, watch the resulting fireworks). Developer Some Random Designing is more interested in creating ambience, tension, and interesting decision spaces, than slavishly replicating period tech and procedures. The need to keep up with and assist the force you’re attached to, constantly chafes with the impulse to keep your own sub-unit of vulnerable halftracks and armoured cars as safe as possible. Miscalculate, get cocky, or lose track of the various BTs, Ts, and KVs in your vicinity, and your war can end with thought-provoking suddenness.

Crab Simulator 2014

What kind of egomaniac would include one of their own creations in a Top Ten Games article? This kind. A mini-game included in a compendium released on The Flare Path’s third birthday, Crab Simulator 2014 is, in my humble opinion, the best top-down, totally silent game about clearing mines from Normandy beaches with a flail-equipped Sherman, currently available for PC. Eighty Allied soldiers are about to set damp feet on French silica and it’s up to you to ensure at least 76 of them make it off that silica unscathed. Creating safe corridors from the surf-sluiced bottom of the screen, to the embanked top (the pale strip is mine-free) is complicated by Czech hedgehogs, drifting smoke, and the Crab’s realism-rooted controls. Two pieces of advice. Don’t flail too close to the grunts – it spooks them – and don’t reverse onto uncleared sand too often – you may take damage.


    • I could pretend it was left out because its shell-slingers are static and not strictly speaking tanks, but the truth is my knowledge of this sub-genre starts and ends with Worms.

  1. I would put Super Battletank and its sequel on this list. In hindsight it’s kind of terrible, but I played loads of it growing up and it was a staple of every console in existence during the Desert Storm era.

  2. Interesting to include War Thunder but not mention World of Tanks or Armored Warfare. I do think the damage modelling in War Thunder is much better but all three are basically the same game, and balanced around rent seeking.

    IL2 has its ground forces and tank battles too, but the UI and game design forgot to include usable UI or a game, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Still waiting for Gunner, HEAT, PC! to leave early access, and that really does look like it’ll be the bees knees. But the one I really want is by the people that made Tank Mechanic Sim: Tank Squad nominally due for release in 2024 and will let me drive a Panther into battle with some decent damage modelling – then let me fix the blinking thing.

    It also hints at being more casual player friendly than GHPC. I love the idea of tank sims but really I mostly just want to drive a tracked armoured vehicle with a big gun around and shoot stuff.

    But I do recommend Armoured Commander 2. It’s a very simple game but that’s because of its excellent game design; simple translates to elegance and emergent stories, and the game models more armoured vehicles from World War 2 than entire books even acknowledge existed.

    • “Interesting to include War Thunder but not mention World of Tanks or Armored Warfare.”

      Mea culpa. World of Tanks was in the running for a slot in the intro Top Ten, but as I’ve not played it in over a decade (I thoroughly enjoyed it circa 2011) and have no real idea how it plays today, I ended up leaving it out of both lists. Armored Warfare I’ve not tried. A tanky 3×3 featuring WoT, AW and another angry house title (suggestions please!) strikes me as a good way to make amends for these omissions.

      • Well, just chuck War Thunder into the mix as a third? Not least so that you can enthuse about its internal damage modelling rather than the ‘tanks have hp’ approach of the other two..

        AW has PVE as well as PVP, which I found a more enjoyable game mode.

        People online have suggested which I haven’t tried. I’m sure however that it’s the squad based limited information fragile engined mud churner underpinned by in-depth material physics simulation with careful interior modelling and delicate engines that you’ve been looking for.

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