World of Tanks
Obvious entry is obvious. This massively multiplayer online battle is a testament to the success of the freemium model of game development. You could play for years, never offloading a single penny, or you could give into the allure of those shiny pieces of bonus content, and invest some cash into upgrading your vehicles and specials. Then, before you know it, you’re hooked, buying more gold every other day. Wargaming now own your soul and you’re thousands of dollars in debt, but on the plus side, you’ve got a sweet Tiger 131 at your disposal. Though World of Tanks lacks local multiplayer, the Proving Grounds provide some fun co-op scenarios you can tackle with a friend online. Work together as a unit to succeed! Then convince your friend to buy you more gold. The cycle continues.
According to its description on Steam, Ballistic Tanks is the best tank game you’ve played since the 80’s. It’s certainly got tickets on itself (tankets, if you will), but after a few rounds of epic firefights with your friends, you may find yourself inclined to agree. With its retro gameplay but modern sense of style, Ballistic Tanks features a few different modes of gameplay for up to four players. You can either work cooperatively to take on a great big hulking foe, or settle your differences in a classic deathmatch. Apply some modifiers to make your tank feel unique, and then blast away in a blinding bevy of bullets.
Don’t be fooled by imitators brandishing the same title: there can be only one. The third in Namco’s trilogy of vehicle-based battlers, Tank Force is a colorful battler that first released in arcades in 1991. In it, players are tasked with fending off the pesky assaults of a wide range of enemies, utilizing the power-ups at their disposal. Like all things in life, this is made much easier when working together with a friend, and that’s where the game truly shines: the frantic onslaught lends itself wonderfully to party gameplay, complete with shrieking, curse words, and throwing a bottle of Coke at your cousin Charlie because dammit he’s a useless ally. If you’re keen to give it a shot but lack the resources to travel back in time to visit early 90s arcades, you can enjoy Tank Force as part of the Namco Museum compilation on Nintendo Switch.
But maybe you would like to settle for an imitator, after all? There’s always room in the tank stand, you know, and we’ve got a quota to hit. Evoking memories of Namco’s classics, Tank Brawl ushers the familiar into the new era, with a heavy emphasis on co-operative gameplay, and an RPG-like progression system to help broaden the appeal. Big bosses, massive explosions, what more could you want?
Tank! Tank! Tank!
Just because you’re rolling around in heavy artillery, doesn’t mean you have to adhere to reality. Tank! Tank! Tank! is a game so Japanese, you’d swear it says ‘domo arigato’ every time you booted it up. Grab a pal, or two, or even three should you be so popular, find the wackiest weapons, and unleash hell upon some fearsome monsters. Though this game has found its way to Wii U in recent times, the arcade original is still the best, especially because bystanders have an opportunity to laugh at your futility.
Tanks (Wii Play)
On a console that would become famous for its gimmicks, Wii Play stood tall as one of the first. Most of the games contained within are forgettable, and you’ll probably give them a single attempt simply to unlock more content, but the last of the bunch? It’s pretty freakin’ awesome. Set in a toy box like environment, your task is to take out the opposing tanks either alone or with a friend. With each enemy implementing a different strategy and weaponry, it can become a tactical struggle, and though you are ostensibly working together, a tally of your kills keeps things competitive the whole while.
The world is under attack from a hideous alien scourge known as the Cuur. The only hope for humanity lies in a prototype tank, and your keen ability to blow things up. Are you up to the task, soldier? Lil Tanks is a sidescroller as opposed to the more common, arena-type game prominent in this list, and at times is reminiscent of a bullet hell – deadly blasts whizzing by you at every moment. It features local co-op, and you can argue over which of you has to go as the miniature tank, a vehicle so small it evokes memories of the noisy cricket from Men in Black. Admittedly, it is indeed rather lil.
This game looks like it was directly lifted from MS-DOS, and that’s probably not coincidental; its inspiration traces back to Scorched Earth, a 1991 freeware game on – you guessed it – MS-DOS. Set in a stark environment with rather chaotic landscapes, two tanks set the angle of their turrets and fire volleys at one another, hoping to land a direct hit. It’s a lot like Worms, albeit without charming animated pink wriggly things mowing each other down.
Back in the day, we really had to use our imaginations when we were trying to live out our gaming fantasies. Sometimes, if you squinted hard enough, that green blob could be interpreted as Indiana Jones. In this aptly named 70’s arcade title, two players drove tanks, theoretically with the intention of doing harm. They avoided land mines, shot little white dots, rinsed, and repeated. Most interestingly, it was developed by Kee Games, a fake company owned by Atari that they used to job the system and double up on exclusivity deals. Those sneaky lads!
Obliterating your friends gets old after a while, so wouldn’t it be nice to put your issues aside and work together towards the greater good? Such is the case in Armored Warfare, a free-to-play game that has a heavy emphasis on PvE. Join up with up in platoons as big as five to take out the targets and win the futuristic war! And hey, if you get sick of them, there is of course the usual death match available, too.
Panzer Elite Action Gold Edition
Offput by that overblown title? Don’t be spooked, it’s easy to explain. So there’s Panzer Elite, and then there’s Panzer Elite ACTION. The latter of which is a less simulation-based game, with an emphasis on combat and accessibility. The former is good if you want to drive tanks. And you don’t really want much action. Depending on the size of the tank you select in PEAGE’s multiplayer mode, you’ll have a range of different secondary weapons at your disposal. Via LAN or Internet, you can stage warfare with up to 32 players. That’s a whole lot of tanks, did you ever stop to think how much that many armored vehicles would cost?
Let’s have some more Panzers, shall we? Rather than climbing into the cockpit yourself, Panzer Corps casts you as a general who must strategically employ your units into turn-based combat, moving them across the grid and successfully overcoming enemy forces. Its missions are tantalizingly tense, and the multiplayer has proven so popular, large-scale tournaments are organized every year. Just don’t lead your soldiers into a ravine, that probably wouldn’t end well.
Steel Beasts Pro PE
Another tank game with a more simulation-style vibe to it, Steel Beasts lets you live out your latent desires to see what the interior of an actual tank looks like. Alas, no bobbleheads in sight. Steel Beasts may be modest on the graphical front, but it makes up for it with high replayability, and even a scenario editor that allows for you to plot up your own dastardly schemes. A lively Steel Beasts community allows you to pick up an online multiplayer session with ease, complete with army jargon over the microphone. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, eh?
Iron Warriors: T-72 Tank Command
It can be hard to gain a competitive edge in the cutthroat genre of tank games, so it’s important to differentiate your project from everyone else’s. In the case of Iron Warriors, that means the ability to cycle through any of the roles within the tank, between the driver, the gunner, the machine-gunner, and the commander. Surely, you as the player are already the commander, but let’s not dwell on such semantics. What this feature means is that multiple players can all operate the one tank, a neat little quirk that will no doubt end in tears when your driver manages to direct you all into an oncoming missile.
Something of a fringe title on this list, Advance Wars features a variety of different unit types beyond just tanks, including infantry, planes and warships, but generally speaking, every battle is going to be won or lost on the strength of your tanks. A turn-based strategy title in the same vein as Panzer Corps, Advance Wars has a few different multiplayer options, the most basic of which involves you literally passing your handheld system back and forth between competitors. That doesn’t make it any less immersive though, and overwhelming your rival is incredibly satisfying, especially if you have a Neotank at your disposal. Love those things!
PLAY AGAINST OTHER TEAMS! GREEN FORCE vs. WHITE FORCE. If that text flashing onscreen in the arcade didn’t catch your eye back in the 90s, there must be something wrong with you. Tokyo Wars pit these two fierce rivals against one another, and after you had selected your allegiance, your mission was to make sure not a single tank was left standing on the enemy side. It had different viewpoints you could cycle through, the most thrilling of which was placed right underneath the tank’s cannon. It made ramming into your foes feel that much more satisfying/somehow ill-advised.
A title that 90s could only mean one thing: we’re fragging suckers on the Nintendo 64, baby! BattleTanx is set in a(nother) post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a virus that wiped out most of the female population. So what do the men do in their absence? Nuclear war, of course. It may look ugly and nasty by today’s standards, but getting together with your knucklehead friends and playing some capture the flag sure was a lot of fun. The sequel, Global Assault, was also a fine title, as long as you stayed away from the godawful PlayStation port.
Online multiplayer gaming back in 1997? It was a thing, believe it or not. In a genre that has since become a staple of the gaming world, it can be hard to appreciate the early trailblazers that laid down the groundwork. Jump into the arena, adjust your tank specs depending on the mission at hand, and get to it. It was straightforward and addictive, though we lament the fact that they didn’t stick with the original working title, Armorgeddon.
Oh, but of course there was an even earlier instance of online tank combat. Meet BZFlag, the free-to-play open source game that has been doing the rounds publicly since 1993. With more than two decades worth of tinkering, BZFlag has undergone a few changes here and there, but the core elements remain the same: shoot your enemies, collect some flags to boost your stats, and have a grand old time. For context: this game is older than Justin Bieber.
In a plot that makes even Tank! Tank! Tank! seem realistic, Tread Marks is based on the premise that a bunch of AI-controlled tanks grew bored and decided to go have some fun. And how do tanks have fun? By blowing each other up, capturing flags (those precious flags) and even racing one another. Tank races? Sounds dreadful, we’re in.
Gulf Wars: Operation Desert Hammer
It’s tanks, but in the sand, this time! Alright!! As you may have surmised from the title, this one revolves around the Gulf War. We’re still hunting for that desert hammer, though.
Armored Fist 3
Is that a nickname for a tank? It sounds kind of like innuendo. In any event, Armored Fist 3 gives players the tools to make their own missions, which they can then share over the web, so that all will know the full extent of their dastardly wickedness. It has online multiplayer, too. Obviously. It wouldn’t be on this list, otherwise.
It’s like Tank, just much uglier. It also has different modes of battles that don’t involve tanks. On this tank-centric list though, that sounds borderline sacrilegious. Keep your biplanes and jets to yourself, vile candyman!
On that same note, War Thunder doesn’t quite suit this list, because of its range of vehicles on offer, but its popularity meant we would have to give in and add it to the ranks, eventually. We just made sure it would be late enough to make you sweat. War Thunder is loaded to the gills with options to appease any wily veteran, including modes that adjust the physics engines to make things seem more realistic. Worried that that’ll make you likely to crash your plane into the side of a mountain? Tough! Should’ve chosen a tank, sucker.
Because the only thing more fun than a tank is a technicality (a tanknicality, if you will). This light gun shooter on the Super Nintendo pits you as the plucky gunner of a gigantic mech suit known as the ST Falcon. That ST is short for Standing Tank, and as such, it qualifies it for this list. There is a sick kind of satisfaction from pelting your rivals with blasts of plasma energy and watching their mechanical limbs fly off, amid horrified screeching. The multiplayer mode can best be described as ‘something that is almost sorta also there’, with two people alternating between rounds. The second player is relegated to a vehicle called the ST Mosquito, which operates in exactly the same way, but based on name alone, is infinitely less cool.