The coolest thing about strategy games is that they can come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Some are contemplative, lean back style experiences. Others are fast and reflex-y. Some strategy games do a little bit of everything as far as pacing goes. We see a nice mix across the board on the App Store.

In 2012, we saw a lot of killer strategy games across iPhone and iPad. Some of the best didn't just toe genre lines -- they steamrolled them. Fieldrunners 2, for example, is more than just a competent tower defense game. It's a product of a studio that has a mastery of the art and it used its vast knowledge to inform some of the tightest, most well-balanced action we've ever seen in a TD game.

Our top strategy games of the year celebrates the titles we've seen that do a little more than the rest of their competition. Each has a unique hook or a quality that other similar games don't have.

Fieldrunners 2, $2.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - [TA Plays] - Fieldrunners 2 is the ultimate iterative game. It improves upon the original in a lot of smart ways. The action is crisper and more challenging. The look is more polished, much more refined. And the new world map and turret constructs feel perfectly paired with the tower defense action, which, again, is remarkably good. You can't go wrong with this.

The Walking Dead: Assault, $2.99 - [Forum Thread] - [ TA Plays ] - Walking Dead: Assault takes the 3D, turn-based strategy action game model to the next level by dropping the over-used arena model and, instead, using compelling scenarios that have you escorting, scavenging, and eliminating things in the Walking Dead universe. Great use of color, solid touch controls, and neat hooks push this over.

Plague Inc., $0.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - This game has blown up in a way we didn't think it could, but the attention is deserved. Plague Inc. is all about creating a plague that can wipe out the entire planet. Your job is to GM the plague -- to make it stronger, faster, and deadlier as it travels the globe and scientists scramble to cure it. It's a fascinating game with deep systems with a lot of neat perks that you unlock as you play.

Outwitters, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - While looking dangerously simple on the surface, Outwitters is one of the most tactical online asynchronous strategy games around. Every move requires careful thought and foresight, and one wrong move can allow your opponent to bury you. Outwitters also does a good job at realizing it's a game designed for mobile, with a clean interface and relatively small maps which make for quick games while on the go.

Bad Hotel, $1.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - With a strong look and killer sound, Bad Hotel leaves a powerful first impression. The action is what'll hook you, though. This is a tower defense game where you defend your towers as you frantically build turrets to fend off suicidal birds. Neat grid mechanics keep the action simple enough, but smart scenario design keeps you on your toes.

Hero Academy, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Hero Academy takes the whole "one more turn" thing to the next level. It's a brilliant, 2D strategy game perfectly catered for people who love asynchronous games. The balance between the teams is phenomenal considering the scale of the task, and the strategy is wildly diverse.

Hunters 2, $4.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Hunters 2 is everything the original Hunters was, except bigger, badder, and longer. The game's campaign weaves in a good story on top of the turn-based action, while the mobile feature set -- like buying weapons in a real-time market -- keep you coming back for more and more.

Monster Wars, $0.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Liv Games took all the genre-blending of their previous hit Legendary Wars and flipped it around to let you play through the same universe from the bad guys' perspective. I love when games do that. Monster Wars offered up an incredible amount of content and a variety of different gameplay styles, all wrapped up in a cohesive art style that tied together very nicely with Legendary Wars' story and universe.

Brainsss, $0.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - What could have been just another zombie game ended up being one of the fresher takes on a top-down strategy title. Lead a group of zombies around in search of helpless survivors to turn into the undead and add to your numbers. As your zombie horde grows, strategically split them off into smaller groups to search out even more victims.

  • GiHubb

    Brainsss in, Kingdom Rush out? Strange, very strange. Sometimes I agree that opinions can be different, but Kingdom Rush is by far superior to most if not all of these games and at least deserved to be on the list. I honestly don't understand this.

    • felipe

      Kingdom Rush was released in 2011 (december).. check it out on AppShopper -- to iPad.. iPhone in 2012 - it's weird!

  • http://www.facebook.com/efwefwwef.wvvrwwrv Efwefwwef Wvvrwwrv

    And where is bloons td 5??!!

    • dariusjr98

      Totally agree.

  • mommagamehouse

    Completely agree with GitHubb . Why kingdom rush is missing in the list ? It's the best tower defence game on iOS platform . At least add game name in the list.

  • rodgerodger

    Good games, but with the exception of Hunters 2 these are all "lite" strategy games. Which is fine, but there are better choices for more meatier strategy games.

    • GiHubb

      Indeed, games such as Battle Academy, Autumn Dynasty, Battle of the Bulge, are by far superior strategy games. Oh well, TA always looked at the more casual, better selling games over the more hardcore, serious games, which is a tad disappointing.

      • http://www.Indieflashmob.com/ Trent

        Definitely agree with Battle of the Bulge and Autumn Dynasty. I'd also add Summoner Wars which is amazing as well.

      • Scott Cameron

        If you want hardcore, serious games - you should be at Pocket Tactics. That's never what TA has been about.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Pocket Tactics is fantastic.

  • http://twitter.com/rezzo Juan Pablo Pérez T.

    Kingdom Rush >>>> this list

  • bobbstermang

    My vote is for Kingdom Rush.

  • http://biggerthanrufus.tumblr.com/ Rufus Sufur

    Perhaps some kind of exception for Kingdom Rush? Was it considered in the Best Of 2011 lists? If not, it should have been listed here. Definitely one of the best TD games this year.

  • http://twitter.com/Guibs Stephane Guibord

    Kingdom rush should have been an easy winner in this category. I know it came out in 2011 on ipad but it was release in 2012 for iphone.

  • evilsearch

    this is insane, where is kingdom rush? even though on iphone, it blows those game above out. definitley on a different level.

  • Tacocat

    There is literally nothing special about kingdom rush, it makes me wonder about all of these people commenting about it and what their real motivations are...

  • http://twitter.com/awp69 awp69

    Guess Kingdom Rush is borderline with the iPad release in 2011, but it did open itself up to a much larger crowd in 2012 with the iPhone release. Best TD of they year for iPhone owners, although I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed Fieldrunners 2. Autumn Dynasty is definitely an omission though.

  • Kornnn

    Kingdom rush is without a doubt THE tower defense of the year, and I really don't get why Fieldrunners2 is considered a "good" defense game, except for the animation and graphics, FR2 is no where near kingdom rush in any aspect.

    Also, a few good titles to mention: March OZ, ERA TD, Jelly Defense, Gem Keeper, just to name a few, all awesome games for TD fans.

  • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

    Vote *NO* on Outwitters & Hero Academy. Just *dull*.
    Also another vote for Kingdom Rush.
    Lastly, agreed on Hunters 2 being 'strategy' game, while others are "light" (except for Kingdom Rush which didn't make the list).

  • nomster

    I'd include Dynamite Jack as one of the best strategy games this year - even comes with a level editor and access to player made maps

    Not complaining about this list btw - just sayin...

    PS. Couldn't post this via TA App on iPad (error 18) or similar

  • http://twitter.com/cloudofgeeks Jiyoung Lee

    Why isn't there Castle Master 3D? It's something you should check among the games released in 2012...

  • Loke2112

    Kingdom Rush and Great Big War Game didn't make the cut? SMH

    • http://twitter.com/RubiconDevelop Rubicon Development

      Thanks for the shout out. Yeah, I was a tad disappointed about GBWG. It reviewed better on here than most of the other picks. Guess I need to work on my personal hygiene or somethin...

  • Playpunk

    Comin in late to the Frey but yeah, it's a total crime kingdom rush didn't make it on to this list, makes me feel like its in the same no mans land as muffin knight.....even tho look at all what they did with that program and supercratebox hasn't even delivered one promised extra this year.