In tower defense games, the player is tasked with defending a structure, like a castle or a house, from enemies. To accomplish this task, the player needs to choose from a variety of purchasable units (generally referred to as “towers”) and put them in the path of the enemies to stave off their onslaught. The towers have different properties – they have different costs, attack ranges, attack power, they might attack just one enemy or all enemies near them, and so on. Some towers might not even attack enemies at all, instead, they provide some sort of advantage like slowing down the enemies near the tower, improving other towers’ power, or generating currency… you get the idea. Selecting which tower to place, and where and when to place it, is what you will be doing in these games 99% of the time. A simple idea made complex and strategic by the sheer amount of properties and effects that the towers – and the enemies – possess. We have selected several great games of this genre that are available to play on Mac, so that you, the reader, can see for yourself what this is all about, or perhaps find a new game to try out if you’re already an experienced tower defense player. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Plants vs. Zombies: GOTY Edition
It was a lovely, sunny day in the suburban town of Neighborville when suddenly, without any warning or provocation, zombies began their attack. You’ve gotta defend yourself, but… what an honest homeowner could do? Why it’s time to put your immaculately trimmed lawn to use – it sure is a good thing you have seeds of some vicious plants lying around.
Although Plants vs. Zombies is quite an old game – it’s been released in 2009 – it is a timeless masterpiece its age should not keep you from appreciating. The game’s charming 2D art style, witty unit descriptions, engaging gameplay, and gentle learning curve made it extremely popular right from the launch and kept it well-known and relevant to this day.
If you’re a beginner seeking to dip your toes into the tower defense genre – you can’t go wrong with Plants vs. Zombies. It is a very beginner-friendly game, it starts off easy and gradually ramps up the difficulty without ever getting frustrating, it’s got some fun mini-games to spice up the gameplay, and, thanks to its age, the game is very cheap and frequently goes on sale. An excellent first pick, and a must-play overall.
If you’re an experienced TD player… let’s be honest, you’ve played this game already. Maybe it’s time to replay it again? It’d be worth it.
Bloons TD 6
Bloons TD 6 is a bright, colorful game about monkeys that shoot down balloons. Sounds simple, right? Well, no. Of course not. This is a tower defense game, after all – being complex while sounding simple is what they do. And so we have a myriad of different monkeys destroying a plethora of equally varied balloons, with different attack types and immunities. The monkeys can be upgraded, and some even upgrade themselves, research can be performed to improve your monkeys’ performance – which does not reset and carries over into every subsequent game, obstacles that block monkeys’ line-of-sight litter the landscape… this game has complexity and depth in spades, and can provide hundreds of hours of entertainment. The fact that this game still receives updates and has daily challenges only serves to further prove this point.
If all these things sound overwhelming, though, don’t worry! While Bloons TD 6 does not shy away from giving its players a challenge, it also provides ways to play casually. The players unlock more challenging levels as they play, but, as there’s no story, there’s also no push to go and complete them. And seeing as players can select which level they want to play on their own volition, casual players can just stick to easier levels and game modes without worry that the game would get too difficult at some point. This game is only as difficult as you want it to be, so both pros and beginners would find it worth checking out.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this game is available on smartphones, so you can, say, play a few quick matches on your iPhone while waiting for an appointment, and have your progress automatically sync up with your Mac version of the game. And while we strive to be a family-friendly website – look, this is just between you and me, alright – you can play it on Android too. We won’t judge, I promise.
And now for something a little different. Mindustry is a tower-defense game that describes itself as “focused on resource management”. But what does that mean? Well, in this game, your towers don’t just… work, they need ammo, and instead of buying towers with a single currency, you build them out of materials like iron and stone. Hence, resource management. This might sound complex, but it’s actually fairly simple to grasp once you’re in the game – though that doesn’t mean this game isn’t challenging.
Another exciting feature of this game is that it isn’t just a series of disconnected levels that don’t interact with each other in any way. Rather, you are on a planet, and must capture “sectors”. You can then use these sectors under your control to produce resources, thus helping you conquer other, more challenging sectors. But sectors don’t stay yours once you’ve beaten the enemies there – they will attempt to retake their land. This greatly expands on the gameplay, adding a whole new layer of things to consider. You’re not confined to just defense here, you’ll have to go on the offensive as well. Multiplayer is also available, in both cooperative and PvP varieties, which will no doubt please many players out there.
And you know what else? This game has a free version that is almost as good as the paid Steam version, mainly lacking quality-of-life features that rely on Steam to function, like easy-to-use multiplayer or downloading custom maps from Workshop. So go ahead and give it a try – it won’t cost you a cent.
Kingdom Rush: Vengeance
Kingdom Rush: Vengeance is the fourth game in the Kingdom Rush tower defense game series. This game, as well as the series as a whole, features very… typical TD gameplay, with minimal amount of twists. But that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing! While twists and additions are excellent to spice up the gameplay, there’s nothing wrong with going back to the basics, either. If you love tower defense games but don’t like how so many games of the genre keep trying to add something else to them in an attempt to stand out, why, this series got you covered. Being a tower defense game series that doesn’t change the basic formula of the gameplay in any major way is exactly what the series has set out to accomplish, and it is what it should be praised for doing.
If you want to give Kingdom Rush: Vengeance a try, do keep in mind that unlike Bloons TD, this game series does have a story – and while we recommend this particular game since it’s the latest and has the most content, you might want to start with the first one to have an easier time following. Not that you have to, of course – the story is not a literary masterpiece that you should play this game for, but – all Kingdom Rush games are very solid, decent tower defense games, and for that reason the decision, whether to jump right into the latest game that has the most content, or start from the first game, is a decision worth considering.
Now, I’ve got to be honest with you – the game I’m about to talk is in Early Access. But – look, don’t just scroll past this part – this is a good Early Access game, not one of these types that don’t have any content yet have the nerve to charge money for that gameplay-devoid shell. Quite the opposite, in fact. Not only this game fun enough to have its Steam reviews be “overwhelmingly positive”, it is also completely free. Though there is a paid DLC for this game, even that doesn’t offer anything other than cosmetics.
But what Vectorio actually is like? Well, Vectorio is a blend of a base builder and a tower defense genres – you build a base and defend it from enemies. Much like Mindustry, this game’s got a logistical side to it, but is quite simple overall, designed to be fun and casual over giving players a challenge. Vectorio also has a very nice aesthetic, with generally relaxing synthetic music and simple, yet pleasant neon-like artstyle. The game’s simplicity probably means that you wouldn’t sink as many hours into it as you could into some other, more complex tower defense game, but it’s still a very fun game worth checking out.
And to end this list, let’s talk about Sanctum 2 – perhaps the most unusual blend of the tower defense genre with another one. To be specific, Sanctum 2 combines a TD game with a first-person shooter – bet you weren’t expecting combo, huh? Me neither. Anyway… the way this game makes this genre combination work is quite simple, to the point of being elegant in just how much sense it makes. First you construct a maze to route the enemies through, place the towers, of course… and then, once you’re done with that and the enemies begin to attack, the game drops you into the maze you just built to assist with the defense yourself.
With four character classes that then can be customized further, a challenge system that lets you add certain rules to make the game harder, and the ability to route the enemies through your own maze (unlike many games of the genre that give you a predetermined route), this game offers plenty of replayability, though admittedly it might get a little repetitive if you play many rounds in rapid succession. It also has multiplayer, but… this is a game that was released in 2013, and so you probably won’t find many people playing it. Nonetheless, it is a very good game, and definitely deserves a place on this list despite its age, as there’s no newer game that’s nothing quite like it.
But wait… what about Windows Tower Defense games?
While there are plenty of great tower defense games on Mac, there are so many others that are, unfortunately, Windows-only. Great games such as Rogue Tower, Orcs Must Die! series, Tribes of Midgard… there are so many tower defense games that just don’t have a Mac port. Luckily for any tower defense game enthusiast out there, we have a comprehensive tutorial on how to play any Windows game on Mac.