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Tower Defense

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A video game sub-genre of strategy where you defend a building from monsters using other buildings, sometimes with a unit or two to back you up. Similar to Multi-Mook Melee, Tower Defense games have you facing wave upon wave of "creeps"note  until a given number reach their goal, or you survive the final wave.

Creeps will move along the path that is either:

  • Static: Creeps move along the same paths.
  • Dynamic: The placement of towers will determine the paths which creeps move along. Dynamic paths usually create a strategy called "mazing", allowing the player to make long, winding paths that force the enemy to take the longest possible route to their destination, all the while being blasted by the towers herding them.

A typical Tower Defense game will have:

  • Creeps that behave differently. Some are Fragile Speedsters or Mighty Glaciers, some are Asteroids Monsters, others can fly over towers and bypass most of your defenses, etc.
  • "Boss" creeps on certain waves.
  • A strategy that requires a balance of producing more towers and upgrading existing ones. More important in dynamic path type ones.
  • Balance between different towers. Ideally, none of the tower types should be completely useless.
  • Commonly, a "survival" mode in which each level retains the towers you built in the previous level and/or the enemies get tougher as the game progresses instead of simply increasing in number.
  • Hold the Line as its core element.

As of lately, a trend in this genre has started to develop where the games will feature the ability for the player to be the attacking force pitted against the towers. Some games in the genre get to the point of devoting themselves entirely to this, eschewing the defense element altogether. It is also the basis of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, with Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars being basically born as a 5 vs 5 reverse tower defense using Warcraft 3's hero mechanics.


Another form of Tower Defense features a single tower or gate on one side of the screen, which is then beset by the Creeps marching forth to destroy it. The player is usually given one or more weapons directly controlled by them, while upgrades may add automatic defenses and defenders.

The third form of defense game is the "Tug-of-War"/Beam-O-War style. In which there are two towers or bases at each end of one or more paths, and the player(s) and AI send different units down the path to attack the enemy base(s). Opposing units that meet will fight each other, and the object is to push the enemy force back to their own side and destroy their base(s).

Examples of Tower Defense as a Full Game:

  • Castle Panic: A board game tower defense game. Can be played solo or co-op.

Examples of Tower Defense as a Mini-Game:

  • Age of Empires II: Age Of Kings (and the expansion pack Conquerors) had a "Wonder Race" game type, in which you are required to build a wonder and defend it for 200 years before your opponent(s).
  • Animal Jam has "Pest Control", in which the player uses biological pest controlnote  to prevent the pestsnote  from reaching the end of the static path.
  • Civilization IV came with a "Civ Defense" mod, in which one starts with a certain number of cities, spends money (rather than the usual "hammers") to add to their fortifications and defenses, and then horde after horde of barbarians come at you.
  • Club Penguin had "System Defender", in which the player has to set up cannons to stop the Mecha-Mook from destroying the EPF Mainframe computer. Interestingly, while threats could be simulated by all players, there would be live threats that could be handled by members only.
  • Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII are probably the Ur Examples:
    • Final Fantasy VI has has an event similar to this halfway through the first part of the game; there's a difference in that you battle the mooks using the standard battle system, but otherwise the execution is the same.
    • The Fort Condor mini-game in Final Fantasy VII is essentially a tower defense game.
  • The Trope Maker was the various user-made defense maps in StarCraft - Sunken D, Turret D, Stacked Photon D, etc. The Starcraft editor did not allow you to create new units or buildings, so they usually made much more use of mobile units than most current Tower Defenses. See, for example, this video of Weed D, which is recognizably a fixed-path Tower Defense game except that the "towers" being "built" are Mutalisks.
  • The Trope Codifier was Tower Defense maps for Warcraft III. The editor was much more sophisticated than Starcraft's, allowing for greater variety in attack buildings. Multiple subgenres appeared and proliferated, such as the Wintermaul clones.
    • The expansion pack, Frozen Throne, contains a Tower Defense map as a bonus level.
  • Some user-created maps for other Real-Time Strategy games follow this style.
  • The Iron Grip series is part Tower Defense and part FPS.
  • A variation of this appears in Legion's Loyalty Mission in Mass Effect 2, where Mooks must march towards you in a fixed path while you have Legion hack a few turrets around the area to shoot at them. Alternatively, you can just cap them yourself.
  • 3D Dot Game Heroes has a Tower Defense mini-game called Block Defense.
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations had Den Defenses, where Templar soldiers assault one of dens controlled by the Assassins. Ezio is responsible for organizing the defense by placing barricades in the streets and various types of Assassins on the rooftops firing down upon them.
  • Mann Versus Machine mode in Team Fortress 2 is something of a First-Person Shooter version of a Tower Defense minigame. There is/was also a fan-made Tower Defense minigame mod in development.
  • "Red's Mighty Feathers" from Angry Birds adapts the Angry Birds formula for the Tower Defense genre. The pigs are advancing upon the egg using their vehicles, and the Red Bird must protect the egg by popping the pigs with his new homing power.
  • "Englos Defense", a bonus level in DROD: The Second Sky.
  • "Frontier Defense" from Titanfall, added in Title Update 8.
  • Sunset Overdrive has seven mandatory "Night Defense" missions where the player fiends off two waves of OD from attacking multiple Vats.
  • Terraria Otherworld has segments like this, where the player needs to place down towers to defend against monsters attacking the purifying machines.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 has two variants of this.
    • The first is Mining Base, Emergency Quests where players are tasked with protecting towers against increasingly powerful and aggressive waves of Darkers while collecting crystals to unlock new weapons and defensive measures.
    • The second is Buster Quests, introduced in Episode 5. The first half of these quests entail protecting towers from an onslaught of enemies, albeit with a wider array of weapons and defensive measures available from the start. The players are also tasked with raiding an enemy castle and destroying the boss therein.
  • Path of Exile's Blight expansion introduced missions where players had to defend a purifying device from monsters advancing over multiple lanes. While particularly powerful characters can clear them without assistance, usually you'd have to construct towers to damage, debuff and/or stall enemies. Blighted maps take it further, turning an entire location into a huge defense mission with over a dozen lanes and several unique bosses.

Examples of Tower Defense games that include the ability to play as the attackers:

  • Anomaly: Warzone Earth - Considered by many to be the Genre Launcher for Tower Offense games. Here, you upgrade a constantly moving force to attack an enemy base/garrison filled with turrets.
  • Villainous - Also a Tower Offense game where you play as the villain on his quest to take over the lands.
  • Armored Core V - A Mecha Game where most of the online component consists of you assaulting other team's territories akin to a glorified 3D-Tower Defense game. As with everything else however, being intercepted by that territory's owner and prepare for a Team Deathmatch style game instead, with all the turrets present. Like real Turret Defense games, turrets run the gamut from "squishy little targets" to "hard as a barnacle to remove", and combinations of turrets often give even the most experienced players trouble.
  • A game literally named Anti-Tower Defense. You select versions of certain robot creeps to casually walk (argh) through a progressively harder tower network.
  • Plants vs. Zombies on the Xbox 360 has the 2-player versus mode. The zombies' side has you attacking the plants and attempting to get into the house, while defending your targets from the plants' attacks. All the versions of the game have a simpler version of this in the "I, Zombie" minigame, where you have to pick zombies to attack a pre-selected set of plants.
  • Tower defense makes up half of the gameplay in League of Legends. Towers can dish incredible amounts of damage against heroes, but they will always target creeps first; the goal is to use teamwork, strategy and your minions to take out three enemy towers on each lane, then an Inhibitor that prevents you from spawning super creeps or "winions", then two final towers and finally the enemy's Nexus. Because the other team has the same goal, you play simultaneously as attacker and defender.
  • Stronghold, a series of castle-building games which are mostly defensive except for the rare mission where you play an invading army trying to get into an opponent's castle. These also involve setting up a complex supply chain, managing taxes and morale, but for the most part, the aim is to build a big wall around your keep, and stock it with as many archers and crossbowmen as possible to pick off the approaching invaders.
  • Dungeon Defenders has an event match called 'assault' where, "in an unexpected twist, YOU have to attack THEIR crystal!"
  • Pokémon Tower Defense also features sections where your 'Mons go on the attack.
  • Doggnation was originally designed as a Tower Defense game, but this eventually changed into more of a puzzle game where you have to help the "Doggs" carry specific blocks to upgrade their castle.
  • Dead Space Ignition has a Hacking Mini Game that is a tower Offense game. You send out an unlimited number of computer viruses to break down the computer firewalls and get to the computer program before time runs out.
  • Game Mod Red Alert 3: Paradox is unique in that it has BOTH sides of a tower defense game as RTS factions.
  • Defenders of Ardania, a Tower Defense game set in the Majesty universe, has you do defense with towers and offense with units at the same time.
  • The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot, at least if you're on the defense.
  • In City Conquest, both players have a city, and each player switches between offense and defense.
  • Ghost Hacker 2 has segments where you place Mooks to collect Data cubes from a security system. In the first game, it was a bonus level. Unlike many examples, your mooks can instantly destroy the enemy towers should they run into them or their "nodes".
  • Dragon Wars, when you aren't defending your own base from being attacked. The other point is to attack other players' bases with your dragons.
  • Royal Revolt and its sequel are similar. Most of the time, you're using your Player Character king/queen to attack other players' castles.
  • A bonus game mode in Video Game/Dwarfs, called "Base Defend". In a twist, you have to build the maze beforehand by guiding your digger dwarf properly (although the more complex the maze is, the more expensive it is.)

Alternative Title(s): Tower Defence


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