City-building games are the best.
You can conjure up a city with your fingertips and watch your residents scamper about. Or you may establish a community and assist your residents survive the harsh winter months, or you can just plop down structures in the midst of an endless ocean for fun.
It’s a genre founded on construction and management, although it encompasses a wide range of games. So, here are the top eight city-building games you must play.
1. Cities Skylines
Cities Skylines, the fantastic, frustrating, vast game produced by Colossal Order, is the current pinnacle of the city-building genre.
Despite the fact that Cities Skylines was released in 2015, it remains at the top of the list more than seven years later. That popularity and durability may be attributed in large part to its massive army of modders, hundreds of people committed to introducing new assets, styles, maps, lighting schemes, and other features to the game.
In this regard, the game is substantially different from its 2015 release at the time of writing, in 2022. Many would argue that playing vanilla Cities Skylines on PC (there is no modification on the console version) is a fool’s errand when there are so many quality of life enhancements available in the Steam Workshop.
However, the modders are not doing it alone. In 2022, Colossal Order published the Airports DLC, the title’s ninth major DLC, among a slew of additional minor content creator packs, radio stations, and other additions.
Townscaper is a zen-city building experience unlike anything you’ve experienced before, with everything from mass-transit and enormous metropolis to the modest and creative.
Townscaper by Oskar Stlberg says “There is no objective. There is no actual gameplay. Just a lot of construction and a lot of beauty.” The creator captures the description, and you may have a great time laying out structures to emerge from the watery beginning scene.
Some folks are turned off by the lack of direction. The fun of Townscaper, on the other hand, is finding out how various structures interact with one another, altering their colors, and designing fantastically gorgeous villages one block at a time.
Frostpunk, a survival-cum-city-builder from the creators of the highly acclaimed This War of Mine, is a cruel game in which your survivors suffer through existence in the middle of a horrific volcanic winter.
The cold settles in and stays. You’ll have to strike a balance between the necessity to keep your survivors warm and, well, alive, and the need for your civilisation to flourish and thrive. You’ll soon discover that insulation and storing are critical to keeping your generator working. You’re going to have a hard time if you don’t have it.
Throughout Frostpunk, you’ll have to make difficult choices on politics, working conditions, and even child labor laws. It’s not a fun city-building adventure. It’s full of disease, death, and concern, yet it’s a fantastic experience altogether.
What is the nicest part of all? Frostpunk 2 is being developed by 11 bit studios!
4. SimCity 2000/3000/4
There was just one name in city-building games before Cities Skylines: SimCity. The first SimCity was fantastic, but it wasn’t until the release of SimCity 2000 in 1993 that the series truly took off.
SimCity 3000, the game’s sequel, was published to great acclaim in 1999, earning rave reviews across the board, and fresh user-content releases for contemporary structures are still available more than 20 years later.
Then, with SimCity 4, the game adopted a completely regional architecture, allowing you to construct a variety of city types, mixing enormous metropolises with regional industries, agricultural zones, power production, and much more. SimCity 4 is still relevant today.
Despite widespread anticipation, SimCity’s most recent release, the title SimCity in 2013, was unanimously planned for release. EA chose to debut SimCity as an online-only game, which meant that you couldn’t play or access your single-player towns unless you had an internet connection and a link to an EA server. Hundreds of thousands of individuals were unable to play due to server overload at launch. Then there were major difficulties with the game’s pathing and routing, as well as delays in updates to address these issues.
Because of its dismal overall success, EA closed the Maxis studio and has only released a free-to-play mobile game since. Still, a greatest city-building games list would be incomplete without SimCity, and if you can get your hands on the older releases or find a way to play SimCity online, it’s well worth your time.
Banished was notable when it was released in 2014 for a number of reasons.
First, despite its size, development was solely the responsibility of a single guy, Luke Hodorowicz, who began work on Banished in 2011. Second, and in relation to the previous point, Banished’s city-building mechanics are intricate enough to keep you playing for hours as you try to steer your budding town into a vibrant community.
When your planet becomes more secure, Banished’s focus shifts from the hard survival mode necessary in the early days of your settlement to resource management, commerce, and growth.
Regardless, it’s a fantastic city-building game, and the fact that it continues to earn positive feedback on Steam years after its initial release speaks something about the game’s richness and replayability. Additionally, there are various modifications and overhauls available on the Steam Workshop that may breathe fresh life into the original game after a few runs.
Islanders is unique among the city-building games on our list. Instead of just laying out zones and managing your infrastructure budget, Islanders necessitates the exact placement of particular structures in order to get a large enough score to unlock your next set of buildings.
One move becomes a careful balancing act between producing something visually appealing and positioning structures that trigger a precise point tally next to each other.
It’s surprisingly addicting, and has that “just one more round” atmosphere that will have you going back for more, so it’s no surprise it’s also on our list of the greatest base-building and kingdom-building games.
7. Caesar III
Caesar III is the greatest entry in the ancient Roman city-building series and the last product created by Sierra Entertainment.
In Caesar III, you play as a Roman ruler, constructing your freshly established Roman city and improving the lives of your inhabitants. You move through tasks, seeking to solve issues and provide wealth to your people.
It’s enjoyable to experiment with different combinations to help your city expand. You’ll need to port water throughout your city for drinking and bathing, as well as develop marketplaces for commerce and defense, all while keeping an eye on the gods, who must also be kept sweet.
There is some micromanagement, such as fine-tuning taxes and constructing outputs, but you don’t have to become involved—though it does assist. Caesar III is accessible on various gaming platforms, but you may need to first learn how to play ancient games and software.
8. Tropico 6
Tropico debuted in 2001, barely two years after Caesar III. The graphical difference between the two games is really night and day. Tropico was an intriguing, exotic 3D city builder for many people, with the extra twist that you are “El Presidente,” and your word is definitive.
Despite the fact that Tropico 6 was released about 20 years after the original, your aim remains the same: maintain power at all costs.
Tropico 6 increased the game environment to include many buildable islands, a stronger emphasis on infrastructure, and improved individual citizen modeling. It’s an opulent-looking city simulator that checks a different box than others; creating a tropical paradise is a welcome contrast from Frostpunk’s wastelands or Cities Skylines’ blank canvas.
What Are the Best City Building Games?
The eight games listed above are some of the greatest city-building games available, both old and new. However, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Other city-building games you should look at include the ANNO series, The Settlers, Caesar, Foundation, and Surviving Mars.
In summary, the city-building genre is vast, and we’ve been trying to imitate the environment around us for as long as we’ve been gaming, so we can manage it as we see fit.
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