Ever wanted to call the shots like El Presidente? Perhaps you fancy your hand at creating the world’s most efficient sewage system? Whatever the reason, I have no doubt that you’re the gamer our leaderless communities have been seeking.
It’s time to test your management skills with this years best city building games.
Whether you rule as an unholy tyrant or the greatest benevolence, building your humble pueblo into a sky-high megalopolis won’t be easy. You’ll have to juggle storm surges, air crashes, and prosperity among your peons. The many responsibilities of simulation city-building games are part of the fun (and challenge).
But which are the best city builders right now?
Let’s find out!👇
Top 10 Best City Building Games
Modern city-building games invent new spins on the much-loved concept, so there is a place and position for any type of gamer. Whether you prefer the logistics of a no-nonsense bureaucrat or the chaotic control of a devilish designer, there’s something here that’s right up your street.
If you’re an entry-level emperor, wondering which empire suits you best, I’ll walk you through the pantheon of city-builders, and I bet that you’ll find the perfect plot among these listings– On to the first house tour!
Here are the top 10 best city-building games to play right now:
Release Date: 10th March 2015 Platforms: PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox Developer: Colossal Order
Cities: Skylines remains top of the heap when it comes to the intricacies of modern city building– And manually setting up the power lines or designating the residential, commercial, and industrial zones isn’t what’s impressive.
This level of detail and commitment to realism is why it continues to stand above its competition as the most realistic city-building game around. You set up the policies that govern local law and economy. Your road management dictates traffic flow, which dominoes into your city’s productivity.
And, for better or worse, it has very infrequent random events or disasters to distract from true city management. We all know how frustrating those can be!
Most Replayable City Building Game
Release Date: 30th March 2019 Platforms: Switch, PC, Xbox, and PlayStation Developer: Limbic Entertainment
If you’re campaigning for a city-builder that focuses on the politics of your position as president, then the island shores of Tropico 6 should be your destination. Among the palm trees and crocodiles, you’ll be entrusted with building paradise from the sand up, all while you’re talking down diplomats over the phone.
Tropico is without the complexity of Skylines or SimCity, but balancing your people’s needs with your political aspirations is challenging indeed. And if you fail to stay in power, your paradisiacal visions will never become a reality.
Most Creative City Building Game
Release Date: 30th June 2020 Platforms: PC, Switch, Android, iOS, and Xbox Developer: Oskar Stålberg
Sometimes, we crave not to rule, not manage a burgeoning population, but to simply create a beautiful city. Oskar Stalberg answered our pleas with Townscaper.
His goal? Unimpeded creation.
There is no “goal” nor “real gameplay”, only the block-by-block designing of a charming seaside town. It’s far different from its compatriots on this list, as it has no hurricanes, stock market collapses, or challenges of any kind. You simply place bricks here and there, and the procedural generation builds grand hotels, or a fisherman’s dock for you.
It’s the ideal game for those who want to chill, and paint a city by hand.
Best Survival City Management Game
Release Date: 24th April 2018 Platforms: Windows PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One & MacOS Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Climate change introduced new fears into the public consciousness. Could a society survive if the world froze over? How would we manage such a harsh climate and such great scarcity? And what if it was on a train?
Save for that last one, Frostpunk is your answer, and to make matters worse, it’s in the 19th century! As the Captain of the last city on Earth, you make the brutal decisions that ensure humanity’s survival. Make sacrifices, enforce barbaric laws with an iron fist, and prevent the starving masses from raiding your supplies.
Rated as one of our top 10 best Xbox survival games, under my own leadership, the children worked in the coal mines for 24-hour shifts– It was our only chance of keeping the growing frost at bay. Now, I wouldn’t dare try such a thing with my real-life team, but to experience such choices in this most innocent of genres sparks an impish thrill.
Most Casual City Management Game
Release Date: 4th April 2019 Platforms: Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC Developer: GrizzlyGames & Coatsink
Islanders is a minimalist strategy masquerading as a city-builder. Sure you build cities, but they grow with clever placement of buildings, not over time. Each island has limited resources and it’s your task to optimize your city for a high score.
You begin with a limited inventory of infrastructure, and you build in the available space to score points. More points mean more technology. As your city grows, so does the game’s complexity, but since you have all the time in the world to think through your placement, the game is pleasurably zen and meditative.
Most Iconic City Building Game
Release Date: 14th January 2003 Platforms: Windows PC, MacOS & Linux Developer: Maxis & Aspyr
Do city-building games get more iconic than SimCity 4?
Even if Utopia was the progenitor of the genre, SimCity was the populariser– After all, it inspired the top of this list, Cities: Skylines. But what makes the games so special? The fact that you can build titanic volcanoes, spin huge tornadoes, put out house fires, and chase down bank robbers of course!
It’s perhaps even more complex than Cities: Skylines, and it has a great sense of humour. The only downsides are the steep learning curve, and the dated graphics (and that the Deluxe or Rush Hour editions are a must for passable performance).
Most Popular City Building Game
Release Date: 21st October 2016 Platforms: PC, iOS, MacOS, Switch, Android, Xbox & PlayStation Developer: 2K Games, Aspyr & Take Two Interactive
Civilization is more than a great city builder, it’s one of the best strategy games too. It takes a wider view of community development, one on the world’s stage. Your capital city is the beginning of your empire, which will go to war, develop technology, invent diplomacy, grow across centuries and even build a nuke!
With so much diversity in the game and the ability to play seamlessly with friends online, it’s no wonder that Civilization VI ranks as our most popular city-building game.
Civilisation VI is both accessible and in-depth, with civilisations and leaders from the Incas to Abraham Lincoln. If you think the long history of the world would’ve gone better under your control, you and your prehistoric people can develop through the ages to prove it.
Best 2D City Building Game
Release Date: 8th August 2006 Platforms: Windows PC, MacOS & Linux Developer: GrizzlyGames & Coatsink
Most city builders ignore the human (or in this case dwarf) aspect of a city. Even if the game names your citizens, they don’t act with individuality. But Dwarf Fortress is obsessively invested in the intricate goings-on of every single person in your city.
Is Geshud Id getting stewed down at the tavern? Well he might just cause a cave-in if he shows up to work drunk tomorrow. Or maybe the shaman’s cat has gotten poison spilt on their fur, then the The twenty years of development have expanded Dwarf Fortress’s systems to the point where anything could happen.
Best City Building Game Concept
Release Date: 15th March 2018 Platforms: Windows PC, MacOS, PS4, Xbox One & Linux Developer: Paradox Interactive
For what is quite a simple game to navigate, Surviving Mars is possibly the most interesting city building concept around. I mean, we may literally have to survive mars one day!
If you saw Matt Damon growing extraterrestrial potatoes in The Martian, and wanted to irrigate your own interplanetary soil, that’s what Surviving Mars is about. Oxygen, water, and metals are all much more valuable on the red planet, and with the Green Planet DLC you’re also tasked with terraforming.
So while your fingers go numb in the sub-zero atmosphere and your crewmates argue over the intercom about who’s going mining, you can at least watch a lump of lichen grow on the land. Yet seeing that green grow and spread across the acrid clay is an awesome feeling–It’s enough to press on into the Martian winter.
Most Fun City Management Game
Release Date: 16th April 2019 Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 5 & Xbox Series X/S Developer: Ubisoft Blue Byte
Seeing your Victorian city rendered in such loving detail is worth the price of admission alone, but building it is even better. And aside from the classic construction work, Anno 1800 takes a great interest in the sea.
As the most fun city-building game, throughout Anno 1800, you can manage your ships’ trade routes, send them out on expeditions and import exotic goods. All of which are key to fostering a successful seaside city.
And for the adventurous, naval battles, pirates and sunken treasures await your ships. It’s another game with endless complexity, and its extensive updates and DLCs only add to that, but if you’re willing, the world of Anno 1800 is astounding.
The Final Word
Aside from jumpstarting your creative juices, city builders enhance your problem-solving and give you a chance to learn the ins and outs of city management. Since the first city-builder, Utopia, was made in the early 80s, there’s been a quietly growing interest in community simulation games – with subsequent titles branching far and wide into new and unusual territories.
As we learned above from my decisive list of best city building games, there really is something out there for every type of gamer- Be it president, pirate, prophet, or portable player. From spring in SimCity to the desolation of Frostpunk, all are uniquely challenging and entertaining. Micromanaging sewer systems, diplomatic intrigue, and raging all-out warfare has never been so fun. With such a selection to engorge yourself on, surely your preferred style and fantasies shall not go unfulfilled.
But if you want to tell how your village, paradise, or last bastion of humanity is faring under your ideals and guidance, or think I’ve forgotten an outstanding addition, leave a reply below and I’ll visit your proposed paradise to test its worth.
Did you enjoy this article? Check out some of our other roundups tutorials spanning almost every video game genre around:
Content Disclaimer: This handpicked shortlist of the best city management games of all time has been independently written. GamePro has not been commissioned by any developers featured on this list, nor have we received any royalties for this article. This includes financial reimbursement, free advertising or free gifts.
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