The 11 best city building games
City life isn’t always a walk in the park (unless you’re walking in a park, of course). It’s noisy, crowded and the daily commute can be frustrating. Many have surely thought about designing the perfect city to do away with all their urban problems.
Fortunately, game designers have taken pity and for years have offered us an outlet to play God and build our own utopias. Why brave the real streets when you can build your own to go anywhere your heart desires?
Here we have compiled the 11 best city-building games!
This game deserves a place on this list just because of how ambitious it was at the time of its release. On the surface, it appeared to be a simple city-building game, but it had an online multiplayer component that was interesting.
Cities XL also takes players interacting with each other on a persistent planet. Each city belongs to one player and each player can even trade with others, basically running a simulated world.
Unfortunately, this online service was shut down several months later and Cities XL became a single-player game instead of a city-building-based MMO.
Still, it was one of the most popular city-building games at the time, before SimCity and Cities: Skylines improved on the 3D city-building formula.
The SimCity franchise has been around for a long time. The first entry in the series dates back almost 30 years. It is essentially the granddaddy of all city-building games and paved the way for many games to come.
These titles are still relevant in the gaming realm, from PC and consoles to finding a new home on mobile devices. It may not be the most innovative title on this list, but the formula they created is still solid today and definitely worth your time.
If your greatest goal in life is to earn the favor of a Norse God and a place in Valhalla, this is the game for you! Valhalla Hills is a throwback to the popular Settlers games in which players will build settlements in an attempt to earn Odin’s favor.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed city building experience, this is one that is highly recommended. The colorful and cartoonish art style is completely engaging.
You’ll have to fight for all the resources you can with the local dwarven population. There are also some monsters you’ll have to fight, but for the most part, you can concentrate on expanding your Norse empire.
The Settlers has always been one of the longest-running hybrid video games in modern history and strangely combines city building with real-time strategy (RTS) and many other elements from other genres. This depends on which Settler’s game we’re talking about, but The Settlers: Rise of an Empire, is one of the rare gems of the franchise.
It takes place in a medieval world, which makes it a unique title on this list for its sheer ingenuity. It borrows mechanics from the Civilization games, where you can choose a leader or faction and build your own plot of land into your empire through military actions, development, and many more aspects not present in other city builders.
This is one of the most unique versions of the city-building formula you’ll see on this list since it goes into an environment that is practically unexplored in its genre: medieval times.
In this sense, you control a group of exiled travelers in Banished, so you’ll be forced to build your own village and, finally, the city from scratch after being banished by a feudal lord.
This also makes Banished a game of survival as well as city building, something not usually experienced in common games of this genre of games.
This simulation even makes your main resource the villagers who age, get sick and die, so it makes your management the important element. It is worth playing just for its unique version.
Moving to a more space-themed game, we have Planet Base from Madruga Works. All the usual suspects are here: base building, resource management, and citizen satisfaction.
Planet Base is mainly distinguished by its various types of planets. The game lets you choose between 4 different planets, each with increasing difficulty and different environmental hazards to contend with.
For example, the icy planet will confront you with sub-zero temperatures, while Storm Planet will hit you with an avalanche of storm effects. It’s up to you to keep your inhabitants alive long enough to create a stable and habitable colony.
As the title suggests, Frostpunk focuses on the importance of warmth and survival in the bitter cold. In an alternate version of history, humanity has been defeated by climate change and has been forced to battle extreme cold that has decimated most of the planet.
The story is grim, to be sure. As the leader of humanity’s last hope, you must use the few remaining resources to try to build a shelter to keep the dwindling population alive.
Frostpunk is not for the weak-willed and will challenge you both technically and morally. As the story unfolds, you will be faced with difficult decisions that will ultimately change the world around you. The level of depth and storytelling is rarely seen in this genre.
Few games are as addictive in nature as Anno 2070. It intrigues players using a reward and punishment method. The longer you play, the more reward you get.
Set in the not-too-distant future, Anno2070 offers players the opportunity to reshape civilization after disasters have decimated much of the planet, a fairly common theme these days.
There’s something for everyone here: large-scale economies to manage, wars between other factions, and deep gameplay. You can even execute actions like building a city underwater. Embrace the future and build a new world.
Tropico 5 is a much lighter version of the city-building genre mentioned above. That is to say, it is much more jocular in nature. The gameplay here is still complex enough to keep you busy for hours.
In this grandiose game, you begin as a governor in the Victorian era, with aspirations of becoming “The President” of your ever-evolving island nation. You will guide the inhabitants of their tropical paradise through the centuries while trying to maintain your position in the office.
You must do whatever it takes to maintain your power, whether it’s manipulating elections, bribing officials, or showing your military strength. Politics will play an important role in this game, so be prepared to get dirty.
Impressions Games have always been veterans of the city-building genre, as many long-time gamers will know. In its heyday, one of their best games was Caesar III, where players take on the role of a classical Roman governor trying to improve his own Roman city or Rome itself amidst turmoil and barbarian threats.
While the graphics are very dated by today’s standards, Caesar III’s gameplay is enough to hook many gamers today, even younger ones. It introduces layer after layer of cause-and-effect game mechanics and designs in which every upgrade or building in your city can start a domino effect.
This is another game created by Impressions Games and, to sum it up best, it is Caesar III but with an ancient Egyptian look. That doesn’t sound original, but Pharaoh is often considered one of the best city-building games of its time.
In Pharaoh or The Pharaoh, they also make some major modifications to their city-building formula compared to the Caesar games.
For one thing, players have more control over the management of civilians and their quality of life. Pharaoh also embraces many of the quirks of ancient Egyptian culture (such as God worship) and blends them seamlessly into the game, making the game feel like a history lesson as well.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being the decision-maker for all citizens, rewarding those who do good deeds and follow the rules, and punishing those who want to challenge you, these games will help you unleash your inner dictator. Why share power when you can have it all to yourself?
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