‘Twas the year of 1964 in a land far far away when a mighty lad called Doug Dyment crafted the first city-building video game called Sumer Game. In reality, a guy named Doug Dyment from Canada took a text-based economic simulation intended for children and built a computer game. After that, the sky was the limit (pun intended).
From the ancient streets of Rome to the distant planets of the cosmos, city builders allow us to craft, manage, and grow our own little worlds right at our fingertips.
We’ve thrown together a list of some of the most captivating and challenging city-building games out there, and we really hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
“Welcome to Tropico 6, where you don the hat of El Presidente, the ruler of your very own Caribbean island paradise. This game is not just about building a city; it’s about wielding power, making tough political choices, and, of course, occasionally appeasing your own ego. What I love about Tropico 6 is the freedom to be the kind of leader you want. Want to be a benevolent ruler? Go for it. Prefer to rule with an iron fist? You can do that too. The satirical humor and Caribbean beats make it a unique city-building experience that’s as entertaining as it is challenging.
Cities: Skylines is a modern urban planner’s dream. This game lets you dive deep into the nitty-gritty of city management, from laying down roads to zoning districts. What sets it apart for me is the incredible attention to detail. Traffic management is a puzzle in itself. The modding community adds endless possibilities, making it a game that you can return to time and again, each time creating a city with its own unique challenges and character. It’s a game where your urban planning fantasies can truly come to life.
While Cities Skylines 2 has just been released, the first iteration remains one of the best city builder games, thanks to the strong community support that created awesome mods over the years.
Timberborn presents a fascinating twist to the genre – city building with beavers! Yes, you heard that right. In this post-apocalyptic world, beavers are the master builders, and it’s up to you to lead them. The charm of Timberborn lies in its unique concept and the adorable industriousness of these furry builders. Managing water resources and creating a thriving beaver society is both challenging and endearing. It’s a refreshing take on the city-building genre that brings a smile every time those little tails start wagging.
Against the Storm
Against the Storm offers a dark fantasy take on city building. It’s not just about constructing buildings; it’s about survival against all odds. The ever-present rain and the need to keep your citizens content under harsh conditions add layers of strategy that I find particularly interesting. Each decision feels impactful, and the roguelike elements ensure that no two playthroughs are the same. It’s a game that constantly keeps you invested, challenging your ability to adapt and thrive in adversity.
Foundation is a grid-less medieval city-building game that brings an organic feel to the genre. What captivates me here is the freedom to create sprawling, picturesque medieval cities without the constraints of a grid. The focus on organic development makes your city feel more alive, more real. It’s a joy watching your little medieval world evolve, from a humble village to a bustling city, all while dealing with the complexities of resource management and citizen happiness. It’s a serene yet challenging experience that beautifully captures the essence of the medieval era.
Anno 1800 transports you back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, a time of innovation and exploration. This game blends city building with trade and exploration in a seamless and captivating way. What I particularly enjoy is the balance between managing the industrial might of your city while maintaining the happiness of your population. It’s about creating a thriving economy without losing the soul of your city. The historical setting, coupled with beautiful visuals and intricate gameplay mechanics, makes Anno 1800 a standout title in the city-building realm.
Songs of Syx
Songs of Syx is a grand, epic-scale city builder where you manage not just a city, but an entire kingdom. The sheer scale of it is awe-inspiring. You’re looking at managing thousands of citizens, each with their own needs and desires. What grabs me here is the depth of the game – from diplomacy and warfare to complex economic systems. It’s a game where every decision has far-reaching consequences, letting you explore the complex and often brutal realities of ruling an empire.
In Farthest Frontier, you’re tasked with building a settlement in the uncharted wilderness. The game provides the essence of pioneering spirit like no other. It’s not just about building; it’s about survival, dealing with elements like disease, harsh weather, and resource scarcity. The most compelling part is the challenge of creating a self-sustaining settlement while battling the relentless forces of nature. It’s a true test of your strategic planning and adaptability.
Settlement Survival is a game that puts you in charge of a group of settlers striving to build a new life. It’s a game of balance and strategy, where every resource counts, and every decision can mean the difference between prosperity and despair. What I appreciate about this game is its simplicity paired with depth. It’s accessible enough for newcomers to the genre while offering enough complexity to keep seasoned players engaged. Watching your small settlement grow and overcome the challenges of the seasons is incredibly satisfying.
Dorfromantik is a serene, tile-based city-building game that’s like a breath of fresh air. This game is all about creating beautiful, sprawling landscapes with a simple yet pleasing tile-placement mechanic. The charm of Dorfromantik lies in its peaceful gameplay and the joy of watching your world come alive with every tile you place. It’s a game that’s as relaxing as it is satisfying, perfect for unwinding after a long day. The minimalist design and calming soundtrack make every session feel like a meditative experience, a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of more intense city builders.
Surviving Mars takes city building to a whole new world – literally. As you establish a colony on the red planet, the game challenges you to balance survival and growth under the harsh conditions of Mars. The fascinating thing about Surviving Mars is the way it combines city building with survival elements. Managing resources like oxygen and water while facing Martian dust storms makes it a thrilling experience. It’s a game that makes you feel like a true pioneer, carving out a home for humanity in the unforgiving Martian landscape.
FableDom is a whimsical journey into a fairy-tale-inspired world where city building meets enchanting stories. It’s a game that captures the magic of fairy tales, letting you create and rule over a kingdom straight out of a storybook. What draws me to FableDom is the blend of charming visuals and engaging gameplay. Building your kingdom while interacting with characters from classic tales adds a layer of delight to the city-building experience. It’s a game that doesn’t just challenge your strategic skills but also immerses you in a world of wonder and fantasy.
SimCity 4 is a classic in the city-building genre that has stood the test of time. This game offers a deep and intricate simulation of urban planning. What makes SimCity 4 special is the level of control and detail it provides. From zoning to traffic management, every aspect of your city is in your hands. The game’s realistic simulation of city dynamics and the thrill of watching your city grow from a small town to a bustling metropolis is unmatched. It’s a game that both challenges and rewards you, making it a timeless favorite.
Aven Colony takes city building to the stars, challenging you to establish a human colony on an alien planet. What I love about Aven Colony is its blend of traditional city building with sci-fi elements. Battling alien lifeforms and managing extraterrestrial environments adds an exciting twist to the genre. The game tests your ability to adapt and thrive in a new world, making every decision crucial for the survival of your colony. It’s an adventure that not only tests your city-building skills but also immerses you in a rich, sci-fi universe.
Frostpunk is a city builder that’s all about survival in an icy apocalypse. This game combines city building with tough moral choices and a fight for survival against the cold. What stands out in Frostpunk is the emotional weight of your decisions. Balancing the needs of your citizens with the harsh realities of the frozen wasteland makes for a compelling, sometimes heart-wrenching experience. It’s a game that goes beyond mere city planning, challenging your morals and your ability to lead in times of crisis.
Caesar 3 takes you back to ancient Rome, where you get to build and manage Roman cities. This classic game offers a perfect blend of historical setting and city-building strategy. What captivates me about Caesar 3 is its balance between historical accuracy and engaging gameplay. Managing everything from gladiator games to keeping the gods happy adds a unique flavor to the city-building experience. It’s a game that not only entertains but also gives a glimpse into what life might have been like in ancient Rome, making it both educational and fun.
This list pretty much sums up the best city-building games out there. Each game offers its own unique flavor, challenges, and thrills, making them stand out in their own right.
From the survival-focused Frostpunk to the whimsical FableDom, you are bound to find something to enjoy on these cold winter nights when everyone’s asleep.
In case we missed one of your favorites, drop us a line on our YouTube channel and we’ll definitely try to play it!