Best CITY BUILDING Games | TOP10 City-Building PC Games
Best CITY BUILDING Games | TOP10 City-Building PC Games
Looking for the best city building games on PC?
There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting down for an afternoon of city building games with a hot drink. We’ve lost countless hours lining up buildings just how we like them or scrambling to save a population on the brink of collapse.
Top 10 Games for fans of the city building genre.
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As usual, of course, it is primarily a matter of building a settlement, expanding to other islands, the sophisticated exchange of goods between all branches and the optimization of the individual production chains to ensure that all inhabitants are adequately supplied. However, the game is again more oriented towards its historical predecessors, especially Anno 1404, and throws most of the more radical changes of Anno 2205 overboard. Thus, the military part, which is completely detached from the rest of the game, is as much a thing of the past as the inevitable fusion of campaign and endless game.
Furthermore, goods are simulated correctly again and are not only listed as positive and negative balances. In contrast, the multi-session system was taken over. Similar to Anno 1404, we not only settle in the old world, where the main game takes place, but also establish colonies in South America. However, this no longer takes place on a single map. Both areas are separated as single sessions. Fortunately, the annoying loading times of the predecessor are a thing of the past. The switching works seamlessly and thus, despite the spatial separation of the maps, reinforces a familiar game feeling, as we had in Anno 1404 with the two climate zones.
What is new is the division into basic needs and luxury needs. The former must be met urgently so that the inhabitants can be upgraded to the next population level. For example, we have to provide farmers with a marketplace, fish and work clothes in order to turn them into workers. In addition, the farmers would also like to have liquor and access to a tavern. These luxury goods are not necessary, but they improve the mood of our subjects considerably. This not only helps to maintain the peace of the island, but also increases the income generated by the affected stratum.
If Anno 1800 were a turn-based strategy game, the famous saying “Just one more turn” could be applied here. The pull effect created by the newest part of the build-up series is similarly high. The game constantly presents me with new challenges and forces me to rethink the structure of my islands. The basic gameplay is the same as before, but for me it works better than ever. And despite the fact that the game tries hard to give me the familiar Anno feeling, it is full of interesting new ideas. Especially the division of the work force between the population levels is a brilliant idea. But also hunting for artifacts and animals for my museum and zoo, striving for ever greater attractiveness and puzzling out the complex endgame production chains is tremendous fun. Only the expeditions disappointed me a little bit.
The new Sim City is quite impressive: From the street sign to the ambulance, every detail is lovingly designed. The whole thing strongly reminds of the look of the life simulation “The Sims” – somehow cute! But of course it’s about other things than family ties and couch sets. They are supposed to build a whole metropolis.
Sim City seems less complex than its predecessor, but the interaction between the city’s institutions calculates the game precisely. If you just build a nuclear power plant and let your uneducated citizens work there (schools are expensive after all!), your city will soon shine faster than you can say “meltdown”. So don’t be fooled by the first few hours in the city simulation. As in previous simulations, you will often be broke and often easily overwhelmed in the new Sim City.
However, Sim City fans have to get used to a new game principle. Compared to Sim City 4, the building area of your city is much smaller. When planning the game, the developers focused on interaction: Instead of one big city, you build many smaller communities that connect you with each other. Within a larger region you play alone, with friends or with randomly selected city planners in multiplayer mode.
Each player and all cities are given their own map squares, within the boundaries of which their own metropolis grows. In the region overview, you can exchange resources or choose between money or garbage – depending on who is currently getting too much of what. Joint large-scale projects such as a space station or an international airport compensate in the later course of the game for the initially cramped construction area of your own city.
For most of us, the idea of managing a hospital and having to take care of the needs and requirements of patients is probably more associated with work. Who played however in the nineties at the PC Theme Hospital, knows it better: A hospital simulation can make very well so correctly mood and be even – despite the actually serious topic – good for or other laughter. With Two Point Hospital the original Theme Hospital creators are bringing a quasi-remake of the Bullfrog classic under a new flag and a new name.
As in Theme Hospital, it is up to us at Two Point Hospital to manage a profitable and well functioning hospital. In order to do this, we have to build our hospital step by step, from reception and examination rooms to special operating rooms and break rooms for our employees. The operation is quite comfortable: With the mouse we determine the size of the individual rooms and then equip them with the necessary inventory. It is only later that we can lose track of all the different equipment and rooms and possibly get annoyed that the interface is perfect for newcomers, but that its large symbols make it a little uncomfortable in the long run.
In one point the developers have done a real job, because when it comes to scope and playing time, Planet Zoo offers an incredible amount. We have four different modes at our disposal, with which one is well and truly busy for months. The first one is the campaign, in which we start with some – but not all! – We learn the game mechanics and are told a nice story on the side, but it’s not really exciting. Of course we don’t blame a construction simulation for the interchangeable story, after all it is rather common in the genre to learn the basic game principles by means of some missions, so that you can really let off steam later in the sandbox mode. But unfortunately the campaign suffers exactly at this point. We are taught, for example, how to optimize the enclosures for different animal species, how to assign work areas to the staff or how to do research. But how we now create a zoo from the first building block is only insufficiently explained in the campaign. Since the user interface of Planet Zoo can easily be described as overloaded, it took us a while before we knew, for example, how to build roads or walls with an incline or which facilities are absolutely necessary to make everything run smoothly in the zoo. That’s a bit of a shame, because you can already see that the developers wanted to give us as many aids as possible to get started, but obviously got bogged down in details.
All in all, Planet Zoo, just like Planet Coaster, is much more of a set-up simulation than a business simulation. For example, if you want to create a zoo with an Indian or Asian theme, there are hundreds of items of equipment available that can be used to build beautiful zoos. Likewise one can offer gondola rides or even create safari rides, which are quite complicated to build and bring in very little money, but look splendid. One does not get into financial hardships even if one is hardly concerned with the personnel costs or the admission fees. The real challenge of the game lies with the animals. To provide for a kind-fair attitude of our zoo inhabitants, costs much time, but it pays off already because of the lucky looking and at the same time eerily putzigen animals. So if you have an interest in zoos, and in other construction simulations you are particularly interested in the appearance of your own creations, Planet Zoo is the right choice. Due to the complexity of the game, however, we have to advise younger players against playing Frontier Developments’ game – despite the subject matter – and also older players who are looking for a challenging business simulation. In addition, you might want to wait a bit before buying Planet Zoo, as the game still has technical problems in franchise mode and we have also encountered some minor but unnecessary bugs.
The first campaign missions explain a lot of details, but how I now sensibly design a zoo from start to finish could not be explained to me. The user interface and the handling could also be a bit clearer or handier. It’s also a pity that the franchise mode is currently struggling with server problems and so the core of the game doesn’t work yet.
Not only that, as usual, the individual areas can be taxed differently in the budget planning. Of course, it is also possible to allocate a higher budget to certain civilian services in planning, for example to allow more patrol cars to be used by the individual police stations. But where other city planners are leaning back now at the latest, Skylines continues to go full throttle. Because Colossal Order also provides an easy-to-use tool for marking city districts. This in turn can be used to further influence the cityscape through ordinances. For example, at the expense of their own account, citizens can be encouraged to save electricity or water, to issue non-smoking regulations and even to prohibit heavy traffic in the district or high-rise construction. And all this on a city-wide level or down to the last detail for each defined district – great! The trick here is to carefully balance between increasing tax income and providing amenities for the citizens.
And the team’s experience with the Cities in Motion public transportation system is incorporated into Skylines as soon as it comes to creating public transportation lines: Buses as well as subway or train lines can be conveniently created and help to beat the traffic junctions that are emerging, especially those with industrial specializations such as focus on oil or ores. And if all else fails, upgrades can be easily added to the roads with the appropriate leeway. Later you can also build ports to better transport your raw materials or tourists. Like the highways, train lines also lead out of the map. However, there is no active exchange between your own and foreign metropolitan areas. Instead, only passively goods and tourists are transported, which has a positive effect on the income.
Given the consistently high level of motivation, I could almost forget some of the problems that annoyed me from time to time. For example, that traffic lights only start working after two-lane intersections. Or that the traffic circle primarily only visually beautifies the area. Because the vehicles do not follow the guideline that the cars in the traffic circle have right of way – instead, every “exit” means that another right of way is added for the roundabout drivers. And this can quickly lead to a collapse in the vicinity of freeway exits or on-ramps. So you are indeed better off using the ugly, but in this respect definitely more sensible multi-lane roads – what a pity! A problem that already plagued SimCity 4 and that even Colossal Order doesn’t realize despite their experience with public transport is the convoy driving of civilian vehicles like garbage collection etc., which again leads to congested roads, because the way finding sometimes doesn’t take the appropriate detours, which in the end would allow more successful, because faster transports. Also the tweet-like comments, which give praise and suggestions for improvement, should be treated with caution as the game progresses. Citizens complain about garbage that has not been picked up and if you click on the supposed location of the event, everything is fine there. Here it is too often wrongly suggested that one has to make improvements somewhere. At least you can turn off this “news service”.
This mixture of urban planning and traffic infrastructure simulation is quite impressive. In many respects, one makes liberal use of elements that have worked since SimCity 4 or Cities XL. But one also counts on some interesting fresh ideas: For example, you can build on your own local transport expertise that you have gained with Cities in Motion. Further the inclined hobby mayor is given over quarters and decided regulations just as simple as potente means into the hand, in order to coin/shape the face of the city and make it attractive for new citizens. And one has insanely large areas (the city can cover over 30 square kilometers), which, thanks to the neat engine and the chosen model-making style, create a high scurry factor. Not to forget the support of the modding community, which in the short and medium term could ensure that the smaller shortcomings such as few leisure facilities or too little visual differentiation between the individual neighborhoods are eradicated. And while the Skylines fans beautify the cities and share their creations via Steam Workshop, the team can get to work on fixing minor bugs such as pathfinding, unrealistic traffic circles or the sometimes inappropriate comments of the population. But since none of these bugs are critical and one quickly finds oneself in a fatal spiral of motivation (“Just this city expansion”), Cities Skylines fills exactly the gap that could not be closed by the assembled urban planning competition since SimCity 4.
In Planet Coaster we can play some short scenarios where different tasks have to be accomplished with limited funds, for example building a certain roller coaster. But these tasks are neither difficult nor exciting.
In challenge mode, however, we have to explore rides before we can build them. Here, there are three additional levels of difficulty – but even in “difficult” mode, we are hardly ever faced with problems: We’ll soon be earning lots of money and the guests are coming in droves anyway. More about this later. The sandbox mode again offers full creative freedom without research and financial constraints.
One of the most important aspects of a fairground simulation is the train-cock factor, Planet Coaster is not to be taken lightly here: The rides are very detailed and perfectly animated, the Venetian carousel with its dainty horses as well as the massive wooden roller coaster. We are even allowed to design our own roller coaster tracks, which can offer everything from tame relaxation rides to a vomit guarantee.
After all, the possibilities for designing our park are more than just impressive. From four themes (fairy tales, westerns, pirates and science fiction) we choose our park benches, lamps, buildings, animated figures and objects, which we place pixel-exactly and thus create sophisticated amusement parks. From a small shrub to an advertising sign on a roof, absolutely everything can be configured.
If you don’t like the (relatively few) prefabricated buildings, you can create your own creations from a myriad of building parts. This takes a lot of time, but mostly works very well and intuitively. A half-sunken hut with a detailed interior, through which visitors can walk? No problem! An entire castle with a roller coaster whizzing through it while park visitors buy burgers and drinks in the middle? Just a matter of time!
As a construction kit, the Planet Coaster is a force to be reckoned with – a paradise for Schönbauer. Not only is there a remarkable number of rides and roller coaster types, no, you can equip your park with a lot of different and diverse decorative objects – and in addition you can design your own buildings with basic functions as well as roller coaster courses and share them via Steam Workshop. With the terrain deformation options and the easy way to build your own dream amusement park step by step. Great are the lively, playful cartoon style and the simulation of the visitors scurrying wildly through the park. The developers have already mitigated the shortcoming that there were too few blueprints with the first patch. Weaknesses are found in the business sector, since there are few actually relevant settings and the behavior of the AI visitors is fundamentally far too lavish, so there is rarely a shortage of money. Only in the challenge mode at the highest level of difficulty does it get a little harder. If you can accept the fact that the economy part is rather rudimentary, as in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and many things are rather easy than challenging, you will have a lot of fun with Planet Coaster.
In Jurassic World Evolution you plan and manage a zoo with dinosaurs. You remember Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis on PS2, PC and Xbox from 2003? Great, Jurassic World Evolution is quasi a new edition of the business and construction simulation of Vivendi. Only with the innovations from the current movies, including the genetically manipulated supersaurian Indominus Rex and the gyrosphere locomotives from Jurassic World and the mutant Indoraptor from Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom. The close connection with the film franchise explains the look and behavior of the dinosaurs: Contrary to current scientific findings, spinosaurus only lives on land and Deinonychus does not wear feathers. Additionally, well-known characters from the film series comment on your park management, including scientist Dr. Ian Malcom and raptor whisperer Owen Grady. The original film music completes the appealing fan service package.
In the course of the game, you will prove your entrepreneurial spirit on six islands, one of which is the sandbox island Isla Nublar, on which you build without specifications and with an unlimited budget. You can only visit Isla Nublar after a certain amount of time. The other islands will be unlocked bit by bit, each one confronting you with different difficulties. On Isla Pena, for example, storms rage and space is limited. On the island Sorna, however, there are several dinosaurs running around freely, including a spinosaurus.
If you reach a certain star rating for your park, you will unlock the next island or various bonuses. These include new buildings, research goals, gene variations for dinosaur breeding or just money. The rating is calculated from two components, on the one hand of course the dinosaurs – how many live in the park, how big is the variety of species, how are the animals – on the other hand the guests. They want to eat, spend money, see dinosaurs, stay in hotels and feel safe.
Frontier Developments has done an excellent job of implementing the extinct species. The dinosaurs look incredibly good: under the thick skin of a brachiosaurus the muscles tremble, Gallimimus cleans up the non-existent plumage like an ostrich, and velociraptors emit beeping sounds like in the movies. It’s also fun to just watch a herd of stegosaurs grazing on the lake shore for a while or a Tyrannosaurus devouring a goat from the live feed station. But don’t forget that Jurassic World Evolution does not have a pause function. This would take the suspense out of the game, because if something goes wrong, it really does. A sick dinosaur, for whose cure the vaccine has not yet been researched, can plunge the whole park into the meadows, for example, if it dies of the disease, infects others, the herd is too small and his frustrated friends break out and so on. The small and big catastrophes prevent boredom from creeping into Dinopark hour after hour. There are always possibilities for optimization and spending money!
Jurassic Park Evolution is an impressive window into a virtual world that probably every dinosaur and Jurassic Park fan would love to visit in reality. No one will buy Frontier Developments Ode to the Dinosaur because they want to play a highly complex business simulation. Jurassic World Evolution compensates for the lack of depth with its breathtaking presentation, which can be enjoyed even on mediocre computers in high to top quality levels thanks to exemplary optimization.
Basically, Surviving Mars works like most representatives. We start with a small landing ship and then, little by little, we begin to build a colony on the planet. To do this, we research new technologies and building types in the extensive research department, take care of energy, oxygen and water, explore the surrounding sectors and ultimately make sure that arriving settlers feel comfortable. Furthermore, we have to resist the inhospitable environment. The Mars sand makes it necessary to repair all units and tools regularly, while various disaster options can destroy many achievements in a few moments. As soon as the first human settlers actually set foot on the planet, the complexity increases dramatically – something that especially genre veterans, who are presented with a considerable challenge, are happy about. The principle of Surviving Mars is a lot of fun, provided we invest the necessary time and perseverance. Once we get our Mars colony up and running and can use all game mechanics effectively, we get lost in the game for hours and enjoy the familiar “Civ-feeling” that won’t let us go.
What spurs professionals to peak performance can quickly turn into frustration for genre newcomers. Because Surviving Mars does comparatively little to help beginners or to offer them relief during the course of the settlement. At the beginning there are a few generic hints in the form of flashes, but most aspects of them are not really helpful. So if you want to have fun from the beginning, you should be familiar with the genre and have played one of the other representatives. Sure, with enough time and practice, everyone will get behind the complex management mechanisms at some point, but until then, a few hours may well be enough. An extensive tutorial, which can be added by the way, would be a great help for Surviving Mars and should help to avoid one or the other “bad buy”.
It’s also a pity that there is no solo campaign that could convey a bit of story. We’re not expecting an epic Hollywood story à la “The Martian”, but a bit more context would also be beneficial for the build-up strategy. The developers also completely dispense with scenarios, i.e. a “story light” so to speak, which is why Surviving Mars basically remains a large craft sandbox without a reference point. The principle may appeal to hardcore strategists, but for a mainstream audience without patience for endless games, Haemimont offers very little content. Finally, it should be mentioned that the game also does not have a multiplayer component. So if you like to research, build and manage with your buddies, you might be disappointed.
So in this gloomy scenario we take on the role of the leader. And in the course of the game we have to make – quite 11-bit-typical – some unpleasant decisions. But in the beginning we have to take care of bare survival. We send our workers out into the freezing cold to collect resources. We need coal for the generator, wood for simple buildings and roads. Later the settlement also needs steel for advanced buildings like the workshop.
In order to keep the two basic values of hope and dissatisfaction as high and low respectively, we enact laws. For example, we choose to bury the dead decently instead of just throwing them in a pile.
This respectful treatment of the deceased increases hope in the population, but also requires us to build a cemetery. Thus, political decisions provide access to various buildings. The sum of our decrees determines how the inhabitants perceive us as leaders. If hope sinks too low or dissatisfaction rises too high, we run the risk of being voted out as leaders.
In the course of the game, we decide on the political direction in the code of law, with sometimes more and sometimes less profound consequences. Since we cannot reverse our decisions afterwards, this results in a high replay value. The rather short duration of a game (10 hours) is easily doubled or tripled. In addition, two further scenarios after reaching day 20 offer a small change of the familiar setting.
Frostpunk is much more complex than it might seem at first sight. Besides the general display of hope and dissatisfaction, an overview of all citizens would be helpful, where you could see their needs. But that would be contrary to the credo that the good of the community takes precedence over the interests of the individual.
Playfully Frostpunk works very well in any case, the gameplay mechanics interlock neatly. However, the learning curve is quite steep and brings us to our limits right from the start due to a permanent lack of resources and manpower. And the story is, as in This War of Mine, anything but easy to digest.
11 Bit have delivered a fine piece of steampunk history with Frostpunk. Only the later lack of overview disturbs the good overall picture a bit, but that’s already grumbling on a high level. The construction of the bastion against the cold creates a real bond to our little people and when we have everything under control, Frostpunk is grateful. But if we make a mess, it punishes us mercilessly.
This oppressive atmosphere is extraordinary for a construction game. Frostpunk is beautiful, motivating and captivating – but also sad, stirring and scary. If you want to experience this in a game, everybody has to decide for himself. If you like the steampunk setting and are looking for a challenging build-up strategy game, you should definitely take a closer look at Frostpunk.
If all financial tricks break or you just want to create a money cushion, you can get additional income through illegal activities. Via the “Pirate’s Bay” one can later even steal full-grown tourist attractions like Stonehenge, the Hagia Sophia or the Brandenburg Gate, which are finally flown in by helicopter. But you should be careful: Because if you don’t fulfill the wishes that are put to you and ignore the population, it is possible that you will be given a lesson in the next elections – unless you manipulate them.
Although it is possible to gather stately numbers of inhabitants in its metropolises, unlike other Aufbau titles, Limbic, like Haemimont before it, is not about the anonymous mass of tens of thousands of gray mice, but about the personality of the inhabitants of Tropico. You can select all the characters that romp around the country (including tourists), see their status, look at their wishes and needs and influence them to an increasing degree. For example, one can rationalize away their jobs or fill them with a more qualified person from abroad. If it is a political opponent, there are various ways to discredit, arrest or even order an assassination attempt. With umpteen industries, a lump of possible, partly interdependent buildings in different categories from housing estates to casinos, which may later be equipped with specializations or improvements, one has more than enough options to live out his fantasies as a Caribbean dictator. However, you have to make sure that you don’t have a large land mass at your disposal, but that the buildable area consists of numerous islands. Since these islands offer different sources of raw materials and are not equally suitable for settlement, Tropico 6 gets an additional planning element, which helps to motivate you in the long run.
However, the approach is very “people-friendly”: With the exception of the positioning of certain administrative structures such as hospitals, fire stations, etc. with their individual sphere of influence or the distribution of electricity across the islands, it is largely irrelevant where the buildings are located. It is not necessary to ensure optimized and correspondingly short supply routes for the industries, as is the case with the settlers. In case of doubt, it is also sufficient to cultivate your sugar cane plantations on one island and set up your distillery on another. However, residential buildings as well as transport offices should ensure that the foundations are laid for the shortest possible distances – although common sense dictates that this should be done: If the employees are busy with the transfer to work for half of their day, productivity goes down. But this superficiality and that certain Caribbean lightness, which rarely puts you in stressful situations, together with the aquarium effect, which is again well used here, ensure that you enjoy staying in Tropico.
You have to take care of commodity and production chains, infrastructure, political requirements, trade, population needs, your account and much more. Limbic takes over many proven elements of its predecessors and complements them with interesting innovations, but remains too often on the surface despite well interlocked basic systems. As a city builder, Cities Skylines is equipped with more depth. As a “logistics” strategy, one is miles away from the caliber of a settler’s part or indie productions like Factorio or Satisfactory. And for politics or diplomacy, one has to give way to games like Democracy 3 or Realpolitiks, which in turn are visually inferior to the colorful island worlds. Nevertheless, you will have a lot of fun with this construction-allrounder, which does not make any big mistakes apart from the sometimes diffuse research of the causes of problems in the vacation paradise, but also does not show any outstanding in any area. However, one must be aware that the memories of it will fade just like the postcard that one has sent to one’s relatives.