- Ixion Brings the Classic City-Builder Genre to a New Frontier with its unique setting and challenge, appealing to fans of minimalist city builders and survival games.
- SimCity Classic still offers some of the best gameplay in the history of the genre, with a precise level of detail and a mix of micro and macro management that doesn’t disappoint.
- Frostpunk is recognized as one of the best strategy games ever made, providing an incredibly challenging puzzle as players must balance resources and make moral choices for the survival of their city.
In 2015, Cities: Skylines was released to almost universal acclaim, and is now considered one of the best city-builders of the decade. The much-anticipated sequel, Cities: Skylines 2 was recently released to mixed reviews from critics and players, who enjoyed the game, but were frustrated by performance issues and glitches.
For those players who can’t get enough of Cities: Skylines, but who might not have a computer with the power to run this demanding new game, there is no need to break the bank on a new PC. Instead, they might want to get their hands on these other city-builders, who each provide their own unique setting, challenge, and art direction in an extremely satisfying experience.
10 The Wandering Village
This 2022 Swedish indie city-builder places players in control of a village built on the back of a gargantuan, slowly moving creature named Onbu. In a world decimated by poisonous plants, becoming nomads and living atop the toxic clouds and plans on Onbu is the only hope for this lost tribe.
Players will be forced to adapt to survive as Onbu slowly journeys across the world, moving through different environments, each with their own unique challenges. In the end, players will have to decide whether they coexist with Onbu, or take advantage of and control him. For fans of minimalist city builders and survival games, The Wandering Village is a true treat.
Banished is a game about taking a group of outcasts and turning them into a functioning society, a game with a heavy focus on survival in the early game, but far greater emphasis on city-building once the initial hurdles have been overcome. The most important resource in the game is the citizens of this new community, and they must be kept happy and healthy if the city is to survive.
The town will constantly grow as new nomads join and new citizens are born, but citizens will gradually age as well. Therefore, players must ensure their growth doesn’t outpace their ability to produce necessities, making Banished a great game for players who prefer a challenge of balance and survival.
8 SimCity Classic
Although now only a shadow of its former glory, the classic franchise SimCity set the groundwork for all city builders that came after it. After the disastrous launch of the 2013 SimCity reboot, the franchise was all but ended, and the city-builder genre lost its flagship franchise, and the game that set the standards for the genre to boot.
However, for those fans who want to remember the good old days, the older SimCity games still offer some of the best gameplay in the history of the genre. With both a precise level of detail, a perfect mix of micro and macro management, and the wacky sense of humor that has defined the Sims franchise, SimCity still doesn’t disappoint, even decades later.
7 Little Cities VR
Released in 2022 for the Meta Quest 2 VR system, Little Cities VR is an almost entirely unique game, offering a virtual reality city-builder experience that is, quite literally, unlike any other. Of course, this focus on virtual reality means that the game isn’t as deep as other city-builders, offering a much more casual experience.
However, it’s impressive to see how VR technology has come that such a game is even possible. Yes, the game is rather simple compared to more famous city-builders, but it works intuitively, the controls are easy to navigate and keep the game at a good pace, and the isometric art style is a gift. For fans of city-builders who have a Quest VR, it’s absolutely worth checking out.
6 Tropico 6
The latest entry in the long-running Tropico franchise only improves on its predecessors, with entire islands worth of new mechanics and content. Players in Tropico 6 take on the role of “El Presidente,” leader of the Caribbean island state of Tropico, and find themselves building not a city, but an entire nation, with a shifting geopolitical world to contend with.
The game has plenty of great city-building, but for players who want to create more than just a city, Tropico 6 has plenty to satisfy. With the actions of the government affecting not only production and efficiency but also risking a revolution if the people are pushed too far, Tropico 6 is great for players who love a full plate to handle.
5 Surviving Mars
In the near future, humanity has finally made it to Mars, and there is no job more important than ensuring the survival of its first colony on the red planet. Surviving Mars places players in that exact position, and tasks them with creating a thriving city in an environment utterly hostile to human life.
In Surviving Mars, it’s not just a question of how much money or how many workers a player might need, the most basic needs like oxygen, heat, food, and water must all be provided for before the first colonists arrive. It provides a unique challenge with elements that very few other city-builders tend to focus on, and is great for sci-fi fans and any lover of city-builders.
4 They Are Billions
This post-apocalyptic steampunk strategy game has a fascinating combination of RTS, city-building, and survival game mechanics. Players set out from the last surviving city on Earth to set up new colonies in a devastated world teeming with zombies. With each colony they create, the game will throw progressively larger hordes of stronger zombies at them, until players are left cowering behind their walls as swarms of thousands and thousands of zombies trample everything else underfoot.
The game truly feels like a mix of Command & Conquer with a city-builder, as players manage a tech tree and their units, but also manage the civilian population that produces the resources their army needs, as well as the defenses that are vital to the colony’s survival. An easy recommendation for any fan of zombie survival or RTS games, it’s an easy entry into city-builders.
This city-builder takes place in the near future, in a post-apocalyptic world devasted by disease, starvation, and climate change. A small tribe of nomadic survivors have arrived in one of the planet’s many ruined, flooded cities, seeking out a renewable power plant in order to restart civilization. Whether they cling to the ideals of the past or create a new future is up to the players.
Once the necessities are taken care of, players must explore the city, where they will encounter other tribes, all of whom have their own unique, often conflicting, ideals and goals as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. This growing and diverse collective means that shaping a new society will be hard, as not everyone agrees on what’s best. Great for fans of management games with a moral component, Floodland is easily one of the best new city-builders.
2 Anno 2070
In a future world where the ice caps have melted and reduced the world’s landmasses to a series of island chains atop former mountains, Anno 2070 tasks players with building a city on one of these many islands, and gives them multiple ways to achieve this. Whether the city becomes a self-sustaining, environmentally friendly city, or a rapidly expanding industrial haven is up to them.
Each choice has its own drawbacks and advantages, with sustainable cities being slower to grow and react to changes, while industrial cities expand rapidly but run out of resources quicker, as well as further polluting the environment. With great art direction, an engaging challenge, and excellent replayability, Anno 2070 is great for lovers of city-builders.
Frostpunk is a 2018 city-builder survival game now recognized as one of the best strategy games ever made, and an incredibly challenging puzzle to boot. Set in a steampunk Victorian world destroyed by a new ice age, players must provide for the people of New London, who have settled around a massive steam generator in the Arctic wastes. Coal provides heat, which is crucial to survival, so players must balance ensuring the flow of coal with providing other key services such as wood and steel, as well as food and medical services.
The world is harsh and unforgiving, and players will quickly find themselves forced to make increasingly perilous moral choices to ensure the survival of the city. It may begin benevolently, such as opening a bar to give people a place to relax and appointing foremen to oversee and increase production, but can quickly spiral into a totalitarian state, complete with secret police, propaganda, and public executions. Any fan of city-builders or survival games is truly missing out if they haven’t yet played Frostpunk.