[Top 15] Best City Building Games To Play Today

City Builders to Play Right Now
All the best cities have an observatory near them.

Because who doesn’t dream of being in control? Who doesn’t look at those in power and think, “I could do better!”? Fortunately, there are several games out there that allow players to jump right into a position of power and make those difficult choices (and you won’t even need to win an election).  

15. SimCity: BuildIt (iOS, Android)

SimCity BuildIt gameplay

For those who prefer to play their city-building games on a mobile device, this is the best straight city-builder you’ll find. While it doesn’t contain as much detail as the other SimCity games, it does have more layers to it than most mobile games of the same genre. This includes collecting a variety of resources in order to construct different buildings and expand your city in different ways.

On top of that, players can work with others online and help their cities out! If only we saw this much cooperation between cities in the real world…

Maybe it’s not as detailed as other games, but the cartoony style sure is a sight.

14. The Simpsons: Tapped Out (iOS, Andriod)

The Simpsons: Tapped Out gameplay trailer

Yes, it’s a freemium mobile game, but it’s one that features America’s favorite family! The Simpsons: Tapped Out is an engaging city-building game that includes story and dialogue written by the showrunners themselves and includes a plethora of characters and locations from the long-running show.

While many of the more memorable locations from the show are unlocked by the game’s premium currency (donuts, of course), the game does dish out this pastry-based currency on a pretty regular basis. This means that, with just a bit of patience, you too can unlock Hank Scorpio’s volcano lair without dropping a single real cent.

Well, sir, there's nothin' on Earth like a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car monorail! 

13. Age of Wonders: Planetfall (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One)

Age of Wonders Planetfall gameplay trailer

Ah, Space. I hear it’s the final frontier. By the time this game kicks off, though, that frontier has already been pretty well explored.

You play as a commander of a rescue ship that lands on a previously colonized planet whose citizens, unfortunately, didn’t do enough to prepare for the world’s natives. The player’s role here is to not only rebuild the colony on the alien world, bigger and better than ever, but also to engage in turn-based combat to subdue the enemy. It’s a fun challenge that changes up the gameplay frequently enough to keep players engaged.

I consider this a futuristic retelling of the “discovery” of America.

12. NewCity (PC)

NewCity gameplay trailer

At first glance, NewCity may bring back memories of…well, OLD city-building games. The graphic style chosen for this game may not be as impressive as some other games, but the attention that would traditionally go toward detailing the graphics has instead been put into the gameplay.

For example, this title not only allows a player to build a city on a much grander scale than most other games in the genre but also permits players to follow the lives of individual citizens as they work and play. Creepy, for sure, but this lets players learn more about what the citizens need from their fair mayor.

Also, you’ll get used to the art and learn to appreciate it, I promise.

Even an ideal metropolis will have terrible traffic.

11. Foundation (PC)

Foundation gameplay trailer

An indie title that started on Kickstarter, Foundation looks like nothing special at first glance, but it’s the smaller details of this game that really help it shine. One of the more unique elements is that, unlike the vast majority of city-building games, Foundation doesn’t have any grid system for the buildings to lock to, making it a more creative and free-form experience.

There are also creative tools to build larger structures. Plus, the game includes the ability to maintain relationships with local nobility and royalty, all of which helps to create a game that stands out among its peers.

Dear villagers: Get well soon.

10. Ostriv (PC, Mac)

Ostriv gameplay trailer

As much as I enjoy all of the unique and exciting elements that get added to a lot of city-building games, there's something enticing about a game where a player is expected to do nothing but build an 18th century Ukrainian town. Ostriv is relatively peaceful and relaxing, with a pretty straightforward system of resource management and easy-to-navigate build menus, and I appreciate the game so much for both what it brings, as well as all the extra stuff it leaves out.

Is it peaceful, or is it the perfect setting for a horror movie?

9. Prison Architect (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android)

Prison Architect gameplay trailer

Imagine a city-building game where nearly every citizen is trying to escape and kill everyone else living there. It takes a lot of work to keep the inmates contained and subdued in Prison Architect, but doing so is also borderline addicting. Be sure to plan your prisons out ahead of time to reduce areas for fights and escape attempts, watch the prisoners for any behavior that seems out of the ordinary, and don’t forget to do those contraband checks!

Just…so much contraband…

If you don’t invest in guards and security, you’ll just need to hire more janitors.

8. Aven Colony (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Aven Colony gameplay trailer

If you’ve ever dreamed of going out and colonizing an alien world, the world was probably much like the setting of Aven Colony, Aven Prime. Its vibrant and varied ecosystems make for breathtaking sights, and it feels like a paradise for a city-builder. Just make sure to invest in defenses, as the indigenous species aren’t too happy about your people being there and will try to push you out.

Fortunately for you, this is the future! You can protect your new city with turrets and drones to stake your claim of this beautiful environment. Whatever you choose to do, the future of Aven Prime is in your hands. 

Honey, I don’t think our new neighbor likes us…

7. Jurassic World: Evolution (PC, PS4, Xbox One) 

Jurassic World Evolution cinematic trailer

Looking for a city builder with a bit more…teeth to it? Jurassic World: Evolution is the perfect combination of Zoo Tycoon, Sim Theme Park, and Dr. Alan Grant’s worst nightmares. Players can create a variety of tailored habitats for their dinosaurs, care for the needs of the guests, and be wary of the storms that will roll through the park and put so much careful planning to shame.

And when it comes to safety, do yourself a favor; spare no expense.

I’m not even joking; my Triceratops has already killed six T-Rex’s at this point. She can't be stopped. 

6. Surviving Mars (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One)

Surviving Mars cinematic trailer

A key element to any good city-builder is survival. Whether a player is trying to survive invasion, climate, or just crippling financial strain, there is always the risk that you don’t make it.

In Surviving Mars, the player is actively working to survive the world around them. Just stepping outside would kill any citizen in the city, and a facility breach would take out a lot more of them. It’s an intense game that can put a player’s ability to both plan and react accordingly to the test.

But imagine being able to say that you built a colony that survived Mars! Much like Dark Souls, the challenge of the game is also the fun of it.

As if the lack of breathable air wasn’t bad enough, now there are meteors…

5. Anno 1800 (PC)

Anno 1800 gameplay/game graphics

Let's take a trip to the city-building of the past. Let's talk about building a city during a period when technology and manufacturing were at an all-time high (Up to that point).

In Anno 1800, players get to build a city in the midst of the industrial revolution. Players must take the time to balance the power of industry and the attractiveness of their city, all while maintaining essential trade routes and the happiness of their citizens. And, if you can’t produce what you need to maintain that happiness, the game does give you the option to take other colonies over by force, so the fun really never stops.

You either produce more beer or face the wrath of the people in the streets.

4. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI cinematic trailer

Civilization VI is the kind of game that a player can lose an entire day with and still feel like there’s so much more to do. Build your civilization as one of many leaders in the game, including Teddy Roosevelt, Gandhi, Philip II, Queen Victoria, and many more, and use their unique attributes to claim victory over the other nations in the world.

You’ll progress through the ages in a race to either become dominant in science, culture, religion, or war. Each new discovery allows you to gain an advantage over the civilizations that haven’t progressed as quickly, and there are few feelings as satisfying as dropping a nuke on a city that still relies on the crossbow.

While there are several ways to actually claim victory in the game, I personally rate my success by how far ahead I am in my technological pursuits versus the real world. I don’t know what took people so long to invent flight; I managed to do it by 1780.

Giants? Walled-in cities? This must be either Civilization VI or Attack on Titan.

3. Frostpunk (PC, Xbox One, PS4)

FrostPunk gameplay trailer

There’s regular city-building, there’s city-building in a desolate location, and then there’s FrostPunk, the game about city-building in such harsh conditions that a single day without power could kill your whole civilization. On top of that, this game brings in moral dilemmas that the player will need to face to ensure the survival and morale of the people.

Do you force child labor in order to increase production? With such a small population, how harshly do you punish crime? These choices don’t have easy answers, and you could anger your people enough to cause revolt if you don’t choose wisely.

It’s intense, it’s frustrating, and it’s utterly gripping. For a game with such a cold setting, it deserves a warm reception by the community.

 I can get behind any game where the literal center of society is a giant pillar of flame.

2. Tropico 6 (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One)

Tropico 6 gameplay trailer

To my builders and managers out there, I pose this question: What sounds more appealing, being a mayor, or being El Presidente? In Tropico 6, players get to build their own city in the Caribbean over several eras as they strive to be the world’s greatest dictator (I would buy that mug, just sayin’).

Play your cards right and you’ll have a lavish paradise that attracts visitors from around the world. Get too sloppy with the politics, and you’ll have a revolt on your hands.

In addition to excellent city-building mechanics and a challenging political environment to navigate, Tropico 6 offers a level of customization rarely seen in city-building games. Not only can players customize their palace, but they can also change the look of Tropico’s leader.

So wherever your focus may lie, and no matter how it turns out, you’re in charge, El Presidente.

It’s beautiful, sure, but I’m worried it’ll be the setting for the next Just Cause game…

1. Cities: Skylines (PC, MAC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch)

Cities: Skylines trailer

The most literal and engaging representation of a city-building game, Cities: Skylines puts the player in the shoes of a mayor of a brand-new city. Plan out your roads, utilities, public services, and building zones, and bring the people to you. Players will also be faced with tough choices about how their city will be run, like choosing between cheap fossil-fuel-based energy and expensive green energy, or what type of industries the city will incentivize.

You’ll get regular updates about how your citizens feel about your decisions through their Twitter-like social media platform (as prominent leaders seem to do now). You won’t please everyone, but it’s a satisfying way to get a feel for how your constituents view you.

For good or ill, it’s all in the new mayor’s hands.

I look away for two minutes and they set the place on fire.

And those are the Top 15 City-Building Games that you can play right now. 

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Whether managing a city or managing to stay alive in a radioactive wasteland, Jason plays the games and gets the stories straight.
Gamer Since: 1991
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: Civilization VI
Top 3 Favorite Games:XCOM 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn, Mass Effect 2
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