The Top 15 Best Tycoon Games for PC

best tycoon games
Gather round, folks, we're about to get rich!

Want to experience the thrill of making money without having to leave your home?

In a world of get-rich-quick schemes and a capitalist mindset, it’s not surprising that 100% of people have asked themselves at least once if there was a way to make infinite money sitting at home (which is a fact I totally didn’t make up). Unfortunately, that’s not a realistic aspiration for us common folk, so that’s where tycoon games come in! I present to you a list of 15 fantastic tycoon games for PC so you can unleash your inner capitalist and experience the pleasure of earning capital from your desk chair, even if none of it is real and in the end,  nothing matters… Right then, moving along.

15. AdVenture Capitalist

AdVenture Capitalist Gameplay

If you’re looking for a quick fix of success, then AdVenture Capitalist is the game for you. You start with a simple lemonade stand and before you know it, you’re a bazillionaire with shares in everything from hockey teams to oil companies.

AdVenture Capitalist has a clean and approachable user interface and an art style and background song that make you feel like a young bright-eyed up-and-comer from the 1920s. You can hire managers to generate constant profit for you at each of your ventures, upgrade your services to earn more money from them, and earn bonuses to sales by owning a certain number of each business type. Unique to AdCap, as it’s lovingly referred to, is the Angel Investor system, which allows you to sell all of your businesses to bring on Angels. Angels provide a variable percentage bonus to the businesses you buy after you’ve restarted. Ka-ching!

The best part? It’s FREE! Who doesn’t like free stuff? Just be sure to do some finger stretches before a session, because this game is a clicker, and it takes this job very seriously.

A young upstart enters the game.

Holy profits, Batman! You officially own Earth!

14. Big Pharma

Always wanted to get into the sciences but never had the grades? Well, with Big Pharma your 57% in high school biology doesn’t matter and they’ll put you in charge of a pharmaceutical company anyway!

Big Pharma is an in-depth strategy tycoon. You start with an empty warehouse and a few ingredients at your disposal to create cures and treatments. You’ll have to hire explorers to discover new ingredients, scientists to develop new machines and processes, and build your company from a single production line to a profitable conglomerate.

There are a ton of variables to keep in mind as you manage ingredient concentrations and side effects, take into consideration the seasons and common afflictions associated with them, plan your production lines to maximize space and efficiency, keep an eye on your competition to make sure they don’t patent a cure you’re working on, and more. There are 8 CEOs to pick from, 35 scripted scenarios to complete, a free build mode, and mod support. Get out there and make some drugs!

Collecting them ingredients.

A well-oiled machine.

13. Game Dev Tycoon

Game Dev Tycoon Startup Gameplay

Game Dev Tycoon took the tycoon world by storm when it was released in 2012. With its subdued art style, great sound design, and engaging gameplay, Game Dev Tycoon is sure to stick around as a classic.

The goal is to go from a lonely developer working out of their garage to an industry leader with a fully staffed team. When you start development on a game, you have a lot of decisions to make. You choose a topic, genre, and platform, then you decide how much time to spend on things like graphics, sound design, and dialogue. As you progress and your team grows, you can research and develop new engines and platforms and unlock tons of topics and genres to pick from.

A really cool feature that I appreciate is the ability to have each member of your team specialize in different areas. Betty can be an expert sound designer, while Kyle can specialize in dialogue writing. This allows you to really hone in on the details of a game and make it the best it can be, thus maximizing your profits. There is a lot to unpack with Game Dev Tycoon and I could go on for days, so you should just go play it already.

From humble beginnings...

...to a complex enterprise.

12. Transport Fever

Planes, trains, and trucks, oh my! Transport Fever is the game for you if you enjoy managing moving systems.

You can choose to play one of the numerous campaign scenarios on various difficulties, or to go off on your own in endless mode. Start in the year 1850 with only a few steam engines and some horse drawn carriages and work your way through the years until you are building airports and harbours. You will be transporting everything from passengers and livestock to food stuffs and luxury items. Want to see what your lines look like up close? Transport Fever lets you go into first-person mode in your vehicles and ride them to their destination!

Developer Urban Games focused on making Transport Fever as realistic as possible by drawing every map as close to scale as possible and including an aging system where your vehicles will slowly become rusted and need to be repaired or replaced. The one thing to take into consideration is the demand on your PCs innards once you reach late game because the framerate has been known to drop due to the highly realistic graphics and dynamic cities. Transport Fever is well paced on the lower difficulty settings and makes it easy for new players to get a hold on things. But don’t worry, there are plenty of options to get into the nitty gritty and they also have mod support!

Watch goods get stockpiled at factories and await your vehicles coming to deliver them.

So many lines to consider!

11. Banished

Banished Gameplay Trailer

A unique city-builder, simulation, tycoon crossbreed, Banished has procedurally-generated maps, tons of custom content, and a system that lends itself to a new game experience every time.

Early game goal? Survive. Late game goal? Thrive. Take your small group of exiles and help them establish a self-sufficient colony. There are so many variables to take into consideration from resource collection to illness to education to population growth. Every building you place and every job you assign to your villagers will immediately affect your productivity, sometimes not for the better. You can customize your HUD and curate which information you see at any given time, which is super helpful when your town starts taking over the whole map and you need to be able to react to changes quickly.

What I love most about this game is the dynamic gameplay. You have to make decisions that not only benefit you in the short term but have enough forethought to play the long game with regards to planning. If you build too many houses without thinking about food production, your population will bloat and starve, but if you build too few then the number of available workers will fall drastically and cause a major slowdown in resource gathering. Banished offers so much depth and replay value and after 200 hours I’m still going back to it regularly to try and get those last few achievements.

A quaint little village.

And a starving little village.

10. Zoo Tycoon

Zoo Tycoon (with expansions) Gameplay

Just about everyone I know who has ever been to a zoo has had the dream of becoming a zookeeper. While most of us never follow that dream, we can at least appreciate the thought of the whole thing with games like Zoo Tycoon.

Zoo Tycoon, the original collection, is one of the games that helped ignite many a player’s passion for tycoons and simulators. It has solid gameplay, a fantastic soundtrack, and is, like most games from the era, filled with secrets and cheats. For example, if you call an exhibit Xanadu, it will unlock unicorns. Yes, unicorns!

You can release predators on your guests, put multiple species in one exhibit, create marine shows, and place shops and atriums to squeeze your guests for every last penny. I suppose you could always play the sequel if you wanted fancier graphics, but nothing quite beats the nostalgia of a pixelated masterpiece like Zoo Tycoon.

Look at those giraffes!

Rocky terrain makes for happy goats.

9. Parkitect

Parkitect Gameplay

Don’t let the “Early Access” label throw you off, Parkitect is full of fun and getting better all the time. It takes all the expected features of a theme park sim and adds some new ones and it’s worth checking out.

You think you know what you’re getting into with a theme park sim; build rides, place shops and services, design rocking coasters, keep guests happy. But Parkitect takes it one step further and adds a stock system. You have to build infrastructure to keep your shops stocked with products or else they won’t be selling, which costs you money. This provides a spicy new flavour to the traditional theme park sim dish.

Parkitect also has several info view modes that allow you to quickly assess your park. Perhaps the most useful one is Fun-o-Vision, which grays out the scenery and highlights your guests on a red to green spectrum, indicating how happy or unhappy they are. This means you can immediately spot the Debbie Downers and figure out what you need to add or change to impress them. There isn’t a campaign mode yet, but the very attentive dev team say it’s in alpha testing right now, so look forward to that when it’s released!

Blast off!

Oh look, a weather system!

8. Factorio

Factorio Multiplayer Gameplay

Factorio is complex, in-depth, and blends Minecraft-style gameplay with tycoon-style goals. While its learning curve is quite steep, the reward of figuring out how to get the most out of it is well worth the time investment.

What surprised me when I jumped into the game for the first time is that rather than having god-like control over the world, you are instead controlling an avatar from a third person, top-down perspective. This makes for a very different kind of strategy, but if you have any experience with Minecraft, the shift shouldn’t be too off-putting. There are good tutorial levels and plenty of campaign scenarios to complete, and, of course, infinite possibilities for how you set up your production line. Oh, and there’s online multiplayer.

No doubt many of you are thinking about arguing that it’s not a tycoon. Well, according to this post by sunandshadow, a tycoon game is any that involves “the player [making] strategic choices” about the production and distribution of time and resources. So, even though there isn’t a market to sell to, the goal of Factorio is to gather resources and craft them into objects and machinery to build a base, defeat aliens, and eventually automate the entire process. I think we can at least put Factorio on the fringes of this definition, but I’ll let you make the decision for yourself.

Quite the accomplishment with this one.

Defend yourself and your machines from alien attacks.

7. Roller Coaster Tycoon 2: Triple Thrill Pack

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 Gameplay

“Whoa,” you might say, “wasn’t there a Roller Coaster Tycoon 3?” Well, to that I say, “Was there?” RCT2 is a classic full of secrets, cheats, and quirky humour, and to my mind beats out its sequel in just about every regard.

Before I get you all excited about one of my favourite tycoons, I should tell you that the Steam port is a little buggy, so make sure you’re ready to do a few minutes of compatibility troubleshooting after installing it. Disclaimer out of the way, let’s do this. I love this game for a lot of the same reasons I love Zoo Tycoon, admittedly it’s mostly nostalgia, but still. The UI is easy to grasp, the HUD is clean, it’s got good sound design, and the graphics may be outdated but they aren’t painful like some older games (cough, Silent Hill…).

The plan is simple; lay some paths, place some rides, open the park and watch your profits grow. I’ve read that some people think the game is too slow, but isn’t the real problem that life is too fast? For real though, if you do it right then you should be making enough money to be building pretty consistently. If not, you could always just cheat. Remember, these were the good old days before modding took a true hold on the PC gaming world, it was up to the devs to build in their own mods. That being said, if you don’t mind older games and love theme park sims, then you should definitely check this one out because it is a staple of the genre.

This is a level of complexity I could only ever dream of achieving.

Little pixelated people everywhere, not suspecting they are soon to be dropped into a water feature as punishment for being unhappy…

6. Theme Hospital

Theme Hospital Gamplay

Theme Hospital is a quirky hospital tycoon that has you treating afflictions like invisibility and bloated head while listening to announcements from a wonderfully sarcastic receptionist.

Probably the biggest draw of this game, aside from it’s wonderful UI and gameplay, is the writing and humour. Theme Hospital has a unique personality and it fully commits to that personality. For example, the receptionist, in her peppy English accent, says things like, “Patients are asked not to die in the corridors.” To run your hospital, you hire doctors and nurses with different skills and personalities (which directly affect their effectiveness and patient satisfaction), build rooms, and research treatments and machines, all while watching your bottom line and making sure you pass health inspections.

For a while there, Theme Hospital was hard to find, but you can get it on Origin for around $6 if you’re interested. I mean, if you are one of the 12 people who use Origin. Fear not, good people, because it is soon to be followed by its spiritual successor, Two Point Hospital, which is being worked on by a lot of alumnus of the original Bullfrog classic.

A clean and welcoming reception goes a long way in creating a smooth hospital visit.

Better keep an eye on your staff! Tired doctors and nurses make mistakes, and those could be deadly.

5. Tropico 4

Tropico 4 Gameplay

If you can’t vacation in the tropics, why not just become El Presidente? Tropico 4 takes your traditional city building sim and adds political strategy and intrigue, making for a one-of-a-kind tycoon experience… unless you’ve already played another game in the series.

You can jump into the campaign, or you can make your own randomized island and design your presidential avatar. This is important because the background you pick for your president will directly impact your game by endearing you to some populations more than others and giving you bonuses or penalties to different industries. This all ties into the complex economy and political system.

In Tropico 4, it’s important that you keep the different factions on your island happy, especially the dominant one. Why? Because you have to make sure that you get re-elected or it’s game over! If your island has a lot of capitalists, then appeasing the fascists is not going to help you. It takes strategy and careful planning to build a loyal constituent and strong economy. Will you be a leading provider of sugar and tobacco or survive on tourist dollars or something else entirely? The decision is yours, El Presidente.

What a beautiful vista.

There are a lot of systems to balance when planning your island.

4. Prison Architect

Prison Architect Gameplay

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had this strange fascination with media portrayals of prisons. With Prison Architect, you can build a renowned rehabilitation centre, or strike fear in the hearts of criminals by ruling with an iron fist.

I’m not afraid to admit that I have a serious addiction to this game. But it’s not a problem worth addressing because it’s just that good. Prison Architect has a deceptively simple exterior with its 2D graphics and straightforward building system. But once you dig deeper into the UI and start figuring out the numbers game behind it all, it becomes quite the strategic enterprise. You have to plan and build cell blocks, canteens and kitchens, staff pathways, and services like laundry and mail. Also, the scripted campaign is engaging and great for learning the ropes.

Prisoners are assigned one of three risk ratings when they arrive at your prison; minimum, medium, or maximum security. Once you’ve unlocked it, you can also assign the most dangerous prisoners a super max rating or put vulnerable prisoners like witnesses and ex-cops into protective custody to prevent them being murdered. There are too many systems to name like riots, gangs, heating, death row and more. The best part is you can customize what systems you want in each game, meaning it can be as simple or as challenging as you like.

They even have an Escape Mode where you play as a prisoner trying to escape your prison. It’s a little buggy right now, but it’s getting there. Seriously, just try this game.

Double outer walls are great to hinder tunnel digging.

Everybody sing: let’s start a riot, a riot, let’s start a riot, duh nuh nuh nah nah nah!

3. Railway Empire

Railway Empire Early Campaign Gameplay

Hot of the press is Railway Empire! Reviews are rolling in and the people are loving it. So, let’s take a look.

There’s a lot to look at: campaign and sandbox modes, challenge scenarios at various difficulties, plenty of characters to play as that give different bonuses, and competitors to provide motivation to keep moving up in the railway world. The tutorial, which is played in the video above, is really comprehensive and leaves you ready to play on your own. This is important because Railway Empire has a competitive system that includes sabotage! Engage in corporate espionage and stop your rivals from getting ahead.

It's your goal to grow cities by connecting them to different resources on your railway system. To do this, obviously, you build rails. What’s cool is that before you actually have to spend any money, you can build a rail and adjust it until it is the most efficient and cost effective and then confirm the purchase. This means no undoing and refunding at a loss. How kind of them!

And so, it begins.

There are more then 40 locomotives and 30 covered wagons to choose from when buying your trains.

2. Planet Coaster

Planet Coaster Custom Content Exploration

Planet Coaster is a masterpiece of a theme park tycoon. It gets frequent updates, has an active mod and custom content community, and provides a smooth experience for casual players while offering plenty of micromanagement options for the dedicated tycoon aficionado.

Planet Coaster offers two very distinct experiences; a creative journey and a capitalist journey. When you play in sandbox mode and money is no option, you can really let your inner ride designer free. Not only can you place tracks like other coaster sims, but you can add scenery and effects that you can set to triggers on the ride. So, you can blast your riders with water or fireworks when they reach the apex of a drop.

The stuff that people come up with is just astounding. I’ve linked to a video where you can see recreations of rides from Universal Studios. And having been on both rides, I can certify they are quite realistic. Don’t worry though, because if you’re more interested in the capitalism part (because you don’t have a creative bone in your body like me), you can download other people’s creations off Steam and earn money off their hard work. No shame.

Guards will chase down pickpockets and vandals which makes your park safe and your guests happy!

Design effects shows to entertain your guests and keep them in the park spending money.

1. Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines Starting a City Gameplay

Cities: Skylines is everything a city sim should be: good-looking, packed with content, blends creativity with strategy, and offers varying levels of difficulty and immersion for all kinds of players

To this day, I am still scared of a blank map. I find it intimidating to start building from nothing, but Cities: Skylines has a masterful tutorial that eliminates any apprehension and the ease with which you can demolish and rebuild areas makes it so much more approachable. Like most city sims, you have to zone areas for commercial, residential, and industrial development, place services and tourist attractions, and manage traffic and waste removal.

But beyond this are plenty of options for micromanagement. My favourite features have to be the neighbourhood zoning and policies. Policies are things like providing free smoke detectors, banning large vehicle traffic, or giving a tax break to certain zone types. You can set these policies to be city wide, or you can set them for designated neighbourhoods (which you set), allowing you to customize your city and really bring in those dolla’ dolla’ bills.

Bottom line is Cities: Skylines is great and given how reasonably priced the DLC is (especially on sale) I highly recommend it. But if my word means nothing to you, then just check out some gameplay videos and I know that you’ll soon find yourself making the purchase.

Start with a highway, end with a sprawling metropolis.

Such a clean HUD, don’t you agree?

There you have it, 15 of the greatest PC tycoon games of the last 2 decades. Whether you're looking for some nostalgia, some modern features, a slow-paced ride, or a complex systems manager, there is something for everyone in the tycoon genre. Now, get out there and earn those big bucks! Maybe then your mother will be proud of you. One can only dream.

You may also be interested in:

11 Best Tycoon Games to Play in 2017

Theme Parks and Profits: Planet Coaster’s Successful Launch Has Bumped Frontier’s Revenue by 66%

Roller Coaster Tycoon World Gameplay: 10 Interesting Facts About This Awesome Game

Saviour of the Milk Way Galaxy, Defeater of the World Eater, and certified Simlish translator; I have a geekdom resume 100 lightyears long. I live to escape to other realities. Won't you join me?
Gamer Since: 1996
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Breath of the Wild
Top 3 Favorite Games:Mass Effect 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn, The Stanley Parable
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