15 Best City Building Games To Play In 2021: Boss Builders

Best City Building Games

There aren’t many games that include themselves in the city builder genre. It’s a simple premise: you take on the role of planner, and mayor of a city. You look down upon your creation from above, and you are entirely responsible for its growth and management. City building games are exceptionally time consuming, and each game can go on forever—or at least until the city you are working on gets stale and you make a new one for different challenges.

Despite originally established in 1989 with the release of Will Wright’s SimCity, city builders haven’t had all that many releases in their 24 years of existence. In addition, they aren’t all that similar to each other in gameplay style.

Because it’s a genre full of duds and great titles are few and far between, we’ve compiled a list of the best city building video games.

#15 Planetbase
  • Developer: Madruga Works
  • Publisher: Madruga Works
  • Platforms: PC, XBO
  • Release: October 2015

In Planetbase, players guide a group of space settlers in an attempt to establish a base on a remote and uninhabitable planet that doesn’t look too different from Mars. Grow food, collect and mine resource, survive disasters, and build a sufficient colony in an environment unfit for human habitation. It’s basically The Martian in the form of a city building sim.


#14 Anno 2070
  • Developer: Related Designs, Blue Byte
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: November 2011

Anno 2070 is a lot like previous games in the series, including Dawn of Discovery, but with the crucial difference in that it’s set in the future. The game plays upon the looming catastrophe of the sea level rise and the melting polar ice caps, as humanity continues to grow and expand well beyond sustainable levels.

It’s your job as a manager to build a sustainable island city while currying favor with each of the game’s three factions—industrialists, environmentalists, and technologists. In return for your support, each faction provides you access with unique technologies and advancements for your city.

In addition to the game’s single player campaign and freeplay modes, Anno 2070 comes with an online component which adds weekly challenges for players and a live voting system for passive bonuses to your city, which can change the dynamic of how you build, and manage your city.


#13 Anno 2205
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  • Developer: Blue Byte Mainz
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: November 2015

Set in the distant future, Anno 2205 brings the long-running Anno series of games all the way to the Moon. At first, you “conquer” all of Earth, building large, bustling technologically-driven cities and grand industrial complexes before you run out of space and travel to the stars.


#12 Cities in Motion 2
  • Developer: Colossal Order
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: April 2013

Cities in Motion 2 is a follow up to Colossal Order’s Cities in Motion. The particular video game series has a focus on public transportation where players must create efficient routes and systems within different cities around the world.

Depending on how well you are able to craft a decent transportation system will determine the impact of your city growth. Likewise, there are cooperative and competitive game modes to enjoy the city building and management titles with friends.


#11  Banished
  • Developer: Shining Rock Software
  • Publisher: Shining Rock Software
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: February 2014

Banished is an interesting title as it’s not a typical city builder. Instead of the common day cities or futuristic worlds, Banished follows an outcast group of citizens who must live in a remote community. This small group will rely on players carefully managing the various resources for their survival.

Starting from scratch, gamers can build up their community into a thriving city which can be maintained from the birth of children to accepting wandering citizens out in the world. Speaking of citizens, in Banished, as players grow their cities, citizens will age and eventually die which results as citizens being a precious resource to account for.


#10 Tropico 5
  • Developer: Haemimont Games
  • Publisher: Kalypso Media
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, XB 360, XBO
  • Release: May 2014

The banana republic simulator (not to be confused with the clothing brand) goes into the fifth iteration, progressing into the direction of a full-on SimCity-style city building simulation. For the first time in the series, Tropico 5 will also feature competitive and cooperative online multiplayer features where the players can compete or cooperate with other, potentially rival dictators. It’ll be out for both the PC and PlayStation 4.


#9 Aven Colony
  • Developer: Mothership Entertainment
  • Publisher: Team17
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
  • Release: July 2017

Aven Colony is a relatively new title at the time of writing this. The video game just released this July and pins players into crafting and maintaining a futuristic city.

Overall, the narrative around Aven Colony is based on a human colonization within an alien planet. Because of this, there are various hazards you will have to deal with such as freezing night temperatures, alien plagues, and keeping your residents happy.


#8 Tropico 4
  • Developer: Haemimont Games, Feral Interactive
  • Publisher: Kalypso Media, FX Interactive, Feral Interactive
  • Platforms: PC, XB 360
  • Release: August 2011

Tropico 4 allows you to fill the shoes of the dictator of a small banana republic called Tropico, which is not unlike Cuba. You’re the El Presidente, and it’s up to you to play the role of a tyrant or that of a benevolent dictator.

The power to develop your city is at your fingertips as you manage an economy and handle dozens of projects to ensure the happiness and prosperity of your citizens. You can rely upon a multitude of sources to generate wealth, including plantations, factories, or even tourism. If you want, you can even play the game like Kim Jong Il and turn your city into a dystopia.


#7 Tropico 6
  • Developer: Limbic Entertainment
  • Publisher: Kalypso Media
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
  • Release: March 29, 2019

Tropico received a new installment in 2019 and if you played past installments then you’ll be rather familiar with Tropico 6. This is a series where players take on the role of a leader, known as El Presidente, who is in control of a Caribbean island. Being the leader you’ll have control over a variety of aspects that range from political situations, laws, and overall management to the island itself. Now as done previously, gamers will be taking control of the island over a course of four eras, but depending on how you handle various situations will determine if your island flourishes or if you’ll end up dealing with a revolt. Top Best City Building Games: Boss Builders.


#6 The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom
  • Developer: Blue Byte
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: March 2010

The Settlers 7 is the latest title in the kingdom building strategy series that began in 1993. The game puts you in the role of a king or queen who’s with the challenge to build up a colony into a mighty kingdom. As your kingdom expands, you’ll face opposition from rival monarchs whom you must fight for both territory and natural resources.

Settlers 7 returns the series to its origins from the real-time strategy oriented 5th and 6th installments, which many fans considered too divergent from the Settlers formula.

The latest game also offers a new element to the typical Settlers formula of building a kingdom, enriching your civilians and securing your borders with the addition of the Victory Points system. You’ll earn more Victory Points as you conquer sectors across the map, and increase the productivity of your followers by plying them with food, drink, and gold.


#5 Prison Architect
  • Developer: Introversion Software
  • Publisher: Introversion Software
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, X360, XBO, Ios, Android
  • Release: October 6, 2015

Prison Architect puts players in control of operating and building a private prison. There are several elements that go into the building and maintaining your private prison which include building cells, connecting utilities along with hiring various staff members.

Outside of actually building up the prison, Prison Architect also puts players into the shoes of governor where you will micromanage your prison in hopes of establishing a positive reform program. However, there are other game modes available if you grow tired of actually building and managing.

Escape mode was introduced when the game released which allows players to step into the shoes of a convict. Instead of maintaining order, convicts are tasked with creating chaos while also attempting to escape the prison.


#4 Anno 1800

  • Developer: Blue Byte
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: April 16, 2019

The Anno series has been around for a good while now and it’s even popped up a few times in this list. Anno 1800 happens to be the latest installment where it takes place in the 19th century. Players will be going through colonial trade as they build up their city and manage its citizens, workers, and artisans. Building the city should also be a bit easier with this installment thanks to the blueprint feature to help plan your area a bit better. Likewise, you’ll need to build the area up to help attract tourists with natural land along with local festivities.

To top it off, there is a sandbox and multiplayer game mode. With multiplayer up to four players can join a match in an attempt to conquer islands, trade and simply build an empire together. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any strategy as you race to reach certain milestones such as the first to build up a monument, securing a certain amount of investors and revenue.


#3 SimCity 4
  • Developer: Maxis
  • Publisher: EA Games, Aspyr Media
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: January 2003

After the somewhat disappointing SimCity 3, Maxis’s release of SimCity 4 was a true return to form for both the company and the city building sim. More than just a city builder, the game is an architectural playground for those of us who wish to have the power of god—and Daniel H. Burnham—at our fingertips.

SimCity 4 provides an impressive level of detail to a game where detail is absolutely essential, ranging from street traffic to large scale urban planning.

The amount of time I spent playing SimCity 4 couldn’t be measured in hours, or even days—but in months and years. It is without a doubt the best SimCity game and city builder in existence.


#2 Frostpunk
  • Developer: 11bit studios
  • Publisher: 11 bit studios
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: April 24, 2018

Frostpunk is set in an alternate 1886 timeline where an unusual global winter has struck the world leaving millions in a frozen tundra. In order to survive, innocent civilians fled to cities built around a generator that uses rich coal resources which helps to keep the city warm. Players will take control of a generator city as they build it up along with managing the resources to keep the civilians safe and warm.

The game offers three modes to go through all of which feature different gameplay storylines. For instance, depending on the game mode, players may lead a group of explorers on an expedition to find a new coal reserve north of London or you could find yourself playing as a leader of a refugee group that has taken control of a generator city reservation made exclusively for the wealthy.

It’s worth adding in that the expansions have been also well received and worth checking out. They are played very much the same but instead offer some different types of scenarios. For instance, in The Fall of Winterhome, players essentially discover that their generator is broke beyond repair and are forced to spend their last few days writing up an evacuation plan. If you enjoyed the base game and want a new challenge or at times even new game mechanics, adding the expansions into the mix should offer players quite a bit of extra content to chew through.


#1 Cities: Skylines
  • Developer: Colossal Order
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Platforms: PC, XBO, PS4
  • Release: March 2015

Cities: Skylines offers players the ability to construct gigantic cities unrestrained by small land plots, and extensive modding capabilities. Inspired by the likes of the SimCity series of games from Maxis, Cities: Skylines is everything a city-building fanatic could ever ask for in a game.


Bonus

Cities XL 2012
  • Developer: Focus Home Interactive
  • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release: October 2011

Made by Focus Home Interactive, Cities XL 2012 is the third and latest game in the Cities XL franchise.

Unlike SimCity and its strong focus on multiplayer, Cities XL 2012 places a singular emphasis on single-player mode and includes new structures, maps, and a starter guide to ease players into the game. Earlier versions were considered very difficult to get into due to their complexity.

As of this writing, the game’s a couple years old, but it remains one of the better city building sims out there.