Architects of Landscape and Power: The Leading City-Building PC Games

Penelope Cook 12 Jul 2023
Architects of Landscape and Power: The Leading City-Building PC Games Image

Crafting grand civilizations, charming hamlets, or dystopian megacities from scratch is an intensely satisfying experience, one which city-building games offer in spades. You manifest your dream metropolis, balancing practicality, aesthetics, local economy, citizens' demands, and more while bearing the crown of urban planning. We've constructed a list of the top ten city-building PC games that essentialize the heart and soul of these urban tales while offering a delightful array of challenges and diverse creativity.

1. SimCity (2013)

Nothing beats the classic. Maxis’ SimCity serves as the foundational brick of city-building games, transforming the genre into mainstream popularity. With its 2013 entry, the urban simulation series received a graphical face-lift, streamlined controls, and introduced online multiplayer. It tests players on managing resources, planning public transportation, balancing budgets, and responding to natural disasters. Pioneering and encompassing, SimCity is a must-play for enthusiasts of the city-building genre.

2. Cities: Skylines

Often lauded as the spiritual successor to SimCity, Cities: Skylines crafts an extraordinarily intricate city-building experience, offering players enormous freedom in urban designs. With its realistic management aspects concerning laws, transportation, taxation, and citizen behavior, the game pushes your mayoral prowess to its limits. Add in a passionate modding community, and Cities: Skylines emerges as a high point for the genre.

Cities Skylines game

3. Frostpunk

Frostpunk uniquely blends city-building mechanics with survival strategies against a chilling steampunk backdrop. As the leader of a frozen post-apocalyptic society, your decisions stand between the survival of humanity or its icy extinction. With its grim visuals, impactful narrative, and thought-provoking social dynamics, Frostpunk invites players to a thrilling strategy experience that's as chilling as its premise.

4. Surviving Mars

From the creators of Tropico comes the futuristically intriguing Surviving Mars. Players must establish a colony on Mars, a task that's as surreal as it sounds. Balancing domes, research, resource management, and coping with extraterrestrial secrets while keeping your colonists alive truly tests the limits of your strategic aptitude, presenting a mesmerizing blend of city-building and space-age survival.

5. Anno 1800

The Anno series has consistently charmed players with its engrossing mix of city-building, exploration, economic simulation, and combat. Anno 1800, set during the Industrial Revolution, stands as one of the best entries in the series. Detailed visuals, extensive resource chains, challenging diplomacy, and nuanced customization make this historical city builder a truly immersive experience.

The Anno 1800 game

6. Planet Coaster

Offering a whimsical spin on the city-building genre, Planet Coaster places you in charge of your own amusement park. Meticulous customization options, realistic physics, financial management, and crowd simulation all rolled up with a visually appealing art style make this game a delight for creative minds and strategists alike. From thrilling roller coasters to intricate park decorations, Planet Coaster ticks all boxes of a playful city builder.

7. Banished

Treading on survival city-building territory Banished casts you as the leader of a band of exiles trying to establish their settlement. The game’s emphasis lies on resource management, survival against the odds, and citizens’ well-being, offering a break from the usual cosmetic focus of city-building games. Its brutal but realistic mechanics make Banished a compelling challenge for survival strategy enthusiasts.

8. Tropico 5

For a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek twist on the genre, Tropico 5 is an absolute joy. As El Presidente, you manage a tropical paradise (or an oppressive dictatorship, if preferred), taking it through different eras, dealing with internal and international politics, and even establishing family dynasties. The satirical humor and distinctive Caribbean charm make this game an enjoyable take on city-building.

Tropico 5 is an absolute fun game

9. Aven Colony

Taking the city-building genre to an alien planet, Aven Colony lets players create and maintain extraterrestrial colonies. It introduces unique challenges, including alien diseases, extreme climates, and indigenous life. The inviting art style, detailed environmental control elements, and expansive extraterrestrial landscapes make Aven Colony a stand-out choice for any city-building game lover.

10. Cities in Motion 2

With a specific focus on public transportation, Cities in Motion 2 offers a refined and specialized urban planning experience. Tasked to design and implement efficient transport systems in evolving cities, players need to meet the demands of a dynamic populace. It is detailed transit simulation mechanics and engaging multiplayer mode solidify Cities in Motion 2 as essential for passionate urban planners.

Mixing practical execution, strategic prowess, aesthetic appeal, and sometimes moralities, city-building games offer a unique duality of relaxation and challenge. Whether you are a fan of cheerful construction, tactical survival, historical epochs, or interstellar colonization, these city-building games deliver profoundly engaging experiences ready for your architectural imagination.