Top 19 Best City Building Games: The Ultimate List

Looking for the best city building games to play on PC right now? We’ve got you covered with our ultimate list below.

Build epic cities and put your unique spin on them, whether you’re looking to build a small mountain town, a futuristic tech mecca, or an ancient civilization, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the list below.

These are the best city building games you can play on PC right now:

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Cities: Skylines

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Colossal Order
Release Date: March 10, 2015

This instant classic took the spirit of the SimCity series and jacked it up on steroids for the absolute enjoyment of anyone’s inner-city planner. Spend hours perfecting your highway interchanges or use niche zoning laws to create the hottest beachside clubbing district around.

Players have god-like control over every aspect of life, from budgeting to bus schedules, so it’s easy to spend hours geeking out in the weeds while your city grows. A must-have for anyone who loves the genre, Cities: Skylines is the gold-standard with more than 10 expansion packs, from Parklife to Mass Transit, to keep things interesting.

Anno 1800

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Blue Byte
Release Date: April 16, 2019

Fire up your time machine because this game is for city builders and history nerds alike. Anno 1800, the seventh installment in the Anno series, takes place during the Industrial Revolution—that’s the 19th-century for those of you who slept through history class.

Manage the delicate supply-demand balance between your Old World city and a parallel New World city as you focus on the strategy of your artisans and citizens, who are fixated on production and consumption. The upside? Fun of-the-era architecture as you mitigate the encroachment of industrialized factories in your city. The downside? It’s only available on PC.

Frostpunk

Publisher: 11-bit studios
Developer: 11-bit studios
Release Date: April 24, 2018

If you enjoy bleak role-playing storylines, this just might be the perfect city-building game for you. A historic fiction, Frostpunk takes place during the late 1800s after the catastrophic explosions of two stratovolcanoes, Krakatoa and Mount Tambora, have caused a worldwide volcanic winter.

As the captain of an establishment in the coal-rich north, your mission is to build a city center for refugees and keep civilization alive. Whereas happier city-building games might have you focus on things like commercial and residential taxes, Frostpunk has you consider the ramifications of forcing child labor and 24-hour work shifts while keeping a restless population at bay.

Want more of our thoughts? Check out our full Frostpunk review here.

Surviving Mars

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Haemimont Games
Release Date: March 15, 2018

If you’re looking to transcend terrestrial cities, Surviving Mars is your opportunity to blast away from Earth and set up sustainable dome-life on the Red Planet. Published by city-building vets Paradox Interactive, Surviving Mars takes cues from the ethos of games before it: Balance city expansion with resources available.

But this is Mars, and the game is based on real-life data from Mars, so domes, oxygen, and rare Earth materials add an entirely new feel to the classic builder. In another nod to its gaming ancestors, Surviving Mars also comes with its share of natural disasters to avoid—only this time, we’re talking meteor showers, dust storms, and alien plagues. Here’s hoping Elon Musk is logging in hours as he’s planning for Earth’s expansion into the stars.

Banished

Publisher: Shining Rock Software
Developer:Shining Rock Software
Release Date: February 18, 2014

If it’s straight-forward city survival you’re looking for, Banished delivers without too much of the lore, bells or whistles you’ll find in more extravagant games. An exercise in working (and hopefully succeeding) within the construct of a planned economy, this city-builder views its citizens less as denizens and more as a means to an end.

As the leader of a community of banished folk, it’s your job to assign tasks to citizens, such as fishing and building, while balancing the growth of the town against available resources. Populations can grow by birth and newcomers, but you can also lose people as populations age out, which is a nice twist to the traditional model.

Dawn of Man

Publisher: Madruga Works
Developer: Madruga Works
Release Date: October 18, 2018

Like many other entertaining games in the city-builder genre, Dawn of Man jumps back in time—in this case, back to the Paleolithic Era and through the Iron Age, if you make it that far. As the leader of a group of prehistoric settlers, your goal is to ensure the survival of the first modern humans as you expand your fledgling civilization.

Hunt animals like mammoths and ancient bison, gather sustenance such as berries and fruit and construct tools and structures based on the flint, stone, and ores you’ve collected. Along the way, you can research technologies to advance your society and even unlock Megalithic structures to safe keep the future of humankind. 

SimCity 4

simcity 4 deluxe

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Maxis
Release Date: January 14, 2003

Sure, it’s nearly 20 years old, but no city-builder list would be complete without the inclusion (even if just honorary) of the SimCity series. The best installment of the series, SimCity 4 was the zenith of the genre for its time, and the blueprint for all others to follow.

Like its spiritual successor Cities: Skylines, this realistic builder leans on city planning, and challenges players to balance myriad needs of a growing city with resources available. However, this game was revolutionary for two unique reasons: It introduced 3D rendering to the genre and allowed players to import their own Sims into their city. If you can handle this game, you’re qualified for all other games that came later.

Tropico 6

Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Limbic Entertainment
Release Date: March 6, 2019

Limbic Entertainment stepped in to develop the latest installment in the Tropico series, and it’s everything fans of the series should expect, plus more. As the ruler of a burgeoning city-state, your role as “El Presidente” is to bend the citizens to your will while expanding your borders throughout a tropical archipelago (the ability to expand is a huge evolution in the series) and maintain power as the ruler.

That means appeasing the various factions of your island nation (military, communists, etc.) while managing a complex economy and population of interests. Tropical vibes and socio-economic issues ensue as you progress throughout different eras through history.

Aven Colony

Publisher: Team17
Developer: Mothership Entertainment
Release Date: July 25, 2017

If you’ve ever fantasized about using a space elevator, Aven Colony is the city-building game for you. Set amongst sometimes stark, sometimes lush alien landscapes, Aven Colony trades on lots of the genre’s bread-and-butter—building a city with limited resources while exploring tech trees—but does it with slick graphics and new spins on old ideas.

Defense development will add a new flavor for players versed in the genre, as will a day/night cycle that limits production during those cold alien planet evenings. If you’re a fan of Cities: Skylines and Surviving Mars, you’ll feel right at home with Aven Colony.

Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic

Publisher: 3Division
Developer: 3Division
Release Date: March 15, 2019

Soviet Russia is a thing of the past, but you can get a small, fictional glimpse of what it might have been like to be a city planner during that era with Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic, a technical city-building game set in a communist Cold War-era. On top of standard, in-the-weeds game strategy that covers infrastructure like transportation and electricity, as well as the import/export of much-needed resources, the stand-out element of this challenging game is the 1960s-1990s Soviet-era aesthetic of its buildings and inhabitants. It’s an interesting new look for a game mechanism that’s explored capitalism, alien landscapes and ancient history.

Rise to Ruins

Publisher: SixtyGig Games
Developer: Raymond Doerr
Release Date: October 14, 2019

Packed with 16-bit nostalgia, this retro-looking game will give you original Warcraft: Orcs & Humans vibes while delivering the mechanics you’d expect out of a city-building game. Equal-parts defense, god game, and city management, Rise to Ruins places you in a village that desperately needs a leader.

Use the daytime to build and develop your village, and then use the defenses you expertly constructed during the evening to defend against hordes of monsters set on wiping you off the map. Is Rise to Ruins giving you anything new in the genre? Not really, but it’s so firmly set in nostalgia it’s hard to put down.

Islanders

Publisher: Steam
Developer: Grizzly Games
Release Date: April 4, 2019

Billed as a “minimalist city builder,” Islanders feels so much more once you get going. With the heart of a strategy board game, this city-builder uses a point system and procedurally generated land to progress the game. That means that once you max out the possible points available on a single island, a new one is generated—in fact, the game provides an infinite number of changing landscapes, giving you an enjoyable and unpredictable number of scenarios to transcend the “minimalist” tag. While the mechanics of the game are streamlined compared to other traditional city-builders, its soothing soundtrack, colorful palette, and unique spin on the genre provide hours of fun.

Anno 2025

anno 2025

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Blue Byte
Release Date: November 3, 2015

Among the many things Anno 2025 offers, being the leader of a cut-throat corporation in an advanced tech future is certainly one of them. In this fun take on a city-builder, players progress through multiple game stages in an effort to beat rival corporations in a technological arms race.

The game begins much like those in the genre, with a city-building pursuit that looks to maximize buildings and their functions. It then prompts you to build research bases in the arctic, which eventually leads to blasting rockets into space to colonize the Moon. And that’s not all: Once you’re on the Moon, you toggle between two wildly different city strategies (Earth and Moon, both with night/day cycles), while harvesting lunar materials necessary for the domination of your corporation—all hail space capitalism!

Tropico 5

Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Haeminmont Games
Release Date: May 23, 2014

The release of the fifth installment of the celebrated Tropico series brought a couple of big innovations to the title. First, the ability to progress throughout different eras in history, starting from the colonial era, through world wars, cold wars, and then modern times.

This progress created a dynastic “El Presidente” family, adding another level of involvement to the city-building aspect of the game. Even more important, though, was the inclusion of a multi-player aspect that allows for either cooperative or competitive gameplay. In short, Tropico 5 is an updated take on the series with some great hooks to keep you playing.

Stronghold 3

Publisher: 7Sixty LLC
Developer: Firefly Studios
Release Date: October 25, 2011

Although its original release was met with mixed reviews, updates since its launch have proven strong enough to put Stronghold 3 into the realm of solid games—albeit a peripheral city-building game for this list. The game breaks down into two campaigns: a story-driven military campaign and a city-builder-type campaign that focuses on productivity and resource management within the village. While this particular entry is in no danger of making it to the top of “best city-builder” lists, the ability to launch diseased animals at enemies via trebuchets makes its case for inclusion.

Subnautica

Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Release Date: January 23, 2018

By no means is this uber-isolationist survival game a traditional city-builder—the fact that you’re alone on a water planet disqualifies even the use of the word ‘city’—but there’s no denying the inherent importance of building and resource management in Subnautica’s eerie, mostly-underwater gameplay.

Stranded on an alien planet after a crash that killed everyone on board, save the protagonist, the player must utilize the natural resources around the crash site in order to construct buildings and craft vehicles to allow exploration into the spooky depths below. 

The Settlers 7: Path to a Kingdom

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Blue Byte
Release Date: March 25, 2010

If the city-building genre ever needed a case study for its entertainment value, just look at The Settlers series. After a few titles that lost the interest of many fans, the developers brought back and bolstered its in-game city-building aspect, and fans returned. In this game, infrastructure building and economic systems take a front seat alongside a warrior’s campaign to stifle a growing rebellion in the fantasy-laden Kingdom of Tandria.

SimCity BuildIt

SimCity BuildIt

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Maxis
Release Date: October 22, 2014

When the original SimCity launched way back in 1989, it was inconceivable to imagine balancing your city’s park system while, say, sitting in an actual park. Which is why SimCity BuildIt deserves a solid mention on this list. As a mobile gaming experience, you can take all of the subtle management considerations on the road, bus, plane—wherever. The game doesn’t skimp on features and is a must-have, on-the-go companion for any city-building fanatic.

Civilization IV

civ iv

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis Games
Release Date: October 21, 2016

Almost as old as the SimCity series, the Civilization series (launched in 1991) is perhaps the most consistently quality title in gaming history. Sure, it’s a turn-based game focused on the social and technological advancements of history’s greatest empires, but building is elemental to winning a campaign. Build military installations, ivory towers, areas or worship, or centers for tech research—just know that building means progress and progress is what conquers the ages.

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Bobby Bernstein
Bobby is the co-owner of Nerd Much?. Bylines at Heavy, Den of Geek, HiConsumption, and More! Like his nerdtastic tweets by following him on Twitter.

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