Most video game genres capture the imagination, but only a handful of games allow you to truly express yourself. Enter the best city building games. Perfect for creative gamers, the best city building games let you design and oversee your dream construction projects right from your screen. Build a sprawling metropolis, set up a local government, and launch your small empire into its own golden age. But be careful! One misstep could result in crisis.

Think you have the strategic wit and creative chops required to succeed? This article takes you through the best city building games on the market, and gives you the inside scoop on their extensive history and unique mechanics. Ready to start building? Let’s begin.

10 Best City Building Games of 2019

We’ve curated this list of the top 10 best city building games of 2019 to help you find your next favorite title. Check ‘em out below.

1. Frostpunk

Frost

One of the best village building games for survival

  • Platform: Windows
  • Genre: City building survival
  • Developer: 11 bit studios
  • Release: 2018

Frostpunk, the city building/survival crossover, is set in an alternative reality where a worldwide volcanic winter has blanketed Earth. In order to survive, players must help a group of survivors establish a base and build a sustainable city. Harvest materials, build shelters, and keep up with the demands of governance in this thrilling title.

2. Aven Colony

Aven Colony

One of the best city builders for strategy

  • Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
  • Genre: City building strategy
  • Developer: Mothership Entertainment
  • Release: 2017

If you’re looking for a city building strategy game, Aven Colony is just the ticket. Gameplay revolves around the construction of a new city on Aven Prime, an Earth-like planet in a distant galaxy. You must oversee resource collection, shelter construction, and local governance in the up-and-coming colony. Eventually, it’s possible to go from small township to bustling sci-fi city with skyscrapers, drones, and hover cars. Think you have what it takes to help the people thrive? Check it out on console or Windows today.

3. Surviving Mars

Surviving Mars

One of the best world building games

  • Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Linux, Mac
  • Genre: Building simulation
  • Developer: Haemimont Games
  • Release: 2018

Are you a fan of world building games? If so, Surviving Mars is an excellent way to get your fix. Gameplay revolves around an overseer who helps a group of colonists build and maintain a base on Mars. But watch out! The terrain is tricky and one misstep could leave the entire group stranded with no hope for survival. Modelled after real Martian data, this true-to-life building game is an exciting leap forward in the simulation genre.

4. SimCity Complete Edition

Sim City

One of the best simulation city games

  • Platform: Windows, Mac
  • Genre: Simulation-city online building game
  • Developer: Maxis
  • Release: 2013

SimCity Complete Edition is the city simulator for folks seeking that classic city building feeling combined with thrilling new features. What makes it so special? Well, the original SimCity games pioneered the entire genre, and the Complete Edition takes things a step further with a new user interface, updated module system, and finite resource pools. Plus, this game makes use of the cutting-edge Glassbox Engine to deliver the finest graphics in the series.

5. Kingdoms and Castles

Kingdom Castles

One of the best building games in medieval times

  • Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac
  • Genre: Empire building
  • Developer: Lion Shield
  • Release: 2017

Medieval setting? Check. Stylish cartoon-like graphics? Absolutely. Kingdoms and Castles reinvents the city building genre with a beautiful set of 3D graphics complemented by an intuitive dashboard that makes resource collection, construction, and city maintenance a breeze. Plus, this game boasts some of the best user reviews in the genre, and it’s easily accessible on most gaming rigs.

6. Anno 2205

Anno

One of the best sci-fi city building games

  • Platform: Windows
  • Genre: City building
  • Developer: Blue Byte
  • Release: 2015

Want to test your skills as a master strategist? Anno 2205 by Blue Byte is the perfect choice, as you’re tasked with building a cutting-edge metropolis packed with the latest technology. However, you’re competing against a group of rival corporations who are hellbent on outperforming you. Do you have what it takes to emerge victorious? Check the game out on Steam today.

7. Cities: Skylines

Featured CB

One of the best multi-platform city building games

  • Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows, Linux, Mac
  • Genre: City building
  • Developer: Colossal Order
  • Release: 2015

Cities: Skylines takes simulation city-building to brand new heights, incorporating urban planning, economics, and other new mechanics into the fold. Players start with a single square mile plot of land and must begin by building basic infrastructure. As resource collection and land development becomes easier, your city expands. Can you keep up with the growing list of responsibilities? Try Cities: Skylines on console or PC today.

8. Pocket City

Pocket City

One of the best town building games for mobile

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Genre: City building
  • Developer: Codebrew
  • Release: 2018

Congratulations! You’ve just been elected mayor, and it’s time to manage and grow your own town. Pocket City incorporates everything you know and love from the city building genre, and it packs in new mechanics like zoning, park building, and disaster response. Complete quests, level up, and optimize your city for maximum output and overall prosperity. If you enjoy gaming on your mobile phone or tablet, Pocket City is a fantastic option.

9. Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress

One of the best free city building games

  • Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac
  • Genre: City building roguelike
  • Developer: Bay 12 Games
  • Release: 2006

Dwarf Fortress is unique in that it’s a retro-styled game that incorporates elements of the city building and roguelike genres. Moreover, it’s a text-based game that’s free-to-play, and it’s set in a procedurally generated world. In order to win, players must navigate the complexities of the world and construct their own underground fortresses. Do note, however, that this is one of the most challenging titles on our list. Only the best players will thrive.

10. Jurassic World Evolution

Jurassic World

One of the best building simulation games

  • Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
  • Genre: Building & business simulation
  • Developer: Frontier
  • Release: 2018

Jurassic World Evolution is a building and business simulation crossover that’s inspired by the Jurassic Park franchise. Players must construct a dinosaur park and manage all the intricacies that go along with it, including research facilities, economics, and (of course) visitor safety. The game features a number of dinosaur breeds and exciting story modes that pack hundreds of hours of exciting gameplay. Think you can manage your own Jurassic Park? Check it out on console and PC.

What are City Building Games?

City building games are a type of simulation video game where players are given control over the construction and maintenance of a township. Moreover, players must design and plan the placement of buildings and public resources such as roads and access points. In terms of maintenance, the player’s responsibilities often include governing, growth planning, economic output, and other priorities that are critical to the functioning of the city or township.

The genre was pioneered by SimCity in the late 1980’s, and that game set the bar for simulation games decades into the future. Naturally, following the success of the SimCity franchise, similar games hit the market including the Anno Series, Cities: Skylines, and others. And, you’ll find that many of these titles still hold a large portion of the market share today.

In addition to city building, a number of similar genres like theme park and business simulators have surfaced. While they all follow the same top-down management formula, they each have their own unique features and mechanics that set them apart. Furthermore, each game manages certain elements of the city building process in its own unique way, ensuring that every major title has its own combination of unique properties.

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General Thoughts on City Building Games

Now that we’ve had an overview of the best city building games, we’ve penned some general thoughts on the genre for a more in-depth look:

1. Strategy is key.

Perhaps the key component to a successful city building campaign, the right strategy is crucial for survival and prosperity. Think about it. You’ll need an overarching gameplan to handle construction hiccups, frustrated citizens, and the inevitable crisis.

2. City builders teach real management techniques.

City building games require that you juggle a large number of projects, and players must prioritize between the most important ones. This mimics real-world issues, and it’s a great way to enhance your personal management skills.

3. You must think outside the box.

A creative approach is necessary for overcoming difficult problems that arise during your tenure as city builder. From designing certain elements of your town to developing a plan for more economic output, you’ll need to think outside to box if you want your city to prosper.

4. Responsibilities pile up.

Planning, construction, economic policies, government, the well-being of your citizens. The best city building games require that you take on a huge number of responsibilities to ensure the survival and growth of your city.

5. The golden age is real.

A golden age is a period of great happiness, prosperity, and achievement. And, it’s possible to achieve a golden age in your city building game. With the right amount of preparation, and a little luck, you can launch your township into a time of  unprecedented growth.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed our list of the best city builders, chances are you’ll dig our other game roundups as well: