Most video games capture the imagination. But only a handful of genres 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 a golden age. But be careful! One misstep could result in crisis.

Think you have the cunning 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.

15 Best City Building Games of 2019

We’ve curated this list of the top 15 best city building games of 2019 to help you find your next favorite title. Check ‘em out below.

1. Frostpunk

Our pick for one of the best village building games for survival

Frost
  • Website: Frostpunk
  • Platform: PC
  • Genre: City Building, Survival
  • Developer: 11 Bit studios
  • Release: April 24, 2018

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

2. Aven Colony

Our pick for one of the best city builders for strategy

Aven Colony
  • Website: Aven Colony
  • Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Genre: City Building, Strategy
  • Developer: Mothership Entertainment
  • Release: July 25, 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 Windows or console today.

3. Surviving Mars

Our pick for one of the best world building games

Surviving Mars
  • Website: https://www.paradoxplaza.com/
  • 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. Modeled after real Martian data, this true-to-life building game is an exciting leap forward in the simulation genre.

4. SimCity Complete Edition

Our pick for one of the best simulation city games

Simcity Complete
  • Website: SimCity Complete Edition
  • Platform: PC, Mac
  • Genre: City Building, Simulation
  • Developer: Maxis
  • Release: March 4, 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 unique? 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

Our pick for one of the best building games in medieval times

Kingdom Castles
  • Website: Kingdoms and Castles
  • Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
  • Genre: City Building
  • Developer: Lion Shield
  • Release: July 20, 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

Our pick for one of the best sci-fi city building games

Anno
  • Website: Anno 2205
  • Platform: PC
  • Genre: City Building
  • Developer: Blue Byte
  • Release: November 3, 2015

Want to test your skills as a master strategist? Anno 2205 by Blue Byte is the perfect choice! Your objective is to build a cutting-edge metropolis packed with the latest technology. However, you’re competing against a group of rival corporations that are hellbent on outperforming you. If you’ve got what it takes to emerge victorious, check out Anno 2205 on Steam today.

7. Cities: Skylines

Our pick for one of the best multi-platform city building games

Featured CB
  • Website: Cities: Skylines
  • Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
  • Genre: City Building
  • Developer: Colossal Order
  • Release: March 10, 2015

Cities: Skylines takes simulation and city building to 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 become easier, your city expands. Can you keep up with the growing list of responsibilities? Try Cities: Skylines on PC or console today.

8. Pocket City

Our pick for one of the best town building games for mobile

Pocket City
  • Website: Pocket City
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Genre: City Building
  • Developer: Codebrew
  • Release: July 31, 2018

Congratulations! You’ve been elected mayor, and it’s time to manage and grow your 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. Littlewood

Our pick for one of the best free city building games

Littlewood
  • Website: Littlewood
  • Platform: Windows, Mac
  • Genre: City Building, RPG
  • Developer: Sean Young
  • Release: June 17, 2019

You’ve saved the world and returned home a hero. Now comes an entirely new (and possibly more difficult) task. Building your quaint little town into a thriving metropolis.

Jump into the charming world of Littlewood, and feel the power. You are in control of everything. Harvest resources, develop the land, build houses, construct businesses & trading centers—it’s all up to you. In the process, you’ll develop skills, e.g., merchanting and woodcutting, which leads to more opportunities for growth. The people are counting on you to lead the way. Are you game? Play for free on Itch, or grab for $15 on Steam.

10. Jurassic World Evolution

One of the best building simulation games

Jurassic World Evolution

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.

11. Banished

Our pick for one of the best city builder strategy games

Banished
  • Website: Banished
  • Platform: PC
  • Genre: City Building, Strategy
  • Developer: Luke Hodorowicz
  • Release: February 18, 2014

You’ve been cast out. Now, you and your fellow exiles must forge a new path. The task at hand? Lead your band of outcasts and build a new colony—from scratch.

In Banished, people are your central resource. There is a finite number of villagers, and each one ages and eventually dies. You must control the population, harvest your surroundings, and bring about a new era of peace and prosperity. Think you’ve got what it takes to beat Mother Nature. Grab a copy of Banished and find out today!

12. Tropico 6

Our pick for one of the best government building games

Tropico 6
  • Website: Tropico 6
  • Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
  • Genre: City Building, Simulation
  • Developer: Limbic Entertainment
  • Release: March 6, 2019

Journey to the Carribean Islands for a taste of paradise. Luxury is calling—all you’ve gotta do is take the leap.

Just kidding! It’s not all mojitos and pina colada’s here. Assume the title of El Presidente and lead your fledgling island from the Colonial period up to the modern-day. You’re responsible for every aspect of government, from resource management to keeping your people happy. Ready for the challenge? If you’ve got what it takes, you can play Tropico 6 on PC and major consoles.

13. Factory Town

Our pick for one of the best industrial city building games

Factory Town
  • Website: Factory Town
  • Platform: PC, Mac
  • Genre: City Building
  • Developer: Erik Asmussen
  • Release: March 12, 2019

Factory Town is a fun little city building game from indie developer, Erik Asmussen.

What’s the premise? Starting from the very beginning, you’ll need to build a village upon unpredictable procedurally-generated terrain. Use chutes, railways, conveyor belts, and other automation processes to grow your town and speed up new production. You’ve got the control, and it’s time to put your skills to the test.

14. The Colonists

Our pick for one of the best sci-fi city builders

The Colonists
  • Website: The Colonists
  • Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
  • Genre: City Building
  • Developer: Codebyfire
  • Release: October 24, 2018

One small step for a robot. One giant leap for robot-kind. Exit your spaceship and explore this distant Earth-like planet. Your goal? To become human!

Build a new home for yourself and your fellow robots by controlling every aspect of daily life. Build shelters, manage resources, and construct the civilization of your dreams. Your new home awaits.

15. Islanders

Our pick for one of the best island building games

Islanders
  • Website: Islanders
  • Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
  • Genre: City Building
  • Developer: Grizzly Games
  • Release: April 4, 2019

More of a casual player? No problem. Islanders was developed with you in mind.

Hop into the procedurally generated world of Islanders to test your abilities and attain the high score. Your job is to build a smart empire by placing structures down in strategic spots.

For instance, you wouldn’t place a mine in the center of town, would you? It’d make much more sense by that reserve of gold over yonder. Take this logic and apply it to your gameplay, but be careful! Once a structure is down, there’s no turning back. 

Sound like fun? Head over to the archipelago and show the world what you’re made of.

What are City Building Games?

City building games are a type of simulation video game where players assume control over the construction and maintenance of a township. 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.

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

In addition to city building, similar genres like theme parks and business simulators have surfaced. While they all follow the same top-down management formula, they each have their own unique features and mechanics setting them apart. Furthermore, each game manages some aspects of the city building process differently, ensuring that every title has its own combination of unique properties.

CB Example

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 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 vast 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: