13 of the Best City-Building Games to Get Totally Immersed In

City-building games cast you as mayor, governor, or deity as you construct bustling metropolises from scratch. Managing resources, developing infrastructure, responding to disasters, and keeping citizens happy is all par for the course. These god games let you shape society on scales small or large, profoundly rewarding and zen-like in their intricacies.

Part strategic challenge, part creative outlet, city-builders boast compulsive, moreish cores that have captivated gamers for decades. Whether you prefer historically grounded societies or speculative sci-fi settlements amongst the stars, there‘s a vibrant title tailored exactly for you.

To help kickstart your urban planning career, I‘ve profiled 13 of the very best city-building games that no discerning mayor can afford to miss.

Cities: Skylines

The champ of city-builders, Cities: Skylines sets the gold standard. Skylines smartly revitalizes SimCity’s foundations whilst avoiding the missteps of EA’s 2013 revival, winning a dedicated fanbase.

Released by indie studio Colossal Order in 2015, over 6 million budding mayors have lost weekends developing their Cities: Skylines creations. Its expansive building toolset fosters stunning cities that sprawl into the horizon whilst mods bolster options tenfold. For any newcomer, it‘s the quintessential city-builder to begin with.

Developer: Colossal Order

Release date: March 10, 2015

Platforms: Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch


Polish developer 11 Bit Studios warp the cosy conventions of city-building into a harrowing battle for survival amidst the snow in Frostpunk.

As the leader of a fledgeling city during The Great Storm of 1887, you’re tasked with shepherding hundreds of lives as temperatures plummet. Balancing resource gathering, technological research, shelter expansion with keeping spirits high during the never-ending winter night proves a unique test.

There‘s intricate overlapping systems aplenty alongside a host of society-shaping decisions as you steer the last vestiges of civilization. Just don‘t get too attached to anyone. Sacrifices must be made…

Developer: 11 Bit Studios

Release date: April 24, 2018

Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One

Anno 1800

Ubisoft‘s city-building behemoth Anno 1800 embarks during the Industrial Revolution as you transform rural lands into smoking metropolises.

There‘s taxes to set, armies to mobilize, production chains to master and rival AI factions to wrangle as you seek prosperity during the era. Lavish orchestrations and sumptuous visuals bolster 1800’s magnificence as one of gaming’s best looking city-builders.

If traditional RTS elements mesh nicely alongside soothing supply chain management for you, Anno 1800 is a must play.

Developer: Blue Byte

Release date: April 16, 2019

Platforms: Windows, Stadia

Surviving Mars

Forget quaint European towns of eras past. Surviving Mars by Haemimont Games charges you with establishing mankind‘s first settlements on the Red Planet‘s hostile surface.

This often brutally challenging construction sim ensures frontier living is no cakewalk. Permadeath squads, plummeting morale, dust storms that black out solar panels and the ever present risk of extinction makes small successes hugely rewarding.

Gradually overcoming the odds to construct massive biodomes hosting thousands is a potent drug. Its expansions allowalternative playstyles too – like steering a corporation seeking to privatize Mars utterly. Survival was never so moreish.

Developer: Haemimont Games

Release date: March 15, 2018

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Linux, Macintosh

SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition

For many, SimCity 4 remains the apex of Maxis‘ influential city planning series. The 2003 release compounds the engrossing strategic loops of its predecessors with greater urban customization and scale.

While visually dated in 2023, the underlying systems have admirable depth and granularity. Chasing population milestones as you unravel utilities, leisure, emergency services and transit links between neighbors makes for utterly hypnotic gameplay still.

With over a decade of mods expanding options further, SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition is mandatory for any mayor seeking a complex, lasting fix.

Developer: Maxis

Release date: January 14, 2003

Platforms: Windows, Macintosh

Pharaoh + Cleopatra

For a journey into antiquity, Pharaoh + Cleopatra charges you with transforming settlements into grandiose cities stretching along the Nile under Ramses II and Queen Cleopatra respectively.

Replete with monument construction, faith management, complex resource chains between agricultural communities, quarries and more, it‘s utterly engrossing. Paired with the excellent city-planning challenge, its hot, arid setting helps Pharaoh stand apart decades later.

Plus, few titles allow construction of lavish burial tombs to honor royalty and gods alike. Just beware the tax collector!

Developer: Impressions Games

Release date: October 31, 1999

Platforms: Windows

Caesar 3

Sticking with history, Caesar 3 deposits players amidst the Roman Empire at its zenith, with hopes of prosperity and glory lingering ahead.

As governor appointed by Caesar himself, raising settlements into wondrous cities of marble hinges on mastering resource distribution, taxation, trade partnerships with neighboring provinces and keeping a war-hungry Rome pacified through regular tributes.

Banished it is not – but as a relaxing, finely balanced city-builder set amidst Mediterranean antiquity, Caesar 3 still shines bright.

Developer: Impressions Games

Release date: October 31, 1998

Platforms: Windows

Tropico 6

Constructing entire nations from scratch lands players in prison usually. In Tropico 6 however, you‘re enthusiastically ushered into power as El Presidente, the newly installed dictator of a remote Caribbean banana republic.

Governing an island paradise sounds easy, but keeping rebels, superpowers and factions happy whilst still lining those Swiss bank accounts makes for entertaining challenges. Tropico 6s tongue-in-cheek tone poke funs at both tinpot dictators and western imperialism alike too.

Just beware Election Day, when the people can express exactly how they feel about your regime…

Customize and develop cities across multiple islands, eras and sandbox modes for ridiculous fun. Now, about that Swiss bank account…

Developer: Limbic Entertainment

Release date: March 29, 2019

Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Windows


Ramshackle pioneer towns along frontier wilderness is Banished’s niche, and by Zeus does it deliver.

A diseased village and ragged band of exiles are your only starting assets. Utilizing unique skills and professions, you slowly build a settlement from the ground up across forests, quarries and grasslands.

But make no mistake – Banished is gratifying yet ruthlessly challenging. One failed harvest or cold snap spells doom for all. Balancing food stocks, tool production, hunting encampments and more in this medieval ecosystem keeps tension high and engaging throughout.

Developer: Shining Rock Software

Release date: February 18, 2014

Platforms: Windows, Linux, macOS

Kingdoms Reborn

Kingdoms Reborn stakes out the middle ground nicely between casual town building and hardcore resource juggling for a relaxing experience.

Procedurally generating quaint medieval fiefdoms, you expand into cities via gentle guidance rather than strict win conditions. Multiplayer servers allow friends to collaborate on bustling metropolises too.

New expansions continually raise the bar further – adding monument construction, magic schools, bandit raids and more alongside recent graphical polish. If you want cooperative world building free of stress, Kingdom Reborn hits the spot.

Developer: Earthshine Software

Release date: November 2, 2020

Platforms: Windows

Dawn of Man

History buffs should check out Dawn of Man, which begins when your wandering tribe of nomads first settle down at the end of the last ice age.

Starting from tribal villages, you slowly research new technologies across eras to eventually form medieval cities. That means moving from hunter gathering into farming, storage barns then metal working and specialization by around 1000BC.

The range of skills, tools and community roles creates plenty of strategic decisions in this slice of stone age life. Fending off threats from wildlife, other tribes or environmental woes with limited resources captures the harshness of ancient living nicely too.

Developer: Madruga Works

Release date: March 1, 2019

Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux

Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic

Construction games set amidst history‘s most defining ideologies don‘t come more authentic than Workers & Resources.

As supreme leader of a fledgeling Soviet society, you oversee production of all goods needed for towns to function. That means managing coal, iron and steel, distributing food, construction offices and more within Communist central planning.

Its deliberately narrow focus on economics and resource chains makes Workers & Resources essentially a supply-chain simulator. But said chains have seldom felt so deep, authentic or engaging. Playing hotel architect, traffic controller and coal mining chief all at once is bizarrely enticing fun with fantastic attention to historical detail.

Just beware the KGB…

Developer: 3 Division

Release date: May 28, 2019

Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux


For patient city planners, Foundation by Polymorph Games sets a refined tempo that‘s wonderful to lose oneself in.

Beginning as a minor Lord immediately after the dark ages, you slowly grow a prosperous medieval settlement across lush European hills. But there‘s no pre-defined path here. Towns sprout organically from the landscape as you designate zones, balancing needs and resources. Citizens migrate in, constructing beautiful architecture along winding streets and around marketplaces.

It captures the rhythms of life during the era wonderfully whilst allowing impressive customization too. Relaxing, sandbox-style creation without pressure, Foundation is perfect slow-paced escapism.

Developer: Polymorph Games

Release date: August 13, 2020

Platforms: Windows