City builders are curious. On the surface they offer no excitement, no shooting, no adrenalin pumping moments and no storyline. Yet despite that, they can drain hours from your life without you even noticing. If you’re in the mood to create instead of destroy, here are what I think are five of the best city building games for PC in 2017 so far.
Also see our article The Best Games for the Chromebook
As someone who played the original SimCity series, I know only too well how effective city builders are as time sinks. You cannot help but stick around while one zone grows and to see whether that new subway line will reduce traffic or whether it will be a waste of money.
These games weren’t released this year and I don’t think any city building games are in the pipeline for release this year. Each of these games is available to buy this year though.
Cities: Skylines is what the new SimCity should have been. An open, freeform city builder with all the frustrations, elations and challenges that come with the genre. Released in 2015, it didn’t have the most auspicious start but regular updates and DLC are still being released. The graphics are good, the modeling is excellent and the range of buildings is superb.
You do need a fairly recent PC to be able to do this game justice but you are rewarded with a living, breathing city with day and night cycles, fairly realistic mathematic and population modeling and real consequences for your actions. I have this game and still find myself going back to it regularly.
Banished began as an indie game on Steam designed and built by one person. I think that same person still runs everything now but you would never believe it. While a long time coming, once banished did arrive, it met with lots of praise. It is a medieval city builder with a slight twist. You manage an existing village and have to grow and expand it as the game progresses. You have to manage people, food, tools, materials and every aspect of resource and population management.
The game looks fantastic with superb season theming, building design and feel. The sound is pretty good too. This is probably the most challenging city building game I have played and another than keeps me coming back.
SimCity was the original city building game but it seems to have lost its way a bit recently. The game itself has all those features we liked about the previous versions. Detailed cities with great design, sound and feel. Lots of challenges, different terrain types, accurate transport and population modeling and lots and lots of building options.
SimCity 4 was excellent but the rebooted SimCity (2013) was a real disappointment. The inclusion of always online DRM ruined the game for many, myself included. The requirement to always be connected to the internet meant no more playing while I was commuting or while away from home and was a deal breaker. As was the fact that as soon as your city grew to a certain size it could not be self-supporting but had to depend on other player cities to survive.
Buy SimCity 4 as your city building game but not the newest version.
I have played all of the Tropico games. I like the setting, the simulation, the music, sense of humor and everything about them. Tropico 5 is all that and more. It’s more island simulator than city simulator but the premise is the same. Build your economy, city, population and meet a set of objectives.
Tropico is more mission based than sandbox but those missions are varied and interesting enough to add rather than detract from the game. Graphics are good, writing and voice acting is good and there is enough here to keep you coming back for more.
Anno 2205 is a futuristic city building game that has you build on earth before moving to the moon and beyond. The Anno series is another regular city builder that has covered many periods of history before shifting to the future. While not as involved or as accurately modeled as SimCity or Cities: Skylines production quality is high enough for it to deserve its place in this list.
Anno 2205 feels as much a company simulator as city builder but the balance is good. You need to manage the hierarchy of needs, resources, profit and all those other things alongside developing new tech and manufacturing. It is quite an involved game that become more complex the longer you play.
What do you think are the best city building games for PC around right now? Tell us about them below!