In 2013, EA released SimCity, the latest in the long-running series of the same name.
Immediately, fans expressed disappointment and anger with the game for its always-online requirement and server problems, as well as its mechanics’ perceived shallowness.
City-builder fans were crying out for something new to pick up the slack left by SimCity, and in 2015, Paradox Interactive answered that call with Cities: Skylines, which essentially played like an enhanced version of SimCity’s glory days.
If you’ve played Cities: Skylines, you’ll know just how absorbing it can be, but it’s far from the only city-builder out there. Here are the best games like Cities: Skylines to play right now.
Cities: Skylines 2
An upgrade from City: Skylines, we had to put this one at the top of the list. As realistically, right now, no other game comes close to what either have to offer – although there are some good offerings to look at next.
Cities: Skylines 2 is nothing short of monumental. Tailored for city-building enthusiasts, this upgrade boasts enhanced features and a refined gaming interface. The expansive realm in the sequel offers a canvas for vast metropolises, opening the doors to boundless creativity. Its dynamic climate system intricately mirrors reality, adding depth and dimension to the urban planning process. Innovations don’t stop there; from nuanced traffic dynamics to specialized zones, the game constantly evolves. The rich architectural themes, multi-tiered infrastructures, and iconic landmarks infuse an unparalleled authenticity. The game’s user-centric design, combined with its stellar AI, positions it as an indispensable masterpiece in the city-building genre.
SimCity 4 represents the last time the SimCity franchise was truly on top of its genre, and it’s still a highly playable and enjoyable city-builder today, even if it is showing its age a little in terms of presentation.
With deep mechanics, beautiful graphics for its time, and a huge amount of variety in terms of what you can build and control in your city, SimCity 4 is your first port of call if you don’t want to stray too far from the Cities: Skylines magic formula.
A quick disclaimer: Frostpunk is not for the faint of heart. While the city-building mechanics are robust, 11 bit studios’ post-apocalyptic sim can be very depressing, so make sure you’re prepared for the gut punches it’ll throw your way.
Frostpunk is as much about the people who live in your colony as the colony itself. As you build, upgrade, and maintain your colony, you’ll need to deal with moral quandaries from both within and without, as well as ensuring your citizens are protected from the encroaching cold.
The Tropico series is well-known for its in-depth country management systems and its unique sense of humour, and both of those elements are very much present in Tropico 6, so if you already love the series, you’ll get plenty out of this one too.
You play as the dictator of a small nation, and you must decide how you want to treat your citizens and run your empire. Will you oppress the citizenry, increasing the chances of revolution but keeping dissidents under the thumb? Will you run a benevolent ship, thus potentially losing some of your grip on power?
Do yourself a favour and avoid the most recent instalment in the Cities series, Cities XXL, because it’s not worth your time. Cities XL Platinum, however, may well be your new favourite city-builder if you’re done with Cities: Skylines.
The game features more than a thousand buildings to construct, as well as sixty massive maps across which to build the city of your dreams. You can network with nearby towns, build energy and transportation infrastructure, and generally do everything you’d hope a city-builder would support.
It can be easy to forget in a world of corporate greed, but sometimes, games companies and solo developers genuinely do things out of love for the medium and not out of a desire for profit.
That’s proven by OpenTTD, an open-source simulation of the game Transport Tycoon Deluxe. You control your very own transport company, and you must work to make it the best of its kind, competing against your fellow transport companies over land and air routes. What’s more, this simulation is entirely free!
Don’t let this game’s slightly goofy name fool you; Dorfromantik can be just as challenging as other city-builders. At its core, Dorfromantik is a game about tile placement; you’ll need to place tiles in the right spots if you want to succeed.
The game lacks conflict and combat, so you won’t be battling other tribes or civilisations for supremacy. Instead, it’s a sort of hybrid city-builder and puzzle game, one in which you must build your village by expanding outwards using the tiles available to you. Don’t be surprised if you lose many hours to this one.
If you want a grounded, down-to-earth city-builder, then Surviving Mars may not be the game for you. As the name suggests, this is a game about colonising Mars and surviving its many perils rather than simply building a city on Earth.
Still, if you’re willing to go with the more experimental nature of the setting, then you’ll find that Surviving Mars provides a highly entertaining and engaging city-building experience, and one that will test your strategic thinking to the limit. Give this one a chance and you’ll be surprised by just how much it can absorb you.
Islanders developer Grizzly Games knows you don’t have a ton of time to play video games these days. The philosophy behind Islanders is that it shouldn’t take several multi-hour sessions to construct a city; this is a shorter, sweeter experience than most.
In Islanders, you must build a city on a series of delightfully colourful islands. The aesthetics and the pace of gameplay are the star of the show here; this isn’t a fast-paced, stressful experience, but rather one you can use to wind down after a long day at work or a long and busy week.
Last but not least, we wanted to shout out a slightly more obscure and interesting take on the city-builder genre. Ostriv casts you as the mayor of a Ukrainian town in the 18th century, and that’s not the only way it innovates.
Unlike many other city-builders, Ostriv doesn’t limit you to a grid system; you’re pretty much free to place buildings and elements wherever you like, thus giving you true creative control over what you want your town to look like. This one’s still in Early Access, so new features and improvements are continuously being added.
In conclusion, while Cities: Skylines has set a high benchmark in the city-building genre, there are numerous other games that offer equally compelling experiences. Each brings its unique flair, mechanics, and challenges, catering to a range of urban planning enthusiasts. Exploring these alternatives not only diversifies one’s gaming repertoire but also deepens appreciation for the intricacies and nuances of city simulation. Whether you’re a seasoned planner or a budding architect, the gaming world is replete with captivating alternatives that promise hours of immersive gameplay.