Fascinating games

The 10 Best City-Building Video Games, According To Ranker

Unlike life simulation video games such as The Sims which only allow players to control what their character does, city building games give players a chance to take the reins of entire civilizations. Crafted with varying levels of detail, they all share the common trait of putting the user in charge of the game’s most important decisions.

From classic series like Civilization to modern masterpieces like Cities: Skylines, the city-building genre is one of the most diverse forms of simulation games. Although there are many great games to play, users of private soldier took to the site to vote for their absolute favorite city building games.


ten Civilization IV (2005)

Civilization IV gameplay

Generally considered one of the greatest 4x games of all time, Civilization IV took the beloved franchise to new heights. Like its predecessors, the game required players to create a civilization and build it from the ground up in order to take over the world. Resource management and a complex web of strategies have created a world of possibilities for the game.

RELATED: The 10 Most Random Simulation Games Of All Time

The game was a success largely due to its improved level of detail and an awesome new AI that made the game more challenging. Building on the successes of previous installments, the game was a step up that also preserved all the best parts of the early entries in the series.

9 SimCity 4: Rush Hour (2003)

SimCity 4 Rush Hour Train Crash Blocks Traffic

Expansions are generally not considered separate games, but SimCity 4: Rush Hour added enough to stand on its own. Developing the hugely popular fourth game of the SimCity franchise, Peak hour fixed several issues with the base game, particularly regarding city transportation.

With a slew of new modes, including U-drive-it, which allowed users to control certain vehicles, the game put more control in the hands of the player. One of the most ambitious features was the “Route Query” option, which allowed users to examine travel routes to better solve transport problems. As a sign of things to come in the future, Peak hour introduced concepts that would later bear fruit in other city-building games.

8 Tropic 4 (2011)

An industrial park near the beach in Tropico 4

Unlike most other city building games which have a somewhat utopian vision, Tropic 4 apparently revels in his despotism. The game allows players to become the dictator of their own small nation and, through political manipulation and maneuvering, maintain power through a campaign storyline.

Similar to other major tycoon style games, Tropic is about resource management and building from scarcity. The game’s tongue-in-cheek style sets it apart from its more serious contemporaries, and it almost feels like a parody of other city-building games.

7 Zeus: Master of Olympus (2000)

Houses are built near a large statue of Zeus: Ruler of Olympus

While city building games allow the user to play God, Zeus: Master of Olympus took this concept one step further. Set in a fictionalized version of ancient Greece, the player must build their civilization as it is occasionally attacked by gods and monsters from Greek mythology.

Managing the needs of the population also goes hand in hand with managing the needs of the respective gods which grant the user additional benefits. Although it is one of the oldest city-building epics, Master of Olympus was way ahead of its time and redesigned the whole genre. Far more detailed than many of its predecessors, the game offered users a level of control they had never experienced before.

6 SimCity 4 (2003)

SimCity 4

Although it received an expansion pack which added more to the game, SimCity 4 was already jam-packed with city-building features. The user takes control of a piece of land and is then led to build a city from scratch, and to maintain it by meeting the needs of the inhabitants.

RELATED: Which Sims 4 Expansion Pack Should You Go For?

Graphical improvements made the game more realistic than its previous versions, and the option of several different modes made the game highly replayable. MySim mode allowed the user to create a Sim who lives in their particular city and follow their life from start to finish. More than many previous games, SimCity 4 allowed users to create a city that felt real and lived in.

5 Caesar III (1998)

A Roman city is built near an arena of Caesar III

Sticking to the historical theme of most early city building games, Caesar III built on the successes of its predecessor. Set at the height of the Roman Empire, the user builds their city and keeps it alive through various disasters and enemy invasions.

The player has the option of a peaceful campaign that eliminates military threats, but multiplies the natural disasters of the game. The game may seem primitive by today’s standards, but it was state of the art at the time. late 1990s and offered a wide range of options that further advanced the genre. Additionally, the game was highly moddable, allowing crafty users to enhance the game through modifications.

4 Pharaoh (1999)

An Egyptian city is built near a Pharaoh's farm

While games of this type focused on the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, Pharaoh turned his gaze to the fascinating world of ancient Egypt. Import many of its gameplay elements from Caesar IIIthe game adds some props related to the life and culture of ancient Egypt.

Gods from other games are replaced with Egyptian mythology and the concept of peace is replaced with a desire for more monuments. Also, the game added new farming elements which closely resembled the real farming of the Nile Delta. As is the case with most of the greatest management games, it shines in its small details.

3 Year 1404 (2009)

A gothic cathedral is being built in a city from Anno 1404

Extend the smaller scale of the old city building games, Annon 1404 takes things on a near global scale. The user takes control of a fiefdom that is part of a larger nation and is tasked with establishing a foothold in both halves of the game world. While not exactly inspired by the real story, the game draws elements that resemble the historical period of the setting.

RELATED: 10 Best Story-Based Games Releasing In 2021

Unlike its predecessor, 1404 adds additional societal demands on class, and the entire game relies on establishing monuments. Apart from the main gameplay, the user is also presented with a number of side quests, which vary from mini-games to completing certain objectives in order to complete the quests.

2 Banished (2014)

A group of small houses are built near a river in Banished

Avoiding the conventional savings of other city building franchises, Banned rather revolves around careful control of resources. The player is in charge of an isolated community and must use the theories of planned economy in order to create a prosperous and healthy society.

The gameplay’s survival elements take center stage, and the game is far less forgiving than most of its peers. Once the difficulty is mastered, Banned offers a level of control that sets it above other games. Many city building games have economy elements, but Banned is integral to the success of the game.

1 Cities: Skylines (2015)

Screenshot from the video game Cities: Skylines.

Cities: Skylines isn’t the very first city-building game, but it takes all the best aspects of its predecessors and brings them together in one amazing package. Starting from a blank slate, the player builds their community and, through resource control, shapes it into a thriving metropolis.

Manipulating nearly every aspect of society, from the power grid to taxation, the player has complete control over their city. Meeting the residents’ needs is paramount to success, and the player must do whatever it takes to drive expansion. The game represents a perfection of many of the genre’s fundamentals, and the level of customization ensures that it is truly one of the best simulation games of all time.

NEXT: The Sims 4 & 9 Other Simulation Games to Try

Split image of MGS3, Splinter Cell and Batman: Arkham City art.

10 Best Stealth Action Games Of All Time, According To Ranker

About the Author