Greatest City-Building games of all time

city builders

The vast quantity of PC games on the market means that some relatively niche genres can gain strong support.

Nothing showcases this more than Paradox’s Cities: Skylines, which brought the city-building genre back into the spotlight.

After SimCity’s failure to launch, Cities: Skylines graciously stepped in with a revolutionary city-building game that featured a ton of new content.

The genre has seen a few different approaches to tycoon mechanics, although there hasn’t been much variety in terms of developers. Most major city-building games were developed by experienced city-builder specialists such as Impressions Games or Maxis.

We have unearthed some of the greatest city-building games of all time according to their GameRankings and Metacritic scores.

N.B. Metacritic rankings are not an accurate measurement of games released before the year 2000.


Caesar III

GameRankings: 88.60%

Metacritic Score: N/A (user 8.7)

Caesar III is the biggest success of all the Impressions Games ancient city-builders.

The game is set in the ancient Roman Empire, and the player is a governor in service to Caesar. The campaign sees the player building cities in various locations and can present quite a challenge to new players.

The game is the most highly-rated out of all the Impressions Games city-builders and takes the top spot on this list.

caesar3


Cities: Skylines

GameRankings: 86.49%

Metacritic Score: 85 (user 8.7)

Cities: Skylines is the most recent revolution in city-building titles.

Paradox Interactive, a studio renowned for their work on complex titles such as Crusader Kings and Pillars of Eternity, turned their sights towards the city-building genre and created Cities: Skylines, expertly filling the gap left by the latest SimCity.

The game has been been well-received and is regarded as the best recent city-building title.

Cities Skylines


SimCity 4

GameRankings: 85.23%

Metacritic Score: 84 (user 8.7)

SimCity 4 was Maxis’ best game in the SimCity franchise.

A fairly modern entry, the game features all the best mechanics of the SimCity series without any of the annoyances and hindrances some titles possessed.

Retaining all the charm of the Sims universe, the game is still the best in the franchise.

SimCity 4


Settlers II

GameRankings: 83.75%

Metacritic Score: N/A (user 9.1)

Settlers II ranks high amongst city-building fans, although the game has since forgone town management in favour of combat.

Settlers II is very different to modern Settlers games, and focuses more on the management and city-building side gameplay, offering increased depth in lieu of a faster pace.

Settlers II


Anno 1404 (Dawn of Discovery)

GameRankings: 82.46%

Metacritic Score: 82 (user 8.8) 

Anno 1404 (or Dawn of Discovery as it is known in the United States) is a favourite amongst more competitive city-building fans.

The game features a perfect mix of of exploration and town management, allowing players to build multiple cities on different islands and create trade routes between them.

The main attraction of this city-builder is its expansion pack – titled Venice.

Anno 1404: Venice features multiplayer, allowing multiple players to build on the same map and interact in a way that has still not been surpassed by another city-building game.

Anno 1404


Tropico

GameRankings: 82.33%

Metacritic Score: 85 (user 8.4)

Tropico is an old favourite among city-building fans.

Players assume the role of a dictator who has complete power over a tropical island filled with politics, humour and challenges.

The entire series has provided solid city-building games, with the first iteration being the highest-rated of the franchise.

Tropico


Honourable Mentions

Although the above games were generally received well by critics, the majority of city-building games cater to different audiences and score more mixed reviews.

Below are a few city-builders which scored decently, but unfortunately not high enough to compete with the front-runners.


Banished

Banished


Zeus: Master of Olympus

zeus


SimCity 3000

SimCity 3000


Pharaoh

Pharaoh


Tropico 5

Tropico 5


Anno 2070

Anno 2070


What is your favourite city-building game? Let us know in the comments and forums.

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