City building games are highly rewarding management sims, with unusual scope and freedoms that encourage creativity. It’s simply fun to create functioning systems that increasingly make the city feel alive. However, the most popular city builders often focus on micromanagement and realism, which might be overwhelming for newcomers.
Many city builders also include survival to test your stability, demanding careful strategy and efficiency. This list will feature less punishing city builders that still capture the genre’s charm. They offer an opportunity to become accustomed with the fundamentals, before games like Cities: Skylines II stifle burgeoning interest.
This casual indie isn’t a traditional city building game, and proudly flaunts that it’s more of an interactive toy. You will certainly lay out a variety of buildings, but there are no management mechanics whatsoever.
Instead, Townscaper is a serene experience with a unique, idyllic atmosphere that resembles vintage toys. As a result, this game doesn’t quite prepare you for genre norms. However, it does capture the satisfaction of growing towns and freeform construction. With deeply inviting visuals, this is closer in spirit to LEGO charm than most LEGO video games.
This is another relaxing city building game, but with more scope than Townscaper and light puzzle elements. The point-based system gives players a purpose and a challenge. Although it is an easy premise to pick up, your design flaws can quickly emerge and compromise you in the late game.
In ISLANDERS, you mostly play against yourself across procedurally generated islands. This is ideal for players who enjoy cozy strategy. It can be stressful when more complex city builders unravel countless hours of gameplay in a chain reaction of devastation.
This is an elaboration on the city building puzzles of ISLANDERS, with a compelling tile-based system akin to tabletop games. Its world is equally lush and beautiful. However, the gameplay involves more activities and requires more careful planning than its predecessors.
There are long-term quests to complete, and the general game flow is built around unlocking new items and areas. This creates a stronger feeling of genuine progress compared to similar relaxing city builders.
URBO, an indie game that just launched in September, deserves an honorable mention for its similar tone and puzzles. Fans who have already enjoyed Dorfromantik are sure to appreciate the fresh gameplay.
This casual city building indie is an adorable and streamlined version of most conventional games in the genre. Although it doesn’t introduce anything particularly new, it’s an easygoing introduction to the core principles of city building.
Pocket City is teeming with life, from animals to people, and you’ll actually need to manage their welfare. As a result, you’ll need to consider city services and crime, though simplified compared to Cities: Skylines. Also, interconnected cities create more replay value once you’ve reached the end game.
Fabledom offers a fairytale twist on the city building genre, with a colorful fantasy world that adds romance. In fact, romance can directly influence the gameplay. While this approach may not appeal to some, it is a more personal way to interact with the city you’ve built.
It also creates a comfortable tone that doesn’t emphasize stress or intense micromanagement. However, you’ll still need to keep track of trade and diplomacy, which further establishes the significance of relationships. And at times, you’ll even need to defend your town from your enemies.
The Universim blends classic city building features with the niche God Game genre, allowing you to manage entire planets. It smoothly transitions from a colony sim to macro scale gameplay. While this partly strays from the traditional building appeal, the genres do complement each other.
You’ll get to follow your city throughout multiple ages, which creates long-term appeal and adds weight to your success or failure. Also, the entire ecosystem of your planet is intricately connected. So, you do get to manage multiple systems that rely on each other.
1. The Wandering Village
The mystical aesthetic of The Wandering Village is pretty remarkable, distinctly inspired by Studio Ghibli. The wonder and creativity of its world is satisfying to discover all on its own. However, this fantasy world is not a relaxing place, filled with poisonous threats and other harsh obstacles. This is a survival-driven city building game, though more forgiving than some.
Your relationship with the wandering creature that supports you is a very clever mechanic. There’s a moral ambiguity in your choices, and juggling self-serving actions with selfless ones definitely distinguishes The Wandering Village.
City building games transform planning, creating, and management into a deeply interactive experience. Although some are tough, the freedom to articulate your ideas and sustain them is very satisfying. Tell us about your first city builder, and which other games could entice new players to the genre!