There must be something to the idea of power – an absolute one, at that. Gaming world always seemed a fertile ground for it to flourish – RTSes, RPGs, RTTs, etc., comprise its numerous brood.

To command and control, to divide and conquer, the litany of verbs of power may continue endlessly, yet no strategy game allows you to experience almost god-like state like city-building games.

The genre itself as we know it, with its clumsy first steps being taken by text-based “Hamurabi” from 1968 and “Utopia” from 1982, was established over 30 years ago with SimCity. City simulators quickly gained the esteem of smart games, proving beneficial not only by crafting players’ strategy skills, but also improving their logical reasoning as well as analytical thinking. Speaking of, let’s scrutinize the genre a bit more and highlight 5 best city simulator games according to two conditions: 1. exoticity of the world, and 2. overall acclaim.

SimCity

Release date:2014-11-13
Genre:Economy
Developer:EA - Maxis

What else should take the crown of the best city simulator than SimCity? The title which paved the way for the whole genre, the forefather of the franchise spanning three decades and consisting of several sequels and spin-offs.

Released in 1989, it introduced then novel game mechanics of building city from scratch, and cemented its open-ended gameplay. The number of accolades it received puts to shame even the most brilliant and cult-classic games in history. The Origins Award for Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1989, the Codie Award for The Best Curricular Program – the list goes on and on. A shame not to know it, a disgrace not to play it.

Key features
  • THE city simulation game
  • Build your city’s infrastructure, utilities and amenities and let its residents improve it further
  • Experience then groundbreaking mechanics of neverending gameplay

Cities: Skylines

Release date:2015-03-10
Genre:Strategy
Developer:Colossal Order Ltd.

Another “powerhouse” of city simulators and the most realistic game from the list, Cities: Skylines delivers.

Plenty of options to construct and manage your ever-developing city, and a complex net of interdependence between various elements of the game makes Collosal Order’s most-renown project a must for every fan of demanding city building games.

Though the regular edition lacks in captivating scenarios and natural disasters, 16 DLC expansion packs loads it up with every imaginable upgrade there is.

Key features
  • Build a realistic, modern city
  • Complex co-dependence of various game elements
  • 16 DLC expansion packs

Anno 1800

Release date:2019-04-16
Genre:Economy
Developer:Blue Byte

Anno 1800 is a seventh installment of the acclaimed Anno franchise. The game takes place during Industrial Revolution, with factory labor as a main flywheel of its economic engine.

It distinguishes itself from other titles on the list with three game modes: story campaign, sandbox and multiplayer mode.

While not exactly a staple in exoticity, it surely brings plenty to the city simulation basket. A standout modification of the series consist of a blueprint mode which allows to plan the cityscape before actually spending resources on buildings. Anno 1800 won Deutscher Computerspielpreis for The Best PC Game of 2020, as well as Gamescom Award for Best PC Game in 2018. It was also nominated for the 2019 Golden Joystic Award.

Key features
  • Build your city of dreams in the age of coal and iron
  • Play the game in three modes: story campaign, sandbox and multiplayer
  • Plan your city using handy blueprint mode

Aven Colony

Release date:2017-07-25
Genre:Indie
Developer:Mothership Entertainment LLC

Ever wondered what would a city building look like on an alien planet? Wonder no more – Aven Colony is there to expose you to an insurmountable amount of challenges.

Harsh weather, unexpected natural disasters, and out-of-this-world (literally!) obstacles are what you are to experience. As an overseer, your main goal is to establish a human colony outpost and turn it into a regular city on an exoplanet. Sounds easy-peasy? Wrong! Try eliminating creep attack while having insufficient number of drones at your disposal, then we’ll talk easy-peasy.

A 2017 Mothership Entertainment and Team 17 coproduction, Aven Colony offers two main game modes: a single-player campaign and sandbox. The latter doesn’t restrict you with any goals you are to meet to advance the campaign.

Key features
  • Build your colony on Aven Prime – an exoplanet light years away from Earth.
  • Thrive in harsh weather conditions and block off alien attacks on your outpost
  • Accomplish missions in a single-player campaign or enjoy a free play in sandbox mode

Tropico 6

Release date:2018
Genre:Simulation
Developer:Limbic Entertainment

Straw slurping colorful cocktails and killing time idling around the beach? Maybe on all-inclusive vacay in Dubai. El Presidente is on a tight schedule and doesn’t waste precious seconds of his dictatorship.

That’s right, you are a dear leader of a fictitious banana republic somewhere in the Caribbean. Your goal? To turn your state into a land of milk and honey, and show those filthy imperia… ekhm, and show that your country may be deemed prosperous even in the eyes of your political opponents. All this while appeasing mutually hostile political factions and nosy foreign superpowers, as well as maintaining general status quo within the borders. After all, hot-blooded citizens and the military, when trampled underfoot for too long, may overthrow you. And you will end up like your fellow Noriega or Pinochet.

The sixth installment of the series offers some juicy improvements. First of, your state is an archipelago which results in new challenges. Then, there are advances in means of transportation and the number of buildings you may construct. A splendid icing on a cake is ordering to build a modern world wonders: the Great Pyramid of Giza, Neuschwanstein Castle, Statue of Liberty, to name but a few. So button up your dark green military fatigues or don yourself in a designer suit bought by sugar cane dollars – your archipelago awaits!

Key features
  • Yay, your island has just turned into archipelago!
  • A vast array of buildings to construct and edicts to issue
  • More means of transportation for your beloved citizens
  • Prove your ruling prowess erecting modern world wonders

The world of city simulators is almost as vast and complex as Greater Tokyo Area. Many titles, with many game mechanics intricacies provide many hours of brain-racking fun. They allow you to feel the unmistakable hubristic tingling of exerting power, improving your strategy skills in the process. But they also allow you to go out of your depth and plan something big time in real life. Who hasn’t ever dared and concocted some crafty plan after acting as a guerilla-like dictator, a mayor of modern city, or an overseer of human colony on exoplanet? I certainly did, and am forever grateful to city simulators for that.