Building things is one of the most human things anyone could engage with. It’s easy to destroy something, but to build something in its place required effort, dedication, and more than a little planning. Not many games offer this kind of experience, however, because it often looks as if it’s more fun to shoot aliens and win battles.

Here we’re contesting that perception and present seven games where you can build things large and larger, and which make it fun and engagingly challenging to do so. It’s about more than just crafting potions and minor items, it’s about architecture and engineering!

Video games where you build things instead of destroying them

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Planet Coaster

Release: 2016-11-17
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Frontier Developments

Rollercoasters are cool and exciting, everybody knows that. Building rollercoasters is also cool and exciting, as well as prone to hilarious accidents, as everybody who’s ever played a coaster-tycoon game knows very well. Planet Coaster is currently the best game to play if you want to design crazy rides, offering your park’s visitors a vast array of memorable experience. And expensive drinks.

Planet Coaster

The freedom to build whatever ride you want in Planet Coaster isn’t limited to the specific coaster rides, although you can do them as mellow or vomit-inducing as you please. You also get to design the park itself, using a variety of generic and themed elements. On top of that, you can ALSO terraform the plot of land you have at your disposal, turning you in landscaping, rollercoaster creator-god.

Key features
  • Several modes with different degree of limitations and direction
  • Mod-friendly
  • Extremely good rollercoaster park management sim
  • You can easily share your creations with the lively community

Conan Exiles

Release: 2017-01-30
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Funcom

Although Conan Exiles might seem like it’s mostly interested in its solid action gameplay, it also features very robust building mechanics allowing players to create some truly impressive, creative constructions, some of which might even be gravity-defying. Of course, you’ll spend a lot of time gathering resources before your base starts looking impressive and imposing.

Conan Exiles

Once you get a few thralls skilled at resource gathering or crafting things will start looking up, but NPCs won’t do everything for you. Your own progression and effort remain central, and you’ll accomplish more with a group of likeminded players than alone with a few thralls. Now gather other exiles, get some rocks and wood, and build your base on a sheer cliff, high above the ground.

Key features
  • A great survival game based on the setting created by Robert E. Howard
  • Brutal combat and hardy enemies
  • Very flexible construction system
  • You can summon mighty gods to destroy your enemies’ bases

Minecraft

Release: 2015-07-29
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Mojang

One of the most famous games in the world, even now past its prime, Minecraft is probably the most accessible building game out there. It’s available on many different platforms, which means it’s highly likely you have at least one device compatible with this immense blocky sandbox. Or an immense blocky survival game if you don’t feel like tackling the creative mode.

Minecraft

Despite its almost simplistic presentation, Minecraft hides wonderful depth of interactions, especially once you start adding mods expanding the already huge library of existing blocks and craftable objects. You can build fortresses, husband livestock, recreate famous architectural marvel, or even make a rudimentary computer if you understand logic gates. The options are virtually endless.

Key features
  • Blocky aesthetic that does nevertheless look nice
  • Incredibly powerful crafting and construction systems
  • Very moddable
  • Available on many different platforms

Subnautica

Release: 2017-10-31
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

Subnautica is a game about crashing into a vast ocean on an alien planet and having to find a way to escape. Just sending out an SOS beacon doesn’t work, because old alien defense shoots down any approaching ships, that’s what did you in. To get to the literal bottom of this, however, you’ll need to build some things: a safe base, for one. And a few vehicles. And a source of food and fresh water.

Subnautica

To make things challenging, you need to explore the world to discover new blueprints, diving deep below the surface for some, or travelling to remote islands for others. But quickly enough you’ll have enough schematics to create a habitable base with viewports, underwater farms, and a submarine bay. Just be careful not to anger any leviathans in the depths of this weird and beautiful ocean.

Key features
  • Subnautica in unreasonably beautiful and deeply immersive
  • Cool and engaging science fiction story
  • Plenty of underwater building to do
  • You play in creative mode if you’re only interested in creating a perfect base

Valheim

Release: 2021-02-02
Genre: Sanbox, survival
Developer: Iron Gate Studio

There’s more to a Norse afterlife than feasting and preparing for Ragnarok. For example, in Valheim, a survival game from the Iron Gate Studio, old man Odin tasks a few recently dead Vikings to deal with some of the monsters who are a thorn in the old one-eye’s side. That means a lot of fighting, a lot of sailing, and, indeed, a lot of building, because even the dead must rest and eat occasionally.

Valheim

You’ll start with simple houses hastily assembled to provide shelter against the elements and wildlife, but soon enough you’ll be building huge mead halls atop a hill. Or perhaps a multi-level hunting lodge overlooking a picturesque forest. Add to that a secure farm, and you have a perfectly comfortable base from which to leave on daring adventures in the lands beyond life.

Key features
  • A fantastic Norse-themed survival game
  • You can easily build a neat, functional Viking village
  • Procedurally generated map
  • Handles co-op for up to 10 players

Poly Bridge

Release: 2016-07-12
Genre: Indie
Developer: Dry Cactus

Now for something more about engineering than frivolous construction free from physics: Poly Bridge. It’s not exactly a civil engineering simulator, let alone a course on bridge building, but it will have you ponder the mysteries of construction and material physics, nevertheless. There’s over a hundred different scenarios asking you to build a functional bridge spanning the gap.

Poly Bridge

You’ll start with good ol’ static bridges, but quickly expand into mechanical installations with many moving parts directing traffic between several levels, or even working like a crane, if you’re creative enough. There’s a lengthy dedicated campaign for you to enjoy, but there’s also a sandbox mode, happy to let you freely experiment without fear of failing a mission for arbitrary reasons.

Key features
  • Physics-based bridge construction simulator
  • Many pre-made missions to clear
  • Steam Workshop integration
  • The Sandbox mode welcomes any weird idea

Space Engineers

Release: 2013-10-23
Genre: Indie
Developer: Keen Software House

Space Engineers has a truly powerful construction system, giving you plenty of tools to not only erect complex buildings, but even modular vehicles, and more. The game strives to be fairly realistic, at least in terms of physics and possible technology, but it doesn’t mean you can’t use the existing building blocks to do somethings fun, like a remade Rock’em Sock’em Robots shown in one of the trailers.

Space Engineers

There is a large number of elements for you to play around with in by placing them on the voxel grid. Some elements require power, other elements provide mechanical functions, others still just look nice, all of these and other types can be used to make truly impressive structures, static or otherwise. As the title suggest, Space Engineers is also multiplayer-friendly, with dedicated server for up to 16 people.

Key features
  • Two modes: creative and survival, both playable in singleplayer or with friends
  • Well-simulated, procedurally generated universe with planets, asteroids, and more
  • Destructible environment
  • Deep and wide building system, including even programmable elements

Fill the horizon with your amazing creations

This concludes our list of games which allow you to erect building, create vehicles, found settlements, and engage in a little bit of civil engineering. Whatever you do with the tools these games give you, it’s guaranteed to not only be cool to look at, but also satisfying to accomplish, which is even more important.