City-builders are an interesting genre of games: You get god-like control over the growth and expansion of urban space and the ability to manage resources on a scale you’d probably never handle in real life (unless, of course, you were actually elected mayor of someplace). Have a look here at our curated list of the top 8 free city-building games on PC. You’ll be sure to have fun building up your virtual cities, looking after citizens, and even dealing with natural disasters.
Most of these are free to play and can be download either from Microsoft store or Steam. So, some of them should also work on Mac. With that out of the way, let’s begin.
City-Builder Games on PC
1. Cities Skylines
Okay, Cities skylines is not a free game but this list couldn’t be complete without this app. Plus, there is a free version of the game on the Microsoft store that you can try. Unlike other city building games, this one more modern and probably a bit easier to learn for beginners. Also, unlike most city building games that focus too much on money and budget, cities skylines are inclined towards increasing population and try to manage the traffic jams while managing infrastructure such as education, security, medicine, etc.
Overall, it’s a good game for beginners, but if you are a pro, skip this one.
Want something that’s a bit more substantial than Cities Skylines? Megapolis has you covered. This is a free city-builder that’s available across platforms, from Windows to Android to iOS, and supports cross-platform play, so you can keep building that city whether you’re in the subway or at your desktop. Megapolis has you building civic amenities, industrial buildings, and residential quarters to increase your tax revenue and population limit—you take your newfound resources and invest them towards scaling things up. Megapolis mixes things up by introducing water and electricity resource needs for specific buildings—you’ll have to ensure that the resource supply is adequate to allow your power plants and other structures to function. You will have to deal with IAPs, though.
3. City Mania
City Mania is the first full-3D title in our list here. It’s got a good pedigree—it’s developed by Gameloft, the makers of a wide range of great free-to-play titles on iOS an Android, from Asphalt 9 to Modern Combat to, well, City Mania. The game has you playing as mayor and managing civic amenities, resources, and businesses. You need to keep your wits about you and scale resource production and residential sites as population and resource pressure increases. This is where the free-to-play elements come into the picture—you can buy resources which otherwise take a long time to accumulate. While this can slow down the pace of play for free players, we still suggest giving the game a spin: It’s a great mobile-centric city builder with a unique, painterly aesthetic to its 3D visuals.
Download City Mania (Windows Store)
4. Virtual City Playground
The biggest criticism we can leverage against Virtual City Playground is that it simply doesn’t do enough to set itself apart in the free-to-play city-builder segment. As a mobile title on iOS and Android, the game plays out very similar to City mania, albeit with 2D sprite graphics instead of polygonal 3D. You’re tasked with managing your city and building amenities and ensure that growth is supported as your population increases. There is one way that Virtual City Playground sets itself apart, though: You’re able to engage in a certain amount of micromanagement, allowing you to plan out individual bus routes among other small-scale tasks. Free-to-play mechanics operate the same as in other titles in the genre. How fast your city develops is directly proportional to how much real-world money you invest in it.
Download Virtual City Playground (Windows Store)
5. Pixel Worlds
Minecraft spinoffs have been a thing the past couple years, with everything from a Minecraft narrative RPG from Telltale to Minecraft battle royale. Minecraft mania’s hit the city-builder genre too. Pixel Worlds is less a city-builder and more a world-builder, where you terraform a barren world and build up a settlement and other developed areas. The main hook is the massively multiplayer component: You can trade with other players and cooperate with them, too: When there’s a large number of real-world players onscreen, it feels more convincing as an urban space than conventional city-builders since you know that you’re seeing is the product of a lot of collective effort. Pixel Worlds also has dungeons, exploration, and minigames like fishing to help keep things fresh. The game is free-to-play and you can purchase additional currency through IAP but the in-game means of earning are quite fair by themselves.
This is another title that treads a bit off the beaten path as far as city-builders are concerned. Township is less a city-builder proper and more of a, well, town builder. It’s about building cozy settlements at the intersection of the rural and the urban, so farm management plays just as much a role as building civic amenities. The town you end up building is much more down-to-earth than the skyscraper-crowded screens of other city builders, but the payoff’s arguably more worthwhile—you didn’t just lay down roads and wait for settlers to arrive—Township’s very much a farm-to-fork experience, letting you touch on all aspects of the town-building process. It also has a wide range of side activities like mining which mix things up in the gameplay department.
Download Township (Windows Store)
7. Worlds Builder
Are city-builders not ambitious enough for you? You might want to try Worlds Builder, which has you overlooking an entire world as its god. As farms and settlements come into the picture, you’re given a much wider toolset of options, including the ability to control forces of nature to shape destinies. You can also build up natural environments like forests as well as urban settlements. Because of its larger scale, it’s no surprise that Worlds Builder also has an exploratory element which has you sending out expeditions to discover treasure.
Price: Free, with IAPs
Download SimCity 4 (Windows Store)
8. SimCity 4
No list of best city building game is complete without SimCity, the most popular game in this genre. When you start the game, the tutorials do a pretty good job at covering the basics. My favourite thing about the game is its realism. For example, if you build a city with high-value residential neighborhoods, you get more tax money without taking up more space. But if you apply a high tax rate on low-income residents, you soon see strikes on the street. This game almost reflects the life of an actual city.
Sim city 4 is a bit harder than other city building games, so if you are just getting started, it’s not the best game to pick up (I recommend Sim City 2000 instead), but if you are looking for some challenge it’s a must-have. It’s a paid game, but I’ve seen it on heavy discount on steam most part of the year.
That’s all for this list! Which free city-builder did you find the most fun? Let us know in the comments below! If you want to try out more games and get a little smarter in the process, check out this handy list!