When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works

Home / Features / Deal with god: the best city builder and god games we can’t stop playing

Deal with god: the best city builder and god games we can’t stop playing

Everybody wants to rule the world...

Anno 1800
Anno 1800

Nothing melts away the hours, days, months and years quite like a good city builder. Playing god is also pretty enjoyable, too. It’s worryingly easy to sit down at your gaming monitor for a ‘quick’ game, only to find yourself in the same space five days later surrounded by empty takeaway boxes. Or maybe that’s just us?

Either way, city builders offer a unique gaming experience. It allows you to play god, raise a civilisation in your image, and torment your population in ever creative and fun ways. They offer virtually infinite possibilities, whether you’re building a new world on Earth, in space, during the stone age or in an alternate reality. So, let’s get into some of our favourites.


Cities: Skylines

Arguably the greatest city builder of all time, Cities: Skylines truly reinvented the city builder by…well, not really changing that much. You could build apartments, entertainment districts and industrial zones. You had to keep your population happy, the streets free of litter and enough money in the bank to pay for it all. But Cities: Skylines offered a level of detail we hadn’t yet experienced in a city builder.

Cities: Skylines allowed you to build a metropolis entirely within our own image. Every road, tree and train track could be placed with precision to make your perfect city. While countless features came built-in, what’s kept Cities: Skylines relevant after eight years since its release is a healthy amount of expansion packs and a wildly creative modding community. Thanks to these army of modders, players can faithfully recreate the city of Springfield from The Simpsons or place the Hill Valley Courthouse Square from Back to the Future. On Steam, the possibilities to customise the perfect city are endless.

Buy Cities: Skylines from Steam here


Humankind

Billed as a turn-based, world conquering strategy game, Humankind didn’t quite live up to expectations upon its release. That’s largely down to it being endlessly compared to the fantastic Civilisation. We feel that was unfair, as Humankind offers up countless possibilities that are all of its own. Humankind offers players the opportunity to not only wage wars on enemy empires, but to spread your culture and religions in ways that echo the influential flow of human history. That’s not to say that history can’t be completely rewritten in Humankind. In fact, the game offers endless possibilities to do so, making it a game where ‘one more turn’ is never just one more turn.

Buy Humankind from Steam here


Rimworld

City builders can have a tendency to be a little too formulaic and easy to predict. Not in Rimworld, where every twist and turn is decided by an AI-powered overseer, which throws in challenges entirely at random. A cataclysmic storm or a pirate raid can happen at any moment, but the AI can also be tricked to work in your favour. In that, Rimworld acts as a cat and mouse survival game against a robotic storyteller.

There’s no superior way to play Rimworld. Sure, you can trade and upgrade your way to a functioning civilisation. But the aim of the game is to build a story of drama and tension. Characters in Rimworld are complicated. There are power struggled you can either choose to defuse or exacerbate for a greater aim. There are countless ways to deal with disaster, but no definitive right or wrong way to do it. If there is an overall aim to Rimworld, it’s to create drama. Add some wholly original concepts to that, and you have one of the best city builders out there.

Buy Rimworld from Steam here


Anno 1800

Anno 1800 takes place during a historical age of steam, sea trade, and competing families all pining to get their hands on some juicy industrial wealth. And it ticks all the boxes a great city builder should. You mine resources, trade with friends and enemies, and grow your island into an economic powerhouse. But Anno 1800 plays more like a board game than a town planning simulator.

Every turn matters in Anno 1800. That can be a minor annoyance of placing a factory at the wrong angle, to wrecking the entire game through a misguided trade routs. Anno 1800 also looks absolutely beautiful. The island settings resemble oil paintings, complete with rich details and luscious landscapes.

Buy Anno 1800 from Steam here


Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic

Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic is a wholly unique take on the typical city builder where the devil is in the detail. In Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic, your tasked with building a Soviet-era utopia from the ground up. That doesn’t just mean building some factories and letting your comrades go to work. You take care of everything. You build infrastructure, mine for minerals, be a self-sufficient nation or trade with Western powers. Fundamentally, you play as a government who controls everything, good or bad.

Developed by 3Division, a studio based in Kosice, Slovakia, there’s a gritty realism to Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic inspired by the developers’ real life experiences. Brutalist buildings take visual cues from real life Soviet architecture of the 60s, 70s and 80s, giving the game a level of authenticity not often seen in most city builders.

Buy Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic from Steam here


Medieval Dynasty

Medieval Dynasty is a unique type of city builder, and one that will absolutely take over your life. As the name suggests, you play as a villager in the Medieval-era, and must build, forage and chop your dynasty into existence. It’s a simple premise that’s been done a million times in gaming, but there’s something quite unique about Medieval Dynasty. We’re not entirely sure what that is, but it’s simply a game that we can’t put down. There’s genuine achievement to be found in building a sowing hut, or figuring out how to farm wheat. Don’t even get us started on the joy we felt after finally unlocking the tavern.

Buy Medieval Dynasty on Steam here.


Dawn of Man

Dawn of Man is a special game, one where dedicating 12-15 hours crafting a virtual bronze sword evokes a great sense of achievement. Dawn of Man is fundamentally a game of survival, where Earth’s first humans must survive to ensure the future of the human race. Mostly, that means hunting down mammoths for their warm hides, building homesteads out of mud, foraging for berries that won’t kill you, and deterring would be invaders with pointy sticks.

It’s a slow paced game, even by the standards of a typical sandbox title. Technologies take an in-game generation to research. An hour can be easily spent tracking a single deer across a mountain range. You find yourself mourning a 50 year old virtual caveman who’s just been flung across the screen by a bear. Before you know it, days have been spent building little more than a few huts. And it’s beautiful.

Buy Dawn of Man from Steam here


Timberborn

City builders can often follow a well trodden path. There are thousands of mythical lands out there to explore, and thousands of fictional space age cities to conquer. Many games have you building Medieval cities or steam powered wonders, but far fewer have you controlling a faction of hyperintelligent beavers who must rebuild Earth after humans have become extinct. That’s where Timberborn comes in.

Timberborn follows the blueprint of most city builders. You must expand your borders for ever increasing populations, build dams and waterways and ultimately, survive. But a cutesy aesthetic mixed with genuinely challenging and engrossing tasks makes Timberborn unique. You control one of two clans – the Mother Earth loving Folktails, or the Capitalist Iron Teeth swines – with both groups having their own unique traits and ways of building. Really though, Timberborn is a game of low energy comfort akin to Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley.

Buy Timberborn from Steam here


Frostpunk

Frostpunk is equal parts encapsulating, innovative and infuriating. Frostpunk is set in an alternate reality in the 1800s, where an everlasting winter has gripped the world and left only small groups of survivors. Your mission? Survive.

In many city builders, the landscape is there to be plundered. The same is true in Frostpunk, but the harsh environment acts as a main character in itself. Journeying into the icy wasteland for materials is akin to a boss battle where some of your precious citizens will likely not return home. It’s also a game of survival, and posits genuine moral dilemmas on the player. It’s bleak, as really the only reward is another day of cold, harsh life. But it’s also a game of great reward.

Buy Frostpunk from Steam here

Profile image of Jack Needham Jack Needham

About

A writer of seven years and serial FIFA 23 loser, Jack is also Features Editor at Stuff. Jack has written extensively about the world of tech, business, science and online culture. He also covers gaming, but is much better at writing about it than actually playing. Jack keeps the site rolling with extensive features and analysis.

Enable referrer and click cookie to search for eefc48a8bf715c1b 20231024b972d108 [] 2.7.22