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5 City Building Games That’ll Keep You Busy This January

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2021 is well underway and already we're looking to build on our video game libraries for this season. And, speaking of building; there's nothing quite like settling in for a chunky city builder to keep us occupied during the darkest months. When there's little to do but govern an island or navigate an army, we can always look to these best-selling city builders to keep us entertained.

Whether it's keeping a collective alive during the coldest nights or expanding on resources with the few pennies left in the treasury; city building games can be both thought-provoking and challenging. And yet, even with the difficulty curve varying from game to game, the rewards can be even greater if played correctly. That's sort of the reason why we adore these types of games, and there really are hundreds to choose from. However, for now, we'll look at five of the most distinct titles in the genre that'll keep you busy for months. It's time to build!


5. Frostpunk

FROSTPUNK | Debut Gameplay Trailer - "Heartbeats"

Although one of the most challenging city builders in the genre, Frostpunk is most definitely the most rewarding when it comes to facing the blizzard. With very little holding your hand from the get-go, it's up to you to keep your city burning during the coldest days in a frozen wasteland, and any small mistake can easily result in being thrown from the throne. And, believe me when I say that this can happen in less than ten minutes if you're not mindful of your resources and time. However, once your city has been established, Frostpunk can become an emotional rollercoaster packed full of unpredictable tides and strategic curveballs.


4. Tropico 6

Tropico 6 Official Gameplay Trailer

Following on from the well-established series of island builders; Tropico raises the bar with a fresh addition to the utopia-themed timeline. With the ability to branch out and expand on your tropical empire, this sixth instalment grants you the power to connect islands via bridges as well as govern the entire chain consecutively. Again, with the traditional Tropico style of gameplay, players can choose whether to manage the map with an iron fist or build a tranquil paradise fit for royalty. Either way, Tropico offers endless possibilities on how you build your world, and every step taken can lead to the rise of your empire or its very downfall.


3. Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines - Release Trailer

Building an entire metropolis from the grassy earth up has never been more satisfying than it is in Cities: Skylines. Thanks to its impressive open-end city building elements, Skylines provides thousands of hours where your ambition truly is the only boundary. With stacks upon stacks of customisable worlds and plots, this renowned title has become acclaimed for its innovative design and endless gameplay.

Cities: Skylines can seem somewhat daunting at a first glance — what with the enormous amount that needs accomplishing from day one. But the more you immerse yourself, the more you start to witness your city adapt and breathe. Highways connect suburbs, marketplaces become shopping malls, and above all — a small town slowly evolves into a bustling capital that houses hundreds of thousands of unique citizens. Everything has to start somewhere, and Cities: Skylines definitely puts you in the driver's seat from the very beginning.


2. Aven Colony

Aven Colony - Launch Trailer | PS4

Stripping away the simple objectives of placing roads and setting taxes; Aven Colony tends to focus on a more strategic set of goals, one of which is keeping track of your oxygen levels. You see, unlike other contenders in the city building genre, Aven Colony drops you on an alien planet with minimal chances of survival and a short amount of time to adapt to the local climate. With unpredictable encounters with the alluring species and tiptoeing natural disasters creeping at your feet, every moment managing your new home can lead to being your last.

Aven Colony brings in the same elements that have made the city building platform famous since its rise in the nineties. However, by including a twist on the setting, Aven Colony aims to keep us on our toes with vast new designs and obstacles to tackle. Just be sure to keep a close eye on those oxygen levels, eh?


1. Surviving Mars

Surviving Mars - Release Trailer

Speaking of Sci-Fi city builders — it seems only right that we include Surviving Mars on this list. From the very studio that developed the third, fourth and fifth Tropico instalment, as well as published Cities: Skylines, comes an exciting new entry to the genre that combines survival with strategy. Again, taking place on a new planet where the surroundings aren't exactly in your favour, you are tasked with building a home for the human race and expanding into the unknown.

Mars can be a pretty terrifying place should you choose to ignore the safety guidelines, which is why the most crucial goal at all times should be nothing but to prepare for the unexpected. Build an army as if the drums of war are crashing down only two miles away. Brave the red mists of Mars in search of new unclaimed territory and make it your own. Expand your home and draw your colony to the highest ranks on the planet. Do it right, and you'll become the governer everyone needs and trusts during the darkest days of inhabiting Mars.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.