The best games like Tropico might not put you in charge of an island nation, but they do share similar addictive city building principles. While no game can quite match Tropico’s mixing of politics, business simulation, and city building, there are many games that fans of the series will also enjoy. The following is a list of games that most resemble Tropico:
Caesar IV is built on the successful city building foundation of the Caesar series. The series has a long history of developing top notch RTS building games. In fact, both the most recent Caesar game and Tropico game share a common developer; Haimont Games.
Of the games like Tropico, Caesar IV is similar in that it involves the placement of buildings on a map, management of natural and manufactured resources, and elements of politics added into the mix. Having a well-implemented chain of production will be the keys to success. If you enjoyed the original Caesar games, Caesar IV provides many updates without breaking the core game play that made the originals so addicting.
The main goal of the game is to build a thriving Roman city while also accomplishing certain goals. There is enough direction to give city builders focus, but also enough freedom to let your imagination run wild. For example, you may be tasked with building a thriving port city and increasing trade or providing grain supply to other cities in need. The goals are always present, but you decide how to get there.
There are a few parts of the game that are a bit annoying. For example, load screens can take away from the game and sometimes the economy can behave a bit of an art to master. Still, it is a good city-builder that was generally well received by critics. You can find Caesar IV over at Amazon for less than $10.
Sim City is the grand-daddy of all the city building simulations. Chances are, if you grew up during the last 15-20 years you are well aware of Sim City. Sim City 4 has been out since 2003, but it is still an epic game with a loyal following of gamers. With a new Sim City released in 2013, the series looks to be making a comeback too!
Sim City is a dream for city builders. Like Tropico, you start with a blank map. Instead of a lush tropical island, players have a blank forested wilderness. While Tropico emphasizes more of the political options, Sim City focuses on the nuts and bolts of city building. Both games feature advisers to help you navigate key stages of the game.
Sim City is a much more free flowing game. While you do actively build certain structures like hospitals, police stations, and utilities, the main “populating” of the game is spontaneous, controlled only by the type of zoning and other indirect factors like desirability of the zone plot.
Tropico does provide more granular detail, allowing the player to dig down into family trees, hopes, dreams, and attitudes of individual Tropicans. However, the new Sim City will also feature individuals in the game world, allowing players to click on them and find out more about what makes them (and by extension the city) tick.
Sim City 4 is still an incredibly fun game to play. If you can get over the somewhat dated graphics, there are hundreds of thousands of new mods available over at Simptropolis to keep Sim City 4 fresh. To pick up Sim City 4, get the deluxe edition here for less than $15.
The new Sim City has also recently been released. It promised to be just as epic as Sim City 4, while avoiding many of the flaws of Sim City Societies. While the release does have some flaws (like having to persistently have an internet connection), the game is still fun to play. You can order the game over at Amazon, available in hard copy with free shipping, or instant download to your PC.
Cities XL is another city-building game that has emerged over the years in the absence of a good sequel to Sim City 4. If city building is what you are looking for, you can’t go wrong here. While it never was able to claim the mantle as the spiritual successor to Sim City 4, Cities XL does contain many enjoyable features that fans of Tropico will like.
One of the more intriguing aspects to XL is the commodities trading system which attempts to simulate how resources and the free market can effect the development of a particular city. This was a bold new feature when it was released and it is one of the key reasons Cities XL stands out from the crowd.
At it’s core, this city builder is much like the Sim City series, although it does feature much better graphics than Sim City 4. In a way, it is a happy medium between the now dated release of SC4 and the recent disappointment of the new SimCity (2013) released by EA Games. Veteran city builders will at once be familiar with the zoning grids and city management features.
You can pick up a copy of the latest Cities XL Unlimited game at Amazon (instant download available), if you are looking for a good pure city building game.
Anno 1404/Dawn of Discovery
The Anno series is another classic and reliably enjoyable city building franchise. Anno 1404, known in America as Dawn of Discovery, was released by Ubisoft. It has evolved slowly over the years, but has always held true to the same successful city building formula. You won’t find any new groundbreaking features, but it is thoroughly enjoyable to play.
The gameplay itself is best described as a meld between Tropico, Age of Empires, and the Caesar games. Like in Tropico, the attraction of a wide open map with virgin territory is perhaps one of the most addicting aspects of the game. As the title suggests, There is a much heavier emphasis on “discovery” and exploring the map to find new resources and/or trade routes for your cities. In fact, discovery of new islands to exploit for resources is virtually mandated if you have any plans of developing an advanced home economy.
It is quite easy to get lost for hours tracking the hustle and bustle of your city, ironing out production flows, and selecting the perfect plot of land to build your next structure. This is a game that is well worth the money. Having been released in 2009, it will not be particularly demanding on most machines to play. You can download it here for a good price.
Anno 2070 is make by the same folks as Dawn of Discovery. The main difference between the two games is updated graphics and a completely different setting. If you don’t mind leaving a historical setting and entering a futuristic interpretation of the world, Anno 2070 is a game worth checking out.
The core gameplay is the same as previous iterations in the series and similar to Tropico. You need to product resource chains and level up production to provide goods for a growing population. There are different “islands” to colonize and develop (exploit) as well as other powers to interact and trade with. The game definitely has more of a SimCity flavor because, but it exists in a very structured environment. If something goes wrong in your production cycle or your citizens complain, there is a very clear remedy for the problem. Still, the various resource dependency and societal demands make Anno 2070 an incredibly complex game, despite its unassuming design.
If you are looking for a good alternative to Tropico or SimCity, this is a relatively recent game that is very enjoyable for the city building type. You can find the complete version here with all of the expansion packs.
Railroad Tycoon 3
Railroad Tycoon is another game that is not quite a pure city building game, but is closely related. Not surprisingly, the same developers who were behind the original Tropico were also behind the Railroad Tycoon 2 and 3. Tropico in design and interface.
The maps and feel of the game will be remarkably similar for fans of the original Tropico, but the gameplay is very different. Rather than building an entire economy, Railroad Tycoon focuses on developing one segment of the economy in depth. However, because railroads were so crucial to economic development, cities live and die depending on the path of the railroad tracks.
In RR3 its all about getting goods from one destination to another using railroads. There is a wide variety of resources which need to be transported and your company gets a profit for moving goods (or passengers) from one destination to another. Behind the actually laying of track there is a very in depth simulation at work. Part of the joy of Railroad Tycoon is watching cities, industries and regions grow thrive because of your actions. And you are not just limited to transporting goods. You can purchase or build factories, buy farms, build hotels, restaurants, and warehouses to increase your profits
This is one of the few games that seems narrow in focus, but is far more enjoyable and complex the more you play. While certainly not a tropical city building game like Tropico, it borrows heavily from the business simulation side of the game to craft an extremely addictive experience. It is only $5.00 on Amazon, well worth the money.
Children of the Nile
Children of the Nile is a hidden gem of a city building game. It is the brainchild of Chris Beatrice who is the same designer behind the Pharaoh and Cleopatra games. It is one of the games like Tropico in the sense that it simulates society as well as city building.
It features over 102 different items that your citizens can harvest, create, and sell. There are countless ways to diversify or specialize your Egyptian city. The social classes you have available in your city also feed into different production capabilities and demand for goods. Lower class citizens will have simple (but critical) needs, while the richest citizens will require the finest luxuries. Like in Tropico, the backbone of your economy is farmers. Similarly, each and every single resident of your city is represented on the map. There is no statistical “make believe” involved.
The game has been out since 2004 so the game is a bit dated, but the graphics are still beautiful in their own way. You also probably won’t have an issue running it on your computer these days. If you are going to invest in a new city building game, you really can’t go wrong with Children of the Nile. It is available for less than $7.00 instant download on Amazon.
Cities in Motion 2
Cities in Motion is an interesting, if unheralded game that borrows a few aspects from games similar to Tropico. Essentially, Cities in Motion is a transportation management game. It sounds like a boring topic for a game at first. Why would you want to “manage” transportation when games like Sim City offer that and more? Don’t be so quick to judge!
There is something quite intriguing about the way Paradox Entertainment presents the game. The game is not so much about designing the perfect network as it is about seeing how your transportation choices impact the development of the city around you. High-end transportation helps foster high end businesses and wealthy neighborhoods while affordable transportation supports the development of the middle class in the vicinity. Every action you take – whether its laying down road, ferry terminals, or rails, etc… – has an impact on the city around. Of course, your goal is to make money by building effective networks, but sometimes there is beauty in just seeing how the environment will react to your transportation choices.
Cities in Motion 2 is a game that excels at what it sets out to do. It’s not as expansive as Tropico, but it covers a few aspects of city design extremely well. There could be more to Cities in Motion if the developers ever wanted to flesh it out into a legitimate city builder, but for what it is, it is fun. You can find it available for download (MAC or PC) here.
Banished is a new entry into the city-building genre and it shares many similar elements to Tropico. Especially if you liked Tropico and games like Caesar or Pharaoh, you will thoroughly enjoy Banished. At the heart of Banished is an open sandbox style of play. There are no narratives, other than the fact that you must build a settlement and survive. The game relies heavily on a resource management system i.e. you need wood, stone, and food to keep your settlement growing.
Surviving the first few winters is the most challenging part of the game. Once Winter hits, most activities – like gathering and cultivating food – come to a halt and you must have your colony survive on what you have stored. In the later stages of the game, town layout and efficiency become larger concerns as your citizens must navigate from home to work efficiently. Chances are, if you get the early game right you will be fine. There is something very enjoyable at playing this type of city-building RTS but at times I was left wondering if there was “more”.
One of my favorite things about Banished is that it doesn’t try to hard. It sets out to be an enjoyable settlement builder and that’s what it does. There is no fighting mechanics, not even like in Tropico when a revolt hits. Nonetheless, it is a great game for what it is. It’s not a full political simulator like Tropico, but it is an excellent city builder that borrows some of the same concepts. Banished is available for PC and can be downloaded here.