Best Historical City Builders

Highlights

  • Historical city builders offer rich details and freedom for players to design their own settlements and cities.
  • Games like Sengoku Dynasty, Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, and Pharaoh: A New Era provide immersive historical settings for players to explore.
  • Anno 1800 and Dawn of Man offer unique twists on the city-building genre, with Anno 1800 being an RTS hybrid and Dawn of Man spanning multiple eras of human existence.



Rome wasn’t built in a day; for gamers, it was built in a 25-hour city-builder binge, and it wouldn’t have been possible without copious amounts of caffeine and overworked eyes. It sounds like an extreme sport, but not many games can hold the attention and effort of so many players like that while also frustrating them occasionally, unlike city builders.

Related

7 Medieval Settings Perfect For A Video Game

While many games with a purely medieval backdrop have enjoyed success, the breadth of the medieval world ensures that there’s plenty more to explore.

Historical city builders, for that matter, have an even more notorious reputation since a lot of their mechanics and gameplay cues are inspired by real-life socio-economic structures. Still, anyone who’s a fan of history simulation, strategy, management, and some oddly pleasant headaches will surely appreciate the following historical city builders.


Updated December 30, 2023, by Joe Grantham: When it comes to video games, historical settings seem to be among the most popular, and this is no different for the city-building genre. No matter the era, players love immersing themselves in history and culture, taking a fresh patch of untouched land and turning it into the village, town, or city of their dreams. New historical city builders are being released all the time, and at the same time, classics are a constant place of return for lifelong fans. Some of these games even find themselves remade for the latest software. The best historical city builders are full of rich details and allow players to exercise plenty of freedom when it comes to their designs.


10 Sengoku Dynasty

Steam User Rating: 72%

Sengoku Dynasty

  • Time Period: The Middle Ages.
  • Location: Japan.


While there are plenty of great video games set in Japan, there aren’t many Japanese city-building games. However, from the creators of Medieval Dynasty is a new and similar open-world RPG that functions as both a city builder and survival game: Sengoku Dynasty. The game is set during the turbulent times of feudal Japan, and over the years, players can rise up from a newcomer to the head of their own dynasty and village.

The game is absolutely stunning and players can take their time carefully planning out their settlements, taking just as much care of their fields as their buildings. Interestingly, this is also one of the few city-building games that can be enjoyed with friends in co-op mode, although of course, single-player is always an option.

9 Emperor: Rise Of The Middle Kingdom

Metascore: 77

emperor rotmk gameplay


Check it out on GOG!

  • Time Period: The Ancient Era to the Middle Ages.
  • Location: China.

Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom was the last in a series of city-builder games from developer Impressions Games and Publisher Sierra studios. Among their strongest entries was Caesar and Pharaoh which has a remake, Pharaoh: A New Era. In any case, Emperor remains the most refined game in the series.

Players are tasked with overseeing the development of the most prominent cities throughout the history of Chinese dynasties spanning nearly four thousand years. And back then, people had to be told where not to go and how to live due to a lack of proper pathfinding A.I., how the times have changed.

8 Pharaoh: A New Era

Metascore: 79

A player slowly expanding their kingdom


  • Time Period: The Ancient Era
  • Location: Egypt

Pharaoh: A New Era is a modern remake of the 1999 classic Pharaoh, both of which are among the best games set in Egypt. With new and improved graphics, players can make even more beautiful civilizations, building from the ground up over the course of 4000 years of history.

Related

Best Games Set In The Desert

A lot of games take to the desert, showcasing the biome’s beauty as well as danger.

While players must manage every aspect of city life, managing resources and helping the economy to thrive, the culture and religion of Ancient Egypt are just as important. With this in mind, players can build, temples, monuments, and of course their very own pyramids.

7 Anno 1800

Steam User Rating: 82%

Anno 1800 sweeping map and port cityscape

Check it out on Ubisoft’s store!

  • Time Period: The 19th Century.
  • Location: Global.


Anno 1800 had a big legacy to fix and a franchise name to beautify after a couple of tepid sci-fi attempts. And for the most part, it succeeded. This return to form is now by far, not just the best Anno game to date, but among the best city builders in the industry.

The funny thing is, it wasn’t even meant to be a city builder. It’s first and foremost an RTS with some wayward hybridization, making it a genre of its own. Players will do the same thing they’ve been doing in other Anno games; to build their cities by streamlining production to its most efficient chain and network. The difference is that Anno 1800 is at its prettiest peak with a mountain of interesting content to boot.

6 Dawn Of Man

Steam User Rating: 86%

an encampment in Dawn of Man City Building Games


Check it out on GOG!

Dawn of Man

Released
March 1, 2019

Developer
Madruga Works

  • Time Period: The Stone Age to the Iron Age.
  • Location: Europe

As far as ambitious city builders go, Dawn of Man is up there since it spans multiple eras and millennia of human existence. It starts in the Stone Age and ends in the Iron Age, once humans have started shifting to feudalism as their form of society.

Related

5 Great Games Set In The Iron Age

Fans who want to witness the Iron Age in video games can’t go wrong with these examples.

To that end, players must guide their tribe from literal sticks and stones, into becoming the earliest form of world power who can harness the rewards of the Earth to produce weapons of mass destruction. Well, it was mass destruction back then, simpler times. But this kind of scope in a city builder makes it a cut above the rest.

5 Going Medieval

Steam User Rating: 89%

going-medieval-review


Going Medieval

Released
June 1, 2021

Developer
Foxy Voxel

  • Time Period: The Middle Ages.
  • Location: Europe.

Set in an alternative medieval period where most of humanity has been wiped out by a plague even deadlier than the Black Death, Going Medieval sets players the task of rebuilding society in a world overtaken by nature and lawlessness.

Unlike some city builders, where players simply place preset buildings, players can design their own settlements and castles in Going Medieval and the terrain itself can be reshaped to create the perfect strongholds. This is just one of many great medieval games on the market.

4 Banished

Steam User Rating: 89%

city in Banished

Check it out on GOG!

  • Time Period: The Middle Ages.
  • Location: Europe.


This one’s nearly a decade old, but it holds up well to this day despite the appearance of potential throne-takers like Manor Lords (yet to be released). Banished is a medieval hamlet simulator and city builder where players are tasked with ensuring the survival of a group of exiled travelers, as the title implies.

Players must then rebuild their outcast’s lives from scratch. What sets it apart from other city builders is the lack of gatekeeping. Players can build any structure they want, regardless of how far they are in the tech tree. There’s also no monetary system or fiat currency, meaning people will need to barter with merchants; just make sure not to overpay for a goat with a firstborn infant. There’s a no return/no exchange policy for that.

3 Medieval Dynasty

Steam User Rating: 90%

Medieval Dynasty Village Overhead


Check it out on Amazon!

Medieval Dynasty

Released
December 17, 2020

Developer
Render Cube

  • Time Period: The Middle Ages.
  • Location: Europe.

Medieval Dynasty offers a different take or perspective on city building. Whereas most city builders offer a top-down or isometric view, far from the groundwork, Medieval Dynasty dips into the survival and RPG genre to offer a more personal view as the players build their medieval village.

Related

The 19 Best Games For Fans Of Medieval History

Whether it’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, For Honor, Crusader Kings 3, or more, fans have a lot of choices when it comes to medieval fantasy games.

It sounds more time-consuming than being able to just plop structures in a second, but arguably, it makes the settlements in Medieval Dynasty more special and personalized. Players will eventually get more helping hands to automate some of the more mundane stuff by recruiting settlers to their village. Unlike other city builders, players will not only get a closer look at their creations with a first-person camera but also everything they build can be interacted with.


2 Kingdoms Reborn

Steam User Rating: 91%

kingdoms reborn gameplay

Check it out on Steam!

  • Time Period: The Middle Ages and beyond.
  • Location: Global

Yet another promising medieval city builder would be Kingdoms Reborn, and it’s already shown so much potential and is still appealing despite being only in the early access phase. Being released relatively recently (and still in development), Kingdoms Reborn‘s visuals are stunning with a seamless world where players can transition without loading screens.

Like most city builders, the map is procedurally generated, adding a lot of variety. Moreover, the developers promise some complex and lifelike simulations for the citizens and any social or economic problems that might arise. There are different eras and their complementary styles to choose from and there are even factions for the Norse and feudal Japan, both of which completely warp the gameplay.


1 Ostriv

Steam User Rating: 93%

ostriv gameplay

Check it out on GOG!

  • Time Period: The 18th Century.
  • Location: Ukraine.

Ostriv is technically still in the early access stage of development, but it’s already one of the more promising historical city-builders on the market. Players are given control of an 18th-century Ukrainian village which they can develop however they want, and in some ways the level of control almost makes it look like a Photoshop session.

Ostriv‘s developers are aware that certain or even standard city builders can become stressful due to building and progression limitations, which is why they removed what they considered annoyances like those. That development notion alone is enough to endorse the game, and it’s worth seeing where the developers will take it.


MORE: PlayStation Games That Have Awesome World Building