Earlier this year, Electronic Arts went under fire with the release of SimCity, the latest title in their popular city-building franchise. For those who are out of the loop, the game itself was excellent but EA made a few massive blunders that resulted in a poor launch, disgruntled customers, and a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. But even so, no one can deny the city-building phenomenon.
There may be a lot of reasons not to play SimCity, but there are plenty of reasons to love the city-building genre: it’s fun, it’s engaging, and it’s highly addictive. And while there are a few SimCity alternatives for the PC, there are even more alternatives on Android and many of them are free. Which ones are fun? Which ones are worth your time? Keep reading to find out.
Of all the city-building games on this list, Paradise Island is definitely the most popular with over 700,000 votes averaging 4.5 stars. It’s a happy-themed game centered on the prospect of owning and running your own paradise island resort. You start off with nothing more than a pier (so tourists can arrive) and a welcome center, but the tutorial gets you started with a place for lodging and eating.
As a free-to-play game, you can guess what the mechanics might feel like. Within the boundaries of your land, you can build different types of buildings, each requiring certain resources – in this case, money, staff, and electricity. Building takes time. Upgrading takes time. Some buildings gradually accumulate profit, which you can use to reinvest. All the while, tourists check out your island and offer mini-quests for you to complete.
All that to say, you’ll always have something to do when playing Paradise Island and it’s easy to get sucked into it. The game flow isn’t complicated nor is it overly simple – it’s just right and makes for some good fun.
Megapolis is a wonderful, polished game where you begin with a tiny town and grow it into a massive city worthy of the title. It’s a little more involved since there are a lot of different aspects to explore (water, electricity, money, etc.) so it’s sure to be exciting for city-building enthusiasts. It’s free-to-play and you’ll get reminders for the shop every once in a while, but it’s still good fun even if you never intend to pay a cent.
What I really appreciate about Megapolis is its ingenious interface design. Everything is laid out in such a way that you never have trouble navigating to what you want. If you need to make something, all of the information is clear as day. Don’t know what to do next? The constant queue of notifications and goals means you always have something to do and something to look forward to. They’ve really nailed down the addiction hook for this game.
As the name of this game implies, Big Business isn’t so much about city building as it is economic management – but the concepts are similar. You manage your money and resources, but instead of constructing different buildings, you produce and transport and sell various goods. Of course, you build new units as well, but Big Business is a wonderful balance of macro- and micro-management.
The game is fast paced and you’ll always have something to do, particularly because the Quest system is constantly providing goals for you to reach. The game is free-to-play and has no advertisements. You can enjoy the game without ever dropping any money on it, though city-credits are used to accelerate processes and you can buy them if you grow impatient.
City Island gets an ambivalent vote from me. On the one hand, it has a similar design (in terms of interface and gameplay) to the earlier-mentioned Paradise Island. Even the theme is similar: building up a new civilization on a newly founded island that you now own. I don’t know which one came first, but the similarities are uncanny and they’re good on paper.
But on the other hand, City Island did not perform well for me. Granted, I’m using an original Galaxy S that’s nearing two full years of age, but everything lagged and I felt a considerable delay. On top of that, I felt the placement and movement of buildings on the grid to be a bit unpolished, particularly in the building of roads. Perhaps it was user error, but it frustrated me nonetheless.
If you can get past those qualities – or if you don’t experience those problems at all – then City Island can be a lot of fun. City Island is free-to-play but there is a premium version that you can buy for $4.99 USD.
Nothing can be the sheer size and sprawl of a title like SimCity, but when you’re itching to have some city-building fun on the go, these SimCity alternatives are bound to keep you occupied. I’m especially drawn to Megapolis, which is as close to perfect as it gets in my experience with casual simulation games, but the rest have their place as well.
What do you think of these games? What other city-building games do you know for Android? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments. And if you’re looking for other simulation games, check out our Best Android Games page.