Note: This list was updated in September of 2018.
Business doesn’t always have to be serious. Business can be fun. Also, business usually has a tight set of rules and revolves around resource allocation. So in a way, business in the real world already is a sort of game. But if you want to play that game, it’s actually much easier to just turn on your PC and play one of the many great business tycoon simulations out there.
There is a special flavor for everyone. Historical business simulation? Done. Present day urban planning? Got it. Science fiction space station businesses? Yeah why not.
This is a very PC eccentric genre, there are few ports on consoles that are above anything but “passable”. Interestingly enough though, it seems mobile touch devices see the most innovative new entries here, leading to a small renaissance of a genre that was in a steady decline into obscurity for years now.
#15 Zoo Tycoon Series
Developer: Blue Fang Games, Frontier Developments, Behaviour Interactive
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: PC, X360, XBO
Zoo Tycoon 2
Zoo Tycoon (2013)
Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection
The Zoo Tycoon series has a number of installments available across a variety of platforms. Initially, the game came into fruition in 2001 by development studio Blue Fang Games. Players are given the lead position when it comes to a functioning zoo. This means that players are constructing the design of the zoo, what animals are on display, businesses available within the zoo location along with other entertainment for its guests.
Throughout the game players are juggling maintenance of the zoo along with turning a profit which may mean listening to guests interests at the zoo and their dislikes. Over the years, the game series has exchanged different development studios but the games continued to follow the same overall groundwork that Blue Fang Games laid with the first installment.
As it stands right now, Frontier Developments released the last main installment to the series, with Zoo Tycoon, a reboot of the original video game title. This title released in 2013 for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 platforms and while both held the same overall mechanics that fans of the series is familiar with, there was a campaign mode that offered players a variety of challenges.
With that said if you’re looking to enjoy the classic main Zoo Tycoon titles and their various expansion packs then you’ll want to look at Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection which launched in 2017 for the Xbox One and PC platforms. This collection included the first two Zoo Tycoon games along with their expansion packs while also including a few new animals and HDR 4K resolution.
#14 Jurassic World Evolution
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
Release: June 12, 2018
If you enjoy building up parks and attractions while managing the business side of things then you’ll want to check out Jurassic World Evolution. The video game was also developed by Frontier Developments who had worked on other beloved tycoon franchises such as RollerCoaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon.
With this release, players are put in control of building their own Jurassic Park where you’ll manage the design while managing the business when it comes to bringing guests back to the Jurassic age.
Likewise, there will be a section based around developing new creatures, similar to the story of Jurassic World. Unfortunately, if you enjoy the more in-depth city building and managing titles put out into the market then you might find this game to be a bit disappointing but on the flip side, if you find some of the more popular city builder and simulation games to be too overwhelming then we suggest giving this game a try.
#13 Tropico Series
Developer: Haemimont Games
Publisher: Feral Interactive
Platforms: PC, X360, PS4, XBO
Release: 2001 – 2016
The Tropico series first came out in 2001 and is still going strong with a brand new installment, Tropico 6, is slated to launch in 2019. This is another city building and managing tycoon video game franchises where players take the role of a ruler in control of a fictional island. Throughout the series, players will be ruling their country as they bring it to prosperity while managing resources and overseeing their civilians.
There’s more of an emphasis on how you rule your country in this game with there being a series of factions that will either be pleased by your choices or outraged such as environmentalists, militarist, intellectuals and religious groups. As mentioned, this is a long running franchise and already there is a sixth main installment in the works that will be released at some point in 2019 for the PC, PlayStation 4 and lastly the Xbox One platforms.
#12 Surviving Mars
Developer: Haemimont Games
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
Release: March 15, 2018
Within Surviving Mars players will be on the cold red planet where their sole goal is to manage and oversee the colonization of the new world. Of course, there will be some challenges that will come up giving players some tough obstacles to pass through.
This is a city-builder type game as well where players will have to build up their colony and gather resources to maintain their colonization. As a result, the game will have a bit of a strategy element to the gameplay.
#11 RollerCoaster Tycoon Series
Developer: Chris Sawyer Productions, Frontier Developments, n-Space, On5, Nvizzio Creations
Publisher: Hasbro Interactive, Infogames, Atari
Platforms: PC, Xbox, iOS
Release: 1999 – 2016
RollerCoaster Tycoon 2
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3
RollerCoaster Tycoon World
The RollerCoaster Tycoon series plays out much like Zoo Tycoon. Players are in control of a theme park where they must design the layout, hire employees, bring in businesses and maintain the various rides. Essentially, instead of animals like Zoo Tycoon, you’re swapping them out for amusement park rides while still maintaining the behind-the-scenes ventures that goes into managing a business and keeping operations running smoothly.
RollerCoaster Tycoon also was an IP that exchanged hands across a few different development studios where it originated by Christ Sawyer Productions back in 1999 but even with the games being tossed around different development studios, the overall goal and mechanics are intact. For instance, the latest main video game release, RollerCoaster Tycoon World launched in 2016 where again players are building up rides, shops and managing the par while tweaking the visuals for the latest PC platform components.
This franchise is not slowing down as Atari made note of other installments that is currently in the works such as RollerCoaster Tycoon for the Nintendo Switch.
#10 SimCity Series
Developer: Maxis, Tilted Mill Entertainment, Aspyr Media, etc
Publisher: Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Maxis, etc
Platforms: PC, PSX, PS3, DS, GBA, Wii, etc
Release: 1989 – 2014
The SimCity has been a long running video game franchise that first debuted into the market back in 1989. Several developers and publishers have had their hand on the video game franchise and it’s been available on a wide range of platforms. In a lot of ways, SimCity is one of the pioneering video game franchises to help other popular tycoon video games come out into the market.
Because this franchise has been around since the late 1980s, there are so many video game titles available to play but the latest main installment to really hit the market was SimCity, a 2013 reboot which had its own rocky launch and issues, but we won’t open that can of worms here.
Overall, SimCity allows players to create a city and build upon it while aiding any issues that the civilians bring up. Of course, one of the wrenches that is tossed at players progress is the various natural disasters and hostilities that occur which will require rebuilding up parts of your city locations.
Developer: OpenTTD Team
Publisher: OpenTTD Team
Release: March 14, 2004
OpenTTD is a game well worth trying out as it’s available free and open-source. The video game was developed as a remake of 1995’s Transport Tycoon Deluxe but with this remake comes new content and features. Players will find that the base game is still about transporting passengers and cargo for profit through the means of road, rail, sea or air. As mentioned, there are a few additions to this game with players receiving more map sizes, language support, AI, multiplayer, among other useful features that were previously unavailable through Transport Tycoon Deluxe.
This title has also been going strong for a number of years now due to it being open-source. Ultimately, this means that even though the game released over a decade ago, it’s still being supported and updated. For instance, the latest stable version update was released in April of 2018. However, outside of stable version releases, there is other modifications and online content that players can download for their game to include new sets of vehicles, industries, cargoes and buildings. You’ll even find downloads available to give players new scenarios and custom AIs.
Lastly, because this game also supports online multiplayer, gameplay can be competitive. This title includes games that can feature up to 255 players where they will compete as a transportation company. All-in-all, being that this game is free to download and try, we recommend giving it a go.
#8 Cities Skylines
Developer: Colossal Order
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO, NS
Release: March 10, 2015
Cities: Skylines may not have been developed by EA Maxis, but it’s certainly what most of its players and fans of the simulation/tycoon genre would consider being the true successor to the SimCity series of games.
Similar to the SimCity series, Cities: Skylines is a simulation title in which players can build up and maintain a city, full of buildings and civilians. The game will put gamers in control of various zoning’s, road placements, taxation, transportation, and even public services.
Of course, the game will throw players a few problems as well. This could be as simple as focusing on desires from your civilians to natural disasters wrecking sections of the city. Much like The Sims 4, Cities: Skylines have also received a number of expansion packs.
For instance, the Mass Transit expansion pack introduced new transit systems into the game such as cable cars and blimps along with a mini-expansion called Concerts which allowed gamers to bring in new event venues for concerts and festivals.
#7 Tiny Tower
Platforms: Ios, Android
Release: June 23, 2011
Tiny Tower released in 2011 and due to its success, the development studio, NimbleBit, has launched a few other spin-off games based around the same mechanics. Within Tiny Tower, players are tasked with managing a tower where they are constantly aiming to make it grow by adding new floors. Each floor offers a commercial business such as a coffee house, sushi bar or Laundromat. Throughout the day new citizens will enter your elevator where they will shop at the commercial businesses or be put to work on a specific floor.
Each citizen will have stats and it’s up to the player in order to determine just what floor business will benefit from their work. As mentioned, the game is all about making money in order to build up your tower which will also allow other businesses to be incorporated in your tower. It’s a simplistic game that can be enjoyed on either Android or Apple devices. Likewise, there have been a few spin-off titles such as Tiny Tower Vegas and Tiny Death Star but they are traditionally played the same.
#6 Prison Architect
Developer: Introversion Software
Publisher: Introversion Software, Paradox Interactive
Platforms: PC, PS4, X360, XBO, Ios, Android, NS
Release: October 6, 2015
Prison Architect puts players in control of their own customized prison. The video game was developed under Introversion Software after it was crowdfunded where developers task players with creating and managing a prison system. This includes not only building up the prison with various cells and facilities but the utilities required to operate a prison. Likewise, the game does include the ability to hire various staff members such as a warden and guards.
It’s not all about crafting and running a prison system but also managing the finances and keeping inmates in control. You may also opt to incorporate more reform programs in order to rehabilitate the prison inmates to live a productive and law abiding life outside of prison. Overall, the game has been a positive hit since its release in 2015, but we haven’t seen any indication that a sequel is in the works. Instead, there are other future projects currently in the works by Introversion Software so we’re sure that this game may be the only installment of the franchise for the time being.
#5 Anno Series
Developer: Max Design, Related Designs, Blue Byte, Keen Games, Kaiko GmbH
Publisher: Sunflowers Interactive, Ubisoft, Disney Interactive Studios
Platforms: PC, DS, Wii, Android, Ios
Release: 1998 – 2015
The Anno series is another long running video game franchise that makes it on our list. There are a few elements that are featured within this particular franchise tycoon games such as building up a city similar but outside of just building up a city, players will be managing resources, exploring locations, focusing on combat forces, diplomacy and trade. Like most video game franchises that have been around for years, there tends to be a few development studios that work on the video game but as of late, Blue Byte has been the lead developer in charge.
While the last video game installment of the franchise released in 2015, there is a brand new game in the works right now under Blue Byte. Anno 1800 will retain the same city building and managing mechanics that the feature is known for but it will take place in the 19th century during the Industrial Age.
#4 Planet Coaster
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Release: November 17, 2016
After their work with the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise, Frontier Developments decided to take what they learned and enhance it with their very own tycoon IP called Planet Coaster. This is a video game aimed to be a spiritual successor to the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise where players are given a brand new theme park tycoon management video game.
There’s nothing really that drastically sets it apart from the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise, but it does prove to be just as or if not even more entertaining than the RollerCoaster Tycoon series. Players will have three different game modes to enjoy on the franchise which includes sandbox, challenge and career mode.
Within the sandbox mode players are given a plot of land and unlimited funds to craft a theme park of their own design while the challenge mode gives players a series of tasks to complete in order to earn perks or money. Lastly, the career mode will once again present objectives to complete though it will also give an overall scenario to go through which will also teach you the fundamentals of the video game.
Developer: 11 bit studios
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Release Date: April 24, 2018
From the developers who delivered This War of Mine to the masses in 2014 comes their latest title release, Frostpunk. If you’re familiar with This War of Mine, you’ll find that Frostpunk shares some strong similarities, one of which is toying with the player’s moral compass.
Within the game, players are left having to control a city of civilians who is seeking refuge from the harsh cold temperatures within the world. Being one of the few cities built around a heat source, players will have to strategize on how to handle various issues that may come up.
The game will force players to seek out resources and build up the city. However, gameplay will soon become a balancing act when it comes to pulling resources together in order to fight off problems that may affect the health and safety of the city inhabitants.
#2 Game Dev Story
Platforms: PC, Android, Ios
Release: October 9, 2010
Game Dev Story may be best known for the Android and Apple mobile devices, the game originated in 1997 for the PC platform in Japan. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, Game Dev Story puts players in control of their own video game development studio where they must hire on staff and create video games to be published into the market.
The game is very simplistic where players select various options in regards to the video game being developed along with key individuals who may have a hand on the title development. From there it’s a battle to tweak the game and have it ready to ship where you’ll see reviews from critics and fans.
Overall, the goal of Game Dev Story is to bring out a successful game that will allow you to upgrade your development studio and hire on new staff members. It’s worth mentioning that this development studio who has created Game Dev Story has released a number of other similar tycoon and business management video games that is worth looking into if you enjoy this particular title.
#1 Stardew Valley
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO, NS, PSV
Release: February 26, 2016
Stardew Valley has been a huge hit that acts very much like the Harvest Moon franchise. This is a farming style simulation title where players take on the role of a character who inherits their grandfather’s dilapidated farm.
Again, much like Harvest Moon, the game will have players tending to crops and their livestock while also introducing craft goods, mining, among other social activities. Since its release back in 2016 the video game became a massive hit and has sold over three million units by the end of 2017. This is one game that really captured gamers worldwide and we’re sure that this means a sequel is likely set to be in the works.
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