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Best City Building Games – unleash your inner urban planner

Whether you’re a budding town planner or a would-be megalomaniac, nothing scratches that ‘rule the world’ itch like a good city-building game. Sadly, the inherent complexity of these games makes them better suited to a keyboard and mouse than a tiny touchscreen.

Or so you would think. Over the years, iOS developers have managed to turn out startlingly well-realized city builders that operate impeccably within the confines of an iPhone or iPad screen. Here are four of the best city builder games to sate all the control freaks out there.

Townscaper [$4.99/£4.99]

A brilliant, beautiful casual city-building game that resembles a digital toy, an artistic app, or even a therapeutic tool as much as it does a game. There are no real goals here, other than to build the most aesthetically pleasing island towns possible. Townscaper’s algorithm does most of the heavy lifting, leaving you to let your imagination run wild on a blank ocean canvas. It’s the simplest, least taxing, and most tactile entry on this list.

Tropico [$11.99/£11.99]

Don’t be deceived by Tropico’s sunny disposition. Its tropical setting disguises the fact that you’re cast as the dictator of a tinpot Caribbean republic. Besides building a functioning economy and modernizing the infrastructure, then, you’ll also need to strengthen the military and put down the odd revolution. Still, the choice of which direction you take things is largely up to you, whether you wish to build a booming tourist paradise or a hardline police state.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI [$9.99/£9.99]

Sid Meier’s Civilization series is the Citizen Kane of city builders, traditionally offering the kind of formidable depth and carefully interlayered systems that make other city builders look like playing with Duplo blocks. This iOS port of the sixth game in the series makes for a remarkably faithful conversion of the PC original, for better and for worse. This is ‘4X’ strategy (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) in all its maddening, beguiling complexity. Advance your society from mud huts to the space age in any way you see fit.

Pocket City 2 [$4.99/£4.99]

A city builder that’s been constructed with its host format in mind, offering clean and cute isometric 3D visuals and a pleasingly streamlined UI. Taking its cue from SimCity, you must lay down roads, create residential areas, construct vast industrial zones, and generally put together a teeming metropolis from nothing. It’s also on you to respond to trials like encroaching crime and destructive disasters. Unlike EA’s mobile SimCity game there are no micro-transactions or wait timers to worry about here – just pure city-building bliss.