From running a single company to running an entire trading empire, these are the best business games around
So you’re looking for some decent tycoon games? Whether you’re looking for something more on-the-nose, or a complex, nuanced economic/business simulation game, there’s plenty of great options to choose from right now, across a range of themes. This is a classic genre that’s had plenty of love since its early days, with sequels and new blood galore.
While there are plenty of classic tycoon games we could talk about – many of which actually have ‘tycoon’ in the name – we’ve decided to focus on modern highlights, as this is a genre that’s constantly getting new releases and new ideas. We’ve also kept the definition relatively broad, as there are plenty of games that you may not consider strictly ‘tycoon’ games, but have strong business or economic themes with the mechanics to back them up.
From criminal underworlds and banana republics, to high-seas trading and taking commerce to the final frontier, here are ten tycoon games we think you should check out if you’re looking to see what some of the better choices are in this space. We’re likely to keep updating this list as we go, so make sure you check back regularly.
Here are some of the best business simulation games:
The latest in a long legacy of serious business simulations, Port Royale 4 puts you in charge of a trading company operating in the Caribbean during the height of colonial expansion in the region. You start with one ship, and must travel from port to port making smart trades, and avoiding pirates.
As you get more wealth and reputation, you can take on the charters for entire towns, and create an empire spanning the whole Caribbean with fleets of trading and warships. You’ll spend most of your time serving your home nation – such as England, France, or Spain – but if you get powerful you can become truly independent, provided you survive the independence war that follows.
This is a favourite from our list of top RTS games, but makes a return here because at its core it’s a game about expanding your economic might and running an interstellar business. There is a surprisingly intricate economic model here, with over a dozen resources to keep track on, as well as the player driven market that will determine what’s worth investing in, and what isn’t. It also has a pretty cool single-player campaign, if multiplayer or sandbox isn’t your style.
Offworld Trading Company has plenty of DLC available, including one that changes the setting from Mars to one of Juipiter’s moon – Io. The developer has since moved on to create historical 4X game Old World.
While this mobster-themed strategy game is still finding its feet, this has a healthy dose of ‘tycoon’ in its DNA as, aside from engaging in turn-based gang-on-gang warfare, you’re also trying to run a respectable mob business as well.
From a few humble speakeasies to a city-wide criminal empire, you’ve got to expand your rackets and your alcohol production to keep the people of Chicago happy during Prohibition era America. Rival gangs will also be looking to expand their own business, and it’s up to you whether you try to co-exist, cooperate, or take them down yourself. Check out our Empire of Sin review for more.
This is just as much a city-building game as it is a business/tycoon game, but however you want to slice it’s one of the freshest management experiences to have come out in the past decade. As the newly appointed (for life) president of a fledgling banana republic, it’s your job to build up what was once a former colonial outpost into a global economic and tourism powerhouse.
Related: The best management games on PC
You’ve got to attract fresh immigrants as well as take care of your existing population, exploit your island’s natural resources, and create idyllic tourist spots to attract the rich travellers. You can even engage in international diplomacy, playing the major powers against each other and reaping as many benefits as you can. Beware though, dictators are only tolerated too much, and it’s game over if you get deposed by rebels.
While we’re recommending Tropico 6 as the most recent entry, Tropico 4 and 5 are also pretty great as well – you can’t really go wrong no matter which one you pick.
A spiritual successor to Theme Hospital, Two Point Hospital has all of the zany sense of humour and over-the-top visualisations of medical practice as Bullfrog’s original, but with an updated design and Two Point Studio’s own unique twist.
Set in the fictional ‘Two Point County’ setting, you have to build up a healthcare centre from the ground up, balancing the needs of your patients and your bank balance as you deal with that minefield that is a private healthcare system. Experience unique and wacky diseases that will need curing, and make sure you keep your staff happy as well! Keep an eye out for Two Point Campus, a University/Education-themed management game coming in 2022.
If Two Point Hospital is the successor to Theme Hospital, then Planet Coaster aims to be the successor for the ‘OG’ tycoon games, RollerCoaster Tycoon. Frontier Developments is attempting to create the ultimate theme park simulator, with complex tools to create the most ambitious rides – even ones from the real world – as well as a deep simulation to run the park as you see fit.
The studio has also invested a lot into community sharing tools as well, so that even if you’re not the most creative thinker, you’ll be able to find something to inspire you in your own theme park journey. There’s also a safari park game from Frontier out now as well, called Planet Zoo, if that takes your fancy instead.
Probably the least business-minded of the list, building and running your own version of Jurassic Park is still core to Jurassic World Evolution’s premise. Firstly, you’ll need to bioengineer your new dinosaurs and create enclosures for them, before you can then expand with dedicated tourism and entertainment facilities.
Espionage and natural disasters will conspire to make things difficult for you, and should the worst happen your management skills will be tested to the limit as you try and contain the problem before everything collapses. There’s a dedicated scenario based mode that takes you through a bespoke narrative, with sandbox options as well. Keep an eye out for the sequel – Jurassic World Evolution 2 – coming November 2021.
Much like Tropico, the Anno series has just as much to do with city-building as it does economics, but there is a healthy business portion as you set up production lines and supply chains, exploiting your surroundings in both the old world and the new world.
1800’s specific twist on the series involves how industrialisation impacts a society, as well as making you run two cities at once – one in the new world, and one in the old world, necessitating the need to secure trade routes and the supply lines between where raw materials are sourced and where they are manufactured. It also has a pretty robust naval combat portion, if you’re also looking for some high-stakes action at sea. Read our Anno 1800 review for more details.
Other than being the only game on this list to actually use ‘tycoon’ in its title, this is also a pretty niche topic. If you’re ever wanted a top-line, abstract view on what it’s like to actually run a company dedicated to designing videogames, Game Dev Tycoon is a pretty neat way of experiencing it.
Starting alone in your basement, and working your way up to a fancy office with actual employees, you first need to choose what game you want to design – including genre, what engine to use, extra features, and more – and then you’ve got to keep working away until completion.
The pressure comes from keeping the money rolling in – every month you need to pay you and your staff, and as you progress in the game some projects will come from publishers, which have set deadlines. It’s surprisingly intricate, but also simplistic, window into what is a vibrant, multi-faceted world.
While it’s a touch presumptuous to be adding a pre-release game into a list like this, Industries of Titan is already shaping up to be a very interesting twist on the business/tycoon genre. Tasked with starting a new venture on the moon of Titan, this management game immerses you in a highly corporated, dystopian future where you must tame not only Titan’s hostile climate, but other factions who seek to bring you down.
To do this you import down-on-their-luck people and set them to work – some will work in your growing factories, some will be out in the wastes clearing mysterious ruins, others will do nothing but watch ads all day so you can earn some cash. It’s bleak, but has some very neat mechanics that make it one to watch – read our Steam Early Access impressions for more.
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Joe Robinson Section Editor – Strategy
Published: Sep 27, 2021
Chapter master of PCGamesN’s strategy content, Joe was previously editor for The Wargamer and Strategy Gamer, and has written for Rock,Paper,Shotgun.