Cities: Skylines

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Cities: Skylines Game Poster Image
Popular with kids
Daunting sim has steep learning curve but also creative fun.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Players encouraged to improvise, adapt, manage, pay attention to many civic planning factors all at once. Empathy, being pragmatic are key.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No characters whatsoever, except for city you're building. 

Ease of Play

Expect steep learning curve, as sheer amount of options, things to monitor, and what to do about them largely left up to you to figure out. Very limited tutorial included.


If there's enough wage disparity, crime will break out. You only learn about this through pop-up messages, icons appearing on map.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

If you play long enough, you'll unlock ability to allow citizens to legally use marijuana. This "perk" comes with a tax benefit, although you never see anyone using, selling, distributing drug.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cities: Skylines is a downloadable strategy game similar to SimCity. Players work to maintain the city's budget, population, health, happiness, employment, pollution, traffic flow, and many other factors. The game lets you approach and explore how to balance and tweak all these things to maintain harmony more or less on your own. Other than a potential option for players to legalize marijuana use among their citizens late in the game (which you don't see used but reap the tax profit from), there's no inappropriate content. The limited tutorial and explanation of mechanics could frustrate newcomers to the game.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byFinnishAlicorn January 8, 2019

Best City Sim Game

I've played, according to my Steam account, exactly 600 hours as of today. There are so many options for expansion. Granted, I don't concern myself wi... Continue reading
Adult Written byRyan S. November 15, 2017
Teen, 14 years old Written byTheLukaBoss May 24, 2020

Great City Builder

Encourages players to think of interesting solutions to problems and encourages large amounts of creativity. Recommended to all players above age 10 to about ag... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEsotericUsername April 21, 2020

Best City Simulation Game

Hello. I purchased this game not to long ago for my Xbox One S. Overall, it's a great clean game. However, I recommend that this game be played by and olde... Continue reading

What's it about?

There's no story at all in CITIES: SKYLINES. You control the camera and tilt it around as you build roads, chart out districts, and impose public policies on the people who move in to live, work, and play. It's an open-ended city-building simulation where you're the mayor and everybody's depending on you. Their complaints pop up, and you have to decide how to adapt -- all while keeping an eye on your fluctuating budget.

Is it any good?

Whether you enjoy this city simulator ultimately has to do with how much you like futzing with the tiniest of details. For example, each and every time you chart out a road, you must decide whether it has an incline and if so, how steep; if not, should it be a two-lane, four-lane, or six-lane. These details cascade and stack, so it'll only be another hour or two before you recognize why that wasn't the move to make. Suddenly, you'll find that more people have moved in and traffic in that area is creating too much noise pollution, triggering a chain effect in other districts. It's a game where strategy is important, and patience is key.

Newcomers will be intimidated by the sheer amount of strategy you'll need to wrap your head around. For example, public policies can be shifted or reversed, if you want, during the nighttime. Different rules can be in effect during the day. Then there's poring over the ledger and tweaking taxes, finessing your budget, and deciding whether you should go green, use coal, or use less eco-friendly power sources. It's all a manic sort of fun, and it will take a few games before you start to survive without being tempted to cheat and continually take out loans to stay afloat. All of this is further complicated by the fact that there's practically no content in the tutorial, so you'll rely on a lot of trial and error, along with multiple gameplay sessions, to figure out how to actually be successful. The difficulty in itself should be enough to give people pause, but on top of that, the game's insistence on having realistic graphics creates an eye-straining effect. You can play for hours and hours if you really want to, but taking in that much detail just gets difficult. All in all, it's a fun and soothing way to spend an evening -- until suddenly catastrophe strikes and you'll have learned a valuable, though costly, lesson for the next time you start building a city. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about civic planning. How do the choices architects and politicians make affect the lives of individuals, including your family members?

  • What issues do you notice in the neighborhood you live in? What are the problems everyone in it seems to be struggling with? Do they think moving somewhere else will fix that problem? Why, or why not? What do you think?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love simulations

Themes & Topics

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