Tropico 4

Game review by
Chris Morris, Common Sense Media
Tropico 4 Game Poster Image
City building game offers tyrannical options.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about economics and how businesses operate, as well as some of the basic principles of government (albeit in an exaggerated fashion). As dictators of a tropical island, players ensure that the laws of supply and demand are met and engage in trades and other deals with other rulers. The tutorial can be a bit overwhelming and many will likely skip it. While complicated, Tropico 4 can teach kids civic participation and how businesses run.

Positive Messages

It's possible to play the game as a benevolent dictator, but players can also be militaristic and cruel. Assassinations are nearly as common as the lies you must tell -- and rebellions arise from time to time. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The rulers players create can be honorable men (or women) of the people, but it's much easier to play with fascist tendencies. You're encouraged to stash funds from the treasury in Swiss bank accounts and secret police can carry out covert assassinations and illegal surveillance to make it easier to accomplish goals. Pre-set character options include Fidel Castro and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. 

Ease of Play

The tutorial in the game is fairly thorough, but there are a lot of moving parts, which could confuse people not familiar with the city building genre. 


Players can order their secret police to assassinate rebellious citizens. Political uprisings are also frequent and can be quelled by ordering soldiers to shoot rebels/protestors on the street, resulting in realistic gunfire and cries of pain (though no blood). The violence and shootings take place from an elevated perspective, and the player is not in direct control of any of the characters involved. 


While there's no sex or nudity, players can select the trait "womanizer" in the character creation module, which makes your dictator interested in sleeping with as many women as possible. This trait includes the description "You can't sleep with all of them, but at least you must try". 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Players can accessorize their characters with cigars or pipes and are encouraged early in the game to grow tobacco as a cash crop and open a cigar shop. Players can also choose the alcoholic trait, which references AA meetings and parents who abuse alcohol. Construction options include constructing a pub or rum distillery.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tropico 4 is a city building simulation game that puts players in control of a small tropical island, which they must build into a thriving metropolis. Players can do so benevolently or through tyrannical methods, including assassinations, bribery, and kill squads. The violence is viewed from a top-down perspective and there's no blood (the player never directly controls the armies, but instead simply issues orders). It's mild, but there are screams. Alcohol, tobacco, and sex are referenced as part of the descriptions concerning non-savory dictator characteristics.  

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byThepotatoman23 July 13, 2015

Great city bulider

Great city builder and an awesome alternative to SimCity. Even though this game allows homosexual marriage, that is an option. You do not need to allow homosexu... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byHoly Nun July 22, 2014

Good for kids.

Although there are some violent parts (you can order people to be killed, and send armies to places) there is screaming but no blood/gore. It can teach them how... Continue reading

What's it about?

As with other games in the Tropico series, Tropico 4 puts you in the boots of an island dictator. You can create your own or select a famous real-world dictator, such as Che Guevara or Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. You'll have to build up your island's economy and culture by opening businesses, striking deals with other governments, and ensuring that your political position isn't threatened (which means dealing with a few revolutions along the way). Natural disasters sometimes come into play, presenting a different sort of hurdle to your progress. Over the course of 20 missions, you'll be forced to regularly reevaluate your strategy to adapt to changing conditions.

Is it any good?

TROPICO 4 is a lot like Tropico 3 (which was a lot like its predecessors as well) -- so if you're looking for an innovative city-building experience, this isn't it. There's a strong argument to be made, though, that if something's not broken, then there's no need to fix it. The tweaks to the game, such as the reworked goal system and inclusion of natural disasters, improve on the formula and keep players engaged. The game's Achilles heel is the Xbox controller, which handles the enormous slew of in-game option choices adequately, but not admirably. Playing the PC version of the game is much smoother. 

The game is remarkably deep, but that might actually work against it with people who are new to this genre. It's intimidating -- and even with a good tutorial, it takes a while to get your sea legs. Worse still, the tutorial takes quite a while to work through, and some players will be tempted to skip it, which will ultimately hurt them. However, for those who stick with it (or those who are familiar with the series or genre), it's a solid addition to the Tropico line of games. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether it is smarter to take the quick, evil route or the harder benevolent one.

  • Families can also discuss the impact of their decisions, both short- and long-term, and whether they can think of examples of the game's politics in the real world.

  • Can you think of other simulation games that you have enjoyed? How do they compare to this one?

Game details

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