2021 was a good year for management games, but nothing new in the last 12 months has impressed us enough to make our best management games list. This isn’t going to bother you. It’s only because there are already so many classics to choose from. Looking for a book to read over the holidays? Check out our picks below.
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There are many different types of management games on this page. You can run a household, keep colonists sane, process poisonous gases, or just keep an eye on conveyor belt efficiency. The only rule is that it has to be fun right now. That means we haven’t included some classics that we think are less likely to be recommended. There are still a few games on this list that are old enough to drink.
You can watch this list if you like words spoken and pictures to move. No, it doesn’t show you every single management game on our list. But it does show the games at the top.
The games we think are the best management games for PC are spread out over two pages. You can click on the links to go right to the game write-up. If your favourite isn’t on the list, it must be number 21. You can write your own description of the game in the comments, and we’ll think about adding it to the list when we make a new one.
1. Oxygen Not Included
Oxygen Not Included is one of a few Dwarf Fauxtress games on this list where you take charge of a small group of people who have arrived in an unfriendly place, like the centre of an asteroid. You must mine and build the tools they need to stay alive. What makes it stand out from most of its competitors is that it wants players to be very careful with their work when they play.
You’ll start by growing crops and turning algae into breathable oxygen, but resources run out quickly and demand grows quickly. Block by block, your colony will grow, giving you more space and resources. Before you know it, your colony is a mess of inefficient pipes and wiring, your crops are dying from the heat, and your duplicants are building life-saving machines while holding their breath in a toxic cloud. It’s hard to watch, but it’s also a great way to pass the time. Also, the challenges feel fair, because they all come out of the game’s careful simulation of simple scientific principles.
2. Anno 1800
If you think about it, Anno 1800 is one of the best city builders ever made. This game is set in Western Europe in the 1800s, and it starts with peaceful farmland and ends with the hulking train tracks and smoke-spewing factories of industrial commerce. If you’ve played Anno before, you might find its early stages a little too familiar. Once you’ve gone through the industrial revolution, though, it really shines. We can now move on to the next island. Each one has a different population and needs different kinds of people and things to work with. There are colonies all over the world, and ships are going all over the world.
Even better when played with a friend in its multiplayer co-op mode as well! It doesn’t matter if you want to split the work or just focus on one colony’s urban development while your partner takes care of everything else. Anno 1800 can be played in a lot of ways. Another way to see how well you can conquer the world is to play against a friend in the game’s competitive mode. Anno 1800 has everything you need, no matter what.
Fish are magical, aren’t they? There is a lot to be said for anything that lives underwater, so the best thing to do with it is to keep it in a tiny fish prison so you can look at it forever. When you play Megaquariam, you play as an aquarium manager. You have to hire the best staff and make sure your tanks are the best they can be for your fish. Some fish are mean, but others can live peacefully with each other in the same tank. A few people might like rocks or plants, but mostly, they just want some food, and they don’t want the glass tapped.
People who come to your aquarium must also be happy or they’ll leave, get tired, need to pee, or get hungry. You’ll also need to make sure there are a lot of bins in the style of all those Bullfrog management games from the past. People who visit these places don’t just take their trash home with them if there aren’t any bins around. In the end, the monsters will just throw it on the ground and forget about it, A lot of things: benches, toilets, drink machines, and bins are in this area Make sure that people are happy with these things: Let’s not forget the fish, either.
4. Slime Rancher
Under its gelatinous, googly-eyed surface, Slime Rancher has a heart of pure chaos. It might look cute at first glance. You can play Monomi Park’s farming game with a lot of different animals. But unlike other animal management games like Planet Zoo or even Jurassic World Evolution, the animals in this game are very good at getting themselves into trouble while you’re out exploring and gathering resources. They can bounce out of their pens and escape, or they can accidentally get into the “plort” (or poop) of other animals and turn into tar monsters. Slime Rancher is the game for you if you’ve always wanted to live in a world where you have to deal with unpredictable animals.
People buy and sell slime manure all the time, but it sure looks like a fun thing to do. Also, Slime Rancher is one of the more easy-to-use management games on this list because it has a bright, cheery look at farming games. Getting bogged down in slime diets, pen conditions, or anything else isn’t something it has to think about. To make sure that all that poop is scooped up, you only need to make sure that it’s done regularly. Otherwise, bad things can happen while you’re away. It doesn’t matter if you come home and find that your whole farm has burned down. One look at a slime’s jiggly grin is all it takes to make everything right. Aw, look at their little faces!
5. Dungeon Keeper
Every horse in Bullfrog’s legendary stable of management games from the 1990s doesn’t hold up well today, especially when it comes to the interface. That’s why Themes Park or Hospital aren’t here. If you install the KeeperFX fan expansion, you can play Dungeon Keeper at high resolutions and with third-party fixes and maps. This is especially true if you install the KeeperFX fan expansion, which is free. This game is about building a monster lair, making sure the monsters are happy, and then throwing them at the “heroes” who come in.
When compared to some of the other games on this list, Dungeon Keeper might seem a little silly. But there’s a real sense of loneliness in this old game that you can feel. Ill-tempered creatures crawl through dark, rocky tunnels and angrily try to sleep in their dirty lairs. They collect daily pay that they have no use for, work hard to build traps and spells that only benefit a faraway employer, and… oh God, the metaphors. … am I a demon with bad breath? Is that what I am? There are a lot of games like this in the Bullfrog style where the goal is to make people happy. This isn’t one of them. If you kill, imprison, or torture humans to add to your ranks, Dungeon Keeper is a deliciously dark game that’s more than just the voice-snickering. over’s It’s a lot more than that.
One of our favourite transportation management games, Transport Tycoon Deluxe, is still available to buy on today’s PC storefronts, even though the original is no longer available to buy there. As a result, we have OpenTTD, which is a fan-made version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. It adds more map sizes as well as LAN and online multiplayer that can support up to 255 people. OpenTTD’s isometric countryside and cities are still beautiful, even though the game has an industrial core. The settlements look more like picture-postcard villages and towns than Dickens’ Coketown. Seeing a level 1 Squire become a level 50 Demigod is just as exciting as watching the landscape grow in line with your goals.
Business management games come in a lot of different flavours, but this one has a lot of gentle challenges and places that you can recognise right away. Transporting goods and people might seem like a simple job, especially when it’s next to things like future wars and theme parks. But the familiarity of the systems makes the game so interesting.
Management games like The Sims let you control everything about a person’s life, even what they do in the bathroom. RimWorld shifts the perspective a little and puts you in charge of managing a whole colony of people after they crash land on an alien planet.
What happens after this crash is partly up to how well you manage things, but also how many disasters you get from the AI Storyteller, which gives you disasters at a set rate. These disasters range from simple thunderstorms to animals vomiting. So, even though you might be able to handle the practicalities of this, the people in your colony will all react in different ways, making each game unique.
This game has been getting a lot of new things since it came out of early access. Read our RimWorld review to find out what we thought. We also played the Royalty expansion, so you can see what we thought about that as well. There are also a lot of great RimWorld mods to choose from if you want to change things up. The game can even be played with other people (sort of).
8. Dyson Sphere Program
As someone who likes to manage things, Dyson Sphere Program is an ideal game. Build your base with materials from all over the galaxy so that you can learn about new technology and build the Dyson Sphere, which can use the power of the stars.
Like games like Factorio and Satisfactory, in this game you need to build conveyor belts to connect buildings and make materials through them. But there are no enemies or things that can destroy your things. If you run out of resources or there is a holdup on the conveyor belts, these are the only bad things that can happen to you.
When you figure out how buildings work together, you have a lot of fun. It is a great way to pass the time. We love it so much that we made a beginner’s Dyson Sphere Program guide to show you how to play it!