When it released in 2015, Cities: Skylines almost immediately became the go-to title for strategy gamers craving a good city management sim. It’s a robust and intricate city builder that would have any aspiring civil engineer foaming at the mouth. Starting with a completely blank plot of land, you need to consider everything from what kind of power you’ll use to keep it functioning and how to keep traffic flowing during rush hour. From beginning to end, it’s an intricate and fully-featured city builder.
The sim management community latched onto Cities: Skylines right out of the gate, and the ensuing four years has seen its fan base grow and thrive. That community includes a great deal of modders that have produced a legion of add-ons over the years. Many of the most popular mods are cosmetic and offer a package of building designs to add some extra flavor to your cities. Others are more practical, such as mods that help you plan and build your roads better in order to reduce traffic problems.
With four years of mods to wade through, finding the ones worth downloading can be tough, though. Below, I’ve chosen a small sampling of our favorites. These are mods that we’ve kept installed even while rotating others out. They range from purely cosmetic to functional cornerstones of our city planning. They also show off some of the truly impressive creativity present in the Cities: Skylines community.
One of our favorite aspects of Cities: Skylines modding is the community’s ability to build real-world buildings to the game. The variety of buildings available in the Steam Workshop is absolutely staggering, with some legitimately impressive creations such as Spain’s Lugo Cathedral, the Space Needle in Seattle, Doel Nuclear Power Station in Belgium, and the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, China. I mention them here only because this list can’t just be fancy buildings, as much as I would like it to be.
Anyway, without further delay, here are our favorite mods for Cities: Skylines.
Timboh’s Marvelous Interchange Emporium
Building roads and navigating traffic flows is one of the supreme challenges of Cities: Skylines, one that modder Timboh has worked to alleviate. The Interchange Emporium is actually a collection of several add-ons; each one is a different style of road roundabout, intersection, and interchange aimed at keeping traffic moving inside your city. Timboh has modeled all of the interchanges using the in-game editing tools and used real-world designs as inspiration. If you find yourself struggling—as I often do—with traffic in your city, hop on over to Timboh’s Marvelous Interchange Emporium and grab yourself a fancy new roundabout.
For those of us who revel in the details, the Precision Engineering mod by Simie is an essential download. Not only does it introduce angle snapping to make building road segments easier, it also displays angle and distance measurements to ensure they’re placed just so. Precision Engineering isn’t limited to roads, either—it also works on railroad tracks, water pipes, and power lines. To make sure that your city is pleasing to the discerning eye, pick up this mod.
Ultimate Skyscraper Collection
Lend some verticality to the skyline of your city with this collection of fictional and real-world skyscrapers. Curated by Steam Workshop user Cutter, the assortment includes designs from many modders and boasts some very impressive buildings that will add a lot of cosmetic flavor to any town. Standout buildings include Wayne Enterprises by Auldben, Nakitomi Plaza by Enos Shenk, and a one-to-one version of the Chrysler building by naskko26.
In order to power your city in Cities: Skylines, you’ll have to connect a series of power lines from a power plant to basically every location in town that needs electricity (read: all of it). Doing so can result in an unsightly tangle of lines and poles that block the view of the rest of your hard work. This mod by Klyte45 eliminates the need for power lines by giving roads the ability conduct electricity. As long as you connect a power plant to a road, and connect that road to the rest of the city, you’re good to go. If you build your power plant off the street and away from the city, you can use power lines to connect it to a road, which will take things from there.
No city is a stranger to disaster. At some point during the life of your town a fire will break out, destroying buildings and infrastructure, leaving behind an ugly, burnt-out husk. Conversely, some buildings can become abandoned and derelict, making neighborhoods unsightly. The mod Bulldoze It! by Keallu will automatically delete these unattractive eyesores, ensuring that your city remains the pristine town you envisioned. Automating the removal of destroyed buildings allows you to focus your attention on more pressing matters, such as fixing the damn traffic flow over in the commercial district.
Traffic Manager: President Edition
Cities: Skylines is woefully lacking in traffic management. You can’t control individual lanes, place speed limits, enforce no parking zones, or toggle specific traffic lights. This is particularly helpful because of the various traffic AI issues the game has. If you place one of the game’s pre-built roundabouts, for example, cars won’t use the innermost lane because there’s nothing in the game telling the cars they can switch lanes. If more realistic and better traffic control is something you desire, this mod has it ready for you.
And those are my five favorite mods for Cities: Skylines. What mods do you like? Let us know in the comments below!