Sometimes there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting down and worrying about everyone else’s problems. Base building games offer the opportunity to flex your creative muscle while also pitting your pragmatism and humanity against each other for the lives of tiny virtual computer people. If you’re looking for great titles offering resource gathering, base construction, colonist micromanagement and more, we’ve made this list for you!
The base-building game genre has fallen victim to Early Access syndrome. Project after project abandoned or never seeing a full release. Determined to not lose hope, we’ve scoured the rubble to find the best base building games currently available, Early Access or not. Yes, we know we’ve left Minecraft off the list. Let’s assume you've already played it.
Otherwise, here’s our picks for the best base building games on PC!
Factorio is a beautiful and complex marriage of base building and real-time strategy. A unique and challenging experience unlike any other. In Factorio, you’ll gather resources to craft tools and machinery to, in turn, improve your crafting and gathering. Moving towards developing your own automated factory infrastructure. Your ultimate goal is to build and launch a rocket with a satellite. You’ll build a silo and assemble rocket parts, which require a wealth of materials as well as specific machinery.
Your game doesn’t have to end at the launch. Since Factorio is an open-world game, you’re free to keep playing and developing your factory, optimizing your gathering and production. If you’re looking for a change from the open-ended core mode, you can also choose to play through scenarios with more unique challenges. There’s a ton of downloadable mods and scenarios available through an in-game portal.
The game also features combat. Your base will regularly be attacked by Biters, creepy bug-like critters that fight against your machinery and railways interrupting their environment. To protect your base, you can construct artillery wagons and turrets, ideally eliminating the threat. There is also multiplayer.
The game is still in Early Access, but it is extremely well-developed and receives constant updates. The devs have made it clear that the game will never go on sale, and that’s okay—it’s totally worth the price ($30).
Rimworld is an excellent, single-player base-building sim with the added bonus of a rich, AI-driven storytelling experience. There are tons of randomly-generated characters with diverse personalities. In Rimworld, you’re tasked with creating a thriving settlement after crashing-landing on a planet. Your colony will grow as wanderers stumble upon you and join your mission.
The game ends when at least one colonist manages to escape the planet. Or when all colonists have died. If you’ve faced the unfortunate latter, death is not necessarily the ending. If you liked your base more than its people, you can wait for a wanderer to come along and give it new blood.
Managing your colony is an in-depth, difficult, and demanding experience that requires you to ensure the colonists stay happy, fed, and defended from raiders. You’ll need to construct living quarters, power generators, and production facilities, as well as defensive structures.
Rimworld is in Early Access as well, with a healthy development cycle and regular updates. It’s sold over one million copies and sits at a stunningly high 97 percent positive review rating on Steam with over 19 thousand copies sold. It has certainly earned its place in this list as one of the best base-building games of all time.
Terraria is one of the greatest deals in gaming when it comes to bang for your buck, with an early low base price ($9.99) and regular discounts. Even though the game came out just over seven years ago, it has a healthy player base and consistently remains one of the top 20 most-actively played games on Steam. You can easily set up a multiplayer server that supports up to eight players (by default) and can increase the max players if you happen to have over 100 friends to play with.
The core of Terraria’s gameplay is focused around gathering and building. The game features a progression system in which you’ll work your way up various tiers of tools, weapons and armor to defeat more difficult bosses and unlock more difficult challenges. There's a ridiculous amount of craftable items, including fancy wallpapers, armor stands, and more. Terraria offers a rich base-building experience that allows for intricately themed structures and efficient farming operations.
Terraria is often referred to as “2D Minecraft,” and that’s fair enough comparison. Countless gamers will argue that Terraria is the superior of the two, but that can be up to you to decide. The game features an active modding community, offering useful gameplay additions that keep the experience fresh and interesting. You can even download massive packs of thousands of new items, new bosses and more. For free. If you haven’t gotten around to picking up Terraria yet, do yourself a favor and dig in.
Subnautica is a fascinating, single-player, open-world ocean exploration game that offers a unique experience unlike anything in the genre. In Subnautica, you’ll explore the vast ocean on an alien planet and develop a seabase where you can construct the tools and vehicles for further expeditions. The ocean is stunning, and although not procedurally generated is still rich with surprising places to explore and wonders to discover.
Base-building in Subnautica is challenging but rewarding, requiring you to carefully consider additions as you keep your hull integrity in mind. If you’d rather focus on being fancy, the game offers a creative mode where you won’t have to worry about logistics. You’ll regularly return to your base for oxygen on top of storing materials and creating food. If you happen to die while exploring, whether by suffocation or getting eaten by some big bad deep ocean creature, you’ll respawn at the last visited seabase.
While Subnautica’s developers have stated that they simply “don’t have the manpower” to improve mod support, they have provided resources for mod creators to build what they can. The game also features a VR mode, supporting the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets, to fully immerse yourself in the rich blue sea. Neat. It also features an adorable little critter called the Cuddlefish. Get it? Get it?!
If you’ve ever wanted to run your own private maximum security prison and be responsible for the day-to-day management of its inmates without having to arrest hundreds of people for petty crimes, Prison Architect is for you!
Prison Architect offers a variety of different settings that can modify your experience. You can decide the size of your grounds, allow prisoners to form gangs, start trouble, and toggle events on or off. Your primary focus is on building cells and facilities to house your inmates and provide for their basic needs. You’re responsible for setting up the prison’s infrastructure, deciding everything from how to lay pipes to where to place lights. You’ll hire staff to keep things under control. Or you can switch to Escape Mode and play the role of a prisoner trying to break out of your finely-crafted supermax, recruiting other inmates to join your squad.
The game’s campaign mode features an admittedly dark story, told through five chapters that also serve to introduce and explain game mechanics. You start the game in the shoes of a man on death row awaiting his execution. If that sounds a little too grim, Prison Architect might not be the right game for you. There’s tons of other great games on this list to satisfy that base-building itch. If you are okay with the subject matter though, Prison Architect offers a rich micromanagement experience.
Oxygen Not Included
Oxygen Not Included is a single-player space colony sim from Klei Entertainment (of Don’t Starve fame) that strands three “duplicants” inside an asteroid and challenges them to survive. It features procedurally generated worlds with limited oxygen and resources. You have to direct your colonists to build a sustainable base to see another day. Hopefully. You’ll issue commands to your dupes Lemmings-style, instructing them to build structures or gather materials. Ideally maintaining a good balance of oxygen, water, food and other resources necessary for survival.
You’ll start off stranded inside a rock, requiring you to tunnel to gain access to key resources and start establishing your base. Eventually, your little base will gain new duplicants through a device called a Printing Pod, located at your initial location. There’s a good bit of complexity to dealing with your surroundings and managing your base. The density of gases and your own calculations for energy generation will ensure an optimal production needed to survive. If you like problem-solving, this game is definitely up your alley.
This is all presented in a fun art style, similar to Don’t Starve while a little less dreary. The duplicants are randomly-generated from a pool of attributes, traits and additional properties, leading to some interesting and varied experiences. The game is still in Early Access, but receives regular updates, including the recently released (and completely free) "Cosmic Upgrade," which introduces tons of new features and fixes. If being stranded in space with a bunch of clones is your idea of a good time, you’ll certainly find Oxygen Not Included quite enticing.