Not every mobile game has to be about battle and conflict. The best tycoon games allow you to flex your management skills and brain power doing something more constructive.
Tycoon games — which include everything from business simulators to city builders — let you unleash the mogul within. Found your own mega-corporation, build a town from the ground up, or sail the starry dark of space in search of fortune with the best tycoon games for your iPhone or Android device.
Best tycoon games for Android and iOS
A pint-sized city builder without the pitfalls of free-to-play monetization, Pocket City captures the magic of a proper urban planning game like SimCity, but in a $3.99 mobile-friendly package.
As mayor of a fledgling town, it's up to you to see to the needs of your citizens, laying down roads, zones, and utilities to attract new residents while keeping an eye on your tax income, spending, traffic congestion, and other variables. It may sound like a handful, but a lot of information is accessible in easy-to-read infographics and charts. With a quick look at your city's needs and problems, you can get waste no time addressing issues that pop up.
Pocket City includes a progression system that unlocks new buildings and upgrades as you level up your city; there's also a light layer of sidequests and objectives to satisfy as your city keeps growing.
Construct the skyscraper of your dreams in Project Highrise, a $3.99 building management sim that's made the jump from PC to mobile devices and onto our list of best tycoon games.
You build, manage and develop your own high rise tower over hours of gameplay that includes adding restaurants, stores, apartments, and offices, all while trying to balance the budget and keep your tenants happy. Players can engage in a variety of story scenarios or play the game in sandbox mode, and the mobile version of the game comes with all of the extra content added into the PC version, such as the Tokyo Towers, Miami Malls, and Las Vegas expansion packs.
It's time to lead the people to prosperity in Tropico, the infamous tongue-in-cheek tycoon game that puts you in command of your own Cold War island paradise. As the island's newly elected ruler, you'll have to balance your economy, tourism, global considerations and local politics, doing whatever it takes to stay in power and assure a bright future for your island nation.
Featuring a redesigned interface for tablet play, Tropico includes a basic and advanced tutorial to quickly show budding dictators the ropes, while a campaign mode has you achieving objectives and unlocking new islands to play in. You can step into the shoes of historical presidents, revolutionaries and dictators, or even customize your own avatar's traits and unleash them upon the world in an expansive sandbox mode. The $11.99 game also works on phones, though you'll need a newer device with some serious horsepower under the hood to keep up with Tropico.
For something less intense than deciding the fate of entire nations, check out Stardew Valley, the hit indie farming RPG which has finally made the jump from PC to mobile phones.
In this $7.99 download, players inherit a run-down old farm, which they can turn into the farm of their dreams. You plant crops, bring in the harvest, and reinvest your profits into expanding your farm and adding livestock. The game is more than just farming, though, with a neighboring community to visit and befriend, fishing spots to explore, and caves full of monsters and resources to check out.
Graveyard Keeper isn’t exactly your everyday tycoon game. Transported to a fantasy world, you find yourself managing a down-on-its luck rural graveyard. Like Stardew Valley but with a morbid sense of humor, Graveyard Keeper has you trying to milk the most profit out of every opportunity, such as selling organs, meat, and blood of the deceased to merchants and less scrupulous types to serve up as sausages for the next festival.
You’ll explore the surroundings to discover new resources and technologies, so that you can craft new decorations and improvements to slowly spruce up your graveyard and attached church. While the tech trees and crafting can seem bewildering, the $9.99 Graveyard Keeper rewards players willing to explore its macabre world.
Farming Simulator 20
Stardew Valley isn't the only pick among the best tycoon games to let you try your hand at farming. In the $5.99 Farming Simulator 20, you test your green thumb in a hardcore farming sim that's all about delivering a crunchy but playable mobile farming simulator.
Players plant and harvest different varieties of crops, manage livestock, and go behind the wheel of a fleet of high end agricultural vehicles from a variety of real-world tractor makers. You can play through the game solo with AI assistants providing backup, but the game also supports local multiplayer through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic marks the return of the classic theme park management game, combining RollerCoaster Tycoon 1 & 2 into a single $5.99 mobile port that dispenses with the in-app purchase and advertising monetization of the later mobile games.
As the owner of your own theme park, you’ll take the lead in laying out your park’s signature rollercoaster attractions. You can stick to pre-generated rides, or take the initiative to design your own stomach lurchers. You can also lay out the scenery, amenities, food and drink stores, and transport rides.
The game includes 95 different scenarios from RollerCoaster Tycoon 1 & 2, and in-app purchases can unlock additional expansions, such as the Wacky Worlds and Time Twister expansions, and the Toolkit which allows you to create and share your own theme park scenarios.
Star Traders: Frontiers
The Trese Brothers return to the far future with Star Traders: Frontiers, a rollicking interstellar adventure that's also one of the best tycoon games in the vein of classics like Elite and Privateer.
As inheritor of a Star Trader charter, it’s up to you to decide what you’ll do with your ancestral vessel, as you navigate through a perilous sector of space. Will you go after dangerous bounties, explore alien worlds, haul valuable cargo, or dabble in the politics of the sector’s rival factions?
While the original Star Traders RPG was pretty low on the audio and visual frills, the $4.99 Frontiers is a vast improvement, with customizable ships, captains and crew members that you can take into battle or into the nearest trading port.
Design, build and manage your own high-security lockup in the free mobile version of Prison Architect. Players take charge of everything from laying down the cell blocks to managing the staff and keeping the place from rioting. You'll need to balance the happiness and needs of the staff and your prisoners, while at the same time keeping an eye out for security risks — all while trying to keep your fledgling operation within the budget.
The game takes the freemium approach on mobile, with players given the basics of the campaign; more story chapters and game features become available through in-app purchases.
For a slightly more abstract take on the best tycoon games, check out Concrete Jungle, which uses tile-laying and deckbuilding mechanics to mimic the challenges of urban planning.
Players must balance housing, economy, and expenditures to develop their city. Houses and apartments score points, while factories and economic buildings can affect the score of adjacent tiles. As your economy grows, you can unlock advanced cards with powerful abilities, but as you use more and more expensive tiles, the minimum score requirement for each row of buildings increases.
The $4.99 game comes with a fully-voiced single-player mode, custom games and even a competitive mode where opposing planners try to score points while interfering with the other player's plans.
Steam: Rails to Riches
Another excellent board game port that's also evocative of the business management theme, the $4.99 Steam: Rails to Riches challenges players to become the richest railroad baron ever by connecting routes and moving goods while at the same time edging out your competitors.
Each turn, players take out loans to fund their operations, bid for turn order, and build tracks, develop towns, and set up shipments, while carefully dividing income between investing for future improvements and collecting victory points for the endgame. The app features different levels of AI difficulty, as well as support for pass-and-play local multiplayer gaming.
The $2.99 Big Chief almost seems like a parody of the best tycoon games, taking a light approaching to sending up corporate culture. The game combines the Tinder-like swipe gameplay pioneered by Reigns but with a Muppets-esque cartoon aesthetic.
Each turn, one of your employees shows up with a brilliant idea (that might also be stupid, illegal, or possibly just boring). Swipe right to accept, or swipe left to fire, and then you'll see how your decisions affect your relations with the public, your employees and shareholders. It's simple fun that's good for a few laughs.
Game Dev Story
Just as it says in the title, Game Dev Story gives players the opportunity to craft their own story as a game developer. Granted, the "story" basically involves assigning staff members to craft a video game with stats driving the results. But it's still fairly addictive, especially if you possess some knowledge of the video game industry and its history.
This inside baseball element gives the game a lot of appeal, but what keeps you playing Game Dev Story is that eager anticipation of results: waiting to see what your staff puts out and the fulfillment of critical praise (or the disappointment of a critical drubbing).
The Android version costs $2.49, while iOS players will have to pony up $4.99.
Even with the addition of a modern touch UI, this is not exactly the most attractive game on our list of best tycoon games. However, if you give it a fair shake, the $6.99 Transport Tycoon will consume whole afternoons.
With a business loan you need to pay soon, you'll start buying vehicles and setting up the infrastructure on your journey to become the emperor of land, sea and air travel. Each level is a scenario with its own transportation problems to solve, but also act as open sandboxes to indulge in. If you love the freedom to experiment and have an obsession with details, Transport Tycoon is for you.
Fiz: Brewery Management Game
Beer aficionados will work up a mighty thirst with Fiz: Brewery Management Game. As head of your own micro-brewery in this $1.99 download, you start out with a tiny operation selling small batches to local stores. As you grow in experience and develop new brewing recipes, you can make a name for yourself in brewing competitions, discover larger markets and improve your facilities and staff.
Behind the cute pixelated exterior and the monotonous chiptune is a decent stat engine in Fiz that allows you to fiddle with the quality of your beer, track sales figures and feedback and run market research in your quest to become a powerhouse brewery.
Golf Club Manager
Take control of the finances of a struggling golf club and turn it around into a championship-worthy course in the $1.99 Golf Club Manager. You'll need to carefully marshal your tiny earnings at the beginning, which requires some strategic thinking when it comes to upgrading your club facilities, spending on advertising and amenities, and building up the reputation of your 18-hole course.
While the graphics in Golf Club Manager are pretty basic, there's a good amount of crunch to work through here that should provide an interesting experience for business sim game aficionados and golf fans with a strategic bent.
Football Manager 2020 Mobile
Stat junkies will get a blast out of Football Manager 2020 Mobile, the latest in Sega's long-running soccer sim series. You're in the manager's seat of your own club, making the big choices when it comes to hiring, training, and trading your star players while setting up the perfect lineup and tactics for each match.
You can choose from 60 different leagues across 21 different football powerhouse nations, including the debut of Danish and Greek leagues in the franchise. You'll need more than soccer know-how to triumph, as you also must manage training, trading, and strategy on and off the pitch while keeping fans, players and owners happy and your club's bottom line in the black.
This $8.99 version is built for smartphones, but the more expensive Football Manager Touch is ideal for tablets.
Motosport Manager 3
The Motorsport Manager series delivers a strategic but accessible take on Formula 1 racing, and the latest entry, the $1.99 Motosport Manager 3, adds GT and endurance racing to the mix.
You manage your racing team to victory by finding winning drivers, negotiating contracts and investing in the kind of research and development that gives your team better rides. You also handle race tactics and pitstop strategy.
Additions in this version of the best tycoon game for racing fans include the ability to vote on rules changes, invitational tourneys, and dynamic AI teams. And if you've dreamed of racing in Monaco, Motorsport Manager 3 finally brings that venerable course to your smartphone. Can you build your own racing dynasty and dominate the track while keeping the budget balanced and your sponsors happy?
The Westport Independent
Taking inspiration from Papers Please, The Westport Independent is both a political parable and business simulation game that puts you behind the editor's desk of a newspaper carefully dancing the fine line between telling the truth, selling newspapers and appeasing the censors of the Loyalist Party.
Each week, players choose a variety of stories to feature, as well as edit their content to make it more palatable, appealing, accurate or salacious. Once you've set your layout, fixed your advertising, and sent it to the presses, sit back and pay attention to how your staff writers react, as well as check out the mail, propaganda, and thinly-veiled threats from censors and readers. Can you avoid being shut down by the Loyalists? And can you shape the fate of Westport with the power of the news? Those are pretty big questions to answer for this $4.99 download.
Best tycoon games for iOS
Hipster CEO is a tongue-in-cheek parody of the startup world that puts you in the shoes of a budding entrepreneur making your way in the world. The game is a $1.99 download from Apple's iOS App Store.
Players start out by selecting a product (such as mobile gaming, dating apps or file sharing) as well as a target market, and then you get a small amount of seed capital and an employee, and then it's up to you to get the ball rolling. As your startup evolves, you can hire more staff and specialists, train your personnel or spruce up the office and more, all while keeping an eye on the bottom line, while courting venture capital or holding out for buyout.
Download Hipster CEO: iOS