Whether you’re into managing a fictional business, curing little dummies of their big head syndromes, or colonising an alien planet, there’s plenty to enjoy on consoles for fans of strategy and management games. I should know – I’ve played them all!
Unfortunately, I won’t be listing every game because not every game in the genre is all that great, so here are the top ten strategy and management games that you can play from the comfort of your couch.
Mad Games Tycoon
Let’s start with a gaming-focused entry, shall we? Mad Games Tycoon is a guilty pleasure of mine that has seen me spend many a night building offices for my little developers and coders to work in.
You start off as a no-name company working out of your garage (we’re still at that point in real life…) but with a bit of time, patience, and a stroke of luck, you’ll produce a game that’ll sell well, allowing you to move on up in the world and enter a real office.
There’s plenty to like about Mad Games Tycoon, and as we’re all quite familiar with games, it’s an easy one to get invested into. There’s more to it than just smashing genres together and hoping for the best; you need to nurture your fledgeling business, strike partnership deals with the right publishers, and eventually, once you’ve amassed a small fortune, start your own publishing business. And, to top it all off, you can build and design your offices, similar in style to The Sims.
11Bit Studios’ bleak city builder is, in a word, amazing, even on console with a gamepad. Personally, I do prefer to play it on PC, but I’ve put just as many hours into the console version as I have the PC version.
The game is set in an alternate England where the world is thrown into the freezing cold. The only escape from a freezing death is to build a settlement around a massive heater. Expand your colony, gather resources, and upgrade your generator to succeed. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. The cold is just one of your problems. You have to cater to everybody’s needs by declaring new laws, solving community problems, and surviving the frequent storms that send the mercury shooting so far below zero it’s hard to imagine anybody surviving, let alone thriving, in such a world.
It’s grim, depressing, and at times, it feels like you have no chance at all. But that’s all part of the… fun? It is a fun game, in a twisted way. For me, every new save on Endless mode is a ticking clock to my eventual failure. And I love it.
Planet Coaster: Console Edition
Theme park simulators have been around almost as long as I have and they’ve only gotten better over time. Since Bullfrog’s amazing Theme Park on PS One, players have been hooked on building up imaginary theme parks and salting the fries so customers buy more drinks. It’s simple fun, sure, but balancing the books with the enjoyment of park visitors is fun in its own way.
Planet Coaster: Console Edition takes every lesson learned from the past 20 years of theme park simulators and applies them almost perfectly. I say almost because nothing in this life is perfect, but Planet Coaster comes bloody close. Even on console, Planet Coaster is really good fun and easy to control, so have no worries about picking this one up on PS4 or PS5.
The world has enough dictators, but what’s one more? You could be the ultimate dictator in Tropico 6 if you put in the time. It’s a city builder with a difference as you need to manage your local economy as well as playing at the world stage by doing deals with other nations. Keeping the population happy is your number one priority… unless you’re me, in which case, filling up your Swiss bank account is the number one goal. You can be as good a leader as you like, or you can be as corrupt as you want. Bribe, arrest, or even kill your enemies – it’s the Trump simulator you didn’t know you needed.
Cities Skylines: Console Edition
Back to city building but without the temptation of absolute power and corruption. Cities: Skylines is a bit more realistic and follows the spiritual path laid out by Sim City. It’s a little complicated to begin with, but follow the tutorials and you’ll be laying the best sewage pipes the world has ever seen. Again, the economy is your priority and you’ll need to balance the books to keep all sides happy. It might sound like hard work, but once you’ve got things down you’ll be convinced you can run for actual government.
Moving away from city builders, Desperados 3 is an instant classic that pulls its weight from the good old days of strategy gaming. You won’t be building cities or relationships with other nations, but instead, you’re moving your crack team of heroes through intricate levels, taking out the bad guys with stealth. Or, you can go balls-to-the-wall all-guns-blazing, but don’t expect to get very far unless you’re an actual genius.
The beauty is in the simplicity and the hands-off nature. Set your team’s instructions and watch them play out. When it goes right, it’s amazing. When it goes wrong, you get to try again, which is part of the fun. Cracking a level’s code is a feeling like no other. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s still pretty good.
They Are Billions
This is a city builder with a difference. For one, your city is surrounded by billions of zombies. Building up your defences quickly and getting an army together is crucial, otherwise, you’re just an al-fresco zombie picnic waiting to happen. It’s tricky at first but the game is generous in showing you the ropes. I played this one on PS4 Pro and really enjoyed it; it’s something different in the genre, and who doesn’t want more zombies in their games?
This is perhaps the odd-ball of the list, but it’s easily one of my favourites. Rather than building a city, you build a space agency. You start your agency with next to nothing, and then you research your way to the moon, the stars, and beyond. It’s a really relaxed game with very little pressure. Instead, the fun comes in the ever-running space race against other nation’s agencies. Being the first to put a man on the moon means prestige and rewards, but there’s no shame in coming last. Or 30 years late, as I found out in my review… If you have a thing for space and games rooted in science, this is for you – you get to design your own rocket ships! Do I need to say anything else? No. I don’t.
Two Point Hospital
No strategy or management game list would be complete these days without a nod towards Two Point Hospital, the spiritual successor to Theme Hospital. It’s essentially a modern remake with a different name and some new twists to keep the rabid lawyers away. If you played Theme Hospital back in the day, you’ll love this on PS4. Though these days, I think we’re all avoiding hospitals, so maybe leave this one in the backlog for a while.
Commandos 2: HD Remaster
I had a real hard time including this one on this list, mainly because I didn’t actually enjoy it on PS4. I really didn’t, but I think that’s because my experience playing the original was all on PC. My biggest grips with the remaster on PS4 was that the controls were, for me at least, bloody awful; it just didn’t sit right with me. But I’ve heard from many, many, many players on our YouTube channel that they played the original game on PS2 back in the day, and it was perfectly fine for them with a controller.
The Commandos games are brilliant, without a doubt, so this one makes it onto the list with a disclaimer: If you’ve only played Commandos with a mouse and keyboard setup, you may find the console controls to be a pain in the bum. On the other hand, if you played on PS2 back in the day, you’ll feel right at home. You bloody weirdo…
And that’s the list. Of course, there are many games that are worthy of a spot on such a list. Give us a ping on Twitter or YouTube and let us know what you think should be on the list, and maybe we’ll include them in a follow-up video soon. Maybe…