20 Best Tycoon Games That Will Test Your Chops

Mobile Games

Money? Yes. Money! It is exactly what makes the world go round. From the creation of the transcontinental railway to the spark that started the industrial revolution, money and the quest for it moves everything forward. Throughout history, humankind has continued that quest, from the robber barons of the early 19th century to the football managers of today. While we can’t do the same feats with our dismal bank accounts, we could simulate it through our smartphones. For that purpose, here’s our list of the 20 best tycoon games to test your chops on!

 

 

What Are Tycoon Games?

Before we start with the list, let’s first discuss what makes tycoon games. The word tycoon came from the Japanese title “大君” or taikun, which meant a great lord without imperial blood. Over time, the word evolved its meaning to a businessperson with great power, wealth, and influence. Tycoon games, therefore, are games where you — the player — are given the reigns to handle great power, wealth, and influence.

Technically speaking, tycoon games are a sub-genre of the ever-popular simulation games. Although it is a simulation sub-genre, it has a surprisingly large overlap with strategy games and other similar genres like building games, trading, management, and government simulation. Simply put, tycoon games are business simulations with some form of emulated economy that have a heavy emphasis on players making money.

 

Themes

While tycoon games have many different themes, like roller coasters, trains, stock markets, and even dictatorships, the central tenet of these games is their money-making features. You will always need to hold, make, and use that money to hold, make, and use even more money in an almost infinite cycle just like in real life. Aside from that, the best tycoon games will usually have a plot that gives you a worthwhile reason to keep earning money. For some games, this reason may be to defeat your rival companies, while other reasons may be as simple as gaining the highest score.

 

Mechanics and Gameplay

Tycoon games have varied mechanics and gameplay structures. For the best tycoon games, these mechanics would be even more complicated. As we said earlier, your goal in these games is to amass wealth, but a good tycoon game will give you more than a few ways to do so. These can range from providing a service like passenger trains, getting rents as a landlord, to trading goods between ports or planets. Some tycoon games might also give you enough spreadsheets and number juggling to make some accountants cry.

 

20 of the Best Tycoon Games For Mobile

For this list, you’ll see we’ve chosen a good mix of game sub-genres like city-building games, board games, and management games. We’ve also done our best to stay away from games that have eye-numbing amounts of spreadsheets. We have pivoted to include more interactive games instead. Some of these games may require you to be connected online to play.

 

1. RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch

Developer: Atari Inc.

Platform: Android and iOS

A series with a rich history, RollerCoaster Tycoon is one of the first games to use “tycoon” in its naming. Originally created by Chris Sawyer in 1999, the series continues to have new games and remakes. The gold standard and our pick for the best tycoon game, RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch is the best in the series for smartphones.

Similar to other iterations of the series, you’re in charge of creating, designing, and managing a roller coaster theme park. This includes processes like hiring employees, choosing concessionaires, setting entry prices, and best of all, designing and creating roller coasters! You’ll use the money you’d earned from ticket sales to slowly expand and improve your park by adding more rides and attractions.

Get RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch on the Google Play Store

Get RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch on the Apple App Store

 

2. Project Highrise

Developer: Kalypso Media

Platform: Android and iOS

This game is a smartphone port of a PC original. Project Highrise is a hybrid management-builder game that gives you multiple roles to fill. Starting with a lowly one-floor building, you’re expected to rent out parts of it to company offices, restaurants, and apartments while maintaining both the building and the tenants’ happiness. Your ultimate goal, though, is to make money to keep expanding your high-rise even higher while balancing the ever-growing needs of your bustling community.

Both Android and iOS ports have all the downloadable content (DLC) the PC version has pre-installed. It includes the London Life, Brilliant Berlin, and Tokyo Towers expansion content.

Get Project Highrise on the Google Play Store

Get Project Highrise on the Apple App Store

 

3. OpenTTD

Developer: Pelya

Platform: Android

OpenTTD is a bit of an odd game on this list, but not because of its gameplay. Its name actually means open “Transport Tycoon Deluxe.” This game is an open-source game created by fans as a remake and expansion to the original Transport Tycoon Deluxe. It adds better AI, vehicle sets, better switches and pathing, and a whole lot more. You’ll see why we placed this higher on this list of the best tycoon games compared to the actual smartphone remake of Transport Tycoon Deluxe once you’ve played both of them with each other.

Gameplay-wise, the game is, by and large, an improvement to the original Transport Tycoon Deluxe. The game places you in charge of a transportation company with a free hand to create transport and trade links between towns and cities on a large map. You’ll handle several vehicles and routes from circuitous bus stops to complicated multi-track train systems and airports with their landing times. Over time, the small communities you service will grow and thrive to give you even more customers for your business.

Get OpenTTD on the Google Play Store

 

4. Tropico

Developer: Feral Interactive

Platform: Android and iOS

Tropico is a classic tycoon game well, that’s if you consider being the absolute dictator of a banana republic in the Caribbean a tycoon. Regardless, Tropico is the only smartphone game of a long-running series which first released in 2001. In this game, you are El Presidente, the most beloved (or just feared) leader of the small Caribbean island nation of Tropico. The game is a city-builder and government simulator with a hilarious mix of caricatures, satire, and social commentary rolled into one.

Gameplay is also different from the usual city-builder since you’ll have to tackle not just the needs of your people but local politics, the economy, tourism, and the great powers during the Cold War. Aside from ruling your people and staying in power, one of your other goals includes topping off your El Presidente retirement fund, all stored in a secret Swiss bank account for safekeeping.

Get Tropico on the Google Play Store

Get Tropico on the Apple App Store

 

5. Star Traders: Frontiers

Developer: Trese Brothers

Platform: Android and iOS

Star Traders: Frontiers is a game that lets you experience buccaneering, looting, plundering, and all the other tropes of the Golden Age of Piracy, but in space! It is a hybrid turn-based RPG, strategy, and trading game that lets you explore and discover the galaxy on your own. Originally released as a PC game, the smartphone ports are basically the same game with added touchscreen inputs.

Depending on how you play it, this game lets you become an honest trader shuffling goods between ports, a pirate that preys on innocent ships, or a diplomat trying to bring peace to a fragile galaxy. To do those things, the game operates with two main modes. The first is a galaxy map mode where you can warp between ports, trade, and broker deals. On the other hand, the second is a turn-based battle mode where your ship fights against other ships or a group battle where your landing party fights against another crew or monsters from the vastness of space.

Get Star Traders: Frontiers on the Google Play Store

Get Star Traders: Frontiers on the Apple App Store

 

6. Transport Tycoon

Developer: 31X Ltd.

Platform: Android and iOS

A remake of the classic PC game that spawned OpenTTD and a host of other transport games, this version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe was spearheaded by the original creator, Chris Sawyer. A more perfected version of the original, Transport Tycoon has a lot of new features and maps. You can play with over 150 unique vehicle types and 49 campaign scenarios to create your own web of interconnected transport links all over the map!

While we feel that this version of Transport Tycoon is still slightly inferior to its open-source counterpart, iOS users don’t need to miss out on this series and can get this version instead since OpenTTD is unavailable on iOS platforms.

Get Transport Tycoon on the Google Play Store

Get Transport Tycoon on the Apple App Store

 

7. Prison Architect: Mobile

Developer: Paradox Interactive

Platform: Android and iOS

Another smartphone port of a PC original, Prison Architect: Mobile puts you in the shoes of a prison warden for a private prison. A mix of management and building genres, Prison Architect is a hybrid game with cartoonish graphics and an interesting premise. The game gives you a few missions in a campaign mode that work as a tutorial. But, subsequent missions will have to be bought from the in-app store.

While you’re in charge of designing, creating, and managing your own maximum-security prison, you’re not actually the big boss. Prisoner riots, escapes, wrongful executions, and especially bankruptcy can see you fired from your job by the CEO.

Get Prison Architect: Mobile on the Google Play Store

Get Prison Architect: Mobile on the Apple App Store

 

8. Big Chief

Big Chief game advert
Photo from the Big Chief Google Play Store page

Developer: Obnoxious Laughter

Platform: Android and iOS

An odd game, Big Chief would be best described as a CEO simulator. The game basically lets you play out your dreams of becoming a startup CEO, starting with incorporating your own company. Compared to other games, Big Chief doesn’t really stand out graphics-wise. The game focuses more on its dialogue instead, since that’s where you’ll spend most of your time on.

The game plays out as a hybrid management-social interaction game where you manage a company and your employees while firing out the ones you don’t want to keep on. Aside from that, you can set goals for your company as it slowly levels up and earns more and more. There is no continuing money count through the game though since your success is based on how big your retiring CEO severance package becomes!

Get Big Chief on the Google Play Store

Get Big Chief on the Apple App Store

 

9. Dealer’s Life – Pawn Shop Tycoon

Developer: Abyte Entertainment

Platform: Android and iOS

Possibly taking at least some inspiration from shows like Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, Dealer’s Life tries its best to glamorize owning a pawn shop. The gist of the game is to haggle in buying and selling items in a pawn shop while making a good enough profit to upkeep your shop. Due to that, the game is pretty simple with just a set of approving or disapproving buttons when haggling a price and a few options to question customers about their items.

The game has a few things you should note when playing — proper employee management, the context of items being sold by customers, and your Internet bids and auctions.

Get Dealer’s Life – Pawn Shop Tycoon on the Google Play Store

Get Dealer’s Life – Pawn Shop Tycoon on the Apple App Store

 

10. Motorsport Manager Mobile 3

Developer: Playsport Games

Platform: Android and iOS

The third installment of the Motorsport Manager Mobile series, M3 is a racing managerial game that lets you build a motorsport team from the ground up. Instead of being the driver and zooming around like other racing games, this game places you in the pit and strategizing your team’s next moves with each lap.

Your goal in this game isn’t just to win races by choosing the best driver, hiring a good team, and building the best ride. This game also has you juggle sponsor expectations and your limited funds. Overall, it’s a pure management game that lets you imagine how F1 team managers must feel.

Get Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 on the Google Play Store

Get Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 on the Apple App Store

 

11. Game Dev Story

Developer: Kairosoft Co.

Platform: Android and iOS

No, that is not a typo. This game is called Game Dev Story. This game came before Game Dev Tycoon, which has several similarities and may have inspired it. Compared to Tycoon, Story is simple, with easy-to-understand gameplay mechanics and colorful pixel art style. Game Dev Story is one of the first game development management games released.

This game places you in charge of a small fledgling game development team and, with your help, might be on its way to create the next hit game. For this game, you’ll manage what type of game you put out and what parts of the system your focus on (program, scenario, graphics, and sound). Aside from the quirks, Game Dev Story is your typical management sim where you juggle employee salaries, company and equipment overheads, development costs, and game sales income.

Almost all of Kairosoft’s games are actually part of the tycoon game genre. And while Game Dev Story is their only game on this best tycoon games list, their games for iOS and Android are good games to play, after finishing the ones on this list.

Get Game Dev Story on the Google Play Store

Get Game Dev Story on the Apple App Store

 

12. Mini Metro

Developer: Dinosaur Polo Club

Platform: Android and iOS

A game with a simple premise, Mini Metro is exactly as it sounds — a simplistic representation of complex metropolitan train networks from cities worldwide. Your goal in this game is to connect stations and stops to your ever-growing list of city railways and lines. Compared to other games on this list of the best tycoon games, your “wealth” isn’t measured in gold coins or dollars. Instead, your success is measured in how many people you’ve ferried in your carriages and trains.

Get Mini Metro on the Google Play Store

Get Mini Metro on the Apple App Store

 

13. Rebel Inc.

Developer: Ndemic Creations

Platform: Android and iOS

A game from the creators of Plague Inc., Rebel Inc is their take on rebellion, insurgency, and reconstruction. This game is map-based management, strategy, and government simulator that tries to handle the sensitive topic of war and armed conflict.

You play as a United Nations-backed governor sent to look after a war-torn area. Your job is simple — rebuild, keep the peace, balance foreign interests and support, and slowly drive out the rebellion while safeguarding your people and territory. The game has several features like a corruption scale, military, civilian, and government trees, and a game map where units fight over territories.

Get Rebel Inc on the Google Play Store

Get Rebel Inc on the Apple App Store

 

14. Steam: Rails to Riches

Developer: Acram Digital

Platform: Android and iOS

Originally a board game, Steam: Rails to Riches is a faithful electronic emulation of a well-loved classic. Compared to other games on this list, it doesn’t have the best graphics. It does, however, make up for it in replayability and the depth of its game mechanics. The game is your traditional turn-based board game with tiles, cards, and markers. This game is the only board game in our list of the best tycoon games.

Steam: Rails to Riches is pretty simple and comes with an interactive hands-on tutorial you can play through. Your goal in the game is to build the most expansive and profitable railroad company in the early 1800s on maps modeled after places in Canada, the US, the Benelux, and a lot more.

Get Steam: Rails to Riches on the Google Play Store

Get Steam: Rails to Riches on the Apple App Store

 

15. The Westport Independent

Developer: Double Zero One Zero

Price: Free

Platform: Android and iOS

Surprisingly a free game for what it offers, The Westport Independent is all about “censorship, corruption, and newspapers,” as it says on its tagline. The game has a wonderful theme of a totalitarian post-war country at the very end of solidifying its grip on propaganda and the mass media. For those who know the game “Papers, Please,” you’ll probably like the feel and atmosphere of this game. We consider this game one of the best tycoon games but couldn’t place it higher up the list due to how niche it is.

You’re in charge of what gets printed in The Westport Independent newspaper, one of the last avenues for actual free speech in the nation. In this game, you are an editor, a print manager, and a journalist all in one. Instead of counting your wealth, this game has three bars you have to balance out — the people’s political opinion (between government loyalists and rebels), the government’s opinion of your news outfit, and your papers’ general popularity with the masses.

Get The Westport Independent on the Google Play Store

Get The Westport Independent on the Apple App Store

 

16. Tiny Tower

Developer: NimbleBit LLC

Platform: Android and iOS

This game has a very similar premise to the earlier mentioned Project Highrise. You build up your building floor by floor and invite tenants to rent it from you. Your goal is to make them happy and add more floors to the building using the money you earn.

However, a big difference between the two games is Tiny Towers’ cutesy pixel art style and its freemium ideology. The game would be higher on this list if most decisions and actions weren’t time locked behind paywalls.

Get Tiny Tower on the Google Play Store

Get Tiny Tower on the Apple App Store

 

17. Football Manager 2021 Touch

Developer: Sega

Platform: Android and iOS

Football Manager 2021 actually has two ported versions for both platforms, Touch and Mobile. We chose the Touch version due to its 3D graphics, availability of more than 25,000 players, and overall closer experience to its PC original. The game itself, though, is a traditional soccer management game similar to the FIFA video game series.

This game lets you control almost all aspects of a football team, from Barcelona in La Liga to Bayern in the Bundesliga. Football Manager 2021 lets you do big things like trading team players, changing leagues, as well as smaller minute decisions like who to play during a match and when.

Get Football Manager 2021 Touch on the Google Play Store

Get Football Manager 2021 Touch on the Apple App Store

 

18. Middle Manager of Justice

Developer: Double Fine Productions, Inc.

Platform: Android and iOS

What kid hasn’t wanted to be a superhero at one time or another? Well, this game lets you have a taste of that; well, a taste of managing that at least. Middle Manager of Justice doesn’t let you be Superman or Captain America, but it does put you in charge of managing the supers who fight crime.

A management game with a cartoonishly hilarious art style and an amusingly odd take to the whole superhero genre, this game isn’t that strange to see in this list of the best tycoon games.

Get Middle Manager of Justice on the Google Play Store

Get Middle Manager of Justice on the Apple App Store

 

19. AdVenture Capitalist

Developer: Hyper Hippo Publishing Ltd.

Platform: Android and iOS

A tycoon management game with a mix of idle game mechanics, AdVenture Capitalist lets you try out being the one percent. Starting small with the lemons life gave you and a lemonade stand, AdVenture Capitalist slowly gives you more and more options to buy stocks and even more ridiculous products to invest in.

It has simple controls that basically function to help you buy more of that particular thing. The game is literally just watching your money grow and balloon with occasional clicking and upgrade prompts. Aside from that, it lets you choose managers and co-investors to help reign in your wealth and stabilize your quattuordecillion of dollars.

Get AdVenture Capitalist on the Google Play Store

Get AdVenture Capitalist on the Apple App Store

 

20. Game Dev Tycoon

Developer: Greenheart Games Pty. Ltd.

Platform: Android and iOS

A game with more than just a few similarities to Game Dev Stories, Game Dev Tycoon is the last on our list of the best tycoon games for smartphones. Even with the similarities between them, Tycoon is both an improvement and a degraded version of Stories due to the differences between the two games.

You’ll find that both games play quite similarly to each other. This similarity includes their core money-making mechanics and the programmer management mechanic. Tycoon does differ from Stories with small details like a “piracy mode” that reduces your game sale income and the inclusion of new technologies like VR to the games your company makes.

Get Game Dev Tycoon on the Google Play Store

Get Game Dev Tycoon on the Apple App Store

 

Final Words

And there we have it — our list for the 20 best tycoon games on Android and iOS. Money might come easily in these games, but a real tycoon would know how to manage his resources and grow them eventually. With influence from different gaming genres, our picks for the best tycoon games will test the best of your abilities in strategizing and decision-making to build the empire you are dreaming of. Hopefully, you’ve found one or two games to buy and try out.

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