Our Favourite Cities Skylines Mods (Updated)

Mirror's Edge mod = best mod

Republishing this feature from last month as it’s now updated with part 2 – utility mods for a more efficient, easier, less chaotic city with more comprehensible traffic.

It’s crazy how big publishers seem so fearful of mods, given how they’ve a proven track record for keeping a game popular. Skyrim still generates regular news stories due to its thriving mod community, and I’m pretty sure Paradox’s rapturously-received townbuilder Cities: Skylines is going to do similar. To take a look at its Steam Workshop library of community creations is to disappear down a rabbit hole of tinkering, as hundreds of players seek to finetune the cities of their dreams. Compare this to be walled garden of SimCity and it’s clear to see why citybuilder fans have taken Skylines to heart.

Any claim to have made a definitive Best Of compilation is an insane one, given the speed at which new creations arrive, and due to the high subjectivity involved. An authetically-shaped Australian football pitch is probably a Godsend to someone, for instance, whereas something that automatically bulldozes abandoned or burned-out buildings was what made me rub my lazy hands with glee. But, for now, here are just a few selected highlights to be getting on with. Please do suggest more below.

Note – I’m going to update this feature a couple of times with new categories/pages. We’ll bump it back to the front page when that happens, so hopefully you’ll know about it. For now, let’s kick off with the first and, for many people (including me), most appealing type of mod – graphical tweaks, or what I like to call Prettification. On the newly-added page 2 are utility mods – stuff to make a more efficient, cleaner-living city and, perhaps, a slightly lazier mayor. These are all available via Steam Workshop – just click the link in each mod’s name, click subscribe, then go to ‘mods’ in the main Cities menu and enable any you want to use.

Dynamic Resolution

While broadly a good-lookin’ videogame, Skylines is pretty lousy at anti-aliasing, so otherwise dramatic creations are laid low by jagged edges. You can screw around with anti-aliasing overrides via graphics card drivers, but both easier and more effective is dynamic resolution – i.e. make the game render at a higher resolution than your monitor supports, then downscale the bigger, sharper-edged image to your native screensize. I do this in drivers for various games if my card’s up to it, as it means clearer outlines and more game-world on my screen, but this simple mod is a whole lot easier and, most importantly, customisable within the game rather than requiring you to duck out and muck around with arcane NVIDIA or AMD settings any time you want to make a change. You can bind the mod’s interface to a key of your choice, then choose how much scaling you want. Obviously there’s a huge hit on framerate, but I’m finding the visual pay-off of running at 4K is very much worth dropping down to 30FPS for.

Sun Shafts

Make your city look a little bit more like an expensive car commercial, essentially. It’s not a major effect in its own right, but coupled with some or all of the others in this category you end up with a dramatically more beautiful Skylines. Be warned that it currently has a bug which means you can’t exit the game via menus, however. Alt-F4 works, though. Hit F8 to adjust this on-the-fly.

Ambient Occlusion

An effect you’ve probably found in a fair few settings menus in your time. Basically, it simulates shadowing in recessed areas, cracks and crannies, thereby lending a greater sense of depth and perceived detail to the two-dimension image you’re staring at. Surprising that this isn’t included in Skylines already, to be honest. Like Sun Shafts, it’s not a huge change, but bundle all this stuff together and you’re laughing. Hit F8 to adjust this on-the-fly.

Bordercities 2

Borrowing a few pages from Borderlands’ style, this adds comicbook-like outlines to to Cities. It’s more subtle and less stylised/lunatic than Borderlands, and rather than making a city look like a living comic it makes individual buildings look more distinct, as well as adding a little more personality to what can be a slightly aesthetically bland affair. Results are a bit of a mix bag as clearly the game wasn’t designed to look like this, but it’s broadly worthwhile, and an immediately noticeable shift. Hit F10 to tinker with this in-game. Works well with all of the above, but less so…

Isometric camera

Ah, this one’s a beaut, and maybe even an essential. The aim is to make Skylines look more like Sim City 4 and other earlier citybuilders, and it’s an immediate, effortless success. Partly it’s giving me a big nostalgia cuddle, and partly it’s taming a slightly over-excitable camera and presenting a view which really makes the terrain pop. You can still rotate freely, by the way. Hit F8 to adjust this on-the-fly. As an altnerative (they clash with each other), there’s…

Enhanced Zoom

We covered a first-person camera mod already here, but this does it a whole lot better. It enables you to natively pull the camera far further out, and then zoom it all the way into street level. Essentially, it unlocks the camera, making it what it should have been in the first place, and adding a new sense of planetary awe to proceedings. It doesn’t have the follow-a-car/person trick of the other one linked, but no doubt there’ll be some way to make both work.

No More Purple Pollution

Just a bugbear-fixer, this. For some strange reason, Skylines depicts pollution by adding a purple haze to affected ground and water. If you want something more realistic – or at least less Willy Wonka – then this collection will sort things out. Linked further down the page are various different colours, including dead brown grass or Simpsons-style luminous green water.

Tree Brush

I’m not entirely certain whether this should be classified as a prettiness mod or a building enhancement one, but I’ll stick it in here anyway. If you’ve basically made the city of your fevered dreams and have run out of much else to do, you can add some freeform greenery to further beautify things with this tree painter tool. It’s far more flexible than Skylines’ built-in green spaces options, which can be a fiddle to fit into a busy conurbation and only come in prefab spaces.

And finally (for now), my stand-out personal favourite…

Mirror’s Edge

Look at it! Look at it! This adds a new ‘colour correction’ rendering mode to Skylines’ settings menus, aping the bleached out’n’red look of Mirror’s Edge. Granted, you don’t get the brilliant whites of Mirror’s Edge as this is a colour hack – essentially running the world through a blue filter to bleach out the colour – rather than a retexturing, but it still works incredibly well in practice. It’s also available without the red highlights if you like, but borrrrrrrrrrrring.

On page 2 – practical mods, including traffic management, recycling, UI tweaks and bulldozing for lazy people.

69 Comments

  1. derbefrier says:

    Got most of these installed. The graphics mods are pretty much must haves.

    Can’t wait to see what kind of mods we get after a few more months have passed. This game was the best 24 bucks I have spent in a while.

    • TimePointFive says:

      It’s still a shame that graphics mods disable achievements. I hope there’s some sort of techno magic in the future that allows them to “greenlight” certain mods based on what kind of function they have and allow achievements with them.

    • Bernt01 says:

      when is this game over?

    • ChelseaDavis says:

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  2. Fishpig says:

    If someone’s made a mod so that repeated right-clicks move back up through the menu till you get to the plain ol’ pointer I would be most obliged.

    • fish99 says:

      Seconded, I was very surprised you can’t right click out of tools.

    • Brumisator says:

      In the mean time, using the escape key works…most of the time.

      • defunct says:

        I’ve mapped esc to one of my mouse buttons. Did it an age ago, actually, because LOTS of things need the escape key and when I’m just mousing, that esc key is so far away!

  3. melnificent says:

    I highly recommend this collection link to steamcommunity.com
    It’s an ever growing list of the above graphics mods and growable buildings.

    Growable means the game will select and place them randomly like other buildings.

    • Pulec says:

      This collection is just full of DP’s buildings, which are simply just spam.
      This author though link to steamcommunity.com makes original buildings (few buildings there in collection).

      Dynamic Resolution was mentioned, mod from nlight, I rather uset of his mods, Dynamic Resolution + Hide UI + First Person Camera rather this enhanced zoom. The author of the zoom made version that does not switch to FPS link to steamcommunity.com.

      That is just nice about modding, you can choose what you want, you only need some orientation in all that.

      • ThatFuzzyTiger says:

        Thought I’d chip in as I was browsing the comments. On the topic of the DP buildings – They might be spammy, but they’re growable variants, the idea is that they’re going to give your city visual flavour and more variation as the city develops, sometimes it’s not always about having “Gula” grade buildings in your mod list, but instead about having a hefty list of “good enough” assets that form the basis of the curated list. From there you then sprinkle in some higher quality work that stands out.

        On the topic of enhanced zoom, the reason why I took that over the combo of mods is because it’s less of a performance hit and less risk of mod conflict with other 3rd party mods. The more mods you load in, the more you’re imposing on the structure of the skylines framework, and until mod makers agree on some kind of framework standard (I’d like to see ARIS become a standardised framework because it’s very efficient at handling things like autobulldoze and traffic and the like) we’re going to see some kind of splotchy mess.

        The curated list I’ve created “Just works”. You hit subscribe, you can play with that as is, and it won’t nuke your system. DSR and all the other shinies impose more significant penalties, which I leave up to the user to decide if they want.

  4. Darkz0r says:

    I’ll try these graphic mods, but I’m getting 30-60 FPS @ 1440p with 780 ti, so I think the game might slowdown if I abuse too much…

    Recently updated my mod list and posted elsewhere, so here they are!

    Walking at street level
    mod achievement enabler
    persistent resource view
    toggle traffic lights
    steeper slopes
    terraform tool
    extended public transport
    no more purple polution (tan grass)
    muddy water
    auto line color
    automatic emptying
    tree brush
    traffic report tool
    chirpy exterminator
    automatic bulldoze
    all spaces unlockable

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      “30-60 FPS @ 1440p with 780 ti”

      Oh my…

      Well, i guess since i wasn’t interested in it full price i’ll go for a sale after i have upgraded the GPU!

      • gunny1993 says:

        I wouldn’t worry about that, his FPS is so low because of all those visual mods, for reference my Vanilla game maxed out at 1440p runs on my GTX 670 at 70 FPS

        • derbefrier says:

          yeah some of those graphics mods will destroy your FPS if you have an older graphics card.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Uhm, yeah, i hope it’s not because of the space unlocker though, but i can see how it might make things awful if you have a full, huge city in all the unlocked map.

          Besides i guess it’s not much of a disaster is a game of this kind drops some frames here and there.

          Also, my “upgrade” is still not due in quite some time i’m afraid, i have a 780ti too and the only thing that would move me would be a cut down Titan X, that pesky thing in Italy is 1200 Euro and that’s simply horrible. Depending on what happens with that 390X i might even move to the red team, it’s all stricly dependent on an imaginary 980ti that i hope to see happen in the coming months.

      • Gammro says:

        I run at high settings, 1080p with 30fps with my old HD5850, so it’s doable with older hardware.

        • Kempston Wiggler says:

          Glad to see another 5850 hold-out on these pages! It still handles most games beautifully so I’ve never needed anything else.

          • iucounu says:

            *high-fives you both*

            I have to say, the only game I’ve played where I’ve had to compromise on the graphics settings to accommodate the 5850 is The Witcher 2, and that was only because it’d BSOD me if I ran it at High. And The Witcher 2 was a game that I never got on with, so sod it.

            I live in fear of needing to upgrade my graphics card, given the expense and poking about with screwdrivers involved, but *touch wood* I have never yet felt the need.

      • Canadave says:

        Honestly, the game is pretty well optimized. I’m poor and stuck with a GT 520 for now, and while it doesn’t exactly run C:S happily, it does run it at a more than reasonable framerate.

    • fish99 says:

      Didn’t see much of a framerate drop on my 970 (3.5GB) @ 1080p, still 40-55fps (120K pop city, sim speed 1*, 200% DR, AA off [not needed with DR]). And oh my does it look a lot nicer. It works the GPU like heck though, you can hear the fan spin up.

      It’s a pity the game has such ugly AA (it’s Unity).

      (* running sim speed 2 or 3 pushes my 3570K to 100% and hits framerates)

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        That CPU usage looks intense, i actually like that. What’s the clock on that thing?

        • fish99 says:

          Just stock.

          • fish99 says:

            Just to expand on that, running sim speed 1, all four cores are about 70%, and my city fills about 60-70% of the regular 9×9 blocks, with 120k pop, so you really would need a much faster CPU to still have it play smooth at say 250K pop. So using the 25 block mod and filling that all with city (500k+ pop), you’re probably looking at 8 core overclocked intel, so beyond most people.

      • dakdak99 says:

        What is DR and how do you set it to 200%?

        • n0m0n says:

          I am fairly sure DR is Dynamic Resolution. One of the mods in the article enables it.

    • derbefrier says:

      good stuff in that list

    • freedomispopular says:

      Heh. I’m getting who knows what kind of frame rates with every thing turned down to the lowest settings on my Surface Pro 3. Can’t wait to get back home from school and try this on my 7950.

  5. AngoraFish says:

    Is there a mod yet to disable the bloody cloud haze/fog? (not film grain)

  6. Synesthesia says:

    I’ve seen some people see a much more detailed info view when viewing bus lines. They are color coded, and give you usage information, etc. Is this a mod? Or am i missing something? All my lines are the same color, which sucks.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Also, jesus guys, the spambots are way out of control. They didn’t use to be like this. Is there a surge of them or does this have to do with the death of the edit button?

    • gunny1993 says:

      That would be the extended public transport UI and its awesome, cant figure out how to colour code stuff though

      • Canadave says:

        If you have the extended transit UI, it’s really simple. Just click the little blue box next to the line, and you can change the colour. It’s really handy if you run your lines through centralized bus loops, as it’s far easier to keep track of what is going where.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Top left drop down menu has a similar but separate transportation menu. Also gives you overlays for most everything.

    • matnym says:

      The extended transportation UI is a mod, yes. However you can change the color of the transit lines in vanilla.

      Just open the transport overlay (in the overlay menu on the left) and click on a transit route, e.g. a bus line. From there you can change the color of the line. This will change the color of the transit vehicle as well.

  7. derbefrier says:

    Well someone already made a flight simulator Mod link to steamcommunity.com

  8. fish99 says:

    I was hoping Enchanced Zoom would let you follow vehicles right behind, but sadly not. As soon as you get within a certain distance it stops following.

  9. grimdanfango says:

    The dynamic resolution mod is useful not just for convenience. It’s the *only* way to super-sample.

    For some unknown sodding reason, *all* recent Unity Engine games completely do away with a “true” fullscreen mode, and force borderless-window-fullscreen instead. This means neither DSR or G-Sync function at all in any of them!

    This includes Cities Skylines, Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, Endless Legend… and the list goes on and on.

    Annoyingly, the early beta of Pillars of Eternity worked fine, but then they updated to a later Unity version I think, and it went the same way as the rest.

    • hollowroom says:

      This has been noticed! The little red GSYNC light didn’t go on! PANIC!

      Seriously though, it’s a pretty odd decision for the UNITY developers. I wasn’t aware it was all unity developed games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      When people were clamouring for more support for borderless windowed mode so they could alt-tab out more smoothly, I don’t think this is what they had in mind.

      Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    They didn’t get the Mirror’s Edge aesthetic right, but I appreciate the gesture.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      You recognised it immediately though, didn’t you?

    • Muzman says:

      Yeah, it’s more ‘Mirror’s Edge loading screen’.
      You could probably build the real city in this if you were that obsessed. My impression is it was pretty consistent

  11. Gap Gen says:

    Not a mod per se, but terrain.party (that’s the URL) allows you to sample and export topography from Google Maps for use in-game.

  12. Premium User Badge

    JimmyJamNYC says:

    IMHO Chirpy Exterminator is essential. That bit of the game could have been done much better from the get go.

  13. badmothergamer says:

    I prefer SuperChirper rather than Exterminator. It lets you filter the useless “lost my wallet” chirps and removes hashtags. All that really comes through now are the building/service chirps which are nice if something is wrong.

    Other good mods I haven’t seen mentioned in the comments are Pause on Load, More Simulation Speed Options, CitizenTracker, and Tree Limit Increase.

  14. Jakkar says:

    Ladies and gents worrying about performance, please take note that there’s a widepsread but little-recognised issue with NVIDIA graphics cards (I think that’s the distinguishing factor) across all operating systems, platforms and configurations.

    Basically it just runs a bit shit, but since it’s a citybuilder and ‘a bit shit’ is 20fps instead of 50fps most gamers just assume it’s a tougher game to run than is in fact the case, and ignore it. This is however a major issue, with some users on old rigs running a clean 100fps, and people using a monster rig with a new 980 in it getting 30 on a stroll through a hamlet.

    I am sure it will be fixed.

  15. Dicehuge says:

    Dunno if it’s just me, but I’m getting huge framerate improvements with the Isometric view mod, worth checking out for those like me with crappier machines.

    • Ayt says:

      The isometric mod reduces LOD a bit which gives a pretty big performance boost. It is definitely nice for older machines that are chugging a bit.

  16. Goat.of.Space says:

    For the next part, may i make some suggestions:

    The Road Upgrade Mod – Allows you to change two way roads to one way, or change the direction of the one way road without having to rebuild any roads/demolish buildings.

    The Transport Line Manager Mod – There are two mods in this category. One auto assigns a random color to each new bus line you place, making it easier to read how your public transport is arranged at a glance. The other mod offers a more detailed view in the Transport tab.

    The Fudged Population Mod – Since Skylines only shows you how many actual agents are living in the city, the fudged pop mod is a nice way to get an idea of how big your city is in traditional city building terms.

    All Tiles Unlockable – Duh!

    There are also lots of assets that are available which don’t affect only visuals, but rather are variations of facilities/services with similar/reduced stats. For instance the Small Police Booth, Fire Hose etc., which make it possible to take care of service requirements of smaller districts without you having to shell out for the default service buildings. Beware that some of them affect game balance as some assets seem to have been made specifically to make the game easier (service buildings with no upkeep or unbalanced performance).

    To those new to steam workshop, try looking for Collections of assets, rather than downloading each asset one by one, as last i checked, with 30 mods on a page, there are 749 pages of mods/assets.

    On a different note, idk if the game does not allow the modders to make thumb nails of their assets to be placed in the menus. Some assets once downloaded show up in your building menus as a white template building, it looks quite untidy and is fairly confusing if you are using a large number of assets.

    • Gap Gen says:

      In the latest update they added two-way->one way upgrades, btw (right click to change one-way direction)

  17. Bishop149 says:

    Haven’t modded much yet a few assets, unlock mods and basic graphical tweaks but that’s it, figure its early days and a lot of the nice looking more complex mods still have veeeeery long buglists of “Not quite working as it should” . . . I’ll give it some time.

    Biggest mod based annoyance so far is that there are 1000’s of lovely looking intersections people have put up (mine are ugly!) almost ALL of which are utterly useless as they require 100% flat land to place . . . . very few large areas of 100% flat land exist, especially on the more interesting maps. Wish it would let you place these just minus the couple of road pieces that don’t fit.

    • badmothergamer says:

      Try searching within the intersections area for “elevated” intersections. There are several good ones and they’ll give you far more leeway when placing on non-flat areas.

  18. Caerphoto says:

    What I reckon’d be pretty cool is a ‘post-apocalyptic decay’ mod, where your city’s population declines a lot and nature starts taking over again with vines and stuff covering buildings, trees growing out of the roads, that sort of thing.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    [youtube link to youtube.com

  20. Ham Solo says:

    The Mirror’s Edge mod doesn’t make the game look like Mirror’s Edge, but rather like the ingame menu of Mirror’s Edge.

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