Best Cities: Skylines mods

Cities: Skylines [official site] is one of those games that if given the chance will swallow you whole. Like any simulation game worth its salt, it’s comprised of so many moving parts that only by digging deep into its systems, mechanics and quirks can you hope to scratch its veneer and begin to understand what makes it tick. It’s a wonderful game once you do, but getting there can be a daunting task – even for the most tenacious of players.

User-made mods, of which there are now thousands, make this process a wee bit easier. It’s been the best part of two years since Alec shared his favourites (which are absolutely worth checking out), however the following list gathers the ones I’ve come to find essential in crafting my own homegrown cities and keeping my populace happy.

That last part might be a lie, but I swear that’s not my fault. (It totally is.)

NB – While all of the following mods work with Cities: Skylines’ base game, the odd mod may be incompatible with expansions such as the most recent Natural Disasters. In light of this, be sure to give each mod’s Steam Workshop page a gander prior to subscribing.

First Person Camera: Updated and 81 Tiles

By tony56a (original version by nlight) and BloodyPenguin respectively

You’ll spot intuitive modder tony56a crop up quite a bit in the Cities: Skylines Steam Workshop page as, besides having crafted their own variety of neat modifications for the city-builder, he or she has done a stellar job of updating older ones which have for one reason or another fallen by the wayside. First Person Camera is one such update and is one I was very grateful to see reinstated last year. While it’s great to play god in simulation games, towering over your creations with might and awe, it pays to go ground-level in this ‘un – to better resolve traffic issues, take a closer look at construction sites, or spy on your townies as they go about their daily routine.

First Person Camera is a great mod to install from the outset, as is BloodyPenguin’s 81 Tiles. An improved version of Steam Workshopper emf’s mod of the same name, BloodyPenguin’s slant on 81 Tiles unlocks all tiles from kick off – as opposed to the base game’s standard 25 – while fixing a handful of bugs in the process. Beginners may wish to play by the rules while still getting to grips with them, however I’ve tended to find the 25 limit more of a nuisance than anything else.

Sharp Junction Angles and Advanced Road Anarchy

By Thaok and northfacts respectively

Another couple of mods for those who aren’t fond of restrictions. While both Sharp Junction Angles and Advanced Road Anarchy can be installed at the same time, I tend to find them a matter of preference in that they offer similar perks between them. Starting with the former, Sharp Junction Angles allows players to create junctions with sharper angles than the pre-set 45° bends, and also allows for far closer parallel roads and tracks. Build into Thaok’s mod is emf’s Road Anarchy which ostensibly removes all rules from road and track placement. This means no limits to slopes, and lets players build roads which reach higher than the tallest skyscrapers.

Advanced Road Anarchy takes the above and adds button, option panel and info text to the process. Creator northfacts does however provide the following disclaimer which should be applied to everything you’ve read so far:

“Warning, buildings roads crazy enough to cause cars to ‘detrack’ will cause your game to crash, possibly lots of other things could crash the game too, use responsibly and keep multiple saves!”

Traffic++ V2 and Network Extensions Project

By Katalyst6

Katalyst6 is another name sewn throughout the Cities: Skylines community and both Traffic++V2 and Network Extensions Project are mods that should feature high on your list.

Traffic++V2 is a spin-off of Jfarias’ now discontinued 2015 mod of the same name that manages pedestrian paths, roads and bus lanes. As you’ll quickly discover – or may have discovered already – when it comes to decision making, the intelligence of Cities’ traffic is at times questionable meaning punters will too often funnel down the same roads even when a more sensible option is present. This mod optimises traffic control by improving the heaviest flow’s pathfinding behaviours, as well as solving lane speed editing issues.

The Networks Extensions Project mod, on the other hand, adds a number of roads to help optimise traffic levels further still. Comprising everything from one-lane one-way streets, to six-lane highways and pretty much everything in between, this mod in concert with the above should all but rid your city of slowdown.

Traffic Report Mod: Updated, Transport Lines Manager and Rush Hour

By tony56a (original version by LisaLionheart), S. Klyte and PropaneDragon respectively

Given Cities: Skylines is about credible simulation, though, these mods will ascertain a degree of a realism is applied to your commuters and leisure travellers. From back to front, PropaneDragon’s still-in-beta Rush Hour bills itself as the mod which “gives all your Cims free watches and teaches them how to read the time.” In practice this means structuring your civilians’ days around feasible timetables, in turn directly affecting their daily travel patterns. PropaneDragon suggests school children will no longer be found studying at 3am, for example, and that traffic levels will be quieter at night as you’d expect in reality.

Transport Lines Manager is a mod suited to those who tend-toward statistics. It provides a shortcut to managing your city’s public transports lines and while it has a relatively steep learning curve, allows you to tinker with just about anything once you get the hang of it.

Traffic Report Mod: Updated is another of tony56a’s fine updates which lets you track individual traffic routes so further alleviate traffic jams. For added voyeurism, this mod also lets you track pedestrians on-foot.

Automatic Bulldoze

By Sadler

Let’s face it: you’re going to mess up at some point. No matter how much you study your town and your mods, laying the wrong road, erecting the wrong building, or organising the wrong bus route is damn near inevitable. This mod takes the heavy lifting out of reconstruction as, instead of renovations taking designated periods of time to be completed, Automatic Bulldoze lets them happen, um, automatically.

I love how direct and to the point this mod’s description is: “Automatically destroys abandoned and burned buildings.” Automatic Bulldoze is the Ronseal of Cities: Skylines construction mods.

NB – In its current state, Automatic Bulldoze does not work with the Natural Disasters DLC.

Reddit For Chirpy: Updated and Chirpy Exterminator

By tony56a (original version by mabako) and simssi respectively

Bloody Chirper. Chirper, as I’m sure you’re aware, is the Twitter-like mascot of Cities that irritatingly recounts the goings on in your faceless civilian community and for reasons I am yet to understand, certain members of the game’s community find the avatar endearing. I do not, as my tone most likely suggests, which is why I consider both of these mods damn near essential when it comes to crafting urban empires.

Reddit For Chirpy is easily the most practical of the two as, instead of fruitlessly relaying what your city is up to, sees the blue bird recounting the newest reddit posts from any subreddit of your choice.

Chirpy Exterminator puts an end to the incessant rabble indefinitely. I’ll let you be the judge and jury on this one, but I know which one I prefer.

More Beautification, Prop and Tree Anarchy and Prop Snapping

By BloodyPenguin

Now that you’ve got the hang of basic city planning, basic city rectification and, crucially, basic city spying, it’s time to make your town look pretty. This trio from BloodyPenguin does exactly that.

Firstly, More Beautification introduces props to the main toolbar button under the ‘Decoration’ heading. “You can place as many as 65531 props in-game,” reads the mod’s description, all of which can be rotated and spun and centred via various mouse inputs. This mod doesn’t actually add any props themselves, however does provide panels to access existing props.

Secondly, similar to the road anarchy mod mentioned earlier, Prop and Tree Anarchy lets you place props and trees just about anywhere you like – be that under water, on the middle of roads, or within a building’s footprint.

Lastly, Prop Snapping makes of laying props easier by allows them to snap to buildings and elevated roads – similar to how asset editor might handle the process. “As side effect, this mod will prevent props from lowering when you lower terrain,” warns BloodyPenguin. “You will have to readjust them with MoveIt mod (or with whatever mod that allows to move props).” As is probably already obvious, this mod requires Prop & Tree Anarchy to function.

Belmont County Transport, New Orleans Disasters and New York City

By mikmeu, MrMiyagi, and Colorado ~76~ respectively

While far from essential, these scenario mods offer something a little different above and beyond Cities’ official expansions. I won’t say too much here as these are most likely best experienced first hand, where you can craft your own tales of success and sadness at will.

New York City in particular reminds me of my SimCity 2000 days, when I’d get fed up of my own dilapidated towns and would dive into one of the game’s many pre-loaded cities. I’d often wonder how in the hell someone could design something so beautiful and professional-looking and it seems very little has changed in the past two decades.

Honourable Mentions

Loading Screen Mod
By thale5

Cuts loading times and displays everything loading in individually. As such, this mod is great for troubleshooting large maps.

Force Level Up
By BloodyPenguin

Saves bags of time when using custom building themes.

Adaptive Prop Visibility Distance
By BloodyPenguin

Increases draw distance (sometimes) at the expense of frame rate.

Citizen Tracker
By CNightwing

Unleash your inner Nosey Parker.

It’s worth noting that these are but a smidgen of the thousands of mods Cities: Skylines has to offer. There are a huge number of humourous entries that I love but have avoided here – such as this Gabe Newell face map – with practical, helpful mods for those starting out or for those looking to improve their city-building skills in mind.

That said, I’d love to hear which of your favourites I’ve missed – shout them from the rooftops in the comments south of here.

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20 Comments

  1. Blad the impaler says:

    Good list, but incomplete without Move it! It’s almost essential for those of us who like to tool around with this game sandbox. Combined with Disable Zone Check, and you’ve got some serious Cities anarchy.

    Speaking of which, Road Anarchy and Quay Anarchy are also desirable.

    Also, while Traffic++ V2 was good for its time, the Natural Disasters update borked it. Traffic Manager: President Edition does everything Traffic++ does and more.

    Nice to see some (more) love for Cities here.

    • meloncrab says:

      Came here to mention these two mods. Other mods:

      Precision Engineering link to steamcommunity.com

      Fine Road Tool
      link to steamcommunity.com

      Also automatic bulldoze is pretty old, a new version can be found here: link to steamcommunity.com

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      Yeah, pretty much. TMPE, Precision Engineering, Rush Hour, Fine Road Tool and Sharp Junction angles are completely essential imo to get the most out of the game. Also worth using is the No Pillars mod, and the MultiTrack Station enabler is pretty handy for making insanely efficient metro systems.

  2. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Thanks, I recently started playing this properly after 2 years of owning Skylines, and some of these look useful. I’m always a bit hesitant to go mod crazy in case they screw up my savegames.

  3. Czrly says:

    I still find it sad that the developers have left it to the modding community to basically create the game for them. CS without mods is completely limp.

    Don’t get me wrong – the ability to mod a game is no bad thing. I’m simply never going to trust these developers, again, because I can only expect that any other game they ever make is going to depend on mods to make it worth playing, not to make a good experience better.

    This is NOT at all like XCOM and the Long War team. XCOM on its own is great. The Long War makes is sublime – possibly for a more acquired taste, though. Still, The Long War is not a required mod, it is an extra. CS is more like Skyrim: pointless without mods.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      Yes but the mods do exist, so what’s the problem? I will continue buying their products BECAUSE of the mod support. It’s a fine thing that such powerful tools exist for people to reimagine their favourite games and make them into something even better. It’s also totally unfair to say theyve just dropped the game by the roadside; the new Natural Disasters DLC is great fun and brings a much-needed failure state. Also temhe scenario editor was a brilliant addition, and let’s not forget the better mods that were implemented by the devs themselves because they knew they could give us better versions of them without being constrained by hooks in the API.

      • Rindan says:

        Yup. My thoughts exactly. Personally, I can’t play KSP without mods. If nothing else, I fucking hate controlling the ships manually. I like building and planning missions, not trying to manually get a fucking maneuver node just right to circularize my orbit or intercept my space station. So yeah, vanilla Kerbal Space Program is awful, but the modded up beast I play has like 400+ hours dumped into it.

        Honestly, the games I have dumped the most time in are the ones that have made modding easy. Modding is a big bright bullet point, maybe the biggest. I know modding generally rates way the fuck higher on my list of cool shit a game can have over stuff like 2000 achievements, multiplayer, and all sorts of other crap people add to games that don’t need it to check of check boxes.

    • cardboardcity says:

      Exactly spot on. Many game designers today are getting away with murder by exploiting the free labor of their users. A similar conversation is being had about an entirely different game, Football Manager, whose images for generated players is worse in this version than it is in v. 16. SI is, IMO, starting to look arrogant. Why people are so willing to give up so much of their labor for free is beyond me. Also, in many sectors of the economy, creating free content actually takes money away from those trying to do the same jobs professionally.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        “Why people are so willing give up so much of their labour for free is beyond me”

        So you’re not into open-source software, I take it? What’s wrong with people giving their time to make something they lime better? It’s all well and good to say that devs are getting arrogant, but those developers a tiny minority of those who offer mod support. It’s kind of like saying that all asians are bad drivers because one rear-ended you.
        There are literally dozens of modern games that have absolutely thriving modding communities in which people share the most amazing things with one another, and I’m for that to continue.

        As someone above me said, KSP would not be the same game for me without mods, but I don’t somehow consider Squad to be arrogant because they let people alter the game, nor do I consider them lazy. Same goes for RimWorld, Prison Architect, Garry’s Mod, Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, and many more.

        Not only that but people underestimate how difficult adding modding support can be – you don’t just press the ‘make this moddable’ button in your engine options, you have to create APIs and hooks into the code, without making them break the code as soon as someone alters it. It’s a fine balance of control and stability, and takes a shitload of work.

      • Pantalaimon says:

        Modding a game is not about being an ingratiated servent to a developer overlord. I think you’re not fully appreciating that modders’ lives are enriched by having a creative outlet, and more than this, that the skills they learn during modding often leads to careers in design.

        Modding is so far from being a one-way street where players are taken advantage of, in the way you describe. It’s one of the most longstanding ways in which talented creatives can hone their skills whilst improving the game they love for themselves and others.

        You should quite honestly find a game you love and start making things for it. You would find it transformative and I’m sure your perspective would change.

        As for Football Manager: you realise this game has been in development probably longer than most/all games on the planet? To accuse SI of ‘exploiting free labour’ is pretty rich given just how long they have worked on it. These people have given over the majority of their lives to that game!

        Sure, some years’ releases are less feature packed or successful than others, but SI’s iterative process is precisely what makes it a great game – and it is still an incredible game without any modding whatsoever. Most developers chop and change without building upon their game year on year, and as a result, burn out or fail to develop features to the fullest. You are not required to buy every FM year on year, in fact, most would advice you not to or to wait until the spring sales of the next year, when the game has been patched or you can tell if it was worth purchasing…

    • Pantalaimon says:

      It’s not fair to compare a heavily modded Skylines two years post-release with the base game. Of course it’s better. It’s better because they enabled people to mod it.

      From a developer standpoint (especially for a relatively small developer like CO) you simply cannot match the creative output of your playerbase post-release. They will play the game more than you, they will play it with fresh eyes, and their combined brain power and technical talent will allow them to enhance the game beyond what you can offer, either before release or after. It is only to developers’ credit that they allow this level of interaction.

      The context of the games release was that it arrived some time after the incredibly disappointing and closed-off Sim City 5 and did everything that title did wrong, right. Sim City 4 supported a community where people had put 100,000s of hours into after-release modding, and these people enjoy doing so. All of a sudden with Sim City 5, they had no creative outlet. CO realised that the game they had to make was one which was incredibly open and conducive to this modding community, and they did make that game.

      To say the base game is limp is pretty insulting and I think you’re guilty of not really properly understanding what it achieved given the relative levels of funding on offer between Paradox and EA.

  4. Boosthungry says:

    You guys should check out the Functional Nursing Homes. It adds a new layer of gameplay by adding working Nursing Homes as a way to deal with Senior/Death Waves without breaking the realism of the game. 5 star mod, just not as many subscribers.

    link to steamcommunity.com

    • Blad the impaler says:

      Wow, I’d never heard of that one. That’s fantastic!

  5. Eikenberry says:

    Can I please say thank you for posting this? I recently got back into C:S since it launched, and it appears a lot of the mods I had installed were obsolete/dead/failing. Sometimes it’s difficult keeping track of all the new/better mods out there. Thank you!

  6. Neurotic says:

    I highly recommend Transport Lines Manager for the simple fact that it allows you to re-colour each and every transport line individually. This is an *enormous* help when you’ve got lots of buses, trains, trams and underground trains going.

  7. Doubler says:

    Is there a mod that just lets you buy up to 25 tiles again? The old one still appears to be broken.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      There is a better mod which allows you to unlock all 81 squares of a given map. Pretty sure it’s just called ’81 Tiles’.

  8. Gap Gen says:

    I enjoyed my time with the Mars map, if only because you can turn the Valles Marineris into a big sewer: link to steamcommunity.com

    (It also gives you most of the buildings and $1M right from the start, which is a nice change from the usual levelling up)

  9. RafaMarioFan says:

    2017 some people still think Traffic++ is a best choice of traffic mod than Traffic Manager: President edition?

    TMPE does everything Traffic++ does and MORE. With a MUCH smarter traffic AI.