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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Loading Screen Mod
Cuts loading times and displays everything loading in individually. As such, this mod is great for troubleshooting large maps.
Force Level Up
Saves bags of time when using custom building themes.
Adaptive Prop Visibility Distance
Increases draw distance (sometimes) at the expense of frame rate.
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.