Life-simulation video games tend to cross the line between fun and work, which has definitely divided gamers. However, more RPGs over the years have been implementing simulation-style elements to further immerse players into the game, while also not alienating players who aren’t quite into the slow-burn satisfaction and fun of something like Animal Crossing.
These elements have expanded over the years, and one of the most popular implementations of life management in video games has boiled down to building a shelter for your character. Many games allow you to choose a house, but some take it a few steps further and include tools for you to manually build walls, a roof, accessories, and manage the size of it all. Building your own house in a video game is like having a second vacation home that you can disappear to at any time.
Updated September 25, 2023, by Jack Pierik: Perhaps it’s time to move on to a new frontier; a fresh game with novel features and mechanics that will let you explore an open world and find the perfect location to build a comfortable place you can call home. If you’ve ever wanted to build a house from a top-down perspective, let it float across the open seas, or have twisting conveyor belts running through it, the extra additions to this list will be nothing short of cathartic for all of your constructive desires. Homes don’t have to be conventional, after all.
If you don’t mind seeing things from a top-down perspective, the popular, open-world colony simulator Rimworld won’t leave you to build a place to live on your own; you’ll have an army of colonists to help you.
Aside from having to worry about little things like feeding your colonists, defending against raiders, and having the resources necessary for construction, the world is your oyster. You can carve into a mountain and make a gloomy fortress, build in open grasslands, or wherever else your heart desires.
If you want to break from the norm of building houses on land and instead feel the gentle ocean breeze on your skin from the comfort of your own home, Raft is the game for you. As you gather scrap wood, plastics, and other materials, you’ll be able to slowly expand your humble raft into a proper houseboat.
Just, do mind the sharks, will you? Somewhat similar to a teething toddler, sharks like to test out their chompers on whatever they can get their teeth on, including you and the outer wooden platforms of your lovely, floating home.
It’s the Industrial Revolution all over again; except this time, it’s in space on a recently discovered planet. Sure, you’ve got resources to extract for your corporate overlords and a planet to explore, but in your free time, why not make a place to call home?
There might be conveyor belts twisting and turning all around or even in your home, but that’s just an extra bit of character and charm, right? Satisfactory also has multiplayer co-op, so your friends can help out with the building process if you like.
7 Days To Die
Contrary to its title, 7 Days To Die is all about survival. Starvation, thirst, illness, the weather, and the zombie horde are all things that are threatening to kill you. And one of the best ways to keep the zombies and the elements at bay is to build a house.
You get complete freedom to build any structure you want from the resources you find. Most of these buildings end up looking like a mix between a base and a house. 7 Days To Die’s freedom to build whatever you want allows you to get immersed in the experience.
My Time At Portia
My Time At Portia is a wholesome simulation RPG. The basic premise is you’re a builder who has reopened your father’s old workshop in Portia. You spend the game building all sorts of contraptions and making money from them.
You can also spend time building up your house – which is also the workshop. It starts as a pretty rundown place with holes in the walls and floor. Plus, all it contains on day one is a bed. Over time, you can decorate the interior as well as upgrade the size of the building.
Kenshi, developed by Lo-Fi Games, is an open-world squad RPG with some RTS elements. Perhaps the main selling point of the game is the amount of freedom you’re given to do what you want.
One of the things to do is acquire buildings of all kinds, including houses. In many cases, you’ll buy an establishment and maybe make some alterations. But you can also purchase a ruined building and erect it from the ground up. Eventually, you can expand this house into a town as you recruit more allies.
The Sims 4
Gaming’s most renowned life-sim allows you to build a house to incredible levels of detail. In The Sims, every wall, color, and piece of furniture is your own choice.
And with newer expansions and items being added frequently, it makes sense to have it as a game you can turn to when you just want to build. Whether it be a modern apartment, cottagecore, or a simple suburban home, you can get lost for hours in creating numerous living spaces.
Few open-world games have made as much impact in the last decade as Skyrim. There are dungeons, there are dragons, and there’s some good old-fashioned house planning.
Introduced with the Hearthfire DLC back in 2012, and since included with the Legendary Edition and Special Editions of Skyrim, this pack will let you build away. In the main game, you could buy a house, sure, but in Hearthfire you can purchase land – with three different options – and then begin to build your house, bit by bit.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance – From The Ashes
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a fantastic game created by Warhorse Studios in which you play a simple peasant man named Henry. Along his journey, he will need to adapt to the harsh conditions of medieval life in a war-torn land. Now, with the From The Ashes DLC, he can add building a settlement to his responsibilities.
In this expansion, which integrates itself into the main story, Henry is given lordship and the task of restoring an old settlement in a forest. This will be no easy feat, as you must gather resources, money, and take on varying tasks in order to make progress – but what satisfying progress it is.
The game that lets modern players take control of the legendary hero Conan the Barbarian didn’t have the highest of expectations upon release, but players (and fans of Conan) were pleasantly surprised to see that Conan Exiles is an enjoyable and functional survival game that stepped away from mindless combat.
Instead, the game focused more on item management and creating your very own houses to survive the nights and the harsh conditions. As an MMO, you’ll also need to worry about defending your new home from other players.
It was a shock that a series that focused on survival in a post-apocalyptic setting took so long to implement house creation as an integral feature, but Fallout 4 was the one to finally make the jump.
Not only can you put your entire house together, but you have the ability to create an entire town to defend from hostiles and have a thriving economy, despite the circumstances. It’s a lot of fun to manage a town alongside your normal missions, but it’s a nightmare when you lose your home to attackers.
Taking things below the sea, Subnautica has you trying to survive on an alien, ocean planet after your ship went down in a tragic event. By exploring this planet, you’ll gain new technology and resources to help you survive.
The completely underwater setting is unique for a survival game, and exploring the dark depths with your craft is enthralling. You can create your very own submerged home under the water (as long as there is sufficient access to oxygen) and can branch it out into a fully-fledged water base to figure out the next move.
No Man’s Sky
While it wasn’t well-received at launch due to overwhelming hype and expectations, No Man’s Sky has vastly improved in the years since its initial release. With the Next update, No Man’s Sky has become the quintessential space exploration game, with endless galaxies to explore.
With as many planets as No Man’s Sky gives you access to, just as many brand new homes can be created on each one. You can place all of the walls and accessories to create your perfect base of operations where you can relax, or just provide shelter from the harsh conditions on foreign planets.
A survival horror game in every sense of the genre, The Forest finds you taking control of a plane crash survivor, as they search for their missing son. You must take shelter and craft weaponry to survive against the elements and potential dangerous cannibals that inhabit the forested area.
You can create the best shelters for your specific needs, but you may not get a chance to get cozy, as you will need to constantly move forward in order to save the lost son. The Forest is a thrilling game, and no amount of comfy forest homes could prepare you for the experience.
Ark: Survival Evolved
What feels like a spiritual successor to the Turok series, Ark: Survival Evolved has garnered a bit of a cult following despite its lukewarm reviews. You are tossed onto an island full of dinosaurs (both real dinosaurs and imaginary creatures) and have to make a stable house to brave the terrors.
You can team up in multiplayer and figure out how to survive these hulking beasts, and a well-functioning tribe can easily create a protected house that will be the talk of the prehistoric town.
Don’t Starve is a brilliantly animated adventure that pits you against the elements. The title is quite literal, as you are dropped in randomly generated open-worlds to survive for as many days as possible.
You can create your very own house if you spend time gathering the proper materials, and makes not starving a little more realistic. The expansion Don’t Starve Together adds a co-op mode and makes it easier and less lonely out in the wilderness. The game can be nasty to any newcomer, but a good home can go a long way.
Terraria is a side-scrolling 2D survival crafting game, with a randomly generated world. Terraria sees you building, crafting, defending yourself, and making the most of this blocky world. A fine little home can be created to house your equipment and crafting tables, and to protect it and yourself from the dangers that lay outside.
You will also see NPCs coming to live in your creations if you complete enough little tasks throughout the world, so you should make sure to create the sweetest homes you can for everyone.
What else can be said about the generation-defining modern classic known as Minecraft? Forget your normal everyday house: players have created full real-life cities (to scale), gigantic kingdoms with huge monuments, and simple summer homes. The options in Minecraft are so limitless and over the years, the quality of the builds has only improved and the possibilities have only widened.
That is mainly in creative mode, however, as players have struggled to create substantial projects in survival and hardcore modes – struggled, yes, but players have still created special constructs nonetheless. The Minecraft hype still hasn’t died down over a decade later, and players are bound to continue making incredible homes for all.
Valheim is an open-world survival crafting game set in a world inspired by Norse mythology. Its deep and intricate building system not only allows you to construct extravagant houses, but towers, castles, and even cities, too.
There are several different biomes to explore in Valheim, from dense forests to spooky swamps. However, you’ll want to be well-prepared before venturing out into each new area, as the monsters there can be unforgiving.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild needs no introduction. This extremely popular open-world game exemplifies exploration, presenting a world with no limits, where you can go where you want to.
If you have an itch for house-building in Breath of the Wild, you have two options. First, you can purchase and furnish a house in Hateno Village by spending a few Rupees and materials. Alternatively, you can undertake the From the Ground Up quest, which will have you construct an entire town of houses and amenities.