Best starter maps - Cities: Skylines 2

These maps have something for everyone.


Picking the best map in CIties: Skylines 2 feels like a daunting task if you’re new to the building game. Outside connections, resource potential, buildable land – it all seems overwhelming, but while you could just close your eyes, point, and hope for the best, there are a few maps that lend themselves to learning the ropes more than others. This guide lists a few of the best maps in Cities: Skylines 2 to start with and explains what makes them worth your time.

Waterway Pass

A large river snakes its way across a flat, green plain

Waterway Pass is the best map for beginners, with a solid spread of resources, varied landscape, easy access to utilities, and plenty of room to expand creatively. While it might not have quite as much in the way of mineral resources, you have plenty of easy-to-reach land that’s perfect for forestry, animal farming, and agriculture. 

Most of the land is open for construction, and you’ll never want for water. The river runs through the center of your starting plot and stretches to both ends of the map, which means you can drop a few pumping stations down early and have way more than you’ll need for a long time. This is one of the windier maps as well. Aside from the coal power plant needed to export electricity, you can get by with wind turbines alone.

The temperatures drop pretty low here, though, so expect some moderately harsh winters.

Barrier Island

A large island stands alone in the ocean, connected to the mainland by a sole highway

The Barrier Island map is a slight misnomer, as there are only two substantial islands. The rest of the map is on the mainland, which is just a bridge away – along with a railway connection. This map has one of the easiest-to-reach railroads right from the start, which gives you access to cargo shipments and people moving. 

The Barrier Island map isn’t exactly brimming with forests for harvesting, but there’s more arable land than you might think. Farming and oil are your biggest production opportunities here. There’s plenty of wind for clean power, water for sewage and utilities without having to worry about polluted groundwater, and close access to highways on the mainland.

There’s also plenty of land to build on with few obstacles to impede easy expansion.

Archipelago Haven

A bustling city sits in the middle of a large island, surrounded by several smaller islands

Archipelago Haven is one of the more challenging maps to build on, as it has less than half the buildable land as most of the other maps. That’s exactly what makes it so useful as a starting map. The lack of space forces you to think creatively and carefully about your plan, skills that come in handy on larger maps where the temptation to spread without much consideration often results in messy cities and lots of bulldozing and relocation.

The land in Archipelago Haven is conveniently split between a large island and some smaller outlying ones, all of which have several resource hotspots. It’s temperate here and will probably be a lot more exciting once the ports DLC launches in 2024.

Sweeping Plains

A narrow green plain is sandwiched between imposing mountains and the vast ocean

This one seems like your archetypal map with a bit of everything. You’ve got a river for transport and water, an expansive swathe of land for building at mostly one height, and a railroad and highway just outside the starting city limits. There’s plenty of room for harbors, so plan on a vibrant harbor district. 

The catch is twofold. Sweeping Plains has fewer resources than most of the other maps. You get a decent split between arable land and mineral resources, but the volume is substantially lower than the other maps on this list. The northern tiles are all in the mountains, which makes building more of a challenge, and the winters get pretty cold, albeit not as frigid as some of the other maps. If you’re looking for something with a bit more edge, this is the map for you.

Mountain Village

A river runs through a mountain valley with narrow strips of fertile land stretching off on either side

Pick Mountain Village if you want a real challenge. This cozy little valley has one of the smallest buildable areas in the game so far, along with harsh winters, and few areas suitable for residential and commercial purposes. Resources are surprisingly plentiful, though, and you have instant access to a railroad and highway. The wind direction blows everything away from your starting point, so you can safely stuff your industries in one corner and leave the rest of the map pristine and unsullied. 

Pick Mountain Village if you’re familiar with the basics and want a map that makes you think creatively about how your city’s multiple pieces connect.

Once you've chosen your map, you'll need to make some money. Our tips for staying cash flow positive in Cities: Skylines 2 have some advice to keep your economy going, or if you need help figuring out what does what, check out our Cities: Skylines 2 key bindings guide.

Contributing Editor

Josh is a freelance writer and reporter who specializes in guides, reviews, and whatever else he can convince someone to commission. You may have seen him on NPR, IGN, Polygon, or VG 24/7 or on Twitter, shouting about Trails. When he isn’t working, you’ll likely find him outside with his Belgian Malinois and Australian Shepherd or curled up with an RPG of some description.

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