Delightful diorama games we love to dabble with

Miniature scale, maximum satisfaction.

Model railway owners? We finally get it. As much as we love our grand Civ 6 campaigns, sometime all we want to do is tinker away with something small, low-stress, and brimming with satisfaction. Enter diorama video games. 

We don’t have nearly enough room to store twenty model trains in our home, but we do have space for these compact-yet-captivating video games to squeeze onto our SSDs. If the simple pleasure of watching a tiny landscape develop under your guidance sounds like your cup of tea, then settle down with one of these delightful diorama video games for a session or two.

Station to Station

The player selects to build a freight train above a desert landscape with railways connecting cities - Station to Station delightful diorama games
 
© Galaxy Grove

With an intro like that, we couldn’t really get started with anything other than trains, and Station to Station’s micro railways offer an idyllic first stop. Each boxy level of this minimalist puzzle game has you laying down tracks to link together stations and supply points. Complete one connection request and a few more will spring up, forcing you to work with the paths you’ve paved already rather than plan everything out from the get go. 

Complete a link and the surrounding environment will blossom gratifyingly into activity as buildings rise and environments enrich. Don’t expect to get bogged down in management here, though. Station to Station cares only for connections and the paths you forge between them. But if you just want to spend time helping trains pootle back and forth across a beautifully packaged landscape, then jump aboard!

Little Cities

One of VR’s best tricks is granting the player a real sense of scale. In Little Cities, you’re basically turned into a god – albeit one restricted by planning budgets – as you look down at a tiny island waiting to be developed into a bustling burgh. Lay down roads and houses for your new residents, then establish power plants, hospitals, and entertainment to keep the lights on and your people happy. 

As city builders go, it’s a simple one without heavy-handed stats or management demands. But the joy of physically peering down and around the island to watch cars, ambulances, planes, and boats trundle around is palpable. It's like seeing tabletop toys brought to life. VR gaming is best enjoyed in short bursts, and Little Cities understands that perfectly. You can get an island up, running, and even complete in under an hour, making it an ideal diorama to dabble with for VR veterans and newcomers alike.

Urbo

A night time city atop towering pillars of land - delightful diorama games urbo
 
© Door 407

The epitome of chill building, Urbo is a game which sees you crafting towns simply by placing pieces such that matching sizes combine into larger, higher-scoring structures. It’s bit like that 2048 game, but with far less shifting around and no pressure to remember any math. It may look like a city builder, but it's actually a laid-back puzzle game.

Intended as a meditative experience, Urbo gives you plenty of options to set the mood. You can choose the time of day, your surroundings, and also the civilization which inspires your style of building. Urbo’s cities deal more with the soul of a metropolises than it’s actual function, mind. Zoom in and you’ll hear the sounds of craftsmen plying their trade, but you won’t actually see or need to organize any people or industries. Just place down pieces, set up combos, and let your mind unwind. There’s also VR support, too!

Terra Nil

The city builder genre is usually, by its very nature, about smothering natural environments in man-made constructs. Terra Nil offers a welcome inversion of this. Each square level starts as a barren wasteland – the catastrophic result of human overexploitation. By laying down devices like toxin scrubbers, seeders, and humidifiers, you’ll steadily restore the land, generating biodiversity and allowing plant life to flourish.

As you progress, fauna will begin to make itself known too, provided the right habitats arise. Beautifully, the final stage of each Terra Nil level sees you dismantling and recycling all the equipment you’ve placed. The land no longer needs you to sustain itself, so it’s time for humans to leave and natural world to flourish.

Bad North

A small boat of vikings sails to a small island guarded by colorful troops Bad North delightful diorama games
 
© Plausible Concept

All right, that’s quite enough relaxation. Bring on the pillaging! In Bad North’s minimalist real-time strategy, you're tasked with fending off Viking invasions on tiny island homes. As longships sail in from the edges of the screen, you’ll need to position your troops to counter them and save your buildings from being razed to the ground.

Each island in Bad North is procedurally generated, shaking up the challenge you’ll face in stationing warriors around it. The cutesy art evokes a feeling of playing with toy soldiers, but your enemies here are far from pretend. Align your troops poorly or mistime a retreat to recoup and you’ll soon find your humble lump of land up in flames. Delightful? Well, that really depends on your tastes.

Humanity

Humanity is a third-person puzzle game in which you play a magical shiba inu guiding crowds of people across blocky landscapes and into pillars of light. Yes, it’s just as weird as that sounds. Things start off rather like Lemmings in 3D as you lay down instructions to change the mob’s direction or make them perform actions like jumping. Things grow steadily more involved until you reach one of the boss sections, which are so bizarre that we’d really rather not spoil them.

Play the regular version of Humanity and you’ll be leaping around it with the camera tied closely to your shiba conductor. To get the full diorama effect, you’ll need to enter the world directly via a VR headset. This will let you look down upon and rotate the level, creating a sense of scale missing from the flat experience.


Whichever digital diorama you plan to delve into, pair it with a HyperX gaming headset to maximise your immersion.

Associate Editor

Henry Stenhouse serves an eternal punishment as the Associate Editor of AllGamers. He spent his younger life studying the laws of physics, even going so far as to complete a PhD in the subject before video games stole his soul. Confess your love of Super Smash Bros. via email at henry@moonrock.biz, or catch him on Twitter.

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