If you’re looking for a new distraction—and let’s be honest, who isn’t—Mini Metro is the game for you. A calming strategy game that is as beautiful as it is simple, Mini Metro lets players design subway maps for a growing city. Originally a browser-based prototype released in 2014, Mini Metro just launched on mobile and is the perfect game for all urban planning wannabes.
Players choose from 13 different cities (New York, Paris, and more) and are faced with managing a number of metro stations. At first, the game is easy, with just a few trains moving between stations. But gradually it becomes more difficult to keep things running smoothly as people add stress to the system’s multiple lines and dozens of stops. While you can’t control where a station pops up, you can constantly redraw your station lines and manipulate where bridges, tunnels, and extra train cars go.
Each city map brings different challenges, like New York’s rivers or Osaka’s high-speed bullet trains to move large groups of people. There are endless permutations of how you might successfully build the subway, but you always lose the game in the same way: a station becomes overcrowded with no way to relieve the pressure. The whole experience is addicting; I first started playing the game and couldn’t look away for almost two hours. You know a game is good when every time you lose, you think of a new strategy to employ and hit “reload.”
The sleek design, easy-to-use touch interface, and inviting premise notwithstanding, Mini Metro also provides insight into just how difficult it is to manage urban transit systems. Designer Peter Curry told the Verge, “One thing that we do hear often is that by playing Mini Metro people have gained an appreciation for the difficulties that their own city’s metro planners have, and they don’t mind the odd delay to their commute as much as they used to.” Curry goes on, “It’s a pretty good feeling to have added a little empathy to the world.”