PC Gear Lab

Best CPU for Cities Skylines in 2023

best cpus for cities skylines featured

Cities skylines is one of the most CPU and RAM-intensive games out there and if you are planning on building a gaming rig dedicated to this game, then getting the right CPU is one of the first steps.

For starters, unlike most of the games out there that are highly reliant on GPU and can do well with a mainstream CPU such as the Ryzen 5 or the Core i5 processors, Cities Skylines is hungry for a powerful CPU.

This has a lot to do with the fact that there are literally thousands upon thousands of assets to load and calculations to be made particularly when your city gets larger and the population grows.

Here we look at the best CPU for Cities Skylines from various budgets and also talk about what kind of processor to get.

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CPU Requirements for Cities Skylines

Minimum Intel Core 2 Duo
AMD Athlon 64 X2
GeForce GTX 260
ATI Radeon 5670
Recommended Intel Core i5-3470
AMD FX-6300
AMD Radeon 7870

Source: Systemrequirementslab.com

The official requirements for the Cities Skylines are more or less outdated. The processors mentioned here are no more in production. After all, the game is quite old and was released back in March 2015.

On top of that, while the recommended requirements are great for beginner and casual players, for advanced players, the equivalent of 3rd generation Core i5, as stipulated in the recommended requirements will not suffice.

And finally, the requirements make no mention of whether the game scales well with multiple cores and whether a higher core count affects the performance of the game

The good news, however, is that even the basic entry-level CPUs of the current generation (13th generation for Intel and 7000 series for AMD) are far better in comparison to the Intel Core i5-3470.

Recommend CPU vs CPUs of Today

We can use the scores of the Passmark benchmark to gauge the CPU requirement.

CPU Passmark Score
Intel Core i3 3470
(Recommended Requirement)
Intel Pentium G7400 6771
Intel Core i3 13100 15,152
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G 19,876
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X 28,753
Intel Core i5 13600K 38,484

You can see how astoundingly powerful the current generations of CPUs are compared to the recommended requirement (Intel Core i3 3470).

The point is, for basic gameplay, even the Intel Pentium G7400 can suffice.

However, most of seasoned players would know that once the city grows, it can eat through the CPUs power.

While I do not recommend going for the top-of-the-line Core i7/Core i9 or Ryzen 7 / Ryzen 9 CPUs, I would recommend at least looking into the Core i3/i5 or Ryzen 5 CPUs from the latest generations of CPUs for Cities Skylines.

A few generations back I would have recommend an i7 or Ryzen 7, however, things have changed drastically now.

CPU Passmark Score
AMD Ryzen 7 5700G 24,612
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X 28,753

You can see here that current generation of Ryzen 5 7000 series is more powerful than the older 5000 series Ryzen 7 CPUs despite having a lower core count.

The point being, if you choose to go for newer generation of CPUs, then you wouldn’t need anything more than a mid-category CPU for Cities Skylines

Does Cities Skylines Benefit from a High Core Count?

The video above shows an excellent comparison between a processor with a lower core count but higher single-core performance vs a processor with a higher core count but low single-core performance.

The CPUs compared are the Intel Core i5-6600K (4 Cores / 4 Threads / 3.90) GHz vs AMD Ryzen 7 1700X (8 Cores / 16 Threads / 3.4 GHz).

While the CPUs are old, the benchmarks here are quite enlightening. The first is that a processor with a higher core count DOES NOT necessarily improve the Frame Per Second.

Some scenes show the CPU with a lower core count i.e Core i5-6600K performs better, whereas, in another scene, the AMD Ryzen 7 1700X seems to perform better.

Overall though, the Frame Per Second performance is generally attributed to a better Single Core performance i.e a higher clock speed.

In other words, having 6 powerful cores is better than having weak 8 cores.

However, as the author of the video has pointed out, when it comes to the question of Simulation Speed, the processor with a higher core count drastically outperforms the processor with a lower core count.

Basically, as your city grows, the game throttles the system resulting in slower simulation speed so that it does not tax the CPU performance much. This has all to do with the calculation happening instantaneously. Large the cities, the more calculation need to be done.

Since a processor with a higher core processor can perform multiple simultaneous calculations, it can maintain a fairly stable simulation speed even for complex cities.

Key Takeaway

AMD Ryzen 5 7600x-banner
Intel Core i5 and AMD Ryzen 5 CPUs are generally regarded as great mainstream processors for gaming. If you choose to go for the latest Gen  Core i5/Ryzen 5 they can be more than sufficient.

So what is the Key takeaway? How many cores and threads should you aim for?

Generally, the opinion is that the game does not benefit much from a processor that has higher than 4 cores / 8 threads. Again, while this may be true for the frame rate, it does not turn out to be true for the simulation speed.

In our opinion, single-core performance should be the primary attribute to look for. Meaning, we recommend going for a processor with a higher clock speed as supposed to a higher core count as the primary target.

Fortunately, even the newer mainstream processors these days offer at least 6 cores and 12 threads. This should help you maintain a good frame rate given that you have a good GPU to accompany and enough RAM to handle all the assets.

On top of that, a processor with 6 cores / 6 threads would outperform processors with 4 cores / 8 threads. In other words, multithreading/hyperthreading is a secondary attribute. While preferable, it is the higher core count you should look for when given a choice.

If you have a higher budget, then you can look into high-performance or extreme processors that feature 8 cores or more with multi-threading enabled from the newer generations.

Choosing the Best CPU for Cities Skylines

The choice would depend upon whether you want to go with the AMD or the Intel build.

For a mid-range, I highly recommend the AMD build with the older AM4-based CPUs.

Lower Mid-Range CPUs

Lower-Mid Range Build

A CPU that I often recommend for almost all Lower-Mid range gaming builds is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G. Of course, a Lower-Mid range gaming build of today would be more than sufficient for a very old game like the Cities Skylines.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

AM4 | Vega Graphics | PCIe 3.0 | DDR4
6 Core | 12 Thread | 3.9 GHz – 4.4 GHz

Now the best part about this CPU is its sheer performance/dollar value. For starters, it belongs to the older AM4 socket and hence lacks a few newer features.

It only supports the PCIe 3.0 protocol (newer AM5 based 7000 series support PCIe 5.0). And it does not have support for DDR5 RAM.

However, to give you a short idea about its performance/dollar value, we can compare it with the entry level 13th Gen Intel Core i3 CPU:

CPU Passmark Score ~ Cost ($)
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
6c /12t – 3.9-4.4 GHz
19,876 ~$108
Intel Core i3-13100
4c/8t – 3.4-4.5 GHz
15,152 ~$150

Not only is the Ryzen 5 5600G cheaper in comparison to the latest i3 CPU. It also has a higher performance and more cores.

So why settle for entry-level CPUs, when you can get a mid-performance CPU at a lower cost?

Mid Range CPUs

There are two mid-range CPUs for Cities Skylines that you will find people recommend for the current generation:

  1. Intel Core i5 13600K
  2. AMD Ryzen 5 7600X

With the former being the more popular at the moment.

CPU Passmark Score ~ Cost ($)
Intel Core i5 13600K 38,484 ~$320
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X 28,757 ~$240

But in reality, they both have almost the same performance/dollar value.

The great news is that both of these CPUs support the newer DDR5 and have PCIe 5.0 support.

However, one important point that goes in favor of the Ryzen 5 7600X is that it is easier to find DDR5 motherboards for this CPU compared to the Intel i5-13600K.

Since Intel i5-13600K has support for BOTH DDR4 and DDR5, you will find some motherboards offering the DDR4 and others offering DDR5 support – of course those with the support for the latter are more expensive.

Ryzen 5 7600X, however, ONLY supports DDR5. 

RAM is of PARAMOUNT importance for Cities Skylines. It is perhaps more important than the CPU itself in some cases. You will find threads upon threads recommending a higher amount and better-performing RAM. 

It is NOT uncommon to find PC for Cities Skylines featuring 64GB of RAM! Hence, you may find the newer and better-performing DDR5 RAM support essential for this game. This is only possible with the newer Gen CPUs.

Mid Range Build

Again, depending on your overall budget, you can choose to go for the AMD or the Intel CPU.

AMD Ryzen 5 7600X

AM5 | Vega Graphics | PCIe 5.0 | DDR5
6 Core | 12 Thread | 5.3 GHz

Intel Core i5-13600K

LGA1700 | Intel UHD 770 | PCIe 5.0 | DDR4/DDR5
6 P-Core/8 E-Cores | 20 Thread | 5.1 GHz

Also Read: Best CPU for CSGO

Final Words

All in all, you have to strike the right balance between the multi-core and single-core performance of the CPU for this game. However, in our opinion, a good single-core performance matters more as it can drastically improve the frame rates.

The list of the best CPU for Cities Skylines are all from the latest generation of Intel and AMD processors. You can always go for older gen CPUs if you can find a good overall deal just make sure you look at the benchmarks when choosing.

Abdul Rauf

Abdul Rauf is an IT and computer hardware specialist. Having done his degree in Computer Systems, he pursues his passion of computer hardware through writing detailed blogs and articles to demystify all the tech related jargon for a layman. Besides, hes a huge gaming nut and he's proud of it.

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