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Tropico Coverart.png
Developer(s) PopTop Software
Feral Interactive (Mac)
Publisher(s) Gathering of Developers (Windows)
MacSoft (Mac)
Feral Interactive (Mac)
Producer(s) Chris Lacey
Designer(s) Phil Steinmeyer
Series Tropico
Engine S3D
Platform(s) Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
  • CAN: April 21, 2001
  • USA: April 24, 2001
  • GER: April 27, 2001
Genre(s) Construction and management simulation
Mode(s) Single player

Tropico is a construction and management simulation video game developed by PopTop Software and published by Gathering of Developers in April 2001.[1] Feral Interactive has developed and published a number of the games in the series for Mac OS X. The games see the player taking the role of "El Presidente", the ruler of an island in the Caribbean during the Cold War era from the 1950s onward.

The game is tongue-in-cheek in its presentation of semi-democratic banana republics, using a great deal of humor while still referencing such topics as totalitarianism, electoral fraud, and the interventions of powerful companies (United Fruit is implied) and the Cold War superpowers (the United States and Soviet Union).

Tropico features Latin-styled Caribbean music, largely performed by Daniel Indart. The game won the Original Music Composition category in the 2002 Interactive Achievement Awards.

Tropico has several expansion packs and new editions, including Tropico: Paradise Island, plus a combined copy of the original and Paradise Island entitled Tropico: Mucho Macho Edition (released on June 27, 2002). A sequel, Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, was released on April 8, 2003. The third game in the series Tropico 3, was released in the autumn of 2009.[2] A fourth game, Tropico 4, was released on August 26, 2011, and a fifth game, Tropico 5, was released on May 23, 2014.


A screenshot depicting the strategy oriented gameplay.

Regardless of any other stated victory condition, the main goal of any Tropico game is to stay in power. If the island's populace disapprove of the player's actions, they may vote their leader out of office. Individual factions and powers can also end or disrupt El Presidente's rule. Rebels can defeat the army and storm the Presidential palace. If the army is dissatisfied, it can stage a coup d'état.

If either of the Cold War superpowers becomes unhappy with the player's regime, it may launch an invasion to overthrow it. In later versions of the game, dissatisfied factions can also stage protests that disrupt key facilities. A successful leader will have to either meet the needs of the populace, the political factions, and the wider political world, or establish and police a totalitarian military dictatorship and watch the army carefully.

In random map games, the player can customize the map of the island, adjusting its size and steepness to personal preference. Many other aspects of gameplay, such as political and economic difficulty, can also be customized to make the game easier or more difficult.

The player is able to issue a number of governmental edicts, some of which require funding or the availability of particular buildings. Edicts are used to achieve various game effects, from appeasing one of the superpowers by openly praising them, to instating martial law or giving a tax break to the populace.[3]

The game calculates a score for the player at the end of the game. This score is based on a variety of factors, including the happiness of the island's citizens, the health of the island's economy, how much money the player has set aside for his own retirement in a Swiss bank account, and the level of difficulty chosen at the start of the game.


Tropico can be played in three different gameplay modes: scenario, campaign, or custom game/random map:

  • Scenarios are predetermined game conditions with defined goals that must be accomplished in order to achieve a "win". The game includes several scenarios, each with a stated level of difficulty. Scenario goals are normally more complex than those available in a custom game.
  • Campaign gameplay, available from Tropico 3 onwards, involves a loosely connected series of increasingly difficult scenarios. In Tropico 4, the campaign involves a series of humorous subplots in which each scenario's goals are connected to a story in which El Presidente interacts with various off-game characters and powers.
  • Custom games allow virtually all starting conditions to be controlled. These include the elevation, vegetation and water coverage of the island, and the probability of random events during play. The custom game also allows the player to choose how many game years the simulation will run for (a minimum of 10 years, a maximum of 70), and what conditions will determine victory (if any).

The game also includes a tutorial level, which teaches the player the game mechanics and controls of the game.

Politics and factions[edit]

While "El Presidente" has absolute rule over the lives of the Tropican people, politics play an important role in gameplay. The player must decide whether to hold free elections, attempt to manipulate the election by intimidating voters, or to reject democracy and run the island as a dictatorship. These decisions will have direct effects on the Tropican people's happiness, liberty, and respect for the leader. Often the player is judged on "democracy expectations" versus "democracy results," which will influence the public's opinion of their leadership. Having free elections increase the respect of El Presidente among the population, but if their support gets too low, there is the risk of El Presidente losing the elections and being forced to resign.

Certain decisions while playing the game can boost or decrease relations with the super powering countries. If "El Presidente" manages to stay in positive view of the Soviet Union and the United States they will supply him with foreign aid money. Through edicts it is possible to create a military base on your island of one of the countries protecting your island from the other and a monthly payment of money. If an army base is established in the country, it may ask for specific tasks and if their satisfaction with you becomes too low they will overthrow "El Presidente." Tropico 4 introduces "neutral powers" who do not provide aid, but having a good relationship with them allow several business opportunities, and they do not risk invading the country if displeased; these include the British Empire, the European Union, the Middle East and the People's Republic of China.

If pushed enough the Tropican people may choose to rebel against "El Presidente", conducting guerrilla attacks against various buildings on the island; if the rebellion grows strong enough this will result in the overthrow of the player. A sufficiently dissatisfied military will likely instigate a coup. Often threats to power can be measured based on a unit's leadership qualities and his courage. For example, a citizen with poor leadership but strong courage may not be likely to start a rebellion, but may be willing to join it.

Most Tropicans are aligned into several conflicting political factions, with some citizens being a member of one or more such factions. In Tropico 4, several factions have an identifiable leader who has a second identity or characteristic that serves as the butt of a series of jokes. The following is a list of the factions, their general demands, and (in Tropico 4) their leaders:

  • Communists: Generally one of the larger factions, they are most concerned with adequate housing, healthcare and employment for the masses, and low pay disparities between workers on the island. They also prefer a pro-Soviet foreign policy. Their leader is generally a farmer or a Che Guevara-esque revolutionary.
  • Capitalists: They stand in opposition to the communists and are a small, but influential faction. They are concerned with economic development, the provision of expensive luxuries, and low crime rates for the island. The capitalists prefer a pro-American foreign policy and are often led by a top-hat-and-bow-tie-clad entrepreneur.
  • Religious: One of the larger factions on the island. This is due to a high value that many Tropicans place on their faith. They often are concerned with access to and quality of religious institutions on the island, as well as the island's morality. Appeasing them can often result in major reductions in liberty as they are swayed by edicts such as "Book BBQ," "Prohibition", "Birth Control Ban," and "Inquisition" The religious faction tends to be led by either a priest or bishop. Having cathedrals and churches on the island encourages the growth of this faction (when citizens go to church they become more religious), but having not enough of them can keep this faction's size down, though its few members will oppose the government. In Tropico 4, the leader of the religious faction is a drunkard who advocates for rum factories (i.e. against Prohibition). Their interests usually conflict with those of the intellectuals and the environmentalists.
  • Intellectuals: This is one of the smallest factions on the island and tends to have the most detractors. They are most concerned with access to education as well as maintaining a standard of liberty on the island. They can be one of the hardest factions to please and occasionally pose a threat to power, especially if the player is running an authoritarian regime. Their faction is often led by a professor or teacher. In Tropico 4, the intellectual faction is led by Miss Pineapple, who reveals her alternative identity as Mistress Pineapple when the first cabaret is built.
  • Militarists: This is a medium-sized but powerful faction mainly concerned with the size and well-being of the island's military. They are one of the biggest threats to power, as armed members of this faction may launch a coup against the player. Prioritizing the militarists' support may result in a decrease in liberty and can cause non-militarists to rebel. The militarist faction is generally led by a soldier or general.
  • Environmentalists: A very small faction. They are most concerned with the natural beauty of the island and reducing pollution. As such, they oppose logging and mining operations as well as most industry. Often they are in direct conflict with the interests of the capitalists or the communists. The leader can appease them by building garbage dumps to contain pollution, or issuing edicts relating to the environment, such as an anti-litter ordinance, but this will generally result in increased maintenance costs and decreased productivity. They can be pleased by frequent planting of trees (which can be done along the sides of roads prior to those roads being completed). In Tropico 4, the leader of the Environmentalist Faction, Sunny Flowers, is also co-host of Tropical News Today, and interrupts guests talking about serious topics to ask them about their hair styles and favorite animal. In Tropico 4 the environmentalist faction becomes more significant than in previous versions, since if dissatisfied it can engage in sit-ins disabling key mines, factories or other sources of pollution.
  • Loyalists: Available in Tropico 4, they seek a totalitarian cult of devotion to the leader. They want monuments in honor to El Presidente's figure erected. They also don't like when El Presidente is criticized. Penultimo, El Presidente's assistant, is also the leader of the loyalist faction in Tropico 4.
  • Nationalists: Available since Tropico 3, they oppose any external influence and respect with them is lowered when too many immigrants are allowed, when workers are paid too low of a wage, or when El Presidente submits to the will of foreign powers, like forging alliances or conceding special benefits to the US or USSR. Their leader is a bald man with facial tattoos and an upside down cross earring, known only by his alias, "El Diablo".

Factions can be manipulated both positively and negatively mainly through edicts and buildings. For example, the player may choose to bribe the leaders of factions to attempt to curry their favor or, if the factions' leaders become too much of a threat, he can have them assassinated or imprisoned. The island's media outlets can be directed to distribute propaganda for a particular faction, and schools can be either parochial or military in nature.


Before starting a custom game, the player may either design their own "El Presidente" character or select one from a list of pre-made leaders. These include real-life figures such as Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Augusto Pinochet, fictional rulers such as Hernando Blanco and Sancho Baraega, as well as miscellaneous rulers and even musician Lou Bega.

After the player has chosen a leader, the player can customize their profile by specifying the strengths and flaws of their character's personality, the means by which they came into power and their social background. These choices affect the attitudes of factions and superpowers towards the player, and can also alter the costs or consequences of in-game actions.

Lou Bega, who is a pop musician commonly known at the time for the song "Mambo No. 5," is also available as a dictator persona. He was included as part of a licensing deal that also saw one of Bega's songs integrated into the German release of Tropico.[4]


Tropico 2: Pirate Cove[edit]

Tropico 2: Pirate Cove is the 2003 sequel to the computer game Tropico. Tropico 2 was developed by Frog City Software and published by Gathering of Developers for Windows and MacOS PCs.

Tropico 3[edit]

On September 24, 2009, German publisher Kalypso Media released Tropico 3 developed by Haemimont Games after acquiring the Tropico license rights from Take Two on November 3, 2008. An American version followed on October 20, 2009, and then the game was subsequently released for Xbox 360 on February 16, 2010. On January 26, 2012, Tropico 3: Gold Edition was released for the Mac OS X by Feral Interactive.

Tropico 4[edit]

On February 1, 2011, Kalypso Media announced Tropico 4, to be developed by Haemimont Games.[5] During the Game Developers Conference, on March 3, Kalypso Media announced that the release of the game would be delayed for Xbox 360 and PC.[6] The PC game was released at the end of August, along with the Xbox 360 version in the middle of October. The PC version includes Social Network compatibility. There are several new buildings (including 'Stock Exchange' and 'Shopping Mall'), 20 new missions, 10 new maps, and improved graphics.[7]

Tropico 4: Modern Times[edit]

Tropico 4: Modern Times is an expansion pack for Tropico 4, released in stores on April 3, 2012, and on Steam on March 28, 2012.[8]

The expansion pack projects el presidente and Tropico into the 21st century, allowing for modern buildings, edicts, and a "third sector" economy (insurance businesses, banks, services, etc.).

Tropico 5[edit]

Tropico 5 was released on May 23, 2014.[9] The game now follows El Presidente's dynasty along four different eras: Colonial times, World Wars, Cold War and Modern Times.


  1. ^ "Release Information for Tropico". MobyGames. Retrieved 14 August 2006. 
  2. ^ "Tropico 3 Coming in October" (Press release). TeamXbox. August 27, 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Gameplay Information". PopTop. Retrieved 14 August 2006. 
  4. ^ Steinmeyer, Phil (2006-08-15). "Inside the Sausage Factory #21". Archived from the original on 2006-05-05. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  5. ^ "Tropico 4 Official Announcement". Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  6. ^ "Kalypso's Official Announcement at GDC". Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  7. ^ "Tropico 4 Official Page". Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  8. ^
  9. ^

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