Prison Architect (2015)

by Christopher
7 minutes read


Prison Architect is a management simulation game that tasks players with constructing and running a maximum-security prison. With its complex gameplay mechanics, it offers an engaging and thought-provoking experience that explores the intricacies of the prison system.


Prison Architect invites you into the complex world of prison management. Released in 2015 by Introversion Software, it combines strategy, simulation, and management elements to offer an engaging gameplay experience.


“Prison Architect” is a private prison construction and management simulation video game developed and published by Introversion Software. The game was officially released on October 6, 2015.

In “Prison Architect”, the player assumes the role of both an architect and a governor, responsible for building and running a prison. The game is a top-down 2D construction and management simulation, with a partially 3D mode. The player’s role involves sandbox micromanagement themes, where they are tasked with building facilities, connecting utilities, and managing staff.

The player is hired by the CEO of a for-profit prison company to take control of building and running a prison. The player needs to recruit specific staff to unlock some aspects of the game. For instance, information about the prison’s finances is unavailable without an accountant.

The player is responsible for the finances of their prison, and for meeting the needs of their prisoners, such as sanitation. The player is able to implement various reform and labour programmes that reduce the specific prisoner’s recidivism rate. The player tells the prisoners what to do indirectly by setting their schedule.

The game takes inspiration from Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, and Dwarf Fortress. The player can allow additional conditions to be applied to their game, such as simulated temperature, gang activities and more extreme weather conditions, to increase the difficulty of the game and to simulate a prison in conditions nearer to reality.

Players may opt to build a female prison, which necessitates the construction of nursing and childcare facilities for female inmates that are accompanying an infant. A player’s prison is graded by an in-game report according to various factors including recidivism rate of prisoners that have left the prison, overall happiness and violence levels within the prison.

The game was made available as a crowdfunded paid alpha pre-order on September 25, 2012 with updates that were scheduled every three to four weeks until 2023. With over 2,000,000 copies sold, Prison Architect made over US$ 10.7 million in pre-order sales for the alpha version. Prison Architect was an entrant in the 2012 Independent Games Festival. In 2019, Paradox Interactive acquired the rights to Prison Architect for an undisclosed sum. A sequel, Prison Architect 2, is set to be released on March 26, 2024.


While the game does not feature characters in a traditional narrative sense, players interact with various types of inmates, each with their unique behaviors and needs, as well as staff members essential for the prison’s operation.


Gameplay involves designing and constructing prison layouts, hiring staff, managing finances, and addressing the diverse needs of the inmate population. Players must also deal with incidents such as riots, escape attempts, and fires, adding a layer of complexity to the management simulation.


Prison Architect stands out as a deep and thought-provoking simulation game that offers players a unique insight into the challenges of prison management. Its blend of strategy, construction, and management elements, along with its engaging gameplay, make it a must-play title for fans of the genre.

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