Greater Greater Washington

Fun on Friday: Play the Mini Metro game

Mini Metro is a fun new browser game that simulates a transit network. Stations representing different destinations pop up, and you have to connect them with metro lines that take passengers where they want to go.

Update: I've added more tips & tricks at the bottom of this post.

Screencap of the game, with components labeled.

The game starts off easy. You get one square station icon, one triangle, and one circle. Connect them with a single transit line and you're all set.

But after a few moments more stations start to appear. You have a limited number of metro lines to work with, and each line only gets one train. So the more stations appear, the longer it takes for a train to traverse the line, and the more passengers build up.

Ideally you want each transit line to cross at least one of every station type, to minimize transfers, but that soon becomes impossible when different types of stations begin to appear, like crosses and gemstones.

The game ends when too many waiting passengers build up at a station. The highest score I've gotten is about 500, but most of my games end in the 300s or 400s.

I've noticed certain types of stations seem to represent certain types of land uses.

Squares are employment centers, like downtowns. You start off with only one square, and you have to get quite deep into the game before a 2nd appears.

Circles are the most common station type, so they probably represent residential areas.

Triangles are the 2nd most common. I think of them as shopping areas, but they could be schools or parks.

Other symbols are rare, usually only appear once, and represent specialty land uses. I think of them as hospitals, airports, or universities.

How high can you score?

More tips & tricks:

  • A hub and spoke layout works great in the early game, but once your score reaches about 350 you need to start moving to more of a grid.
  • 6 stations is about the maximum any one line can accommodate before it gets overcrowded.
  • You can pause the game by clicking on the clock.
  • At key points in the game, pause the game to delete-and-redraw entire lines, along more efficient routes. Key points are typically when you add your 5th line, 3rd tunnel, and when the 2nd square appears.
  • The order in which I usually use bonuses:
    1. Light blue line
    2. Longer/faster train
    3. Green line
    4. 3rd tunnel (sometimes sooner if the river is unfavorable)
    5. Bigger station
    6. Light rail (I've not seen this, but rumor says it appears next)
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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I pulled off 526. (This was after many, many attempts.) Post your high scores here!

by Joe in SS on Mar 7, 2014 10:10 am • linkreport

Oh no, this could be addicting....

by JDC on Mar 7, 2014 10:38 am • linkreport

My high is only 328. But I'm addicted now, so...oh boy.

by Justin..... on Mar 7, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

I got 561 on my 4th attempt but other than that have never managed to score above 340 despite more hours of trying than I care to admit.

by Peter K on Mar 7, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

How are you breaking 450? I've spent HOURS on this game already...
It has EATEN my life up... I even registered for Steam to support them!

I've attempted the NYC approach (Multiple intersecting lines), the DC approach (dense core), the El approach (Loop) and am currently running the 'make sure each line has a good mix of symbols' approach...

I think my high score is ~445, probably with a hybrid of the outlined approaches. Sometimes I just like to make it look pretty.

So. Addicted.

by David Friedlander-Holm on Mar 7, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

354 so far. This game will be the end of me!

by dan reed! on Mar 7, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

My best was 551, but luck was definitely a factor. The best strategy I can recommend is to connect the first 3 stations with only one line, not two or three. Also, if you redo one of the lines, remember that you are limited on tunnel building; undoing a tunnel does not allow you to build another one.

I think it'd be cool if you could start with real-life train systems, or even historic ones, e.g., starting with the DC Metro before they added the Yellow and Green lines.

This game is addictive!

by bobco85 on Mar 7, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

+1 for bobco85. That would be an interesting game. Add in the 'loop', etc.

by JDC on Mar 7, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

498 with hub and spoke. Gonna try not having everything go to downtown.

by Richard on Mar 7, 2014 11:55 am • linkreport

why do i think metro is monitoring this as some way to make wmata better? #crowdsourcing

by jake on Mar 7, 2014 12:21 pm • linkreport

I fracking love this game. I've gotten to 600 but that seems to be about the ceiling with my approach. Ive been doing the hub and spoke. every time I add a station to a line, I try to re-route said line to be shorter or more direct.

Wish trains went in both directions simultaneously on one line/you could actually close a loop

by PotomacAveres on Mar 7, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

I've been wasting a lot of time on this game (in a good way). I've been using the hub-and-spoke approach because it seems necessary to avoid squares from piling up on lines not connected to a square. Sometimes, they'll throw in an additional square, which helps create an additional hub, but by that time, all your lines are getting crowded and teetering on overload. I've been able to get close to 500 a few times. I have luck rerouting lines or keeping an additional line unused, and then temporarily creating a line to relieve pressure from one station or series of stations when an existing line is hopelessly long and the train is at the opposite end of your system. But ultimately, you end up with NYC IRT subway crowding conditions circa 1911 and you lose. Everyone loses.

by Michael_G on Mar 7, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

6 hours of my life yesterday, never broke 600 :( maybe im in the wrong line of work.

by BTA on Mar 7, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

remember to route everything through the square initially since there are few of those otherwise they will keep transfering and overcrowd the transfer points.

by BTA on Mar 7, 2014 1:06 pm • linkreport

I've been avoiding this game because I know that I will waste all of my time with it! Looks awesome.

by DC Transit Nerd on Mar 7, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

682 at long long last

by Richard on Mar 7, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

Spoke with the creator via email and for those fo you who didn't know (raising my own hand) you can pause the game by clicking on the clock

by PotomacAveres on Mar 7, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

Sweet game. 308 on my third try, lulz i'm bad.

by Nick on Mar 7, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

What am I missing here? I have been playing this most of the day (whoops, slow day at work!)

Do the squares and such mean different things? My latest strategy has been to try and have every station connected with a 2-seat ride. That and Hub and spoke.

by Kyle-w on Mar 7, 2014 3:40 pm • linkreport

Dang. Perhaps I should have read the whole post. I just got to 495.

by Kyle-w on Mar 7, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

everytime i lose and the metro closes for overcrowding i do my best dan stessel impersonation and say 'the escalators are not meant to be traveled on by large groups of people at once'.

by jake on Mar 7, 2014 4:03 pm • linkreport

Most important tip: The clock on the top is a pause button. Pause and reorganize periodically. Especially if a station is piling up.

Tip 2: If you buy a capacity upgrade, you have to drag it onto the line you want it to work on.

by JJJJ on Mar 7, 2014 4:34 pm • linkreport

498 and half of today. Got to the station upgrade

by Slammin on Mar 7, 2014 4:45 pm • linkreport

the shaped people want to go to the same shaped stations

by BTA on Mar 7, 2014 4:54 pm • linkreport

Definitely an addictive little game. The screenshots on the website show a that in yet, or still under development?

by Distantantennas on Mar 7, 2014 5:05 pm • linkreport

528 after quite a few tries. balancing the lengths of the lines and the destinations on each line seems to help

by Michael Perkins on Mar 7, 2014 9:23 pm • linkreport

Scored 691 :)
And it was my first try :D

by Ember on Mar 7, 2014 11:01 pm • linkreport

667 on <10 tries. Radically reinventing on the fly was the key. I'll try the hint above about pausing while reinventing.

by JLK on Mar 7, 2014 11:50 pm • linkreport

My strategy is to have one-way loops interlocking with each other, not unlike the Olympic logo. A two-way service pattern is to be avoided as the end stations will become overcrowded, due to only seeing a train half as frequently as the stations in the middle. My top score is only 400, so perhaps the strategy could be tweaked some.

by Zmapper on Mar 8, 2014 2:20 am • linkreport

I'm the creator's wife and I found this article and comments section - I've forwarded it on to Peter to review and to check out the bugs you've mentioned. Great scores, btw. Glad you're all enjoying the game! Sorry about that "lost productivity" thing. :-) (oh, and I love the captcha

by Mary on Mar 8, 2014 3:05 am • linkreport

688 after ~20 tries. Wonderful game. Good thing the sun is out, or I'd be playing all day!

by Anorthite on Mar 8, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

736, through the extremely complex strategy known as luck.

Any advice on upgrades? My general mentality is lines > train capacity > tunnels > station capacity > light rail.

The light rail upgrade (which comes pretty late in the game) seems to hurt more than help for most configurations.

by Rob on Mar 8, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

Just scored 679. Probably could have kept it going, but converting one of my lines to Light Rail (which I had not received before) was a big mistake.

Some strategies that I used:
1. Each line should have no more than six stations, unless it's been upgraded to higher capacity, in which case it can handle maybe eight stations.
2. Avoid making passengers transfer, which causes needless station crowding. In the beginning, every line should include at least one square, one triangle, and one circle. Try to maintain that as much as possible as the system grows. Likewise, try to connect multiple lines to the fan, the cross, and the star when they appear.
3. Train capacity is the major limiting factor, so never turn down an opportunity to get more of it. (In other words, a new line or a line capacity upgrade is far more useful than a new tunnel or a station upgrade).
4. Pause and reassess every time a new station appears, especially as the network grows large and complicated.

Needless to say, the game is NOT a realistic simulation of subway system planning. In real life, it's ridiculously expensive and slow to build line segments, but it's easier to add cars to your existing lines. In the game, the opposite is true. In a sense, the game is more like a simulation of bus service planning -- where you're free to re-draw the bus routes to your heart's content, but the number of buses that you can deploy is limited.

That said, it is a fun and addictive game, and I need to stop playing it now!

by Alex on Mar 9, 2014 12:21 am • linkreport

866! A couple of notes before I go to bed having wasted [redacted] hours:

• Loops. Loops Loops Loops. The best strategy seems to be several concentric loops. Looped lines can be longer because each station is served more frequently (i.e. endpoints don't get ignored for too long)
• Have one loop crossing the river twice. Add the second car to that one.
• Always take capacity over tunnels. And grab the larger station. If you have an overcrowded station that's nearly timed out (game over) you can upgrade it.
• You can unconstruct and reconstruct lines leaving stations unserved temporarily to add capacity elsewhere (imagine if real subways were like this—it's really more like a bus).
• Yes the "Light Train" does exist. Smaller capacity but faster. Doesn't seem too useful except for maybe a shuttle line.
• If you're a very good boy or girl, you might get a third car on your train.
• On OSX, it won't run in the background. Which sucks, because the first 5 minutes are pretty mindnumbingly slow before it actually gets tricky.

Addictive. Dumb. Will not put on phone.

by Ari on Mar 10, 2014 12:57 am • linkreport

loops are definitely the way. I just tried it and got a new high score of 802

by Richard on Mar 10, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

My highest score was 513 -- I found that the spoke approach works earlier, then a circle line later on ..... It is incredibly addicting ....

by coneyraven on Mar 10, 2014 12:35 pm • linkreport

Well, I've made it to 658.... And wasted hours of my life. So addictive.

by Edwrad on Mar 10, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

Had just a moment to add the Light Train upgrade. It was indeed a mistake (seats four?), although I could see how it might be useful for shuttling passengers to, say, a remote special use (cross, fan, star, diamond).

A lot comes down to dumb luck: a more mixed-use city results in shorter trips and thus less crowding since you get to "sell the same seat" multiple times. Even 2-3 circles in a row along a line will overburden

Loops have an advantage in this system, where the passengers care about wait time but not travel time.

by Payton Chung on Mar 11, 2014 11:59 am • linkreport

My high score so far is 683. I follow the strategy of using a hub-and-spoke design early in the game, trying to ensure that each line has a similar number of stops and a diversity of stop types, then switching to a grid strategy later in the game, usually after the cross station or the second square has appeared. I always take the option of an extra line when offered; I think adding a line is more useful than adding capacity to an existing line.
Obviously it's unrealistic as a metro simulation, but that's kind of a silly critique. It's fun and addictive, but there are certainly realistic features that it teaches, such as balancing demand along a line so as not to overload your transfer stations, and the transition between small hub-and-spoke networks and large grid networks.

by alurin on Mar 11, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

547, on my 1st day of playing!!!!

by Leo Wagner on Mar 11, 2014 5:24 pm • linkreport

K, so I just go 585! I find a triangle meshing at the city center area (first 3 dots) works very well. Many former east bloc cities metros follow this principle. See for Praha's, for Kyiv's, for Kharkiv's, and for Sankt-Petrburg (look at just M1-M3, and you'll see the triangle.)

by Leo Wagner on Mar 11, 2014 6:02 pm • linkreport

They just released a new version today, where you can have unlimited tunnels, but trains travel twice as slowly while in the tunnels. Makes the game a lot harder.

by Paul C on Mar 12, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

New high score 1067.

I made 4 loop and i used the last line to cover crowded station

by Nicomi on Mar 12, 2014 11:35 pm • linkreport

I average around 350, but I did score 803 one time. It was amazing.

by Swt on Mar 15, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

Really addictive game.
There's my high score : 1175.

by Gargamel on Apr 2, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

At last! 1046!

So addicting it's... unable to be described.

by YoungTransitSupporter on Jun 20, 2014 3:27 pm • linkreport

My highest score so far is 763 and I've been playing for about 2 hours, but I think that's just dumb luck because since then I've not broken 600 (though only just cause my next highest is 593)

by Jordyn on Nov 13, 2014 10:00 pm • linkreport

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