Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines

1,092 ratings
How to Bypass the Paradox Launcher (All Platforms)
By Celeste
Bypass the Paradox Launcher. Boot up your game a minute faster! This guide works on game versions 1.12.3 through 1.14.1.
(This was once the #1 guide of the year on Steam for Cities: Skylines, for very, very obvious reasons!).

This guide is applicable primarily for Cities Skylines, but also works for Europa Universalis IV, Stellaris, Crusader Kings 3, and potentially other Paradox Interactive games.
Version 1.14.x
The "Traditional Method" (for MS Windows), the macOS method (on macOS 12.x.x) and the Linux method all work on patch 1.14.

Latest version tested: 1.14.0-f4

Some methods showcased in this guide are apparently also compatible with Europa Universalis 4 and Stellaris (notably the Traditional Method), and potentially other video games published by Paradox Interactive, but no guarantees are given.
This is a quick and easy guide on how to bypass the Paradox Launcher implemented in the last update. Tested on Windows 7 thru 11, macOS Mojave and later, Ubuntu 18.04 and Debian 10. Bypassing the launcher can easily speed up Cities Skylines startup times by an entire minute (or more), and prevent telemetry (your own data) from being sent to three different servers across two different continents.

I've outlined four different methods to bypass the Paradox Launcher below:
  • The Traditional Method is the most reliable method. It is harder to perform than the Fast Method.
  • The Fast Method is fast and easy to set up. Not guaranteed to work though.
  • The Linux Method works on various GNU/Linux distributions.
  • The Mac OS Method works on Mac OS.
  • The Steam Overlay-enabled Method, for Windows, allows the Steam Overlay to work, but will have to be re-done every update.
  • Not Paradox Launcher, by Coyotee, offers an integrated solution to removing the Paradox Launcher. It works on all platforms!
Traditional Method (Windows)
The most reliable for bypassing the Paradox Launcher involves creating a batch file, and modifying your Steam launch options. This method will continue to work after future updates, unlike the "fast method" that will be described below.

Step 1: Uninstall the Paradox Launcher.

This should be pretty simple - go to the Control Panel and uninstall the Paradox Launcher, if it is already installed.

Step 2: Create a batch file

Go to the directory where Cities Skylines is installed: by default, this is
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Cities_Skylines
Open Windows Explorer / File Explorer, and navigate to the install directory (copy-paste the link above if you installed it in the default directory). Turn on file extensions (View tab on Windows 10, Tools on Windows 7). Create a text file. Rename the text file "Cities.bat", making sure the file extension is changed.

This is how the file should look like.

Step 3: Edit the batch file

Open the batch file in Notepad, by right clicking it and clicking on "Edit". Within it, paste the following text:
Cities.exe %command%
. Save the file.

Note: Typical launch options / modifiers (e.g. --noWorkshop) work, but need to be placed between "Cities.exe" and "%command%" in the Cities.bat file, and not in the launch options (as detailed below in Step 4), or else they will not work.

Addendum: If you want to hide the command prompt window associated with launching the game via the method described in this guide, replace the code in the batch file with the following:

start Cities.exe %command%

Step 4: Integrate the batch file with Steam

By this point, if you double-click on the batch file, you should be able to launch the game WITHOUT the Paradox Launcher -- however, this isn't guaranteed. If the Paradox Launcher tries to install itself, just uninstall it again, and continue with Step 4. If it works, congrats - however, if you want to launch the game from Steam, you'll have to continue with Step 4.

Right click on Cities Skylines in your list of games, and click on Properties. Click on Set Launch Options. Afterwards, type the following into your Launch Options:
Cities.bat %command%
You may follow the picture below for reference. Do not forget to save!

You should now be able to play Cities Skylines, right from Steam, as if the update never happened.

Note: If you see a command prompt window open while the game is open, this is normal. This is because of the batch file used to launch the game.

Note: Steam Overlay will not work. Screenshots will still work; however, they will be stored at "%localappdata%\Colossal Order\Cities_Skylines\Screenshots". Use F12 to take a screenshot.

Step 5: Delete the launcher installer (optional)

The file name of the launcher installer is launcher-installer-windows.msi. It is in the same directory as the batch file you created (where Cities.exe is). It is safe to delete this file after performing this procedure, but only if you've managed to start up Cities: Skylines successfully without the launcher trying to install itself - it's a good way to save 75 MB on your hard drive.

Works on 1.13.x.

Alternative fixes you may want to try (Windows)

There are several other methods which have been partially proven to work. If the method detailed above does not work, feel free to try to methods as detailed below:

  • Directly set the Steam launch options for Cities: Skylines to "Cities.exe %command%".
  • Create a shortcut to your desktop for Cities: Skylines, and then add to the "target" the following: "Cities.exe %command%".

This is actually the first method I devised in order to get rid of the Paradox Launcher. When there's a will, there's a way!
Linux Method (Linux)
Unfortunately, update v1.12.3 is preventing any Linux users from playing Cities: Skylines, thanks to the new launcher. However, there still is hope, if you are looking forward to playing now!

For Linux, follow the steps for the Traditional Method (as outlined above), except:

For step 1, simply delete ~/.paradoxlauncher.

Skip steps 2 and 3.

For step 4 add
/home/USERNAME/.steam/steam/steamapps/common/Cities_Skylines/Cities.x64 %command%
instead of the equivalent Windows launch option, replacing USERNAME with your Linux username.

Thanks mLine for sharing this information!

Note: Mac OS requires a different method, detailed below.
Mac OS version (Mac OS)
Mac support has finally been added! Right click on Cities Skylines in your list of games, and click on Properties. Click on Set Launch Options. Afterwards, type the following into your Launch Options, if you are on macOS Catalina (10.15) or earlier: You may follow the picture featured within the "Traditional Method" if you need more help.

For macOS Big Sur (10.16 or 11), the absolute full path is required. As such, type this inside:
/users/[username]/Library/Application\ Support/Steam/steamapps/common/Cities_Skylines/ %command% [/cpde] Thanks MoneyMakesMurder for sharing the original method, and thanks ArcadeFuhrer for sharing the Big Sur updated version!
Steam Overlay-enabled method (Windows)
This method allows the Steam Overlay to work in-game, but will break after any update to the game. Recommended if you absolutely need the Steam Overlay to work.

1. Uninstall Paradox Launcher.

2. Open a command prompt in the Cities: Skylines directory. To do this...

(Windows 7-8-8.1): right click on Cities: Skylines within the list of games in your Library, click Properties, click "Local Files", and click "Browse Local Files". Afterwards, right-click within the folder while holding down [SHIFT], and you should be able to click on "Open command window here".

(Windows 10): Run a command prompt window as administrator from the Start menu. Subsequently , use the
command in order navigate to the Cities: Skylines directory.

3. Rename dowser.exe. You can use the command "ren dowser.exe dowser.old" in Command Prompt, or do so in Windows Explorer.

4. Run the following two commands in Cities: Skylines:
mklink dowser.exe Cities.exe mklink /j dowser_data Cities_Data


Thanks botcherO for sharing this method!
Not Paradox Launcher (All Platforms)
Thanks to the efforts of Coyotee, a new program has been created in order to bypass the launcher, while also allowing Steam Overlay to work: this method uses by replacing the launcher by a completely different, significantly lighter launcher that's actually useful (toggling game settings, etc.)


-- Current version: v1.3.1

Works on game version v1.13.0. (And later. For now.)

More instructions are provided in the GitHub link above (guide written by Coyotee)!
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wendyinnewengland Mar 12 @ 3:04pm 
Bless you. It worked!!! :-)
est Jan 30 @ 5:23am 
no need for those hops. Just set uninstall Paradox Launcher, set launch parameter to "start cities.exe %command%"
jpopp21 Jan 27 @ 10:23pm 
Thank you!
jreynolds36 Jan 27 @ 5:25pm 
Thank you so much for this. I've been working on trying to play for days.
Overlord Jan 10 @ 9:19am 
@andersenman dont have to be sarcastic. Have you ever heard about google disc or other cloud? What about imgur? You can share imgur direct links to screenshots even here in steam comments.
☠ Xenith Xenaku ☠ Jan 10 @ 7:44am 
This guide was created, so...
GUIJA Jan 10 @ 6:39am 
After a format on my computer I was using again the Paradox Launcher because it start working again. But I got many game crashes. When I click on PLAY, sometimes the logo of Colossal Order didn't load and my computer was totally freeze. I've played a couple of times without the Paradox Launcher and the game charged without problem. Does anyone have problems loading the game through the Paradox Launcher?
andersenman Jan 4 @ 2:52am 
Well, Overlord, by all means, demonstrate to everyone how to have a screenshot embedded in a comment. Go ahead, we'll wait.
Overlord Dec 31, 2022 @ 1:27pm 
@Tkain too much difficult description - one screenshot would tell it all :D or literally state the whole command for example C:\whatever/whatever/cities skylines/whatever.exe
Tkain Dec 31, 2022 @ 11:00am 
Here's a way to get Cities: Skylines working with the Steam Overlay and no Paradox Launcher: in the game's startup flags, enter the following:
[cities.exe full path] --gameDir [cities.exe dir path] %COMMAND%
replacing [cities.exe full path] with the path to your Cities: Skylines executable in double-quotes (") and [cities.exe dir path] with the path to the folder your Cities: Skylines executable resides in, also in double-quotes.