The Death Wave: What It Is, How To Avoid It


Death wave in action

Why is everyone dying? The dreaded ‘death wave’.

Everything is ticking along nicely in your city when, all of a sudden, everyone is dead! There are increasingly urgent skull icons everywhere. No matter how many hearses you put out, it’s never enough. What’s going on? You are experiencing what’s known as a ‘death wave’.

Here, I’ll try to explain why a death wave happens and what you can do about it. We’ll also look at ways to avoid them happening in the first place.

Now, in most cases, a death wave isn’t caused by negligence. You can sicken people with polluted water or noise and ground pollution in their neighbourhoods. It’s also possible to not have enough deathcare coverage. But typically, that’s not what’s going on.

Why is everyone dying all of a sudden?

Cemetery serving the suburbs

The city cemetery. Final resting place for 3000 of you cims.

In Cities: Skylines, people move to your city and live out their lives. They go to school, get a job, enjoy the amenities and eventually die. Ideally, you’d have a steady and relatively constant rate of births and deaths in the city.

What happens when you rapidly expand the city is you attract a significant influx of new people. Unfortunately, a lot of these people are about the same age, which means they die about the same time. And that’s what a death wave is: the legacy of too-fast expansion somewhere in the history of the city.

How to deal with a death wave that’s in progress

Death wave graph

That first big spike nearly finished me off. As your population grows, problem areas become less troublesome as a smaller percentage of the city.

In a death wave, so many people die at once that corpses overwhelm your cemeteries and crematoriums. 100% of your hearses are on the road, but there’s just too much work to do.

If you don’t act quickly, your buildings may get abandoned, causing knock-on problems. As soon as you can, build new deathcare facilities in the affected areas. Make sure they’re evenly spread for maximum efficiency. Then, you just have to wait while the hearses get on the road. Once they’ve dealt with the surge, it’s a good idea to turn off the excess services to save on upkeep. Instead of deleting them, you might want to leave them mothballed, in case of another wave.

As your population plummets, you’ll see shops and factories complaining about lack of customers and workers. It’s tempting to respond by zoning loads of new residential areas. It’s crucial not to do that! A flood of people will move in to fill the spaces left by the people who’ve just died. If you add another surge with new zoning, all those people will die at the same time, meaning your next death wave will be even worse.

Instead, just allow your population to rebuild as naturally as you can. Even growth mean even death rates.

How to avoid a death wave in the first place

Checking crematorium capacity

You can keep an eye on spikes in Deceased numbers, and check local capacity. If crematoriums are using all their hearses, it’s time to add new buildings.

Because a death wave is caused by rapid growth, the best way to avoid a death wave is to grow steadily. Avoid zoning huge chunks of high-density housing at once. Do it gradually, and mix low- and high-density areas up. That doesn’t mean you can’t grow a big city, instead, you should aim for constant steady growth, not spurts of rapid growth.

It’s also important to maintain good service coverage. Check the Deathcare overlay to make sure you’ve got green roads everywhere. From time to time, check the number of ‘Deceased’ and track it over time. If you notice a spike, try to react quickly.

You can also get a more granular sense of what’s happening by clicking on your cemeteries and crematoriums. Check how many of their hearses are in use. Are they all out?  If so, it’s probably time to add a new building.  

When all else fails

How to start a death wave

This is a death wave waiting to happen.

If you keep experiencing death waves and have tried everything else, you could try unzoning your housing gradually, and rezoning it slowly. Essentially, you’d be rebuilding your city to achieve even growth. It would take ages, so it depends how invested you are as to whether that’s worth it.


I hope that helps! In summary: grow your population evenly and steadily. Keep an eye on deathcare coverage and capacity. And don’t react to death waves with new residential zoning!

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