The term “simulation game” can apply to a variety of different games. The best imitation games can be weird and wonderful. They normally involve taking on a role or task, which can be anything, like farming (yes, really), running a business empire, or stealing.
Simulation games can also have crossovers with other genres. Some have elements of war games or even sports, where you can take on the role of a sports team owner or a war pilot. Many aspects of simulation games are macro-management, with strategy needed to create your own scenario, often with limitless possibilities.
There are some incredibly specialized simulators out there, some of which feature on our top 15 list. There are also absolutely classic simulation games in which you can get lost. If you like the strategic side of the game, the involvement a good simulation game can give you is almost unrivaled.
The best simulation games
15. IL-2 Sturmovik
Developer: 1C: Maddox Games
Editor: 1C entertainment
It is one of the most thrilling and thrilling simulation games out there. If you have dreamed of flying in combat, this game can give you the thrilling experience of flying over 25 different types of aircraft across England, France and other European destinations. It has an excellent multiplayer mode allowing you to play with 128 other players on the same server.
A real highlight of IL-2 Sturmovik is the fact that it lets you fight the Luftwaffe in World War II scenarios. The 3D engine provides incredible bird’s eye views giving a truly immersive feel.
14. Plague Inc: Evolved
Developer: Native creations
Editor: Native creations
Plague Inc. started as a mobile game which really fed our masochistic side, and the PC version has even more functionality as you try to infect the world. You control a disease that has just infected patient zero. Your goal is to mutate your “plague” and develop symptoms that can spread throughout the world. Different types of pathogens pose exciting new challenges.
Infecting the whole world can be very difficult when you try to transmit your disease to the most remote islands and spread in planes around the world before researchers find a cure. It’s, uh, disturbing and satisfying.
13. Farming Simulator 19
Developer: software giants
Editor: Focus Interactive Welcome
There is growth in agriculture. It’s one of those simulators that may seem more like a job to start with, but in fact, Farming Simulator deserves to be listed as one of the best simulation games.
It probably helps if you have some interest in farming, but even if you don’t, this game has a lot to offer. You can choose where to plant crops, which ones to plant, and even tend to livestock. The sense of accomplishment that comes with setting up a farm and harvesting the crops to start your own small business, even in simulation, is incredibly fun.
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Developer: Ludeon Studios
Editor: Ludeon Studios
A game with a bit of everything, Rimworld is a hugely challenging sci-fi colony game. An AI storyteller gives you endless opportunities to explore because the storyline is not predetermined. There are unlimited results and Rimworld is a game you can play over and over without getting bored.
This game has aspects of combat and ecology but also involves all the things that make us human. Diplomacy, climate, relationships, and even art all contribute to making this game complex. The graphics are basic, with a retro touch, but with such variety in storytelling, it won’t be a disappointment.
11. Technical support: unknown error
Developer: dragon sleep
Editor: Interactive Iceberg
We warned you that there would be niche games. It may seem like you might as well go to work in tech support, but this game has a lot of charm. Don’t worry, you’re not just answering support tickets and quickly realize you’re part of an ongoing conspiracy.
Tech Support: Error Unknown’s story unfolds brilliantly and lets you make choices about the outcome in this fun little indie simulation.
10. Papers, please
Developer: Lucas Pope
Papers, please start as one game jam creation. You assume the role of an immigration inspector and try to weed out smugglers and terrorists among the thousands of innocent immigrants in Arstotzka fiction.
It’s a simple game made by one person, but nonetheless Papers, Please is a work of art that masterfully blends political statement and fulfilling (and guilt-inducing) strategy.
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9. Two Point Hospital
Developer: Two Point Studios
Two Point Hospital really doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s just a theme hospital for the 21st century, and we’re fine with that.
It does a great job of updating the concept and actually has more tycoon elements for those who like to play business simulators. Two Point Hospital perhaps has the potential for more hours of gameplay than the hospital sim that arrived nearly a quarter of a century ago.
From our review of Two Point Hospital:
Two Point Hospital is very accessible for anyone trying this kind of game, or even genre, for the first time. Two Point’s levels get bigger, more complex, and more expansive as you progress, but its difficulty curve is such that you won’t even notice you’re gittin’-gud.
8. House Pinball
Editor: Frozen district, PlayWay SA
It’s easy to assume that the fun part of real estate development is the real money it generates, but House Flipper proves otherwise.
Buy a dilapidated house, choose how you want to make improvements and fix whatever is wrong, sell at a profit and move on to the next house. If you’re the type of person who spends hours building on The Sims, this might be the perfect game for you.
7. Tropic (1-6)
Developer: limbic entertainment
Editor: Kalypso Media
Sometimes a game series is criminally underrated, and Tropico fits that bill. Apart from being a fun city-builder that demands a lot of consideration, this game is another one of the simulators with a real sense of humor.
You play through bizarre and wonderful scenarios as “El Presidente”, the president of a tropical island. Control trade, immigration, construction and create a thriving community in your paradise. All six Tropico games have something different to offer.
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6. Stardew Valley
Rarely has a simulation game taken off like Stardew Valley. This is another one person developed game with brilliant thinking. You inherit an agricultural plot from your grandfather and take over the crops, but also the community around the valley. You can even get a 2D girlfriend or boyfriend.
Stardew Valley has a Pokémon-style RPG feel and appeals to the 90s kid in us all.
5. Kerbal Space Program
Editor: Private Division
Kerbal Space Program has one of the cutest concepts for the best simulation games: take control of a NASA-style space program, but for hapless aliens.
The Kerbals (cute little green aliens) need your help with their space exploration projects. Build ships and send them to all corners of the globe. The physics to consider is realistic and Kerbal Space Program can even be used as an educational tool.
4. The Sims 4
Editor: electronic arts
Since the original Sims changed the face of simulation games, people have had huge expectations for the series, and honestly, it never quite lived up to the excitement of the first one. Also, the “extension pack” model has come for some reviews.
That said, it’s still hard to argue with the depth of The Sims and that curious escapist allure of leading a second life online. Manage the jobs, lifestyles, and social lives of characters of your own creation in The Sims 4.
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3. Theme hospital
Developer: Bullfrog Productions
Editor: electronic arts
It’s over 20 years old, but this classic simulation game still holds up. Who doesn’t want to run a hospital with hilarious ailments to treat?
Through all the gameplay mechanics that have changed over these 20 years, this game’s humor combined with fun and frenetic gameplay means you can still enjoy Theme Hospital to the fullest. The updated version of this concept may have more modern mechanics, but sometimes you can’t beat the classics.
Developer: 11 bit studio
Editor: 11 bit studio
Frostpunk was released in 2018 to critical acclaim for its unique concept and incredibly well-thought-out approach to simulation, while being emotionally provocative. 11-Bit Studios describes it as a “society survival game” in which you are effectively the ruler of Earth’s last surviving city in a dystopian future.
You have to manage the city in terms of infrastructure and keep the citizens happy and alive. The game tests you every moment. One thing you may not expect is the emotional attachment and tough decisions you make. Frostpunk is sometimes tragic but always difficult.
From our Frostpunk review:
“Frostpunk is a beautiful game that doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of our species, nor pulls any punches with its difficulty. It’s an uncompromising and thoroughly engrossing affair that shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the best new April games.
1. Cities: horizons
Developer: Colossal Order Ltd.
Editor: Interactive Paradox
Who doesn’t love a city simulator? The original SimCity has been challenged with this clever take on the city simulation. Cities: Skylines gives a truly immersive feel for what it takes to create, build, plan, and manage your city.
This is one of the best simulation games you can get lost in as your city becomes as exciting as it is challenging. Cities: Skylines is incredibly well rated and deserves its praise. If you like testing your strategic brain, this could be the dream.
MORE LONG LISTS:
– 30 best PS4 games you should own
– 10 biggest gaming conventions of 2020
– The biggest new horror games of 2020 and beyond
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