From the word itself, simulation games are games designed to simulate events and activities that take place in the real world. Apart from being fun and immersive, these games are also meant to train and educate. A simulation game does not necessarily have a specific set of goals. Instead, a player has complete control of the characters’ actions and behaviors. It’s not that simple, though – it requires strategy and decision-making to create a good life and storyline for the characters.
Simulation games have grown in popularity in the past years. People are getting more and more hooked on games that imitate various jobs, such as farming and cooking. For some strange reason, we are drawn to these games like a moth to a flame.
If you think about it, why on earth would you be willing to spend hours on a game where you are asked to cook a steak for someone else? What’s in it for you? Well, simulation games are designed to reward players for every accomplishment. This, among other things, makes them so addicting.
There is an array of simulation games you can find in every game store. Typically, these games require players to take on a character with odd jobs. Whether it be flying a plane, running a business, or driving a truck, these games are always a huge hit.
Because of the success of the genre, some companies have joined the bandwagon and created sports and war simulation games. For instance, you’ve got games that will have you to be a war pilot or manage/own a sports team. These niche simulators are perfect for those who love strategizing.
Whether you’re looking for a classic or a niche simulation game, you’ve come to the right place. We are here to give you our recommendations. Stick with us until the end to find out what the best simulation games are for 2019.
A Brief History
If you ask someone what the earliest simulation game they can remember is, perhaps the most common answer is The Sims. This incredibly addicting game lets you control the lives and personalities of the characters you create. But, while it has significantly contributed to the success and popularity of the genre, it is not the first of its kind.
It was a 1984 game released by ColecoVision called Fortune Builder that started it all. The game was followed by SimLife and SimEarth, which both taught players about global ecosystems and genetics. Seeing the success of the genre, gaming companies such as the Oliver Twins and Code masters also released their simulator games, including Grand Prix Simulator, Pro Boxing Simulator, and BMX Simulator.
In 1989, game designer Will Wright created SimCity. Fun fact: a study revealed that adolescents who played SimCity 2000 had a higher appreciation for government officials.
What To Look For in a Simulation Game
If we’ve managed to convince you to try out a new simulation game, here are some of the things you need to check when looking for a good one. Only the best simulation games have these qualities.
They Make Difficult Tasks Seem Easy
The best simulation games make you look forward to even the most tedious chores. Let’s take farming games as an example. Farming in real life is no fun at all. Despite having the most advanced tools the world could offer, the time and effort it takes to run a farm are insanely tricky. Farmers have to work from dawn to dusk to succeed. Plus, the work itself is complicated and will leave you dirty, smelly, and in physical pain.
So if that’s the case, then why is it that people love playing farming games so much? Simple. It’s because the best simulation games make arduous tasks such as farming so easy. They give you achievable goals and reward you when you’ve reached them. The simulation game gives you 100% of the fun and 0% of the stress of living the farm life.
That’s what you want: a game that can make menial tasks such as watering crops exciting.
The best simulation games won’t just make you do one specific task and call it a day. You are required to accomplish multiple tasks to progress in the game. For instance, in Harvest Moon, a farming game, not only will you be required to grow crops. You also have to sell them or use them as ingredients for cooking. You also get to mine ores, fish, and form relationships with the neighbors. Yes, some of the tasks may be repetitive. But, the knowledge that that’s what it takes to make a farm thrive will motivate you to keep you going.
Another good example is a survival simulation, where the player is stranded in an unknown place with little to no resources. This unique situation gives the player numerous tasks to survive.
The best part about having to do all these physically strenuous tasks is that you can do so with just a push of a button. With the best simulation games, you’ll feel productive without even raising a finger.
Nothing is guaranteed in the real world. The cost of goods changes depending on the state of the economy. The hard work you put in may or may not be rewarded depending on circumstances. The same thing could not be said about simulation games. The cost of living and the rewards you get in simulation games are consistent and not dependent on external factors. That’s one more thing that makes them a delight to play.
When you’re in a simulation game, all you need to do is achieve the goals required, and you get the rewards instantly. Let’s take a look at Harvest Moon one more time. In the game, your crop takes a few hours to grow. And, the moment you reap your harvest, you can sell them and earn right away. And, as you make more money, you get to buy better farming tools, which means you don’t need to work as hard.
So, compared to real life, simulation games are a lot clearer and more straightforward. You work, earn money, and live a better life. It’s that simple.
The best simulation games make virtual life a lot more fun with the addition of fantasy characters. For instance, in The Sims, you get to meet characters such as Cow Plant and the Grim Reaper. So while your character has to accomplish tedious real-life chores, you also get to look forward to interacting with creatures that don’t exist in real life.
Other simulation games exaggerate certain aspects of life. For instance, they’ll give you mega-powerful farming tools that will water 1,000 square meters of land at a time. Small additions such as this make the game a lot more interesting than real life.
Although there is still a small percentage of simulation games that try to stick to reality at all times, while some may find this a bit boring, others prefer the authenticity of these games.
If you’ve played The Sims at least once in your life – let me ask you something: have you ever only played it in less than an hour? Most people will respond with a ‘no,’ and we completely get it. The best simulation games are so addicting that a player can lose themselves in the game for hours on end.
The awareness that there’s a reward waiting for you when you finish a specific task, it’s hard to quit the game. Since you’re always looking forward to achieving the next goal, you’ll end up getting so hooked you won’t even realize how many hours have passed.
To some, though, it’s not the rewards that matter, rather, what happens next in the storyline. For instance, if you’re playing The Sims, it’s hard to quit the game without seeing what happens if you propose to the girl you’re wooing. Or, if you’re playing a farm game, you’ll be too excited to try out the new tool you were finally able to buy with your hard-earned money.
Types of Simulation Games
Simulation games let you take on various activities and give you rewards when you do. These activities may vary from animal husbandry to dating. Today, we are seeing more and more areas and aspects of life being covered by these games. So if a dating sim is not your cup of tea, there are so many other simulations to choose from. Below are the different types of simulation games available on the market today.
This subgenre allows players to create characters, build their personalities, and control their entire lives and interactions with other characters. These games also involve other real-life responsibilities, such as cleaning the house and finding a job. Social interactions also include dating, getting married, and even having a child. Essentially, the player controls everything about their characters – it is as if they are playing god. The most famous example of such a subgenre is The Sims.
Constructions simulation is a simulation game where players are tasked to build and expand communities. The challenge is not to defeat an opponent, instead, to create something despite inadequate supplies. This subgenre covers business simulations and city-building simulations.
In business simulations, players must build a business (usually a restaurant) from scratch and managing it to ensure its success. It involves learning how to cook dishes, buying appliances, renovating your space, and serving your customers.
City building simulations, on the other hand, require you to build an entire city – from layout design to law creation to tax collection. While these games have different designs, the concept is the same: building something and making it grow.
Admit it, learning to fly a plane is phenomenal. However, it requires years of training and tons of courage. With flight simulations, though, you get to pilot a helicopter or aircraft in the comfort of your home. These sims have incredibly realistic graphics that manage to make players feel as if they’re doing it for real.
If you’re like me who loves sports but do not have the skill to play, then this subgenre is for you. From team to extreme sports, almost every sport in existence has been adapted to video game form. Some sports sims focus on playing the sport, while others place the focus on managing a team. Some games are so realistic they even incorporate real-life players and real-time sports events. And just like real sports, these simulation games are as competitive and exciting.
Dating simulations are a fantastic way to meet potential partners – virtually, that is. These games simulate all aspects of dating. They allow you to choose from a wide range of men and women – from gorgeous hotties to sweet cutie pies to the total creeps. In dating sims, there’s always someone for everyone, and you don’t have to worry about being judged! These games include Doki Doki Literature Club, Dream Daddy, and Hatoful Boyfriend.
For some reason, farming simulations have drawn the attention of people from all over the world. These games involve raising animals, planting and sowing crops, and expanding your farm to earn money. It also includes day-to-day chores such as cooking and pulling out weeds. Farming simulations come in realistic forms – such as Farming Simulator, and cutesie cartoons, like Harvest Moon.
Survival Simulations challenge you to go through the struggles of being stranded in a deserted place. It tests whether you have the skills and strength to survive and adapt in an abandoned land without having to be thrown in one. The game starts with you having to build shelter and fend for yourself, given limited supplies. As you progress in the game, you’ll encounter more challenging tasks such as surviving animal/enemy attacks.
Card Game Simulations
Who says you can’t play casino at home? With simulation games, you can enjoy playing poker, blackjack, and other card and casino games without having to bet your entire savings.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are so many other simulators that will suit almost every person’s preferences. Want to know what it’s like to operate on someone? No problem: there are games where you could play the role of a surgeon. Want to be a soldier for a game? There are a ton of soldier sims out there that will make you feel as if you are fighting in a real war. When it comes to simulation games, your options are limitless.
Why Are People So Hooked on Simulation Games?
Now, you may be wondering, what is it specifically that makes these simulation games so addicting? What makes playing a game that mimics the real world that interesting? To answer this question, we need to understand what motivates and demotivates us as humans.
Let’s take a look at a theory in psychology called ‘self-determination theory.’ Theorized in the 1970s by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, it supposes that people are motivated to do things that give them relatedness, competence, and autonomy.
Relatedness refers to a thing or concept that makes us feel valued. The best simulation games do so by rewarding players when, for instance, they save dozens of people stuck in a burning building.
Competence is measured by how much a particular activity improves people’s skills. For instance, players feel competent when they accomplish a difficult task or win a challenging sports match.
Lastly, autonomy refers to the freedom people have to choose from a variety of options. The fact that simulation games give players infinite possibilities such as what their character wears or what crops they’ll grow gives them autonomy.
Both relatedness and competence are present in almost every video game. But, when it comes to autonomy, the best simulation games that genuinely knock it out of the park. Players get to virtually choose and decide for their characters completely without suffering any consequences. In the real world, everything we do comes with repercussions.
The Best Simulation Games for 2019
If you’re looking for a few hundred hours to kill, we highly recommend that you try these addicting simulation games! We promise they won’t disappoint.
Best City Building Simulator – Cities: Skylines
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac
PC system minimum requirements:
- Operating System – Windows 7 or higher (64bit), Linux Ubuntu 12.04, Mac OSX 10.9
- Memory – 6 GB
- Audio – DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card
- Disk Storage Space – 4GB
If you’ve ever wanted the power to build your city and immerse yourself in it, then Cities: Skylines is the game for you. Keeping the feel of its legendary predecessors like SimCity, Cities: Skylines ups the ante by being the most realistic and most detailed city building simulator to date. Build a city however you see fit and lead your virtual metropolis just the way you like it.
But just like a real city, it isn’t just about the buildings. Taxes, healthcare, economy, all play a factor, and all have to be managed by you. Even the laws are on your fingertips. No pets allowed? Pour all money to education? It’s all up to you.
And you can build the city wherever you want. Put up a luxurious seaside town or create a bustling industrial complex in the heartland. The choice is yours.
- Realistic challenges – essential elements like taxes, electricity, water, and citizen morale all have to be balanced and managed by you. The citizens of your town will respond accordingly to all your actions, just like in a real city.
- Day and night system. Every hour of the city day matters in this game. Traffic is lighter at night, but the risks for other elements also increase. Daylight produces more activity but also causes more issues as well. It is up to you to keep everything balanced.
- Cutting-edge traffic simulation – the bane of each city is how to manage vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and Cities: Skylines delivers. The fate of the city’s success rests on how well you can handle this element.
- Extensive modding community and support – take charge of other cities from other players, share your own, or help each other out through mods and the community.
Best Driving/Racing Simulation – Forza Motorsport 7
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
PC system minimum requirements:
- Operating System – Windows 10 64 bit
- Processor – Intel Core i5-750 2.67GHz
- Graphics Card – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 2GB / AMD R7 250X 2GB
- Memory – 6 GB
- Audio – DirectX® 12.0c compatible sound card
Because it strikes a balance between realism and fun, the Forza Motorsport series has always taken the top spot in the list of best driving simulation games. And the latest installment, Forza Motorsport 7, is no exception. It is a beautifully made game with cutting edge graphics that take driving immersion to the next level.
While it is much more challenging than most racing games in the market today, it doesn’t take the difficulty and realism to a level that won’t be entertaining anymore. It strikes a balance between gaming and simulation to provide a truly unique driving experience.
One downside, however, is that with amazing graphics and realism comes the need for cutting edge hardware. Forza Motorsport 7 is one of the most brutally demanding driving sims in terms of PC hardware requirements. However, the developer has produced options for lower-end machines. To truly get the best it has to offer, however, you will need some serious machinery.
- Cars. Lots of Cars – Forza Motorsport 7 has an inventory of over 700 vehicles to choose from. But these cars aren’t just shells that you will control on a track. Each one can be viewed in great detail from the inside out, using the Fortavista vehicle viewing mode. It is truly the car fan’s ultimate dream simulation.
- A large Number of Racetracks – Forza Motorsport 7 features 200 race tracks in 30 different environments. And each track and location has its own unique dynamic weather system. This allows you to drive any car in nearly any scenario.
- Customizable Cars – from body kits to wheels, suspension stiffness, and aerodynamics, each vehicle can be customized to your liking and personal driving style.
- Customizable Avatar – it’s not just about the cars in this game, because it is also about the driver. The “Drivatar” can be customized to have any gender, body type, and clothing. There are a total of 375 unlockable features, and Driver Gear sets you can progress through as you play.
- Different Camera Views – along with the classic camera views the Forza series has already used, a new camera view called “Driver” gives a more realistic vantage point when driving the car.
- Downloadable Content – the game includes numerous DLCs to add even more flavor to the already expansive game
Best Flight Simulator Game – X-Plane 11
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
PC system minimum requirements:
- Operating System – Windows 7 or higher 64 bit, various Linux, Mac OS X 10.10 or higher
- Processor – Intel Core i5-750 2.67GHz or AMD equivalent
- Graphics Card – NVIDIA GeForce 420 or higher / AMD HD5000 or higher
- Memory – 8 GB
- Audio – DirectX® 11.0c compatible sound card
When it comes to taking to the skies, there are lots of flight simulators out there. But one of, if not the king of modern flight sims is X-Plane 11. This cutting-edge flight sim offers ultra-realism, including proper physics, accurate cockpits and controls, and more. Of course, flying around the world won’t be a complete experience, if the world itself doesn’t look realistic. And in this regard, X-Plane 11 delivers, with high-quality environmental models and scenery.
While the controls can be a bit daunting for the average gamer, the game takes great care to guide newcomers to the genre. This allows beginners to get a feel of what it takes to traverse the skies in different aircraft without having to fiddle too much with unknown controls.
And with added VR support, the realism and immersion just went up a few notches.
- A Diverse Fleet – featuring over ten default aircraft that is virtually recreated to the smallest detail. From the small Cessna 172SP to the massive Boeing 747-400, you can take to the skies with different planes that feel, look, and sound like the real thing. Plus, you can add to your fleet by purchasing other planes via the developer’s Extend It option.
- Airports All Over – the game comes with very detailed recreations of over 3,000 airports from many different countries, including large main airports in the largest cities. These include terminal buildings, hangars, jetways, and more, which will give an immersive experience.
- Accuracy and realism – X-Plane is more than just a game or a simulator. Its focus on efficiency and realism has turned it into a tool that pilots and teachers use for their professions. Whether it is for entertainment purposes for enthusiasts, or pilot license renewal practice, X-Plane 11 delivers.
Best Sports Simulation Game – Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 2019
Minimum System Requirements:
- Operating System – Windows XP or higher
- Memory – 128MB
- Storage – 256 MB disk space
Coaching a sports team is perhaps one of the biggest fantasies a true blue sports fan has. And sports simulation games provide just that. But if your focus is on basketball, then it can’t get any better than Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 2019. You can match your skills against various AI opponents as you strive to turn your team into a championship powerhouse. Make and call the different plays, timeouts, and buzzer beaters as you watch the action real-time in 2D.
But coaching isn’t just about winning on the hardwood floor. It’s also about getting the right staff, planning the summer scouting for talents, manage recruitment deals, and so on. This game will truly put you on the coach’s seat, giving you the chance to manage every single detail of being the head coach of a basketball team.
You can even pit your wits against other players! You can join a league or start your own and see who can come out on top as the best basketball team coach out there.
- Complete customizability – from the type of schools to their logos, the different courts, and tournament names, you can control the action up to the smallest detail.
- Your call, your system – you control all aspects of offense and defense. Choose which one to use, see how your virtual players do, and call the shots in real-time to adjust while you strive to get the win.
- Advanced recruitment engine – the game features a cutting edge artificial recruitment system that delves deep into the nitty-gritty details of the player recruitment process. This gives an immersive coach experience, unlike any other, and will provide you with a taste of what it’s like to scout, recruit, and shape a recruit.
- Tournament mode – with 14 pre-season and three post-season tournaments, you’ll get the full college basketball experience as you learn from each game and polish your team’s capabilities.
- You are coaching from the ground up. The career mode of the game gives you the chance to work your way up to the top.
Our Final Thoughts
Those who have never tried playing a simulation game before might mistake them for being boring because, after all, most of the tasks involve daily personal chores. But, what they don’t know is that these games are not just fun but educational as well.
Imagine being able to cook complicated dishes such as a lobster thermidor or beef wellington without going to the market to shop for ingredients. Imagine piloting an actual plane without taking as much as an hour’s worth of training. Imagine harvesting carrots without even knowing how to plant them in real life. With simulation games, all of those things and more can be done in the safety of your home.
What’s even better is that you get to do all these insane activities without having to suffer real-life consequences if you fail. Say you weren’t able to cook for your family today, that’s completely okay! Say you slapped your co-worker for being such a suck-up – that’s okay too! You don’t need to worry about getting fired. With simulation games, you get to do all these crazy stuff that you’ll surely get in trouble for in real life.
Simulation games let you live in an ideal world where none of your choices have consequences. In this virtual world, there are no restrictions whatsoever. You are completely free.