[Top 15] Best Business Simulation/Management Games

best management games, best business simulation games
Stay frosty, punk.

The world as you make it.

These are trying times indeed! Many of us don’t have jobs, the presence of our families, or even the desire to cook full meals. Yet, and it pains me to say this, despite being trapped indoors for longer than we would have thought humanly possible (oh, the naive days of my youth way back in 2019!) At least we’ve made time for video games. Sweet video games have given us the ability to escape our reality yet again, and none do so as completely as management simulation games. These games demand so much time and attention to detail that we sometimes might fool ourselves into thinking we have jobs (unless of course, you work in the video game industry, then good for you!). Let’s give something back to our videogame messiahs, the management sims, and present the Top 15 Simulation/Management Games that have been keeping us both occupied and sane.

15. Airport CEO

Airport CEO gets us started at number 15.

I hope that for those of us who miss the hustle and bustle of airport life, Airport CEO can offer at least some psychological comfort as you get to live vicariously through this game’s realistic presentation of a functioning airport. As the CEO of *insert airport name*, you’ll oversee the construction and management of this airport and be responsible for its success or failure.

Airport CEO functions as a tycoon management game where you’ll create and manage airport infrastructure, employees, and the profitability of your airport. An important responsibility you’ll have as CEO is to negotiate deals with airlines which contribute a great deal towards the success of your airport.

Passengers are also an interesting facet of the game as the layout of your airport, the flight schedule, the politeness of your employees, and the efficiency of customs booths and baggage claim areas can impact their satisfaction. Thus, the true challenge (and joy) of this game stems from how well you’re able to balance the business aspects of running an airport with the customer-oriented aspects. It’s called Airport CEO, not Airport Enthusiast!

Airport CEO Gameplay

14. Prison Architect

Prison Architect smuggles its way in at number 14.

Prison Architect is more fun than I’d ever thought I’d have in prison. The game challenges players to build and manage prison and populate said prison with the most brutal and uncontrollable prisoners alive. You play as the Warden, hired by a CEO of a chain of private penitentiaries to manage this prison and its rowdy inmates by hiring sufficient staff, building facilities, creating and implementing rehabilitation programs, and investing resources towards combating gang activity or emergencies. You’d also be required to keep an eye on the prison’s finances, ensuring a healthy bottom line by balancing spending and health and safety.

Throughout the game, you’ll be presented with challenges that further highlight how meager your finances are by forcing you to choose between ensuring adequate security and monitoring and going bankrupt. For example, you’ll have the choice of either having enough armed guards and CCTV cameras to monitor an area or being able to pay your prison psychologist to develop new plans to combat recidivism. Furthermore, the added possibility of there being a riot, fight, or fire lends a degree of unease to the entire endeavor. The best advice most players give is to simply cut corners where you can and hope for the best in many scenarios (I mean, sometimes inmates can just “fall” and hurt themselves for no reason right?)

The fully customizable prison experience also gives you the power to add new buildings to your prison complex to treat other aspects of inmate management such as canteens, living spaces, and the yard. If you manage to do well, this can lead to government grants that provide you with the means to further expand these premises and construct additional buildings to cater for female inmates, the criminally insane, and even a building in which to perform executions.

Prison Architect features two game modes, Campaign Mode and Escape Mode. Campaign Mode acts as the default where you play as the Warden where you run your prison complex with an iron fist whereas Escape Mode has you switch roles and play as an inmate attempting to flee. Both modes provide enough to keep even the most prudish players interested and entertained.

Prison Architect Gameplay

13. Planet Zoo

Our number 13 is the wild and wonderful Planet Zoo.

To my great relief, Planet Zoo is not exactly a game about running a zoo (it’s more like a giant nature reserve?). Either way, you get the point. Planet Zoo is about creating and managing your system of habitats and environments that a diverse array of wildlife can call home. And I do mean diverse, as Planet Zoo lives up to its name by giving you a world’s worth of animals to care for and interact with.

You’ll have your hands full being an amateur zoologist as you engage in new research that helps you manage their population and construct gigantic enclosures to ensure the happiness (as much as can be expected in animal prison, of course) of your animal friends and the delight of your paying customers. Planet Zoo starts like any other management sim, guiding you from very humble beginnings to a wildlife expert with an ever-expanding degree of customization at your disposal. Not to mention the realistic sound and graphics create the effect of truly being on a wildlife reserve. 

Each animal species has specific requirements regarding their care, from preferable habitat conditions to ideal dietary requirements and preferred level of human interaction. You’ll especially have fun trying to balance the bottom line with the happiness of your furry/scaly/feathery friends as some exotic animals are rather expensive to care for, yet may not be necessary additions to your zoo.

Planet Zoo has three main game modes: Franchise Mode (where you focus on expanding your multiple zoo empire), Offline Mode (if you don’t play well with others), and a Sandbox Mode (giving you unlimited cash and freedom). The online Franchise Mode also allows you to engage in a vibrant (and probably illegal) breeding economy where you trade your “finely bred” animals with other players. So for all you animal lovers out there, Planet Zoo is one worth picking up, even if it’s just for the chance to interact with those lovely realistic critters.

Planet Zoo Gameplay

12. Farm Manager 2021

Farm Manager 2021 plants itself firmly in our number 12 spot.

Farm Manager 2021 is every agriculturist’s wet dream. Take control of your very own farm and get hunkered down in complex logistics as you plan your operations with meticulous care. Tap into your inner "Old Macdonald" by looking after livestock, planning your crops according to the seasons, managing your staff and equipment, and ensuring the profitability of your glorious estate.

You start small by refurbishing and modernizing an old farm. Initially, this involves clean-up, renovation, and constructing farm buildings (warehouses, stables, housing, etc.). You then move on to acquiring livestock, crops, equipment, and farmhands to populate your farm. Eventually, you gain the ability to create dairy products and other downstream products and even set prices for those products for sale on the local market. 

As the Campaign mode progresses, you complete various objectives like growing a certain amount of a given crop or owning a specific amount of livestock. There are two other game modes, Scenario, and Free-Mode, that give the player the ability to craft their own experience without the limitations of having to complete objectives.

So for all you anal-retentive farm lovers out there, Farm Manager 2021 by Cleversan Software is your chance to apply that nitpicking spirit to something that won’t annoy your friends and family for a change.

Farm Manager 2021 Gameplay

11. Factorio

If you're a fan of the free market, look no further than our number 11 entry, Factorio.

Ahhh the smell of unbridled capitalism (strange how it smells like carbon monoxide, huh?). Get used to it though, because Factorio is a game about, well, building factories. In this management sim, your job is to build factories as far as the eye can see, and have those factories churn out useful items that you can use to build complex structures. However, as you’ll soon realize, global warming is a more universal issue than previously thought.

You start as a simple survivor stranded on an alien world. Armed with only a pickaxe and your wits, you begin building your industrial empire by mining and harvesting the necessary raw materials to start your first basic factory. Eventually, you’re forced to conduct research and engage in exploration to craft even more sophisticated items and expand your factories. Unfortunately for you, you little fracking enthusiast, the locals eventually get tired of your attempts to darken their skies with the stench of progress. What starts as a simple build-’em-up becomes a fight for survival as the alien residents launch attacks on your precious factories which increase with intensity over time and force you to build ever more destructive means of self-defense.

Factorio comes with a default Freeplay mode, a Scenario mode that provides you with interesting challenges, and even a Multiplayer mode. An in-game Map Editor gives even more freedom to the game, allowing you to craft maps if the pre-existing ones don’t tickle your fancy. So go on, spread one of mankind’s greatest legacies throughout the universe. It’s what the dinosaurs would want.

Factorio Gameplay

10. Cities: Skylines

With a simplistic and modern feel, we have Cities: Skylines coming in at number 10.

Cities: Skylines is perhaps the most realistic and straightforward of the entries on this list. You build your modern city out of nothing like a wizard with a passing interest in civil engineering. Remember when you ignored leveling up all the other stats in an RPG and focused solely on Strength or something? Cities: Skylines has done just that, in that the developer, Colossal Order, has done away with trying to make a management-sim game that has a weird story or some gimmick and has said, "You wanna build stuff and manage it? Here you go!”

In Cities: Skyline, you have the freedom to build roads, schools, hospitals, office buildings, and eventually skyscrapers as you plan your model city from start to finish using the game's precise UI and tools. You start small, with a meager space upon which to build and gradually expand as the game eventually gives you the ability to buy adjacent parcels of land for further construction. Beyond simply building, you’ll be responsible for planning aspects of your city such as laws and governance as well as economic and business policies. It promises to be loads of fun for those of us who enjoy a simple, relaxing building game without too much fluff.

Cities: Skylines Gameplay

9. Frostpunk

If you love post-apocalyptic survival stories, then you'll love entry number 9: Frostpunk.

In Frostpunk, mankind teeters on the brink of extinction as it tries its best to manage people and resources amid an ice age in the early 1800s. Take control of the player character, “The Captain” as you guide your small society of laborers, engineers, and even children by making harrowing decisions in the interest of humanity’s survival. You direct your workers to gather resources such as coal, steel, wood, and foodstuffs to keep your citizens warm and healthy while also engaging in world-building elements such as constructing buildings that provide much-needed housing and heat.

Frostpunk also challenges you to maintain law and order by immersing you in the political and social life of your frigid wasteland of a community. As the appointed (up for debate) leader of your society, you are also tasked with making those aforementioned harrowing decisions which include things like choosing whether you should force children to work in the face of a labor shortage or choosing to abandon scouts you’ve sent out to explore to reduce the burden on resources. Every decision has a consequence and impacts your society’s contentment or hope - the two mechanics that affect your society’s morale. 

Finally, Frostpunk allows you to assume the roles of either militaristic dictator or religious fanatic, both of which have an effect on how the story's ending plays out. Dive deeply into the chilling waters of Frostpunk and discover that under the rubble, there is a game that is as engaging as it is depressing.

Frostpunk Gameplay

8. RimWorld

Our number 8 entry, RimWorld, is a management game that places the focus on organizing people and their clashing personalities.

RimWorld is a unique sci-fi management sim that tells the story of people who become stranded on a distant planet and now have to band together to survive in this hostile alien environment. The game stands out from the pack as more of a psychological management sim than a resource management one. That’s not to say that there isn’t resource management involved, but the emphasis is on managing human beings and their various quirks and emotions rather than food stocks or raw materials.

RimWorld frames its gameplay in a creative way that presents the decisions made by you, the player, as part of an ongoing story told to an imaginary audience. Your band of survivors becomes exposed to the hostile elements of this barely habitable alien planet in the form of deadly flora and fauna, aggressive intelligent alien species, and even each other. As the game unfolds, you gain new survivors by recruiting space pirates, rescuing survivors of crash landings, or simply finding wandering randos.

A great deal of the difficulty of RimWorld comes in the form of managing the complex relationships between characters, ensuring those characters themselves are happy, and grappling with the random curveball scenarios the game throws at you. Seriously, this game’s unpredictability guarantees that all those ideas you had about building an idyllic colony will be fever dreams by the time you get at least thirty minutes in. However, it is possible to create an environment where your colonists can find some semblance of stability, peace, and even love. There are victory conditions that involve your survivors being rescued, building a rocket ship with which they can escape, or joining space royalty as part of their court.

RimWorld Gameplay

7. Football Manager 2021

Scoring the number 7 spot is Football Manager 2021.

It’s been a rough year for sports hasn’t it kiddo? Canceled matches, empty stadiums, and financial losses all around (to add to your regular losses, huh Arsenal?) have made for a disjointed football season that had many a football club executive considering working in, I don’t know, lacrosse or something. Yet amidst the doom and gloom of our very COVID season, Football Manager 2021 descended upon us like a messiah to save us from yelling at the TV about bad penalties, to guide us to the greener pastures of yelling at the PC about bad penalties.

Football Manager 2021 by Sports Interactive, places you in the role of the manager of your favorite football clubs as you take your team to title-winning glory. As a manager, you’ll be required to do well, everything! Draft team tactics, sign new players, take part in press conferences, analyze statistics, maintain morale amongst players and staff, and much more. You’ll also be able to manage team tactics on matchday itself, with the ability to decide the line-ups, make substitutions, and yell at your players animatedly in true Diego Simeone fashion.

Football Manager 2021

6. Tropico 6

Our number 6 is Tropico 6.

Ok, I’ll say it. This game makes being a power-hungry dictator look cool. Tropico 6, by developers Limbic Entertainment, is another management style sim-game that has you take control of a beautiful tropical island. As “El Presidente” you’ll have complete control over every aspect of Tropico, your sun-kissed paradise. You’ll be “tasked” (because you run this, so work is like, for the peasants and such) with making sure your citizens are happy, constructing buildings, managing the country’s economy, and even deciding your preferred style of governance.

Tropico 6 has 15 mandatory story missions that double as tutorials, teaching you some essential gameplay mechanics and concepts. In addition, the story itself has many wacky elements that distinguish it from others in the genre. Many story missions will also impose interesting conditions on you, requiring you to achieve certain goals (exporting an amount of a given resource) while restricting your access to key resources like arable land or requiring that you build certain buildings in specific places (eg. A lumber mill on a specific island or in a given district).

There’s also a Sandbox mode that allows you to create your own experience with the game by setting in-game parameters to your liking (the size of your island, its climate, the default happiness of your citizens, etc.). These options give you a great deal of freedom to shape your “banana republic” in your image and live your best despotic life.

Tropico 6 Gameplay

5. Game Dev Tycoon

Number 5 gives us the old Inception treatment with Game Dev Tycoon.

“Yo dawg, I heard you like games, so we made a game about making games so you can game while you game.”

Game Dev Tycoon by Greenheart Games appeals to the lovely creative niche that exists within the hearts and/or minds of all human beings. In this lovely take on the genre, you play the role of a young game developer starting their own video game development company in the ’80s. You’ll have complete control over who you hire and what games you make as you take a walk through video game history from the ’80s to the modern-day era of video gaming.

Game Dev Tycoon gives you the freedom to direct every aspect of the games your company makes from their stories, graphics, and sound to their genres (MMO, Shooter, or Fighting?), game engines, and overall designs. Hire a research team, invest in new technologies, and level up your budding video game company in a true rags-to-riches story that rewards players who have a firm grasp of both game development and business management.

Game Dev Tycoon Gameplay

4. Civilization 6

Divide and conquer with entry number 4, Civilization 6.

When the first voice you hear in the game’s opening dialogue is that of Ned Stark, the Warden of the North himself, you know that you’re about to be immersed in top-tier medieval high fantasy content. Civilization 6 is a turn-based, management-style, strategy game that has you, the player, take control of a notable historical figure as you attempt to manage and grow your empire, all while competing against other famous figures from different countries across various periods.

Civilization 6 delivers a gameplay experience that is as engaging as it is informative with turn-based mechanics that serve as a constant in-game tutorial while allowing the player to experience the game as it unfolds in its unique way. Not surprisingly, that combination hits home like an arrow to the chest with a game that teaches you and punishes you in the same breath. Tough, but fair!

So, what are some things you should know as you embark upon your quest for world dominance? The civilization and ruler you choose to control at the start of the game dictates the path that your budding empire will take.  Some civilizations such as Cleopatra’s Egypt slightly nudge you towards playing in a more diplomatic style (think - less combat, more trade deals) while others, like the Zulu and their leader Shaka, favor a more militaristic approach with huge bonuses being given to combat unit strength and the development of a garrisoned military corps. Furthermore, every civilization allows you to create and promote special units unique to your chosen path which adds a great deal of replay value to the game.

During the game, you’ll want to invest in creating units for various purposes (combat, crafting and building, culture, and science), trade with other civilizations and city-states, and try to keep your empire from….well going the way empires tend to go. So good luck and try not to start unnecessary wars, cause whole cities to starve, or turn into a religious zealot bent on converting the entire world! Or, you know, do the opposite just for the laughs (at least you’ll be doing it fictitiously, right?)

Civilization 6 Gameplay

3. Two-Point Hospital

You might as well get your affairs in order if you manage to find yourself warded at Two-Point Hospital.

I wish I could get a glimpse at the health insurance policies in this weird parallel dimension. At first glance, Two Point Hospital seems like your run-of-the-mill hospital management sim where you manage your hospital, care about patients, doctors, and nurses and ensure the profitability of your hospital. Yet I highly doubt you’d be prepared for the sudden arrival of “Night Fever” or “Premature Mummification” as the illnesses in this game are often wacky, unpredictable, and difficult to treat.

Two-Point Hospital is also about managing a business as you’ll be required to focus on hospital design, patient comfort and happiness, and the quality of your medical equipment. Keep track of statistics that show you where to focus your efforts, from improving staffing and waiting rooms to making prices for prescription medications cheaper. You can even take loans to fund the expansion of your hospital empire (again, you totally care about people, right?). Furthermore, you’ll have to contend with the quirky and sometimes frustrating personalities of your staff who can sometimes throw more than a few wrenches into your plans by being too idle or too confrontational and rude to patients.

Two-Point Hospital Gameplay

2. Spiritfarer

Let your cares drift away with the tides in Spiritfarer, our penultimate entry.

I’m a pretty emotional guy. I’m not ashamed to admit it, and I like a game that isn’t either. Spiritfarer is the kind of game that takes you on an emotional ride through the sobering topics of death and regret yet hugs you at the end of it all, gathers you in a warm blanket, and gives you a cup of hot chocolate. And there’s no better warm blanket than the gorgeous animated graphics of Spiritfarer and its deliberate use of rich, vibrant colors alongside cute animated characters.

Spiritfarer sees a daring young girl by the name of Stella turn her back on the gig economy by opting into a full-time job as a Spiritfarer - someone tasked with ferrying departed souls into the afterlife. Accompanied by her adorable pet cat Daffodil, Stella travels the world encountering spirits whose last wishes she grants before sending them through the Everdoor, the gateway to the afterlife. Along the way, the duo collect resources to upgrade their ship, meet all sorts of spirits with moving stories, and even learn a lot about themselves and about how to let go (I’m not crying, you’re crying!).

Finally, the latest DLC pack, the Lily Update, adds a new spirit (the titular Lily), various bug fixes, some quality of life improvements, and a few new narrative options to the base game. With two more free updates promised by the game’s developers, Thunder Lotus Games, and hours of soothing gameplay already in the rearview, Spiritfarer seems like an obvious choice for a relaxing, captivating evening on the high seas.

Spiritfarer Gameplay

1. Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley captures the number 1 spot with its replayability, charm, and simple, yet addictive gameplay.

Ahhhh simple country living! There’s so much to do in Stardew Valley that it never gets old or repetitive. In this simple but rewarding sim by developers ConcernedApe, you take charge of your personalized character and become a local folk legend by restoring life to a village that has lost its luster. The main story of Stardew Valley places you at the heart of the action as you manage your farm, fish at the nearby fishing spots, forage for various herbs, craft useful machines, and explore the cavernous depths below the town.

There are two branching story options you choose from in Stardew Valley. You can choose to either restore the local community center and establish yourself as a man of the people or choose to take the city in another direction by throwing in your lot with the Joja Corporation, which values profit over tradition and useless things like love and family (booo!!). You also get to know the charming characters that inhabit Pelican Town, your quaint little town in Stardew Valley and realize that these people are just simple folk, each with their likes, dislikes, and ambitions. Befriending them and even getting the chance to forge a special relationship that eventually leads to marriage is part of the fun in Stardew Valley.

Finally, the game throws some basic combat elements into the fray as you explore caves looking for precious metals to mine. Monsters provide a welcome shift in pace to the game as you balance gathering rare weapons and minerals with, you know, being alive. An important thing to note is that in Stardew Valley, the more you do something, the greater your skill level becomes so the possibility exists that you can eventually become the legendary warrior of Pelican Town you always dreamed of being.

Stardew Valley Gameplay


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Just a friendly islander NPC who plays video games and lays around at the beach. Selling coconut flavored side-quests at discount prices.
Gamer Since: 2000
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dark Souls 3 , The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

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