[Top 15] Best Simulation Games for PC That Are Fun

top 15 best simulation games for pc that are fun
What's the airspeed of an unladen military fighter jet?

So, simulation games. When we talk about those titles, which I very much love, we’re always faced with the question: what even constitutes a game? This reminds me of a joke about Germans: They drive their forklifts all day on their jobs, and when they get home they spend their free time playing Forklift Simulator. You know what they say, work hard and play harder.

As a longstanding fan of simulation games, I often don’t know what to say when I’m talking with my gamer friends. Flashy shooters and RPGs all have big thrills that can generate some interesting conversation. What about me? Well, I might be a bit shy to admit I spent last week’s evenings piloting a simulated truck.

So what kind of person finds this sort of thing fun? Well, I do. And maybe you do as well if you’re reading this. There’s an appeal in just operating heavy machinery or seeing the workflow of different professions. And simulators can be quite educational as well. Car Mechanic Simulator will not teach you how to take care of a busted engine block, but at least now I understand the basics of how cars operate.

So, enough talk. Here’s my list of top 15 simulation games for PC.


15. Drug Dealer Simulator

The secret ingredient is crime

Okay, I know this is kind of a silly suggestion, and that’s why it’s on the bottom of the list. But hear me out, this is actually a pretty fun game. The secret ingredient is crime. It’s another one of those games published by PlayWay, who mostly publish simulation games, the quality of their titles can be hit or miss, but this one is actually pretty decent.

This game generated a bit of controversy when it first came out because of its contentious topic and edgy attitude. But this isn’t the first game to deal with crime, GTA already pulled that band-aid off a long time ago. And this game isn’t even close to GTA when it comes to violence or graphic content. For all its posturing, this is a surprisingly tame title if you don’t mind foul language.

It really is a more business-oriented game, only dealing with an illegal business. There’s a reason this game is rated for mature audiences. However, if you expect something gruesome, it surprisingly isn’t present.

There’s also been a lot of rumors this game had been abandoned by the devs, but they dropped a new update just some months ago. So I don’t think that’s true either. A lot of people accuse the devs of lying and misleading players, but I think this is more due to bad communication than ill-intent from the devs. Many people say PlayWay has a history of not communicating properly with fans.

Like all simulators, this game is exactly what says on the tin. You smuggle drugs around, there’s nothing much else besides that. The setting is pretty interesting, too. It feels like some police-state version of a US city, fully surrounded by a tall concrete wall that splits the rich and poor sides of town. I don’t know whether this is some sort of social commentary or just a way to put a progression system in a game like this.

It’s interesting how they’ve tied this police-state element into the gameplay. This game can really make you feel paranoid because if the DEA catches you, it’s game over. Whilst there is no ironman mode, the only real losing condition of the game is having your activities exposed and tracked by law enforcement. The more you deal, the more you’ll see police patrols and blockades on the street, and if you aren’t very sneaky, they’ll get you.

So I can perhaps best describe Drug Dealer Simulator as a business simulator focusing on drug smuggling in an oppressive dystopian version of the US with minor stealth elements. This perhaps makes it a more interesting prospect than its trailers.

If you like Breaking Bad or if you’re just interested in feeling like a sneaky villain, this game could be for you. But if you’re looking for action or realism, this isn’t it. It’s a cheap game, too. And I recommend it.


13. Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator 2

Ten Thousand Redcoats VS One MILLION Zombies

This is another silly game. UEBS 2 for short is a simulation that takes advantage of being able to have many simulated agents at one time to deliver simulated battles. Is this game realistic? No. Is it fun? Hell yeah.

The thing is that you can pretty much pitch anything against anything. Tanks against phalanxes. Phalanxes against zombies. Zombies against modern soldiers. At ludicrous scales. It all depends on how much your PC can take, really, the game can simulate as much as your CPU can handle. I have no idea how the developers of this game managed to get to this level of optimization. That is a technical feat in itself.

This isn’t a Total War game, however. It’s a complete sandbox. The fun is in the scenarios you create yourself and how you individually interact with the system. Personally, I love sandbox-style games, but some people might feel it lacks direction.

A quick search on youtube will show the hilarious stuff people come up with in this game. If you can find ways to creatively pitch the different units against one another, you can easily make similar stuff with it.

The game suffers from the constraints of having to simulate hundreds of thousands of things, so don’t expect a level of detail like a more polished game. This game is meant to be silly. But even then, it’s jaw-dropping to see a million zombies rush in towards anything, really. It’s straight out of World War Z. The levels of death and blood after big battles feel almost apocalyptic in proportion.

I won’t put this higher on the list mostly because it’s a very recent release. It still lacks a lot of content, and while the devs look like they’re putting good work into it, it hasn’t yet reached the level 


14. Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator

Fantasy Alchemist Simulator

This is a recent indie title that’s gotten a lot of praise. Potion Craft is a game about running a shop as a fantasy alchemist. But the simulator part comes from you having to cook all of your potions yourself.

There is a huge, open-ended game about using ingredients to create effects. It’s modeled as a 2D map, and every ingredient takes you in a given direction. There are several areas of the map that will cause potion failure, and you can create exceptional potions if you manage to hit a perfect spot. Cooking and tinkering with potion effects is just such a pleasant and relaxing experience. I have to give it to Niceplay Games, this game really is nice to play.

The big pull of this system to me is that it’s incredibly intuitive. I actually really like cooking, and this game actually replicates the feel of it pretty well. It’s not just what ingredients you put on the potion. It’s how much you grind the ingredients, how much water you add to dilute them, and what specific ingredients you add after one another.

 I’m not even getting into the advanced alchemical salts you can craft with your advanced alchemy machine in the basement, those add a lot of complexity and possibilities. When learning how to craft the different precursors for the advanced crystals and making them all, I felt as if I was getting my Master’s Degree in fantasy alchemy.

After you craft a potion, you can save it in a recipe book and the game will make it automatically. But you’ll rarely have the same two sets of ingredients because ingredient suppliers don’t come around every day and the garden feature isn’t fully implemented yet, so there isn’t really a way to guarantee you’ll always have the optimal ingredients to do everything.

Besides, the recipe slots are limited, and you’ll have to innovate quite a bit. So while simple recipes like poison, healing potions, and glowing potions are always easy to stock up on, when a knight comes around asking for a very specific type of potion for a monster he needs to defeat, it’s back to the drawing board. Perfect love potions are also pretty hard to pull off and can sell for a pretty penny.

And you won’t get it perfect every time. And that’s okay. The great thing about this game is that you set your own difficulty in a really dynamic way. Most clients will be satisfied with the most basic of potions, and it will be okay as long as you don’t try to haggle too much. But to get the big bucks rolling in, you’ll have to buy exotic ingredients and learn how to perfectly coordinate your potion-making.

You’ll always be able to play, but there is a significant leap in difficulty between the three quality levels of each basic effect. And that’s not even mentioning that the most profitable potions are ones where you’ll need to add up to three completely different effects. There will be a lot of slow cooking, dilution, and focus necessary to get the hardest recipes just right.

To be fair, this game got a bit of a bad rep because Niceplay went radio silent for months. They continued to manage the community without mentioning any new additions, but they’ve recently given a long explanation about the issues they faced during this period, and development seems to have returned to normal.

This isn’t an expensive game, either. So if you like relaxing sensorial experiences and games that are easy to play but hard to master, this is a definite recommendation.


12. Barotrauma

"A Definite Buy"

Barotrauma is an interesting mix between roguelike and simulator. There’s a whole subgenre of submarine simulators out there if you want to try them, but the genre hasn’t been as strong in recent years. I think this game offers a good balance between its more arcadey 2D look and the feel of a submarine simulator.

Even the name is kind of terrifying. Barotrauma means an injury caused by too much pressure. That’s not what I want to think about when I’m inside a submarine, and yet, if the submarine breaks down you can bet you’re going to get a lot of barotraumas all over you.

That’s what I like about this game. It dabbles in cosmic horror, similar to the Fallen London series. But it also has a feeling that reminds me of the first Alien movie. The videos you have of people playing this on multiplayer are just fantastic. This game is spooky as hell.

One interesting thing is that maintaining your submarine is in itself a huge part of the game. Maintaining hull integrity, the submarine machinery, and keeping the very scary marine life away from your crew are constant worries in this game. And this is why I think it deserves to be on a list about simulators.

It’s heavily inspired by FTL, but there’s also a lot more to do. There are many crew functions to be done. There’s a whole single-player campaign that focuses on exploring the game world and navigating its merciless environment, too, even if the game was originally meant for multiplayer. I’m glad they offered an option for people like me who don’t have any friends.

It’s not nearly as realistic as most submarine simulators, given it’s set in a futuristic horror setting much like the Dead Space series. But it’s a lot more involved than that. Freeing the necessity of realistically running a submarine allows for systems that are easier to interact with. There are tons of aspects of submarine maintenance that need to be taken care of, and a lot of care and preparation goes into everything, this game is a masterpiece of atmosphere, and as such, I recommend it.


11. PC Building Simulator

Maybe this rig can run DOOM?

Have you ever built a PC? Well, if you’re reading a list about PC games, then there’s a good chance you have. I’ve been custom building my PCs ever since my teenage years, I’m writing this right now on a PC I assembled myself. It’s rare to find a simulator about something that I actually know how to do in real life.

I had an easy time getting into this game because I’m pretty familiar with the bits and pieces that go inside a computer. It’s pretty interesting to see how close to the real thing the devs managed to get. As with most simulators, this isn’t an exact replication of the process, but honestly? I think this one comes close enough that you can get a good grasp of how it works by playing it. That’s super educational, and I think that’s awesome.

What I like about this game is that I get to build some crazy PCs that are way out of my price range, but are still amazing machines. The amount of customization and RGB foolery you can do in this game is simply amazing. I don’t think I’d ever get the chance to mess around with a liquid cooling system in real life. A full kit is just too expensive for me.

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to have a water-cooled PC, and this game allows me to build some pretty cool ones. There are just so many different parts, case options, colors, everything. Some of the assignments in this game have you maintaining some dinghy PCs that would be right at home in the 2000s. Some let you build monstrosities that might as well fly.

One thing I really like about this game is how every single PC you get, you can usually improve just by taking a pressurized air can to dust the interiors. If you’re on a desktop PC right now and don’t know too much about how they’re maintained, get a can of pressurized air right now. It’s the best thing you can do for your PC.

When you take out a CPU from the slot on the motherboard, you have to reapply the thermal paste. And when you do it in this game, it puts a little glob of thermal paste, just like you’re supposed to IRL. A lot of people end up damaging their CPUs because they put way too much thermal paste on them. It’s a common rookie mistake, and I like that this game shows the correct amount that you should apply. I bet that’s going to save some people’s motherboards.

It’s little details like this that show the devs of this game made a good product. I’m excited both about the beautiful and powerful PCs you can build in this game, but also about the very mundane act of applying thermal paste and dusting the PC interior. To me, this is what simulators are about on their deepest level.

As someone who loves everything PC, I just couldn’t skip recommending this game. It’s the coolest little thing if you like messing around with PC assembly. It’s close enough to real life not to raise any eyebrows but simplified enough to be fun even for someone who’s never tried their hands at actually doing it. If you’re big on PCs like I am, you’re sure to like this game.


10. Tabletop Simulator

This game has pretty much any tabletop title you can think of.

Do you love board games? I do. But when adult life kicks in, suddenly it’s almost impossible to schedule a day where all your friends can play together. My friends rarely have the free time to do it anymore, and that’s part of life. Tabletop Simulator has actually helped a lot with this.

Tabletop Simulator is, well, exactly what says on the tin. It’s a simulation system that essentially allows you to play anything tabletop online. And I mean anything. People make some incredible mods in this that let you play pretty much anything from old eurogames to D&D.

Just the fact that setting up a virtual table is easier and faster than doing it in real life and that everybody can play from their homes is a big push to making tabletop gaming feasible again, and that’s why I love this game.

When you buy this game, you’re also buying access to its Steam workshop library, which is essentially the main selling point for me. You can try out pretty much anything there. I discovered some of my favorite tabletop games through Tabletop Simulator. Tabletop gaming has been seeing a revival lately, and games like this really help further it. As someone who has always loved everything tabletop, I find this incredibly positive.

A lot of care seems to have gone into physics and UI in this game. You can even slam the table and drop everything if you lose. Thankfully there is a button to undo that, too, if someone rage quits. Someone even built a working bowling simulation within this game. Its physics engine is that good.

In general, everything has a pleasant physical feel to it. Dice look like real rolling dice. Cards and icons on the table really feel like you’re interacting with physical objects through your computer. This isn’t easy to pull off, either.

Tabletop Simulator is a very polished product. I did have some desynchronization and disconnection issues, but those are mainly the fault of the spotty connections my friends and I had. I played this game a lot and only had occasional trouble with it. It’s a stable game.

To say anything more about this game, I’d have to start talking about tabletop games. If you get this, you’re basically getting access to a huge amount of game options and possible fun. It’s probably the most cost-efficient product on Steam if you like playing tabletop games. This is why this game is a must-play for me.


9. Medieval Dynasty

It ain't much, but it's honest work.

When I started playing video games, I played a lot of fantasy titles set in worlds inspired by the Middle Ages. Whenever I did so, I imagined what the life of the average fellow must have been like. I really wanted to play a medieval game that focused on the daily life of a peasant. I remember talking about that on some internet forums back then and most people thought it would be a bad idea. No one would think that’s fun, they said. Well, I thought it would be.

When Medieval Dynasty came out I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was exactly the sort of game I dreamt of playing in those days. But it had a few issues. It was one of these games with a rocky release. It was buggy as hell when it came out on early access. But it’s improved a lot since then, and I think the most egregious issues are long gone.

They’re still adding things to this game, too. It’s still being actively developed. There are more things to do, more buildings to build, and better quality sounds and animations. It’s clear that the devs at Render Cube love the game they’re making.

I had a ridiculous amount of fun with this game. I played it, unlocked stuff, and built a village. I only stopped playing it once I had unlocked all the content and done everything to be done. If I were to pick it up again now, there would be even more stuff to do. There are more options for building and decorating now, too.

I mention this because whilst at first, you’re worried about your sole survival, you soon develop enough that the help of a few farmhands allows you to skyrocket your production. But then you have to build houses for them, so you can either spend a long time chopping all the wood yourself, or you can get a lumberjack. But then the lumberjack also needs a house, food, firewood, and water, too.

Soon you find yourself with a little medieval town going on, with everybody having their jobs and functions. You then discover that improving the quality of homes in the village makes people happier. So you start a project to reform and upgrade their homes. Then you unlock bigger homes, so you can have couples with up to two children. This also improves the mood around the village.

Right now, there’s no real incentive for increasing their happiness. But I found myself caring a big deal about those little simulated people. I went to a great extent to give them all nice whitewashed houses and a nice little village to live in. Did I have to? No. But doing that is what made this game fun for me.

Did I also mention there is hunting in this game? Honestly, it’s got a great hunting mechanic. It’s not as in-depth as some other games that are fully-fledged hunting simulators, but it’s still incredibly cool and useful in-game.

It’s rare to have games that incentivize you to play by peaceful means. Often in these games with city-building elements, you have some looming threat. You need to train soldiers and fight. Well, this game has almost none of that. They’ve only recently added bandits, and are just now implementing a better fighting system. And that’s good enough for me.

I recommend this game because I personally really like the idea of caring for a little idyllic medieval village. It’s what this game offers. Lots of medieval-inspired games put you in the role of a knight or a noble, but none of them really ever put you in the role of a commoner. It’s honestly everything I wanted from a medieval game.


8. House Flipper

Home renovation from the comfort of your gaming chair

You know those home renovation shows on TV? They’re pretty entertaining, right? Have you ever wished you could be in one? We all know renovating houses in real life is a long, drawn-out process that requires a lot of people, a lot of time, and a lot of money. So to most of us not in the real estate business, it remains out of reach.

It’s exactly this that House Flipper provides. It lets you renovate and decorate houses to an extent pretty much no other game has attempted. You can change the internal walls to make new rooms, you can clean, fix, rebuild and redecorate to your heart’s content. Ever fancy yourself an interior designer? With this game, you can let your imagination run wild.

I honestly think that building is really fun to try out in games. This is confirmed by games such as Minecraft, Valheim, Rust, and other survival-style games gaining massive popularity recently. But they all do it in fantasy settings. I don’t think there are many games outside the Sims series that actually let you build and decorate a modern, realistic house.

But differently from the Sims series, this game is in first-person, like most simulators. You’re the one holding the simulated tools. You’re the one doing all the work. You don’t place a wall, drag and drop with the mouse and then paint it with a single click, oh no.

First, you need to get your mallet, knock the old wall down, place the new wall, buy a can of paint, lay it on the floor, and paint the wall with a roller. And I’m not even mentioning what you need to add some types of paneling. It’s actually not very time-consuming, but it’s very involved. And honestly, that’s a good thing, because this game can have some pretty big houses, so if everything took so long it would be tiresome.

There’s a whole little minigame with installing appliances and cleaning surfaces. It’s fun and not too overwhelming, and it doesn’t detract from the game’s main experience of designing your spaces and putting them together.

What I love about this game is how lifelike you can make the houses feel after you have some practice with it. Perhaps this game should be called Home Flipper because you can make some very cozy spaces in it.

I definitely recommend this game for people with an interest in interior design, renovation, or construction. It’s an incredibly pleasant experience with countless options to let you build some dream houses.


7. BeamNG.drive

What do you mean by "driver's license?"

Driving simulators are a staple of the simulation genre, and these days you can’t get much better than BeamNG.drive. It’s amongst the best of the genre, and whilst other titles have a narrower focus on race cars, BeamNG.drive offers an ample variety of different cars for you to drive. The big selling point of this game is that the cars are fully modeled as destructible objects, with physics generally fine-tuned to make the cars both drive and crash like real cars.

On top of that, this game has an absurd degree of customization. You can alter a multitude of parameters about the cars and about the game world, and the modding scene in this game is one of the liveliest I’ve seen.

If you love everything automotive, then this has got to be the game for you. Having seen this game, I can guarantee that the car physics and damage model in this game are simply incredible. There’s a weird satisfaction in just destroying your simulated cars in the most exquisite ways imaginable, just to see how the physics model will react.

I’ve even seen this simulator be used to re-enact real-life crash scenarios. I’ve even seen people say they use it to illustrate some driving practices. It won’t teach you how to drive, but it’s close enough to reality to actually be educational. Of course, for the best experience, you’ll want at least a set of joystick steering wheels and pedals if you’re really after the feel of driving a car.

It’s a well-optimized game too, and it still receives updates. This game gets better and more realistic with each passing year. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular automotive simulators on Steam. Its force feedback system together with its realistic physics make it a different driving experience than most sims out there.

There are a variety of fun game modes and different challenges to tackle with your realistic-feeling car. This is a game about driving, and drive you will. I can definitely recommend this to people who love sitting behind the steering wheel.


6. Car Mechanic Simulator 2021

I'm afraid this one is a total loss, boss.

I never really cared for cars for most of my life. At least, not until I started playing Car Mechanic Simulator in the 2018 version. To a lot of people, me included, mechanics jargon might be impenetrable. When you go to a workshop and listen to experienced mechanics talking, it can even feel like they’re not even speaking your language.

This game was a sudden revelation for me. The more I played it, the more that sort of thing started making sense. What’s a head gasket? What is a camshaft? What is a timing belt? What is an epicyclic differential? Well, now I know. And you can too.

Now, if you’re an experienced gear head you might have just laughed at what I said. It’s by all means absolutely basic stuff. And I don’t think anyone talks about a differential like that in real life. But my point is, that I didn’t know any of this stuff before it was introduced to me in the easy format of a simulation game. And I can assure you if you’re a mechanic, this game made me respect that profession so much more.

When I started playing this game, I finally understood why so many guys are obsessed with working on their own cars and building stuff in their garages. Mechanics is amazing. Had I known this earlier, I might even have taken a potshot at studying mechanical engineering. Seeing all the bits and pieces of a car come together in a functioning vehicle is just incredible to me.

My favorite part of this game is restoration. Especially with the Hot Rod DLC. You can take an absolutely busted piece of rust and turn it into a beautiful thing. You can even take it for a little test drive after you’re finished. And the engine sounds when you do it are just so satisfying. I don’t even put flames on them or chop them too much. I quite enjoy the look of those really old cars.

So will this game teach you how to fix your car? No, definitely not. Search for some videos of people doing actual repair work, you know, the tedious bits that TV shows usually edit out. It’s much more complex than this game. Much, much more complex.

But Car Mechanic Simulator will give you a general idea. It will teach you how a car runs, and what its basic parts are. It might introduce you to how crazy minutiae are important in mechanics. It certainly taught me that the internal workings of cars are a fantastic marvel of engineering.

So, how good is this game, how much do I recommend it? Well, as I said, I never cared much for cars. But now I catch myself watching videos and shows about them every now and then. And I understand a good amount of what they’re actually doing. This game completely changed how I see motor vehicles, and that’s why I recommend it.


5. Squad

Navy Seal Reacts to Squad

At first, you might think: “Wait, this is a first-person shooter, why is it on a list about simulators?” The reason for that is that Squad tries to be so much more than a simple shooter. It belongs to the subgenre people call “MilSim games,” in which shooters and simulators are combined.

Remember when Arma III came out? The incredible praise it got for its realism? But Arma III is almost a decade old right now. And Arma Reforger sits with mixed ratings on Steam due to technical issues. So, what is there to be played by the people who love realistic combat simulators but hate the arcadey nature of most shooters? Well, there is Squad.

Squad toes the line on realism. It’s realistic enough to feel like a desperate experience, but it’s still playable as a game. Wait, desperate? Is that the word I’m using? Yes, actually. Combat in this game is intense in a magnitude not many other games can offer. It’s almost psychological terror at times because if you don’t know what you’re doing or get outmaneuvered by your enemies, you can get shot without really knowing who is shooting or where they’re coming from.

And once that happens to you, you’ll start understanding this game. Behind every blade of grass, behind every corner, behind every window, you expect to see someone shooting at you. You grow tenser and tenser as you check areas and nothing happens. But when it does, it’s fast, it’s nasty, it’s brutal, just like a game about war should be.

But be aware though, that this game has quite the learning cliff to it. It’s why I consider it on the simulator side. And players might not always be welcoming to people who don’t know what they’re doing, so do understand that. There’s a method to this madness, a method which you’ll have to learn if you want to pull this off.

I recommend this game because after playing these more realistic shooters that lean on simulation, most other shooters just feel bland to me. I see people playing them, try my hand at them, and feel like they lack the bite this game has, so that’s why it’s on the list.


4. DCS

Dogfighting a real Rafale pilot on DCS

DCS stands for Digital Combat Simulator. It’s one of those games where you operate combat vehicles. Kind of like War Thunder. Except this one has got the depth of an actual flight simulator. Depending on what module you get, you can actually see combat airplanes and helicopters with fidelity never before matched.

So what’s the level of realism of this thing? Well, in the full fidelity modules, the controls of the plane are fully realized. Every toggle and button. Every little flashing screen. I think many kids look at fighter jets and wish they could learn to fly one. But being a pilot is actually one of the hardest jobs out there, it requires years of training and preparation before an airforce will let you even near the controls of a machine that costs millions of dollars. It’s probably the hardest thing to shoot for short of being an astronaut.

DCS isn’t cheap, really. The base game is free to play, but the fancier, more interesting vehicles are all gated behind DLC modules that can cost a pretty penny. But when you look at the best ones, you get the feeling of sitting in the cockpit of one of those beautiful things, and you start to understand that this level of quality and polish just doesn’t come cheap. You get what you pay for with this game.

The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is that it is incredibly hard to learn. Most flight simulators are, but this one isn’t just about commercial flights like the most famous ones, this one is about combat aircraft. It’s even harder to master. If you look for it on youtube, on one side you have the people who took the time to learn it and can do amazing things with it. On the other side, you have very funny videos of the people who haven’t quite mastered it yet crashing their planes in amazing ways.

There isn’t much of a UI to speak of in this game, for example. Your UI is the plane’s cockpit. You better get used to it, you’re going to need to know what each of these buttons do. And trust me, there are a lot of buttons. I used to think sci-fi shows with spaceships having consoles with a ton of switches and toggles were a bit over the top, but when you take a look at the cockpit of a modern combat airplane, it all starts looking very reasonable.

This is Simulation with a capital S. I’m sure people with actual interest in aviation would love this game. If you have a joystick for flight simulators I’m pretty sure this will be the closest you can actually get to a combat plane without being an airforce officer. In fact, one of the issues about this game is that you really do need some sort of HOTAS joystick to play it properly.

You’ll actually get a lot of people who are ex air combatants talking about this game online, too. Usually with the gist that it does kind of control similar to the real thing. To the developers of a simulator, this is probably the highest praise one can get.

I’ll be honest, I watch a lot of videos about DCS. I’ve even contemplated getting the free base version on their website, which comes with two planes. But I’ve never actually played it because I know it takes a lot of time and effort to learn. People call this a “study-level simulation.” If you have the time to invest in this hobby, I’m sure there’s nothing like that, but if you don’t, this game might not be for you.


3. Farming Simulator 22

Tractors are cool.

Ever dreamed of being a farmer? Do endless fields of golden grain swaying in the wind move you? I dreamt of being a farmer when I was a kid, in fact, a lot of the older folk in my family used to work the land in ye olde times. But the newer generations have long since moved to the big city, so my life is completely different.

Farming Simulator isn’t Stardew Valley. Don’t take this wrong, Stardew Valley is one of my favorite games ever, but it’s as close to real farming as a fantasy RPG is close to real sword fighting. Which is to say, not at all. Farming Simulator is a game about how farming is done today, with large, modern machines. In fact, one of the most sought-after mods back in Farming Simulator 19 was basically one that added the equivalent of a modern farmer’s GPS on your tractors so you wouldn’t leave weird gaps on your fields and end up wasting time and material.

I used to think I had a terrible attention span, and honestly, I do. But this game actually helped me deal with that. I used to play previous iterations of Farming Simulator and be so focused on doing things right that I’d just see hours melt away on what’s essentially the very repetitive task of tending fields. One would think this is boring, there’s really nothing else going on in this game. Just you, your assortment of incredibly powerful agriculture machinery, and the earth which gives you sustenance.

But it’s not. When I started with this series back in Farming Simulator 19, I played it almost exclusively for about a year. I was pretty burned out back then, and even most video games didn’t really seem to do it for me. But this game did it, for reasons I’m not entirely aware of.

This reminds me of when I tried to pick up manual sewing. It’s a long and arduous process of constant focus where you’re doing the same type of stitch over and over and over for hours, and yet I loved doing it, it’s still something I want to pick up again one day. This game feels like that. It’s almost meditative for me. I can’t say gaming has generally had a good impact on my mental health but I honestly think this game did. That’s why I like it so much.

Seriously, check out the reviews of this game. It’s mostly people with multiple hundred hours of playtime. The fans are insanely dedicated. There’s even an e-sport version of this game. Yes, competitive farming. They turned a game about tractors into a competitive sport.

What is it about this game that just draws people in and keeps them playing? Honestly, I don’t know, but it works for me. This is one of my favorite games of all time. And it’s not just me. You take a glance at Steam and there are people with 300 logged hours saying they had 600 hours in Farming Simulator 19. It’s definitely not for everyone, but for the people who enjoy this, there’s nothing like it.

I also recommend Farming Simulator 22 over 19 because it’s newer and there are a lot of new options to do stuff. There’s an inbuilt seasons system, which is huge if you’ve played the earlier titles. The building part is a lot better. There are new vehicles, there are new crops, there’s mulching! People may complain Giants Software is just releasing a re-skinned version of 19 but that’s not true at all. 22 is a tangible improvement to the series, and one of my top recommendations.


2. Euro Truck Simulator 2

It's a long way to Saint Petersburg, boss.

I think this game may be the most popular simulation game ever. And honestly, I can see why. Trucks are cool. They just are, ok? But the life of a trucker is actually a pretty hard one. Long periods away from home, dangerous situations on the road, and the long time it takes to get qualified mean trucking isn’t a job for the faint of heart.

But trucks are still cool. So what’s the closest thing to driving a truck, short of driving a truck? Well, this game is. In fact, if you’ve got a good set of joystick steering wheels, playing this game feels just like piloting a heavy vehicle. That’s awesome, right?

After I played this game I both started valuing good drivers more and quickly understood why I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the steering wheel of an actual truck. Seriously, I suck at this game. I am so bad at it, that it’s not even funny. Okay, maybe it is a little funny.

But here lies the great thing about this game. It’s the sort of game you can have fun with even if you suck. It’s hard to do so bad at it that you can’t play, there isn’t really a lose condition. You might not progress much if you drive like I do, which I pretty much guarantee that you won’t. But you’ll still have fun, you’ll still get to see the cabin of a lot of different truck models, and you’ll still be driving around the beautifully maintained roads of this virtual version of Europe.

Eventually, you’ll be running a whole fleet of trucks out in the European countryside. But that’s not even what sells this game, to me. What sells it is that it’s relaxing. Ridiculously so. This game is so zen I might actually fall asleep at the wheels and crash my truck horribly again. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement.

I remember having a similar feeling back when Guitar Hero was big. I could just play and play and play and I wouldn’t get stressed out by it like I often do with games. It was a relaxing experience, and Euro Truck Simulator is also a very relaxing and pleasant experience. Unless you decide to manually park your trailer at the yard. Seriously, how do truckers in real-life pull this off?

I like Euro Truck Simulator because it’s really the only game that made me go on Youtube and search for trailer backing videos late at night. Seriously, go look for this, you’ll find people complimenting the skills of the driver in the comments, and after playing this game I really understood in my heart of hearts why mastering this skill in real life is actually an awesome thing.

So, remember how I said trucks were cool? I recommend Euro Truck Simulator 2 because this game made me realize that trucks are even cooler than I previously thought. There’s a reason this one is at the very top of the charts on Steam.


1. X4: Foundations

The Teladi Company wishes you good profits

This might sound odd as a first pick. With so many great picks relating to real-life stuff, why pick a sci-fi game for first place? Well, I think there are a couple of good reasons.

First off, I absolutely love the X series. I’ve been playing it ever since the first X3. And whilst X Rebirth was a bit of a letdown, Egosoft really did their homework with Foundations. Over the year, this game has grown into a sophisticated and fun simulator that to me, easily surpasses the previous titles.

So what’s this game about? Well, kind of hard to describe in short lines, really, but I’ll try. X4 is an economics simulator set in a futuristic sci-fi world. The lore is actually pretty good, but I don’t play this game for the story. I play it because I consider X4 to have the best functioning single-player economy simulation out of all games on the market.

I know this is a BIG claim. But I spend hours and hours and hours scouring the web looking for games that do things in a similar scope and I just haven’t found any that pull it off as well as X4 does. The economy begins in asteroids and gas clouds, where the basic raw materials are mined. They are then transported to several different factories and refined until they reach the end of the production line, which is spaceships.

Sounds simple, right? But every one of the alien factions does it. For every single material, for every single ship. After the game starts and the initial objects are spawned in, all that happens is a direct result of the simulation. You can attack an alien nation’s supply network to their shipyards and it will actually cripple it, because for pretty much anything, it’s mined, refined, and built by the game’s AI.

At any spot in this production process, you can step in. You can be a pirate and plunder ships, you can be a space miner and gather ore, you can be a space trucker and earn your living by shifting cargo, and more than that, you can buy ships and set the AI to manage them, essentially putting you in charge of a sci-fi space company. It’s pretty neat once you get the ball rolling.

There are obvious limitations to this simulation that you’ll quickly understand when you gain experience in this game. The economy depends on warfare to run, without evil robots or tetrahedral space bugs raiding and threatening the game world, everything grinds to a halt eventually. Ships need to get destroyed so ships can get built. Destroy too many or too few, and the game world’s economy can very much crash. It’s not often we talk about emergent economic downturns in video games, but I’ve seen it happen in X4 more than once.

This is why this is still a game. Minor tweaks to the AI could make it so it can function perfectly without your interference, but then nothing you do would have any real impact like it was in X3. There is a ticking time bomb, and that is the Xenon. The angry, omnicidal space robots bent on destroying all life due to a programming error. Yes, a game that heavily features AI has an AI as its main antagonist, and they say the Germans don’t have a sense of humor.

It’s very rare for the different space nations to manage to fight them off, most of the time, if you don’t intervene, they will start taking more and more territory until they dominate everything. Usually, it’s up to you to militarize your operation and start fighting them effectively, being rewarded with ownership of some very resource-rich areas in the process.

So that’s the long way to describe X4. It’s a first-person economic simulator set in a sci-fi universe where you can manage a space company, but it also has an action element because the economy is geared towards a war that you’ll often have to win with your own means.

The bad part of the game is that it’s absolutely lacking in good tutorials. They just drop you in this huge world without much explanation, outside the story missions. The tutorials will teach you how to use the UI and how to pilot your ships, but they’ll not teach you what’s the best way to actually play the game, and nowhere is it obvious that the Xenon are going to ruin your day if you don’t stop them.

I see a lot of people wishing for games that don’t hold your hand. But when a game actually doesn’t, people complain it’s too difficult to learn and that they don’t know what to do. It’s a hard thing to balance, but most people who play simulators aren’t really too scared about picking up a difficult game.

If all of this sounds as fantastic to you as it sounds to me, go ahead, get this game, sink a couple hundred hours into it and then tell me what you think. I don’t think I’m going to be dropping this title any soon.

A PC Gamer since the early 2000's, I've taken a serious interest to simulationist gaming and the strategy genre. No game is too niche, no UI too clunky, let me suffer through it so you don't have to.
Gamer Since: 2002
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: Car Mechanic Simulator 2021, Euro Truck Simulator 2
Top 3 Favorite Games:The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Mount & Blade: Warband, Civilization IV

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