Simulation Genre BannerIf you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to fly a plane, run a city or control an entire country, the simulation video game genre is for you. Some of the most popular franchises out there like Kerbal Space Program, The SimsStar Dew Valley and Microsoft Flight Simulator offer a unique experience for gamers with different tastes. Simulation games, or “sims” for short, let you discover new careers, lifestyles and worlds you never thought possible. Let’s explore all the different types of simulators and find an experience that’s right for you!

Building and organizational simulationBuilding and organizational simulation

These building sims challenge players to create structures or entire communities with limited resources. One series that is the most synonymous with this style of gameplay Sim City, dating all the way back to the late 80’s. The game had players focus on creating a city from building infrastructure, development and taxation to support it all. This formula continued to evolve with games like 2001’s Tropico mixing politics, business and construction elements. If you are looking to build a strong virtual community and test your skills as a leader, be sure to check out these titles:

Age of Empires IIIAge of Empires III: Definitive Edition

Release Date: Available now for PC and via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

The classic game makes its return with a plethora of modes, unique civilizations, and deep strategy. The in-game assets have been rebuilt in 3D and now support 4K ultra-HD graphics along with a remastered soundtrack and audio effects. In addition, two new modes and civilizations are now included to expand your empire’s reach.

Extend the reach of your empire on Xbox Game Pass!

Surviving MarsSurviving Mars

Release Date: Available Now Xbox One and PS4

Can you tame the red planet? Work to build humanity’s first fully functioning off-planet colonies. Carefully manage resources, grow your own food and withstand the planet’s unforgiving environment. Will you colonize Mars, or get sent packing back to Earth?

Purchase Surviving Mars

Life simulation gamesLife simulation games

If you are more of a “people person” when it comes to your video game simulation experience, there are plenty of unique options. This subgenre was popularized by The Sims released in 2000, a game that was the first of its kind. It focused on creating virtual characters, building a home and managing relationships. This formula is one that has endured through multiple sequels and expansions. Other games that also focus on developing and fostering social relationships are Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and Stardew Valley.

Top picks for life simulation games

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Release Date: Available Now on Nintendo Switch
Full Review
 | Overall Rating: 4.4/5 (88%)

Looking to carve out your own little piece of paradise? The sunny shores of Animal Crossing: New Horizons await! The simulation game takes you to a deserted island where you can personalize your own little utopia. Make it your new island home all your own by customizing your character, home, decorations, and more. Book your getaway today!

Purchase Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Sims4The Sims 4

Release Date: Available Now
Full Review | Overall Rating: 4.1/5 (82%)

Create your very own Sim and build a new life for yourself, construct your dream home and pursue a new career. The Sims 4 is a life simulation game that gives you the power to create and control people. Play with life like never before leaving your virtual home to explore new vibrant locales and expand your social experiences and fun.

Buy The Sims 4

Upcoming life simulation games

MiitopiaMiitopia
Release Date: Coming Soon – May 21, 2021

Think of “The Sims” except with your own custom-built Nintendo Wii-era characters and the fun premise of MiiTopia starts to come together. This new adventure, coming to the Nintendo Switch, let’s you customize your characters with all new accessories like wigs, make up and more.

The game also has a story mode where you need to defeat the Dark Lord in order to protect your happy little utopia. Along with life sim elements the game has light RPG elements allowing you to assign your Miis to roles like mage, warrior, and pop star.

This looks to be a very original title to say the least, the fun kicks off May 21, 2021 when Miitopia releases.

Preorder Miitopia on Nintendo Switch

Larger than life simulation games

The simulation genre is one of the biggest in video games and it’s growing rapidly with a wealth of experiences from all walks of life. Everything from professional cooking careers to pinball sims you’re sure to find a unique, challenging experience. Here are some of my top picks for sim games that march to their own beat as they trailblaze in their own categories.

OvercookedOvercooked! All You Can Eat
Release Date: Available Now
Full Review | Overall Rating: 3.9/5 (78%)

Purchase Overcooked! All You Can Eat

Looking to simulate the frantic nature of a busy kitchen? Overcooked offers the culinary calamity you crave! This collection includes Overcooked!Overcooked! 2 along with all other released content for both titles. It’s up to you to save the Onion Kingdom by serving up a 5-star meal in some of the world’s most dangerous and challenging kitchens.

Untitled Goose GameUntitled Goose Game
Release Date: Available Now on Nintendo Switch
Full Review | Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (90%)

 An indie gaming gem like Untitled Goose Game comes along every few years taking the gaming industry by storm. Its success is no accident, the instantly charming and accessible game features a delightfully original concept. You play as a mischief-making goose intent on creating havoc in a quaint English village. The beauty is in the game’s simplicity; through its art style, gameplay and lighthearted objectives it’s accessible for all ages.

Buy Untitled Goose Game

Upcoming larger than life sims

New Pokemon SnapNew Pokémon Snap

Release Date: Coming Soon – April 30th, 2021

If you are into Pokémon, exotic islands and photography then New Pokémon Snap will be right up your alley! The follow-up to the Nintendo 64 classic is fast approaching with a release date of April 30th, 2021 on the Nintendo Switch.

The title has some exciting additions to its gameplay and mechanics. In the game, you hop into the NEO-ONE hovercraft to help Professor Mirror and his assistant Rita research Pokémon in their natural habitat. The game boasts over 200 different Pokémon for you to capture in order to help the Professor’s research efforts. Get ready to put your photography skills to the test!

Prepurchase New Pokémon Snap on Nintendo Switch

Major League SportsSports management simulation

If you are a fan of professional sports leagues, their gaming equivalents have been meticulously recreated on a gaming console near you.  From basketball to pro golf all major leagues like FIFA soccer, the NFLMLBNBANHL and PGA have games out now to help live out your pro sports dreams. Many of these series allow you simulate the day-to-day operations of a franchise, here are some of my top picks:

NBANBA 2K21

Release Date: Available now for PlayStation 4Xbox OneNintendo SwitchPlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S
Full Review | Overall Rating: 3.8/5 (75%)

Master a new shooting technique and take your dribbling skills further using innovative thumb stick commands in NBA 2K21 for current and next-gen consoles.

Purchase NBA 2K21

NHL-21NHL 21

Release Date: Available now on PS4 and Xbox One
Full Review | Overall Rating: 4.3/5 (85%)

Establish your legacy with the totally revamped Be A Pro mode or earn even more Ultimate Team rewards in HUT RUSH with NHL 21 from EA Sports.

Buy NHL 21

MLB-The-Show-21MLB The Show 21

Release Date: Available now for PlayStation 4Xbox OnePlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S

Baseball’s most authentic virtual experience awaits in MLB: The Show 21. Real players, teams and all new legends of the game hit the diamond this year. Game modes include Diamond Dynasty, Franchise, and March to October. Spring training has arrived on PS5, lace up those cleats!

Purchase MLB The Show 21

Vehicle simulation gamesVehicle simulation games

This area of the sim genre covers planes, trains, automobiles and everything in between putting you in the driver’s seat. If you are looking to experience what its like to experience life behind the controls of anything with an engine, vehicle sims are for you. Here are some best in class vehicular sim games:

AC7gameplayAce Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Release Date: Available now on PlayStation 4 (VR mode included) and Xbox One
Full Review | Overall Rating: 4.1/5 (82%)

Take to the skies in the most advanced combat flight simulator to date, with photorealistic graphics and real-world physics. You’ll pilot some of the most technologically advanced war planes ever developed as you defend the skies.

Purchase Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Farming Simulator 20

Release Date: Available now on Nintendo Switch

In Farming Simulator 20, get behind the wheel of vehicles and machines to become a Master of Modern Agriculture. This includes brands like John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, Challenger, Krone and more. This year’s version also features a new North American environment in which to develop and expand your farm with new machinery and crops.

Buy Farming Simulator 20

FlightMicrosoft Flight Simulator (PC)

Release Date: Available now on Microsoft Windows 10
Full Review | Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (95%)

Experience untold freedom and exploration alongside the challenges of genuine aviation with the incredible authenticity of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Take to the friendly skies with the most authentic flying simulation yet. With genuine real-time air traffic, dynamic weather and more. The entire world is your playground when you take flight!

Buy Microsoft Flight Simulator (PC)

Discover a new simulation game today!

There are so many interesting sim games that give you a peak into different careers, lifestyles and perspectives. With the gaming options above you are sure to find something that suits your unique gaming tastes

Let us know in the comments below what your favourite sim game is!

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Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things tech related since the start of the digital era. He shares his passion for technology in his day job as a teacher and via multiple media platforms. As a long-time veteran of the video game and tech industry, he's covered interactive entertainment and esports on the web, in video series, podcasts, and on international television. You can follow Matthew's tech-venture filled lifestyle on twitter and instagram @dapper_tux

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