If 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, Star 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 simulation

Building 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 is Sim City, dating all the way back to the late 80’s. The game has 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.

Top picks for building and organizational simulation

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 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!

Life simulation games

Life 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 focuses on creating virtual characters, building a home and managing relationships. Other games that also focus on developing and fostering social relationships are Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and Stardew Valley.

Top picks for life simulation games

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Release Date: Available Now on Nintendo Switch

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

Larger than life sim 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 emulating 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 trail blaze in their own categories.

New Pokémon Snap

Release Date: Available Now

If you are into Pokémon, exotic islands and photography then New Pokémon Snap will be right up your alley! 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.

Purchase New Pokémon Snap

Overcooked! All You Can Eat

Release Date: Available Now

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.

Purchase Overcooked! All You Can Eat

Nintendo Switch Sports

Unleash a new world of gaming experiences with the Nintendo Switch Sports for Nintendo Switch. Featuring six different sports, this switch lets you play your favourite sport with a far-away opponent or as a team sitting in the same room. With the intuitive Leg Strap accessory and Joy-Con controllers, you can curve the bowling ball, hit a tennis shot or even kick a soccer shot.

Buy Nintendo Switch Sports

Sports management simulation

If you are a fan of professional sports leagues, their gaming equivalents have been meticulously recreated on your favourite gaming console. From basketball to pro golf all major leagues like soccer, the NFLMLBNBANHL and golf 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:

NBA 2K24

Release Date: Available Now

Relive the legacy of Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, with NBA 2K24. Along with your favourite teams, you can step into Kobe’s shoes and recreate his most memorable moments on the court. Enjoy realistic graphics and fast-paced gameplay with the best NBA and WNBA teams. Get ready for tip off!

Pre-order NBA 2K24

NHL 24

Release Date: Pre-order now

NHL 24 lets you experience the intensity and realism of pro hockey. With the new Exhaust Engine, powered by Frostbite, you can feel the rush and fatigue of high-pressure games as you battle for possession and momentum. You can also unleash your creativity and skill with Vision Passing and Total Control Skill Moves, giving you more control on the ice. And with Physics-Based Contact, you can witness the impact of every hit and collision on the ice.

Reserve NHL 24

MLB The Show 23

Release Date: Available Now

MLB The Show 23 lets you enjoy the best of baseball in a realistic and immersive game. Play as the legends of the sport and create your own memorable MLB moments. The Show 23 is the ultimate baseball experience for fans and gamers alike.

Purchase MLB The Show 23

Vehicle 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 it’s 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:

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Release Date: Available now

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

Forza Motorsport

Release Date: Out now

Experience the thrill of racing in a growing world of automotive racing with the Forza Motorsport. Challenge yourself against AI rivals, online drivers, realistic physics, assists, realistic damage and dirt effects, and stunning graphics with real-time ray tracing on the track.

Purchase Forza Motorsport

Gran Turismo 7

Release Date: Available now on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4

The real driving simulator is back! Experience the life of a racer by building your professional career, customizing your cars, competing in numerous tracks, and participating in real-life leagues in this visually stunning motorsports game.

Buy Gran Turismo 7

F1 23

Release Date: Available now

Race to the finish with F1 23, featuring a new chapter in the thrilling “Braking Point” story mode to deliver high-speed drama and heated rivalries. Race wheel-to-wheel at new Las Vegas and Qatar circuits and earn rewards and upgrades in F1 World. Drive updated 2023 cars with the official F1 lineup of your favourite 20 drivers and ten teams.

Purchase F1 23

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, instagram @dapper_tux.