Physic simulator games, well, simulate physics. But what that phrase means can really vary from game to game. After all, any game you play is technically simulating physics of some kind, so what makes these special?
Typically, physic simulator games a focus on the extravagant. You can do things like enact massive battles, create unrealistically fun vehicles, or simply knock down some buildings. Here, physics isn’t a compliment to gameplay or some form of story—the physics are the game.
Before we get into the games, there are a couple of things worth mentioning. First off, this genre mostly resides on PC and these games can get pretty intensive on your system, so watch out for that. sSecondly, a few games here are currently in Steam Early Access—Steam’s system for distributing games is still in alpha or beta phases of development. While Early Access has gained a bad reputation for being a collection of unfinished games that will never be completed, we made sure the games we selected are, at the very least, still being actively updated by the developers.
With that out of the way, let’s cause some chaos.
Not So Accurate: Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (PC)
What if you could put the greatest civilizations throughout history to battle against each other? Arrows would cut through the air, knights would fight Vikings in open fields, and a simple farmer could ram through them all with his trusty wheelbarrow … wait a minute.
That’s the type of ridiculous situation Totally Accurate Battle Simulator ($14.99) prides itself on. You have access to a (growing) list of 90 different units from the historical to fictional to battle with—and they all have googly eyes, so that’s fun. You can create your own scenarios or play through the many campaign stages included in the game. Either way, you’re sure to have a great time.
Slightly More Realistic: Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator (PC)
Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator ($14.99) is more than a little similar to Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, but that’s fine—it still finds a way to differentiate itself.
Visuals and physics are, on the whole, more realistic—but don’t expect this game to mirror real life perfectly. You can get into just as many ridiculous situations here as in Totally Accurate. Alongside the many historical units in the game there are also fantasy units, science fiction units, and chickens—you can put down a lot of chickens in this game.
Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator is currently only available on PC.
Medieval Machinery: Besiege (PC)
As you progress through the stages of Besiege ($14.99), you’ll be tasked with the destruction of houses, towers, and windmills. But the twist is that you have to design each tool you use for the job. There’s a lot to learn about Besiege’s building system to stop your creations from exploding the second they start moving, so that should supply you with many hours of tinkering to create the perfect machines.
There’s also a sandbox mode where you can really push the game’s limits. This is perfectly demonstrated by the game’s community. People have produced crazy machines from massive mech suits to straight-up dinosaurs, and some players even make their own maps for you to mess around in.
Besiege is only available on PC.
Vehicle Creator: Trailmakers (PC)
Explore the wide-open world of Trailmakers ($24.99) with a car, hovercraft, submarine, or plane of your own design. Trailmakers’ building system is robust enough for you to create complicated mechanisms but still simple enough for new players to get a hold of it fairly quickly. The world itself is full of things to find and missions to complete that unlock new parts for your creations.
But if you do lack that engineering spirit, you can always mess around with user-created vehicles from the game’s community. And, just like Besiege, people have found some truly insane ways to push Trailmakers to its limits.
Trailmakers is only available on PC.
Simulated Pixels: Noita (PC)
Noita ($17.99) is a pixel-art game that fully takes advantage of its pixelated nature. In Noita, every individual pixel has simulated physics, which means you can have a lot of fun here.
Noita is a rogue-like at its core, so that means you’ll you be trying to progress through it by unlocking new elemental spells—but when you die you have to restart your run. But more than that, Noita is the type of game where you can just have fun messing around with it for an hour or two. You can shoot fireballs at a ceiling of ice for it to come crumbling down, and break open containers of acid to pour down on enemies. Even simple explosions look and feel better here than in most games.
Noita is only available on PC in Steam Early Access, and the developers are still adding new spells, mechanics, and enemies. The developers have plans to launch 1.0 this year, but that isn’t guaranteed.
Infrastructure Engineer: Poly Bridge (PC/Switch/iOS/Android)
Building a bridge so cars can pass over a river may not sound super interesting. But that’s part of the addictive alluring nature of Poly Bridge—it manages to be complex without being intimidating due to its simple premise. Here you’ll need to worry about balancing weight so that everything from little sedans to massive buses can safely pass over your bridge. It can be surprisingly difficult to figure it out, but once you do it feels great to see that victory screen.
Planet Smasher: Universe Sandbox (PC)
What would happen if Saturn and Jupiter collided? Or if the Earth grew 1000 times its size in a matter of seconds? These are the types of questions Universe Sandbox ($29.99) answers. One minute you’ll launch asteroids into Earth, while the other you could accidentally (or totally purposefully) create a black hole than envelops the entire solar system. You can do whatever you want, especially with the additional power of community-made content. So, just sit back, relax, and destroy the entire universe in a flaming ball of glory.
Universe Sandbox is only available on PC in Steam Early Access and has been for about 5 years. Now, while that’s a pretty long time to be in Early Access, we’re going to give the developers a pass here. Not only are they attempting to recreate the universe, but they’re also actively updating the game and even just released a roadmap for the future of the game.