When Microsoft Flight Simulator was released, it quickly snagged the crown as the best flight simulator. As good as it is, however, it’s not the be-all-end-all to simulation games. In fact, there are loads of other excellent simulators out there you should probably check out if you’re into this genre.
Update, 2/10/22: Verified all picks and links up to date.
Train World Sim 2 (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
City Skylines (PC/PS4/Xbox One/Switch)
American Truck Simulator (PC)
Farming Simulator 19 (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Tabletop Simulator (PC)
Elite Dangerous (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Skater XL (PC/PS4/Xbox One/Switch)
Project Cars 2 (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Goat Simulator (PC/PS4/Xbox One/Switch/Android/iOS)
Operating a train is something you’ll likely never do in the real world, but Train World Sim 2 can give you a taste of what it’s like. You’ll operate a variety of trains, from freight haulers to high-speed transports, throughout various cities. You can set your route, customize your train’s exterior, and enjoy the peaceful sights as you master the skills of locomotive operation.
City Skylines tasks you with the creation of an ideal city. You need to lay down roads efficiently to cut down traffic, figure out water and power supplies, and deal with waste management. All while ensuring that your citizens are happy, and the city isn’t on the brink of bankruptcy.
Is this a realistic simulation of what it’s like to plan out a city? No—you don’t even need to get a single permit for anything regardless of how many family homes you destroy. Even so, City Skylines simulates managing the layout and logistics of a city as you balance taxes, laws, and expansion. Fans of the classic SimCity games are sure to love this one.
Driving a semi-truck across (parts of) the United States isn’t exactly action-packed, but it is surprisingly relaxing for a lot of players. In American Truck Simulator, you’ll be expected to follow the rules of the road as you haul cargo between various cities and states (although, the punishment for breaking the rules is never severe). There’s a lot of customization to be had, from how your truck looks to how high the seat is, and you even need to take into account the weight of the cargo you’re hauling.
You only get two states included with the base game: California and Nevada. Arizona is available as a free DLC, and you can purchase the other six states (Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico) as DLC expansions. The developers are working on adding more states, so there’s always something to look forward to.
SCS Software (the developers of American Truck Simulator) also made Euro Truck Simulator 2, which is mostly the same game but older and set in Europe. It’s still being regularly updated though if you want to try it out.
There have been many farming games over the years that simplify things to make them more game-friendly. That’s more than fine, but Farming Simulator 19 aims to realistically capture what it’s like to manage a modern farm. You’ll buy plots of land, operate farm equipment such as tractors, and deal with the care of animals. The Farming Simulator franchise has been going on for about a decade now, and Farming Simulator 19 is clearly the result of a constantly improved formula.
Playing board games is great fun, but it can be hard to get everyone together to play. Tabletop Simulator aims to solve this, as it allows users to create and play tabletop games with its in-depth creation tools. Don’t worry though—if you don’t want to spend the time and effort creating games, you can always use the massive selection created by the community. There’s a nearly endless amount of content here to play with friends.
Whether you’re into chess, Warhammer 40K, or just want to play a simple match of Poker, Tabletop Simulator grants you the tools you need to play whatever you want.
Elite Dangerous delivers on a hypothetically realistic simulation of space travel. And while it will probably be a few centuries before we know if it got it right, it still makes for a fun time right now. This isn’t your standard space game, as every part of Elite Dangerous—from figuring out the ever-changing galactic economy to simply landing your ship at a space station—is something you need to master. This game doesn’t hold back its punches, but if you want an authentic sci-fi experience then you’re sure to fall in love with it.
While you’ll spend a lot of time in Elite Dangerous slowly navigating between space stations and star systems, the beautiful visuals, interesting universe, and involved gameplay will keep you coming back. You can also interact with other players, whether that’s a passive interaction or an aggressive one.
SkaterXL is unlike most skateboarding games—instead of fancy tricks and story-based campaigns, SkaterXL drops you into an open world with complicated controls. What would be simple tricks in most games requires a complex combination of buttons and joystick movements here, and while it’s daunting at first, it’s rewarding to learn. For PC players, it’s important to note that a controller is required here, as each joystick will control each foot of your skater.
There are many driving simulators out there, but Project Cars 2 provides the most variety in its content. Many disciplines of racing are represented here, including classic street racing, rally racing, and formula one. Drive over 180 cars, and compete against players from across the world, either with your humble controller or advanced steering wheel setup—whichever you prefer (and can afford).
Project Cars 3 also just released on August 27th. This game aims to improve on Project Cars 2, while also being more accessible to new players. However, you might want to wait a bit before picking that one up until you can see how well post-launch support is handled.
Goat Simulator is a difficult game to describe in words, as it is unlike any other game on the market today. You play as a goat with the simple goal of exploring/destroying the city you’re placed into. There are plenty of easter eggs to find and alternative goats to play as—like the Uncle Goat, which lets you swing around like Spiderman, and the Tall Goat, which turns you into a giraffe.
You can probably get a good idea of the tone from those tidbits alone, but there is plenty more to discover in Goat Simulator, and you’re sure to have a great time doing so. Or you’ll become incredibly frustrated because of the game’s intentionally broken physics—but hey, that’s part of the fun.