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Community Picks: The 25 Best Simulators In PC Gaming

15. 'Transport Tycoon'

Now we're kicking it old school. Transport Tycoon was released in 1994, and it tasked players with guiding a transportation company from 1950 to 2050 by shipping countless items via increasingly complex air, land, and sea networks. Transport Tycoon Deluxe came out a year later with new landscapes, weather conditions, and vehicles, along with a shift to the 1950-2050 time period. After that creator Chris Sawyer moved on to the popular Rollercoaster Tycoon series, making Transport Tycoon and Transport Tycoon Deluxe the beginning of an era. The game was remade for Android and iOS devices at the tail-end of 2013 to celebrate its not-quite-20th anniversary.

14. 'Plague Inc: Evolved'

Theme Hospital saw you try to profitably treat diseases; Plague Inc: Evolved is all about helping a deadly pathogen spread throughout the world. Plague Inc. was originally made for mobile devices, but in February 2016, it was ported to PC with brand new features as Plague Inc: Evolved. Both games ask you to "bring about the end of human history" by taking a pathogen from Patient Zero to, well, everyone else using various diseases in numerous scenarios. The PC version includes competitive multiplayer and co-op play as well as support for user-generated content.

13. 'Jane's F-15'

Released by Electronic Arts in 1998, Jane's F-15 was one of the first games to put you in a realistic plane with a cockpit modeled after its real-world counterpart. You command this plane through various combat scenarios that are set during the Gulf War and during a fictional conflict against Iran taking place in 2001. Before combat flight sims were able to offer dozens (or hundreds) of vehicles rendered with realistic graphics, Jane's F-15 offered the relatively simple pleasure of piloting a then-stunning replica of the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle.

12. 'Subnautica'

We're expanding the already broad sim genre with Subnautica, an adventure game in which you explore an alien ocean that (you guessed it) is "full of wonder and peril." The game would most loosely fit into the survival sim genre--you have to find potable water and food to survive while you collect resources to craft diving gear, knives, and other supplies. There's also a building aspect through which you choose the layout and components of bases where you can park vehicles, stash resources, and refill your oxygen tank so you can go back to exploring the aquatic depths.

11. 'Tropico'

Tropicois a series of construction and management sims in which you assume the role of El Presidente for a fictional Caribbean island. Your job is to either keep the locals happy or rule them with in an iron fist so they wouldn't dare try to remove you from power. Either way, it's up to you to manage the country's development, make political and economic decisions, and command your military however you see fit. If that sounds appealing to you, Tropico, the Tropico: Paradise Island expansion, and Tropico 2: Pirate Cove were all bundled as Tropico Reloaded in 2009.

10. 'Dirt 2'

Dirt 2 is all about racing in the dirt instead of on the fancy circuits featured in other racing sims. Races will take place in stadiums, mind, but they feature a variety of surface types rather than the carefully managed surfaces found in other tracks. The game offers five different racing disciplines, all of which can be modified by three special modes that introduce new mechanics and goals. Like other racing games, Dirt 2 features a career mode that gives you a reason to do all this racing beyond it being fun and looking cool. (As if anyone needed more reasons to race.)

9. 'Flight Simulator X'

It turns out that many gamers, much like Sugar Ray, just want to fly. Adding to the number of flight sims on this list is Flight Simulator X, the most recent entry in Microsoft's Flight Simulator franchise. This version was released in 2006 and then brought to Steam--along with several expansions--in 2014. As you might expect from its name, Flight Simulator X is all about making you feel like you're piloting an aircraft. The most recent version offered better graphics, new aircraft, and expanded multiplayer gameplay, all of which made this game the most feature-packed entry in its series.

8. 'Railroad Tycoon 2'

A quick disclaimer: the Railroad Tycoon series was created by Sid Meier, not Chris Sawyer, who started the Transportation Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon franchises. Not that many of you needed to be told that--Meier is a legend among PC game developers for this series, the Civilization series, and Sid Meier's Pirates! Railroad Tycoon 2 tasks you with building a successful railroad network by building tracks, stations, and trains; carefully weighing supply and demand for a given area; and contending with random hindrances such as meddling rivals and train robbers.

7. 'Project Cars 2'

Project Cars 2 attempts to stand out from other racing sims through sheer technical prowess. The game offers full 12K and VR support, uses modern systems' performance capabilities to enable dynamic surface and weather physics, and of course tries to make all of its vehicles look as pretty as possible. Wrapped up in all that shiny goodness is a game that offers a various motorsports, boasts a career mode, and has support for online championships and other "esports capabilities." Just try not to spend too long finally driving that Ferrari in VR, alright?

6. 'Elite Dangerous'

We've established that many gamers play sims because they want to fly. So far every title has been limited to terrestrial aircraft, however, and Elite Dangerous wants you to soar a bit higher. That's right--you're going to space. Elite Dangerous is a multiplayer space flight sim that claims to have "the entirety of the Milky Way re-created at its full galactic proportions." (And here we thought some of the flight sims were thinking big when they added support for entire countries.) You'll have to manage your ship, explore new areas, and of course engage in some spaceship battles.

  • LORD_ORION
    The fact that Gunship 2000 and Falcon 4.0 are not on here shows how bad this list is.
    Reply
  • purposelycryptic
    But the fact that they made a Sugar Ray reference means all is forgiven.
    Reply
  • jstein6870
    And PUBG is the best running simulator.
    Reply
  • thrakazog
    The Steam FSX is a separate entity owned by Dovetail Games, that has a rather closed off DLC market, much like their other sim games. The original FSX still eclipse's it in the market, and has a huge community that supports it with both paid and free mods. However, ever since Prepar3d went 64-bit, it is now quickly taking over as the top flight sim (both in terms of users and 3rd party support).
    Reply
  • JoeMomma
    I am amazed that you included DiRT2.
    I am a long time fan of racing games.
    I think DiRT is the best at nailing 1/2 way between being a challenging sim while still being a fun game. Most of the others in the DiRT Series have been either too hard or too arcade. I have never uninstalled it since 2009.
    Reply
  • sos_nz
    No Grand Prix Legends?
    Reply
  • phantom_e
    Note: It should read "fewer details" not "less details". I wouldn't bring it up, but it's becoming so widespread in professional communications - tv ads, printed ads, HERE, etc. that I just had to say something somewhere.
    Reply
  • TheStig47
    War Thunder is my favorite online game. Vehicles are all actual wartime machines modeled as closely as possible to the real ones. Not mentioned in the description is that War Thunder has three modes of play - Arcade (my mode for fun); Real; and Simulator. Arcade uses relaxed physics but Real is much closer to how they really handled and Simulator is even more exact. For example, in Simulator with aircraft one must use a joystick (Arcade and Real can use either - mouse is best in Arcade) and fly in cockpit mode, and have all the physical aspects that real aircraft have - yaw, pitch, trim, etc.

    Too, War Thunder gets continually updated and I've been playing as a pilot now for over 4 years, daily (I'm retired).
    Reply
  • hixbot
    #21 there are two latters and no former.
    Reply
  • icelava
    I liked Jane's F-15, but yea, no Jane's AH-64D Longbow (or 2), no Falcon 4.0 (or even Falcon 3.0 back in the day), no SU-27, etc. So many fabulous simulators back then; a pity the younger generations have few options to play those classics.
    Reply