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Community Picks: The 25 Best Simulators In PC Gaming

5. 'Kerbal Space Program'

Elite Dangerous puts you in charge of a spaceship; Kerbal Space Program puts you in charge of the alien equivalent to NASA. You have to design your own vehicles, oversee the construction of space stations, and manage your employees in this game, wherein you have to help the alien Kerbals explore space. The game offers three games modes that cater to people who want to discover new technologies, those who want to manage the entire program, and anyone who simply wants to build a spacecraft without having to worry about the finer details of its construction.

4. 'Cities Skylines'

We'll come crashing back to Earth with Cities Skylines. This city management sim puts you in charge of a fictional city, and it's up to you to expand and improve it while also keeping its citizens happy. Cities Skylines offers full local traffic simulation, divides the city into districts with their own politics, and includes a day-and-night cycle that changes how the city's fictional denizens live their simulated lives. You'll have to master a barrage of systems to ensure your city's success, so if you want all the stress of being a local politician with none of the real-world reward, this is for you.

3. 'The Sims 3'

Who'd have thought it would take so long for a series literally named The Sims to show up on a list of the best sim games of all time? Well, anyone familiar with the series will know that it was bound to appear at the top of this list.  Where other games focus on the macro--managing entire businesses, cities, and galaxy-wide space programs--The Sims 3 is about the micro. You create your Sim, design their house, and then help lead them through life in pretty much any way you see fit. Think of it as another shot at life, but without any of the real-world consequences.

2. 'RollerCoaster Tycoon 2'

Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (along with the rest of its series) is what you get when someone as interested in simulations as Transportation Tycoon developer Chris Sawyer is allowed to get a little whimsical. The game focuses on building increasingly complex and terrifying rollercoasters to attract more and more people to your theme park. You can work to keep your guests happy, or you can build a theme park that many enter and few leave. This is a sim--you can do pretty much anything you like. Just let us know if any of your designs are ever commissioned, OK?

1. 'SimCity 2000'

SimCity 2000 will conclude our list. Unlike its counterparts in the broader Sims franchise, SimCity 2000 lets you manage a city from top to bottom. You'll have to manage transportation networks, construct important buildings like schools and prisons, figure out how your city will be powered, and handle all the other details that keep a city functioning. Oh, and you'll have to do all that while you also contend with natural disasters. Keep things running long enough, though, and eventually some of your citizens will leave Earth to establish civilizations on other worlds.

    The fact that Gunship 2000 and Falcon 4.0 are not on here shows how bad this list is.
  • purposelycryptic
    But the fact that they made a Sugar Ray reference means all is forgiven.
  • jstein6870
    And PUBG is the best running simulator.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • sos_nz
    No Grand Prix Legends?
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • hixbot
    #21 there are two latters and no former.
  • 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.