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Play God and Create a World in Your Image with These Windows Sim Games

Build cities, campfires, and character.

Apps in this Guide

As much fun as the real world can be, sometimes you want to build a little world of your own. Or you want to experience what it's like to be lost in a forest or crash-landed on a hostile alien planet,more

As much fun as the real world can be, sometimes you want to build a little world of your own. Or you want to experience what it's like to be lost in a forest or crash-landed on a hostile alien planet, from the safety of your couch. That's where simulation games come in. Here are our top picks for the sims that should win you over.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sim games have a reputation for being hard to get into. Which of the following games is the most approachable?
The Long Dark has relatively straightforward mechanics: Collect food, clothing, weapons, and first aid; find shelter or firewood to stay warm when night comes; and steer clear of bears and wolves. However, this is a "permadeath" game that only saves your progress when you quit. If you die, you return to the beginning of the simulation. This is intended to create tension.
Which of these sims has the most replayability?
Probably RimWorld, since it has enough moving parts and randomization that no two games will be alike, and those parts have enough depth to make variations meaningful.

Best Simulation Games for Windows

Factorio

Factorio

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If SimCity is about building and maintaining the ideal city, Factorio is about building and maintaining the perfect factory. Your job is to build successively more complex widgets, which you use to craft successively more complex factory machines and beefier protection mechanisms.

You need protection because Factorio takes place on another planet where the wildlife is not laid back about your industrial ambitions. You'll need to set up security systems to protect your factories, and repair systems when things go awry. Factorio supports multiplayer and user modifications, and it comes with map and scenario editors to keep things interesting.

RimWorld

RimWorld

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RimWorld is a top-down town simulator where you start with three colonists who've crash-landed on an alien planet and must start from scratch to survive and thrive. You'll need to manage the well-being of your individual colonists (who each have various traits you can leverage to assist with survival), build shelter and other structures, tame wildlife, fight off hostile groups, and deal with different weather patterns and a variety of biomes.

The Long Dark

The Long Dark

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We would be remiss to recommend sims without mentioning the wilderness survival subgenre, and The Long Dark is one the best of its kind. In this open-world game, you are stranded deep in the wilderness in mid-winter and must fight to stay warm, fed, and safe from hostile wildlife. Your end goal is to find your way back to civilization, but there are signs all around you that there might not be much civilization to go back to. During development, only a sandbox mode was available to the public, but the final version of the game, due August 2017, will come with a story mode as well.

Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines

SimCity has been the gold standard of city-building games for decades, but the 2014 edition arrived with a variety of issues, such as an always-online requirement. Enter Cities: Skylines the following year from developer Colossal Order, who up 'til now had been known for moderately good transportation-focused city sims. Skylines could be played completely offline, could support larger cities, and wasn't as taxing on your computer. It's also challenging without being frustrating, and it doesn't require urban planning expertise to get the most out of it.