The all-time greats still worth playing; the sims with modding communities who breathe eternal life into them; the facsimiles of an aspect of reality so niche you can barely fathom their existence. Such is the nature of the genre that seeking out the best PC sims is like asking for the ‘special’ stock the shopkeeper keeps in the back room.
Sims differ from other PC games in that their raison d'être isn’t necessarily to entertain, at least not primarily. They’re not all best-sellers, but these are the titles with dedicated communties offering deep tutorials and incredible mods, that let you get as close to hauling a trailer full of plumbing parts across Europe, driving an F1 car, or piloting a military aircraft as national security laws will permit.
Perhaps the best thing about this air-and-ground combat sim is that it's very easy to just plunge into it, get a decent idea of its systems and start having fun right away.
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There are scant few PC simulation games that can compete with Microsoft’s titanic Flight Simulator X in terms of sheer features and scope.
Enter Flight Sim World, a sleek, polished, and incredibly realistic PC flight sim from Dovetail Games that comes chock-full of tools, aircraft, and systems for would-be pilots to tinker with.
Even in its current Early Access state, FSW is packed with high-detail aircraft models and some gorgeous landscapes to explore, especially considering the game’s playable area is… But Flight Sim World isn’t all surface glory, a lot of work has been done under the hood, too.
As a result, FSW boasts the most realistic flight physics out there, which alongside a glut of weather effects help bring journeys that bit closer to reality.
The USA, Russia, Britain, Germany and Japan all wage war here, each with their own particular mechanical strengths (there's a long-running argument converning Soviet machinery bias in this area), weaknesses... If you're averse to grinding, this might not be the sim for you.
If you're after a WW2 war sim with an enormous community that you can start playing with no financial outlay, though...
well, your demands are very specific, and War Thunder's your sim.
Train Simulator 2016 has some big problems, and a risible pricing model - and yet, it's unquestionably the best way to travel the world's best-known and most historic railways without leaving the comfort of your PC gaming dungeon. If you already own Train Simulator 2015, this year's game is available as a free update that adds a shiny new UI, expanded tutorials and better search functionality.
A cynic, financier or theme park owner would say it’s money, but we think it’s making people happy. Over the course of that transformation you’ll have to hire and fire a lot of staff, micromanage every store and facility in your park to ensure you’re drawing as much cash out of it as possible, and then repurpose that cash by building roller coasters.
You can also track every guest that enters your park like an almighty deity, allowing you to see how different types of people respond to changes in your park, what’s lacking and what they like.
It's inevitable - like picturing a Christian Bale in a clear raincoat flecked with blood whenever you hear Huey Lewis and the News.