What are some of the best PC simulation games? We have everything you need here, from all-time greats that are still worth playing to sims with thriving modding communities that keep them alive; to facsimiles of an element of reality so obscure that you can barely fathom their presence.
Sims are unlike other PC games in that their aim isn’t actually to entertain, at least not in the first place. You want to have a good time? It’s a challenge. That is not the case when it comes to operating a submarine. As a long-form experience, however, it is exciting, frightening, and enormously satisfying.
Because of the design of the genre, looking for the best PC simulations is akin to asking for the shopkeeper’s “odd” stock in the back room. They aren’t all best-sellers, but they’re the games with devoted communities that offer in-depth tutorials and amazing mods that let you get as close to hauling a trailer full of plumbing parts across Europe, driving an F1 vehicle, or piloting a military plane as national security laws would allow.
WARSHIPS IN THE WORLD
This free-to-play online naval battler immerses players in the tides of World War II, allowing them to command ships in sea battles and defeat opponents on a variety of maps. World of Warships receives regular updates that add to the already massive fleet of cruisers, destroyers, battleships, and aircraft carriers that players will command on the seas – each with their own unique skills. World of Warships now allows you to play as your own submarine, complete with upgrades and exclusive fighting roles, making it one of the best submarine games available.
THUNDER OF WAR
Perhaps the best thing about this free MMO is how easy it is to jump right in, get a good understanding of its processes, and start having fun. Try saying that with a straight face about Flight Simulator X.
If sheer volume of machinery is what you’re after, War Thunder’s WW2/Korean War age roster exceeds 300 aircraft. Each can be piloted using arcade (boo!) or simulation physics templates to blast away at airborne foes on both PC and consoles – the servers don’t discriminate between platforms. Of course, this means there’s always plenty of fast meat for PC gamers to pick off.
The steel beasts in this tank game travel at such a glacial speed that you’re constantly on high alert, searching the scrubland for enemies. If War Thunder’s skies provide the opportunity for a fast joyride and a bit of sightseeing, ground fighting provides the polar opposite. In this free Steam game, the player who fires first almost always wins.
The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan all fight here, each with their own mechanical advantages, disadvantages, and upgrade paths (there’s a long-running debate about Soviet machinery bias in this area). This simulation game may not be for you if you dislike grinding. However, if you’re looking for a WW2 sim with a large community that you can start playing without spending any money… Your requirements are very basic, and War Thunder is your sim.
SPACE PROGRAM OF KERBAL
When NASA and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk express interest in a space flight simulator, you know it’s doing something right. Kerbal Space Program is an extremely complex physics-based space game that lets you design and build your own spacecraft before launching it into orbit and then doing impossibly complicated things like docking with other vessels or landing your wobbly phallic construct on the moon, despite the cutesy appearance of its astronauts.
Since the release of the first version of KSP in 2011, the community has responded with mods, written and video tutorials, a plethora of user-created spacecraft to try out for yourself, and a recreation of The Martian. Its success prompted NASA – the real NASA – to contact the game’s creators, Squad, and work on new in-game content focused on real missions.
Is it completely realistic? Given that it’s simulating one of the most difficult human endeavours ever attempted and allowing you to try it out with your mouse and keyboard, there’s a certain amount of artistic licence involved. However, it’s as personal as the medium has gotten so far. Every physical entity in the game obeys Newtonian dynamics, which explains why the rocket you made to resemble Gary Busey’s face collapsed and burned to cinders the second you reached the thrusters. Those who are in a position to evaluate such things have praised the orbital mechanics model.