The 25 Best Simulation Games Ever Made

Ready to discover once-and-for-all whether X-Plane is better than FSX? Whether Falcon 4.0 is better than Milk Float Simulator 2012? Ready to read the word ‘realism’ 46 times in a single hour, and spit feathers on discovering that the sim that caused got you through your divorce has been cruelly cold-shouldered by an idiot with a bus fetish and a sci-fi blindspot the size of the Crab Nebula? You are? Splendid. You’re in the right place.

What is a simulation? According to the imaginary dictionary I keep on my desk next to my imaginary bust of R. J. Mitchell, it’s a game that offers users the chance to operate “a digital facsimile of a real-life vehicle” or participate, from a first-person perspective “in painstakingly recreated historical events”. For me a sim isn’t defined by the length of its controls list or the complexity of its HUD, it’s a diversion inspired by something, usually a machine, that’s tangible, researchable, and incontrovertibly Real.

Some cynics will doubtless claim that I’m peddling this pedantic line – provocatively claiming that the likes of Star Citizen and MechWarrior are simulation pastiches rather than ‘true’ simulations – because I…

a) Haven’t played the latest batch of space ‘sims’ and am therefore not very well-equipped to assess them.
b) Am concerned that allowing fiction-based sims into the top 25 will mean many fine and relatively obscure plane and car sims have to be excluded.
and c) Can’t decide where in the top 5 to place Crimson Skies.

To those individuals I would say this: Gosh, you’re looking well. Been on holiday this year? We’re just back from a week in South Devon. The weather was marvellous. Barely saw a cloud the whole time we were down there. If you’re ever in that neck-of-the-woods I strongly recommend a trip on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. All GWR locos of course, though they do have a rather nice Class 25. Lovely route too. It runs close to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s old house. That’s worth a…

The following five pages would look very different If I hadn’t factored in mods when making my selection. Fan skill and sweat has turned some of the titles in this list from basket cases into masterpieces. Even if I don’t mention mods specifically, you can safely assume anything over a couple of years old in the line-up, shouldn’t be played in its original form.

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