5 Best Simulation Video Games Ever Made

Doing things in real life is all well and good, but something special that happens when a talented developer takes a simple everyday task and builds a video game around it. Doing everyday tasks in a video game can somehow be way, way more fun than doing those things in real life. That’s what simulation games show us, especially the top five sim games below.

As for our methodology, we surveyed all of the simulation games listed on Metacritic that received exceptional praise all around. For each game, we created a composite score that includes both critic and user ratings (e.g. a game with a 95 critic score and 9.3 user score would receive a 94 composite score). This should gives us the clearest picture of how well the games were received overall between the time of release and now.

5. Papers, Please

Composite Metacritic Score: 88

Sim games come in all shapes and sizes. In Papers, Please you take the role of a border guard tasked with deciding who does and doesn’t get admitted to the fictional country of Arstotzka. To do so, you check the papers of everyone waiting in line at Customs and listen to their stories. While the game might seem mundane from the description alone, it’s actually a complex simulation with nice, subtle challenges and a dash of political intrigue. This is your character’s job, so you have to work fast to provide for yourself and family, but there are penalties and dangers in being too hasty, missing details, and admitting people who shouldn’t be allowed. Are you up to the challenge?

4. Rock Band

Composite Metacritic Score: 88

Developer Harmonix may have kickstarted the plastic instrument music game craze with Guitar Hero, but Rock Band filled up entire rooms with plastic guitars, drum sets, and microphones. You could hardly go to a party between the years 2005 and 2009 without someone handing you an instrument controller and asking you to shred to “Enter Sandman.” Those were good days. And if you want to experience them again, pick up the 2015 reboot of Rock Band. It’s hardly different from this 2007 classic at all.

3. Guitar Hero II

Composite Metacritic Score: 89.5

The year was 2006, and Guitar Hero had already struck a chord with gamers. This sequel turned things up to 11, by introducing advanced guitar maneuvers like three-note chords, hammer-ons, and pull-offs. And because the original game had proved to the music industry that people were interested in playing their favorite songs in a video game, the developer was able to get much bigger bands on the soundtrack, including the Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, and Nirvana. If the original Guitar Hero put the series on the map, Guitar Hero II etched it in stone.

2. Guitar Hero

Composite Metacritic Score: 89.5

At last we’ve come to the beginning. While Guitar Hero wasn’t the first music/rhythm game, it made the genre explode in popularity. And it’s hard to argue it wasn’t the best music game ever released to that point. It pulled off the almost inconceivable task of making gamers feel like actual rock stars. Succeeding at a difficult song felt like a million bucks, and when you built up the muscle memory to tackle the harder songs on higher difficulties, the thrill you felt was very real. Few games can be credited with bringing an almost unheard-of genre into the mainstream, but Guitar Hero did it with aplomb.

1. The Sims 2

Composite Metacritic Score: 89.5

Game designer Will Wright was known for creating a masterwork with the SimCity series, but he found even more success when he brought many of the same ideas from that series into a more personable package. The series was The Sims, a set of games that zeroed in on a household and the regular lives of the people in it. You got to control everything from what the house looked like to what jobs your Sims went to every day. You could even oversee their use of the restroom. The original game was reportedly the most successful computer game ever made to that point, and The Sims 2 took everything that made that game good and made it better. The series is still going strong (and selling in record numbers), so it’s no surprise that it lands at the top spot in the best simulation games of all time.

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