While you bounced plumbers around collecting coins, I was constructing glorious empires, establishing global trade networks, and wrangling with the world of corporate financing. Yes – consoles were banned in our family, so any gaming fun I had was strictly through DOS and Windows 3.1. These 5 sims stand out as the greatest time suck of my youth. I really didn’t get out much, but that’s beside the point – they need a sequel.
Though at its core is a serious resource management sim, the ickiness of real world diseases were left at the sanitary hospital doors in favour of altogether more hilarious afflictions like “bloaty head syndrome” and “chronic nose hair.” Players would progress by researching a variety of odd contraptions to diagnose and treat the increasing variety of ailments, while also being forced to deal with the altogether more mundane elements of hospital management such as making sure the corridors were warm enough and janitorial duties were covered. It was a curious juxtaposition of comedy and reality; it just worked, and sold over 4 million copies worldwide.
Made by Bullfrog Productions, Theme Hospital was a spiritual successor to Theme Park, which was itself released a full 5 years before Rollercoaster Tycoon rolled in and dominated the genre. You can buy Theme Hospital for most major Windows and Mac OS computers over at Good Old Games for just $6. I promise you it’s good.
Unashamedly a pure business management sim, Capitalism was devoid of fancy 3D graphics – focussing instead on the intricacies of mining, factories and pushing products to the mindless consuming public through establishing a retail presence. Players were free to concentrate on one particular aspect of the game – manufacturing, for instance – then let world markets take care of the rest.
Re-watching the gameplay now, I can see I was obviously a little weird to have enjoyed this as a child, but it was the closest I could get to running my own real world corporate empire when I was barely 13. Perhaps a little more of this and a little less Pokemon would do wonders for the current generation. The game even included educational modes to learn about concepts like the stock market and market analysis, so it’s no wonder I came top of the class in Business Studies. Capitalism was named in 2000 as one of the 15 most difficult games ever – so complicated it “should come with a free MBA in every box.” Hardcore, man. I wonder if anyone ever made a Socialism sim?
The ultimate miniature railroad set for those of us without a spare room, from Tycoon master Chris Sawyer (who later went on to create RollerCoaster Tycoon). Recently re-released on iOS, Transport Tycoon was an epic game covering the Victorian era to modern-day transport systems – planes, trains, automobiles and shipping – to be exact. Both passengers and natural resources needed transporting, to and from towns and factories. The most efficient networks got paid the most, enabling expansion to other towns and yet more industry. Would you start out with that lucrative cross-country coal rail line, or go for the low risk passenger buses?
Curiously, it even had multiplayer over a null modem cable (now I’m really showing my age), which I’ll admit didn’t exactly make for thrilling afternoon gaming sessions – but nothing beat solo play against some ruthless computer AI companies. I have fond memories of screaming as my rival purchased a new tank engine while my rail line wasn’t even complete yet.
Transport Tycoon lives on today in the form of OpenTTD – a reverse engineered open source clone.
Maxis produced SimFarm in 1993 as a spin-off from SimCity 2000, and having never lived on a real farm I can’t speak for it’s accuracy of game play. From what I remember of the game, staying afloat as a farmer was darned difficult. I was hopeless – barely getting my animals to breed or surviving past a few harvests. The graphics were atrocious, and curiously the otherwise click-driven sim had a crop duster that required manually flying using the keyboard.
The game may not have been a resounding success, but let’s face it, the time is right for another SimFarm. Or at the very least, they should add farms back to SimCity 2013!
Ah, the joys of tweaking elevator operational parameters. Surprisingly not the most ridiculous Sim game ever (Sim Ant can take that award), Sim Tower was a strangely compelling game of building skyscrapers, and then filling them with apartments, shops, underground car parking, elevators and even wedding chapels. Suffering from a lack of documentation (or should that be a “self discovery feature?”) and slow pace, the addictive game has nevertheless spawned a number of un-official modern remiganings like Tiny Tower for iOS.
The educational value of real world resource management is completely lacking from modern gaming – dominated by the FPS genre. Sim games just seem to have gone out of fashion lately (not helped by disastrous SimCity launch), and I think it’s a shame. Bring back one of these 5 gems and I’m almost certain you’ll have a winner on your hands.
What was your favorite sim? Hit the comments section below and let us know.