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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.

Theme Hospital

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.

Capitalism

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.

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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?

Transport Tycoon

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 Review: Infrastructure Has Never Been So Fun Transport Tycoon Review: Infrastructure Has Never Been So Fun If you get warm and fuzzy at the thought of a well oiled transportation system, the long-awaited release of Chris Sawyer's classic Transport Tycoon should bring a smile to your face. Read More , 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.

Sim Farm

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!

Sim Tower

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 Run Your Own Bustling Apartment Building With Tiny Tower [Android & iOS] Run Your Own Bustling Apartment Building With Tiny Tower [Android & iOS] One game that I stumbled upon and almost passed by is a vintage-looking game called Tiny Tower. Picture the sort of animation that you probably would have seen on a Nintendo-era game, but with a... Read More 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.

  1. Chay P
    November 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    I totally agree with Sim Hospital, I remember playing it on PSOne and PS2, and when I got my first laptop it was the first game I got.

  2. Tom W
    November 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I still have my copy of Theme Hospital, and I only recently was looking to see if they ever made a sequel. I may see if I can get it to run on Windows 7. If it doesn't I can just install corsix-th and play that instead.

  3. Jesslyn
    October 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    My 30 year old daughter asked about SimTower about a month ago. She wanted to know if a sequel was ever released.

    And I got a couple from Gog.com, Theme Hospital and Capitalism 2

  4. Marius G
    October 28, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Seeing Theme Hospital again has reminded me the amount of time lost in my early teens!

  5. Mordalo
    October 28, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Even though I don't like the real-life game, SimGolf was my favourite sim.
    An update to that would be cool.

  6. Juan D
    October 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    update: http://www.enlight.com/capitalism2/ seems lke they have the game, at 9.99

  7. Juan D
    October 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    *runs like crazy to search for capitalism*, hope i can get it and make it work on windows 7

  8. Alexandra Jau
    October 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I totaly love Theme Hospital. Why oh why did never make a Theme Hospital 2?! Give me more wierd sickness!

  9. Matthew H
    October 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    No Sim Copter?

  10. Keith
    October 27, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I loved simcity societies because it allowed you to build your city block by block. The new sim city is good but I hoped it would have been more like societies.

  11. Scott H
    October 27, 2013 at 10:08 am

    still got all them game and the bullfrog game to awesome game ever made

  12. bart
    October 27, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Its not new but go there for Open Transport Tycoon!
    http://www.openttd.org/en/

  13. Dan
    October 27, 2013 at 6:27 am

    I loved playing SimFarm back in the day! It was the closest thing a city slicker like me would ever get to raising livestock. And my Bessie always wins first prize at the country fair.

    I also played SimAnt. Quirky yet enjoyable.

    I've heard it from a friend that business majors at one of the local universities back in the 90s are required to play Capitalism. Whether their final scores are graded, I do not know.

  14. Joel L
    October 27, 2013 at 4:27 am

    I spent many days of my childhood playing Sim Ant and Sim Tower. Would be awesome to see a sequel to either of those. I miss the old Maxis startup screen...

  15. Brian H
    October 27, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Sin Tower and later Yoot Tower (by the same designer but different developer and publisher) were my favs but Sim Isle: Missions in the Rainforest was interesting.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoot_Tower
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim_isle

  16. Marcel
    October 26, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I have played each of these games except Capitalism and your post brings about a strong feeling of nostalgia. I have to add "Railroad Tycoon" (1990) to that list which I was addicted to years before Transport Tycoon arrived.

    • Christian C
      October 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      I was horribly addicted to the original Railroad Tycoon through my later years in school

      It only ended when I discovered Civ...

  17. Bumferry H
    October 26, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Sim tower would keep me going for hours. recycling centres, underground cinemas, watching santa fly by at xmas..... such sweet memories. I do remember getting a program with a PC magazine years ago that let you walk around your own sim city game at srett level.
    you could talk to other sims and even jump in a helicopter and put out fires.
    It was only a little trial and nothing like THE SIMS but in the mid 90's it opened my imagination to what sim games would be like the the distant future of 2013..... sometimes the future can be so disappointing. ;O)

  18. Robert O
    October 26, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    I think that "Sim Ant" is a game that really deserves a modern update. It's off-beat enough to attract attention, and the premise is funny and intriguing enough to get the kiddies to play an "educational" game.

  19. Christian C
    October 26, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I seem to have missed SimFarm back in the day.

    :dons overalls and fires up tractor:

    I'm having some of that!

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