If you’re suddenly finding yourself with a lot of gaming time over the holidays and are looking for your next great game to fire up, here’s our list of some of the best simulation games available on Xbox.
Simulation games are great. You sit down with a “oh, maybe I’ll just start this up for five minutes…” and the next thing you know, it’s the middle of the night and it’s no longer a game — you’re fully invested in the minutiae of running your post-apocalyptic settlement, compromising your moral integrity with one gritty choice after another; or else flailing in the utter chaos as your once-great dinosaur sanctuary turns into a tooth-and-claw-filled nightmare with guests running amok and your T-Rex loose; or else desperately running out of money with your university campus filled with too many vending machines and not enough classrooms — the point is, there are many great options out there, and they all promise to steal a significantly chunky portion of your time. Which one to start first? We’ve gathered together a selection of some of the best simulation games on Xbox, using a combination of site review scores, community ratings, and personal opinions — check it out below, and if you don’t see your favourite or want to share your opinion, let us know all about it in the comments too!
Stardew Valley absolutely has to be on this list, and most likely a fair few other “best of” lists too — it’s a true gem of a game and likely has something for everyone. True, until you figure out your Stardew Valley strategy of what you want to do with your time, the first few days can be a madcap headless-chicken rush of trying to do everything at once, but there’s no doubt that Stardew Valley will stake a sizeable claim on your imagination, and for good reason; no matter how many hours you sink into it, Stardew Valley never gets old, with the same subtle sense of magic shining through in your 100th hour as it did in your first. Farming, foraging, fishing, mining, exploring, getting to know the townspeople, restoring the community centre; there’s a lot to do in Stardew Valley, which has definitely earned its place at the top of this list, as well as a spot on our round-up of the best Game Pass games for Xbox.
Disney Dreamlight Valley
Disney Dreamlight Valley is still in Early Access, it’s true, but the game already has such a wealth of content available that it’ll keep you busy for hours. In Disney Dreamlight Valley, the valley itself has been cursed by the Forgetting, with Night Thorns covering the land and the residents scattered across their various realms. We’ll be bringing them back, helping them recover their memories, and restoring the valley to its former glory. We can customise the town, deciding where everyone lives and decorating around their houses, as well as farm, cook, fish, mine, craft, and more, all while completing quests for our villagers. There’s already a fair few Disney and Pixar faves in the game, such as Moana and Ariel, and Gameloft has plans for constant content updates as the game works its way towards its full release. Disney Dreamlight Valley is just plain fun with a hefty nostalgia kick that’ll keep you playing for weeks.
Jurassic World Evolution
Now, I know, Jurassic World Evolution 2 is out too, but it’s still Jurassic World Evolution that’s my favourite — and it sits just above Jurassic World Evolution 2 on our list of the highest-rated simulation games with 4.0/5 instead of 3.9/5, so I reckon it can wedge its way onto this list instead of its sequel. You know the concept: try to build a dinosaur park and watch it crumble into chaos. Jurassic World Evolution doesn’t pretend to offer anything more than that core premise, and that really works for it; who hasn’t watched Jurassic Park and been itching to try their hand at prehistoric park keeping themselves? You’ll run the park, sending researchers out on digs for DNA and then bioengineering it to adapt your dinosaurs before releasing them and containing them (or at least attempting to) as you cater to the guests at your park. It’s good fun, and if everything occasionally comes roaring apart with velociraptors chasing your guests and a storm destroying your park, so what? That’s what the next island is for!
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Builders 2 sees building outlawed across the land by order of the Children of Hargon — as a youthful apprentice, we escape to the Isle of Awakening and set out on a quest to become a master Builder with the help of our friend Malroth. Dragon Quest Builders 2 only arrived onto Xbox last year, but has already shot high up the list of the best simulation games, with over 36,000 TrueAchievements members playing it and loving it, judging from its 4.0/5 rating.
Two Point Campus
Then, changing tack entirely, we’ve got Two Point Campus; a wacky simulation management game where you get cracking building your university campus, watch your students enrol in a bizarre selection of courses, and try your very best to keep things running without ending the year in a crumbling pile of debt. Fun! Two Point Campus is just as happy not taking itself seriously as Two Point Hospital was, and it’s great to watch all the strange shenanigans taking place across the campus as you weather inspections, failing students, parties, new classes, and more. In our opinion, Two Point Campus has an extra layer of depth to it, and it works in its favour that rather than trying to zoom patients in and out as fast as possible in Two Point Hospital, Two Point Campus instead asks you to become invested in the lives of your students. If dinos and Disney aren’t really your thing, perhaps campus management will tempt you?
The Escapists 2
The Escapists is technically just above The Escapists 2 when asking TrueAchievements to show us the best simulation games based on TA ratings, but since both do have a score of 3.8/5, we thought we’d mix it up a little this time and have The Escapists 2 break its way onto this list. You’ll be tasked with escaping the most difficult prisons; using your time to blend into the routine before making your getaway. The Escapists 2 features multi-storey prisons and a new combat system to complicate things still further, so you’ll need to pull out all the stops to make a break for it.
Almost 70,000 TrueAchievements members have booted up Elite: Dangerous, which sits with a score of 4.1/5. It’s a unique game, giving us a gigantic galaxy to explore of which it is nigh-on impossible to see the full extent. It’s a classic space simulator through and through, to the point in which the controls and game mechanics can be hard to grasp — this in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it might not appeal to everyone. Only with a huge time investment will players get the full experience of the title, but with that comes a greater feeling of reward.
Despite however many other games coming out in the five years since Cities: Skylines launched, this city sim game still manages to sit near the top of the list of highest-rated sim games on TrueAchievements, with a very respectable rating of 3.9/5 and over 100,000 players on the site. Starting from scratch, you — as mayor — design and build your city, planning around the needs of your citizens and tackling everything from transport to education. Given that a completion of the base game alone could take you around 150 to 200 hours, it’s safe to say Cities: Skylines will give you plenty to do.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator has now soared to third place on that list of the highest-rated simulation games on TrueAchievements, with a rating of 4.3/5 and over 100,000 players on the site. It currently sits with an estimated completion time of over 1,000 hours, so it’s fair to say you could be investing a sizeable portion of time into this one. Microsoft Flight Simulator is incredibly detailed and, along with an impressive assortment of aircraft and airports, features weather changes and actual live traffic, as well as over 1.5 billion buildings; you can actually use real landmarks to guide yourself around the world. You can get truly immersed in Microsoft Flight Simulator, and this list wouldn’t be complete without it.
Farm Together allows you to sit back and relax as you and your friends tend to your farm, caring for crops, trees, and animals, and customising your farm, your house, and yourself. Time will tick onwards even when you’re not playing, and, while you can play by yourself or with friends, you can also decide who is allowed to come and help around on your farm by opening it to everyone. If you like the idea of running and tending to a farm but are fed up of busy menu systems and convoluted instructions, Farm Together is the perfect alternative.
Slime Rancher 2
Slime Rancher 2 is also still in Early Access, but playing even a minute of it is proof that it offers exactly what you’d want from a sequel: more of what you love from the first game. As Beatrix LeBeau, we head to Rainbow Island to find new slimes and new secrets, setting up camp in a huge glass conservatory. The world of Slime Rancher 2 is utterly gorgeous, and it’s easy to spend your first few hours just exploring the multi-coloured landscape before getting stuck into some actual slime ranching. Slime Rancher 2 is also set to get a number of content updates as it makes its way through Early Access, bringing new features and new places to explore, so it looks as though there’ll be plenty of reasons to keep coming back to Slime Rancher 2.
Tropico 6 has shifted slightly down the list of the highest-rated simulation games on TrueAchievements, with a rating of 4.1/5, but it’s still well near the top and promises to keep you hooked for a long time. Just as with Frostpunk, Tropico 6 promises to turn you into a dictator — although the settings couldn’t be further apart. Tropico 6 introduces several new features to the series: the chance to play on archipelagos, new building and transport options, and a “revised” research system, and, from its lofty position on the list of highest-rated sim games on the site, we couldn’t leave it out.
If you’re looking for an in-depth sim set in a grim and gruelling world, look no further than Frostpunk. Set in an alternate version of the industrial revolution, Frostpunk charts humanity’s last stand against the spreading cold of a frozen planet. You’re in charge of this last bastion, and Frostpunk refuses to coddle you with any even remotely easy decisions, and in the march to keep you city alive, you might come to realise that Frostpunk’s turned you from a benevolent ruler to a ruthless dictator. Either way, Frostpunk isn’t easy — but it’s more than worth a playthrough.
And, just to end this list on a lighter note and with some tonal whiplash for you, we have PowerWash Simulator — pure mindless enjoyment cleaning the dirt off everything from cars to parks across Muckingham, choosing your equipment and building up your power-washing business. It’s good clean fun. Clean fun. Get it? …Maybe it’s time for me to step away from this list.
So, what do you think? Any simulation games here catch your eye? Any you’d add to the list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!