Sims differ from other PC games in that their raison d’être isn’t necessarily to entertain, at least not primarily. You want fun and excitement? Tough. Operating a submarine is not that. It is, however, fascinating, terrifying, and hugely satisfying as a long-form experience.
Such is the nature of the genre that seeking out the best PC sims is like asking for the ‘special’ stock the shopkeeper keeps in the back room. They’re not all best-sellers, but these are the titles with dedicated communities offering deep tutorials and incredible mods, that let you get as close to hauling a trailer full of plumbing parts across Europe, driving an F1 car, or piloting a military aircraft as national security laws will permit.
Perhaps the best thing about this free MMO is that it’s very easy to just plunge into it, get a decent idea of its systems and start having fun right away. Try saying that about Flight Simulator X with a straight face.
If you’re after sheer volume of machinery, War Thunder’s WW2/Korean War era roster exceeds 300 aircraft. Each can be piloted using arcade (boo!) or simulation physics models to blast away at airborne adversaries playing on both PC and consoles – its servers know no platform boundaries. Which, of course, means there’s usually plenty of easy meat for PC players to pick off.
If War Thunder’s skies offer an opportunity for a quick joyride and a bit of sightseeing, ground combat offers the exact opposite – the steel beasts in this tank game move at such a glacial pace that you’re constantly on high alert, scanning for enemies in the scrubland. Whoever fires first in this free Steam game almost always carries away the spoils.
The USA, Russia, Britain, Germany and Japan all wage war here, each with their own particular mechanical strengths (there’s a long-running argument concerning Soviet machinery bias in this area), weaknesses… and convoluted upgrade paths. If you’re averse to grinding, this might not be the simulation game for you. If you’re after a WW2 sim with an enormous community that you can start playing with no financial outlay, though… well, your demands are very specific, and War Thunder’s your sim.
TRAIN SIM WORLD
The humble train simulator has been around for almost as long as there’s been PC simulation games, and while the latest iteration of Train Simulator is the traditional choice, Train Sim World offers something a mite more ambitious – and it’s by the same developer, Dovetail Games, so fans of one should appreciate the other.
It’s certainly the most realistic train sim game around – for example, you can’t even leave the station without priming the battery first. The whole game’s played in first-person, so all the driving, management, and upkeep is done from the ground level – just as if you were serving and running the train yourself. The whole point of simulation games is to make you feel like you’re actually doing the job, and Train Sim World does that better than any other – as we found while documenting our Train Sim World travel diary adventures.
While it started off a little bare-bones when it released, Dovetail has consistently updated the game with new features, trains, routes, weather, and more. There’s also an array of DLC packs, too. It may all be a bit pricey for some, but the option to expand is there if you find yourself tiring of the same routes, and you certainly won’t be able to find a more in-depth and realistic train sim for your money.
FARMING SIMULATOR 19
When it comes to farming simulator games, look no further than, er, Farming Simulator 19. The clue’s in the name, frankly. Please excuse our facetiousness, but believe us when we say that if you’re looking for the closest one-to-one recreation of truly living off the land, Giants Software’s latest agricultural outing is for you. And we’re experts, as our Farming Simulator 19 diary eloquently shows.
Considering you’ll most likely be losing many hours to tending your crops and livestock, it’s great that Farming Simulator gives us a graphical overhaul. That doesn’t help the smell of the manure, though. With more vehicles and detail than ever before, Farming Simulator is the kind of management title that teaches you new skills as you get away from the big smoke. Or just lets you make creepy crop circles.