Top Ten Business Simulators

by Ben Beck

Sometimes, you gotta leave your humdrum life behind and be someone else. Video games are great for this -- but sometimes you gotta leave your humdrum life behind and do someone else's humdrum life. For this particular itch, there are business sims, are here are the ten best. And we'll deal with one entry per series.

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10. Game Dev Story (Mobile, Kairosoft, 2010)

Though originally developed in 1997 for a PC-only release in Japan, Game Dev Story was ported to mobile devices in 2010 and that's the version I am familiar with. A highly addictive and accessible look into the world of video game development, Game Dev Story uses adorable sprites and a 16-bit look to hook you into making the best games possible. 

9. Euro Truck Simulator 2 (PC, SCS Software, 2012)

It's hard to believe that a game about realistically, carefully driving a big rig across Europe could be so addictive, but somehow Euro Truck Simulator 2 manages. The amount of detail, realism, and care that went into creating Euro Truck Simulator 2 is absolutely staggering, and this endears the game to even those who find its concept laughable. 

8. Tropico (PC, PopTop, 2001)

Ever wanted to be a dictator? The Tropico series of games lets you scratch that itch, ruling over a banana republic with an iron first. Hey, being a dictator is a job too, and the game feels more like a business simulation than a strategy sim like Civilization. You're making money, keeping your populace happy, and trying to avoid assassination or a military coup. What's not to love? 

7. Aerobiz Supersonic (SNES/Genesis, Koei, 1994)

Aerobiz is an excellent series of games, airline management sims that came out for consoles. You'll notice most of these games are for computers, so the success of the Aerobiz games is even more impressive. The sequel to the original, Aerobiz Supersonic is the clear winner of the series. Great graphics, relaxing music, and a learning curve that's steep but not impossible. The greatest console business sim of all time. 

6. SimTower (PC, Maxis, 1994)

Another odd, addictive game to add to the list. Maxis' towering (har har) achievement is this skyscraper building and management sim, full of random events and Maxis' nasty sense of humour (yes, you will have a Die Hard style situation at least once). The game is a classic of balanced, skilled gameplay.

5. Theme Hospital (PC, Bullfrog, 1997)

Hey, it's Peter Molyneux, the most hated man in game development! Before he was an utter pariah, though, Molyneux designed some of the greatest simulation games of all time. One of these is the ghoulishly fun Theme Hospital, which turns an ostensible place of healing into a churning profit machine. While designed as a satire on attempts to privatize Britain's health system, Theme Hospital's horrors may seem all too real for American players.

4. EVE Online (PC, CCP, 2003)

This online space sim MMORPG has probably ruined a few lives with its immersive, addictive online world, and there's really nothing else quite like it. The massive world, the complex in-game political and economic systems, the fanatical player-base -- it's a one of a kind game. 

3. Theme Park (Multi-platform, Bullfrog, 1994)

Before Theme Hospital, there was Theme Park, Bullfrog's wonderful theme park simulation game that focuses less on building the best rides you can and more on bilking your hapless customers. Peter Molyneux really has a dim view of capitalism, doesn't he?

2. Harvest Moon (SNES, Pack-In-Video, 1996)

There is no game as relaxing, meditative, and serene as Harvest Moon. While there are other excellent entries in the farming sim genre, like the ultra-realistic Farming Simulator series and the recent HM-homage Stardew Valley, nothing can touch Harvest Moon's gentle yet stylish gameplay and pacing. There are many excellent games in the series, as Harvest Moon has really never lost its serene touch.

1. Rollercoaster Tycoon (PC, Hasbro, 1999)

Sure, Theme Park has the satire, but when it comes to good ol' fashioned theme park building you really can't beat Hasbro's superlative Rollercoaster Tycoon series, which has not yet been beat for sheer addictive fun across all ages and skill levels. The original game still stands up to this day, with one of the best sandbox modes a game has ever had. Rollercoaster Tycoon is pure, unadulterated fun, and the best business sim of all time.