Don't call it a comeback
If you've paid a little bit of attention over the last few years, you may have noticed a resurgence of games that have "Simulator" somewhere in the title. Like the flight sims of yore, these games attempt to recreate some real-world task with as much authentic detail as possible. But if you've really been paying attention, you know that Simulators never went out of style: they just adopted different naming conventions.
It's true! Sims depicting everything from Traffic Control to Family Finance to Telephone Repair have appeared on PC and major consoles in recent years, even if marketing departments insisted on giving them sexier titles. If you ask me, the solid - and often educational - fun of these 30 games need no embellishment. That's why I've provided each of them with a more accurate name and complimentary catalog description.
Calligraphy Simulator (Okami)
"Perfect brush stroke fundamentals and unlock increased ink reserves as you advance through beautiful scenes of ancient Japan. Learn new techniques to improve your expression. Calligraphy Simulator will improve your art of writing or your money back - if you can do it with a thumbstick, you can do it with anything!"
Child Nightmare Simulator (Five Nights at Freddy's)
"Kids have such colorful nightmares, and it seems like just about anything can set them off - whether it's a happy clown, humble basement, or a good old animatronic band down at the pizza place. Now you can relive those terrible nights with Child Nightmare Simulator!"
Sea Shanty Simulator (Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag)
"The life of a buccaneer isn't complete without a working song. In Sea Shanty Simulator's historically accurate portrayal of the songwriting process you'll chase dozens of lyric sheets over rooftops and through buildings, and your crew will reward your efforts with a brand new shanty every time!"
First-Year Philosophy Simulator (Metal Gear Solid)
"Have you ever wondered if love could bloom, even on a battlefield? Do your friends refuse to drink with you because you always end up pontificating on the conflicting roles of soldiers and nations? Try out First-Year Philosophy Simulator - you could be eligible for course credit!"
Hat Simulator (Team Fortress 2)
"Maybe your head is too misshapen to wear most hats, or maybe your closet is already filled and you still want more. Either way, Hat Simulator allows you to expand your collection with dozens of virtual dome-covers from the mundane trilby to the haunted top hat."
Reality TV Alliance Simulator (Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor)
"No matter how good you are at knocking bottles over with coconuts, physical prowess alone will never get you to the final episode. With Reality TV Alliance Simulator, you'll go into the next competition with first-hand knowledge of when to take rivals out, when to turn them to your side, and what to do when they inevitably return."
Telephone Repair Simulator (Alien: Isolation)
"Experience the thrilling life of maintenance work in the far future with Telephone Repair Simulator. Travel from one phone to the next as you attempt to isolate and eliminate a pesky telephony problem, all while avoiding potentially fatal run-ins with unsatisfied service subscribers."
Beachcombing Simulator (Destiny)
"Can't make it out to the beach, but you still have a consuming need to search for shiny objects? Try out Beachcombing Simulator, the detailed first-person game that lets you return to the same regions day-in and day-out, forever hoping that time and chance will yield something of worth."
Warehouse Simulator (Half-Life 2)
"You've never seen crates like this before! In Warehouse Simulator, it's up to you to stack up multiple varieties of crate in dozens of different formations - cube crates, ammo crates, even a cardboard box or two! Need to make some space for more, better creates? Let your crowbar do the talking."
Conspiracy Simulator (Half-Life 3)
"Good news: if you can list the first hundred powers of three by memory, know Gabe Newell's blood type, and are generally an expert at seeing connections where others would see meaningless data points, Conspiracy Simulator is the game for you. Better news: you're already playing it!"
Contraband Simulator (Resident Evil 4)
"The documents are forged. The tickets are purchased. The customs officials are bribed. In Contraband Simulator, all that remains is to make sure you can fit your stash of high-powered firearms, ammunition, and colorful 'herbs' in a single attache case before time runs out!"
Family Finance Simulator (Papers, Please)
"As the family's lone breadwinner, it's up to you to determine where to spend the meager earnings from your backbreaking labor at the border checkpoint. Heat, electricity, it all adds up so fast - does Junior really need those damned expensive pills? Decide for yourself!"
Workplace Dispute Simulator (League of Legends)
"Ever wonder what it would be like to work alongside a team of cretins who, at the slightest perceived affront, drop any pretense of working toward a common cause and pour all their efforts into bringing about your utter undoing? Try Workplace Dispute Simulator - and don't forget to report, report, report!"
Video Surveillance Simulator (Goldeneye 007)
"Don't let bad guys make a single move without you knowing it! Peek from screen to screen and keep an eye on your opponents' locations in Video Surveillance Simulator's multitasking action. If you see your character appear in someone else's display, you're already too late!"
Goat Simulator (Goat Simulator)
"In Goat Simulator, you play as a goat."
Hoarding Simulator (Skyrim)
"Hoarding can be hazardous to your physical and mental well-being. But in Hoarding Simulator, you can experience all the satisfaction from collecting hundreds of useless tchochkes without any of the tripping hazards. Already found all the cheese wheels? Why not start on the wooden ladles?"
Promo Cutting Simulator (Pokemon X & Y)
"If you're entering a battle with an opponent who hasn't heard about your combat ability and fashion sense, you've already lost. In Promo Cutting Simulator, you can experience what it's like to plan, record, and edit a demo tape for you or one of your favorite animals! Fake mustache included."
False Equivalence Simulator (BioShock Infinite)
"Grave issues with far-reaching ethical, political, and economic implications are a frustrating mess for the busy consumer. Don't you wish that both sides would reveal themselves as murderous monsters so you wouldn't feel bad about ignoring their arguments? With False Equivalence Simulator, the struggle isn't real!"
Commodity Market Simulator (Animal Crossing)
"Take on the world of high-risk investments with Commodity Market Simulator. Even though the world is couched with comforting images of friendly animals, you can still find your fortune or lose the shirt off your back in the cutthroat world of turnip trading. Just don't call it 'pork-belly trading' around Curly"
Inevitable Death Simulator (Arma 3)
"For many of us, the end will not arrive in a blaze of glory or surrounded by our loved ones - our demises lurk everywhere, waiting to bring an unceremonious conclusion to our brief mortal existence. Inevitable Death Simulator lets you experience this eventuality over and over again - if you're ever aware of the cause of your death, your money back."
Workplace Training Simulator (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword)
"Some tasks should not be attempted without undergoing hours of rote explanation beforehand. And by some tasks, we mean anything more complicated than 'walking in a straight line'. Workplace Training Simulator gives you the endless thrill of tutorial prompts. Don't worry, if you ever make it past the tutorials you can just start a new save!"
Traffic Control Simulator (Watch Dogs)
"Near-future Chicago has installed a city-wide operating system, but the traffic control mechanisms are riddled with inefficiency! Take on the stylish scarf of a vigilante road planner in Traffic Control Simulator as you decide when and where to change the city's dozens of working traffic lights - will you turn rush hour into crush hour?"
Kbler-Ross Simulator (Bomberman)
"The cartoon bombing men of Kbler-Ross Simulator let you experience the stages of grief whenever you want: first denial, when you can't believe a bomb blocked your only exit; then anger, when you realize you can't escape; then bargaining, as you seek assistance from other players; then depression, as you succumb to emotional exhaustion; and finally acceptance, as the bomb explodes."
Matchmaking Simulator (Fire Emblem: Awakening)
"There's much more to the ancient art of matchmaking than just picking who would make the best-looking kids. In Matchmaking Simulator you must spark chemistry on the battlefield between a warband full of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. Just make sure they don't get axe murdered before they're enamored enough to exchange vows."
Automotive Selfie Simulator (Mario Kart 8)
"It's not enough to drive fast. In the age of social media, when you could be just one selfie (or red light camera photo) away from going viral, you've gotta look good while tearing up the track. Practice your smirk of victory, pout of defeat, or death stare of determination as you keep the pedal to the medal in Automotive Selfie Simulator, then check the highlights reel to see how you did!"
Digital Manipulation Simulator (Surgeon Simulator)
"One hand. Five fingers. A world of objects to try and grasp. Digital Manipulation Simulator brings you the thrill of commanding the human hand in a variety of high-stakes situations like a reception desk, a speeding ambulance, and outer space. Bring a cool head and a cooler hand - at least you don't have to clean up all the blood and broken glass."
Scavenger Hunt Simulator (The Last of Us)
"Few things are more fun than a good old, frantic scavenger hunt, but they can also be a fast track to breaking and entering charges. Scavenger Hunt Simulator sends you into a post-apocalyptic future where you're free to scrounge around for scissors, alcohol, and explosives without fear of criminal prosecution!"
Dung Beetle Simulator (Katamari Damacy)
"Dung Beetle Simulator rolls you up into the life of one of nature's hardest working creatures. Capable of collecting and transporting balls of dung several times its size in the real world, this thrilling title boosts the noble dung beetle's abilities to encompass sky-high objects in a single-all consuming pile of crap."
Home Organization Simulator (Rock Band)
"Do you miss the thrill of putting your toys away when your parents threatened to ground you? Do you enjoy exercising your spacial awareness with odd-shaped plastic objects? Maybe you just have too much space in your home? Purchase Home Organization Simulator and just try to figure out where to store its ever-expanding suite of peripherals!"
Half-Finished Project Simulator (Minecraft)
"The Starship Enterprise! The Eiffel Tower! A fully functioning calculator! You can start off with the best intentions for all these marvels in Half-Finished Project Simulator - just remember, the aim of the game is to leave its once-beautiful procedurally generated world with as many abandoned construction projects as possible!"
Run the simulation
But that's just a small sampling of simulator games masquerading as typical titles. Have we missed any other classics of the genre? Let us know in the comments section below!
Check out the Top 7 undead creatures that are totally not zombies (opens in new tab) for more games that are afraid to tell it like it is, and don't miss our Assassin's Creed personality quiz (opens in new tab).