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The 20 best simulator games to play right now

Best simulator games - Microsoft Flight Simulator
(Image credit: Asobo Studio)

The best simulator games let you experience an entirely new way of life, a career you never considered, or even dabble in crime. While some are challenging, delivering absolute accuracy and forcing you to learn technical skills, some are like playable ASMR, inducing a flow state that will give you a welcome break from the real world. 

We've included something for everyone here, whether you want to let your inner middle-aged man run wild with a jet washer, swap your corporate life for tending turnips, or start a new career as a producer behind the scenes of a British TV channel. 

We update this list regularly as more weird and wonderful simulators arrive on PC and consoles, so check back whenever you need a new hit of sweet sim satisfaction. 

 20. PowerWash Simulator

Best simulator games - PowerWash Simulator

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Available on: PC

A newcomer to the world of simulation games, PowerWash Simulator proves that sometimes all you need are water and muck to have a good time. Essentially the game is a shooter, but your targets are filth that has built up on lawn chairs, vans, and helicopters, and your weapons are a water jet and various flavors of soap. There's just something insanely satisfying about washing the crud off various items, and the game even gives a little dopamine-inducing ping when the section you've been working on is spotless. 

You might think it all sounds too simple, but between upgrades to your equipment, crawling on your belly to get to hard-to-reach areas, and the pure meditative flow state that comes with virtual manual labor, this is one game that makes a chore something to cherish. 

19.  Farming Simulator 17

Best simulator games - Farming Simulator 17

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Google Stadia

The core of Farming Simulator’s experience remains the same: buy more fields, upgrade equipment and enjoy your day-to-day routine among the green hills. The range of machines and equipment available to you is exceptionally broad, with the kind of brands that are familiar household names (if you are a farmer). As one of the most authentic farming experiences that you can get without getting your wellies dirty, the game is only enhanced by its updated visuals, customizable farms, and rideable horses.

If you’re looking to get away from the more high-octane gameplay of other titles and try something more tranquil, Farming Simulator 19 may be an ideal escape. That’s not to say that there isn’t any mechanical depth to the proceedings- those crops aren’t going to grow themselves after all, but Farming Simulator 2019, if nothing else, works as a therapeutic break from the stress and intensity of its genre contemporaries. 

18. Mad Tower Tycoon

Best simulator games - Mad Tower Tycoon

(Image credit: Eggcode)

Available on: PC

Real estate becomes virtual with this engaging tower sim by EggCode. Build a skyscraper that will stand the test of time, and then fill it with luxury apartments, offices, or deluxe entertainment to excite the masses- then it’s your job to make sure your building stays clean, well-powered, and convenient. The game’s primary challenge is managing transport in your new metropolitan monolith, and the game’s limited-capacity elevators make this an interesting challenge.

With charming cartoony graphics and a clearer interface than some of its competitors, Mad Tower Tycoon is an excellent introduction to management sims for those new to the genre. If you’re in the mood for some sky-scraping, then this is the game for you.

17.  Project Cars 2

Best simulator games - Project Cars 2

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Available on: PC, Xbox One, and PS4

A slightly more in-depth sim than its series predecessor, Project Cars 2 adds new levels of realism to its racing experience. With improved car handling and a new weather system that takes into account everything from time of day to seasons to the track’s height above sea level, the game’s ultimate intent is to be as realistic as conceivably possible.

Yet despite this obsession with technical details, Mad Studios doesn’t lose sight of what’s really important- the pure adrenaline rush of racing around the world’s most famous tracks in over 180 real-life supercars. Whether you’re driving alone, or competing online in the game’s Online Championship mode, Project Cars 2 lets you live your most vivid racing fantasies.

16. Railway Empire

Best simulator games - Railway Empire

(Image credit: Kalypso Media)

Available on: PC, Xbox One and PS4

Set during the American golden age of railway, between 1830 and 1930, you are the proud owner of an ambitious young railway company. Plan your railway lines and run a glorious range of over 40 historically authentic trains along them. But remember- although a direct line might be more profitable in the long term, it might also bankrupt your company to build! In addition to rolling out your great iron roads across the country, the game affords you a large degree of customization, letting you hire your own employees, each with individual personality types, and even what carriages your engines will pull. 

And for those gamers who would rather build their railway closer to home, the game also has a wide range of DLC, giving you the chance to expand your business to parts of Europe, South America and Canada. 

15.  Cities: Skylines 

Best simulator games - Cities: Skylines

Available on: PC, Xbox One, and PS4

After the much fêted but flawed SimCity reboot, Cities: Skylines thankfully came along in 2015 to restore the city-sim genre to its former glory. By offering contemporary reworkings of Maxis’ original formula, Skylines feels like a modern city-sim in every sense of the word, and watching your metropolis expand and thrive in real-time has never looked so good. 

It’s one of the few simulator games that’s also available on console, too, and Cities: Skyline’s sleek user interface turns the comfort of a controller into a totally viable and enjoyable option for those less inclined to the mouse and keyboard. 

14. Thief Simulator

Best simulator games - Thief Simulator

(Image credit: Noble Muffins)

Available on: PC and Nintendo Switch

Are you a hardened criminal? Then Thief Simulator by Noble Muffins isn’t the game for you. But if you’re just a regular normie dreaming of a life of villainy, then this open-world burglary simulator may be just what you’re looking for.

Scout out the neighborhood for houses to hit, and spy on their occupants to work out their daily routines. Then it’s time to go in with your janky black van and your diverse set of thieving tools and nick everything that’s not nailed down. Pick locks, rejig security systems, and cut holes in windows to become the best bad guy on the block. Just make sure you don’t get caught!

13. Football Manager 2020

Best simulator games - Football Manager 2020

(Image credit: SI Games)

Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch, Mac, iOS and Android

The classic sports managing sim returns to the pitch for another game. With over 200 teams and 116 leagues across 51 nations, Football Manager 2020 offers an in-depth football experience. Splash the cash on big-name transfers, or train the stars of the future through the all-new Development Centre. As a manager, create new play strategies for upcoming matches and watch the game unfold, and define your vision for the club’s future, molding its culture, objectives, and long-term plan for success. With such wide-ranging possibilities at your fingertips, this really is a Beautiful Game.

 12. Silent Hunter 3 

Best simulator games - Silent Hunter 3

Available on: PC

It’s still a relatively unknown piece of trivia that one of the best submarine simulator games out there comes from a Ubisoft studio, but don’t worry, there isn't a watchtower to be found in the open seas of Silent Hunter 3. Instead, the third game in the WWII-set series was praised for its attention to detail and action-oriented battles. 

Even if the ins and outs of historical watercraft aren't your thing (understandably), Silent Hunter 3’s meaty campaign is worth playing for its enrapturing atmosphere and open-ended pace. There’s a somber beauty to the destruction too, with the lavish detail designed to draw you in and keep you there, even when the intensity of the warfare becomes almost overwhelming. 

11. PC Building Simulator

Best simulator games - PC Building Simulator

(Image credit: Irregular Corporation)

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch

Taking its title ultra-seriously is PC Building Simulator by Romanian indie developer Claudiu Kiss. Aiming to create the most realistic experience you can get without having to wield a can of pressurized air, the game benefits from a long list of real-life components from hardware producers such as Intel, AMD, and Nvidia. Choose between career mode, where you’ll be upgrading, repairing, and virus-zapping according to the needs of your clients, or build the gaming PC of your electric dreams in free build mode. 

10. X-Plane 11

Best simulator games - X-Plane 11

(Image credit: Laminar Research)

Available on: PC

For all you prospective pilots out there, you couldn’t do much better than X-Plane 11. Released by developer Laminar Research in 2017 (contrary to the deceptive title), this flight sim lets you take control of a range of real-world aircraft, from helicopters to gliders to massive jumbo jets. What makes it stand out from the crowd though, is the inclusion of the Plane Maker modding tool, making it easy to design new and exciting aircraft to fly. Complex weather modeling is also a feature, simulating real-world weather in-game to give you an authentic flying experience. If you fancy joining the jet set, this game should be your next destination.

9.  Euro Truck Simulator 2  

Best simulator games - Euro Truck Simulator 2

Available on: PC

Who knew a game about driving a truck could be so addictive? SCS Software did, clearly, as their trucking sim sequel is currently one of the highest-rated games on Steam, sat above the likes of Dishonored, Civilization V, and Half-Life 2. The reality is that Euro Truck Simulator 2 offers that devastating blend of being both immensely relaxing and fiercely captivating, with the pleasant journeys along your designated trade routes segmented by junctures of deep strategy, as you consider factors such as fuel, finance, and furbishing your ride with new upgrades. Euro Truck Simulator 2’s greatest achievement is that it isn't just a game made for transport enthusiasts, but the appeal extends to anyone with even the slightest appreciation for the simple pleasures of the open road. 

8. Two Point Hospital

Best simulator games - Two Point Hospital

(Image credit: Sega)

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch

In this light-hearted hospital management sim, it’s your job to make sure that Two Point County’s new infirmary is up to scratch and able to deal with whatever new malady the locals bring through the door with them- whether that’s Floppy Discs, Cubism, or the dreaded Night Fever!

Like most management sims, the aim is to balance the budget with demand and slowly expand your healthcare empire. A spiritual successor to 1997’s Theme Hospital, Two Point shares much of its beloved forebear’s gameplay, visuals, and humor- albeit updated for a modern audience. Despite the game’s emphasis on humor, Two Point Studios’ opus quickly ramps up the pace, requiring you to make careful decisions on the quest for maximum efficiency. If you’re looking for a challenging, warm-hearted business sim to contract, then Two Point Hospital is extremely infectious.

7. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam

Best simulator games - Rising Storm 2: Vietnam

(Image credit: Antimatter Games)

Available on: PC

As unforgiving as its predecessor, Rising Storm 2 transports the action from World War II to the Vietnam War. Operating as an unofficial hybrid between popular first-person shooters like Call of Duty and the more hardcore mil-sims such as ARMA, the game incentivizes tactics over blind firepower. Tripwire Interactive’s focus is on making you feel like an actual soldier, rather than a superhero who can shrug off everything except scripted nuke detonations. As a result, you’ll find yourself hiding in foxholes, calling in napalm strikes or flanking your enemies with your squadmates, far more often than you’ll be charging at the enemy like a berserker. The result is a truly visceral and tense simulation of battle that puts you right in the heart of the conflict. 

6. Not for Broadcast

Best simulator games - Not for Broadcast

(Image credit: NotGames)

Available on: PC

The world of television is a fast-paced, high-stress place at the best of time, let alone in a dystopian alternate 1980s where broadcasts are actively censored. Although you’re only the cleaner, you’ve accidentally found yourself behind the mixing desk of the biggest news program on TV, National Nightly News. Underqualified and at risk of falling foul of the shady powers behind the scenes, it is your job to select camera feeds, bleep out foul language and choose the headlines that will be broadcast to the world. Like its fellow bureaucrat simulator Papers Please, you can choose to play the dutiful pawn, or deliberately cause trouble. Whatever you decide, you only have a few seconds to act, because the news is going out live. The game’s retro flavor, as well as its unusual use of live-action TV footage, creates a very engaging tone that compliments the tricky gameplay and the ethics of your new career as a propagandist.

5. ARMA 3

Best simulator games - ARMA 3

Available on: PC

Most people will recognize the ARMA brand for its wildly popular zombie mod based on ARMA 2, DayZ, but it is ARMA 3 which deserves some of the spotlight for what it brought to the military-sim table. Bohemia Interactive executes the essential elements of sandbox strategy with aplomb, and ARMA 3 serves as an open-ended arena for organic, dynamic war stories that can be played out with friends and foes. 

The depth of simulation is comprehensive, but only to a point, so as to sustain the immediacy of every interaction. Indeed, ARMA 3 can be extremely stressful and even terrifying at times, but that truth is nothing less than a testament to its immersive power as an undiluted evocation of modern warfare. 

4. Cooking Simulator

Best simulator games - Cooking Simulator

(Image credit: Big Cheese Studio)

Available on: PC

Ever wanted to be a professional chef? Well now is your chance. Cooking Simulator by Big Cheese Studio puts you in charge of a large, realistic kitchen and makes it your task to dice, simmer, blend and season your way to becoming the greatest chef of all time.

If your only experience of chef sims is Cooking Mama, the surprising depths of Cooking Simulator may come as something of a surprise. You’ll have to precisely measure and cook your ingredients- but make sure your hungry diners aren’t kept waiting too long! Or, if you’re more in the mood for mindless destruction of course, that’s also possible, with Big Cheese giving you the ability to start fires, break plates and blow up the microwave. If you’re ready to let your inner Gordon Ramsey out, then this may be the game for you!

3. Planet Coaster

Best Simulator Games - Planet Coaster

(Image credit: Frontier Developments)

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Fancy running your own theme park? Perhaps you see yourself as some kind of ‘roller coaster tycoon’? In Planet Coaster, you can do just that. Developed by Frontier Developments (the same studio responsible for 2004’s Roller Coaster Tycoon 3), it’s your task to fill your burgeoning new park with the world’s most thrilling rides. Sharing a great deal with its illustrious forebear (including the ability to ride your roller coaster creations), the game is rife with nostalgic fun. But for those new to the theme park genre, navigating Planet Coaster’s highs and lows is nevertheless a fresh and sometimes challenging simulator experience.

2.  The Sims 4

Best Simulator Games - The Sims 4

(Image credit: EA)

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

When The Sims 4 was first released in 2015 some fans of the series were disappointed by the lack of content in the game, but six years on an avalanche of add-ons means the EA titan is bigger and better than ever. Create a sim, or take over the lives of any of the EA-created NPCs, and start living their life the way you want, choosing everything from their career to romantic partners to general behavior. Be evil, be kind, be a weirdo, the game doesn't force you down any particular path but allows you to experience and play through the consequences of your actions. Thanks to DLC your sim can try out life with magic powers, get a pet, move the country, have paranormal experiences and so much more. Or just use the money cheat and spend many happy hours building a mega-mansion. 

1. Microsoft Flight Simulator

Best simulator games - Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Available on: PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S

The 2020 release of Microsoft Flight Simulator was the first time the series appeared on console and offered us all tickets to blue skies and new lands when actual travel was strongly discouraged, if not banned. The game is a visual marvel and the level of realism applied to the technicalities of piloting an aircraft is impressive and terrifying, no matter how much attention you think you were paying on all those vacation flights. Luckily the game comes with its own flight school to try and teach you the basics, and options to vary the amount of assistance the game gives you to help avoid a terrible crash. As a pilot, you'll be rewarded with views of a 4K, photorealistic Planet Earth from the cockpit, and the chance to cry "I can see my house from here" whenever you want. 

Need something else to play? Whether you're a fan of turn-based tactics or a good RTS, there's something for everyone in the best strategy games

Rachel Weber
Rachel Weber

Rachel Weber is the US Managing Editor of GamesRadar+ and lives in Brooklyn, New York. She joined GamesRadar+ in 2017, revitalizing the news coverage and building new processes and strategies for the US team.