Finally! We come to my most favorite category of games in the quest to find the right game for the right time: Simulation games!
These games simulate real-life activities but unlike in real life there are no major goals and there’s no pressure. Maybe that’s why I like these games so much, as I have more than enough goals in my everyday life: I don’t want my gaming to be another thing that I have to achieve. Often, you are free to set targets for yourself, like collecting things, level up friendship in the game and such. Like in most categories games aren’t neatly placed in one box, but I’ll try to divide them in:
– Real time simulation
– Simulation RPG
– (Time) Management
– City builder
The best real time simulation game as far as I’m concerned shouldn’t come as a surprise: Animal Crossing is what made me start my gaming life, and I can still be in awe at how your little town thrives and survives, even if you are not there to manage it. The clock never stops, but as there are hardly any goals to reach, that’s fine too. Just as long as you’re not the type to obsess about keeping perfect town status or have a town full of hybrid flowers. Because if you do find such things extremely important, the game can easily overtake your life and before you know it, it demands hours and hours of your spare time. I guess that’s the only downside of the game, it really sucks you in. Another thing that I think is annoying is the way holidays and festive days are celebrated. On the one hand it’s perfect that the game incorporates them, in the past I’ve had a lot of fun decking out my town for Christmas. But on the other hand: who wants to spend Christmas Eve hunting down Jingle for hours on end to get all the special Jingle furniture? So then you’re left with no other option then to fiddle with your time settings to be able to do it later. As you see I can go on and on about the game, so many good memories.
Another simulation game I enjoy very much is Harvest Moon. A farming Sim that’s more like a time management game in a lot of aspects. There are many entries in the series. For me, the newest ones are the best. I had a lot of fun with A New Beginning and Story of Seasons. I guess that’s because I enjoy the farming and the building, while the relationship part doesn’t really appeal to me. Innocent Life, a futuristic Harvest Moon on the Vita is a title I liked a lot too, it’s an unexpected twist on the normal concept with a very poignant story. The Lost Valley is a title that Natsume made using the Harvest Moon name in the West. It’s quite different, not as good for dating and village life, but if you like Minecraft-like building, this is a good title too.
That having been said, I like games that combine simulation and RPG elements even better. The Rune Factory games for instance are very good at that. There are four games in the series, games that generally have more story to them, and combine farming with crafting, mining and battling. I’m afraid there won’t be any more of them, as the studio that made them is no more. An entry that might well be a good replacement for them is Return to Popolocrois, a Story of Seasons Fairytale. I’m playing it in Japanese at the moment, and I like what I see. This coming winter it will be released in the West too.
I particularly want to mention the Atelier games. I played Atelier Rorona Plus on the Vita a couple of months ago, and enjoyed it very much. It combines crafting and RPG, and has a nice storyline to boot. The game will be brought to the 3DS too, a release-date west isn’t certain yet. Meanwhile I will certainly be checking out the other Vita titles of the Atelier series!
Another excellent RPG/ Sim is Fantasy Life, with hours of fun in store, my game of the year 2015. And if you ever manage to get your hands on a Chibi Robo game, you should give it a try. It’s really a unique experience. Seeing the world through the eyes of the tiny robot, and trying to get around in the big people’s world is great fun.
Talking about time management games: I think some of the best are found on mobile devices. I made a blog some time ago about the Delicious Emily games, which are fine examples of the genre. Other titles come to mind, like HayDay and Dragon Vale; Freemium games that challenge you to make the best use of your resources and ask a lot of your patience. Of course, you can always put real life money into them to speed it up.
At last we come to the city builder games, also very well know on iOS or android. The Tribez, Happy Street and all the games that let you build along the lines of Tiny Tower. As I’m writing this it occurs to me that in mobile gaming they often use a sort of template to build new games on. I mean, Tiny Tower was one of the first that had you adding business in your tower, and making sure the workers were happy, the stores were stocked and sales were good. Since then there have been many such games. The latest that is a big success is Fallout Shelter, a game that in no time made it to the top grossing list.
There are so many good titles I could add to these Simulation games; games like Nintendogs, Style Savvy, Magicians Quest and Disney Magical World. Most of the games mentioned are on the Ds or the 3DS, although games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and Rune Factory have good counterparts on the Wii too. All games that I enjoyed very much while playing them, and they ensure that Simulation games hold a special place in my heart.