Five classic sim games you used to play the hell out of
Rollercoaster Tycoon or Theme Park?
If you’re of a certain age, you may have got your early videogame kicks not through a console, but via a clunky old PC. You begged your parents to buy you a Megadrive or N64 or Playstation 2 (delete appropriate to your age), but they weren’t having any of it. But instead, they bought a swish new desktop computer for the study. It can help you with your homework, your mum said. It even came with a whole encyclopaedia on a CD ROM.
But of course, you knew you could play games on it. Not necessarily games like Mario or FIFA, but a different type of game, more suited to a keyboard and mouse. Games that instead of being based on action, were about building up cities or business empires. Games like Sim City 2000 and Rollercoaster Tycoon were classics, and you could play them while your parents and teachers thought you were doing school work. Here are five of them you should remember.
Sim City 2000
There have been plenty of games about building a city, but none have been as great as Sim City 2000. Watching Sims flood into your city as the population grew was infinitely satisfying, as was unlocking the rewards (like mammoth Arcologies, that could house thousands of Sims and blast off into space). Even being shouted at by the transport advisor was strangely charming. And then you turned on disasters, and had an alien monster destroy the whole city.
There have been several follow-ups to Sim City, but easily the biggest success was the 2000 spin-off The Sims. The genius in its approach was to zoom in from the city level down to home life. Instead of building roads and hospitals, you created a dream home and cultivated relationships with your neighbours. Or you played it like everyone else did, letting them set the kitchen on fire and taking away the steps so they go stuck in the swimming pool.
There were two big titans of the theme park simulation genre – Rollercoaster Tycoon and Theme Park (sorry, Jurassic Park Builder). We’re going to go for the former on this list, mostly as Theme Park’s sequel will get its own entry. Rollercoaster Tycoon put particular focus on designing the most thrilling ride you could imagine – and if you have a sadistic streak, send unsuspecting victims flying off to oblivion on unfinished coasters.
Theme Park was followed by a sequel that changed the location from Alton Towers to the health service. While most management games were super-serious, the Theme games were filled with humour. Patients suffered from surreal ailments like bloaty head disease (cured by having it popped with a needle), Jellyistis (Excessive wobbliness and falling down a lot), and being infected by alien DNA.
There’s not much to look at in Civilisation II – just some low resolution green and blue symbolising a world map, with some figures on it. But it didn’t need anything more to draw you in. The strategy game spanned the entire length of human evolution, from 4000BC to the space age, as you tried to build an empire to take over the world.