Economic simulation games are those primarily based on economic management in which players usually become a tycoon in an industry. For example, some economic simulation games have players build and run their own theme parks, zoos, railway lines, airline companies, hospitals, casinos, cinemas, hotels or even cities.
There are many games that loosely fit in the economic simulation genre. These include real-time and turn-based strategy games such as the Civilization and SEGA’s Total War series. For example, in the Total War games, players adjust tax rates, expand settlements and trade with other empires.
Below are a few of the best Windows games in the economic simulation genre.
Railroads were big business during the railway boom of the 19th century, and Railroad Tycoon is one of the best economic simulation game precisely because it takes players back to that golden age. In the game, players get to manage their own railway companies by laying tracks across European and American landscapes, building stations and investing in new trains. After Civilization, this is undoubtedly one of the best Sid Meier game franchises with plenty of fans. You can play three of the games in the series now, with the Railroad Tycoon Collection available on Steam
There have been four installments in the Railroad Tycoon series dating back to 1990. Of course, it was the original Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon that really launched the franchise.
Railroad Tycoon 2 was also another great game of the series. This had a Railroad Tycoon 2: Platinum Edition that included both the original sequel and The Second Century expansion that expanded the time period the game to cover from the 1800s up to the present era. Sure, RT2 might lack some of the 3D gloss of the more recent additions to the series, but it’s a detailed economic simulation with UI design that captures the authentic look and feel of the industrial era.
In Railroad Tycoon 2, players build extensive railway tracks to transport all manner of cargo and passengers, construct stations, invest in a variety of rolling stock and even dabble in the stock market to expand their railway empires and beat AI tycoons. The original sequel had 18 missions in Europe, North America and beyond, and the expansion pack extended the scenarios to include 20th-century wars.
SimCity is an economic simulation in which players become a city mayor. Players build, expand and run their very own cities in one of the first games to highlighted how viable economic simulations could be when it launched on MS-DOS in 1989.
In the game, players establish an annual budget by adjusting tax rates and allocating funds to police, fire services, and transportation. Then they can expand their cities by constructing residential, industrial and commerce zones that can either grow or decline. The game also includes approval polls that provide feedback on your economic management. The first SimCity had countless accolades and launched one of the biggest Windows game series.
Admittedly, not all the games in the series have been that great. However, SimCity 4 for Windows was an evolutionary step for the franchise as the first SimCity that had a 3D graphics engine with rotatable 3D objects. SimCity 4 includes diverse architectural styles, three alternative game modes, UFO invasions and neighboring cities that players could exchange resources with. The SimCity 4 Deluxe edition includes both SimCity 4 and its Rush Hour expansion pack.
Theme Park was originally an MS-DOS game, but you ca nown add it to Windows and macOS from this website. This is an economic simulation in which players build their own Magic Kingdom theme park with all manner of rides, restaurants and other facilities. Players expand parks to increase their overall value so that they can sell them and acquire new plots.
The game has three levels and in the hardest mode, players can invest in park shares and fund research to build the latest, most exciting rides. The first Theme Park is undoubtedly a classic title that launched a trilogy, which includes Theme Park Word and Inc, and inspired numerous other theme games.
Theme Park probably inspired the RollerCoaster Tycoon game series, which began on Windows and was then ported to other platforms. The premise of RollerCoaster Tycoon is much the same as players construct and maintain theme parks. Building huge roller coaster designs with corkscrews and vertical loops is a big part of the game, but players can also still add a diverse range of rides to the parks including log fumes, go karts, and ferris wheels.
The main difference between the games is that RollerCoaster Tycoon includes scenarios for players to complete by either building a park from scratch or taking over a pre-built park that could do with a bit of investment. Some of the scenarios are also based on real theme parks such as Lightwater Valley.
Of course, it was the first RollerCoaster Tycoon game that really made the series and is rated among the best economic simulation games ever. There have been several titles in the series and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is also one of the best installments as the first to fully showcase theme parks in glorious 3D with adjustable camera angles.
The game also includes the CoasterCam that enables players to ride their roller coasters and other rides from a first-person perspective. In addition, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 also has Soaked and Wild expansion packs in which players build water parks and zoos with wildlife and safari rides. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum includes all the expansion packs and original Tycoon 3 within the same package.
It has taken a while for a serious successor to SimCity to emerge, but Cities: Skylines could be it. This economic simulation game launched in 2015 and in it, players can build huge cities up to 36 kilometers in scale. Management of transportation infrastructure is a big aspect of the game, and players can designate customizable districts to their cities in which to apply alternative taxation policies and develop more specific industries such as oil, mining, agriculture, and others. Budgeting also comes into play as players can choose what utilities and services to budget for and tinker with.
The publisher already released a triumvirate of expansion packs for Cities: Skylines. After Dark includes day/night cycles and more unique buildings, Snowfall adds lots of snow to the cities, and Natural Disasters gives players earthquakes, flooding and tornadoes to deal with. There’s also a Deluxe Edition that includes five historic monuments and a digital art book. Cities: Skylines has had some rave reviews, so it could be the start of something big.
Offworld Trading Company
Offworld Trading Company is another recent game that could shake up the economic simulation genre. This is an real-time strategy game set on Mars in the year 2063 after a worldwide market meltdown on Earth. In the aftermath of the Great Collapse, companies have established the New Martian Colonies on Mars. Thus, players must win over the resources from Mars, extract and then manufacture them into tangible goods with which to build up their colonies. Military maneuvering doesn’t come into play in Offworld Trading Company, as victory is won by buying up all competitor stocks.
The game pays close attention to realism as Mars planetary geologist Kirby Runyon even provided some input for it. He stated: “It’s great that space is being shared just beyond what is strictly ‘scientific.’ It’s an awesome setting for this game, and I hope that it does a lot to draw people into wanting to learn more. I’m so excited to be able to watch science infused with art.” So, Offworld Trading Company is certainly an original and intriguing sci-fi economic simulation game.
Few can doubt that economic simulations have been among the more exciting Windows game series. SimCity 4, Railroad Tycoon 2, Theme Park and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 are terrific economic management simulation games. Cities: Skylines and Offworld Trading Company are two newer games that are taking the genre to exciting new heights with more advanced 3D graphics.
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