Sim games are essentially SIMulation games: that is, rather than being directly competitive in the way other games might be, in a pure simulation game you are simply operating some process. For instance, you might be running a city, as in Sim City 3000, or you might be running a family, as in The Sims. All games based on real life can be regarded as simulations of sorts, however, so I have excluded any games that include any sort of violent conflict from this category. Thus, running a civilization, which includes warfare, is out, whereas running a railroad, which includes making a killing on the stock market, is in. For now, motor racing games are also in here, for the same reasons. Purists might say that the category should be for entirely non-competitive games, but I am drawing the boundary a little wider than that, and am including peaceful competition. Some might argue that in life warfare is to competition as competition is to cooperation: each is an advance on the next. Well, here is the place to maximise your competitive and cooperative instincts at the expense of the more warlike ones.

Railroad Tycoon II: Sequel to the 10/Ed10/Rv10 original Railroad Tycoon (or RRT Deluxe, 9/10, but if you live in Latin America, 10/10, as the Deluxe edition has no Britain map but does have a S. America map. The sound effects were better in the original though). The original works fine on modern PC’s as far as I know. Anyway, RRTII has 3D-perspective style graphics instead of top-down old-fashioned board-game style graphics. You can start your own railroad company, learn about balance sheets and profit & loss accounts, swindle your way to wealth on the stock market, and generally get rich ASAP. Oh, and connect a few towns to your rail network as well. The graphics are nice, but the motion of the trains is jerky which detracts from the realism and knocks the score down significantly for me. Still, a really great game, especially if you would like a train set but don’t want to admit it out loud, or can’t fit one into your bijou apartment. 8/10 (would have been 10/10 if the train motion was smooth). 8/Ed10/Rv9

Sim City 3000: Sequel to the 9/Ed10/Rv9 classic Sim City, this is the same game, but with much better graphics and a really good jazzy soundtrack, but no Godzilla to stomp your city as far as I can tell. You are the mayor of the city and your job is to improve it, help it to grow, turn it into a giant garden or an industrial wasteland, as you please. The idea is that you, acting as head of the local town council, decide which parts of the town are to be set aside or “zoned” for housing, for shops and offices, for factories, airports, and so on. You build roads and highways, railways and subways (underground railways), power stations and water works: in other words, infrastructure. You fund the police and fire services. You deal with disasters such as earthquakes and tornadoes (and alien attacks!). You balance the budget and set local taxes. You learn how a city works (very educational but fun too – good for older children). You can start from scratch with a green field site, or you can use one of the many starter towns provided with the game. If you like, you can try to build cities on maps based on the terrain of any of dozens of real-world cities, from London to LA. A rare genre, the Sim games are non-competitive and so appeal to a wider range of people than most games. Very highly recommended: 10/Ed10/Rv9.

Roller-Coaster Tycoon: A copy of the 9/Ed9/Rv8 game Theme Park, which is now obsolete because modern PC’s are just too fast for it. You are Walt Disney or Billy Butlin: now go and build a fun-fair with roundabouts, roller-coasters, water chutes, boating lakes and burger stands. See if you can attract enough customers and get them to part with loadsamoney. Great fun, but it comes with a limited number of starting scenarios (more are available on the Internet) which you have to complete whether you want to or not, whereas I would prefer to start with an empty patch of random land. Good for older children; younger ones (8-ish) will need help some of the time, but will enjoy the game too. 7/Ed10/Rv7.

Theme Park World: An updated version of 9/Ed9/Rv8 Theme Park (which doesn’t work well on modern PC’s as they are too fast for it), cashing in on Roller-Coaster Tycoon’s cashing in on the original Theme Park’s popularity! The game starts with four basic themes for you to base your theme park around, namely Dinosaurs, Halloween, Alice in Wonderland, and Space. The big innovation, if you have a high-powered computer that is, is that you can actually ride on your rides! For example, if you decide to build the roller-coaster of a lifetime, then having built it, you can try it out from a first-person perspective! Excellent idea. Also, the game is Internet enabled, so you can post your finished theme park on the Web for your friends to admire or laugh at, and you can visit their theme parks and ride on their rides! The game is very easy to play for younger players (although they will probably need help from time-to-time, especially building a roller coaster), and you have the option of starting with a green-field site so you can do what you like with your park. My P2 Pro 233 computer is a little underpowered for this game, so when there are a lot of rides and visitors, the game becomes jerky and unwieldy. Still, it is good fun until it gets to that point. 8/Ed10/Rv8.

POD: The best motor-racing game I’ve played yet. Super-fast if you have a 3D Voodoo2 or similar graphics card. Comes with 16 race tracks. No replays though, but it does have a “ghost” mode where you can race against your earlier incarnations, or against other people’s taken from the Internet. More tracks are available for downloading too. 8/Ed4/Rv6.

The Sims: Look after a family of people – get them to go to the toilet or have a bath (tastefully censored), cook a meal, get a promotion, have an argument, get married, pay their bills, and so on. At first sight, perhaps not too promising an idea for a game: certainly I was rather doubtful about it when I bought it, and even after the first time I played it. But then, a young friend came around and spent half the day building a house and inventing a couple of families, and I began to see the point. Since then, it has been a case of straightforward addiction. I can learn about life here, without having to move away from my computer and actually interact with real people! Cool! I can see what people have to do to get rich, how friends are important for human motivation, and what fun it is to tap on the glass front of a fish tank. Great fun and very educational for the younger generation and we unsociable computer types too. “Dis graal iss frayoshay!” Buy it. 9/Ed10/Rv8.

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