The Best Xbox Simulation Games Available in 2018

By Mark Delaney, 8 months ago
A lot of the greatest minds to ever live have, at some point, wondered out loud if our world is just a simulation, a computer program running on the dusty desktops of higher beings. The idea goes that if someday we're able to simulate life so realistically that our "specimens," for want of a better word, have no idea they're artificial in this way, then it stands to reason that such is exactly the life we're collectively living already.

If playing the role of deity interests you, below you'll find several games that scratch that god complex itch. Along with such games are a few others that will have you managing prisons, escaping them, or even just planting blueberries. These are our picks for the best simulation games available on Xbox in 2018.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a unique game for consoles that you didn't realize that you wanted until you had it. Growing your farm from a small plot of land to a massive industry is a wonderful feeling and the journey is rewarding and worthy of your time. You'll constantly be thinking of new ventures that you can try to make gold; with proper work, those ventures always pay off, which only makes you want to play even more. With plenty of extra activities in which to participate throughout your days, you won't grow bored quickly. While the game isn't perfect — side activities can be dull and there are a few frustrating bugs — Stardew Valley will no doubt remain a staple in my rotation for months to come. It's a game that fully succeeds in its premise and for that, it is worthy of your time.

Download from Microsoft Store

Surviving Mars

19/12/17 - Screens

Surviving Mars offers most of the things you expect in a simulation game: a chaotic and overwhelming start is eventually calmed down once you understand what's going on and how to work efficiently. Mysteries add a unique bonus to the progression, and don't be surprised if you become quite invested in your colony the more you play. As is often the case, the controls pose a bit of a problem and feel like they'd be better suited on a computer. Never the less, for simulation game fanatics, Surviving Mars is an easy recommendation. For everyone else, if you are willing to sink in the time and the effort, you'll be happy in your new home on the red planet.

Download from Microsoft Store

Aven Colony

Aven Colony

All in all, Aven Colony is a blast. Planning out the best places to put your facilities in order to keep most people happy is both fun and absorbing. Surprisingly simple to learn, the game makes it easy to quickly get in the groove of building and splashes of humor keep you smiling. There are times of frustration when overproduction keeps your storage facilities at capacity, but this is a very small dark cloud in the otherwise blue expanse of Aven Prime's skies. If you're into building games, you'll definitely want to give this one a try.

Download from Microsoft Store

Prison Architect: Xbox One Edition

Prison Architect Key Art

Not since an imprisoned George Bluth had an endless supply of ice cream sandwiches has doing time ever been so rewarding. Prison Architect is a deep offering of gameplay elements, interconnected systems, and emergent storytelling, all of which remain addictive for fans of such micromanagement. If all this sounds like more work than fun, you're probably right; this game just isn't for you. There were times when I looked at the game in my library and became stressed at the idea of playing it some more. Controlling a population of inmates who, by the basic nature of prison, don't want to be there, can feel like a second job. More often, though, I was amazed by the game's intense level of detail to the human element of being behind bars, and I walked away from the experience with an appreciation for such a stellar genre title. If you're a fan of simulations, Prison Architect is one of the best there is.

Download from Microsoft Store

The Escapists

Santa's Sweatshop 11

Prison life isn't easy, that much I have learned from my time playing The Escapists. This game can be frustrating, make you angry, and want to quit altogether. That is, until that one thing you've been missing finally hits you and you make your escape out of a prison. It's a satisfying feeling that I haven't had from playing recent games. That feeling of accomplishment is one that a lot of mainstream games have lacked for some time. The Escapists, if you have the patience to figure it out without using walkthroughs, will leave you feeling a bit frustrated, but incredibly gratified. In a sea of ID@Xbox titles, The Escapists is one not to be missed.

Download from Microsoft Store

REUS

carousel

REUS presents the world as if the almighty was an accountant. It is as much a game about crunching numbers as it is about creating a paradise for humanity, but its beautiful setting helps to mask how logic-driven it really is. It's both confusing and addictive in equal measure and manages to find a great balance between continuously providing a challenge and not overwhelming players. Once you get to grips with the minutia, everything begins to make sense. It's not always easy to get everything running smoothly, but when you do it is immensely satisfying.

Download from Microsoft Store

Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous is a unique game. It's given us a gigantic galaxy to explore of which it is nigh-on impossible to see the full extent. It's a classic space simulator through and through, to the point in which the controls and game mechanics can be hard to grasp. This in itself isn't a bad thing, but it won't appeal to everyone. Those who enjoy this genre of games will have a blast, but others will find it hard to fully enjoy. Only with a huge time investment will players get the full experience of the title, but with that comes a greater feeling of reward. It's a good alternative to exploring the Milky Way galaxy in all its glory instead of training in real life to become a fully fledged astronaut, but be prepared before you suit up.

Download from Microsoft Store

Cities: Skylines

Cities Skylines: Snowfall

Lacking in both content and features in comparison to its PC counterpart, this version of Cities: Skylines is probably not for those who already own and enjoy the game there. However, thanks to a personal touch, it's a game that is very satisfying to progress through and a worthy city builder for genre fans on Xbox One. Just consider having a guide at hand, and perhaps something to keep you entertained in between projects.

Download from Microsoft Store
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.