Gaming's Five Weirdest Simulations
Escapism is one the most important pleasures video games provide. Be it inhabiting a fantastical virtual world outside of our own material universe, or filling the shoes (or chain mail greaves) of a hero on an epic quest, the best games allows us to slip the bonds of our day-to-day and experience things that might otherwise be impossible. Sometimes, though, our fantasies don’t involve hurtling through space faster than light or battling exotic monsters. Sometimes we want to experience something that feels very real because it’s wholly possible, if completely outside our norm. Enter simulations.
While most simulations focus on exciting professions or engagements beyond the scope of our average experience, the ones on this list tend towards the bizarre, mundane, or bizarrely mundane; in fact, calling some of these products “games” is a stretch. Join us for a voyeuristic peek into some of the strangest corners of PC simulation.
We’re not entirely sure who was clamoring for an intensely detailed, highly realistic simulation of the European trucking and transport industry, but apparently demand was high enough that a pair of games (thus far) was required. The Eurotruck franchise lets you experience every level of a trucking enterprise, from managing your company and purchasing equipment, to loading, driving, and servicing your trucks. The trucks themselves are rendered in exquisite detail, from the lightbars and mirrors to the complex interiors. These trucks, in other words, are smoking hot and ready to party.
Though it’s easy to scoff at the idea of simulating the life of a European trucker, we have to admit there’s a certain surreal pleasure to be had cruising the highways of Europe by night in your big-rig, listening to the latest in Scandinavian dubstep.
Trains vs. Zombies
An expansion to the Train Simulator series, Trains vs. Zombies (and its standalone sequel) gives gamers the opportunity to live out that extremely specific fantasy we hadn’t been having: guiding a meticulously-rendered train across miles of realistic track in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. On the surface it sounds ridiculous. That’s because it is, in fact, ridiculous. That said, it’s also much more fun than that you might expect from its absurd premise, but you need to be in a very particular mindset to enjoy it (which, actually, is true of every game on this list).
Snowcat Simulator 2011
Snowcat Simulator 2011 (or, its much more evocative German title, Pistenraupen Simulator 2011) has one of our favorite product pages of all time. From the text on the box art (“Rundown caretaker with heavy machinery”) to the list of thrilling features (“Various different task”), everything about it screams weird and niche. For those of you unfamiliar with the noble snowcat (which, according to the product page is no one, as “Everybody knows the giant vehicles”), they’re the machines that clear and smooth ski runs so that tourists can hurtle their bodies down them atop fiberglass planks. The newest version of the game also features the gripping adventure of using a snow blower to clear paths, though if you’re really interested in some hands-on experience with that sort of machinery we welcome volunteers to clear our driveway in mid-January.
In the 90s, riding high on the success of the SimCity franchise, Maxis went a little crazy with its line of simulation titles: SimCopter, SimIsle, SimTower, SimHealth. The strangest entry, however, is easily SimAnt, which (stunning twist) simulates the internal life of an ant colony. Our protagonists, heroic black ants, set up shop in the backyard of some unsuspecting (and presumably villainous) humans, and must expand their colony while battling evil reds. The goal of the game is to commit ant genocide by massacring all of the red ants and destroying their colony, and then to invade the house and drive out the pesky humans. While slightly creepy, SimAnt was also a great deal of fun to play, and holds a sentimental place in our hearts when we think back to Maxis’ experimental phase.
Woodcutter Simulator 2011
From the people that brought you Snowcat Simulator 2011 comes Woodcutter Simulator 2011, the sequel to the (*AHEM*) critically acclaimed Woodcutter Simulator. While, much to our bafflement, these games have been annualized and Woodcutter Simulator 2013 is currently available, 2011 remains our favorite again on the strength of its product page. From the descriptive text: “The smell of fresh tree gum, the sound of heavy vehicles and hard work for real men awaits the player in the Woodcutter Simulator 2011.” That’s right: real men cut wood. Enough said.