10 Best Simulation Games of 2023

Simulation games allow us to live out our dreams, so here are the best of best for 2023.

Five different trains in a line
Image via Dovetail Games
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This year has been filled with new simulation titles expanding the genre, especially in the life and farm sim subgenre. Whether you’re looking for something cozy and relaxing or a little more true to life, here are the 10 best simulation games of 2023 you’ve got to play.

Top 10 Best Simulation Games of 2023 to Play Right Now

While most of the top simulation games can be classified as a life or farm simulator, other big hits for the year also includes city builders and driving simulators. There were a number of new titles on the list, while genre favorites still call the top ranks home. Familiar franchise titles grace us with new additions, and an indie hit gives us a unique spin.

10. Harvest Moon: The Winds of Anthos

The Winds of Anthos is just the latest addition to the Harvest Moon catalogue, set to celebrate 25 years of the franchise. While many fans were wary of Anthos as several previous titles didn’t quite hitting home, 82% of reviews left on Steam have been positive, and the community at large has fallen for it (as have I and several other GS writers). With the familiar bubble cows, as well as the ability to move your farm, you once again are tasked with saving the Harvest Goddess.

9. The Sims 4

Ok, this is kind of cheating, I know. The Sims 4 released forever ago, it seems. However, an array of expansion packs and new content came to The Sims 4 in 2023, including the long-asked-for Infant life stage, followed closely by the Growing Together expansion, which added all kinds of new family mechanics to the game for all life stages.

Not only was there an overhaul to the family dynamics, but rental mechanics in the form of the For Rent expansion and horse ranches from the aptly-named Horse Ranch DLC were put in. This is all on top of The Sims 4 base game going free to play at the beginning of the year. Now’s the best time to spend your life living the lives of others (in the most fun ways possible).

8. Football Manager 24

Each year we see a variety of sports games modeled after real world fantasy leagues, tournaments, and teams. This year, the best sports simulation game is Football Manager 24 (but isn’t it every year?). While EA’s Madden has its fair share of simulation elements and even real-world concepts can be used to win games, Football Manager is the simulation afficionado’s sports game.

With additional motivational methods, different world modes you can play in, and new agents to work with, FM24 feels truer to real life than ever before. One of the smallest but perhaps most impactful tweaks we enjoyed the most were the game’s new ball physics. This one’s available on Game Pass, too, if you want to hit the pitch and see what it’s about.

7. SteamWorld Build

If you loved any of the SteamWorld games but wished you could create your own town, you’re in luck. SteamWorld Build takes the beloved universe and turns it into a settlement builder. Though I wouldn’t put it exactly on the same city-building level as something like Cities Skylines 2 (hence why I’m calling it a settlement builder here), there’s a lot to love here outside of the endearing aesthetic.

You’ll construct your own mining town complete with Prospector Quarters, Saloons, and Grenade Turrets. Yep, there’s a healthy dose of tower defense here, too. On top of that, you’ll search for ancient technologies across five different maps while defending against underground invaders.

6. Thief Simulator 2

For a different type of simulation game, Thief Simulator 2 is one of the best there is this year. Perhaps more a stealth sim than anything else, you’ll complete different heists, lockpick your way through two neighborhoods, and steal only the best cars.

Many of the mechanics employed in the sequel have been fine tuned from the original, giving way to a smooth gameplay experience. I also like that you can get timed quests from payphones, on top of your normal missions, adding more variety to your clandestine criminal activities.

5. Disney Dreamlight Valley

DDV is the perfect game for the Disney fan and life simulator lover. This is another one you could consider a cheat, but the cozy experience fully released out of Early Access and into 1.0 in 2023, making it a shoo-in for this list.

Combining unique quests and your favorite characters, it’s a relaxing way to fit a little magic into your day. Kid friendly, you or the little ones in your life can play on a variety of platforms with cross-save and cross-progression. Explore different realms that reflect the wonder of Disney design in Dreamlight Valley as you work to restore it and purge the Forgetting.

4. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life

XSeed Games took their time remaking the 2003 Harvest Moon classic to ensure it was done properly — and I, for one, am glad the wait was worth it. Featuring upgrades to graphics, gameplay, and the ability to get married, players flocked to the title. Whether it be for nostalgia or the cute baby animals, picking up Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is one of the best decisions you’ll make as a farming sim fan.

3. Train Sim World 4

Train lovers rejoice. Train Sim World 4 is one of the 10 best simulation games of 2023, and easily one of the best train simulator games released recently. Not only do you get to control and manage a variety of true-to-life trains, but you can access all back content from previous franchise editions (something I really think more simulation games ought to do).

New and improved, you can set out on well loved routes through Austria and Germany, travel from Los Angeles to Lancaster CA, or explore the Free Roam mode. There’s a Livery designer that lets you customize your trains, and there are various challenges to complete — or ones you create on your own.

2. Cities: Skylines 2

Let’s be honest, Cities: Skylines 2 released in a suboptimal state, and that’s putting it mildly. However, developer Colossal Order and publisher Paradox Interactive have already made dramatic improvements to the game, moving it closer to what we all expected it to be at launch.

Though there’s still room to grow, Cities 2 is still a fantastic city-builder, improving on a lot of what the first game did so well. Though it’s head-scratching the some elements were left behind, those will likely be added, and the modding community has already gone to work while waiting for Paradox’s official support (so be careful downloading anything until then).

With upgraded mechanics to build the perfect city, it features retooled zoning and road mechanics, as well as new Cim A.I., expansive maps, and city planning mechanics. Oh, and did I mention terraforming is free now?

1. Palia

Palia was an unexpected hit from indie studio Singularity 6. Released in open beta this year, it’s a cozy, community-orientated MMO. Like a traditional life sim, you can decorate your house, have a garden, go fishing, catch bugs, and make friends with the local villagers. The MMO element, however, is what I think sets it apart from others on this list.

You have daily tasks you can complete and weekly accomplishments. You can team up with other players to hunt magic creatures or harvest rare resources on your own. It’s a unique take on the traditional MMO that’s still fine tuning and adding features and mechanics. It’s unabashedly one of my favorite games this year.

Those are the 10 best simulation games for 2023. Whether you’re looking for a fantastical life sim, something for the kids, or a realistic drive, there’s something for everyone on the list. Check out our game pages for each if you’re looking for more on the gameplay, story, or characters of each title.

About the author

Ashley Erickson

Ashley, otherwise known as Glitchiee, is an avid gamer of RPGs, TTRPGS, farming sims, The Sims, and a variety of games in between. Playing on the NES and SNES, collecting 1st gen Pokemon cards, and playing on her Gameboy color are some of her favorite memories from early childhood. Combined with a passion for writing, Ashley is focused on bringing the best news, guides, reviews and lists the industry has to offer.