Top 10 Business Simulation Games
Business simulations let you pretend you're a tycoon, raking in money, investing carefully, and watching your empire grow!
There are a lot of business games out there right now, but it is an unforgiving genre, and bad games usually don't last long. In the last few years, there's been a boom of "tycoon" series games some of which are those dreaded "time-management" or "click-fest" games. With so many garbage business games and imitations out there, separating the wheat from the chaff is tough.
What follows are the 10 best business simulation games. They are ranked alphabetically because it is simply not possible to rank them, in my opinion. All the games on this list are very good, the rest are a matter of personal preference. They can all be purchased on Amazon.
1. Airline Tycoon
Airline Tycoon might be one of the most controversial games on this list. It wasn't a best-seller, and hasn't always been seen as a very serious game.
Airline Tycoon is a lighthearted game. You are the owner of one of the four airlines competing with each other at the same airport, and there's a lot of sabotage and hijinks. Nevertheless it's a challenging game. It's cartoony, but its core economic system works fine. Airline Tycoon is also fairly uncomplicated, so good for beginners, and a fun change pace for long-time fans of the genre.
The recently released Airline Tycoon II is very good as well.
The Anno series games are about colony- and empire-building. The basic premise involves landing on an island and effectively managing resources in order to build up a profitable colony. The game focuses on the colony's economy, and it's very tough to both turn a profit and still make your colony pretty. There's also a military and combat aspect to the gameplay.
Anno is an enormous franchise. It includes:
- Anno 1602 (1998) Known as 1602 A.D. in the U.S. and Australia.
- Anno 1503 or 1503 A.D. (2003) This sequel introduced bigger islands, more complex buildings and military, and different resources from 1602.
- Anno 1701 or 1701 A.D. (2006) This installment is quite different. While the main principles are the same you have to deal with your country's queen and meddling homeland government. Eventually you can fight for your colony's independence. Other features include sabotage and natural disasters.
- Anno 1404, known in the U.S. as Dawn of Discovery (2009) In this Anno sequel, the quality started to dwindle, and not much new was added to the game.
- Anno 2070 (2011) Is the most recent addition to the franchise, poses new ecological and financial challenges by being set in the future.
Caesar is a city building-game set during the Roman Empire. In this game you try to transform your towns into big cities. Sort of like Sim City, but with more barbarian hordes.
The game's combat system, graphics, and other features have improved in the various sequels: Caesar II, Caesar III, and Caesar IV. Unlike many other series, in which quality diminishes after too many sequels, the Caesar franchise has remained consistently good.
Capitalism is a hardcore business game, so much so that some call it the most boring business simulation game. I would argue it's just very good at what it does: simulating business. In Capitalism, you manufacture and sell products. From farm to supermarket, you have to manage materials and resources to make products. The game also makes you pay attention to supply and demand to maximize your profits. If you're not careful in expanding your business, you can end up in a bubble or a crash.
Capitalism II is just an expansion of the first game, with improved A.I. and a few more things you can do. Sadly, the Capitalism series hasn't been updated in over a decade.
5. Europa Universalis
Some wouldn't call Europa Universalis a business game, from a grand perspective it is one, because it's about running a country. The key aim in this game is not to bankrupt your country, keep inflation in check, and try to expand your country's territory while keeping good diplomatic relationships with other empires.
Europa Universalis has some interesting sequels, such as:
- Europa Universalis II (2001) spans 1419 to 1820.
- Europa Universalis III (2007) starts in 1453 and ends in 1789, just before the French Revolution.
- Europa Universalis: Rome (2008) takes place during the Roman Republic.
- Europa Universalis IV (2013) is the latest installment of the series, and includes the Napoleonic Wars.
Europa Universalis is extremely challenging. The game's economic system is difficult to master, especially if you're not used to business games. Still, a great choice for a game-playing megalomaniac!
6. The Patrician
The Patrician was rather unknown until its third installment. In this game, you are a businessman in the Hanseatic League, a commercial confederation from medieval Northern Europe. To succeed, you trade goods all over Europe, while also trying to gain political power and becoming an Alderman of the Hanseatic League.
The sequels include:
- Patrician II (2000) is very similar to the first.
- Patrician III: Rise of the Hanse (2003) is much better, with new industries to play with and a superior the economic game. The pirates are more bothersome and provide a significant challenge.
- Patrician IV (2010)
7. Railroad Tycoon
Railroad Tycoon was the first of the "tycoon" games. To play, you transport passengers and goods while building up your rail empire. The first one was very basic: a flat surface with black rectangles going over grid-like lines.
- Railroad Tycoon II (1998) is a leap in the future, with far more customization available. You can build railways with height differences, tunnels, bridges—the whole works! There's also a stock market and good competition, many different scenarios, and nice introductory movies with good voice acting.
- Railroad Tycoon III (2003) is just an improved version of the second game. It has an improved supply-and-demand engine.
- Sid Meier's Railroads! (2006) is the first game since the first to have been made with direct input from Sid Meier, the series' creator. This installment has full 3D graphics and you can follow your trains on their routes. Unfortunately the interface is a bit buggy.
8. Roller Coaster Tycoon
Rollercoaster Tycoon has no relation to Railroad Tycoon, but rather to the creator Chris Sawyer's other success, Transport Tycoon. The building interface has a typical grid surface and isometric style. Gameplay involves building your theme park, enticing people to spend loads of money, and building even better rides.
- Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (2002) is mostly the same as the first with a few added bells and whistles.
- Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 (2004) is rather different from the first two. First, it wasn't bound to an isometric system, you could ride your attractions, make fireworks displays, and customize the scenery scenery. Subsequent expansion packs let you add swimming pools or animals to the parks you made.
When I first played SimCity it was love at first sight. I saw those little white blocks of cars moving down the road whenever I closed my eyes. When it was published in 1989, it was one of the best games available for PC, and still holds up. It was followed by a number of sequels:
- SimCity 2000 (1994) is very different from the original, and still considered the best game of the series. Besides its futuristic name, it had an isometric 3D view, more disasters, and a height map. I found it just as addictive as the original, if not more.
- SimCity 3000 (1999) is, unfortunately, quite badly produced
- SimCity 4 (2003) brought the franchise back to its original glory. This sequel is has 3D graphics, loads of different kinds of buildings, pretty views, different kinds of transportation, an editor where you can design your own buildings, and the regional map so multiple cities can interact with each other.
- SimCity Societies (2007) Is a travesty. I don't consider this one to even be part of the SimCity series.
10. Transport Tycoon
Transport Tycoon is a game that I played not only for hours or days, but weeks! Dare I say even months! It's one of the most addictive business simulation games. Transport Tycoon has been revamped by its own dedicated fan base over the years thanks to Chris Sawyer, the creator who let them alter the game.
Transport Tycoon is about being a manager and owner of a transport company. You try to earn as much money as you can while improving your rail network, which is incredibly fun and addictive.