My body is ready for the weird sim games of 2019

There was a period of a few years where it seemed like every week a new simulation game appeared. They were usually weird. Often, like the dockworking simulator Ports, they were pretty terrible. Sometimes, as in the case of clown-management sim Circus World, they were even worse than that. But I still enjoyed them for the most part, not just as fodder for silly headlines and game diaries but because more often then not they let me do something I'd never done in a game before (like manage a clown). And I love when I get to do something I've never done before, even when that thing is kinda dumb and the game itself pretty much sucks. 

Maybe it's due to Valve allowing any developer with $100 to put their game onto Steam these days, but there's been a resurgence of weird sim games recently—like Thief Simulator and House Flipper—with more on the way in 2019. As someone with a fondness for weird sims, much the way some people (also me) love bad movies, I'm pretty stoked to see a resurgence weird sim as a genre. Bring 'em on!

House Flipper, the home restoration simulation, has some DLC coming early in 2019 called Garden Flipper, which lets you turn your sights from the roach and refuse-filled houses and focus on the unruly yards. I've never used a weed-whacker in a game before, so I'm down to give it a go even though the DLC's description—"Step by step, sink in the world of plants"—sounds a bit ominous and obsessive.

If the rundown homes and gardens of House Flipper aren't big enough for you, there's the upcoming Stadium Renovator, which challenges you do restore an entire sports stadium, pushing the limits of labor-as-fantasy with tasks like including replacing the turf, repainting the lines, and cleaning and repairing every single seat in the arena. Junkyard Simulator, meanwhile, will let you scrap and restore old cars, which sounds fun. I'm definitely into fixing up and polishing up a rusting classic but it'll gladly feed it into massive car crusher if I screw up the new paint job.

It's hard not to get excited about Cooking Simulator. I've done plenty of cooking in games, so that's nothing new, but not only does Cooking Simulator look lovely, it also appears you can go hog wild and destroy your kitchen if you wish, by putting a gas tank in the microwave or using a stool to smash all the windows. You can even set a bunch of boxes on fire and then cook steak over them. I appreciate when simulations let you fully explore their potential and paint outside the lines a bit.

Mr. Prepper also looks pretty neat (and paranoid) as you build an extensive bomb shelter (and perhaps more) beneath your suburban home while trying to avoid the feds. It's heading for a release this May. And Contraband Police has my full interest, too. When I showed the trailer to Evan he said it looked like Papers, Please in the Unreal Engine. Stop cars at a border, check their paperwork, then examine their vehicles for drugs or guns or other illegal stuff. One gameplay video shows the cop smashing a ceramic goat (which is standing among real goats) and finding a machine gun inside it. Yes, I will play this game. I have never found an automatic weapon inside a goat before.

On the other hand, I'll probably give Toilet Simulator a pass, despite its lengthy list of enticing features (which include "a complex mourse [sic] cursor system which enables you control the peeing apparatus" and "Character has a body"). But overall 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for weird sims. There's even a Steam Store Simulator on Steam, though technically it was supposed to be released in 2018 and it hasn't arrived yet. Maybe that's a point in its favor: it's simulating Valve Time pretty realistically.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.