Management simulation is a term for any game in which you decide what happens with a thing you’ve been given, which in my opinion makes it nothing short of the truest form of gaming. Factories, farms, theme parks—you can manage all of these. If you don’t have a clue what doing the actual job is like and don’t want to know either, but still want to try your hand at being the boss, this is the genre for you.
Two Point Hospital
I started here, with Two Point’s precursor Theme Hospital, and it made me a genre fan for life. Here, fun comes less from helping nobbly-nosed people overcome fantastical diseases, and more from padding your pockets.
Management can sound drab and technical, but Two Point Hospital made a place everyone hates just the right amount of silly.
If you can overcome the way this controls, you will come to feel deeply for your fortress and your dwarves through amazing textual description and painstaking micromanaging.
If you love immersing yourself in small details, Factorio is your game. Factories are oft-hated places in games—dark, polluted locations where monsters frequently hide—but the factories of Factorio are marvels made up of tiny pieces. There’s a steep learning curve, but you too can build a monster of conveyor belt veins that is nothing short of hypnotic to watch.
Dungeon Keeper 2
Most manageable buildings or cities depict real-life equivalents, but here you build your own fantasy dungeon to attract demons to your army. Once everyone’s needs have been met, vampires, skeletons and other dark forces will fight some knights for you.
The idea to manage a graveyard is sound, but Graveyard Keeper is terrible at player guidance. Add to this a sense of humour that aims for silly and ends up being crass, and you’re better off letting this one rest in peace.
The list would not be complete without the farming sim that reminds you to take a break and relax, which is what you wish you had done when the clock strikes 2am and you’re still watering crops or fishing, smelting gold bars or exploring the mines. There is so much to do, and the human element in meeting a diverse cast of characters and finding your place is just heart-warming.
Rollercoaster Tycoon Deluxe
Whereas elsewhere on this list I’ve referred you to spiritual successors and newer entries, here nothing but the original will do. Rollercoaster Tycoon gives you just the right amount of tools to build behemoths of rollercoasters that will make people lose their lunch—and then come back for more.
The Anno series has been around since 1998 but since then, not a whole lot has changed. Sure, we’ve gone to the future and back, but Anno, much like its cousin Tropico, focuses on the core of the city-building experience—you build a city in real-time and then you try to keep its populace happy and well fed. Anno 1800 is likely the prettiest instalment yet and comes with tourism management options new to the series.