How to get into simulators

(Image credit: SCS Software)

Although a few have appeared on consoles, PC is historically the home of the simulator. As such there’s a huge amount of choice, from driving heavy goods vehicles and subway trains, to collecting garbage and flying spaceships. It’s a crowded but worthwhile genre, with a sim to fit every taste. If you don’t know where to start, I’ve gathered up some of the best sims available today.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

(Image credit: Euro Truck Simulator 2)

Drive a truck and deliver goods around a vast, interconnected replica of Europe. Few simulators are as polished and fun as this, and you’ll be surprised how hypnotic such a seemingly mundane job can be. 

The map is enormous and each country has its own distinctive look and feel, making long drives feel like a real journey. From the French countryside to the mountains of Norway, this is the greatest road trip on PC.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter

(Image credit: LucasArts)

Yeah, Star Wars: X-Wing is cool too, but fighting for the Empire is just so much more fun. Set just after the Battle of Hoth, this classic space sim sees you piloting the titular Imperial fighter, engaging in battles, completing missions, and following a surprisingly fun story. It’s showing its age, but it’s much easier to play than X-Wing thanks to the introduction of a HUD that handily displays your orientation relative to your target.

OMSI 2

(Image credit: Aerosoft GmbH)

Have you ever wanted to drive a bus around the streets of Spandau, Germany in the late ’80s and early ’90s? Well dream no more, because OMSI 2 simulates exactly that. Get behind the wheel of a MAN NG272 bus, pick up passengers, navigate traffic, and stick to a timetable accurate to the period. It’s weird, sure, but OMSI is a quality sim, faithfully recreating the look, feel, and sound of a creaky old city bus.

World of Subways 3: London Underground

(Image credit: Aerosoft GmbH)

If you’ve ever seen a subway train and thought it looked like a cushy job, well, try playing the third World of Subways sim. Operating these ancient, rattling trains is incredibly complicated, and driving them without massively overshooting a station requires an immense amount of concentration and foresight. Throw in a rigid timetable and you have one of the toughest sims on PC. I’ll never underestimate a Tube driver ever again.

Elite Dangerous

(Image credit: Frontier Developments)

With a flight stick and throttle, Elite is one of the most enjoyable sims you can play on PC. The ships all feel fantastic to fly, whether it’s a nippy fighter or a chunky hauler. The space combat is exciting, and even something as mundane as docking feels tactile and satisfying. It’s almost as good with a controller or mouse and keyboard, and there’s a huge amount to do in the game.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

If you watched Dunkirk and fancied taking part in those amazing Spitfire dogfights, this sim captures the excitement brilliantly. Set during the Battle of Britain, it features 20 aircraft, a realistic flight simulation, and a massive map covering the entire southeast of England, including London, and parts of France and Belgium. Make sure you play the Blitz Edition on Steam, a massive overhaul co-developed by fans of the series.

DCS: A-10C Warthog

(Image credit: The Fighter Collection)

This hardcore flight simulator lets you fly an authentic replica of a close air support attack aircraft used by the US Air Force. The simulation is one of the most realistic on PC, with flight dynamics, avionics, sensors, and systems all faithfully recreated. And if you want to take it to the next level, Thrustmaster’s infamous Warthog HOTAS, which is made of weighty metal (and extremely expensive), is the Ferrari of flight sticks.

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story. He lives in Yorkshire and spends far too much time on Twitter.