When you need to take a break from heart-racing action and ultra-violence, you can look to a genre that tends to cultivate a slower, more relaxing environment: life simulation games. Whether it’s managing the lives of many or a single soul, the purpose is always about taking your time. No one is rushing you to complete the game, nor should you. If you need a break from your own life, consider picking up one of the best life simulation games of 2020.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the definition of taking your time. It’s one of the few games that can bridge the gap between casual and serious gamers, both young and old. As the new title in the franchise, naturally, it has taken it to new heights.
This time around, you’ll be taking care of a deserted town, sold buy, and bought from Tom Nook. From then on, it’s up to you to meet new characters, form bonds, dig up fossils, collect just about everything you see—and you will be—but more importantly, you can do all that at your own pace. It’s your choice to put in as much or as little as you want.
You can’t get any closer to simulating life than The Sims, with Sims 4 being the latest title in the franchise. There’s very little you can’t do in The Sims. And the modding community surrounding it only gives it more of a reason to play—especially when the latest installments include online multiplayer.
If you can melt Sims 4 into a single word, that word would be customization. From your character to your career, The Sims has always been about simulating life away from life. Explore careers, meet new people, fall in love, have children, marriage, and even pursue higher education. It’s the ultimate sandbox when it comes to life simulation.
Fantasy has always been a hit. Who doesn’t love the idea of duking it out with a dragon or wielding gigantic swords longer than your body? Fantasy Life, if the name didn’t tip you off, offers the life of fantasy in chibi form.
You take residence in Reveria, where everyone is assigned a Life—i.e., careers. There’s cooks, paladins, tailors, mercenaries, carpenters, and more. You can gather materials, slay monsters, decorate your home, complete tasks, and quests, and even visit unique locations all over Reveria.
It has long been established that Mars cannot be colonized by normal means. It’s cold, lacking a breathable atmosphere, and only a third of Earth’s gravity (38 percent, to be exact). However, living on Mars isn’t impossible, and that’s where Surviving Mars solidifies its gameplay.
You aren’t controlling one single person, but rather an entire colony of the human race as you attempt to plant roots on Mars. Gather resources, build domes and roadways, generate electricity in ways that put fossil fuels to shame. As for your citizens, they need all the help they can get. Put them to work, make them happy, give them a reason to survive life on Mars. And it won’t be easy, not with sandstorms, meteors, and cold waves, to name a few.
Harvest Moon is a beloved series to many, simple in its pursuit and design, but full of relaxing fun. While it primarily focused on farming, it was an inspiration for Stardew Valley. However, rather than focus on farming alone, the game takes on country living as a whole.
In Stardew Valley, you are a newcomer to Pelican Town. It’s there that you’ll find your late grandfather’s plot of land, now owned by you. It’s yours to improve as you uncover secrets while fishing, mining, cooking, and of course, farming. All the while, the option to form friendships with the in-game NPCs is available, even marriage.
BitLife takes life simulation less seriously, and that’s not a knock against it. Entertainment is a driving force. The simple fact that you can make an unofficial career out of divorcing old people should tell you everything you need to know about BitLife.
It’s entirely text-based. You advanced through life one in-game year at a time. Between those years, there are dozens of different activities and decisions you can make. Every single one can have some impact on your person, perhaps making you ugly or smarter. Experience the life of unemployment or reach for game and glory.
The Sims can get pretty stressful, so if you’re looking for something similar, but with a laid-back feeling, Yonder: The Cloud Catch Chronicles is where it’s at. This life simulator mixes RPG elements—customization, skills to use, jobs to follow—with an emphasis on befriending animals you encounter.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles has everything you would expect, such as crafting, farming, fishing, and building. However, it adds an air of mystery with Murk, a purplish aura that covers various locations. The only remedy is getting help from fairy-like Sprites. Of course, you can do all of that on your timescale; no one is pushing you forward but you.
Life simulation games are perfect for open-world RPG mechanics, and that’s where My Time at Portia shines. Rather than inherit a house or far, you’ve inherited a workshop. Naturally, crafting is involved.
However, underneath the crafting is a post-apocalyptic world to explore. With so few humans left, coming across one is an adventure in its own, opening the possibility to complete quests and help someone out along the way. Uncover the past as you discover relics in forgotten locations such as dungeons.
In 2077, nukes devastated the world during the catalyst: the Great War. Vaults were designed to protect human life from total extinction. From the safety of vaults, human life could continue on until the outside world was safe to inhabit once again.
You are an overseer, the de facto leader of a vault, in Fallout Shelter. It’s up to you to help vault-dwellers live life in its post-apocalyptic, radioactive hellscape. Mutated creatures will invade, raiders will attempt to pillage, and your citizens must survive through it all.
Spore isn’t like its brethren in the life simulation genre. Where most titles focus on being an upright, bi-pedal creature, Spore allows you to live your life as a single-cell organism and grow until you become a space-faring race.
Spore lets you play God. You watch over your creature and guide their steps as it breaks away from its single-cell limitations and evolves into something much larger, more complex: a multi-cell organism. Eventually, it becomes sentient. Societies develop, genes are passed on, and life reaches for the stars.
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