Do you want to start a business without the risk and hard work? If so, play a business simulation game. These apps can help you strengthen your skills without all the drama that comes with operating a real business. You can manage an amusement park, head a gaming development company or start a farm — all from the comfort of your home.
Here’s a look at how business simulation games can help burgeoning entrepreneurs and existing business owners, along with an overview of the best business simulation games on the market.
Business simulation games are precisely what they sound like. They’re “edutainment” tools that can help you sharpen your business management skills without any real-world consequences or workplace stress. Your game will resemble real-life business experiences but any mistakes you make while playing won’t have any real risk or repercussions. All your actions take place only in the fictional business world you’ve joined.
Ready to improve your business skills without making real-life mistakes that have actual consequences? Get started with the 16 business simulation games below.
While there was a time when operating a YouTube channel might not have been considered running a business, it’s hard to argue that now. Youtubers Life puts you in the humble shoes of a YouTuber trying to start a channel with some basic equipment.
Like real-life YouTubers, you are motivated by subscribers and views, building your arsenal of equipment to make better videos, expanding your following and growing your channel. In addition to developing a social media presence in this fictional setting, you must also manage a social life, education and eventually employees.
Youtubers Life is a single-player video game available on Steam and compatible with Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
You can also play Youtubers Life 2. This sequel has features like in-game real-life YouTubers, different types of content to cover and a city you can explore to inspire your content. You can find Youtubers Life 2 on Steam and access it via Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Used for entertainment, training and leadership development purposes, Virtonomics is a series of multiplayer business simulation games that includes Virtonomics Entrepreneur, Virtonomics Mafia Manager, Virtonomics Company Founder and Virtonomics Tycoon.
In the Virtonomics series, there are no predefined rules for winning or losing and the game doesn’t have an ending. Although users choose their goals while playing, the most common goal is to build a successful business in a competitive society. Players can work within many industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, retail, finance, marketing and science.
Virtonomics is a massive multiplayer online game available in several languages and is free to play online after creating an account.
When you play Two Point Hospital, you’re put in the role of a hospital administrator. You build and manage a virtual hospital, cure diseases and improve your facility and staff continually.
Along with building a hospital and designing it to improve patient happiness, you’ll be tasked with finding a cure for highly unusual illnesses. If you’ve been dreaming of running a hospital or want an idea of what being a doctor is like without going to medical school, try this game.
Two Point Hospital is the successor of the popular simulation game Theme Hospital. It’s available on Microsoft Windows, Linux and macOS through Steam. You can also get it on Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch.
Tropico 6 is one of the most highly reviewed simulation games in the eight-part Tropico series. In a game that combines city management and political manipulation, you’re tasked with building an ideal nation across several islands. In this iteration of Tropico, you can also send agents abroad to steal world wonders and grow your empire.
The game combines strategy, humor and intellect to complete 15 missions spread out over 15 different maps. Tropico 6 is available for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and on Steam.
As a successor of Train Fever, Transport Fever adds airports and harbors to the mix, allowing you to become a true transportation magnate rather than simply a master of the rails. The game starts in 1850 and as time marches forward, so do your transportation options. Your goal is to facilitate transportation both within and between settlements.
You need to make decisions regarding the most cost-effective vehicles to use and when to upgrade to new vehicles. You can run a campaign in either the United States or Europe, with both offering missions based on historical transportation challenges.
If you want to take a break from the business management aspect of things, there’s a sandbox mode that lets you be a big kid and play with your train, plane and boat lines.
Transport Fever is available for purchase on Steam and supported by Microsoft Windows, Linux and macOS.
As part of an amusement park simulation series, RollerCoaster Tycoon takes you through the adventures of building and managing a theme park. As a member of management, you’re tasked with constructing and customizing roller coasters and thrill rides. You can build the ultimate theme park with various coaster types and in-park attractions.
RollerCoaster Tycoon is available in eight versions, including RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride and RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic. You can buy all current versions on Steam and access them via Microsoft Windows, macOS and iOS.
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to live in the early 20th century? When you play Rise of Industry, you become an early-1900s industrialist. During the game, you create and manage a growing empire. You can build factories and transport lines, keep an eye out for the next big thing, find gaps in the market and negotiate business deals.
Rise of Industry is available for purchase on Steam and compatible with Microsoft Windows, Linux and macOS.
Motorsport Manager takes you from behind the wheel and puts you behind the team instead. In this simulation game, you manage the team responsible for putting a driver on the race car podium.
You will find quickly, as is so often the case with business simulators, that there is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes than you could have imagined. The early portion of the game is heavy on tutorials to ease you into things so you aren’t just left spinning your wheels (literally and figuratively).
From minute details like car components and race-day decisions to big-picture tasks like assembling your team and voting on rules and regulations for the sport, there is a wealth of content at every level.
Motorsport Manager is a single-player game available across several platforms, including Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux and Nintendo Switch.
Move over, Transport Fever. If you love transportation and trains, you may also want to check out Mashinky. In this game, you develop a fictional transport business on a procedurally generated map, manage your empire and improve your assets.
You start the game in control of a transport company. While playing, you lay tracks on hard terrain, buy new vehicles, manage routes and try to make as much profit as possible.
While the full version of this game has been in development for years, you can be at the forefront and play in early access mode. It’s currently available for Microsoft Windows.
Probably no game title suggests business simulation more than the aptly named Job Simulator.
Unlike most business simulators that put you in charge of a fictional company, Job Simulator places you in the role of an office worker, chef, mechanic and convenience store clerk. The game takes place in 2050, where robots have replaced all human jobs, so humans who want to get a taste of what work was like previously hop into the “Job Simulator.”
The game is a hilarious reimagining of the above jobs, with office workers tapping away at two keys on a giant keyboard, store clerks firing Roman candles at customers, chefs hurling food and mechanics jamming bananas in tailpipes to help cars pass emissions tests.
Job Simulator is a virtual reality game you can access via Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
Making video games for a living is a dream job for many, but if you aren’t ready to embark on such a career, try Game Dev Story.
This game puts you in charge of a small game studio with big aspirations. You build from a few employees to dozens looking to produce a “million-selling game” or eventually create your own game console.
Despite the simple 16-bit graphics, the game is remarkably deep. Players are responsible for every aspect of the business beyond creating games, including advertising, conventions, licensing, office space and hiring and training employees.
Gamers familiar with the console wars of the 1980s to the early 2000s will particularly enjoy Game Dev Story as there are many nods to classic consoles and events. Game Dev Story is compatible with iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch.
Business simulation doesn’t always mean you’ll find yourself in an office. Farming Simulator 17 lets you go (virtually) hands-on and spend some time driving various vehicles while doing jobs on your farm or other farms.
However, farming is still a business so, at some point, you’re going to need to attend to those spreadsheets. These will show your profit and loss on every crop, livestock and forestry. Make the call on when to net the biggest gains from your goods and you can buy or lease new equipment to make the next season even better.
Farming Simulator 17 is available for purchase via several outlets. It can be played on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows and macOS.
Running a city can be a lot like running a business. While SimCity started this genre, Cities: Skylines is the reigning champ.
In this game, you wield vastly more power than any mayor or city planner, with the ability to build and destroy as you see fit. However, the basic strategy is operating within your budget and keeping your workers and customers (in this case, the population) happy.
The scale of Cities: Skylines is truly astounding. While most city builds feel like densely populated islands, if you build out the entire nine regions available to you in this game, you will have a sprawling metropolis on your hands. You can even add an extension pack, such as Industries, where players can customize industrial areas.
Cities: Skylines is a single-player game compatible with PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux.
In Constructor Plus, you’ll build a town full of quirky characters and (hopefully) thriving businesses. You’ll also be responsible for all the town’s architecture and you can choose from 147 buildings and 65 prebuilt cities.
You can decide which gameplay objectives interest you, but your main goal is typically making the greatest profit off your developments. Unusual game features include hitmen and giant cockroaches that can rid your town of undesirable people. Watch out for the Housing Authority.
Constructor Plus is available for Nintendo Switch or on Windows via Steam.
If you’ve ever had the desire to reign over your own animal kingdom, Planet Zoo makes that possible. You can create habitats, such as lakes, rivers, caves and hills, for realistic animals. You can also share your designs with other zoo managers and see the new worlds they’ve created too.
As you play Planet Zoo, you can research the realistic animals inhabiting your zoo. You can raise animal families or, when the time is right, release species back into the wild. Planet Zoo is available on Steam and compatible with Windows.
Build larger-than-life skyscrapers with Project Highrise. This game shows you the intricacies involved in engineering a livable building where tenants can thrive. You can create office high-rises bustling with business or construct luxury apartments. You’ll get to experience every step of (virtual) construction, from breaking ground to caring for the needs of your new tenants.
Project Highrise is on Steam for macOS and Windows as well as iOS and Android.
The startup mistakes and career mistakes you make in business simulation games can help you avoid similar errors in the real world. Business simulation games can also help you hone all sorts of soft skills, such as communication, leadership, operations management — you name it.
Some business simulation games can help you develop hard skills specific to your industry, as well as many other in-demand skills. Many of the examples on our list of excellent business simulation games are highly industry-specific. Whether you already have a real-world business or are thinking of starting one, a simulation game can prepare you to take your enterprise to the next level.
Business simulation games give you the opportunity to combine entertainment with strategy and savvy as you build your own world. If you’ve ever wanted a taste of what it’s like to run your own business (or government) or wonder what would happen if you made this choice or that one, these games give you a risk-free trial. From tending the farm to creating your own game within a game, business simulators are a great way to try out any industry.
Natalie Hamingson and Max Freedman contributed to this article.