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The simulation game was once the monopoly of flight combat simulators.  Early incarnations on PC were the reason why joysticks were used.  Some examples of early console simulations were more arcade-style flight games like Top Gun.

The Sim Series

Today, the simulation genre has branched out, mainly thanks to the innovative designs of Maxis.  Headed by Will Wright, Maxis has spawned an entire generation of unique simulation games.  Maxis cut its teeth into the market with the highly original SimCity series.  It allowed players to take on the role of building a city and watching it flourish.  No one could really predict how far this franchise would go.  SimCity alone is in its 4th incarnation, while a whole gamut of other titles like Sim Life (an evolution simulator), Sim Tower (lets you build a corporate skyscraper), and Sim Farm, have redefined what a simulation really is. 

The greatest development of all, simply titled The Sims, was Will Wright’s masterpiece.  The premise was simple: let players generate avatars, build them a house, and allow them to interact with neighbors and go to work.  It was a total life simulation and resulted in the best-selling PC game of all time.  Now that The Sims 2 is out with a full 3D engine, beautiful graphics, and more depth, Maxis has assured its prominence in its entirely unique simulation sub-genre.

Flight Simulators

Most flight simulators are on PC.  Like the RTS, flight simulations require a lot of control and a high level of detail.  Console flight simulators, by necessity, are dumbed down and more arcade-like.

A popular mainstay in flight simulators is, not surprisingly, the Flight Simulator series.  It was developed by Microsoft, and now sports a level of detail never before seen.  Flight Simulator 2004 allows players to fly from hundreds of airports around the world, and over satellite-imaged terrain that even has enough local detail to spot landmarks in your neighborhood! 

The combat simulator is still popular.  With the recent release of Pacific Fighters, a new level of multiplayer support allows about a hundred players to engage in furious dogfights over the Pacific.

On console, the Ace Combat is going strong though it can’t live up to the depth of PC combat sims.

One curious entry into the simulation is X2: The Threat.  It’s a space simulator that lets players fly through space between different solar systems while trading goods and fending off pirates (or even partaking in pirating themselves!).