10 great job sim games that turn work into pleasure

Get a taste (perhaps not entirely realistic) of what it's like to do something else for a living.

Terry Walsh/IDG

Take this job and play it

In many ways PC games are about wish fulfillment. They let us experience what it would be like to defeat an alien invasion, win the race, build an empire, or pull off a big heist. But as we get older, our fantasies take on new dimensions. Instead of daydreaming about what it would be like to lay waste to a city while wearing a giant mech suit, we wonder what it would be like to have a different job—one that’s more engaging, better paid, and with actual career progression.

The games we highlight here aren’t big on plot or spectacle, and many involve doing the same small task over and over again. But they’re probably much better than your real job at simulating a sense of achievement.

Terry Walsh/IDG

Slime Rancher

Developer: Monami Park

In Slime Rancher you play, well, a slime rancher. You live on an alien planet and use a vacuum gun to suck up slimes and keep them in pens so you can harvest their poop and sell it to buy tools that will make it easier to keep slimes in pens and harvest their poop. Sometimes different species of slime will eat each others' poop to create exciting new crossbred species of slime. It’s all oddly relaxing.

Terry Walsh/IDG

Elite Dangerous

Developer: Frontier Developments

Elite Dangerous gives you a vast open universe and complete freedom to engage in piracy, bounty hunting, political intrigue, or the search for alien artefacts, and it looks like things are heating up with the emergence of alien ships and hints at a possible full-scale invasion.

This doesn’t bother me though, because I’m a space truck driver. I go to a space station, buy some algae. Take it to a moon, sell the algae, buy some biowaste, take it back to the space station, and sell that. Use the profits to buy a bigger ship. Buy even more algae. You go play Star Wars if you like. Peoplel will always need more algae…

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Developer: Campo Santo

Unlike most of the games on this list, Firewatch is a game with a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But the important thing is that the story never gets in the way of playing park ranger. Hang out in your watchtower. Go for a long walk. Enjoy the scenery. Feel the isolation with no people, no social media, no rolling news, just a women on the end of a walkie-talkie who flirts with you from time to time. Close the game and Google “fire-lookout jobs.”

Terry Walsh/IDG

Papers, Please

Developer: 3909

In all the games we’ve looked at so far, you’re pretty much your own boss. But what about those of us who simply want to be a tool in a gigantic, faceless bureaucracy? Well, Comrade, Papers, Please is the game for you.

In this game you play an Immigration Inspector for the great and glorious nation of Arstotzka. Your job is to check the documents of people trying to enter the country and decide whether to admit them, turn them away, or have them arrested. It has all the thrills and spills of being a minor government official for a dystopian state. Which it turns out is surprisingly gripping and immersive.

Terry Walsh/IDG

Farming Simulator 17

Developer: Giants Software

How can you write about a game that so succinctly sums up its own nature in the title? Farming Simulator 17 is the latest installment in the Farming Simulator franchise, which allows you to simulate being a farmer. With customizable settings for plant growth, plant withering, fertilizer states, and a plowing schedule, alongside ultra-realistic depictions of the latest tractors, trucks, and combine harvesters, this game gives you a pretty comprehensive experience of being a farmer without actually having to go outdoors. And because this is 2017, the new game even allows your farmer avatar to be a woman! Groundbreaking.

Terry Walsh/IDG

Stardew Valley

Developer: ConcernedApe

For those of you who like your farming simulations a little less comprehensive, there is Stardew Valley. This game is a true labor of love and the level of care and detail that has gone into every aspect of it is unique among job simulators. So too is the key gameplay mechanic: slacking off work to chat with your mates.

Yes, you have a farm to build and maintain, plus there are underground caves to explore and an evil massive corporation trying to ruin the town, but you’ll find that you spend most of your time chatting with the different people in the village, making friends, wooing the bachelors and bachelorettes in the town, and generally hanging out.

Terry Walsh/IDG

Youtubers Life

Developer: U-Play Online

Do you like content? Do you like trending? Are you viral? Are you down with the Millennials? If you like these and other terms from 2009 then you’ll enjoy Youtubers Life, a game that doesn’t care about apostrophes. This Tycoon-style game sees you travel the time-worn YouTuber path from your bedroom in your parents’ house to giant yacht parties as you achieve fame through gaming, music, or cooking channels. Far easier and more rewarding than actually making a YouTube channel.

Terry Walsh/IDG


Developer: Osmotic Studios

Another game in the “underling in a vast, dystopian nightmare” genre, Orwell sees you recruited as a profiler, going through peoples digital lives to dig out evidence of wrong-doing. Of course, soon it turns out nothing is as it seems and the plot will thicken, but basically what developer Osmotic Studios has managed to do is find a way to gamify Facebook stalking, which is an achievement in itself.

Terry Walsh/IDG

Human Resource Machine

Developer: Tomorrow Corporation

This cute little game was designed to teach programming skills through the medium of bossing around a small army of office workers. Human Resource Machine asks you to solve problems in a world every bit as brown, dull, and soul crushing as a real office!

Terry Walsh/IDG

Job Simulator

Developer: Owlchemy Labs

If work isn’t your thing, you may be relieved to know that by the year 2050 all human labor will have been made redundant by advanced robotics. Everything from food preparation to brain surgery to games writer will be performed by sophisticated AIs while we enjoy a life of lethargy.

Job Simulator is an artefact of this fictional future that allows players to enjoy 100 percent accurate virtual reality simulations of what it used to be like to work. This VR game lets you throw a stapler at your boss, fire employees, and eat donuts; and if your real-world job doesn’t let you do all three of those things, you should seek another source of employment.

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