Welcome to Switch Stop — your source for all things great on Nintendo Switch! Cheeky opening aside, this is a series that I intend to use to guide you on what I believe are the best game purchasing options you can make for your Switch. This series will cover a variety of genres on Nintendo Switch, and today’s genre will be simulation games.
Simulators are kind of an odd-ball genre on consoles. The most hardcore sims are truly found on PC, but in recent years, developers have been keener to experiment with bringing such games over to home consoles.
Switch has amassed a decent helping of such sim games over the years, and I don’t think anyone on our Nintendo Enthusiast team has played more than I have. So, here are my picks for the best sims (so far) you can find on Nintendo Switch:
Despite releasing back in 2018, MudRunner continues to be one of the most visually impressive ports Switch has seen yet. It also offers the most authentic driving experience on the hybrid so far. MudRunner is all about braving the wildlands of both Russia and parts of the United States as you take big off-road vehicles and deliver logs to the logging mill. You must navigate through dense forests, steep cliffs, rocky terrain, and thick mud-laden roads as carefully as possible.
MudRunner‘s authentic physics engine is both satisfying to observe and infuriating as the weight of your vehicle will realistically react to the terrain. As you meander through the backwoods, use your winch to pull your truck out of holes, and avoid tipping over! Damage will also accumulate if you knock into anything, and gaining too much damage will cause your vehicle to run rough; eventually the engine will seize up. If one vehicle becomes stranded, you can switch to another and then use the new one to navigate to the original and tow it back to the garage, where it can be repaired. Indeed, MudRunner has a lot of neat mechanics and really pushes the boundary of off-roading realism. It’s a great choice for anyone who’s interested in driving simulation games on Nintendo Switch.
Farming Simulator is one of the few titles that have been supported on both PC and consoles equally. And in 2018, developer Giants Software let Nintendo Switch owners in on that sim game action with Farming Simulator – Nintendo Switch Edition. What that name doesn’t tell you is that this is really a feature-for-feature port of Farming Simulator 17. Featuring a wide variety of licensed vehicles, FS17 allows players to run a farm in either America or Russia (yes, these same two landscapes again). There is a range of crops to farm, such as wheat, barley, canola, sunflowers, and potatoes. However, you can also raise farm animals: cows, pigs, and chickens.
All of the mechanics are pretty authentic. For instance, you have to meticulously sow seeds into the fields and then fertilize them regularly in order to optimize the result of your harvest. AI workers can also be hired on demand to take care of most jobs while you focus on other tasks like tending to your animals or even heading into wooded areas to do some logging. Trees can be cut down, debranched, and then chopped into logs to be sold. Back on the fields, you can take the straw from a grain harvest (like wheat or barley) and turn that into bales. Those bales could then either be sold or used as bedding for your animals. Wrapping them will give you silage, another resource that can be used.
Farming Simulator has quite a lot to unwrap, so expect this to steal hours away from you — especially with its being portable. There is also Farming Simulator 20 on Switch, which, although newer, is really a port of the latest mobile game in the series. So, stick with this port of FS17 for a more fleshed out experience.
Road-based truck driving sims are common on PC but are quite the oddball on consoles like Switch. That’s why it was surprising to see Soedesco deliver Truck Driver. And speaking of deliveries, that’s what this title is all about. You drive a semi (or lorry, if you’re English) across a fictional European map as you deliver cargo hauls from various clients. Each client runs a specific business, so your cargo type will depend on which client you’re running a job for. For instance, the first client in Truck Driver is the owner of an industrial fishing company, so all of the jobs from him require you to deliver trailers of various seafood.
Truck Driver is not the most fleshed-out truck sim, but as one of the few on consoles, it certainly stands out. Its mechanics and visuals are decent, and I was surprised at how well-optimized it is for Nintendo Switch. It’s definitely worth a pickup if you want to know how it feels to do routine pick-ups.
The sub-genre of heavy machinery simulators is also surprisingly common on PC, and that has since trickled down to consoles in recent years. Astragon Entertainment has been good about supporting Nintendo Switch with such a series, Construction Simulator. The latest entry, Construction Simulator 3, proved to be a relatively decent experience for me. This sim features a surprising amount of content, covering various areas like roadworks, excavation, cementing, crane operation and more. While Construction Simulator 3 does feature an open-world map, you can’t explore it on foot. However, the variety of licensed machines provides a deep-enough experience to keep the gameplay satisfying.
While I do wish there were more operations like building demolition and customization, what’s on offer is good enough, and with so many jobs to complete, you’ll find yourself occupied for quite some time. The frame rate is a tad choppy and the visuals aren’t anything to wow at, but this is still a solid option for anyone who was obsessed with Tonka toy trucks back in the day — or for an upcoming little gamer of today.
While fishing games aren’t anything new, Fishing: Barents Sea stands out to a degree thanks to its focus on realism. In it, you’ll take the helm of a fisherman on his old hand-me-down boat as you explore the Barents Sea in search of various kinds of seafood such as regular fish and crawfish. Fish are mainly caught by setting traps that you will plant in heavily populated waters, and after waiting for a few hours (in-game), you return and bring in your haul. Fish can even be gutted and cleaned for a better selling price once you return to shore. There are various fishing settlements dotted around the open-world map, each offering a different price for different kinds of fish. Thus, similar to in Farming Simulator, you need to optimize your fishing strategy to bring in the largest catch possible and sell in the most profitable market.
The more fish you catch, the more money and experience you will earn, which you can then reinvest into your operation for better equipment and, later on, bigger and better vessels. Fishing: Barents Sea can admittedly be monotonous at times, but if you enjoy the #SaltLife, it’s worth a catch for its tranquil gameplay alone.
Pilotwings, one of Nintendo’s many dormant franchises, is nowhere to be seen in modern form. Thankfully, the talented folks over at Bit Planet Games did us all a favor and ported their originally VR-only Ultrawings to consoles, and it’s right at home on Nintendo Switch.
While Ultrawings keeps us flying on just planes, the parallels to Pilotwings are still easily seen. Each of the four aircraft offers a unique flying experience, along with different mechanics that switch up how the various activities are played. Some activities are exclusive to some of the aircraft, however. Regardless, you’ll find yourself doing things like shooting balloons, going on a photo hunt, air racing, performing landing challenges, and more. Some activities, like balloon target practice, also make great use of Switch’s gyro controls.
Once an activity is completed, you’re graded on your performance and will be awarded a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal. Going for gold is essential to progressing, but the activities are fun enough that having to repeat them shouldn’t be an issue. Ultrawings is also neat because, aside from its various activities, you can also go ahead and simply fly around the open-world archipelago that it features at your own leisure. This is definitely a sim to relax with anywhere… even on a plane (when we can fly again)!
Let’s bring things back down to street level. Quite fitting, since this next title is all about urban expansion. Cities: Skylines, one of the most popular city management sims out there, made a surprising entrance onto Nintendo Switch two years ago. This system-pushing sim is renowned for its authentic simulation of AI traffic flow and procedurally generated buildings. You start off with a simple plot of land that will soon turn into a small settlement with the overall goal of expanding it into a thriving metropolis.
You’re tasked with zoning different areas of your settlement for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. Build schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, waste disposal plants, and everything else that’s needed to keep a city functioning smoothly. Your citizens will respond in real time to different factors like a clean environment, fair taxes, good job opportunities, and as little noise pollution as possible. Drop the ball, however, and not only will there be complaints, but also plenty of abandoned buildings as your citizens throw in the towel and ride off into the sunset. That’s why constructing your city takes real strategy as you find the most efficient ways to build roads and infrastructure to make everything run smoothly.
Cities: Skylines really sucks you in as the ability to control just about every aspect of your city is so satisfying. Seeing your population meter climb ever so slightly over time will drive you to keep tweaking your city, all in an effort to encourage more and more people to flow in. Especially being able to micromanage anything while on the go makes Cities: Skylines on Switch an excellent choice for anyone that wants some casual strategy in their life and in their simulation game experience.
While I haven’t ranked this list in terms of quality, I did want to save the timeless classic that is Frontier’s RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 for the final entry. The RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise is easily one of the most popular series from the ’90s, and its jump to 3D with RCT3 was nothing short of mind-blowing back in the day. This title introduced a lot of mechanics that are now commonplace in park-building sims of today. This makes this title a great timepiece to go back and see where everything started.
Though certain aspects of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 have aged better than others, this is overall still a gem of a park builder. Of course, roller coaster construction remains fun, and just the overall experience of building your own thriving amusement park from the ground up is as addicting today as it was back then. This release also includes the Wild! and Soaked! expansion packs, which add a deep new layer of gameplay with the ability to design both water parks and animal enclosures (of course, with live animals!). Design the rides, beautify the surroundings, and make sure you add enough trash bins, hot dog stands, and toilets to keep your guests happy and entertained.
With the tools to build your own version of Disney, its Animal Kingdom, and/or SeaWorld, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is an excellent choice for any thrill-seeker.
This is just my personal list of favorites from simulation games I’ve played on Nintendo Switch. There are lots more to explore, but if you’re just getting started, I’d highly recommend giving at least one or two of them a try to get your feet wet. Or perhaps you’ve had your Switch for a while now and may have missed out on some of these. Whichever fits best for you, just know that these are among some of the most feature-rich experiences you can enjoy with your hybrid.
If racing games are more your speed, then check out our list of awesome racers on Switch.