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The 10 Best Immersive Sims (2024)

Out of all the different game genres, one of the most complex and fascinating kinds of games is the immersive sim. Immersive sims are known for giving players large amounts of freedom and creativity in how they wish to tackle their objectives.

But is that really all there is to immersive sims? Is it even possible to define such a broad genre? What are the best games immersive sims have to offer? Which ones should you play first if you have never played one before? We’ll be explaining everything you need to know and more in this ranking of the top 10 best immersive sims!

Foreword: Defining an Immersive Sim

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this article, let’s briefly define what an immersive sim is. There’s much debate as to what qualifies as an immersive sim, and many people will have different definitions.

Image: Irrational Games via HGG

For the purposes of this article, we consider an immersive sim to be a game that not only gives players multiple different ways to tackle objectives, but also provides different tools and systems that can combine together to create emergent gameplay. These interactions between different tools and systems can create solutions to problems that were unintended by the developers.

That last part is what’s really important here. I don’t consider games like Fallout: New Vegas and Bioshock: Infinite to be immersive sims. Fallout: New Vegas contains multiple solutions to problems, which is great. But there isn’t much in the way for unintended solutions/emergent gameplay (at least, it isn’t really that common). And Bioshock: Infinite is…well, I’ll get to that in greater depth later.

Top Immersive Sims, Ranked Good to Best

With all of that out of the way, let’s jump right into our ranking for the top 10 best immersive sims!

10/10

Teardown

Screenshot of Teardown gameplay
Image: Tuxedo Labs via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross
  • Developer: Tuxedo Labs
  • Release Date: October 29th, 2020
  • File Size: 4 GB
  • Link: Steam

Let’s start off our list with a game I don’t feel enough people are talking about. Teardown is a voxel-based destruction simulator. In the campaign, you play as a man down on his luck, forced to accept less-than-legal jobs for money. You’re tasked with robbing a variety of different locations. You’ll need to use the tools at your disposal — as well as the environment itself — to your advantage.

What is the Gameplay Like?

Each mission assigns you a certain objective, such as stealing paintings or destroying a brick tower. Certain levels have alarms that will be triggered if you steal or destroy a key item. This forces you to plan ahead to complete all of the objectives in time before police arrive at the scene to arrest you.

What makes this game so great is the huge amount of freedom it offers you in how to complete your objectives. This is accomplished through your many different tools, as well as all the different ways you can interact with the world space. Did I mention that the environment is fully destructible?

In the image above, I drove a crane to help me get up to a hard-to-reach area before smashing open a hole in the wall with my sledgehammer, allowing me to get to the objective inside. This is just one of many different player-driven options you have for completing every mission!

9/10

Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines

Screenshot of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines gameplay
Image: Troika Games via HGG
  • Developer: Troika Games
  • Release Date: November 16th, 2004
  • File Size: 3.3 GB
  • Link: Steam

Next up, we have a classic game many long-time fans of immersive sims will recognize. Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines is an RPG/immersive sim hybrid where you play as a vampire in a dark, dystopian version of Los Angeles. Gamers have a huge amount of freedom in how they roleplay their character and interact with the world at large.

What is the Gameplay Like?

For example, you can choose which of the various clans you belong to. This in turn determines how you can interact with different people, as well as how you can navigate the city. If you choose the Nosferatu Clan, you’ll be forced to travel through the sewers of LA, as members of this clan are hideous and cannot be seen by humans.

There is also a huge amount of choice in how you want to build your character’s playstyle. You can be sneaky, go for a melee build, solve problems using guns, etc. Some people may argue that Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines is more of an RPG than an immersive sim. It’s hard to really say, but given all its various systems working together, I’d say it still counts as an immersive sim.

It’s Got Some Bugs

The only reason this game ranks only ninth is all of its bugs and glitches. That, and the fact the gameplay can be clunky at times due to its age. Be sure to download the Unofficial Patch for the game if you plan on picking it up!

8/10

Pathologic 2

Screenshot of Pathologic 2 gameplay
Image: Ice-Pick Lodge via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross
  • Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
  • Release Date: May 23rd, 2019
  • File Size: 25 GB
  • Link: Steam

Has a video game ever given you an existential crisis before? No? Well, you’ll get one if you play Pathologic 2! I don’t know how to describe this game, other than a depression simulator set in Eastern Europe. It takes place in a fictional town being ravaged by a plague. You are a doctor tasked with curing the plague and saving the town from being torn apart.

What is the Gameplay Like?

Gameplay-wise, it’s more survival-horror than immersive sim. You need to maintain your hunger, thirst, and reputation with the locals to stay alive. It’s a very difficult game to play, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Add in all of the difficult, morally gray choices you have to make, and you’ll start to think this game is out to get you.

This is another one of those games that I’m iffy about calling an immersive sim. You should still play it regardless — it’s a very deep game set in a fantastically weird world. With well-written dialogue and characters, you’re sure to walk away with a memorable experience.

7/10

Cruelty Squad

Screenshot of Cruelty Squad gameplay
Image: Consumer Softproducts via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross
  • Developer: Consumer Softproducts
  • Release Date: June 15th, 2021
  • File Size: 1000 MB
  • Link: Steam

Next up on our ranking for the top 10 best immersive sims, we have an indie-gem known as Cruelty Squad. Don’t let the bizarre-looking graphics and UI throw you off. This game is much more than what it looks like on the surface. Set in a corporate dystopian world where immortality has been achieved, you work as an assassin for the subsidiary company known as Cruelty Squad.

What is the Gameplay Like?

Cruelty Squad features over a dozen unique levels, each with multiple routes for you to take and plenty of secrets to unlock. Before each mission, you can choose which two weapons you can take with you, as well as several different cybernetic augmentations for you to play with and combine in unique ways.

The augmentations are what really make this game. There are simple mods — one makes you invisible and another increases your jump height, for example. Others really change how you play the game. There’s a grappling hook that you can use to swing around the map. Another mod removes all falling damage and bounces you up in the air when you touch the ground!

Talking to a NPC in Cruelty Squad
Image: Consumer Softproducts via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross

You can combine all of these abilities in unique ways, giving you hundreds of different options for how you want to approach missions. Combine this with the multiple paths I mentioned earlier, and you’ll never run out of things to do.

It’s Not Perfect

Despite my love of this game, there are a few issues with balancing. Some of the cybernetic augmentations are either overpowered or underpowered, which makes a lot of augmentations feel pointless. And once you find the best route to take to complete a mission, it discourages you from experimenting with different options.

Even with its flaws, Cruelty Squad is still a must-play if you love immersive sims, indie games with killer soundtracks, or satirical takes on the effects of late-stage capitalism in a dystopian world where human mortality has been rendered obsolete.

6/10

Bioshock 2

Screenshot of Bioshock 2 gameplay
Image: 2K Marin via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross
  • Developer: 2K Marin
  • Release Date: February 9th, 2010
  • File Size: 11 GB

Now let’s talk about a personal favorite of mine: Bioshock 2! While the story and characters may not be as good as what we got in the first Bioshock, the improvements to gameplay more than makeup for it. You play as Subject Delta. He’s an experimental Big Daddy on a hunt to find his lost little sister and rescue her from Sophia Lamb, a cult leader living in the ruined city of Rapture.

What is the Gameplay Like?

What many people love about Bioshock 2 is the fact you can use your plasmids and weapons at the same time! This makes the gameplay flow much more smoothly, and it gives gamers more ways to play. Speaking of ways to play, there are plenty of different plasmids and Gene Tonics for you to choose from, much like the first game.

Add in all the different environmental hazards and contraptions you can find in Rapture (cameras, turrets, etc), and you’ll find plenty of different, unique ways to experiment and kill enemies.

What About Bioshock: Infinite?

Many Bioshock fans may be confused why this made it to the list and not Bioshock: Infinite. Simply put, I thought Infinite was a disappointment and a huge step-down in the franchise. The story and characters were good, but gameplay-wise, it became much more simplistic and more like a traditional shooter. There were far fewer ways to customize your build, and certain elements were dropped.

The way you could have Elizabeth phase things into existence (summoning turrets, cover, medical supplies, etc) was cool, but I wouldn’t consider that emergent gameplay. Bioshock 2, by contrast, perfects the formula of the first game while still having enough elements to be classified as an immersive sim — something Infinite doesn’t do.

5/10

Arx Fatalis

Screenshot of Arx Fatalis gameplay
Image: Arkane Studios via HGG
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • Release Date: November 12th, 2002
  • File Size: 750 MB
  • Link: Steam

Starting our top five countdown, let’s take a look at Arkane Studios’ first-ever release, Arx Fatalis! This is a classic game with a unique world and backstory. It takes place in a civilization built deep in the underground. The sun has died, and the surface is now a frozen, inhospitable wasteland.

What is the Gameplay Like?

The gameplay is most similar to an old-school western RPG. Players can spec out their character builds in a number of different ways. There are a variety of different methods to solve quests. You can be a sneaky scout who uses items in the world to distract enemies, a powerful wizard who uses various spells to kill foes and solve environmental puzzles, or any other type of character you can think of!

One of the great things about Arx Fatalis is how you cast spells. Essentially, it works by you drawing out the rune with your mouse cursor! It may seem clunky and strange if you’re used to more modern RPGs, but it is very satisfying to use once you get the hang of it.

How Well Has it Aged?

This game certainly isn’t for everyone. It can be very difficult to get into if it’s your first time playing. Additionally, the combat can be quite clunky at times. Regardless, it’s still a very robust and unique RPG/immersive sim that’s worth your time if you are willing to look past its age.

4/10

System Shock 2

Screenshot of System Shock 2 gameplay
Image: Irrational Games via HGG
  • Developer: Irrational Games
  • Release Date: August 11th, 1999
  • File Size: 2 GB
  • Link: Steam

Next up, we have the sequel to a game that practically defined the immersive sim genre, and set the stage for many future titles. I am of course talking about System Shock 2! The game is set in the distant future, and it incorporates many elements of RPG games.

What is the Gameplay Like?

You can play the game in several different ways, and unlock a variety of different traits to use for your build. Players can utilize a variety of different weapons both melee and ranged, and can also invest in various different skills to enhance their abilities. Hacking is of course a feature, but there are also a variety of different psionic powers!

What makes this game so great, however, isn’t just the gameplay, but its tone and story. The villain is incredibly well-written, the enemy designs are horrific, and the overall atmosphere is one of the best out of the survival-horror genre. It’s no wonder that this game has such a cult following! System Shock 2 is widely regarded as one of the best horror games of all time, and for good reason.

3/10

Dishonored

Screenshot of Dishonored gameplay
Image: Arkane Studios via HGG / Koby Gibson Ross
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • Release Date: October 8th, 2012
  • File Size: 9 GB
  • Link: Steam

Now for one of my personal favorite games on this list, we have the 2012 game Dishonored! This is another game by Arkane Studios, which should speak for itself. The game takes place in the fictional dystopian city of Dunwall. The city is collapsing under the weight of a rat plague, as well as political corruption. Things aren’t looking too good for you, either.

You play as Corvo Attano, the personal guard of the empress who was recently assassinated. You’ve been framed for her murder. Now you must hunt down and deal with the people who have wronged you in order to restore Dunwall to its former glory and clear your name.

What is the Gameplay Like?

You are given access to a wide variety of different tools and even some supernatural powers! You can bend time, possess living humans, teleport short distances, etc. The game can be played in a number of different ways. You can be stealthy or go in guns blazing. You can be a deadly assassin or a non-lethal pacifist.

With all the tools at your disposal, there are many different ways you can get creative with kills. There are even situational options to deal with targets, such as poisoning them, making their deaths appear like an accident, or finding a special non-violent option to eliminate them!

Actions Have Consequences

The best thing about Dishonored is the way that all of your actions affect the world around you, as well as the different systems at play. There is a chaos meter that can go from low to high depending on how many people you kill. Kill too many and it will rise, causing Dunwall to become even more dystopian, with more plague victims, more guards, and an overall darker atmosphere and story.

2/10

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Screenshot of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gameplay
Image: Eidos Montreal via HGG
  • Developer: Eidos Montreal
  • Release Date: August 23rd, 2016
  • File Size: 45 GB
  • Link: Steam

For our second-best game on our ranking for the top 10 immersive sims, let’s take a look at Deus Ex: Mankind Divided! Released back in 2016, this entry in the long-running Deus Ex series takes everything we loved about the original and modernizes things, while still keeping faithful to the series roots.

What is the Gameplay Like?

As with all immersive sims, you can complete this game purely through stealth and hacking. You can even be a pacifist and perform non-violent takedowns on enemies. There’s a vast number of different abilities (augmentations) you can take advantage of to use in creative ways.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

This game also features an incredibly well-designed hub-world — probably one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. The hub-world may be small, but it’s dense with things to do and is packed with hidden secrets for players to find.

If you’re interested in playing the games in order, I recommend starting with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. If you’re purely interested in gameplay, get this one, as it improves on its predecessor in numerous different ways.

1/10

Prey (2017)

Screenshot of Prey gameplay
Image: Arkane Studios via HGG
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • Release Date: May 4th, 2017
  • File Size: 20 Gb
  • Link: Steam

And finally, at spot number one on our list for the top 10 best immersive sims, we have 2017’s Prey! This is yet another Arkane Studios game. If you aren’t already convinced that they’re the kings of modern immersive sims, allow me to explain what Prey is all about.

What is the Gameplay Like?

Prey is a science-fiction game that takes place on a space station named Talos 1. You’re seemingly the only surviving human on board, and the station is overrun with strange alien beings. You’re given access to many different weapons and tools, and they can all be used to find creative solutions to problems.

There’s the glue gun, for example — a unique weapon that shoots out a quickly-hardening substance. This tool can be used to slow down enemies, set up barriers, or even create staircases to high-up locations! Another feature of the game is Neuromods, which gives you the ability to upgrade your character and spec into a variety of different fields. You can specialize in hacking, firearms, healing, and many other skill trees.

As the game progresses, you can acquire unique abilities from the alien species you’re fighting. Some of these abilities range from taking on the shape of an inanimate object to hide from enemies to a mind-control power that turns enemies into allies!

Prey: Mooncrash

After you’re finished playing the game’s excellent campaign, you can download what I consider to be one of the best DLCs in gaming history. Prey: Mooncrash puts you into a simulation of a base on the moon. The DLC gives you several different characters to choose from, each with its own unique playstyles. Your goal is to escape the moon base with all five of these characters intact.

The DLC shares elements with roguelikes, meaning you can’t just reload a previous save every time you die. There are also several RNG-based events that make each playthrough of the simulation unique. Overall, it does many different things to fix some of the common problems with immersive sims. It’s really hard to describe everything in words. So why not pick it up for yourself?

Join the High Ground

What did you think of our ranking for the top 10 best immersive sims? Did we leave out any of your favorites? What do you consider to be an immersive sim? Be sure to let us know down in the comments, and subscribe to our newsletter!

Happy gaming!

 

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BY the top two is obvious that you don’t have any idea about what is a immersive sim


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