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Artificial life, ZPG’s, complex emergent system interactions, simulations, and sandboxes

are a few words and phrases I'd use to describe the games I like to play.

I was going to make a post lamenting the decline of the simulation genre and talk about why I think it deserves to be revisited, but besides that topic already having been done a million times, I don't think it would change anything.

Instead, I'm going to list a collection of games I've built up over the years that scratch the itch for me and for all the gamers that may be looking. Feel free to suggest anything else that might fit this list and I'll include them.

  • Golly, the game of life and langton's loop
    • Golly is an application that allows you to create and run cellular automata rulesets. It would take an entire post just to explain CA to the uninitiated, and I only recently learned to appreciate it myself, but it's capable of producing all sorts of really cool emergent interactions and it's fun to just draw random shapes and watch them evolve even if you don't know what happening. Langton's loop, and the more recently discovered 'sexyloop' are fun to mess with too.
  • SimEarth
    • hard to play and extremely dated but an amazing concept that I'm sad hasn't been revisited in a major capacity.
  • Ardarium
    • Closest SimEarth spiritual successor I've found. Advertised more as a screen saver, but it's still fun to mess around in.
  • Chemistry Life
    • an adaptation of another simulation called '

      ' that is essentially cellular automata but with particles. CL allows you to roll random chemistries and manipulate the particles. Really cool stuff.
  • Biogenesis
    • really cool simulation that tries to model unicellular organisms and ecosystems, it does a good job at showcasing evolution in an interesting and intuitive way
  • The Life Engine
    • Kind of a mashup of biogenesis and cellular automata, evolution seems to converge pretty similarly on long runs but it's still fun to mess with.
  • Alien: artificial life environment
    • really cool physics engine and artificial ecosystem simulation, requires a good graphics card.
  • Space Simulation Toolkit
    • a simulation similar to Alien, has artificial life and a falling sand physics game in one. Requires a good graphics card, and I think it needs to have CUDA
  • Gridworld
    • agent based artificial life simulation with evolving neural nets
  • Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution
    • another interesting agent based genetic a-life sim, though I haven't played it since it went to steam
  • The Powder Toy
    • Falling sand game with a great community. Make a particle accelerator or a computer, or break someone else's.
  • World Box
    • probably the most game-y entry I have, and one most of you probably know about, but the concept is solid and it scratches the itch for me
  • Grandroids
    • been waiting for this since it's successful kickstarter in 2014, still hasn't materialized, but gameplay footage crops up every few years and backers say the game is still in development and they're content. So hopefully one day. Made by the creator of the Creature's games, Steve Grand.
  • Visions of Chaos
    • A cool program that has a bunch of different simulations to play with, from fractal generation, to ant colonies and genetic sims. Lacks interaction though, you just set the initial conditions and watch it go.
  • Space Station 13
    • cult-classic, top-down, multiplayer, round-based, rpg and simulation of a space station. Been in development for over a decade, so you'll be hard pressed to find many other games with more content. Very fun and literally always something new to discover or learn about, once you get passed the brick-wall learning curve and horrible ui. I love the game less for the multiplayer and more for the simulation and mostly play on a private server by myself running experiments. The systems complexity is really unrivaled.


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