Starting this piece is difficult because it's impossible not to mention the world's issues. I was very optimistic when I thought people would be dealing with COVID for another six months when I wrote last year's version of this list. With Omicron being more transmissible than any other variant, we could be facing months of uncertainty now. Even more, if morons refuse to get vaccinated and allow more strains and mutations to use their body as a Petri dish. Alas, I don't have the same control that Strategy and Simulation games give me, so we can't fix the stupids.
What I can do, however, is tell you the best strategy and simulation games to have come out in 2021. Much like previous years' lists (Strategy: 2016, 2017. Simulation: 2016, 2017. Strategy & Simulation: 2018, 2019, 2020), there are a few rules we follow. Only new and released titles can qualify for the list, which means no Hardspace: Shipbreaker (still in early access) or Total War: Rome Remastered (re-release). Naturally, only games that have been played will appear, but it doesn't necessarily mean they've all got a review on the site.
I don't doubt that I've missed some games out, and you could certainly make arguments to include Jurassic World Evolution 2, Evil Genius 2, and more. Feel free to mention any titles you think should be included below because there's also a good chance I - or somebody else - hasn't played it yet. One such example, which I want to get to soon, is "This is the President".
On that note, enjoy the rest of 2021. Here's looking to a great 2022, with a most-anticipated list of games coming soon. Do remember to vote for your favorite in the list at the end of this article!
Gas Station Simulator (Official Site)
Genre: Simulation. Platforms: PC (coming to consoles 2022).
Welcome to the strange entry on the list. I've mentioned in the podcast a few times that I've played the ever-loving hell out of this game, and I have. Like so many similar simulation games out there, Gas Station Simulator is janky, it certainly isn't the most attractive game out there, and it can be somewhat unforgiving. However, where many games are just that, this manages to go above and beyond, becoming a genuinely addictive title.
From filling up cars and renovating different areas of your Route 66 station, stocking shelves, and making the checkout experience better for your customers, there's a lot to do. You also have to ensure your station doesn't become too dirty as you sweep up, wash the walls after some little bastard vandalises them, take out the trash, and so much more. Gas Station Simulation is inarguably one of the best simulation games I've ever played, and it keeps things quirky - as these games always do - with the inclusion of the mob, aliens, and other random mini-games and events.
Genre: Strategy (4X). Platform: PC.
It's essentially impossible now to make a list of the best strategy games of any given year without including SEGA. With such a wealth of outstanding strategy studios, every year brings something special for fans of the genre like me. When I first saw it, Humankind was immediately one that grabbed my interest. A Civilization-style 4X game by the developers of Endless Space? I'm in.
Humankind is a great game, and it manages to stand apart from Civilization, though specific issues stop it from being a Civilization-killer. While aspects like Religion, and generally the AI, needed improvements, it's impossible not to love how the progression of your empire is managed, how cities and regions develop and just how much detail there is in this game.
Here's the summary of my review:
Humankind is a very interesting 4X strategy game with a wide variety of elements, most of which are very detailed - though some, like religion, can feel a little undercooked. From city building, expansion and the urban sprawl over time, so much of the development of the world is well represented here. Science, influence, war, economy, growth - there's very little you'll find covered here.
Age of Empires IV (9/10)
Genre: Strategy (Real-Time Strategy). Platform: PC.
Though a Microsoft published and funded game, Age of Empires IV comes to you from another SEGA studio: Relic Entertainment, assisted by the future caretakers of the franchise, World's Edge. One of my games of the year, this is a solid return to one of the biggest franchises in strategy history, and the way it's turned out is nothing but fantastic.
Simple, easy to get into, but offering a solid challenge, Age of Empires IV advances the traditional gameplay without straying too far away, feeling like a true sequel. In addition to excellent gameplay, the campaign gives a wealth of documentary-style lessons that bring you into the battles you're about to fight. For strategy gamers and history buffs alike, you can't go wrong here.
Here's what I put for the summary of my review of Age of Empires IV:
Age of Empires IV is, in almost every way, a true sequel to Age of Empires II. It plays great and has a few new features that add more tactical elements to combat and how you develop your faction. On factions, it truly allows them to differentiate themselves from each other. There are slight issues, such as the population cap that feels very restrictive and the lower-quality of unit models, but these are minor in what is an otherwise outstanding game, and one where an undeniable amount of effort and work has gone into - which includes hours of documentary-style clips to support the campaign.
Farming Simulator 22 (Official Site)
Genre: Simulation. Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X.
Were you to give any series the mantle of being the top of the simulation genre; it would be hard to discount Farming Simulator. This series has been going since 2008, rotating between core entries and mobile entries, and has generated a massive following over this time. Farming Simulator 22 takes the series to the next level, including seasons, production chains, and more.
While never the easiest to get into, and now long-overdue some gameplay tweaks - even overhauls - there's still very few other similar games on the market in production quality and a substantial modding scene which only further enhances what you've got.
Football Manager 2022 (9.5/10)
Genre: Simulation (Sports). Platforms: PC (core game). Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, Mobile (other versions).
Why is this on the list? Because it's fantastic. Am I going to tell you more? Yes. When? Not now. Wait for the best Sports and Racing games list.
Strategy and Simulation Games of 2021 - A Year in Review
After a few great years, the Simulation genre has had a slow one when it comes to your top-tier "AAA" developers and publishers. Fortunately, publishers like PlayWay and MovieGames have you covered if you're a fan of both somewhat realistic or otherwise quirky sim titles. It's also especially true that these titles, often developed by smaller eastern-European studios, significantly improve over time and as more are released.
Even the strategy game has seen a slowdown of sorts. However, I would always argue that strategy games - particularly grand strategy and 4X titles - require far more testing. As such, factors around working from home and other impacts from the pandemic have caused delays among titles. One core example could be Total War: Warhammer III, delayed from 2021 to early 2022.
- Mr. Prepper (official site)
- Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun - Aiko's Choice (7.5/10)
- Let's Build a Zoo (official site)
- Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (official site)
Vote your favorite among Wccftech's Best Strategy & Simulation Games of 2021 list
- Age of Empires IV 61%, 221 vote221 vote 61%221 vote - 61% of all votes
- Humankind 20%, 73 votes73 votes 20%73 votes - 20% of all votes
- Farming Simulator 22 7%, 25 votes25 votes 7%25 votes - 7% of all votes
- Gas Station Simulator 7%, 24 votes24 votes 7%24 votes - 7% of all votes
- Football Manager 2022 5%, 18 votes18 votes 5%18 votes - 5% of all votes