Best Simulation Games for iPhone and iPad

Games don't always have to be about blowing something up or relying on twitch reflexes. Puzzles do a good job of offering something on that front (and we've rounded up a bunch of puzzle games for iPad, not to mention the best iPad games of every other genre), but for those looking for something a bit more substantial, you'll find plenty of simulation games available on iPad. These are all about framing and recreating relatable, real-life situations in interesting ways.

Whatever kind of gamer you are, if you're itching for new sim games on your iPad, check these out.

Surgeon Simulator

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Surgeon Simulator is a morbidly hilarious game where players have to perform life-saving operations with all the ineptitude that touch input has to offer. Would-be doctors hold their tools with one finger, then tap at the target location with the other. At first it might just seem like there's a lot of random flailing and blood everywhere, but every procedure has a process which you can review in your retro iZap PDA. There's an unhealthy array of surgical tools to learn and master over the course of a lengthy single-player campaign.

This game is less of a simulator and more of a mockery of modern medicine.

The Sims FreePlay

The Sims FreePlay is a casual, fun sim game where players can build a home, forge relationships, and climb career ladders with a highly-customizable avatar. Players have to tend to their Sim's needs, such as hunger and fun, and in the process earn Lifestyle Points which can be spent on various items. You can also buy Lifestyle Points outright, if you're the impatient type.

The possibilities are extensive, including starting new romantic relationships, having pets, and eventually having kids. You can build up your own little community of Sims, and visit those of your friends.

For those looking for a laid-back, constructive, and long-term game, the Sim FreePlay will have you covered.

Order Up!! To Go

Order Up!! To Go is a cooking and restaurant simulator that tests your time management skills. The gameplay is twofold. For one, you're working on building up the reputation and menu for your restaurant, always with an eye to the next establishment, so there's a fair bit of budgeting involved. The cooking itself is very similar to the Cooking Mama series in that you cut tomatoes with downward swipes and flip burgers with curved swipes. What really keeps Order Up!! To Go fun is the variety of other mini-games and the great humor both in the writing and art style. Smaller nuances, like recognizing customers as they come in and using the appropriate spices adds even more depth to the frantic gameplay.

You earn silver coins through regular gameplay, which can be used to buy your ingredients, access new restaurants, and hire extra help, but you can speed up the process with premium gold coins acquired through in-app purchases.

The Sandbox

The Sandbox is clever mix-and-match game with an 8-bit art style. You take the role of an almighty creator trying to combine various elements in the right order at the right spot in order to complete a puzzle. Those goals can be as simple as evaporating water and as elaborate as discovering electricity. In that sense, there's a definite Doodle God vibe, except The Sandbox is a much more fluid. Beyond painting element-infused pixels, you also have control over a wide variety of environmental elements, including temperature and weather. The real magic of The Sandbox is that elements all behave as you expect them to - trees catch fire if you turn up the world temperature, dirt falls when you paint it in the sky, and electricity surges through metal and shoots off the ends of wires with sparks. Given, all of that action is in chunky pixels, it's still all very believable. Outside of the puzzles, you can also go freestyle to make your own creations and share them online in the growing pixel art gallery.

Though The Sandbox is free, new elements are unlocked with mana points, which are awarded as you play through missions or bought through in-app purchases. Mana points can also be used to purchase hints for particularly tricky puzzles - luckily the hints aren't too expensive.

Bridge Constructor Medieval

Building bridges in a game is more fun than you think it would be. It might have something to do with how those that cross your half-baked creations dive haplessly to their demise down a ravine. Despite the lemming-quality AI, Bridge Constructor Medieval offers a wide range of physics-based challenges. It builds on the original modern-themed Bridge Constructor by having barbarians attack key points in your bridge while your people try making it to the other side. In-app purchases are employed to shortcut levels either with unlimited resources or a few hints. For what should be a pretty simple game, and could just as easily be completely 2D, there are rich 3D graphics at play here, along with a colorful storyline to justify all of this bridge-building. For engineers-at-heart, Bridge Constructor Medieval is a ton of fun.


Minecraft is a building sim/monster survival sandbox game with an 8-bit twist. When you first drop into your Minecraft world, it's more or less a blank slate, but after gathering basic resources and combining them to make new types of blocks, and placing those blocks throughout the world, you can build some pretty incredible things. You can even invite friends to build with you if they're on the same Wi-Fi network.

Transport Tycoon

Transport Tycoon is a classic business simulation game. Players build sprawling networks by road, rail, sea, and air. Maximize profits in order to expand your infrastructure wider. 150 vehicle types are available for use across 49 scenarios, provided you can assert your mastery over the terrain to put down the necessary framework. Business savy will be equired to edge out competing transportation companies.

Budding civil engineers will have a field day with Transport Tycoon.

Democracy 3

At first glance, Democracy 3 is visually plain, but don't let that fool you. This is a rich political game that requires compromise, balance, and understanding cause and effect. There are deep systems and demographics to appeal to in order to stay in office. Appeal to different values, handle budgets, and institute all manner of double-edged policies. Players can see how each and every variable affects everything else, before and after taking action. That said, Democracy 3 is the perfect game for intricate micromanagers.

Civilization Revolution 2

Civilization Revolution 2 is the mobile revival of 2K's beloved turn-based strategy game. All of the usual mechanics you know and love are here: start building an empire with a single humble city, harvest the resource tiles nearby, expand your nation in science, culture, religion, and military, and achieve global dominance through warfare or diplomacy.

You'll find plenty of new stuff, though. The refreshed Civilization Revolution features new wonders like the Red Cross and Silicon Valley, new units like the Stealth Bomber and Jet Fighter, leaders such as JFK and Churchill, and research options for Modern Warfare, Modern Medicine, Lasers, and Information Technology. To top it all off, there are new scenarios, including a Revolutionary War-themed one.


Godus is a casual god sim game with classic mobile city-building mechanics. Players need to guide a fledgling population through the hoops of an evolving civilization, including new housing, developing relationships with one another, and all-out war with neighbours. The usual freemium tropes are present, such as limited faith points which are gathered from the dwellings of worshippers periodically and spent on most deific tasks, including basic terraforming. The pared-down, textureless art style allows vibrant animation with lots of personality shine through.

If you're looking for something like Clash of Clans or Farmville with a touch of visual class, Godus will serve you well.

Your favorite sim games for iPad?

Those are our top ten simulation games available for iPad, but there are plenty more out there. Which are your favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.