Simulation games like Goat Simulator and Surgeon Simulator kicked off a craze of absurdist, glitch-filled games that, while fun in small doses, didn’t usually have the staying power of more established series. Many people accused the trend of being purely YouTube bait—games made to reap attention and sales from popular YouTube and Twitch streamers—but not every all weird simulation games are a blatant money grab; a surprising amount of these games are pretty fun to play.
While not all of these games came after the popularity of Goat Simulator and Surgeon Simulator, they share a similar sense of weirdness, allowing players to take on strange, unappealing roles that become entertaining through gameplay.
I Am Bread Lets You Be Bread…Really
I Am Bread has a simple premise: you are bread. And as bread is wont to do, you must toast yourself to maximum deliciousness without accruing too much grime and filth on your journey.
It’s a bizarre premise, but it’s precisely what you expect from the creators of Surgeon Simulator, one of the games that kicked off the strange simulation games trend in the first place. Despite its weird and wacky premise, I Am Bread actually made some significant strides toward originality. Instead of relying entirely on the wonky physics and difficulty of Surgeon Simulator (though those things certainly play a role), the game focuses on having the player traverse obstacles by using a four-point sticky system that’s both challenging and unique.
I Am Bread is a little light on the simulation aspect—the life of bread is probably a lot more stationary than the game implies—but playing as a slice of bread is inventive enough on its own without the additional bells and whistles. It’s not perfect, but it’s more fun than you might expect of a game where you play as food.
Viscera Cleanup Detail Explores the Consequences of Other Games’ Heroics
Video game heroes are often looking out for the common people, tasked with defeating a great evil to secure peace. But what games often don’t pay attention to is the death and destruction left behind when the battle is over—the blood and gore that mean victory for the hero means work for someone else.
Viscera Cleanup Detail explores the life of that mysterious ‘someone else.’ Rather than playing the glorious hero, the game puts you in the role of a janitor cleaning up the dismembered bodies and spilled blood left over after the hero has taken their leave of the conflict. Whether you view it as commentary on the consequence-free violence of video games or as just a cutesy gimmick, there’s still something satisfying about cleaning up the mess.
Like many other strange simulation games, the controls are known for being awkward and difficult, but that’s not exactly a hindrance. The game rewards diligence and patience, and while mopping up a bloodbath isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of a good time, like many other simulation games Viscera Cleanup Detail provides an interesting look at the life of someone or something you’ll probably never experience in real life.
Papers, Please Shows the Exciting Life of a Document Checker
Papers, Please is probably the most popular and profound game on the list, as far as strange simulators go—it puts you in the role of a document checker for the border of a country under dictatorship. The fate of aspiring immigrants is in your hands as you determine who enters and who is turned away, avoiding or accepting bribes, and aiding the revolutionary cause or handing over dissenting rebels to Arstotzkan guards.
Living a day in the life of a paper-pushing border guard doesn’t sound interesting, but Papers, Please makes it far more fun than it sounds. Every moment is tense as you aim for high accuracy in short time spans with differing items to check on each type of passport, while also balancing your family’s needs with your own morals.
As far as concepts for simulation games go, ‘border guard checking passports’ isn’t the most exciting proposition, but Papers, Please proves not only that any job can have its own excitement and importance, but that a strange concept doesn’t mean a bad game.
What are your favorite strange simulation games?