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Rank the theme park simulation games you've played

Matt N

CF Legend
Hi guys. As you probably all know by now, I love a good ranking topic, and it feels like ages since I’ve done one, so today, I decided to do a new ranking topic, and I decided to rank something different; how about ranking the theme park simulation games you’ve played? I know that a number of you are into theme park simulation games, and I’m guessing that most of you have encountered them at some point in your lives, so I thought this might be a fun, and slightly different ranking topic to do, and I’d be very interested to hear your opinions on some of the different theme park simulation games!

I’ll get the ball rolling with my personal ranking.

In terms of the more well-known, PC-based ones, I’ve only played Planet Coaster and RCT3, but I’ve also played some of the iOS theme park games as well, as well as a 3DS theme park game. My ranking of the ones I’ve done is as follows:
  1. Planet Coaster (Frontier, PC) - I’ve been playing Planet Coaster regularly since 2017, and it’s the easy winner for me. The game is so flexible, letting you do just about anything you want to do, the graphics are just blissful and the coaster builder, as well as the grid builder, is just brilliant! It also feels very relevant, with up-to-date ride types, which I like! Admittedly it isn't the easiest game to jump right into initially, but once you've gotten the gist of it, it's very simple to use and interact with, and you can build wonderfully realistic stuff within it once you've got the hang of the mechanics! Sure, there are things I’d change about it (I’d add certain ride types, and also add the ability for more complex elements like switch tracks, as well as different station designs and operational paradigms to allow for greater throughput on rides), but that’s just me picking at flaws; PlanCo is the perfect theme park simulator, in my opinion, and an easy steal for #1!
  2. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (Frontier, PC) - I do have a huge soft spot for RCT3, I’ll admit! It was the first proper PC theme park simulation game I ever played when I first started playing in 2014, and I had many a fun time playing this! Sure, it’s a little bit basic compared to Planet Coaster, and it was certainly showing its age somewhat by the time I stopped playing in 2017 (both in terms of graphics and in terms of ride types on offer), but it certainly gave me a lot of enjoyment, and given it came well before Planet Coaster, it offers a decent degree of flexibility and shares some of Planet Coaster’s great attributes! I do also like the ability to include zoo and waterpark elements (if you chose to purchase RCT3 Wild and RCT3 Soaked) within your parks, which PlanCo does lack, and it also has certain more retro and weird ride types that PlanCo lacks. Overall, RCT3 was a game I had great fun playing, and it was certainly a great introduction to the world of PC theme park simulators, in my opinion!
  3. Coaster Crazy (Frontier, iOS) - This is where my memory starts to get a little hazier, as I didn't spend quite as much time playing these and many were played a long time ago, and also where my rating drops quite markedly. That's nothing against the mobile and 3DS theme park games by any means, but I'm increasingly realising that I think the greater flexibility of the PC ones is more my style. In terms of this particular game; it was certainly quite kiddified in comparison to some of the others (although probably no more so than any of the other iOS and console ones; I'm mainly comparing to the PC ones here), but I remember it being pretty good fun, and it comes out on top because I remember the coaster builder actually being fairly decent on this one, if not necessarily mind-blowingly accurate in terms of physics! As well as that, it provided a feature to ride along on the coasters you built, which was cool! This was more of a coaster builder as opposed to a full theme park simulator, however, so it lacks that overall breadth and flexibility that the PC ones have.
  4. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D (n-space, Nintendo 3DS) - Before RCT3, this was probably the theme park game I played most, and for the time, it was a fun one! It's slightly different to the others, as it's more story-based (you are a budding theme park developer being trained by a retired roller coaster engineer), but the same basic principles do ultimately apply. The coaster builder is somewhat basic (the most interesting elements you can do are banked turns, and you can only build wooden coasters), but does the job, and as a 10 year old playing it, I thought the feature where it took your "on-ride photo" (took a webcam photo of you and put you into the train) as you were riding was quite cool! However, the game did lack a bit of flexibility; I could only build about 3 rides before it came up with "Sorry kiddo; local zoning laws forbid you from building any more". Still, RCT3D was fun for what it was, and certainly one that 10/11-year-old me enjoyed playing!
  5. Theme Park (EA, iOS) (Note: I'm not referring to the more famous Bullfrog game here; this is the iOS app released by EA in the early 2010s) - Theme Park was quite a basic game in terms of mechanics, in hindsight, which is why it ranks lower, but I thoroughly enjoyed it when I used to play it on my iPad in my early days of theme park enthusiasm! In terms of how it worked; from memory, you were allocated a plot of land with a few set "ride plots" and "facility plots", and you could fill your park with a selection of rides and facilities from a selection of pre-built rides and facilities. To be honest, it wasn't so much a theme park simulator as it was "FarmVille: Theme Park Edition", wherein you build stuff on pre-set plots, but there's not much flexibility, customisation or ability to interact with the stuff you've built, and stuff takes real time to build (for instance, a coaster would take 24 hours to "build", which could be sped up if you forked out £5 or so), although Theme Park did not utilise Facebook integration like some of the games of this style did. Overall, Theme Park was a game that I in my early enthusiast days thoroughly enjoyed playing, although I'm unsure that the style of it would appeal to me as much now.
  6. RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile (Atari, iOS) - To be honest, this one is probably quite similar to Theme Park, perhaps more flexible as it did allow you to create coaster layouts, but it ranks last for me because I didn't play it for anywhere near as long as I played Theme Park due to its heavy reliance on Facebook integration inhibiting my enjoyment somewhat. The game interface was perfectly good and all, but I seem to remember quitting after building a coaster, and the game saying I needed 3 Facebook friends to give me tools to open it even once I'd waited 24 hours or whatever for it to be built. As I didn't have 3 Facebook friends playing the game, that stifled me somewhat unless I wanted to fork out actual money.
So, that's my ranking of all the theme park simulation games! To give you some idea, Planet Coaster and RCT3 are a fair cut above the others for me, and the freemium ones (Theme Park and RCT4Mobile) are a cut below. That's nothing against the freemium, mobile & console ones by any means, it's just simply because the freemium style doesn't offer the flexibility I personally look for in a theme park simulator; call me old-fashioned or boring or whatever, but controversially, I've grown to prefer a good old PC theme park simulator, with the greater flexibility they offer!

But how would you rank the theme park simulation games you've played?
 

Matt N

CF Legend
Sorry for double posting, but could a mod please move this to the more general Coaster Games forum, if they wouldn't mind? I didn't mean to put it in Planet Coaster Projects, sorry...
EDIT: Thank you to whichever mod kindly moved the thread!
 
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Hutch

Strata Poster
1. RCT1/RCT2/OpenRCT2

If it weren't for these games, I wouldn't be here right now. I still find if hard to believe that a little old videogame would guide me into coasters in real life, which eventually led me to goon life on CoasterForce. I'm lumping RCT1 and RCT2 together because they're basically the same game. Only real difference is the scenery customization and additional rides in RCT2, although the scenarios in OG are much better.

What keeps bringing me back to these games over others are the simplistic design. The 3D mechanics in other games can be a little overwhelming, and I've found putting together rides and coasters in the isometric style much easier and quicker. Even though the coaster design isn't exactly freeform, they still work for this style of game and you can make some pretty good looking attractions if you know what you're doing.

OpenRCT2 has also revitalized the game in so many ways: new custom coasters (wing coasters, I-box track, raptors), more customization in operating modes (launched coasters are much easier now), tile inspector to make even more complex scenery designs, and even "hacked" rides that allow you to make giant ferries wheels or star flyers. With all these tools, you can really make an epic park out of it, realistic or otherwise.

2. Planet Coaster

I only have about 30 hours in this game over the past few years, and while I recognize it has some incredible tools and customization, it's simply the 3D aspect that makes it difficult for me to get into (just makes everything take longer to complete). I would like to dive back into this game at some point, as I do really enjoy the coaster simulation.

3. No Limits

The OG specifically. Since I never really mastered this, I never bothered with the sequel. I actually did spend a lot of time building a bunch of different coasters, but I never liked the idea of doing custom supports myself (at least for the steel coasters). Zero g rolls and corkscrews were tricky as well, but for the most part I did fine with all the other elements. Obviously this is the best a coaster builder can get, and I'm sure the sequel is even better.

4. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3

I mean, it's RCT2 in a 3D environment, which doesn't really work, especially with the rigid coaster design. I suppose it paved the way for things like Planet Coaster, but this just hasn't aged well, whereas RCT1/RCT2 is timeless.

5. Parkitect

Only put a few hours into this, so it's last by default. I impulse bought this last year, which I kind of regret considering how little time I put into it, but I should give this another chance. I actually like the coaster designer here, it's almost like RCT2 which a couple of tweaks to make things a little more realistic.
 

RcTmix

Mega Poster
1. Planet Coaster - A perfect balance of realism, flexibility, and playability. I have a couple of issues with the coaster building engine (particularly track banking and load/unload procedures), but the flexibility makes up for the lack of realistic physics. I actually enjoyed designing station buildings, shops, etc. almost as much as I enjoy designing rides in this game.

2. NoLimits2 - Not really a game, so much as it's a tool, but it's fun to play around with it. The detailed control of track profiling is great, but as @Hutch said, designing my own supports can get finicky and tedious when I'm just looking to "play." The other advantage Planet Coaster has for casual play is the ability to test rides as you go with realistic animation rather than vectors. Since I'm not an engineer, that design platform is more of a challenge for me. If someone created a game that combined the detailed design control of NoLimits2 with the pretty GUI of Planet Coaster, I think it would be the perfect game for players like me (enthusiasts who lack an engineering background).

3. RCT1/2. I agree with what's been said above. This game, (along with growing up in Ohio and regularly visiting the CP and KI) really fueled my enthusiasm. It's simpler design is still quite charming, and has become rather classic, whereas RCT3 feels dated and clunky.

4. RCT3. I LOVED this game when it first came out. RCT with 3D graphics where you can ride the coasters?! Shut up and take my money. As has been said above though, it's always been a bit clunky and hasn't aged well. The graphics also had issues. It seems like the designers were trying to pull something off that was a little bit beyond their capabilities at the time.
 

Matt N

CF Legend
Out of interest, what is it about RCT3 that’s so inferior to the other 2 RollerCoaster Tycoon games (well, the original 2, anyway)? Surely the 3D aspect made it look more realistic to play, and the riding your coasters added an element? I also think it shares some of PlanCo’s positive attributes, and paved the way for PlanCo quite nicely; for instance, it had many very realistic and relevant ride types for the time, and it also added the ability to bring in your own music (something I myself have found pretty useful in both RCT3 and PlanCo).

Admittedly, the graphics don’t look too brilliant by 2021 standards, but I played for years and never found it particularly buggy myself. Also, surely the graphics are an improvement on RCT2 and RCT1 given the 3D and the earlier 2 games’ relative age? I’ve seen RCT1 and 2 shots, and I personally think that the graphic style of RCT3 is a big improvement, but each to their own, I guess!

I feel like I must be missing something with RCT2 given that most rate it so highly, even above Planet Coaster… could nostalgia possibly play a role, as I get the impression many grew up playing it? Or is/was the game genuinely far better than any modern theme park simulator?

I should preface this by saying I did not grow up playing RCT2; I myself grew up playing RCT3, so that might change my take a little.
 

Hutch

Strata Poster
Out of interest, what is it about RCT3 that’s so inferior to the other 2 RollerCoaster Tycoon games
I'll repeat what I said earlier, which basically sums it up.
It's RCT2 in a 3D environment, which doesn't really work
But to go into further detail, the simplicity of RCT1/RCT2 work really well as an isometric game, but throw it into 3D, it gets more tedious/less fun to build stuff. Any standard coaster you build in RCT3 (or honestly Planet Coaster as well), you can build in half the time on RCT2. And again, while the RCT2's coaster design is the most limited, it works well with the isometric format. But take the same coaster and plop it into RCT3, it won't look as good in the 3D environment. All those banked turns, slopes, and transitions? They look silly in 3D.

With regards to the graphics, it's more about the art style really. Sure RCT3 is more advanced, but it's not nice to look at. RCT1/RCT2 has a timeless art style thanks to the pixel art and illusion that things are three-dimensional. They definitely look better than RCT3
 

Thecoasterrus

Mega Poster
Sorry to bump the thread but this looked interesting.

1. Planet Coaster
It's pretty much the true RCT4 in my view. I have been playing this game since 2018 and it is currently my most played of the theme park sims since I started playing it. As the name suggests you get plenty of coasters to chose from and the building tool, while not perfect is defiantly an improvement from RCT. While it can take a lot longer to build things I believe the end result of your creations look better. It's not flawless (pathing tool, lack of family rides, oversized scaling) to me it's fixability makes it stand out as the best theme park sim out there.

2. RCT3
I probably spent half of my adolescence on this game, I would spend most of my time doing recreations of real life parks - name a park and there is a good chance I did a recreation of it. While the graphics look cartoonish I think it has aged better than most games of it's time, while I'll agree RCT 1&2 aged better I have yet to see a theme park sim with better looking water. While it's not as flexible as modern games like Planco it features a heck of lot of rides to play with. What I appreciate the most about this game was the ability to use custom scenery as well as custom rides, which really made the opportunities feel endless.

3. RCT Classic
I am going to lump both RCT1 & RCT2 here as nowadays I play RCT Classic. On the management side of things this is the clear winner. Playing RCT scenarios I really felt invested in how I was going to make money as well as keeping guest happy. Out of all the theme park sims the classic RCT games feel more mature and defiantly require the most concentration. The main drawback for me is the limited gameplay (no coaster cam, no unlimited money)

4. Thrillville/Thrillville: Off The Rails
These games seem like the most forgotten of the theme park sims, but I have plenty of fond memories playing them. Thrillville is basically RCT for people with short attention spans and to me there is nothing wrong with that. While the game isn't nearly as customisable as RCT or Planet Coaster it does feature many fun mini games as well as story driven gameplay. Thrillville is very much a console style game and while these games aren't as replayable as the three above I still go back to them every now and then.

5. Parkitect
I think Parkitect is a solid theme park sim, but I'm not as in love with it as most people seem to be. I think it's a worthy successor to the original RCT games with it's improved coaster builder and it's variety of scenery pieces. I also admire the cute graphics. My main drawback is the having to deal with the behind the scenes stuff, (Haulers, backstage areas) I know that for many people this is a plus, but for me it's a bit of a pain. I think this game has the best development team though as they keep making the game better and they seem to have a lot of passion for it.

6. No Limits
I am counting 1&2 here. I admire No Limits for being the most realistic sim out there, some of the coasters I have seen built on there look absolutely brilliant, however I could never work out how to actually build anything so I can't rank it any higher.

7. Theme Park World
Let me take you back to 2000, when Bullfrog was on top of the simulation market. Theme Park World was the first game which let you "ride the rides" and for 5 year old me that was all I needed to know. I still quote the little Scottish bug to this day "psst people think your prices are steal, consider raising them" and "Let's sit down on this feature and take a load off!" by today's standards the game is a pretty naff, but for the time it was a lot of fun.

8. Hyper Rails
Basically No Limits for dummies, but with worse graphics and you are only limited to 5 coasters, not that it bothered me when I was 6.

9. Disney's Ultimate Ride
Similar to Hyper Rails, but more cartoony, although it was pretty good considering it was a Disney cash grab.

10. Sea World Adventure Parks Tycoon
Speaking of cash grabs, Sea World Tycoon is an another swindle from Activision. I don't remember much about this game because I think I only ever played it for 30 minutes back in 2004, all I remember was the disappointment that I spent all my pocket money on this rubbish.

I think there are other theme park games I have played, but I can only really remember these titles. I avoided Atari's destruction of RCT (RCT World & RCT4 Mobile)
 

Nicky Borrill

Giga Poster
1) Planet Coaster. This game is incredible, and really advances the genre. There is nothing that cannot be built with a little 3D modelling knowledge!!! Sure, I may not be there yet, and may never get there. But seeing some of the creations some folks come up with proves to me that this game just works, and is the next generation of theme park game.

2) Theme Park (1994) This is the game that started things off for me, the first of this genre, (I’d never heard of ‘coaster’ until recently,) the game I see as the grandfather to all of these games. It launched at around exactly the time I first discovered my love for parks and coasters. Initially I only had access to it in small doses on the shared family PC, but once I got it on Playstation I got lost in this for hours upon hours. It also helped for me, and I think for sales of the game in the UK in general, that this game landed during the UK's 'year of the rollercoaster.'

3) RCT 3, After Theme Park, this was the next big step forward for me. Whilst I played 1 and 2, they never seemed to advance the game genre beyond what Theme Park had already achieved, and I considered them something of a rip off. But when RCT 3 came along, and especially the expansions with their new terraforming abilities, it blew me away once again.

Other games I’ve played, but wouldn’t really rank them…

RCT 1 and 2, Just felt like copies of Theme Park to me, and whilst I played and enjoyed them, they never blew me away like the above. The same applies to Theme Park World, the sequel to the classic which landed around the same time as RCT first launched. During this era I got a bit bored and strayed away from theme park sims, until RCT 3 launched. Parkitect hasn’t really had much play time, existing alongside Planet Coaster.

No limits 2
was great, and filled a void for me for years, as I could play it on my Mac Book Pros at a time when Planet Coaster wasn’t available on any other platforms, and I had no gaming PC. But it’s only ‘really’ good for coaster layouts, without diving too deep into things.

Ride Sims and Ride Sims 2 deserve an honourable mention. Great for both passing an hour and for learning more about the operation of certain coasters.
 
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Sandman

Giga Poster
Keeping it simple. My ratings are based on the impact each game had on me at one time or another.
1. RCT3
2. NL2
3. RCT1
4. RCT2
5. Rollercoaster World
6. NL1
6. Theme Park
6. Parkitect
7. Coasterworks

Sadly never played Planet Coaster. When I can be arsed to upgrade PC, I'll definitely give it a whirl.
 

Will

Strata Poster
RCT
RCT 2
Planet Coaster
RCT 3
Theme Park World ('even the features have new features!)
Rollercoaster World
Theme Park
:D
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
How did I not see this topic before?

Anyway, of the four theme park simulation games I've played (and I've played them a lot):

4) NoLimits 1 goes at the bottom. Yes, you can make magnificent coasters. But there's no gameplay to it, the interface gets really complicated, especially if you build anything diagonally, and themeing requires all sorts of 3D modelling knowledge. It is good for what it does, but it doesn't do all that much.

3) RCT3 is next for me. It definitely has its charm, but I always thought it looked a bit wonky. It came out a bit too early in the 3D era of computer gaming, resulting in very low-poly guests, foliage that looked like it was made of paper, and colours/lighting that was a bit too glaring - like everything had this yellow tint to it. It also has this strange feeling that you can't fill or "populate" the map properly. Like no matter how many props you place, it still feels empty and lifeless. I think the scaling is a bit off too, with everything looking a bit too small compared to guests. Like, a food stall in RCT2 looks like a guest-sized peep could have space to move around inside, while in RCT3 they can barely have room to stand. Coaster platforms also feel a bit too narrow. It's fun to ride the attractions, though, even though it hasn't aged particularly well.

2) RCT2 gets the runner-up spot. I've spent a lot of time playing this over the years. While it is getting increasingly outdated compared to real parks (how many of the coasters featured in this game are being built on a regular basis anymore?) and really lacks variety of flat rides, the game still has this timeless feeling and the graphics have held up really nicely. I also think the game has really, really good audio. You can hear the oomph of rides in motion, the chatter of the crowd, the awesome ride music, and the satisfying "ching!" of making money. The game just feels really, really right. Although it has probably the worst expansion packs of any game I've played. They add nothing of substance, just re-skins of existing rides, and the hard limit on scenery objects means you get to use an even smaller fraction of the available content in every park. A shout-out to OpenRCT2, which in recent updates has implemented a fix to this problem, and improves the original game even further.

1) But it still misses out on the top spot. That one has to go to Parkitect. Every time I play RCT2, I find a little annoyance about stuff that Parkitect does a lot better. It offers a lot more variety in themeing and decoration, but somehow makes building simple structures even easier than RCT2. It's trivial to throw together something that looks really decent. The coaster builder is more flexible (although the lack of backwards building is a bit noticeable) and has waaayyy more options for coasters despite technically having fewer coaster types. It has a great variety of flat rides too, which has the unfortunate side effect of making you realize that half the flat rides in RCT2 are variations on the Twist ride and most of the remaining ones have no animations. And then there's the availability of custom content ...

All in all, I find Parkitect the best theme park simulation game I've played. It has the charm of the old games, while also the features of a modern game, and makes the others seem a bit clunky by comparison. It has some issues with UI and the coaster builder lacks good support for shuttle coasters, but other than that it gets many things really right. I also like how you have to consider the "backstage" of your parks and how guests are affected by seeing it. None of the other games reward you this much for balancing utility and decoration, so it adds a really satisfying layer of gameplay. Combine this with how easy it is to build rides, and you've got a rock-solid park building game.
 
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