By some counts, the tycoon game clocks in as the oldest type of video game with a narrative, dating all the way back to 1964’s The Sumerian Game. Green glass door game While the genre’s most popular name draws its origin from hits like Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon, its history goes back even further.
How did business simulation games get their start? What makes the best tycoon games so enduring?
Keep reading and we’ll cover the several-decade history of tycoon games.
Tycoon Games Before Tycoon
Most business simulation games for PC before 1990’s Railroad Tycoon were dry and slow-paced. While a few such titles, like Mugsy and Ports of Call, found an audience, a lot of them flopped.
Most were simple text-based programs that presented you with a series of choices. These choices would move resources between different pools at different levels of risk.
The Twin Tycoons
Two unrelated series, both sharing “Tycoon” in their names, came to define the genre. At the helms of these efforts were two legends in the gaming industry: Sid Meier and Chris Sawyer.
Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon offers a robust look at a century of railroad development. Players need to balance competing needs, deal with cutthroat competition, and make sure their network gets where it needs to go.
Railroad Tycoon and its sequels continued earning awards from most gaming organizations for the better part of a decade. Innovative gameplay and slick presentation made for a winning combination.
Chris Sawyer’s Tycoon series, including games like Transport Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon, continued to build on this foundation. Transport Tycoon took the ideas of Railroad Tycoon to the next level and projected decades into the future, rather than stopping its fictional timeline in the 1900s. RollerCoaster Tycoon offered a gorgeous presentation of a fun concept.
The twin Tycoon franchises aren’t the only business sims on the market. The category has boomed since its inception. Many developers have diverged from the base formula, taking it in new directions, making tycoon games a broad genre.
The Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons franchises take the logic of a tycoon game to the farm. The demands of management join with the hard work of farming.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale takes place in a world like those of Japanese-style RPGs. There’s just one catch: you don’t adventure. You own the item shop.
Game Dev Tycoon flips the script and asks you to develop games. You have to find good combinations of aesthetics and gameplay. You also have to manage your staff.
So Where Are We Now?
With this level of diversity, the tycoon genre has something to offer everyone. Whether you want a game that might as well be a spreadsheet or a fun, quirky adventure with shop simulator elements, you can find something out there.
If your computer is a little weak, though, you might need to invest in a better rig. Some tycoon games get computationally intensive. Check out this homepage if you need to go looking for rig improvements.
Tycoon games have come a long way from The Sumerian Game. Since their inception, they’ve developed from simple text prompts into robust simulations of the business world. Give one a try and see what you like.
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