Whether you’re into construction, space, civil engineering, or physics, there is a computer game for every type of engineering out there. Not only are they a great way to unwind after a long day, but many of them are fantastic ways to maintain a sharp memory and brain function. After all, many studies have found that action games can actually expand the brain’s cognitive abilities. So, make sure that you work hard and play harder by incorporating one of these games into your downtime schedule.
These games are also great for inspiring youngsters by introducing them to engineering-related games—even the “vintage” ones! So maybe stick a few of these on your list of potential gifts for the engineers in your life.
There are so many building games out there it can be tricky to know where to start. One of the first games that comes highly recommended by engineers across the board is Minecraft. Not only is this super-accessible game suitable for all ages, but it also has an appeal that is difficult to resist. Using simple tools, the aim is to create structures that help you to survive the Minecraft universe. A truly amazing feature of this game is that you can use special sequences of blocks to create a fully-functioning digital computer. Say what?
Factorio is a great early-access game based on the idea of building and maintaining factories. Players assume the role of an engineer surrounded by abundant resources that must be managed and utilized. From mining resources and researching technology to automating production and fighting enemies, this game is perfect for construction buffs. Starting out with the basics, players begin by chopping trees and transporting resources by hand. But eventually, the hard work pays off, and players become industrial powerhouses who can collaborate with friends and even contribute to the design of features within the game.
When it comes to realism and high-quality graphics, you can’t beat Construction Simulator 2015. While manning super-realistic construction machines made by Liebherr, Still and Man, your aim in the game is to explore towns and fields to find challenges for your building empire. Players will find themselves pouring concrete, using giant cranes, or excavating foundations while working together with friends to complete construction missions.
It’s impossible to mention construction without paying homage to the original block-busting mind bender, Tetris. Originally released in 1984 (when some of us were around to see its launch!), Tetris quickly took the world by storm and has remained one of the best-loved games of all time. Despite its relatively simple concept, this building puzzle not only enhances your abilities to make quick decisions, but it also improves your spatial awareness. It is super accessible and available on all platforms.
There are also times when destroying things is much more fun than constructing them, which is why Demolition Engineer is such a great antithesis to construction games. Players drive a crane around a city, demolishing anything and everything in sight. The aim is quite simply to destroy all of the buildings as quickly as possible so that you can move up to the next level. It’s a great way to let off some steam after a hard day at the office!
If there’s one thing that physicists are great at, its overcoming logical challenges; this is why Kerbal Space Program is one of the best games for physics buffs. The premise is simple: build a rocket and fly it into space. However, once you get going, you will notice that the game is anything but simple! Sure, you could build the rocket easily enough, but then you need to make all of the necessary calculations for fuel consumption and the speeds required to enter it into orbit. It can get super-technical very quickly.
Those who like their multiplayer games would do well to check out Fatal Velocity: Physics Combat, a first-person smasher in which players must rely on speed and the environment around them to beat their opponents. Using physics-based weaponry at super-fast speeds, players need to thrash the opposition while avoiding environmental hazards (like plasma, electricity, fire, and acid), as well as airborne dangers (such as asteroids and hyper trams) at every turn. This game can seriously swallow up your time, so make sure you have enough to spare before you get hooked.
If you prefer your physics with a hint of history, then you need to check out the early-access game Besiege. Although still under construction, the game has had rave reviews and is regularly updated with bug fixes. Using physics, players need to construct medieval assault machines to decimate opponents, crush buildings, and transport valuable resources to defend their own creations. Conquer each kingdom by crushing its castles and slaying the population and its livestock.
Civil engineers will love INFRA, a super-fun PC game based on the need to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure around you. Players take on the role of a structural analyst working around the city to save it from complete devastation. This mission soon turns into a fight for survival as corruption and conspiracy bubble to the surface, which presents puzzles and challenges that must be solved using pure brainpower. There are no guns or big explosions to be seen here—just plenty of incredible detail and the consistent message that all actions have consequences on those around you.
And don’t forget about SimCity, the original game for city planning and monitoring. Although based on a pretty simple idea, SimCity has been around for so long that it must have inspired at least two generations of civil engineers by now! One of the best things about SimCity is that, while most civil engineers have to wait years for the chance to see their work come to fruition, SimCity allows for instant gratification regarding the process of building a city.
Civilization-building games also lend themselves well to survival games such as Don’t Starve and Fallout 4, which are both ideal for indulging any post-apocalyptic interests. Survival games are big news right now, so if these kinds of games are your bag, there are plenty to choose from. The added bonus of playing survival games is that the tactical approach needed to navigate them overlaps with lots of other kinds of strategy tournaments, which means they are a great way to sharpen the brain and get it prepared for all kinds of competition.
Don’t Starve is a uniquely dark and whimsical wilderness survival game packed with science and magic. Players take on the role of Wilson, a scientist who finds himself trapped in a mysterious world by a demon. This game really takes survival mode to the extreme, as it comes with no instructions whatsoever. So, players begin the game with nothing and must learn to use the environment around them to hunt, craft, farm, fight, and find a way back home. Perfect for engineers!
Another great example a survival game that includes civil engineering is Fallout 4, in which players must collect everything they can find in a post-apocalyptic wasteland to build settlements, towns, factories, machinery, power generators, and conveyors. With the addition of logic gates and switches, Fallout 4 is a simple idea that can easily turn into a very time-consuming obsession.
For those who love dabbling in chemistry, SpaceChem is a must. Based on a set of puzzles, the aim of the game is to use complex machines to refine raw materials into useable chemicals while thinking about it from multiple angles. Developed by Zachtronic Industries, this design-based puzzle game can often be super-challenging, so it is not for those days when you just want to switch off! Players assume the role of a Reactor Engineer whose task is to construct factories that can synthesize chemicals and turn raw materials into valuable end products. With over 50 mind-bending puzzles and an original soundtrack by Evan Le Ny, this game is undoubtedly one of the best out there for engineers (although Mac users will encounter difficulties, as it is no longer supported on macOS 10.11). However, it is possible to get around this with a player-created package, so don’t be too disappointed.
The Chemist is another great foray into the wild and wonderful combination of chemistry and gaming. An early-access game, The Chemist requires players to create concoctions (from hot pepper-flavoured motor oil to shaving gel cake frosting) for a wide range of contracts. The game can focus on private lives or determine the fate of the world—it is up to each player to decide; but it is worth remembering that, in The Chemist, all actions have consequences. Large corporations will take note of players’ actions and either use their inventions to help the world or simply take advantage of them.
Fans of virtual reality will love HoloLAB Champions, a virtual reality-based chemistry game show in which players compete to become the champion of the laboratory. Using materials and equipment found in real-life chemistry labs, the holographic host of the show (Earl) directs players through a sequence of mini-labs in preparation for the end challenge. Reviewers love the attention to detail and the great way that it uses puzzles, mathematical challenges and scientific experiments to engage the brain. It could be the next big thing if virtual reality ever takes off.
Another great educational game for budding chemists is Molecule – A Chemical Challenge, in which players build molecules from atoms to get through the game’s 40 levels. Players compete against others from all over the globe to construct atoms using the lowest number of steps. Not only is this game super fun, but the graphics were also created by a visual effects artist who worked on the award-winning films Gravity and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which makes it very nice to look at as well.
Engineers who dream of using their skills in space should check out the early-access game Space Engineers. Though still under development, Space Engineers is already super playable and features a huge number of play modes. While its unfinished state might put some players off, the great thing about early-access games is that they are continually improved and updated with regular bug fixes and content optimizations, which makes their gameplay really interesting. Space Engineers is another great sandbox game; players are required to explore and survive in space—and on alien planets—by building space stations, space ships, and outposts. Using their completed ships, players then travel to other parts of the universe to gather resources and discover new territory.
Along the same lines is Battlefield Engineer, a game based on great spaceship design, fleet composition, and battle tactics. It is a physics-based engineering puzzle game whereby players must use their skills to design and test ships in preparation for defeating their enemies. With 12 handmade challenge levels that include tactical fighting and manually- controlled flight, the game has a serious level of detail that relies heavily on its basis of unbending Newtonian physics.
While No Man’s Sky is primarily about exploration and survival in space, it gives players the option to engineer their craft and space suits for survival in toxic environments. Players can also mine for valuable resources on undiscovered terrain while discovering new frontiers and trading their bounty. But make sure that you watch out for the pirates and police, who are both always on the prowl and ready to pounce on unsuspecting players. With multiplayer capabilities, this is a great game for kicking back with your engineer friends to unwind from the week.
Whichever game you decide to play, we hope you get the relaxation you need!