Top 10 Video Games for Engineers
Shane Laros posted on September 09, 2016 |
When an engineer needs some downtime, there are plenty of options available—but if you’re looking to keep your brain active while you unwind, or to inspire a technically savvy youngster, video games with an engineering slant are a great choice.

Here’s our list of the top 10 video games for engineers, young and old. This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to comment with your own recommendations.


10. Tetris (Multiple Platforms)

Still waiting for that “I” tetromino. (Image courtesy of Tetris Holding.)
Still waiting for that “I” tetromino. (Image courtesy of Tetris Holding.)
This one is a classic. First released in 1984, Tetris has seen countless remakes, versions, clones and copies. A deceptively simple concept, the puzzle game is all about making quick decisions and improving your spatial awareness to choose the best places for your randomly given, irregularly shaped tetromino blocks.

Let the blocks stack too high and it’s game over. As you progress through the game, the blocks start dropping faster and the game gets a lot more challenging.

Although not designed with engineers specifically in mind, Tetris’ ease of play, availability on multiple platforms and fast-paced problem solving make this a great game for those with an engineering mindset.


9. SimCity (PC, Mac, Linux)

(Image courtesy of Electronic Arts.)
(Image courtesy of Electronic Arts.)
The aptly named city planning and building simulator is another classic, though new versions are regularly released. Simcity puts you in the seat of a city planner/mayor/construction company in charge of laying down roads, zoning areas of the city and ensuring all necessary utilities are available. Your citizens need to be kept happy and proper placement of transit systems and parks is essential.

Monitoring your city’s water and pollution levels and guarding against a meltdown at the nuclear plant (or an alien invasion?) keeps players invested. At least all those disasters keep employment levels high.

While it may be a dumbed down version of a civil planner’s daily life, Simcity and recent high-quality clones like Cities: Skylines have no doubt inspired scores of civil engineers.


8. INFRA (PC)


Getting down and dirty in the gaping chasms of a city’s collapsing infrastructure is the idea behind INFRA, where economic woes and corruption have left a city in a dire state. You take on the role of a structural analyst, working your way through crumbling buildings and underground access tunnels to identify and repair the infrastructure necessary to keep your city from falling down around you.

Check out our article on INFRA for more information. Maybe you’ll be inspired to take up the mantle of civil engineer - at least in a digital sense.


7. SpaceChem (PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android)

(Image courtesy of Zachtronics.)
(Image courtesy of Zachtronics.)
If chemical engineering is your thing, you should definitely check out Spacechem. This puzzle-based game tasks the player with refining raw materials into usable chemicals by setting up complex machines and interactions between the materials at your disposal. Restrictions on individual puzzles force you to think outside the box, while the game’s level of difficulty will keep it engaging for quite some time.

Players who slept through their chemistry classes can actually gain insight into how various compounds interact, while software engineers may find they have a bit of an edge when it comes to dealing with the game’s intricate logic.


6. Minecraft (PC, Mac, Linux, Console, Android, iOS)

Minecraft falls somewhere between a survival game and a digital Lego simulator. You break things, collect materials, build simple tools and create structures to survive the strange, blocky world you inhabit.

What makes Minecraft a great engineering game is the creative mode, particularly in the use of redstone. Using particular combinations of blocks as logic gates, you can actually make a functional digital computer. Seriously.


The latest redstone computers have integrated 64-bit processors, more capable graphics engines and even the ability to emulate other game systems, such as Nintendo’s GameBoy.

Minecraft may be the epitome of complex play through simple tools.


5. Fallout 4 (PC, Console)

(Image courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios.)
(Image courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios.)
The post-nuclear apocalyptic environment of the Fallout series is full of dark comedy and mutants, though not necessarily in that order. The latest game, Fallout 4, has added in a lightweight building system to create settlements, towns and with a recent expansion, factories.

Collect and scrap anything and everything to get materials to build your machinery, conveyors, hoppers and power generators, install switches, wire it all together and become a tycoon of the wasteland. While not as complex as it could be, the addition of logic gates and switches has made complex settlement building in Fallout 4 a time-consuming hobby.

It’s also the newest game in this series with the biggest budget and as such, has excellent graphics, story and gameplay.


4. Factorio (PC, Mac, Linux)

(Image courtesy of Wube Software.)
(Image courtesy of Wube Software.)
In Factorio, you are an engineer stranded on a resource-rich planet with the goal of building enough infrastructure and technology to create a rocket and reach the stars. There are also bug monsters that try to destroy your machinery for some reason—maybe they don’t appreciate all the pollution.

While not heavy on story, Factorio is very deep in its approach to factory layouts. Resource management and research are important, but you can’t ignore defense. Keeping your supply lines organized can be a challenge, but too much space might hinder your ability to move resources and power as needed. Better stay organized!


3. The Incredible Machine (PC)

(Image courtesy of Dynamics.)
One of the original Rube Goldberg puzzle games, The Incredible Machine has players use a variety of items, tools and simple machines to solve straightforward puzzles in complex ways.

For being decades old, the gameplay holds up well and the cartoonish nature and simplicity of the puzzles make it well-suited as an introduction to thinking like an engineer for kids. It is available as “abandonware” online and playable in most current browsers through DOS emulation.


2. Beseige (PC, Mac, Linux)

Besiege is a physics-based building game in which you construct medieval siege engines to crush castles, destroy enemy troops, recover materials and navigate obstacles. While the challenges can often be fairly simple to accomplish, the game comes into its own when you start to engineer large-scale or complex creations to assault the enemy with.

Building a single machine that is capable of conquering all the games levels is a challenge in itself and additional challenges and creations are always being shared by the community.


1. Kerbal Space Program (PC, Mac, Linux, Console)

KSP is a game like no other: a physics-based rocket science simulator that asks you to take a fledgling aerospace industry and reach the stars.

The game seems simple at first, using rocket and airplane parts together, making a flying machine of some kind and getting airborne. However, the game is surprisingly deep in the sheer number of factors players need to consider, including setting stages for your flight, allocating fuel and resources as well as noting the distance and speed needed to enter, break and resume orbits on multiple celestial bodies.

The game has a large following of players and even has partnerships with NASA and the ULA in an effort to bring more attention to space flight.

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