It’s Tuesday, and that means there is another installment of my Top 52 favorite games. This week is one of my surprise picks, #50: Roller Coaster Tycoon for the PC.
Title: Roller Coaster Tycoon
Release Date: 03/31/99 (US)
Genres: Simulation, Strategy
My Ranking: #50
I never enjoyed simulation games. I thought The Sims was incredibly boring. I wouldn’t even call myself a roller coaster buff. Yet, Roller Coaster Tycoon is the best sim game I have ever played. I don’t like sim games; I’m not crazy about roller coasters, and I usually play games on consoles, not my PC. There is no reason why I should enjoy this game. But I did. And it was so addictive.
Roller Coaster Tycoon has a simple premise. Build an awesome amusement park. The player can build virtually anything you can think of that appears in a modern-day amusement park. You can build haunted houses, slides, go-karts, food stands, and of course, roller coasters. Upon building these various attractions, you can set prices for each ride and prices for entry to the park and over time you gain profit.
The game provides you with a variety of different maps that differ in size, type of terrain, weather, etc. In one map, the player attempts to build a successful park in a desert. Within that map, water rides are the keys to victory since it is so hot. In another map, the player is given a really small amusement park and the player has to decide if he or she can be successful in the small space with good planning and excellent rides, or to use resources to expand the building area. Depending on which decisions you make, the way a player builds their park can be completely different for another player’s park, and both might still be successful, which makes this game surprisingly dynamic.
However, where this game really shines is in the ability to create and customize your own roller coasters. You can build wooden roller coasters, stand-up steel roller coasters and many, many others. The customization interface is really easy to use but building a roller coaster that is fun and not too nauseating involves carefully balancing out speed with both lateral and vertical G’s, which the game factors in. With simple clicks, the user can make the tracks turn, loop, bend, brake, corkscrew, or even take a picture and sell those pictures for profit. You can even interweave your roller coasters to pass by other attractions, go underground, or coast along the water. The possibilities are endless; each roller coaster is unique when you make your own.
After you achieve a level’s goal (number of guests, value, rating, etc.) the game doesn’t just stop for that map. You can continue on, build more attractions and rake in more cash for that level without having to worry about any requirements. This is my favorite part of the game. Without having to worry about any responsibilities, you can mess with your guests. For example, my friend and I would make a roller coaster that goes as high as possible (even raise the land if the supports don’t go high enough), have it shoot down at the steepest possible incline, and then make a small incline that leads to… a brick wall. We would then set the roller coaster to wait for a full load of people, make it free, and advertise it like mad. Within less than a minute you have 24 passengers flying at 100 miles per hour right into a brick wall. It’s wonderful. Watch this video I found on Youtube to get a sense of what I’m talking about.
For Roller Coaster Tycoon, the gameplay is so open that, as a player, you gain a sense of power over this entire environment. I guess this is a draw for sim games but, building a house or a city just never did it for me. It was too mundane. I find it much more satisfying to make a roller coaster that crowds of AI guests flock to, just to face their death via brick wall. Maybe I’m just evil by nature.
I used to play this game every time I went to my friend’s house back when I was in junior high school. Though this wasn’t a two-player game, we used to play this for hours on end, giving each other input on where rides and paths should be placed and how the roller coaster should turn next. There were so many decisions to be made that Roller Coaster Tycoon became a social experience.
Roller Coaster Tycoon felt like a complete game since we had so many choices and customization abilities. The game wasn’t too difficult once you figured out how to use the interface but having the difficulty of the goals not being too hard helped ease the player into the gameplay mechanics. For a game I should have had no business enjoying, this game captivated me and kept me playing for hours on end.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby’s Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Revealed on 7/29