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Dueling Works / Sandbox Simulation

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Initiator Imitators Description Implementation Winner?
SimCity (1989) City Life (2006)

Cities XL (2009)
Wide Open Sandbox and strategy-based city building games that often have some quirkiness to them. The first known SimCity game was made in 1983, but failed due to nobody wanting to buy into the idea. It would then be released again in 1988/1989 by Maxis in which the series would begin to grow. Monte Cristo's City Life was a bit similar, except instead of simply just trying to balance a budget and simple economy, City Life also made you have to balance social order within the city. Cities XL was much the same. SimCity, while only having five true sequels, manages to win the duel in the sense that it was able to deliver more of what the fans wanted and is still alive and kicking thanks to a thriving mod community nearly 10 years after the fact, whereas City Life pretty much has been a disappointment outside of the gameplay. Cities XL, meanwhile, receives a new Expansion Pack every year. Recently a new SimCity game has come out, and garnered over a million sales in a very short time, despite having a very buggy launch and being savaged by bad press. However, said SimCity was also a contributing factor that killed it's developer, Maxis, and the latest game from the franchise is a greedy microtransaction moneygrab. Many predict that said SimCity will be the last- see SimCity (2013) vs Cities XXL and Cities: Skylines below.
Theme Park (1994) RollerCoaster Tycoon (1999) Space Management Games designed around building theme parks. Theme Park is the Trope Maker of theme park-oriented strategy games, whereas RollerCoaster Tycoon is the Trope Codifier. RollerCoaster Tycoon was a runaway commercial and critical success, spawning several sequels with numerous expansion packs. Theme Park still receives a sequel every now and then, but is largely obscured by its rival.
Harvest Moon (1996) Shepherd's Crossing (2008) Games where the player tends to a farm. Harvest Moon focuses on growing crops and fostering good relationships with neighbors, while Shepherd's Crossing focuses more on raising and trading animals. Shepherd's Crossing is a very obscure series, with only two budget-priced games to its name (one on the PlayStation 2 and another on the Nintendo DS). While neither of them is terrible, they've been overshadowed by the much longer-running Harvest Moon franchise.
Grand Theft Auto series (1997) Saints Row series (2006) Sandbox crime games. Saints Row was developed to take advantage of the long Indian Summer between the releases of San Andreas and GTA IV. Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto IV (especially IV) have both received wide critical acclaim, being considered as some of the best games of their respective generations. The first Saints Row, while well received, often gets bashed for being a knock-off. Saints Row 2, however, is often held to be the point where the franchise grew the beard, with even some longtime GTA fans crossing over (choosing to go in a more over-the-top direction, a la San Andreas, compared to GTA IV's realistic drama may have helped). Both of them have also been sales successes, though GTA edges out here.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002) Scarface: The World Is Yours (2006) A gangster Byronic Hero in 1980s Miami gets betrayed by his boss and plans to rule the city with his own gang. Both games owe much of their story and stylistic influence to the classic '80s gangster picture Scarface, with the latter being a fully-licensed sequel to the film. Vice City came out first, and its success paved the way for the latter game. The World is Yours, meanwhile, introduced several gameplay innovations that Rockstar Games would later copy for Grand Theft Auto IV. Vice City by a mile, though The World is Yours also did rather well for itself.
Mafia (2002) The Godfather (2006) Wide Open Sandbox game where you play as a gangster in the 1930s-1940s. The first Mafia title predated the first Godfather game by four years, but The Godfather got its sequel out a year before Mafia did. The Godfather also has a classic film license behind it. Both the first Mafia and Godfather games enjoyed roughly equivalent sales and review scores. However, Mafia II was also well-reviewed while The Godfather II was a total bomb, so as a franchise, Mafia wins out.
Singles: Flirt Up Your Life (2003) The Sims 2 (2004) Wide Open Sandbox Life Simulations that center around relationships. The Sims series is rated T while Singles is Hotter and Sexier and carries an AO rating. The two titles were released in the same year, with Singles being released a few months before Sims 2. The game is also considerably more realistic looking than The Sims. The Sims is thriving with a large fanbase and many new games and expansions, while Singles only has two. Singles is largely considered a knockoff of The Sims.
Mercenaries (2005) Just Cause (2006) Both the original and the sequel in both of the series are sandbox games in which you destabilize a corrupt regime led by an evil dictator. How? Blowing everything up. Mercenaries focuses more on huge air strikes to be called in at will, Just Cause is like one giant action movie, with car surfing, Dual Wielding, grappling hooks, you name it. The sequel to Mercenaries was an incredibly hyped game, but rampant bugs and a generally unpolished feel resulted in a huge disappointment for many. Just Cause 2, on the other hand, was received well by reviewers, and has sold, as of 2012, 3 million copies, with a developer-supported online multiplayer mod on the PC.
Animal Crossing Wild World (2005) Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times (2008) Handheld life simulators centered around cute Super-Deformed graphics and anthropomorphic animals. Animal Crossing is considerably older, being a Nintendo 64-originated series. While Animal Crossing is a straight-to-the-point life simulator, Magicians Quest incorporated magical elements and your goal is set in a Wizarding School Animal Crossing, no doubt. It had a huge following already due to the previous installments, and had three sequels. Magicians Quest is considered a case of Follow the Leader and has been heavily criticized due to the fact they "copied" a first-party game. The game is mainly known due to the fact you can date, and date the same gender too. However, Mysterious Times did fairly well in Japan and had a sequel there, so it wasn't a complete failure.
Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon (2006) Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon (2006) Harvest Moon spinoffs set in futuristic and fantasy settings, respectively. ArtePiazza's Innocent Life focuses on the android protagonist's journey to restore peace to an island and become more than Just a Machine. NeverLand's Rune Factory follows many of the familiar tropes of the Harvest Moon series, while also adding swords and sorcery to the mix. IL started out on the PlayStation Portable, while RF was released on the Nintendo DS. Rune Factory won easily, as it stuck more closely to the traditional Harvest Moon formula than Innocent Life did. It would eventually grow into its own series, while Innocent Life has largely been forgotten (aside from a PlayStation 2 Updated Re-release).
InFamous (2009) [PROTOTYPE] (2009) Wide Open Sandbox games with Stock Superpowers and Big Brother Is Watching Paranoia Fuel where you try to Escape From The Crazy Big Applesauce while figuring out what the hell is going on. inFamous encourages the player to contemplate the use and abuse of power every five seconds, and its star is electric. Prototype encourages the player to slice and dice anyone and anything in your path, or just eat them. Though both good, inFamous had better review scores and Prototype better sales (being multi-platform). As for their sequels, InFamous 2 had good sales and reviews, leading to a PS4 sequel, while [PROTOTYPE 2] was a Contested Sequel with poor sales that killed the franchise and nearly killed the developer.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (2010) Yakuza: Dead Souls (2011) Both are Alternate Continuity games based off of Wide Open Sandbox games in which the outlaw protagonist suddenly finds himself in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse. Cool vs. Awesome made manifest in both cases: A yakuza bruiser fighting zombies, or an Old West gunslinger. Both were released approximately the same time, too. Depends on where you live. Dead Souls is bigger in Japan, while Undead Nightmare wins out in the West.
Minecraft (2011) Terraria (2011) Wide Open Sandboxes featuring blocky graphics, random level generation, and underground gameplay. Minecraft is 3D, Terraria is 2D. Both feature RPG elements, though Terraria has more emphasis on them from the beginning of its life and Minecraft steadily gained more and more as it updated. Minecraft has sold more than 12 million units on PC/Mac alone since the alpha stages, and received widespread critical acclaim upon official release. Terraria, however, still did rather impressively, selling at least 3 million since release with highly positive reviews and remaining one of the most-played games on Steam, and eventually ported to consoles as well.
L.A. Noire (2011) Driver: San Francisco (2011) Wide Open Sandbox games released in 2011 where you play as a police officer in a period/retro California city. Noire is set in an accurately-detailed and researched 1947 Los Angeles, while Driver is set in a San Francisco with modern technology and vehicles but an otherwise heavy '70s aesthetic. Noire is heavily focused around the process of police investigation, while the Driver series' strength has always been its car chases, something that looks to remain true here. This is also a continuation of the Rockstar/Reflections rivalry that began in 2001. In the long run, Driver. While Noire got rave reviews and over three million sales, the massive backlash towards Team Bondi with the allegation of poor working condition, high turnover rate, removing people who quit partway from credits, and endless delays that eventually destroyed the relationship between Rockstar and Team Bondi eventually causing the studio to be unable to secure funding for its next game, and the studio went belly up. Driver, though, has also gotten good reviews and decent sales, and has helped to restore its franchise's respectability (which it had previously squandered with the execrable Driv3r) in the eyes of most critics and gamers. That, and Ubisoft Reflections still continue to make games.
Terraria (2011) Starbound (2016) 2D Wide Open Sandboxes featuring blocky graphics, random level generation, and underground gameplay. Where Terraria is mainly Fantasy, Starbound is Sci-Fi. Time will tell, while Terraria's final update has been released, Starbound is still constantly being updated.
Grand Theft Auto V (2013) Saints Row IV (2013) Sandbox crime games that continue the rivalry between the franchises. Saints Row IV continues to send the series off the rails, with the addition of an Alien Invasion and super powers. Grand Theft Auto V is somewhat less serious than the Darker and Edgier GTA IV was, but still is much more grounded than Saints Row IV. Notably, the games are being released within a month of each other, the closest release date between the two franchises. GTA V, easily. Both games sold rather well (Saints Row IV was the best selling game of August 2013), but GTA V sales blew SR out of the water, with over $800 million in first day sales and as of 9/22/2013 has outsold all 4 Saints Rows combined. Notably, GTA V is currently the more preordered game of all time. Both games received critical acclaim, but GTA V has received near universal perfect scores, whereas SR IV mostly got 8s and 9s.
Grand Theft Auto V (2013) Watch_Dogs (2014) Sandbox crime games set in today's world. Set in Chicago, Watch_Dogs is an open-world game that is built around the concept of information warfare. The protagonist, Aiden Pearce, has the ability to hack into devices linked to the city's central operating system, allowing him access to cell phones, bank accounts, and traffic lights, among many others. While Grand Theft Auto V doesn't focus on information, it also focuses on social issues that affect 21st century Americans. Notably, Watch_Dogs was originally going to be a launch game for the much-ballyhooed PlayStation 4 (with ports to other platforms being released later), while GTA V stayed put with the seventh-gen consoles. GTA V was easily 2013's biggest game, thanks to its universal critical acclaim and extremely high sales. It also has the honor of currently being the most preordered game in history. After several delays, Watch_Dogs was released in 2014 as the most preordered eighth generation game thus far. While its reception was overall positive, the critics had more mixed opinions regarding the game. It also received hefty backlash from the gaming community for its poor PC port, its dated graphics (which look nothing like what was shown on the trailers), and its similarity to Ubisoft's other games (the Assassin's Creed franchise in particular). Furthermore, the UPlay DRM was giving many players issues due to, to the surprise of no one, server overloading. GTA V is the indisputable winner of this one.
SimCity (2013) Cities XXL (2015)

Cities: Skylines (2015)
City-building simulators released in The New '10s SimCity was developed by long-running big name developer Maxis and published by Electronic Arts, and was an online-connected reboot for the beloved series. Cities XXL, released in February 2015, was developed and published by French company Focus Home Interactive, and is the fourth game in its series. Cities: Skylines, released in March 2015, is the third game by Finnish developer Colossal Order (who previously developed the Cities In Motion games) and is published by Paradox Interactive. SimCity had initial good sales, but its server problems at launch caused quite a big fandom backlash, as players weren't able to play the game offline. The smaller city sizes and absence of some notable features found in the series' past games were also poorly-received. Cities XXL was released to poor reception, due to the developer not adding enough new features compared to past Cities XL games (and whatever is new could've been added in a much cheaper expansion pack), while still containing various bugs and performance issues that have lingered on in the series. Cities: Skylines, on the other hand, was released to critical and commercial acclaim, with critics and gamers saying that it mostly got right what 2013's SimCity got wrong. Thus, it seems that Cities: Skylines won in the long run; SimCity's fanbase continues to shrink and Maxis' Emeryville studio was closed in March 2015. Cities XXL's userbase has quickly dwindled to virtual non-existence, as by the month after its release, players on Steam have quickly flocked to Cities: Skylines and either abandoned playing or entirely skipped over Cities XXL altogether.
Harvest Moon: Connect to a New World (Story of Seasons) (2014) Harvest Moon 3D: The Lost Valley (2014) 3DS games in the Harvest Moon franchise... wait, what? Harvest Moon: Connect to a New World was picked up for localization by X Seed Games instead of the usual Natsume, and was retitled Story of Seasons since they did not have the rights to the Harvest Moon name. Meanwhile, Natsume announced that they were putting out their own Harvest Moon game, not connected to the rest of the franchise, exclusively for the US market... this time taking inspiration from Minecraft. Connect to a New World/Story of Seasons, for the same reason that Rune Factory trounced Innocent Life in its match-up—it felt a lot closer to the spirit of the Harvest Moon series than its competition. This is, of course, due to being the actual continuation of the series (translated from the Japanese Bokujou Monogatari game), whereas Natsume's Harvest Moon is largely In Name Only and was criticized by fans of the original. However, when it came to finding the game in brick-and-mortar stores, the Harvest Moon brand name recognition won out; many large retailers didn't carry Story of Seasons - not that this stopped Story of Seasons from outselling The Lost Valley by nearly four times.
Dragon Quest Builders (2016) Portal Knights (2016) Minecraft-style games with built-in RPG Elements. DQ Builders takes place after the Downer Ending of Dragon Quest I where you restore the continents destroyed by the Big Bad. Portal Knights is an original property that deals with the player(s) restoring the connections between a series of Floating Continents. DQ Builders has a better Metacritic score (82 to Portal Knights' 75), but Portal Knights has a wider potential reach, having been released on more platforms.
Star Bound (2016) No Man's Sky (2016) Travel from planet to planet, sucking up resources to keep going. Starbound has more base-building, while No Man's Sky requires constant refueling/recharging in a survival mechanic. Many weird randomized aliens involved. Starbound by a long-shot. Despite many similarities the end focus was different for each; Starbound's base building made it closer to Terraria, and thus becoming more praised; while No Man's Sky encouraged and required mapping out huge distances, becoming a negative point in the game's reception. In addition, the latter suffered a one-two-three punch of average critic reception and being ripped to shreds by gamers; not to mention the many features promised became downplayed or even removed in the final product, leading to a massive Broken Pedestal moment for both Hello Games and Sean Murray himself as the latter figure being branded as a liar. Not helping matters for NMS was both ports received massively broken versions on the level of Batman: Arkham Knight, only intensifying the flames of backlash; with an ever-diminishing fanbase of NMS due to these three massive flaws. (even the fanbase suffers from Fan Dumb, sending death threats to anyone who says anything negative towards the critics and user reviewers) In short, Starbound's simplistic nature led it to a victory in this matchup.
RollerCoaster Tycoon World (2016) Planet Coaster (2016)

Parkitect (2016)

Theme Park Studio (2016)
Space Management Games designed around building theme parks released in the mid-2010s. All four are based on games in the RCT series and contain Steam Workshop support. RollerCoaster Tycoon World is the fourth main installment in the popular RCT series; the first in over a decade. Developed by Nvizzio Creations, it is released after two poorly-received portable spin-offs. Planet Coaster is developed by Frontier Developments, who developed RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and is definitely a Spiritual Successor to that game. Parkitech is developed by an indie developer called Texel Raptor. Funded via Kickstarter, their game is a Genre Throwback to the first two RCT games, although it is rendered in 3D like its two competitors and comes with a few new features of its own. Theme Park Studio is developed by Pantera Entertainment and was also funded via Kickstarter like Parkitect. Similar to RCT 3 in design, the game has some features including VR support and the ability to walk around the parks as a guest. All four games were released via Early Access. Planet Coaster and Parkitech both received warm reception so far, each carving their own unique niches among different types of RCT fans old and new. The same can't be said for the actual RCT game. RCT World went through some serious Development Hell, changing developers multiple times, and at one point Atari released a heavily-panned teaser trailer of an earlier version of the game. Although it was delayed again, it was later released on Early Access to poor reception, with many players calling the incredibly buggy game ugly. Some players even Took a Third Option by buying Planet Coaster and Parkitech while skipping RCT World. Theme Park Studio didn't receive as much attention as the other three. It was fully released in December 2016 to mixed reception on Steam, with reviewers saying that, although the VR support is nice and it is better than RCT World, it isn't as good as either Planet Coaster or Parkitect.
Stardew Valley (2016) Harvest Moon: Light of Hope (2017) Farming simulation games with life sim elements. Light of Hope is a title in the long-standing Harvest Moon series, however it's an In Name Only example because the original series is now localized under Story of Seasons. The title is largely a Mission-Pack Sequel of the previous Natsume titles. Stardew Valley is a retraux Spiritual Successor to the franchise that started out as a Fan Game. It was created by one fan and first released on Steam before later going multi-platform. Stardew Valley was a surprise Sleeper Hit, hitting a million downloads on Steam alone within a few weeks and becoming one of the most talked about titles of the year. It's been released on Steam, PS4, Xbox, and Switch. In contrast, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope has had a very poor critical reception due to its mediocre graphics, uninspired characters, and it seeming like a retread. It has also been Overshadowed by Controversy both because of a poor reveal of one of its new love interests and because of its In Name Only status.
Sea of Thieves (2018) Skull & Bones (2020) Multiplayer pirate games. Sea of Thieves was announced in 2015 as the first non-Kinect title by Rare in nearly a decade, features a stylistically cartoon-esque art style, and takes place in a fantasy world that deliberately plays every pirate cliche straight. Skull and Bones was announced by Ubisoft as the Spiritual Successor to the acclaimed Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, is set in a real world 1700s in the West Indies, deliberately avoids cliches, and is much more grounded in reality. Thieves features on-foot exploration, while Bones focuses solely on naval combat. To be decided.

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