A "life simulator" is a type of Simulation Game where you play as a human, animal, or other being. The goal can differ but overall the theme is to survive and go through life as that being. In most examples you are in direct control over the character, however in others you can simply loosely control their actions from afar. Simulation games are usually Endless Games with no set ending besides maybe death.
There are mainly two types of life sims: the traditional human-centric life simulator and the animal simulator.
The human-themed sims are a divisive deal, with a common question for non-fans being "Why play a game about stuff you can do in real life?", but they do have fans. Due to the fact these sims are similar to playing house or other childhood games (with The Sims outright being conceived as a virtual dollhouse for adults), they tend to have a large amount of female fans, child fans (even when they're aimed at older audiences), and casual game fans.
The second type, the animal sims, tend to be more common than life sims. The goal of most are to find food, avoid predators, and most likely breed. There's a tendency for animal sims to be made about carnivorous or omnivorous animals, likely because hunting makes for more engaging game play, however some can be based on herbivores as well.
Like most simulation games, most are exclusive to PC and mobile. A few, however, are ported to console or are outright console-exclusive.
Sub-Trope to Simulation Game. Compare to xenofiction, Xenofictional Literature, and Slice of Life. Also compare to Immersive Sim, which is similar to the "human life sim" subgenre, but usually places its player-protagonists into much more extreme situations and gives them fantastic powers (whether magical or technological). There's a lot of overlap with the Dating Sim and Raising Sim genres as well.
- Alter Ego is an early example from the 1980s. It's a text adventure game where you play a newborn going through life from child to senior. Alter Ego has a freeware online version that's dubiously still in development. There are notes to add extra features such as Gay Options however nothing has come of that.
- Animal Crossing is one of the most popular examples and a rare example of a life sim that is exclusive to consoles. You are a Token Human living amongst Funny Animal villagers. The series is more cartoony than most and doesn't allow romancing anyone. You also cannot die or truly age (in-game birthdays exist but no one ages).
- Cattails is an in-development game where you play as a feral cat in a colony. It's designed by a Warrior Cats fan and it shows. It also has influences from Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley.
- The ZX Spectrum game Deus Ex Machina is an early example from 1984. It charts the life of a person from conception to death.
- In Diaries of a Spaceport Janitory, you control an alien janitor, living from paycheck to paycheck on a Science Fantasy world.
- Drunk On Nectar allows you to play through the obscure lives of arthropods.
- Game of Life is the Ur-Example. It's a tabletop board game where you must go through life from college to retirement. It has been adapted into several video games as well.
- Gleaner Heights is a dark Harvest Moon inspired game with similar life sim and dating sim elements.
- Habbo is another LSG but targeted to teenagers in which the characters looked like were Built With LEGO. Habbo allows users to chat with others, make friends, and participate in games and activities within a hotel-themed community (hotels). Players interact with each other with avatars called "Habbos".
- Harvest Moon is a console farming sim with heavy life sim and dating sim aspects.
- Hometown Story is created by the creator of Harvest Moon, who left the series because he didn't like the way the games were leaning towards dating sim instead of life sim. It's set in the same universe and has similar gameplay, albeit themed around stores instead of farms.
- IMVU is very similar than Second Life, but taken to the extreme in various things, especially the characters being Hotter and Sexier than in SL and that furry is allowed thanks to FurAffinity, a Furry Fandom art gallery acquired by IMVU.
- The Isle is an in-development game where you play as a relatively realistic dinosaur.
- Jones in the Fast Lane is an 80s game that has a board game-like design similar to The Game Of Life. The goal is to reach high levels of riches, happiness, education, or career.
- Little Computer People is the Trope Maker. It's a Commodore 64 game where you watch over a little person in your computer. There's not much actual interactivity though.
- Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times is an Animal Crossing clone set in Wizarding School. Unlike Animal Crossing, you can date other students and befriend same-gender ones.
- Saurian is a dinosaur-themed game set in the Hell Creek Formation of the Late Cretaceous, and involves playing as either Dakotaraptor, Pachycephalosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Anzu, or Ankylosaurus. note
- Second Life is a 3D online game created as a MMORPG but without any objetives, being more as an expy of The Sims in which you controls your own character and give him/her a life inside the game, where even they can have sexual relationships.
- Shelter is a short survival/adventure game played from the POV of a mother badger, struggling to feed her just-weaned offspring and shepherd them to safety across challenging terrain.
- The Sims:
- The Sims is the most well-known life sim and likely is the Trope Codifier. A spinoff of SimCity, in The Sims you control one or more Sims. The original The Sims 1 only had three life stages: Baby, Child, and Adult. The Sims 2 added Teenagers. Young Adults, and Elders, along with the ability for children to age.
- The Sims Medieval is a spinoff of The Sims 3 set in the Middle Ages.
- The Urbz: Sims in the City is a console spinoff where you play as an Urb, which is just an urban Sim. There's no ability to have children or get married. The game focuses on storyline more than the main series.
- The Sims Freeplay is a mobile version of The Sims. It has many of the same features but uses a real-time strategy format, similar to FarmVille'.
- MySims is a The Sims spinoff series that's closer to Animal Crossing and aimed at kids. It has a Lighter and Softer Super-Deformed style and more emphasis on story. There's also no romance options.
- Stardew Valley is a Spiritual Successor to Harvest Moon that has the same farming sim and life sim combo but with some things Harvest Moon doesn't have, like Gay Options.
- Tomodachi Life is a Nintendo 3DS sequel to a Japanese only Nintendo DS game. You control various Mii's living on an island. Though it's cartoony, you can have kids.
- TYTO: ECOLOGY has the player taking care of various animals in biodomes.
- In Ultimate Bird Simulator you play as a bald eagle.
- In Ultimate Cat Simulator you play as a stray cat surviving on your own.
- Ultimate Wolf Simulator has you playing as a wolf in a forest.
- Ultimate Fox Simulator is a game where you play as a red fox in a forest. You can hunt, breed, and such as.
- In Untamed: Life of a Cougar you play as a cougar.
- Verdant Skies is inspired by Harvest Moon. It takes place on a space colony on an alien planet. The goal is to farm, befriend other colonists, and make sure the colony is successful.
- Virtual Families is a mobile game series where you control a family.
- Virtual Villagers is a mobile life sim series where you try to help a group of people stuck on an island.
- Wolf is a DOS game where you control a wolf pack. There's also a sister game known as Lion where you control a lion pride.
- WolfQuest is a Edutainment Game about wolves living in Yellowstone Park. It acts as a Spiritual Successor to Wolf. The game started out as freeware however Wolf Quest 2.7 and Wolfquest 3.0 (the third episode DLC) aren't due to how expensive the game is. Many animal sims are based off of WolfQuest.
- Rick and Morty features a fictional example called Roy: A Life Well Lived. It's a virtual reality Arcade Game where the player assumes the role of Roy, a human male, and has to guide him through life from birth to death, with the players' decisions determining Roy's fate.