Vehicle simulation games are a genre of video games that attempt to provide the player with a realistic interpretation of operating various kinds of vehicles.
A flight simulation tasks the player with flying an aircraft, usually an airplane, as realistically as possible. Combat flight simulators are the most popular subgenre of simulation. The player controls the plane, not only simulating the act of flying but also combat situations. There are also civilian flight simulators that do not have the combat aspect.
Racing games typically place the player in the driver’s seat of a high-performance vehicle and require the player to race against other drivers or sometimes just time. This genre of games is one of the staples of the computer gaming world and many of the earliest computer games created were part of this genre. Emerging in the late 1970s, this genre is still very popular today and continues to push the envelope in terms of graphics and performance. These games “tend to fall into organized racing and imaginary racing categories”. Organized racing simulators attempt to “reproduce the experience of driving a racing car or motorcycle in an existing racing class: Indycar, NASCAR, Formula 1, and so on.” On the other hand, imaginary racing games involve “imaginary situations, driving madly through cities or the countryside or even fantasy environments”. These “imaginary” racing games are sometimes called arcade racing games, in contrast to their more realistic “racing simulation” counterparts. These include Need For Speed, Mario Kart, and Gran Turismo. Rollings and Adams note that “racing games are often sold in the sports category,” but “from a design standpoint, they really belong in … vehicle simulations”.
Space flight simulator games are a subgenre that involves piloting a spacecraft. Space simulators are different from other subgenres and are not generally considered to be simulators, as their simulated objects do not always exist and often disregard the laws of physics. However, simulators of real spacecraft do exist: Orbiter is one example.
Train simulators simulate the vehicles, environments and often economics associated with railway transport. These are frequently historical in nature, reminiscing on the evolution and emergence of the railroad in various countries and the economic booms that often accompanied them.
Vehicular combat or car combat games focus on fast-paced action, as the player operates a car or other vehicle and attempts to disable or destroy CPU or human opponents. Vehicular combat games often allow a player to choose from a variety of potential vehicles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Vehicular combat was born out of racing/shooter combinations like Spy Hunter, RoadBlasters, and Rock ‘N’ Roll Racing, but differs in that the players can, if desired, take their vehicles off predefined routes and do battle wherever they please. A subgenre of vehicular combat is Mecha combat, where vehicles generally include giant robot-like tanks.