Draw the trains up into a circle, land the planes for maintenance, clean the boats of their barnacles, and stop using buses they just steal your money it's time to hear tale of OpenTTD.
Based on the original Transport Tycoon released by independent game developer Chris Sawyer in 1994 for MS-DOS, and the expanded Transport Tycoon Deluxe released in 1995. Open Transport Tycoon started it's development in 2003 as a planned reverse engineering of the original to C, so as to open the game to newer operating systems. Since OpenTTDs first release in 2004 the game has never had it's development halted and has seen many expansions over what was in the original Transport Tycoon games and it continues to be developed to this day.
The game is geared towards running a transport company, the closest you get to owning a industry is that a player can fund the construction of a new one and from there can only make money by delivering goods for said new industry. Add to that the fact the game is about more than just trains, you can build bus or truck lines, start an airline, or move large amounts of goods over the water with massive cargo ships.
Planes, trains, ships and automobiles, these alone open grand possibilities. Then you added procedurally generated maps and supply chains that range from the simple to the very complex.
Probably my favorite thing about OpenTTD is, thanks to the very long time of support and development, the sheer amount of mods available, called GRFs. Things from small and massive vehicle packs, new AIs to run NPC companies, small commodity changes and even total overhauls of the game worlds economy. Do you want to play a game with trains from Japan and trucks from Britain or how about planes from Europe paired with boats from the US. How about using those real US trains to deliver bubbles to make soda in a toy box world.
There is still an active community that play long multiplayer games of this. The face of the game changes when you enter multiplayer, transforming this from a game of slow development to a grand game of one ups man ship. Players compete for the best possible lines, or even co-operate to complete the the more in-depth and expansive supply/production chains. Creating challenges to see who creates the greatest wonders to spend the absurd amount of money a transport company can make.
Grand aerial canals built to connect between several man made mountains just to connect a lake with the ocean, without disrupting the 4 towns and multiple rail lines between.
Turning a small island town that started at 200 into a grand hub of 4 transport companies, by expanding the islands surface by over 800% and it's population into thousands.
This is largely because a multiplayer server continues to run even if you leave. So you may not be on to manage your company but your company will continue to make money. Play for awhile, go to sleep and wake up to millions in the bank but trains that are breaking down every minute. So you spend a fraction of your new wealth to replace them all with brand new trains of the new era you have awoken to. This should usually leave you with enough money to add a few lines, maybe a few dozen.
The game isn't without it's faults. Without mods a town can be forced to grow just by having four bus stops being served by dozens of buses. Planes create money hand over fist for little effort and minimal infrastructure. Replacing many vehicles over dozens of lines can become a hassle to replace together, though there are built in tools to assist in this. Supply chains that aren't profitable without vehicles of certain speeds or a massive investment mean that inexperienced players can't be hurt by going for something that looked worth it.
There are of course more modern transport games. Many of these newer games improve on some of the basic elements of the genre, but so many don't have the scope that OpenTTD offers. The larger maps, large breadth of vehicle choices of OpenTTD creates a huge variety that the newer games lack. Add to that a very nice, and moddable, procedural map generation means each game you play will always have it's little quirks that make each of them unique.
A few mods of note (to me, the author)
Commodity and economy changes
FIRS: A large overhaul of the economy that adds a large number of industries and adds many business that won't open before certain dates. You'll have to wait for steel mills and instead go with iron works that take wood instead of ore and are less efficient. My only complaint with FIRS is that many of the end tier products are extremely generalized, and the only flavor they have is that they are called manufacturing, engineering, or farming.
ECS: While it does not cover as wide a range of dates that FIRS has it makes up for it flavoring even greater complexity in the production chains. I personally prefer ECS because the chains are more complex and every production chain is unique and tie in together in an intricate web.
FISH: Greatly expands the sparse selection of ships so that it easier to run a shipping company. No longer will you be running out of usable boats in a late game.
eGVRTS: Adds many more truck and articulated vehicles that are bigger than normal vehicles, with my personal favorite being horse drawn carriages in the pre1900s. Along with trams to offer a new kind of vehicle to work with and build the infrastructure for.
Renewed City Growth: Makes it so that towns need goods to expand along with being serviced. Removes the ability for someone to turn a sleepy town of 1000 into a multiple city swallowing monstrosity in 50 years.
If you've got any other GRFs you like/have an opinion on say so down below in the comments.
In this age we can still look back at these great games that people still go back to, and even support. I hope to keep writing more articles like this that take a look at the games that were too small and have fallen into the nooks and crannies of the internet, new, old, free and a few that will have a small price tag.