I thought it best to start with the most contentious entry on the list first as even now, fourteen years after it launch there is still debate over which was better, Theme Park or Roller Coaster Tycoon. Both had their merits and if you were to look at both individually then both would be able to stand up as great games in their own right.
As the name implies Roller Coaster Tycoon is a game about building roller coasters and the theme park around them. What makes this me personal choice over Bullfrogs Theme Park was the level of detail and customisation available to the player, from a choice of 7 types of gravel paving to a huge selection of landscaping tools as well as a great variety of rides and attractions make creating your own ideal theme park possible.
The game itself has a scenario mode, a series of challenges that had to be met at various theme parks before you could progress essentially creating a single player campaign mode however I’ve owned the game for 10+ years and have yet to complete it, all the fun of Roller Coaster Tycoon is in building your own park from scratch.
It also has the handy feature that should any of the guests to your park start complaining, or if you’re just having a bad day, you can create an artificial lake and drown them in it.