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Zoo Tycoon is a business simulation developed by Blue Fang Games and released by Microsoft Game Studios. It is a tycoon game in which the player must run a zoo, and try to make a profit. Although first released for Windows and Mac in 2001, it was ported to the Nintendo DS in 2005. It was followed by two expansion packs, Zoo Tycoon: Dinosaur Digs and Zoo Tycoon: Marine Mania, which were released in 2002, as well as a sequel, Zoo Tycoon 2, released in 2004.


The goal of Zoo Tycoon is to create a thriving zoo by building exhibits to accommodate animals and keeping the guests happy. Exhibit building is one of the primary goals of Zoo Tycoon. To keep the guests and animals happy, exhibits should be suitable to the animal; for example, a lion is best suited to a savanna environment. Choices in terrain, foliage, rocks, shelters, fences, toys and the presence of zookeepers all contribute to the suitability of an exhibit and the happiness of the animal. Guest happiness is dependent on animal choice, animal happiness, buildings, and scenery. Buildings may include bathrooms, restaurants and food stands, shops, or entertainment buildings such as movie theaters. Scenery involves aesthetics that raise guest happiness slightly, such as topiary art, lightposts, or benches. Keeping both animal and guest happiness allows the player to gain monetary awards and steady income. To help manage the expanding zoo, you can employ janitors, zookeepers and tour guides.

There are three modes in Zoo Tycoon: Tutorial, Scenario, and Freeform. Tutorial teaches the player how to build exhibits and keep guests happy. Scenario mode has the player complete a series of objectives, sometimes within a specific timeframe. These objectives may include achieving a certain guest and animal happiness, achieving a certain exhibit suitability, displaying a certain number of animals, or breeding a certain animal. Freeform allows the player to choose the amount of money and the map that they start with. They are presented with an open lot with a limited selection of animals, buildings, and scenery. As the game progresses, more animals and items become playable. Additional animals and items may be researched, where money is invested to make them playable.

Zoo Tycoon 2 changed things a bit. Tutorial and Scenario were combined into one mode, known as Campaign Mode. Freeform was split into two modes, called Freeform and Challenge. Freeform was basically the same as the original, but you have infinite money.

Challenge was a bit different. First of all, you have limited money. The limit is very high however, so if you want to hold down the left click for half an hour, you can get up to 100 million dollars starting money. Every now and then (approximately each in-game month) you will be presented with a challenge. You can accept the challenge or deny it. If you deny, you will get no negative effect, but won't be able to get the positive reward for winning, either. Also, the adoption menu is a bit different. You will now get a selection of the animals available at your zoo level. This selection gets larger as your fame gets higher. However, if you don't like the selection you have (which has a limited number of each of these animals) then you have to decline them, and wait for the next one to become available. This results in a more realistic (if more aggravating and obnoxious) method of purchasing animals.

Third-party creations

The success of Zoo Tycoon also led to the creation of new features by fans, both fact and fiction. Mods were created to fix problems with the game and unlock new features. Many of these mods were made possible by an official program created by Blue Fang named Animal Project Editor (APE), which allows the player to easily create one's own animals, with either simply re-naming a premade animal or creating frames for another animal. Unfortunately, fansites for Zoo Tycoon are dying off quickly, and the ones left are almost entirely devoted to the sequel.

Expansion packs and sequels

Zoo Tycoon was created in the wake of the success of the 1999 Hasbro Interactive game Rollercoaster Tycoon, which sold well for many years. Zoo Tycoon did well enough for Microsoft and Blue Fang Games to release two expansion packs: Zoo Tycoon: Dinosaur Digs, which added prehistoric-themed items and animals, and Zoo Tycoon: Marine Mania, which allowed aquatic-themed items and animals. Eventually, Microsoft bundled the expansion packs with Zoo Tycoon to create Zoo Tycoon Complete Collection which had the functionality of both expansion packs and bonus content.

Zoo Tycoon 2 was released on November 2004. Although released with fewer animals than Zoo Tycoon, more animals were introduced in its expansion packs: Zoo Tycoon 2: Extinct Animals (Which contained the DLC "Dino Danger"), Zoo Tycoon 2: Marine Mania, Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species, and Zoo Tycoon 2: African Adventure. The later two were bundled in the Zoo Tycoon 2: Zookeeper Collection. All of them were bundled in Zoo Tycoon 2 Ultimate Collection.

Tropes used in Zoo Tycoon include:
  • An Entrepreneur Is You
  • Artificial Stupidity: Fortunately somewhat fixed in Extinct Animals.
    • For example, if you put 500 scientists and a dinosaur on an island, the scientists will completely ignore the dinosaur which is eating them up. Meanwhile, the only scientist in your park who isn't on the island will be trying to get there to put the dinosaur back in a cage. Marine Biologists are even worse.
  • Big Ball of Violence: Fights between animals are shown this way in the original.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Digs in the first game and Extinct Animals in the second one.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: and monkeys. And yes, even bears. And so on, and so forth.
    • In the first game, placing an Emperor Penguin in an exhibit suited to it will make it kill -any- other animal placed into the same exhibit, unless it's a penguin.
      • Parodied in the sequel with the Killer Penguins that can get dumped on you.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Using the right expansion packs and Easter eggs, your zoo can include exhibits for bigfoot, yeti, mermaids Unicorns and Loch Ness monsters.
  • Fossil Revival: In "Extinct Animals", you can hunt for fossils and bring them to life in an extinct research lab.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: In the second game, messing too much in the genetic lab minigame will result in a killer penguin: An even more psychotic prehistoric rockhopper penguin from Madagascar (yes, possibly related to those penguins) complete with teeth, red glowing eyes, and a taste for Tyrannosaurs and anything smaller. And you can't sell it. EVER.
    • Also, if someone tries to sell you a free penguin, do not accept the offer. Unless you like them for some strange reason.
  • Holiday Mode: During the in-game Christmas and Halloween, you'll sometimes see Santa or a witch flying through the air.
    • And on December 25th and October 31st, you can buy special objects (A Christmas tree and a Jack-o-Lantern).
    • Guests' clothing can be changed to holiday-appropriate colors with the right Easter Egg.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: Averted in ZT1, as animals become unhappy if the plants in their exhibits are inappropriate to their native habitats.
  • Never Smile At a Crocodile: Crocodiles are included in both games. In Zoo Tycoon 1, if you rename an exhibit "Super Croc", it unlocks Deinosuchus, which is basically, as the exhibit name implies, a giant crocodile.
  • Raptor Attack: Velociraptor appears in the first game, and it's scaly. A scaly Deinonychus and Utahraptor and feathered Velociraptor appear in ZT2.
  • Real Time with Pause: You can pause the game time and still make buildings or adopt animals.
  • Scenery Porn: In Zoo Tycoon 2, even subpar landscaping can lead to this.
  • Spiritual Successor: World of Zoo, another Blue Fang production, can be seen as this.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Played straight and averted, fan-favorites like T. Rex, Triceratops and Stegosaurus can be adopted but so can obscure creatures like Sivatherium, Stokesosaurus and Kentrosaurus.
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: To both the animals and the guest, even if it is fun.
    • Video Game Caring Potential: If you like animals, you'll probably fulfill the Caring Potential more than the Cruelty Potential. Even if you do occasionally let your Komodo dragons out when guests are being annoying.
  • Video Game Time: Months will pass in the game, but in real life it will be a few hours at most.
  • You Are Number Six: The default name of the animals are basically "[Species Name] [Number]". For example: Nile Crocodile 1, or Polar Bear 4.