Computer simulation developed hand-in-hand with the rapid growth of the computer, following its first large-scale deployment during the Manhattan Project in World War II to model the process of nuclear detonation. It was a simulation of 12 hard spheres using a Monte Carlo algorithm.

Computer simulation is often used as an adjunct to, or substitute for, modeling systems for which simple closed form analytic solutions are not possible.

There are many types of computer simulations; the common feature they all share is the attempt to generate a sample of representative scenarios for a model in which a complete enumeration of all possible states of the model would be prohibitive or impossible.