Nonlinear modulational instability of wavepackets is one of the mechanisms responsible for the formation of large-amplitude water waves. Here, mechanically generated waves in a three-dimensional basin and numerical simulations of nonlinear waves have been compared in order to assess the ability of numerical models to describe the evolution of weakly nonlinear waves and predict the probability of occurrence of extreme waves within a variety of random directional wave fields. Numerical simulations have been performed following two different approaches: numerical integration of a modified nonlinear Schrödinger equation and numerical integration of the potential Euler equations based on a higher-order spectral method. Whereas the first makes a narrow-banded approximation (both in frequency and direction), the latter is free from bandwidth constraints. Both models assume weakly nonlinear waves. On the whole, it has been found that the statistical properties of numerically simulated wave fields are in good quantitative agreement with laboratory observations. Moreover, this study shows that the modified nonlinear Schrödinger equation can also provide consistent results outside its narrow-banded domain of validity.