The generalized finite-element method (GFEM) has been applied frequently to solve harmonic wave equations, but its use in the simulation of transient wave propagation is still limited. We have applied GFEM for the simulation of the acoustic wave equation in models relevant to exploration seismology. We also perform an assessment of its accuracy and efficiency. The main advantage of GFEM is that it provides an enhanced solution accuracy compared to the standard finite-element method (FEM). This is attained by adding user-defined enrichment functions to standard FEM approximations. For the acoustic wave equation, we consider plane waves oriented in different directions as the enrichments, whose argument includes the largest wavenumber of the wavefield. We combine GFEM with an unconditionally stable time integration scheme with a constant time step. To assess the accuracy and efficiency of GFEM, we compare the GFEM simulation results against those obtained with the spectral-element method (SEM). We use SEM because it is the method of choice for wave propagation simulation due to its proven accuracy and efficiency. In the numerical examples, we first perform a convergence study in space and time, evaluating the accuracy of both methods against a semianalytical solution. Then, we consider simulations of relevant models in exploration seismology that include low-velocity features, an inclusion with a complex geometric boundary and topography. Results using these models indicate that GFEM presents comparable accuracy and efficiency to those based on SEM. For the given examples, the GFEM efficiency stems from the combined effect of local mesh refinement, nonconforming or unstructured, and the unconditionally stable time integration scheme with a constant time step. Moreover, these features provide great flexibility to the GFEM implementations, proving advantageous when using, for example, unstructured grids that impose severe time step size restrictions in SEM.