- SimCity was technically the first Sims game, independently developed by Will Wright and showcasing the franchise’s humble beginnings.
- The Sims introduced a different style of gameplay, allowing players to let their Sims do whatever they wanted or redirect them as needed.
- The Sims 2 saw major improvements in graphics and allowed players to raise their Sims through 6 stages of life.
- The Sims 3 introduced ‘worlds,’ ‘Wishes,’ and ‘Create a Style,’ becoming the closest iteration of the modern Sims world.
- The Sims 4 focused on bug fixes and improvements, allowing players to get hyper-specific with their Sims’ appearance and introducing moodlets for more expressive gameplay.
EA’s hit series, The Sims, has been an integral part of many gamers’ lives for decades. For many, it was the first game they ever played, and this introduction to gaming gave them a passion for the hobby that they didn’t know they needed. Some people haven’t even known a life without The Sims in it, making it one of the most impactful video game franchises of all time.
There are four major installments of The Sims series, but there are tons of amazing spinoffs and expansion packs, too! Getting yourself familiar with The Sims lore can help you find a good place to start with it, or hop back on the horse if you’ve spent some time away from it.
In today’s article, we’re exploring the history of the game with each release in chronological order. There is a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get into it!
1. SimCity (1989)
Though it’s not typically hailed as such, SimCity was the first Sims game. This was the audience’s first exposure to the simulation (ICYMI, it’s called The Sims because it’s a simulation). Independently developed by Will Wright, SimCity showcased the beloved franchise’s humble beginnings with a basic concept — to build a city from scratch.
This version was different from The Sims that you know and love today, mostly because there weren’t specific goals to follow, like the health lines or daily tasks to complete. Instead, the choices players made were a bit more realistic; they would be dependent on factors like city traffic.
It was an interesting look into what would eventually become something unforgettable. The game’s release was delayed by four years because it began as a commercial failure — which is hard to imagine today!
There are a ton of other SimCity games, including SimCity 2000 and 3000, SimCity 4, and the remake SimCity. But those games are for a different discussion. Just know that SimCity was the catalyst that started the whole Simulation franchise.
2. The Sims (2000)
The first major installment of The Sims built upon initial lore by placing each Sim in a home just outside of SimCity in the suburbs. This first stage of The Sims saw a more autonomous approach. Just like today, you could let your Sim do whatever it wanted — but you could stop at any point to redirect it. For example, if your Sim decides that it needs to wash a dish in the toilet, you can remind it that the kitchen sink exists.
Your experience in The Sims varies based on personal choices, even in the first major installment of the game. You can get your Sim a job and, depending on the required skills, you can make enough income to upgrade your home.
This game was pivotal to the gaming community because it introduced a different style than what most people were used to. You can play The Sims casually to relax and express your creativity or cause complete chaos because you could tell your Sim to do pretty much anything.
3. The Sims 2 (2004)
The Sims’ sequel was worth the four-year wait! Each installment of the series has seen major improvements in graphics, but this one was a drastic leap from the first version. Plus, you could raise your Sim through 6 stages of life, depending on how happy you kept them. The open-ended gameplay concept stayed, but it did better commercially than the first edition. Gamers rated it highly, giving it a solid precedent for the rest of the (many) games in the franchise.
4. The Sims 3 (2009)
The first two Sims games did better in sales than this one, but this is the closest iteration of the modern Sims world that players are familiar with today. A few major changes like “worlds” (which were neighborhoods you could go to with your Sim without sitting through long loading screens), Wishes, and “Create a Style” were implemented. These alterations became staples in the franchise.
5. The Sims 4 (2013)
- You can personalize appearances, dynamic personalities, and aspirations
- Sims can travel between locations, discover distinctive neighborhoods, and locate stunning venues
- You have more control over your Sims’ lives, from their relationships to their careers
This is the most current major installment of The Sims, but instead of making major changes, as seen in the 3rd, the 4th simply improves upon bugs that became frequent user complaints. For example, you could get hyper-specific with your Sims’ appearance. You can directly manipulate facial features with your mouse; previously, you would need to press a few sliders to get your desired result.
Moodlets made Sims more expressive, insinuating that each rendition of the game would have them become more human. Specific interactions correspond with each Moodlet. The open-ended nature of the gameplay only gets broader as the series continues.
Of course, custom content and mods have existed since The Sims’ conception. Now, though, the community of Sims players is so massive that there is CC for literally anything. You can make your Sim as identical to you or someone else that you want it to be, with many making clones of celebrities, like their favorite musicians, for other users to download and play with.
Like with earlier versions of The Sims, there are a multitude of cheat codes to expedite your success in the game (the classic “motherlode” comes to mind) and expansion packs. The Sims 4 is really what you make of it!
1. The Sims Online (2002)
This spinoff, though relatively shortlived with a lifespan of just around five years, showcased massive improvements within The Sims franchise that would eventually make significant differences in overall gameplay.
Twelve playable cities allowed Sims to explore, giving them new life as opposed to what the major installments initially provided. Eighteen inaccessible neighborhoods also sparked curiosity. The goal of The Sims Online was to give players more access where there was historically far less.
The goals in The Sims Online weren’t too different from the ones in the main games, with players being able to have jobs, interact with other players, and sell items. The biggest difference between The Sims Online’s format and the main installments was the community aspect.
It only lasted one year after EA did a complete overhaul and rebrand of the community-based open-world game. However, the innovative nature of The Sims Online left a lasting impact on its players, with many wishing they would revive it to some capacity.
2. The Sims Bustin’ Out (2003)
The Sims Bustin’ Out had a fascinating concept, but it didn’t really translate well to players. This is largely because it shut a lot of its fanbase out. Whereas you could expect a PC game with every other release, this one was limited only to consoles. Still, it was an interesting piece of The Sims’s history; EA continues to innovate the franchise, even when certain releases are not major commercial successes.
The “Bustin’ Out” mode, as suggested by the title, gave players the chance to complete a series of goals. Of course, it’s The Sims, so there’s an open-ended gameplay mode, too, called “FreePlay.” The option to choose your path coincides with The Sims’ overall mission.
3. The Urbz: Sims In The City (2004)
EA did not learn their lesson about exclusivity with this game because it was limited to consoles, as well — though, it included handheld consoles like the Nintendo GameCube and DS. A sign of the times, The Urbz featured music by mainstream artists like The Black Eyed Peas. The trend of massive artists re-recording their biggest hits in Simlish continued for many years.
Moreover, the games varied in terms of experience, depending on what you played them on. Handheld consoles had a more precise path, following a more chronological order than others. For example, if you play on a DS, the things you do for NPCs determine the specific order in which you progress through the game. Completing tasks for the NPCs also gives you access to new areas.
4. The Sims Stories (2006)
Over time, The Sims franchise has been called to accommodate different technological advancements. In the 2000s, tech got smaller; laptops became common household items, and handheld devices became the preferred choice of many for gaming. As a result, EA released The Sims Stories as a bit of a trial run for laptop-friendly gaming.
This spinoff game was intended to integrate new players, despite being several years into the storyline. Since The Sims offers open-world playability, people can generally hop in and out as they please without missing much lore. Still, this was a nice stepping stone for people who were just discovering their love for The Sims world.
There are a few features that are missing from The Sims Stories that people tend to love in The Sims 2, but it’s still a good starting point. Generally, The Sims is a fantastic option for casual gamers, but spinoff games like this one allow you to see if you want to dive deeper.
5. My Sims (2007)
If you love playing The Sims on your Nintendo DS, then this is the game for you. The Sims fans didn’t have to wait very long for the next spinoff, with EA dropping My Sims just one year after The Sims Stories. Franchises like The Sims tend to have lots of mini-drops in between big ones, but the spinoffs are just as interesting as the “main” games. This one, specifically, is mini-game-based, allowing players to explore six different options.
Your Sim is instructed to creatively save a town; you’re responsible for construction, development, and, most importantly, generating happy new residents. This spinoff emphasizes The Sims’ knack for customizability, allowing you to manipulate NPCs, which are normally left untouched.
This version is a little more low-stakes than the main installments of the game. You don’t need to worry about your Sim peeing its pants or starving itself, and you can focus on creating the best town since SimCity instead.
6. The Sims Carnival (2008)
The following year, The Sims Carnival incorporated community features to allow players to interact with each other. You could compete with others in leaderboards and use open-source games to engage with other Sims enthusiasts.
While EA genuinely did see value in collaborative efforts between their community members, they also knew that Carnival players could act as their guinea pigs. The feedback they received weekly corroborated with the insight they needed to make improvements on current games, as well as future releases.
Carnival included frequent updates, perhaps more frequent than any other Sims game. One of the most common complaints from Sims players is that the main games can go years without major updates, but when Carnival was active, EA was always getting valuable user feedback. Plus, the community was able to be more creative than ever before; the open-source resources sparked innovation and collaborative efforts that aren’t available in other Sims games.
7. The Sims Medieval (2011)
This unique spinoff came with an interesting option — you could win this game! In other Sims games, the closest you could get to winning was seeing your Sim age all the way to death. Here, however, there were enough objectives for you to actually complete the game in a more traditional way that other gamers might be familiar with.
The trade-off with being able to win the game at the end of your chosen path is that your character is less customizable than in any of the other games. You have a more strict selection process, with four paths available. You’ll be a Physician, Knight, or Wizard; completing noble quests and earning Kingdom Points is the way you eventually win it all!
8. The Sims Social (2011)
The Sims Social was a sign of the times. In 2011, Facebook was a booming social hub; people were glued to other games like Farmville, which is what likely inspired EA to try a similar strategy for their most successful franchise. And they were right, for a brief period.
The Sims Social was a huge hit among fans. Anything community-based tends to unite fans of the game, despite the main installments being a solo venture. This Sims game had a few quirks that were exclusive to Facebook culture, like forming relationships with other Sims that your friends created. You could share these relationships on your Wall, for better or worse.
Similarly to the main games, you had some skills to master, like cooking or art, and you could become a Rocker, Chef, or Artist to generate income (because you couldn’t use “motherlode” in this game). Sadly, The Sims Social was only active for two years. In 2013, EA shut it down, which was probably for the best, as Facebook culture drastically changed following that point, anyway.
9. The Sims FreePlay (2011)
This mobile game integrated solo and community-based features to create a cohesive, unique playable experience. Players can make a whopping 34 Sims to raise, and EA even developed a new currency, Social Points, to go along with the pre-existing, familiar Simoleons.
Social Points are exactly what they sound like; you need Facebook friends in your FreePlay account, and you have to visit their homes to earn the Social Points. The mobile app is still a big success. It gets pretty frequent updates, despite being over a decade old.
10. The Sims Mobile (2018)
Throughout the years, EA has explored options for mobile devices, including The Sims Mobile, which built upon ideas that they started with in FreePlay, but it is a drastically different experience for users. This is the way to go for players who don’t have a console to play one of the main installments on, but want the truest Sims gameplay possible.
In this one, you take your Sim through each stage of life, ensuring that it stays healthy and happy until it eventually, sadly, dies. You can create unique homes, start families, and progress through your career. Similarly to the other spinoff games, your Sim can make friends with other Sims.
It also features another currency, separate from Simoleons or Social Points, called SimCash. You can earn free SimCash, but tread carefully— the one caveat for The Sims Mobile is that it encourages microtransactions, allowing players to use real money to buy SimCash to progress in the game.
The Sims has a major soft spot in many gamers’ hearts. People often credit it for getting them into gaming in the first place. Though the 1989 iteration is less talked about, it was a catalyst for something much greater than Will Wright likely ever imagined was even possible for his vision.
The Sims has become so popular that it is one of the most profitable video game series in history. People have used their creativity to design clever things outside the game, such as Halloween costumes based on their characters, knowing that people would get the reference.
One could only assume that The Sims is here to last, but we can only hope that The Sims 5 arrives soon — though we can expect to wait until 2024-2025 to get our hands (and Simoleons) on it.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©madamF/Shutterstock.com.