ByAna Valens, writer at
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

is Ana Valens’ weekly column introducing new players and non-gamers to essential gaming franchises.

Did you know Katy Perry recorded one of her songs for The Sims 3? It's true. A couple years ago, Katy Perry did a Simlish version of "Last Friday Night" as additional content for the game.

There's a reason why Katy Perry agreed to perform the song in the game's language, Simlish. The Sims is one of the best-selling PC franchises of all time, clocking in at nearly 200 million lifetime sales.

For the uninitiated, The Sims lets the player take care of Sims, simulated people with their own aspirations, wants, and needs. But there's no set goals or objectives for the player to accomplish. The Sims simply lets the player decide what to do with their Sims and where to lead them in life: from turning them into astronauts to drowning them in pools.

There's been quite a number of Sims releases over the years on PC. So if you're eager to jump into The Sims and raise your own virtual Sims, then keep on reading. We'll show you where to start.

Maxis Introduces A New Life Simulator

'The Sims' [Source: The Sims Wiki]
'The Sims' [Source: The Sims Wiki]

You can't talk about The Sims without talking about SimCity.

Will Wright, creator of the Sim gaming line-up and its developer Maxis, first came into fame after creating SimCity in 1989 year. The game was revolutionary for its time. There was no set goals and no objectives except to build a city. Players were welcome to create an immersive, realistic city that grew organically over time based on amenities, zoning, infrastructure, and taxes provided by the player. Or they could simulate their own cities in-game, recreating Chicago, New York, or Toronto.

Inspired by SimCity's success, Will Wright and Maxis began creating more Sim games over time, from SimLife to SimAnt. But after a fire burned down Wright's house in 1991, the developer realized that he wanted to create a virtual doll house video game where players grappled with home creation and furnishing.

The idea was unpopular at first with Maxis. But once EA acquired Maxis, the publisher was interested in combining Wright's idea with virtual people living in a house. And thus, the original release, The Sims, was born.

The Sims launched in 2000 to major critical and commercial acclaim. Players fell in love with the idea: create a Sim, guide their life, and watch them grow (or stagnate) as they interact with other Sims. Several expansion packs were released in the following years. And by 2002, The Sims sold 11.3 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling games of its time.

'The Sims' Grows Into A Franchise

'The Sims 2: University' [Source: EA]
'The Sims 2: University' [Source: EA]

After The Sims became a runaway success, EA and Maxis knew they needed to turn the original game into a series. So by 2004, The Sims 2 launched for PC.

The Sims 2 expanded significantly on the original game. Create a Sim became more complex, Sims now lived from start to death, and Sims aged over time. This means that a Sim family can pass on their genetics from one family to the next, creating a complicated network of people and families raising Sims and living their lives together.

"Wants and Fears" were introduced into The Sims 2 as well, giving Sims goals, desires, objectives, and fears that the player can accomplish to make them feel happy. Suffice to say, The Sims 2 was a critical hit, bringing in both commercial and popular acclaim for EA and Maxis.

By 2009, a follow-up was released: The Sims 3. The Sims 3 expanded on the game's simulation capabilities, introducing the "Wishes" reward system, and allowing Sims to progress with their lives without the player stepping in. Create a Sim was further expanded and neighborhoods were turned into worlds that players could visit and explore. In previous releases, players would have to suffer through load times and inconsistent times just to visit places; The Sims 3 did away with all that, a few optimization issues aside.

But 'The Sims 4' Loses Its Grip

'The Sims 4' [Source: EA]
'The Sims 4' [Source: EA]

So rather expectedly, a new Sims game was needed after The Sims 3's success. By 2014, Maxis and EA introduced The Sims 4 to Sims fans.

The Sims 4 expanded on Create a Sim, updated the game's artistic style, gave Sims moods through "moodlets," and enhanced the game's buy/build mode to combine building a house and purchasing items together.

Most of those features were received with open arms. But to make room for the game's release date, many features were stripped away from the game: swimming pools, toddlers, ghosts, and most of all, neighborhood roaming. While subsequent patches added in most of these missing gameplay elements, some fan-favorite features are still missing. Like the open world neighborhood introduced with The Sims 3.

Since then, The Sims 4 has received some mixed opinions. As evident by a Reddit thread on the matter, fans remain torn on whether newcomers should buy the game. But for many fans, the fourth Sims release is still a solid title worth picking up. It just depends on who you ask.

If You're Going For The Sims, Stick With 'The Sims 3'

'The Sims 3' [Source: EA]
'The Sims 3' [Source: EA]

With all that history aside, it's pretty clear which Sims game you should pick up first. Start with The Sims 3.

The Sims 3 builds off the first two games without sacrificing core features to make the world work. As a result, the game feels dynamic, complex, and stunningly lifelike with the addition of open worlds and story progression. It's pretty easy to acquire the base game, and even without expansion packs, there's still a lot to do and explore inside the third Sims release.

If you're fine with a streamlined Sims game, then feel free to pick up The Sims 4. It's not a bad game, and for all the problems that the fourth game has, the Sims inside are certainly smarter and more realistic than ever before. But it's better to grab the latest installment after playing through The Sims 3, because the third game is much bigger and complex than the fourth release.

Play Through The Original With Care

'The Sims: Hot Date' [Source: EA]
'The Sims: Hot Date' [Source: EA]

As for classic Sims titles, The Sims and The Sims 2 still hold up in 2017. Like most Maxis releases, their addicting, simulation-based gameplay still gives the player plenty of freedom to build and create a bustling family of Sims that chase after their aspirations while building the home of their dreams.

However, now that The Sims 3 has fine-tuned a lot of the gameplay features from the first two games, the early games can feel a little outdated. Especially The Sims, which features simpler graphics, no aging system, a very basic Create-a-Sim mode, and no dynamic family creation. The Sims 2, meanwhile, has aged a little bit when it comes to gameplay and graphics, but the second installment is still largely enjoyable as a modern Sims game.

So if you're interested in playing the originals, feel free to pick up The Sims 2, but it's better to play through the first game with some relatively low expectations. The series really picked up its replay value with The Sims 2, and nearly 20 years later, The Sims simply feels too basic for a modern gaming audience.

Here's Your Recommendations

'The Sims 3' [Source: EA]
'The Sims 3' [Source: EA]

Time to brush up on your Simlish. Here's our recommendations for The Sims:

The Sims

  • Play if: You want to experience the classic, original simulation game that started it all.
  • But generally: Stick to the later releases, this game has aged quite a bit in two decades.

The Sims 2

  • Play if: You want to see how The Sims has grown while still playing through a contemporary, dynamic life simulator.
  • Also play if: You want a cheap and affordable entry into The Sims.

The Sims 3

  • Play if: You want to experience The Sims at their peak. This is considered one of the best games from the entire franchise.
  • Also play if: You want a living, breathing neighborhood to experience as you raise your Sim.

The Sims 4

  • Play if: You enjoy the game's customization features and art style, and you aren't necessarily heartbroken over the feature changes.

That's our guide for The Sims. Which game is your favorite? Share yours in the comments below.


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