Screen Critics Shaun takes an exhaustive look back at the entire Sims series of videogames – from mobile outings to console. Which was the best?
From its humble beginnings as a side-project through to its modern run as an expansion pack wielding behemoths; there’s no denying the charm of EA’s Sims franchise. But there have been dark moments throughout, with not all expansions bringing the best out of the game. We decided to take a glance back through the pages of history; ranking and reviewing every Sims game from worst to best. For the benefit of this list – we’re leaving out Stuff Packs (They’re mostly all rubbish) and the “Stories” series of games, as we didn’t view them as proper entries.
We’ll be ranking based on several criteria;
- What Content a Sims game added
- Gameplay added
- Was it really worth it?
It’s all subjective anyway, just a bit of fun. You might agree or disagree. Let’s get down to it!
40. The Sims Social (2011, Facebook) – I put this on this list because really, it’s what I imagine EA would do with The Sims franchise if it had the ability to go back in time. The game has some of The Sims core mechanics – but never allows you to do anything beyond the bare essentials. Worst than this, the sheer arrogance of the microtransactions involved means you’ll be constantly badgered to progress your game. The game was shuttered by EA in 2013 to very little fanfare. Good riddance I say, this was the absolute worst of the series.
39. The Sims Freeplay (2011, iOS/Android) – The first attempt to grab at the mobile gamer market turned out to be something of a hot mess. Freeplay isn’t a bad game at its core, but it’s let down by design issues that hamper the overall experience. You needed a decent phone to get it working, even then the loading times were something of a bad joke. The gameplay itself isn’t all that either, with very little to keep you hooked with several currencies vying for your attention. Between”Simoleons”, “LifeStyle Points” and Social Points, you’ll honestly lose interest long before you get anywhere near the games top levels.
38. The Sims 3 Mobile (2013, iOS/Android) – The dream of a mobile Sims game has always existed – sadly has yet to be realised. The closest we got to this was The Sims 3 Mobile – a stripped down game that offered up nothing new to The Sims formula. This wouldn’t be an issue if the game didn’t insist on locking actions behind timers. I’ll never understand EA’s obsession with this, as it only serves to push gamers away. May one day we’ll get that mobile game we desire.
37. The Sims: Makin’ Magic (2003, PC) – On the one hand, Makin’ Magic tried its own thing and should be commended for taking such a big risk. By this point, fans were looking towards The Sims 2 so the team at Maxis could do anything they fancied – introducing magic was as far as the series had gone (and arguably has gone since). On the other, they created such a wildly uneven expansion that it basically reduced the entire experience to a series of spells. Needs could be fulfilled in seconds while entire hours of game play (such as working up the celebrity ladder) could be skipped in seconds with the right potion. Without balancing, things got out of hand quickly and the potential for things to go wrong would ultimately render entire lots unplayable. There’s a reason the series hasn’t come back to this level of magic since.
36. The Sims Online (2002, PC) – While the original game remained a huge hit for EA and Maxis, there was an increasing call for the series to let gamers have their Sims interact online. The Sims Online tried to bank on this premise, delivering an experience that looked a lot like Sims 1 but was almost entirely online facing. The result was a hugely awkward experience, limited in scope and tragically missing a lot of the features that gamers wanted. Put simply, there wasn’t much to do in this online space and without the lure of social experiences; Sims Online failed to ignite much interest from gamers. It was quietly shuttered in 2008.
35. The Sims: Livin’ Large (2000, PC) – The one that really started the ball on expansions for Sims games also happens to come stacked with a some of the most varied content. From the infamous genie through to the love bed (Which allowed Sims to Woohoo for the first time!) there were a lot of tweaks and changes made to the game; with plenty of new content to make the idea of expansion packs feasible. It also granted fans their first glance at new neighbourhoods – extending the game well beyond the original 10 lots.
34. The Sims 3: Supernatural (2013, PC) – Hated by most, Supernatural took ideas that should have been shot at the concept stage and turned them into world defining gimmicks. Suddenly your suburban life could be overrun by zombies, witches and werewolves; that did anything but be entertaining. Perhaps most shockingly of all – you couldn’t turn them off originally. Meaning that zombies could come and destroy your garden and there’d be very little you could do to stop it. For those who craved a life simulator, this was as far from it as you could get. As for the pack itself – boring doesn’t really cover it. One to skip.
33. The Sims 4: City (2016, PC) – After radio silence lasting almost a year, EA finally pushed out City Living for Sims 4 players and…. it’s mildly disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. the ability to live in apartments and move into a city orientated world is great – but it all feels slightly underwhelming. The world given to you isn’t that impressive, while the changes in gameplay are notably thin on the ground. The expansion pushes its community aspects heavily but really, this expansion made me yearn for Sims 3’s open worlds again. I don’t hate Sims 4, but this expansion just feels lazy and after asking fans to wait for so long, wasn’t the answer to the games much bigger problems.
32. The Sims: House Party (2000, PC) – In House Party’s defense, it was still very early days for the franchise and the team were still working out what they could and couldn’t get away with. But after the novelty of Livin’ Large, House Party feels more like a glorified stuff pack than anything else. If you weren’t looking to host extravagant parties then a lot of the items were pointless. Add in the fact that it didn’t really change the gameplay in any significant way, and it’s easy to understand why this one gets forgotten easily.
31. The Sims 3: Showtime (2012, PC) – Perhaps the most pointless expansion pushed out for any Sims game. Showtime is basically a re-run of Sims 3: Late Night, except it places emphasis on stage performances. It’s entirely one tone and while it adds a few more celebrity’s into the mix (Katy Perry chief among them) it doesn’t save the entire thing from feeling pointless. Worse still this expansion overloaded the game with pointless social networking features; begging its fans to talk about their games and experiences through it’s Sims Network. Awful doesn’t cover it. And the fact you could go to your friends town and perform should have been a huge deal for the game, but the fact you couldn’t stay there outside of the performance made the entire thing feel like a huge tease. Thanks EA.
30. The Sims 3: Island Paradise (2013, PC) – This expansion adds in house-boats, something you never knew you wanted. it also greatly fleshed out the water interaction abilities, allowing you to go diving for treasure and monsters. But here’s the catch, you could only do that on one map. If you didn’t use the game’s purpose-built map for this – then you couldn’t make use of that entire game play aspect. For this we don’t forgive Island Paradise and relegate it for being so picky.
29. The Sims: Superstar (PC, 2003) – Chalk this one up to personal taste. You’ll either love the addition of the celebrity system, which saw your Sims take on a singing career or hate the fact that it rendered a fair chunk of the social aspects unfairly out reach. It’s a frustrating addition because the general additions make your characters feel more organic than they ever did in the original game – but then doesn’t really give it anywhere to go. It’s a system that would be revisited with more success down the line, but Maxis gets points for trying.
28. The Sims 4: Get to Work (2015, PC) – Re-introduces the business concept from Sims 2, but does so in a way that means if you don’t want that aspect in your game; there’s nothing else here for you. The way it handles its business is admirable and the game makes a good fist of giving you career options. But truth be told, it’s all a touch limited for the price of entry demanded.
27. The Sims 4: Get Together (2015, PC) – Containing most of the things that should have been in the base game, Get Together throws Sims 4 the chance to get your characters out into the clubs and experience the social side of things. Various tweaks and additions bring the whole thing up to the experience people wanted out the gate – with more interactions and a handful of new options to add variety to your play through, But it still pales in comparison to Sims 3’s Late Night expansion and doesn’t really make the fourth game an essential experience.
26. The Sims 3: Ambitions – (2010, PC) – Fleshes out several of the game play mechanics gamers complained about most. It adds in several non-rabbit hole career lines while throwing in more options to those that are rabbit hole based. It also adds a new variety of lot types and locales for your characters to hang out at. Again sadly the expansion is slightly too one-sided; if careers aren’t a big deal for you then this might not be the most entertaining addition to your Sims 3 experience.
25. The Sims 4 (2014, PC) – What can we say about fourth base game that hasn’t already been written a thousand times over? It’s limited in scope, re-introduces load times between lots and manages to feel bare bones even compared to The Sims 3 base game. Perhaps most unforgiving of all – the game lacked swimming pools, ghosts and other series staples right out the box. Sure they were added in at later stages, but this doesn’t make their exclusion from the full-priced launch game any less annoying. It’s a shame because there’s a lot to like. For all the hype around the mood emotions and the ability to design houses in a more intuitive way, the game looks great and plays better in parts than it ever has done. But with so many missing holes; we just can’t forgive it.
24. The Sims 2: FreeTime (2008, PC) – Feels like a bumper stuff pack rather than adding anything new to the table. The expansion focuses mostly on recreational time, giving you a heap of new options to entertain your Sims while they stand around during the day. It gets points for rounding out some of the previous expansions rougher edges (Age transitions feel more seamless here) and the game makes a good stab at trying to give gamers more options – but it’s hard to install this and not feel it’s slightly pointless in the bigger picture. One for Sims purists mainly.
23. The Sims 3: World Adventures (PC, 2009) – The first Sims 3 expansion was also one of its most bizarre. It acted as a holiday expansion but added in more RPG elements for those who were willing to go and explore. The three worlds offered are lush and distinct, certainly a step-up from previous holiday locations. The fact this took a risk and tried to turn expectations on its head should be commended. It’s not perfect and won’t rival Uncharted or Tomb Raider in the exploration stakes – but if you want your Sims to experience a more adventurous life – the pyramids, ruins and various catacombs offered up here should suffice.
22. The Sims 2: Bon Voyage (2007, PC) – If going on holidays is your thing then Bon Voyage gives you that by the spadefuls. It’s a decent distraction and gives you more time to bond/ruin your families relationships. Thanks to the decision to time-freeze everything at home, you don’t feel like it’s a punishment. Sadly if you’re not into the holiday thing then this expansion is entirely pointless as the game makes few additions outside of its new additions in the holiday department. Arguably the weakest of the holiday packs the Sims team have pushed out.
21. The Sims: Unleashed (PC, 2002) – For lovers of all things fuzzy, this was the addition that The Sims needed. The ability to bring dogs and cats into the game added depth to the experience. The addition of wild animals too also made for fun variety – those crops you’re busy growing could easily be ruined by wild llamas! Sadly by this stage Sims 1 was really showing it’s age and while the pets can be fun, they felt more cumbersome in their execution. Limited interactions meant that it was hard to gauge what to do with your fuzzy friend and in the end, the options on offer weren’t that impressive. But hey, ambitious it was and it paved the way for future expansions.
20. Urbz: Sims in the City (PS2, Xbox, GC, 2004) – One of the series more intriguing outings. This game focuses heavily on city living – ejecting a fair amount of the typical Sims charm. Honestly unless you’re a big fan of the clubbing aspects from the series second games – this isn’t really anything to write home about. The urban slant makes for a different kind of game, and your mileage may vary.
19. The Sims 4: City Living (2016, PC) – It took a year for EA to push out another Sims expansion – leading many to wonder just what was going on with the fourth game. City living tries to fix many of Sims 4’s overarching problems – bringing in apartments and creating more urban hubs for gamers to take advantage of. It’s a solid effort and while it didn’t fix every issue – it at least made the best of the parts it introduced.
18. The Sims 2: Pets (2006, PC) – Fleshing out the Sims 1 attempt at pets, here there were more options and more things to do with your furry friend while taking others away. From training to guarding, your animal was now a fully fleshed out member of the family. You could even send them off to work – something we suspect PETA wouldn’t agree with! The customization on offer blew away the original games offerings and the ability for animals to woohoo gave them a sense of lasting purpose. There’s also lesser-intensive animals like hamsters and parrots if you don’t fancy taking on the responsibility. You can also thank this expansion for introducing werewolves into the Sims games. Sadly Pets lacks the competitions from Unleashed, limiting the long-term appeal of owning pets.
17. The Sims 3: University Life – (2013, PC) – The return of the University aspect to Sims life felt more fleshed out than ever before. With unique interactions and a social aspect that granted university a unique feel; gamers were rewarded for taking their characters to university. Unfortunately all this feels wholly removed from the main game – meaning it’s slightly immersion breaking for gamers who enjoy the family dynamic in their Sims experience.
16. The Sims 3: Late Night (2010, PC) – A lot of changes were made for Late Night, some good and some bad. The re-introduction of apartments was welcome but the way the game did it left something to be desired. The city scope was a welcome change from the base games smaller buildings and Bridgeport felt like a unique world in comparison to everything that had come before. The variety of clubs on offer was slightly overwhelming though while the celebrity system was attached to the insanely frustrating paparazzi system. In the end this was a huge expansion that changed a lot but made some additions that would only serve to frustrate. Did we also mention that this expansion featured vampires? Good vampires too, unlike Supernaturals…..
15. The Sims 3: Generations (PC, 2011) – More of a redefining of Sims 3 than anything truly revolutionary – this expansion went back and fleshed out the younger years of Sims lives with a heap of options and additions that made having kids less of a chore. The addition of public lots like schools and playgrounds meant that kids actually felt useful in the game and that their life stories were worth following. Sadly with his one it’s hard to not feel that this all could have been in the base game – with nothing really added to the adult section of life.
14. The Sims: Vacation (PC, 2002) – The original Vacation pack was ambitious in its scope – giving gamers a whole new area to explore as they took their families away from familiar surroundings to this new locale. Much like other Vacation packs though, most of the fun in this one came from the vacations with very little outside of those to keep none-converters on board. If you didn’t fancy losing a few days on snowy mountains – you were out of luck in this one.
13. The Sims 3 Pets (PC, 2011) – Arguably the best Pets expansion among all The Sims games. The addition of horses and unicorns adds variety and the re-introduction of competitions means that pets have a lot to do. This time round you can control your pet directly; making things a fair bit easier to manage. The amount of customization on offer too is daunting – the game throwing gamers a huge chance to make their own footprint. There are more pets but they add little to proceedings. Arguably this games greatest contribution was its unique town, which was one of the better ones offered throughout Sims 3.
12. The Sims 2 University (PC, 2005) – When this came out it was something of a revelation. It allowed Sims to advance to a new stage in their lives, removing them from the family and taking them to a new world. The additions were broad and the ability for Sims to have interactions with townies from outside their world was hugely unique. The university additions changed the emphasis of gameplay, forcing gamers to balance university work with an active social life to get the most out of things. Sadly, as with a number of second games expansions, outside of its core additions there really wasn’t that much on offer. The entire University aspect is optional and wholly skipable if gamers choose.
11. The Sims 2: Apartment Life (PC, 2008) – Apartment life tried to do something different for The Sims, bringing in communal lots to the main game. It’s certainly an interesting idea and the execution here is a lot better than in Sims 3 (Which awkwardly nerfed the entire thing) but there’s not a lot to say other than it’s like a house, but cheaper. Elsewhere there were a bunch of new items and toys for your characters to play with – the focus being on communal aspects. By this point the second game was winding down so it’s no real surprise that its final expansion acted more as a final correction more than its own thing.
10. The Sims 3 (PC, 2009) – To be clear, Sims 3 is an amazing game. But performance issues and the decision to make editing neighbourhoods a nightmare stole from the Sims 2’s charm. Thankfully the open-world works like a dream (when it runs well) and the games approach to exploration means that there’s more to do here than at any point in the franchise. Creating unique Sims is easier than ever and thanks to the Sims Launcher – bringing in custom content was never easier. If the entire world experience is more important than the core aspects of the game – then this is the experience for you.
9. The Sims (PS2/Xbox, 2002) – Oh so nearly the best Sims game by virtue of its sheer ambition. This was Sims 2 before that game was a thing – and console gamers got to enjoy it all for themselves. With additions like a free roaming camera, new graphics and a heap of gameplay additions; this game found a huge fan base for those who’d been begging the franchise to make the jump to consoles. Add in a well thought out multiplayer aspect (something the main games have ignored since) and you have one of the best Sims games available – and it’s not even on PC.
8. The Sims 2: Nightlife (PC, 2005) – The expansion that really set on fire the community aspects of Sims 2. Adding in cars meant that gamers could finally make use of the roads properly, while the night life additions fleshed out the games social aspects. While the options aren’t as varied as those found in Sims 3, Nightlife here manages to keep things moving along with a heap of new content and by keeping the number of options down; focusses on the expansions more positive aspects. The addition of the downtown area was also a lovely touch. and letting normal Sims move out there only added to the whole things appeal.
7. The Sims (PC, 2000) – The original Sims may have aged now but back in the day, this thing started a revolution. Many of the series core aspects were honed here, with its charm and undeniable appeal finding a huge audience of eager gamers. The menu’s were easy to navigate, the options were clear and the AI was just dumb enough to hold gamers attention. Sadly its aged mechanics and limited creative options mean that feels a lot more restrictive in retrospective. But it’s hard to deny the impact this game had on the wider gaming industry.
6. The Sims Bustin’ Out (PS2/Xbox, 2003) – Taking everything the original console game managed, Bustin’ Out expanded to incorporate the wider world – letting console gamers leave their houses and explore their neighbours world. While it lacked the customisation of Sims 2 (Which would come out a year later) it managed to retain all the charm and spirit of it’s predecessor. You could visit neighbours homes, bring them back to yours and build your own house on the way. You could also attend community lots for the first time on console – opening the world to a more rounded experience.
4. The Sims 2: Seasons (PC, 2002) – One of the more exciting additions to the Sims franchise was the addition of weather – something that had long been ignored by expansions. Seasons makes a good stab at introducing gamers to this, bringing in snow and rain and giving the gamer options. There were limitations but given how deep and meaningful the changes were on the whole – it’s easy to forgive. The expansion is only slightly let down by some limited content on the side – which didn’t offer anything new to the table.
3. The Sims: Hot Date (PC, 2000) – Hot Date changed The Sims game forever. While the base game trapped you in your lot and kept you there, Hot Date opened up the world to more exciting and tantalizing prospects. Now you could go to community lots, meet new Sims and buy things that weren’t available to you through the games buy mode. Perhaps most impressive of all – it meant that the series no longer felt like a dollhouse simulator but an actual life simulator – allowing you to live a life and go on dates that previously weren’t available. It changed the scope of the game and lent the series to the idea that there was a world beyond their four borders. If you’re playing the Sims 1 and don’t have this installed, you’re missing out.
2. The Sims 3: Seasons (PC, 2012) – The one fans really wanted didn’t disappoint. While Sims 2’s Season pack added in seasons, here those seasons feel more naturally integrated into the world. Things change and gameplay mechanics bend around the weather that’s in play. Suddenly rain, snow, hail and lightning are things to think about as you go ahead and plan your day out. The game also adds in a number of fun additions to beef out the gameplay options – giving you the chance to enjoy the world in a way that you couldn’t previously. This expansion also had the fun thing where people who hadn’t put roofs on their houses for style reasons suddenly found themselves living in bad times. Put simply, it adds to the great amount of fun Sims 3 built up to at this stage.
2. The Sims 2: Open for Business (PC, 2006) – Other expansions may have added in certain gameplay aspects that moulded the gameplay – but Sims 2: Open for Business completely changed it. Now you could own your own business, sell items as you wanted and even hire staff to come and help you. Allowing gamers to be as hands-off or hands-on as they wanted; the game added to The Sims 2 experience like few other expansions dared try. For those who wanted to stay away from all this, the game added in a heap of new options that allowed gamers to craft their way better options. Add in a huge amount of new content and you have what, in my opinion, defines the perfect Sims expansion. Something for everyone.
1. The Sims 2 (PC, 2004) – The definitive Sims experience for me. While other games may have come along and improved heavily on the basics, this was the Sims game that managed to combine charm with accessibility. Everything from the base game is improved and thanks to the ability to import SimCity 4 maps – there was potential for an endless amount of maps for gamers to play with. Neighbourhoods could be added too while lots could be moved and placed at the gamers discretion. The customisation on offer hasn’t been matched since and if you’re looking for the most accessible and “pure” experience – you could do a lot worse than this. The game feels like the perfect marriage of the originals tight mechanics and to the sequels more open ended approach. Not only this, it was the biggest step forward the series has ever taken – arguably never surpassing it in terms of wow.