Have You Played… The Sims 3?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

In some respects, if you’ve played one The Sims game you’ve played them all. They’re all about building a house, populating it with people, making those people look like your friends, and making your friends kiss one another. It’s just that The Sims 3 got the formula closest to perfection.

In large part that’s because of what it removes. The Sims 3 dramatically decreases the amount of babysitting you need to do with your little people, which means less time reminding them to pee, sleep and eat and more time sending them on sexy adventures in the house next door or scary adventures at the local graveyard. It also got the building tools just right, making it quicker than previous games to lay down the basics of a house, cover it in wallpaper and, most importantly, to make and import user-created content.

Essentially, it got out of the way enough that you could focus on the core pleasures of the game: that aforementioned kissing. Or more seriously, telling stories, whether that be of your sims meteoric career rise, of settling down and starting a family, or of being a wealthy vagabond getting into japes with Death, ghosts, aliens and whatever else. Another of the game’s strengths is that it expanded on the role of the town outside your home too, making it easier to nip to work or to meet up with someone else, and allowing you to tell these stories in tandem by having Sims from different saves meet up with one another.

The Sims 4 seemed to crash and burn with the game’s community, who quickly rejected it in favour of returning to The Sims 3 and its umpteen expansion packs. I can’t tell whether that’s because The Sims 4 was bad or simply because The Sims 3 got it so right.


  1. mrentropy5 says:

    The problem with each new Sims game is that it’s like starting over. All the things people are used to, after years of expansion packs, are gone.

    I don’t know how many times I wished I had some fruit to stomp when a Sims 4 was in an angry mood.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Not to mention the incredibly high cost when looking at a new Sims game and then gradually adding to it with £30 expansion packs.

      Sims 3, while mechanically the best of the series, felt really barebones to me at release too. I didn’t get the same feeling from The Sims 2 without expansion packs and it seems it’s worse with 4. They realised how much of a cash machine it is and with each new entry they have cut back more and more on content knowing they can sell it little by little. Didn’t they also stop or at least really restrict user generated content in the Sims 3 so they could sell those pathetic “stuff packs”? I remember adding a ton of items to The Sims 2 but when I played 3, it was all behind a paywall.

  2. Mungrul says:

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I found that with even one or two expansions installed, Sims 3’s performance and load times would absolutely tank, even on SSD. Made it pretty much unplayable.

    • walrus1 says:

      What expansions are you running? I know some of the later ones have horrible problems. I found the city in Sims 4 late night to have many issues that at times made it almost on playable. Although, it could just be the fact all the buildings had elevators and those were bugged to hell and back.

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    Aerothorn says:

    By my understanding, the main issue with The Sims 4 is that for all of its new features, it removed the main improvement from The Sims 3: that the game proceeded in real time and had a single shared universe, as opposed to every single house being its own static demiplane. I have never heard from any developers WHY EA removed this feature, which was such a clear improvement as to be basically necessary. And it’s not the sort of thing you add in an expansion.

    • Mungrul says:

      I’m pretty sure it was related to my previous post. I think Sims 3’s performance suffered from its relatively unfettered ambition. It allowed untold levels of customisation with nary a thought given to considering performance. It quickly ate memory as more and more unique objects got introduced, either through expansions or through custom content.
      The custom pattern designer is the thing I miss the most, but I reluctantly accepted it as a necessary victim of speed optimisations.

      Unfortunately, Sims 3 was no longer being developed the last time I played it, so there wasn’t going to be any investigation in to speeding up performance. EA had abandoned it in favour of releasing Sims 4. They really have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

    • walrus1 says:

      Not just new features were removed but things such as careers that had been there since the first Sims were missing.

      You’re quite right and the open world is never coming back at least not in Sims 4. My guess is they didn’t want to spend the time and money making it work as well as it did in 3. Hopefully, the Sims 5 will include this. as well as many other missing features. However, with EA’s long trend of releasing games that are an empty shell of previous installments -e.g. Sims 4- I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  4. GlasWolf says:

    Not quite on topic, but back in the day I did paid full price for The Sims 2 entirely on the strength of this Something Awful article.

  5. Neurotic says:

    I think that while 3 did indeed get it so, so right, 4 has missed *largely* because of EA’s business plan for it. I prefer many of 4’s systems over 3’s (esp. the Sims- and house-building tools), but they seem to have ordered the team to screw the community aspect – which should have been a huge revelation – to fit their ‘chop-it-up-and-sell-it-piecemeal-later’ approach to added content. I don’t think I expressed that very well, but basically, I feel as though their marketing strategy is sitting heavily on the shoulders of the game’s actual design.

  6. wombat191 says:

    i bought every single sims game and expansion up to sims 3 and it had issues, it was glitchy, lagged a bit but the open world was amazing.. loved it.. sims 4 seemed like such a step back i never bothered

  7. walrus1 says:

    IMHO Sims3 is the best of the series. It took the best of the Sims and Sims 2 put it together and came out with an excellent game. The world feels like an important piece of your sim’s lives and not just a small bit of lawn. Social mechanics seem well oiled as do life mechanics.

    I bought a few expansion packs during the last STEAM sale and have been replaying it. Yeah with a few expansions loaded it is slow loading and the create a style tool can lag but overall I find it quite playable.

    Sims 4 is just pure garbage. I played the time limited trial on Origin and it felt like a huge step backward from every single Sims game. Everything seemed like it was yanked out to be sold as DLC at some future point. No law enforcement, science or medical careers, no create a style, no pools, no cars and so few pieces of furniture. Heck, that was in a small trial, I can’t imagine what I would find missing if I actually bought the game.

    • r0ck03 says:

      It’s actually a real shame, too, because Sims 4 seems mechanically superior to Sims 3. But the game is just too limited in content right now.

  8. a very affectionate parrot says:

    I would love 3 with the animation improvements and emotion system from 4, but considering that (heavily modded) sims 3 still stutters as bad on my beefy current rig as it did on my old PC world prebuilt from 2005 I guess that’s impossible.
    Sims 3’s engine really feels like it’s held together with bits of string, and they never seemed to improve it even with all the patches and expansions that simply added more features into an already rickety framework.
    Still, I just wish that sims in TS3 could have group conversations and activities like in 4, it makes building your sims’ relationships both easier and more entertaining.

  9. Arglebargle says:

    By the time Sims3 rolled around, I had realized the EA business scam that Sims had become. Deleted the base game, plus all my Sims2 stuff, and have never gone back.

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    Big Dunc says:

    I played this a lot a few years back and bought most of the expansions but had to give up because I kept getting the dreaded memory error 14 if I didn’t save every 5 minutes.

  11. CartonofMilk says:

    what i did after i was done with sims 2 (well you’re never really done with the sims but yknow) is i waited….for sims 4. Because then i knew i could get the sims 3 in its final version (meaning with all dlcs released). That was a long wait though. anyway i enjoyed sims 3 but realised that since sims 2, a lot of games had come out that allowed you to build houses and generally fulfill my need to build my own personal space in a game and that i wasn’t enjoying what sims games as much as i used to. however, and yes i’m gonna go there, the sex mods in sims 3 were all light years ahead of those in sims 2.

    Unfortunately its doubtful i’ll play sims 3 again as my drive died a month ago and with it went my sims 3 game AND all the mods id dled which is really more what i’m upset about. That would take hours and probably days to track them all down again. Sad. Playing the sims without mods is like eating a tuna sandwich without mayo. Why?