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.