Have You Played… SimCity?

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

Not the best SimCity has ever been – that’s SimCity 4 – but for all its pigheadedness I still enjoyed SimCity.

Often it seems like publishers care less about the quality of a game and more about whether that game can represent other initiatives within the company. Microsoft cares momentarily about Kinect or Windows 10 or cross-platform play, and so Lionhead’s otherwise unrelated games are bent and twisted to suit those initiatives. EA care about Origin and data and services, so SimCity is twisted to serve those masters even if it means smaller cities and no offline play.

I am disappointed by both those things, and I can be frustrated on your behalf, but personally my internet works well enough that being always online never hampered my time with SimCity. And my time with SimCity was pleasant. The cities are smaller than ever before, but they’re also more detailed in many ways.

Consequently, SimCity is a brilliant antfarm. I always like watching my little people drive and walk around, and SimCity lets me do that in a beautiful, 3D, tilt-shifted world, where you can also watch the water and poop flow and visualise the data of your city with umpteen other overlays. It’s a terrible shame the little people don’t walk to their own house every day, choosing instead the closest vacant property to sleep in, but it still looks amazing when you zoom out and watch everything buzzing away beneath you.

And otherwise, it’s much the same as SimCity has always been: a compulsive loop of trying to balance the needs of your city as necessary expansion continues to make that perfect balance harder and harder. If I was to recommend a SimCity game to you today, it’d be SimCity 4. If I was to recommend a city builder to you today, it’d be Cities: Skylines. But I played SimCity and I had fun.


  1. Sakkura says:

    Cities Skylines.

    That is all.

    • LimEJET says:

      Cities Skylines is a very different beast. It’s a designer game first and foremost, with city management taking a back seat. I wanted a better Sim City 4, but C:S is a better SimCity 2013 with its focus shifted more towards building than running.

      • HorzaPY says:

        So on the money with this comment. For me Sim City is the better “game” where as Cities Skyline is a better “designer.” I liked the balancing act and city evolution of SimCity. Cities just feels like a blank canvas. I’m not that arty, Im a gamer and to me SimCity had more “game” in it that Cities.

        Can understand if people think that makes no sense haha

        • dashausdiefrau says:

          i am a proud spreadsheet gamer and i wish they would make a new city management games with more numbercrunching.

          And you know what? Cities xl series, that was almost there, still too easy, but the world economy was a way too cool idea. To know that people from my smog filled industrial wasteland traveled to my tropic paradise. A world map with always new cities to build and a reason to switch to a different city so I can provide additional industrial or holiday or whatever services to my other cities and those wonderful and interesting maps… Too bad for being a resource hog and for being way too easy and that the winter resorts weren’t finished.

  2. BobbyDylan says:

    Have played, and it was fun until I realised I could’t fail. Game was too easy and then i unistalled it.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    I thought you were going to talk about the original SimCity.

    I have a rant ready for that.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      Go on.

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        It was something among the lines on how these kind of strategic games are so dependant on strategies that have been terrible to cities. SimCity 1, if I don’t remember it wrong, is an advocate for a city structure like Brasilia, and most of these city building sims defend (yes, mostly for technical reasons) that kind of inhumane city.

        But again strategic games look for dominion and war and most space games are now focused on capitalism. I feel a bit like video games are a great propaganda tool for some ideologies, in a non too subtle way.

        • MajorLag says:

          That’s an interesting thought. I wonder if it is part of a cultural subconscious bias or simply a result of cold rationality applied to indisputable objectives?

        • jrodman says:

          Yeah, the SimCity games have typically been pretty hostile to the types of designs most enthusiastic Urban Planning dabblers would want to create. All sorts of modern thinking exists about what makes a healthy urban space. It can’t all be optimal, but the vast majority of these ideas are impossible to implement in many Sim City games, especially the earliest.

          It feels like a missed opportunity.

  4. chudbabies says:

    Dear writer,

    Tally how, chin chin and lots of logs. I would wondering if your comments on keyboard as though it were a living component of your being through which you were delighted by the sight/sound of punching orders in to EA’s MAXIS toolbook might be better appreciated in this radically receptive audience? Plz and thank you, Tucker how on this lovely English morning countryside by the horses and muggy trumpets, tip tip!


  5. distantlurker says:

    Sim City 4 is the best Sim City?

    Is it pub time already? That’s madness that is. You’re mad. Quit being mad.

    & the only good thing to come out of the new one was Cara’s hilarious preview.

  6. CartonofMilk says:

    yes i have but the other one called SimCity. The one from 1989. I would always get my city to reach a certain level of population and then it all failed and it stopped growing or people started leaving. I’m sure the grown up that i am now could understand what i did wrong but back then i was always puzzled about it.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Gassalasca says:

    Sim City 4 is the best Sim City game.

    However, I had much more fun with SimCity than with Cities: Skylines.

  8. Doubler says:

    I don’t know who asked for multiplayer in SimCity, and the tiny maps were aweful, but ultimately I felt the hate for SC2013 was rather overstated. I had fun with it, though I haven’t gone back to it since Skylines was released.

    I never enjoyed SimCity 4 though. I found the way regions worked incredibly obscure and annoying. In addition to that, there were very few maps, no map generator and even in the largest plot sizes it felt like you were forced to deal with the terrible region play to build anything remotely impressive.
    I’m a SimCity 3000 man through and through :P

    • dashausdiefrau says:

      I agree, SimCity 3000 is the best, I play again every two years. Cities XL got region play almost well though, and after playing that and skylines, 3000 started to become old.

    • Bing_oh says:

      I’d have to agree with SC3k being the best of the series. It was a great balance between city management and aesthetics. And we’re forgetting one of the best add-on’s ever…the Building Architect Tool! If you got bored building your city, you could jump in and re-design your buildings…all with a tool simple enough for a 5 year old to operate while still powerful enough for an adult to re-create iconic landmarks or make his own impressive structures.

  9. liquidsoap89 says:

    I quite enjoyed it. I found the size limitations to be quite interesting because they sort of forced you to make different regions focused on certain themes, which really helped to personalize the different regions.

    And the expansion just emphasized that even more, having you choose between the crazy industrial factories and the fancy sci-fi mega-buildings.

  10. yogibbear says:

    Game is good for first 5 hrs, then it dies in a horrible limited pathetic design with no actual game beyond pumping out processors for ridiculous cash to fund the endless other problems your city gets once the population goes >200k and the simulation breaks down. WORST. SIM. GAME. EVER.

  11. allison says:

    SimCity 2000 was the best.

    The transport minister who kept yelling YOU CAN’T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! YOU WILL REGRET THIS! and if you ignored him and cut funding your roads would spontaneously explode.

    And those lovely randomly generated newspaper stories. This journalist had informed meat and prayed to ralph in the garden

    Oh, and, reticulating splines

    • Someoldguy says:

      I had the most fun with SC2k too, even though SC4 was great in its own way. Partly because the futuristic age was actually futuristic with huge arcologies you struggled to balance and support, which captured my young imagination much more than endless ranks of towers and skyscrapers. Such a shame the less futuristic passenger liners couldn’t navigate around them.

  12. Neurotic says:

    I see a few people here making the classic mistake of confusing the original Sim City (with a space) and the new SimCity (no space). Remember the difference!

  13. Avus says:

    Last good game from Maxis. RIP and thanks E fxxking A.

  14. 18pd says:

    Noped out of it with all the launch drama deciding I didn’t want to support that sort of shit. Still faintly annoys me, quite a fan of the series was really looking forward to it. Suppose protesting in a really futile way isn’t supposed to be easy :)

  15. C0llic says:

    I just couldn’t get on with it myself. It just felt too limited, too stripped back. They spent all that time creating delicious icing; snappy presentation, great music, but forgot to put any cake inside, so after a short time of gorging on it you just feel sick.

  16. OscarWilde1854 says:

    They should make a hybrid Sims and Simcity game…

    Let me make a character who becomes the mayor of some small little town and then grow/ build it into a massive metropolis all while living in said city…

    All to end one day when the Mayor’s swimming pool ladder tragically disappears and he drowns while the city crumbles into chaos and apocalyptic misfortune.

  17. Synesthesia says:

    I love cities skylines, but i’m sad simcity missed the mark. I think the main culprit is the small cities. If they only hadn’t dropped the ball on that one…

    What they did with data visualization is tremendously good, to use a popular adjective. I bought it with a friend, and it actually grew on me once we started cooperating on a twin city level. The music is so much better than C:S, too.

  18. Ur-Quan says:

    I don’t get why so many people here think Simcity was even halfway decent.

    I mean yeah you can have fun for an hour or two, but sooner or later you realise just how utterly broken and bonkers the underlying simulation engine really is. It boggles my mind how they could ever come up with something as broken as this.