The Sims, as a franchise, has been going on for a heck of a long time at this point. One can hardly imagine what we could ever have done without it. I would have had to find something else to spend those long student days doing - I might have had to actually go out to places and make friends! The thought alone is enough to make me shudder.
EA’s evil PC games dominate the market, with their base game and countless other, sometimes pointless, expansion packs (“Laundry Day Stuff?” Really? It’s like you’re not even trying anymore EA. Which, admittedly, you're probably not). Even if Sims 4 has made a, not unpredictable, nosedive, their previous titles like Sims 2, Sims 3 and, of course, the original Sims, have cemented their place in video game history. The franchise has made EA enough money to buy a huge solid gold statue of Will Wright sitting on a pile of everyone’s cash, that everyone has to look at constantly to remind them of how little they’ve done with their lives.
While the PC base games are great (Sims 4 excluded), they’re not the only games that EA has managed to pull from The Sims. Their spin-offs can be somewhat preferable to the typical PC versions, because if you buy one of these games, you’re not expected to buy ten different equally expensive pieces of the game afterwards.
So here are the five The Sims spin-off games that I would personally recommend.
5.) The Sims 2: Castaway
Okay, so you know how The Sims was set in these peaceful suburbs? Well what if, and hear me out here, it wasn’t! Well, that’s basically what The Sims 2: Castaway is like.
Rather than find a job, save up for your dream house and raise a family, The Sims 2: Castaway takes your Sims right back to basics. You start off on a boat with a crew of one to six Sims that you design yourself. After this, a storm comes along (surprise, surprise) causing a shipwreck and marooning your starting Sim on an island. You’ll then find books, explaining your goals for surviving and escaping the island. As you progress in the game, you’ll unlock a new island, reunite with your crew, and eventually complete the game by escaping the islands.
There are plenty of quests and original content that you don’t find in the PC base games, alongside the freedom that makes The Sims so popular, such as being able to marry other Sims. It’s low on the list because I, personally, find it a little obvious and corny, but it’s still a fun game to play and one of the better spin-offs.
The Sims 2: Castaway is available on Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2 and PSP. A PC spin-off was made entitled The Sims 2: Castaway Stories, which is also pretty fun. Here you play as one of two premade Sims and follow a storyline to escape the island or find true happiness and choose to stay.
4.) The Sims on console
What I admire about The Sims on console is that it felt, to me, like The Sims but with a point.
The game came with “Free Play” mode where you could just play normal Sims, with familiar faces like the Goth family, getting jobs and living the normal Sim life we’ve all come to expect. But if you needed a little motivation to play the game, you could play the “Get A Life” story campaign. This is very similar to ordinary Sims gameplay, as you have to get a job, get a house and raise a family, but you are given goals to complete and can unlock new objects and houses from achieving your goals. You start off sleeping on your mom’s couch and build up your life until you get your dream home and spouse.
It might not sound super interesting on paper, but it’s rather funny and a great take on the original game. What is interesting to me is that they never thought to introduce something like this to the PC game. There are elements of this, such as the “Wants” and “Whims” you aim to achieve, and when you unlock new collars for your pets through their career, but nothing was as much structure as the console version.
Along with “Get A Life” there are two-player competitions where you play against a friend to gain money, friends or lovers. The Sims is available on GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
3.) The Sims Medieval
The game received mixed reviews from fans of The Sims, but I personally thought that there was a lot to be enjoyed about this game. It certainly has its faults, but overall, it's a very strong spin-off game.
Although The Sims Medieval was expected by fans to be The Sims 3, but in Ye Olden Days, which probably would have been cool anyway, it surprised fans by being a completely original concept. In this game, you create your Medieval kingdom, starting with your Monarch. By undertaking quests, you can gain resources to build more buildings and gain new Sims, including a wizard, a physician, a bard and a blacksmith. Your kingdom has several stats: well-being, security, culture, and knowledge. There are benefits when one of them is full and consequences if one gets too low. For example, if your kingdom’s well-being gets low, then your people will become diseased and illnesses will spread. If it’s high, people will get sick less. These stats will grow or decrease depending on which buildings you build, which Sims you train, and which quests you take up as well as how you do on the quest.
An added element of fun to the game is that your Sims have found religion. There are two churches to choose from, Peteran or Jacobean, where your Sims can go and pay respect to their watcher!
The most annoying element of the game is the lack of birth control, so every time your Sim wants to “WooHoo”, they’ll probably get pregnant, if they’re in a heterosexual relationship. This is made especially annoying given that this game took a step back to the original The Sims, where children don’t grow up past childhood! That is unless your hero dies; then their sprog will immediately grow to adulthood to replace them.
It’s a fun game, with lots to explore and many quests. There is an expansion pack, Pirates and Nobles, but you don’t really need that. The base game is fun in itself and if you're looking for a different style of The Sims, I’d recommend The Sims Medieval.
The Sims Medieval was only available on PC.
Most console versions of The Sims are the same, no matter what you choose to play them on. But when it came to adapting The Sims 2 for handheld consoles, EA took a bit of a creative spin that I’m sure surprised even them. The game is different depending on whether you play it on PSP, Gameboy Advance or Nintendo DS.
The Sims 2 PSP is fine, but it’s not an overly different game from the PC version. You play as a single Sim and are given goals, but it doesn’t feel as original as the others and doesn’t have as many original characters. On Gameboy Advance the game just looked like a pixelated six-year-old's art homework! But there was something quite charming about the DS version.
In this version, your car breaks down inside Strangetown, leaving you stranded. After attempting to check in to a hotel, you are immediately offered the job of hotel manager because reasons. Your job is then to manage the hotel and keep your guests happy. This can get pretty fun, as the rooms are themed, and you can design them yourself by buying furniture from the local store. But the most interesting part of the game is the story campaign. You know how in the original Sims game, your Sim could get abducted by aliens? They then evolved this in The Sims 2, where aliens were introduced into the gameplay - as Sims you could date and start families in. Well, in the DS game you can fight the aliens along with evil robots and goons! That’s pretty awesome! It’s also up to you to overthrow a cult and save the town by becoming a superhero. Sure you have to maintain the hotel, relationships and all that other Sim stuff, but with robots!
The graphics are exactly what you’d expect from a 2005 DS game and it is annoying having to search every room in the hotel for skill points, not to mention the games' blatant heterosexism, but it’s a great and original take on The Sims. As implied, it’s available for the Nintendo DS.
1.) The Urbz
This is a game that I still play regularly to this day.
Described as “Sims in the City,” you are a fresh face in SimCity, having just moved into your first apartment. After choosing your starting area of the city, you have to build up your reputation by learning social moves, dressing in the style of the those you want to impress and defeating local villains. You can earn money through jobs (minigames), which also help you learn new social moves. The more reputation you earn the more areas of the city you’ll unlock, along with apartments, furniture and outfits.
Call me what you will, but I had great fun just dressing up my Sim in different styles! There’s the goth district, the biker district, the neon J-pop district and a bunch of others I wouldn’t know how to describe. Like The Sims on console, it’s pretty much The Sims with a point to it. The aim of the game is just to become super famous. As you gain reputation, you’ll begin to see posters of you around the city and even see your face on blimps. The goals of your Urb are completely different than those of your Sims, as you can’t start a family or follow a steady career, separating the game clearly from the original.
The game is more than a giant ego trip, though, as it’s an interesting take on different social groups. Each group has their own style and social interacts, although it is questionable why all the groups seem to worship the same supreme Urb. I can’t imagine the metal heads down at Central Station bowing at Darius’ feet! The game can be completed in a few hours or a few days, depending on how much you want to put into it, and you can continue to play the game for fun after you’ve finished.
The Urbz is just a more interesting and original take on The Sims that I would certainly recommend. Although I am referring to the console version of the game, available on GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox, there is also a handheld version for PSP, GameBoy Advance and DS.