Timeline of SimCity

Will Wright, creator of SimCity and The Sims

This article will not include any spin-offs in order to cut the length of the article. Platforms for some games may be cut from the article. This article will include the games that I did not try. Also, the region releases are the following: JP = Japan, NA = North America, EU = Europe (including the UK), SK = South Korea, and AU = Australiasia.

SimCity has been around since 1989. The open-ended city-building video game series was originally designed by Will Wright. I did play some SimCity games when I was very young, but I did try the spin-off games as well. All games in this article are developed and/or published by Maxis and/or EA.

SimCity (or SimCity Classic in the Windows version)

Platform(s): Acorn Archimedes (and Electron), Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, BBC Micro, C64, CDTV, DOS, EPOC32, FM Towns, GBA, iOS, Linux, macOS, NeWS, OLPC XO-1, OS/2, PC-98, SFC/SNES, Unix, Windows, X68000, ZX Spectrum • Released: Q2 1989–1994 • Third-party Publisher(s)/Developer(s): Nintendo EAD for the SFC/SNES port (defunct, merged into Nintendo SPD), Fujitsu (FM Towns, JP), Inforgrames (EU, defunct, merged into Atari), Acornsoft (defunct), Interplay Entertainment, Superior Software • Perspectives and visuals: Top-down, free-roaming camera • Composer(s): Soyo Oka for the SFC/SNES version, Brian Conrad for the Windows version

This is the first game in the series, which is played in a top-down perspective. I played this on an old Windows 98 computer, but it’s rather hard. When you build a “causeway” bridge, the ships cannot pass. An easter egg in the Space Quest IV computer game parodies the first game titled “Sim Sim”, as the “MaxThis!” logo is also parodied.

Soyo Oka was responsible for composing the music for the SNES/SFC version, but left Nintendo to become a freelancer after the development of the SNES version of the first game, which includes Bowser (or King Koopa in the Japanese version), the main antagonist of the Mario franchise.

SimCity 2000 (PlayStation version shown)

Platform(s): macOS, DOS, Amiga, Microsoft Windows, SFC/SNES, Sega Saturn (JP only), PlayStation, Nintendo 64 (JP only), GBA (Game Boy Advance), PSN (PlayStation Network), OS/2, FM Towns, PC-98 • Released: 1993–1998 • Third-party Publisher(s)/Developer(s): Genki and Imagineer for the JP N64 version, Black Pearl Software for the NA SNES version, THQ (defunct) for the EU SNES version, Sega for the JP Sega Saturn version, Artdink for the JP PlayStation version • Perspectives and visuals: Isometic, free-roaming camera • Composer(s): Sue Kasper (all versions except Amiga)

This is the second game in the series. Querying a library and clicking the “Ruminate” button displays an essay by Neil Gaiman (PC/DOS version only). The PC and DOS versions allow you to plot down signs as it has the Urban Renewal Kit (PC only), and the PlayStation port allows the player to tour their city from a car’s perspective and it has a full-motion video. Both games (including the first game) has the “Air Crash” disaster and the “Hurricane” disaster, however, they were removed in the later games after the September 11 attacks and possibly Hurricane Floyd. This game (along with the original, SC3K and SC4) are available for purchase at GOG.com.

SimCity 3000 (SC3K Unlimited shown)

Platform(s): Windows and Mac (Mac version unavailable at GOG.com) • Released: Q1 1999, 2000, and 2001 • Perspectives and visuals: Isometic, free-roaming camera, bird’s-eye view • Composer(s): Jerry Martin, Marc Russo, Robi Kauker, Anna Karney

There’s been many changes to the game as opposed to SC2K: It has a news ticker (green and red are always underlined; blue and purple in Unlimited), garbage facilities, three zoning densities (including a Landfill zoning density, which is needed when your city is full of trash), advisors and petitioners. The advisors are the following:

  • Mortimer Green, financial advisor
  • Maria Montoya, safety advisor (possibly of Spanish descent)
  • Gus Oddman, utilities advisor
  • Randal (sometimes written as “Randall”) Shoop, health, education, and aura advisor (Aura part removed in SimCity Creator)
  • Moe Biehl, transporation advisor
  • Constance Lee, city planner (possibly of Chinese descent, removed in SimCity Creator)
  • Karen Frawl, enviromental advisor

It also has pseudo-3D graphics as opposed to the 2D graphics in the first two games. SimCity 3000 also has landmarks (10 per city in the original, unlimited in the Unlimted version), which features landmarks from the real world (the WTC towers were included prior to the September 11 attacks). The Unlimited version depending on which country you reside in:

  • North America and Oceania: SimCity 3000 Unlimited
  • Germany: SimCity 3000 Deutschland 🎮
  • South Korea: SimCity 3000 South Korea Edition 🎮
  • UK and Ireland: SimCity 3000 UK Edition 🎮
  • Other countries: SimCity 3000 World Edition 🎮

Note: A video game emoji (🎮) indicates that GOG.com does not have the non-NA/Oceania versions of the game other than the Unlimited.

In addition to their limited life span, power plants and other utility buildings were also made vulnerable to decreasing maximum output due to age. All power plants have a life span compared to SimCity 2000, which has power plants that never need to be replaced (all of them have a 50 year lifespan, while SC3K has a set number of lifespan, which can go up to 100 years). The power plants now have to be manually replaced, even if the disaster setting is turned off. Additionally, the water facilities now have a life span.

Four additional disasters were also included in SC3K Unlimited (such as space junk and whirlpools), as well as additional landmarks (like the Seoul Tower and Helsinki Cathedral), new reward buildings, thirteen scenarios (along with an editor based on Microsoft Access) and a new FMV intro. Premade cities are also available, including (London and Liverpool for the UK), Berlin (with the Berlin Wall), Madison, Madrid, Moscow and Seoul. The game also includes city terrains based on the geography of real cities, including Hong Kong and Chicago. This is also the first game not to be published by Maxis.

SimCity 64 (シムシティー64)

Platform(s): Nintendo 64DD • Released: Q2 2000 • Third-party Publisher(s)/Developer(s): HAL Laboratory • Perspectives and visuals: First-person, free-roaming camera, bird’s-eye view

SimCity 64 was exclusively released in Japan, along with the 64DD. The game is developed by Kirby series creator HAL Laboratory. However, the 64DD went into a commercial flop (and it was eventually discontinued). The game can be played on an emulator — unless you know any Japanese.

SimCity 4 (+ Rush Hour Expansion Pack)

Platform(s): Windows and Mac • Released: Q1/Q2 2003 • Perspectives and visuals: Isometic, free-roaming camera, bird’s-eye view, real-time pacing • Composer(s): Jerry Martin

This is the fourth major installment, which includes improved 3D graphics as many of the buildings are heavily based on San Francisco, including the Shell Building (appearing as “Wren Insurance”), 450 Sutter Street (appearing as “Vu Financial”), and the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Building also known as 140 New Montgomery Street (as “The Galvin Corp”). It also has three modes: God Mode, Mayor Mode, and MySim Mode. Cities are now located into regions that are divided into segments, each of which can be developed as opposed to the first three games. The city advisors are now in full 3D as opposed to the cartoon version in SC3K (with some of the advisors are replaced with the opposite gender) They are the following:

  • Neil Fairbanks, city planner (replaces Constance Lee)
  • Monique Diamond, financial advisor (replaces Mortimer Green)
  • Jonas Sparks, utilities advisor (replaces Gus Oddman, as there is no female utilities advisor)
  • Sam Armstrong, public safety advisor (replaces Maria Montoya)
  • Bettina Dean, health and education advisor (replaces Randal Shoop)
  • Jamil Herd, transportation advisor (replaces Moe Biehl)
  • Camille Meadows, environmental advisor (replaces Karen Frawl)

The game allows players to create a region of land by terraforming, and then to design and build a settlement which can grow into a city. Players can zone different areas of land as commercial, industrial, or residential development, as well as build and maintain public services, transport and utilities. For the success of a city, players must manage its finances, environment, and quality of life for its residents.

SimCity 4 is the first game that does not have the ability to shut off any disasters which may occur in their city as they cannot save their game during a disaster in progress. There’s also the Rush Hour expansion pack, which has a U-Drive-It feature (which somewhat alludes to the GTA series as well as the PlayStation port of SimCity 2000), as well as one-way roads, highways, and avenues. The monorail was also introduced in the expansion pack, including parking garages, ferry systems, and route queries. Two new disasters are also added: UFO attack (introduced in the previous SimCity 3000 game, replacing the “Monster” disaster in SC2K) and Autosaurus Wrecks (which bears similarities to Mechagodzilla).

SimCity DS

Platform(s): Nintendo DS • Released: JP: Q1 2007; NA and EU: Q2 2007; SK: Q3 2007 • Third-party Publisher(s)/Developer(s): EA Japan, Syn Sophia (then known as AKI Corporation), EA Partners • Perspectives and visuals: Bird’s-eye view, top down

This is the game I tried on my cousin’s Nintendo DS, isn’t it? The game also features Bowser’s Castle from the Mario series of video games. Console-specific features in the game are prominent, such as the use of the systems’ integrated microphone, which is used to blow out fires and the touch screen which used to control the game’s interface. The game heavily borrows the graphics from SimCity 3000. The downside is only one advisor, as opposed to the main seven in SC3K and SC4. The different advisors include Julie McSim, Ayako Tachibana, Kaishu Tachibana (the latter of the two are the daughter and the father respectively), Servo 3000 and a secret advisor named Alien.

SimCity Societies

Platform(s): PC (Windows) only (purchasable through Origin) • Released: Q3 2007 • Third-party Publisher(s)/Developer(s): Tilted Mill Entertainment • Perspectives and visuals: Free-roaming camera, isometric, bird’s-eye view, real-time pacing

This is the first SimCity game developed by Tilted Mill Entertainment instead of EA. It is significantly different from the previous SimCity titles, with a greater focus on social development. The game received mixed reviews, with praise for the game’s improved accessibility and visuals, but criticism for being oversimplified and having poor performance. Unfortunately, I never tried this game, but it is worth a try…

There’s also the expansion pack called Destinations, with new features that allow players to build tourist destinations, such as ski and beach resorts and theme parks. Air and water travel have also been introduced to the game, along with an improved map generator. The game is available on Origin nowadays due to the fact that physical copies of computer games will be obsolete.

SimCity Creator (as shown/written in the article) and SimCity DS 2

Platform(s): SimCity Creator — Wii and DS, SimCity DS 2 — JP Nintendo DS • Released: Q1–Q3 2008 • Third-party Publisher(s)/Developer(s): Syn Sophia (DS) and Hudson Soft (Wii, merged into Konami) • Perspectives and visuals: First person, bird’s-eye view, free-roaming camera, real-time pacing

Players are also able to customize the look of their buildings by choosing from several themes for the city such as Egyptian, Roman, Japanese, European, Las Vegas, and near-future styles, as well as the ones that result in a crystal or confectionery-like appearance to buildings, along with unique soundtracks to go along with each theme. Many of the advisors are selectable/changeable (as opposed to SC3K and SC4), including those from the MySims games such as DJ Candy, as well as those which are exclusive to SimCity Creator.

Similar to SimCity 4, SimCity Creator features a day and night cycle, as well as a seasonal cycle last seen in the SNES version of SimCity. Players may tackle disasters including dinosaurs, giant robots, tornadoes, aliens, fires, and meteorite impacts. Players are also able to tour their city, rendered in 3D graphics, in a helicopter or airplane (as opposed to the car’s perspective in SimCity 2000). The game is pretty hard to find these days as EA no longer sells this game since Hudson Soft was absorbed by Konami in early 2012, as the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection has permanently shut down in mid-2014.

SimCity Social

Platform(s): Facebook only, as you need a personal Facebook account instead of a page • Released: Q2 2012 • Third-party Publisher(s)/Developer(s): Playfish (closed 2013) • Perspectives and visuals: Free-roaming camera, isometric

I tried this on Facebook, but none of them would try it. The objective is to design and build a city without specific goals although in SimCity Social, optional goals are introduced in the form of quests.

SimCity Social has microtransactions, which they needed to purchase diamonds or energy. The game was later shut down on April 14th, 2013, along with The Sims Social and Pet Society.

SimCity 2013

Platform(s): Windows and Mac (purchasable through Origin) • Released: Q1 2013 (updated 2014) • Perspectives and visuals: Free-roaming camera, real-time pacing • Composers: Chris Tilton

The game initially has DRM mechanisms, which require the user to be permanently connected to EA’s servers in order to be able to play the game, which leads to a lot of “server busy” messages, as these issues included network outages, problems with saving progress and difficulty connecting to the game’s servers. As a result, some reviewers were unable to review the game, labeling the launch as a “disaster” and the game as “unplayably broken”, urging players to avoid purchasing the game until the issues were resolved.

One year later, the single-player mode was released on March 18, 2014, as part of update 10.0. This does not require an internet connection, and worlds are saved locally. EA/Maxis developed the game using a new simulation engine called GlassBox, which takes a different approach from previous simulation games. The game also has the Cities of Tommorow expansion pack, as well as the Complete Edition (Origin only), which includes more features including the expansion pack and four building sets.

SimCity: BuildIt

Platform(s): iPhone and iPad (Apple Store); Android phones and tablets (Google Play) • Released: Q4 2014 • Perspectives and visuals: Free-roaming camera, real-time pacing, bird’s-eye view • Composers: Chris Tilton

Despite the game that has in-app purchases, this game is free-to-play. The game utilizes music as well as graphics similar to the 2013 SimCity game, although it is slightly downscaled in order to fit in with the iOS and Android devices’ graphic capabilities. The game starts with 25,000 simoleons and 50 SimCash on hand. There is no zoning feature for SimCity: BuildIt. Instead, buildings are moved manually. Commercial and industrial building produce items, and residential zones require them in order to upgrade to a higher density. Factories can also be upgraded, although it requires demolishing the original building when it is not producing anything. The game also features the Teen Titans (Go!) voice actor Khary Payton.

I’m Cory Roberts and I’m going to end this article right here. I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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Cory Roberts

Cory Roberts

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American freelance illustrator and manga artist, working on Radical Flannel. Previously ran Shinkansen Retrogaming. (He/him)