Pretty much everyone I know grew up playing some version of The Sims. For anyone born in the '80s or' 90s, it was a pretty significant cultural milestone, much like Pikachu and the Spice Girls. At some point, almost everyone played and sadistically tortured their Sims, probably to death. Heck, my love of The Sims has outlasted the friendships of the people I first played it with. Still wish I had that original room I designed though, that was pretty amazing.
At the time of its release, The Sims was innovative. Maxis already had experience in other simulation games, but this was the first time they or anyone, came out with a life simulator. A game where your Sims could have jobs or you could cheat to get them more money, you could control their relationships, their wants, their needs, their pool ladders. It's something that no other franchise or game since has truly been able to touch, and remains a unique game among the simulation genre.
And, to the horror of many millennials, The Sims just turned 20! In celebration of that milestone anniversary, we decided to take a look at some of the essential expansions across the franchise generations. We dedicate this article to all of the Sims we've lost across the years, from oven fires to being walled in when they weren't looking, to glitchy Sims who got stuck in walls to those who lost Rock, Paper, Scissors with the Grim Reaper. Cheers!
The Sims - Livin’ Large
Released only a few short months after The Sims, Livin’ Large was a bold new venture into the unknown and untested waters of Sims expansions. While it’s not exactly a case of “first pack, best pack,” there’s more than enough iconic Sims staples that were introduced here to put it firmly on the essentials list.
The Grim Reaper, the Sims personification of death who has appeared in every game generation, first debuted in Livin’ Large, along with Servo the electronic robot servant/maid/butler. Remember having to pay 50 simoleons a day for a maid? Ha, not anymore! Other notable additions are Sunny the Tragic Clown, Slacker, Journalism, and Musician careers, and the telescope.
The Sims 2 - University
The first expansion pack of its kind, University was a real look into what The Sims 2 could do that the first iteration wasn’t capable of and was a real chance for the game to shine. Like Livin’ Large, it was the first expansion pack of its generation and introduced many concepts which are still core to The Sims games even today.
Perhaps most importantly, this was the first appearance of the Young Adult life state for Sims, as well as the return of the Zombie life state from Livin’ Large. There’s also the first appearance of college campuses and dorm living, college majors, and the four new career tracks of Artist, Fame, Natural Scientist, and Paranormal. Plus, University was the first appearance of the famous Streaking interaction and the first appearance of mobile phones and MP3 players in a Sims game.
Now, you may be wondering why we chose The Sims 2 iteration of this pack, rather than 3 or 4. While University Life was good in Sims 3, it didn’t add a whole lot of new things to the mix, other than social groups and the resurgence of Plant-Sims, but it was still a solid follow-up. As for Discover University, yikes. The less said, the better.
The Sims 2 - Seasons
While the original Sims did have different climates in the Vacation expansion pack, it was pretty much an approximation of spring all year round in your regular neighborhood, and after University, Seasons was one of the most requested additions for Sims 2.
As should be obvious from the name, your Sims can now experience seasons! And weather! There’s also temperature, and the pack included a plethora of clothing and items to suit your Sim’s every need. In terms of realism, Seasons was arguably the pack that added the most to the Sim world. From snowball fights to raking leaves to baking hot summer sun, your Sims could now experience it all. In addition, Seasons also introduced Gardening, the Plant-Sim life state, Fishing, and six new careers.
But why does this pack beat out Sims 3 and 4 Seasons? Partially, like in the case of University, it’s down to originality. But Sims 3 and 4 ultimately added more nuisances than Sims 2 did. 3 introduced illnesses and is vastly more expansive in its celebration of seasons and festivals, which after the first couple of Sims years becomes boring real quickly and detracts from the focus on seasons. Sims 4, on the other hand, didn’t add anything substantial that wasn’t in the first two expansions—no, I don’t count being able to Woohoo in a leaf pile as significant. Additionally, it did not add the previous features of hail, variable snow accumulation, or sunburns, and did not add any new worlds to explore.
The Sims 3 - World Adventures
Vacation-themed expansion packs might just be my favorite ones of every generation, but World Adventures gets points for doing things a little bit differently. The first expansion pack released for The Sims 3, it added three new locales for your Sims to visit and potentially have vacation homes in, and a whole lot of adventures.
World Adventures introduces Shang Simla, Champs Les Sims, and Al Simhara, based on China, France, and Egypt respectively. Your Sims can now go treasure hunting and tomb raiding in all three locations, collecting ancient coins and mysterious artifacts. Of course, if you’d rather go to Champs Les Sims and practice the new skill of Nectarmaking, you can do that as well, or Martial Arts or Photography if you prefer. The expansion also introduces the Mummy life state, which is unique to this generation.
With a focus on adventure and puzzles, as well as the typical tourist vibe, World Adventures makes our list for going out of the box and doing something differently with their vacation expansion pack. Of course, if you’re looking for a regular beach vacation, there is also the Island Paradise expansion.
The Sims 3 - Supernatural
Frankly, it’s a little surprising that by this point there has not been an entire spin-off game or games about magic Sims in a completely magic universe. This theme is consistently one of the best expansion packs every generation, and it really hit its pinnacle in The Sims 3: Supernatural.
Supernatural gets our vote for just how much it expanded The Sims world. While there’s the usual magic and witches, the game also introduces a plethora of other elements, some new and some refined from previous installments. Werewolves, Fairies, Witches, and Zombies are introduced, and Vampires are re-added and expanded upon after their appearance in The Sims 3: Late Night. Ghosts are also now playable and can be created in Create a Sim.
Other notable features of the expansion include Bonehilda, the skeleton maid, the Alchemy skill and the new town of Moonlight Falls. Of course there’s also the usual new lots, objects, clothing, and, as a bonus, there is now a lunar cycle.
The Sims 2: Apartment Life added some unique magic elements to the gameplay but ultimately the pack splits its focus between magic and apartments and wound up a little short on both. Makin’ Magic, on the other hand, while a delightful amount of fun, shows the telltale rough edges from a first time concept, which Supernatural has sanded down and polished to perfection.
The Sims 3 - Pets
People are great and all, but you know what’s really great? Animals! Armadillos to zebras and everything in between. While The Sims 3: Pets doesn’t actually have either of these, they refine and expand the pets and systems already debuted in previous iterations, and manage to be one of the most fun expansion packs of the generation.
In addition to dogs and cats, your Sims can also have lizards, turtles, snakes, and birds, as well as a brand new feature for this expansion pack: horses! Deer, raccoon, and wild horses are also now residents of your neighborhoods, so expect to see them prowling around. Cats, dogs, and horses can all age and have their own skills, wishes, and lifetime rewards. As a bonus, there’s an ice cream truck!
So what puts this expansion ahead of its fellow pet- and animal-themed expansion packs? The Sims 4 splits into My First Pet Stuff and the Cats & Dogs expansion, and you need to purchase both to unlock all content, so that’s out. First generation Unleashed is fun, but has some rough edges to work out. While The Sims 2: Pets improves on its predecessor, the lack of reptiles is a loss.
What is your favorite Sims expansion pack? Let us know in the comments below!