Steam image for TS3
(EA Games)

Over a Decade Later, ‘The Sims 3’ Is Still the Best Sims Game

Every once in a while, it’s only inevitable that people get back into playing some iteration of The Sims. It’s a ritual for all kinds of people, regardless of whether or not they play any other kinds of games. As long as you’ve had one taste of The Sims, it can be difficult to abstain thereafter. That said, try as I might, I still haven’t been able to really sink my teeth into The Sims 4. I feel like, for as inclusive and cool as it is, it just doesn’t have the sort of extensive gameplay that really hooked me with past entries in the franchise. My Sims 4 Sims were more fashionable, sure, and they, uh … smiled more, for some reason. But I, as a player, was just not having as much fun as I could have been.

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Sims 3, though … oh, baby. That’s the good stuff.

It’s kind of a meme that, when one gets back into The Sims, they end up playing it obsessively for like three days straight, and then they don’t touch it for years. That’s sort of what happened for me. Except I’m kind of determined to keep this current story going, since it’s better than any piece of fiction I’ve written all year. This is the story thus far.

Note, and Warning For All Ye Simmers: My copy of The Sims 3 did not save my screenshots of my gameplay, so until I can find a way to salvage them, we’re gonna have to go generic with the images. I promise all that happened here was true and I’m not just pulling gameplay scenarios out my plumbob.

Meet Sara, Underpaid Writer of Bridgeport

Inspired by a new haircut and a few recent life decisions, I decided to play in Bridgeport for the first time ever. Bridgeport is the city world in The Sims 3, and although my younger self took advantage of all the amenities it provided (like new instruments and sluttier outfits), I always felt too intimidated by the density of the world to really sink my teeth into it.

Enter Sara: a young adult who moved to the city with a “motherloded” stipend of 50 grand, and with dreams of being a professional author. Her studio apartment was filled with cheap appliances that always broke, and as a Loner (had to give her at least one “negative” trait, and I vibe with this one the most), I had to force her to go out to clubs to make friends. All the same, those early days were filled with hope and excitement: she was in the big city, she was gonna make it work!

For her first few seasons in Bridgeport, however, she was a total strugglebug. The men she met? Awful! They were all hot-headed megalomaniacs who were only trying to be famous. And the seemingly good ones ended up already being married—cringe. Meanwhile, as a self-employed writer, in order to get where she needed to be, she had to crank out novels like a woman possessed. I envisioned her life being a little more “Donna Tartt,” and not so “James Patterson,” yet for a while, her days were spent holed up in her room chugging away, and her nights were spent drinking alone at various clubs around town, trying to find the fun of it all.

She did have one good friend, a woman she met on her first night in the city, whom I had a good feeling about. Turns out she was none other than Johanna King, local celebrity and comedienne, who became endeared to Sara over a shared love of books. And I was glad for Sara to at least have someone, although the stardom that came from being friends with a celebrity was hard for her to deal with, as a Loner with a capital L. Paparazzi were always creepily following her, and suddenly she had some agent who was always nagging her to go to clubs and shake her ass for “the people.”

It was a depressing turn of events, yet I was intrigued nonetheless. I had to see this through. Sara had come so far, and she was making headway with her work, all the celebrity and city BS aside. As we persevered, me the god of this sad little world and she my chosen disciple, Sara became a jack of all trades: she blew her money on travel, going nectar-tasting and exploring ancient ruins; she got really, really good at fixing her crappy appliances; she stopped going on dates with the nasty men of Bridgeport; and she took advantage of her celebrity status to get free drinks and discounts on all her favorite things, like books and burgers.

Then, I realized that whenever she had a free moment to explore, she always ran into this one Sim who caught my eye: a white-haired Sim named Apollo Bloom, who looked so utterly fan-fiction-y, I had to get to know him. And since Apollo was a cagey, pretentious model, it took a bit of work, but eventually, they became close enough as friends that she got invited to a house party at his place.

Enter the trouble: his roommate, Matty Crewe.

Matty Crewe: Professional F***boy

leslie knope calling ben a jerk in parks and rec

Who was this, I wondered, sitting in the corner and giving my girl little heart moodlets? He was some skinny nerd wearing a beanie, and according to the flute music that played when she got near him, they were a good match. I got her talking to him, and unlike the other men of Bridgeport who inevitably pitched a fit over everything she cared about, Matty seemed genuinely interested.

So I brought out the big guns and made her flirt with him. Single? Check. Signs aligned? Check. Interested in flirting? Oh, yeah, checkity-check. I made sure she left on a high-note, then sent her home, you know, leave a little mystery. Finally, I thought, she’s finally met someone! I didn’t want to resort to my childhood trick of just making a Perfect Partner for her, I wanted to really sink my teeth into Bridgeport, warts and all. And Matty Crewe was apparently the result of that, janky as his eyebrows were.

The two start hooking up, and it’s WooHoo City over here, all they do is WooHoo all over the place. But when Sara tries to actually ask him out, you know, go out in public together, Matty is always kind of cagey about it. Oh, sure, he sends love letters to her and lavishes her in praise for her writing, but it seems like he’s just as noncommittal as every other floozy man in the city. As the god of her sad little world, I have to wonder, what gives?

So I do a little snooping, go into the overworld, switch control from her household to his. And what do you know, Matty has two things wrong with him that are about to make her life a living hell:

  1. He’s Absent-Minded, meaning that all those times he never showed up to a date, it’s because the loser actually straight-up forgot. This by itself wouldn’t be such a problem, if he weren’t also …
  2. CHEATING!!!

Yes, as it turns out, Mr. Skinny McNoAmbitions has a little side-piece named Flo-Flo Chique. I couldn’t believe it. As Sara’s “mother,” I was furious. But as an ambivalent deity, I was also kind of impressed. What in the Scott Pilgrim? How did this guy manage to pull two bad bitches in the span of one season?

To get back at him, level the playing field (which you should NEVER do in real life, but makes for good drama in a video game), I had Sara reignite her old crush on Apollo, who’d become as much of a staple in her life as Johanna. They hung out in her apartment all day, and then spent all night in, you guessed it, WooHoo City. Yet Sara still thought of Matty, and she still got letters from Matty, so I figured, god dammit, fine, we’re gonna stick with Matty. So we break things off with Apollo, and I have her drive to Matty’s place impromptu to ask if they can start seeing each other exclusively.

Y’all. I cannot stress how audibly shocked I was in real life when Sara gets to their floor, walks in, and catches him, IMMEDIATELY, snakin’ tongues with his other goddamn roommate, Katelyn Missoni. It’s like the game was trying to amp up the drama.

From Sadgirl to Radgirl

Emma Roberts in American Horror Story: Coven.
(FX)

For an entire week, Sara is inconsolable, divvying half her time between getting schwasted at the club and sobbing at her desk. Sure, she was a fairly successful writer by this point and she basically never paid for anything because she was somehow still famous, but hoo-boy, things were looking grim.

I wondered, maybe my girl needs to move, maybe she’s had enough of Bridgeport. I investigated the worlds of Twinbrook and Riverview, and initially they seemed charming-ish. But then I looked at the people, and the gross little houses, and I realized that I’d really grown a soft-spot for Bridgeport. As well as this, I’d grown a soft-spot for the people who were still in her life, and I wanted to see my sad sack of a girl get it together and really make the city her own.

So we stayed, and with the new influx of royalties she was getting, we bought a house on the outskirts of the city. And suddenly, things really opened up, figuratively and literally. Sara was a best-selling author, at the top of her game, and she had two really good friends in Johanna and Apollo. Johanna even gave her a puppy, a decision I came to resent since the puppy was annoying as sin, but it at least made Sara happy. My girl throws a welcome party, and the various characters of her life come and have a really good time. Things are looking up.

What do you know, then, that a new love letter shows up in the mailbox, courtesy of one very remorseful Matty Crewe? Guys, I should stress that in reality, this is where you really ought to cut the cord and move on with your life. But in a video game, where the pickins’ are already fairly slim, I figured, eh, what the hell, let’s see if things change.

And they do. They try friendship this time, but the friendship inevitably becomes romantic again. I realize I can’t stop these two dopes from wanting to be together, so I pull the strings of godhood and have him move in with Sara and the Hell Puppy, and after carefully observing Matty and seeing that he is down bad for Sara, and only Sara, I have her pull out the ring.

At this point in the narrative, Sara has achieved her lifelong dreams of being a professional writer, and is now taking it slow as she raises her first baby. The Hell Puppy has grown into a Hell Dog, and protects the house from paparazzi and mailmen alike. And, believe it or not, I’m actually now invested in Matty’s story: he was designed to be this total layabout in life, with an impossible life goal of having a comfortable existence and high net-worth while not really doing anything with himself, but now that he’s under my godly thumb, I see so many possibilities laid out before him.

With Sara taking it easy and Ilah growing up, I’m now dedicating my time to ensuring Matty becomes the most fulfilled stay-at-home Dad there ever was. I’m really making him get cozy with domesticity, spending half his time changing diapers and the other half indulging in his passion for the arts. The guy’s even started writing successful comic books, meaning this poor baby might grow up with two authors for parents. But everyone is happy, and as a god, I feel content.

Does this game not absolutely rule?

(EA)

All of this to say: good lord, you guys, in what other game can you create a narrative as juicy and ridiculous as this? I feel like I’ve penned an indie movie just by sitting on my ass and clicking some buttons here and there. Never have I ever had an experience even as remotely entertaining as this with The Sims 4, and the best part is, this isn’t even the first time The Sims 3 has given me such juicy material! Oh, god, I could regale you with the time I made an agoraphobic artist fall in love with a plant, but then we’d be here all day.

In short, I implore you, whether you’re a fan of life-sims, a writer struggling with writer’s block, or both, don’t forget about The Sims 3. EA can make their games as shiny and plastic as they want, but I truly don’t think they’ll ever be able to top this.

Although time will tell with The Sims 5

(featured image: EA)


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Author
Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).