Sequels are a tricky business, aren’t they? Developers are always treading a fine line. Things need to be bigger and better than before, but not just a retread. They need to take the original in new directions, but not too new.
Tastes vary, and sometimes a step forward is a step back. Fans of any long-running series will tell you that. Take The Sims, for instance. Like any franchise, the life sim has seen changes to its core mechanics with each entry, not all of which have been well received.
Here’s a question that’s really divided the fanbase, then: which is better, The Sims 3 or The Sims 4? Let’s try and answer that by taking a look at five things each game does better than the other.
10 The Sims 3: Open World
Now, of course, these points are largely going to be subjective. That’s what it’s really all about, after all. The Sims players all have their own preferences and ways of playing, and will prefer one game over the other for those reasons.
Let’s start, then, with one of the biggest differences between them. The Sims 3 was characterized by its open world approach, which is in stark contrast to the smaller neighborhood situation seen in its sequel. If you like to think of your sims all living together in a larger, Tomodachi Life sort of community, then Sims 3 might be more to your liking.
9 The Sims 4: Get A Load(ing Screen) Of This
This one’s a little pedantic, sure, but in an age of gamers who demand their 1080p 60fps performance at all times, these sorts of issues are paramount.
The Sims 3 may allow you to hop from place to place with no loading screens once you’re in the world, but that comes at a cost: loading the world in the first place is a real bummer. We’re talking about a loading screen of several minutes in some instances. Remember Bloodborne, pre-patch? That was brutal. The Sims 4’s briefer, more common loading screens will probably be more bearable for impatient gamers.
8 The Sims 3: Customization
Now, I can’t speak for all The Sims players, but lots of us adore the series for one particular reason: customizability. We want to make sims of ourselves, our partners, our family and friends. We want to create sims of people we don’t like and make grim things happen to them in this digital dollhouse.
Customization is king, in my eyes, and each of the games has an advantage over the other in that respect. The Sims 3 has the popular Create a Style feature, which allowed you to tweak the appearance of… well, just about anything to your liking. In The Sims 4, this is only available as a mod, unless you count the Create a Pet feature.
7 The Sims 4: Create-A-Sim
So, yes. A lot of this is going to be down to a player’s personal preference too. As I say, though, a lot of the appeal of The Sims lies in the ability to create sim-likenesses of real people.
Maybe you like having real relationships play out in the game, and seeing if you and your new beau have any chance in the sim-world. Whatever the case, The Sims 4 arguably offers more scope to create sims to your specific requirements, through the grab and pull system. Some couldn’t get the hang of this mechanic, but once you’ve tackled the learning curve, there’s probably more scope to get creative here than with other installments.
6 The Sims 3: Expansion Packs
Of course, with the mighty EA being the publisher of The Sims, it was inevitable that the series was going to be rife with money-grubbing opportunities. Expansion packs have been a huge part of the experience since the original game, offering all kinds of brilliant and bizarre new gameplay mechanics, items and other options.
For lots of players, The Sims 3’s expansions have the edge over The Sims 4’s. Pricey, yes, and we definitely noticed those cunning microtransactions being thrown in there, but there’s generally more on offer in The Sims 3’s expansions. The next game’s added content would cost even more at times, too.
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5 The Sims 4: Personalities And Emotions
As we’ve seen, then, it’s all about ensuring that your sims look the part. Except it’s not all about that, because the way they act is pivotal as well.
The games have always strived to make sure that your little digital protégés can communicate their needs to the player without words (and not just through clinical bars on a menu). The Sims 4 added a new focus on the emotions and personalities of the sims, though, and a lot of hype surrounded these new elements in the run-up to the launch. While these features may not have proven to be as ground-breaking as they sounded, it was a crucial step. Hopefully, this will be further enhanced with the next game, helping to make the primo life sim more immersive than ever.
4 The Sims 3: A Powerful Package
If there’s one thing that really irks gamers, it’s unscrupulous DLC shenanigans. If there’s one thing that really, really irks gamers, it’s developers removing hunks of content from their game intentionally, in order to oh-so-kindly sell it back to us at a later date.
Titles like The Sims can often disguise this sort of thing, by virtue of all of the content packs you knew were coming anyway. To compare The Sims 3 and The Sims 4, though, it’s clear that the third entry was a much more fully-featured package right out of the gate.
On launch, the fourth game was missing some fundamental content. Basic things like swimming pools weren’t available at first!
3 The Sims 4: Intuitive Building
This is yet another area that ardent fans of The Sims are going to have differing opinions on. Some of us don’t pay very much attention to the home design side of things, while others meticulously fiddle with every teeny little aspect of their beloved sims’ homes.
Which version gives you better tools to do so (mods and such notwithstanding)? It’s a little tough to say, frankly. I’ve given The Sims 4 the nod here, as it seems a little more intuitive with click-and-drag functionality for rooms, roofs and the like. The Sims 3 gave you more freedom to fiddle with terrain tools and such, though, so it’s all up to you.
Have it your way, as Burger King like to say.
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2 The Sims 3: Letting Children Be Children
Another element of The Sims that has become super-important to the players is the concept of sims aging. We want to watch newborns grow, sims age, generations advance and such. This is a life sim, after all, and these are all fundamental parts of life.
The Sims 4, however, didn’t get that memo. Prior to the launch, players were informed that the ‘toddler’ stage of life would be removed (“In The Sims 4, babies will age directly into children, skipping the developmental stage that comes before schooling,” Make Use Of reported at the time), an unfortunate decision that was supposedly made to enable the team to prioritise more important aspects of the game.
It wasn’t until January 2017 that toddlers were added to the game through a free update.
1 The Sims 4: Stability And Optimisation
As we’ve seen, The Sims 3 arguably took things in a much more ambitious direction than its sequel. The open world thing was a bold move, and many fans loved it, but it did come at a cost. For one thing, it was a big strain on a lot of systems, causing all manner of slowdown and glitches.
The Sims 4, of course, isn’t immune to these sorts of technical issues, but as a rule, players report that it feels much better optimized and runs better than its predecessor. Experiences differ, so you can’t take that as read, but it’s a safer bet.