Top 100 Retro Games List: Sim City

Sim City
Super Nintendo

Sim City was a game I heard about a lot, but did not play until it was ported to the Super Nintendo. A few people at my school that were really into PC gaming had it and talked about the game all the time. I am not sure why I did not have it, but it always seemed like a cool game. Building a city? Having to make budget decisions. I remember being really interested in the idea of having an all train system through the city. I saw the game in magazines and wished it would come out for the Nintendo one day.

Sim City was an early release on the Super Nintendo, but I do not think I played it until the next spring or summer. A friend got it and was really good at the game. They created what seemed at the time like a huge city. I rented it a few times and then bought the game used when we moved at the first video store in town that went under after Blockbuster came to town. I was not that good at it, but I enjoyed playing and how much it made me critically think about the world around me. The town we lived in did not have trains. The transit lines cut off a few towns north of us, which meant you needed a car to get around. Why was that? Sim City made me consider the environment around me. Why was a park built where it was? Why are shopping centers near certain things, but avoid other things. For an adolescent all of this was rather eye opening.

My closest friend had Sim City and was excellent at it. He was at most games. He would show me this huge city he built, and was really stunning to view how efficient and pretty it was. I remember him writing down a short guide for me to try to replicate in my own play throughs. I could never play the game quite as well as he could, but it definitely made me step up my, um, game, in general.

In my own play throughs, I would get stuck after a certain point. Sometimes it was a lack of population expansion because I did not manage my land well, other times it was a disaster I could not contain. I would have so much anxiety sitting waiting for something bad to happen. Sometimes I would just straight up run out of land due to poor development and planning. It was almost always my own fault for sure because I think this game makes it pretty clear how to do well in general. It is straightforward and lacks the almost tyrannical and excessive amount of choice given to mayors in newer games. I get so overwhelmed by that sort of thing, and this game does an impressive job of keeping it simple.

Eventually, I would get frustrated and try again later. I have done that over the years many, many times. In college, there was a year when I would play Sim City at night to wind down after a long day on campus. I found it so relaxing to tinker with my town and still do so until now with a variety of games like Civilization, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley. Simulation games are often a coping mechanism I use to escape from the terrors of the real world.

Something else that Sim City inspired was my adolescent fascination with windmills. I did a bunch of projects during middle school on renewable energy. One year it was solar power, another hydrolic, but then the year Sim City came out it was windmills. I thought it was so cool you could get a windmill in the game. It felt so forward-thinking and progressive. The choice between nuclear and coal also made me consider those issues and read more about nuclear energy, which was especially relevant since we had one just up the road a few towns away. I still think of that plant often because it was supposed to close many years ago, but it has remained open via presidential rubber stamps.

Some of the exclusive aspects of the Super Nintendo version of Sim City are really neat. Bowser attacking your city instead of Godzilla was very clever. I remember being so excited when it randomly happened while at a friend’s house. I do wish that Gamera, friend of all children, could have shown up to save the day though.

I had no idea until recently that the random upswings in crime were a game bug! That makes a lot of sense though because, even in my most recent play through of the game, I could not for the life of me figure out what I could have been doing wrong. I wish I had known that literally 25 years ago!

I love the cover for this game. The three-dimensional Sim City logo reminds me of so many fonts I used in the early nineties on graphic design projects. The drawings of various developments look very much like they do in the game, which is really cool. So many games in this era have very unrealistic covers that look nothing like the final product.

Sim City’s soundtrack is one of my favorites of all time. The calm, soothing, vibes of the town and city portions of the soundtrack are especially wonderful. The relaxing vibe of the game is one of the things that keeps bringing me back to it over and over again. I listen to the soundtrack all the time while grading papers in my office at work. Few video games have this innate ability to calm me down and de-stress me outside of Sim City. As I said earlier, I played this game a lot at the end of the night during college to try and chill out after very stressful and aggravating days. It is a soundtrack that brings me back to other times in my life such as that and to the wonders and joys I felt as an adolescent discovering how a city does, and could potentially, work.

This game was available on the Virtual Console for a number of years, but got pulled a few years back. It is worth tracking down though because Sim City is such a fun game and the SNES version is so unique in the series.

I picked up Sim City again over the holidays and began playing for about 30 minutes a day. This time, I tried the popular doughnut hole method to create my city, and it did really well. I still pop in from time to time and play for a few minutes, and it continues to grow and grow. The music in this game is still so soothing and relaxes me a lot. I loved to chill out after a long day and think about most to grow my city.

Modern simulator games are often too busy for my tastes. I felt totally overwhelmed by Cities Skylines. The last Sim City in 2013 was an absolute debacle. I do like the Civilization games and will often play them at night during the long summer months. It is become a bit of a tradition over the past few years.

I just love the simplicity and straight forward nature of the SNES version of Sim City and greatly enjoy playing it over and over.

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