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Every Sims Game Listed in Order of Release Date

SimCity Lays the Foundation (1989)

It‘s easy to take for granted now, but every pioneering video game franchise needs that first spark. For The Sims, visionary designer Will Wright provided that spark with 1989‘s SimCity. This open-ended city building simulation gave players tools to construct an urban landscape from scratch and manage the needs of virtual citizens.

Early reviews saw some critics dismiss SimCity as more of a "software toy" than a game due to the lack of defined objectives. Commercially, things looked dire at first with the initial release on Commodore 64 floppy disks selling just 15,000 copies for developer Maxis.

But once ported to Super Nintendo in 1991, SimCity‘s popularity as a fresh experiment in digital world creation began to build. It ultimately sold over 4 million copies across platforms. This initial victory primed the pump for grander ambitions brewing in Will Wright‘s mind through the 1990s.

The Virtual Dollhouse Arrives – The Sims (2000)

By year 2000, advancements in PC hardware and 3D game engines finally allowed Wright‘s next vision to be fully realized. The Sims took the virtual citizen concept from SimCity and zoomed in close, dropping players into controlling intimate domestic lives of suburban Sim families.

Electronic Arts bankrolled development of The Sims which spanned over 6 years through the late 90s. Expansive amounts of code were written to simulate bodily needs, emotional states, behaviors, relationships and day-to-day activities like finding jobs, making home cooked meals, painting self portraits to hang with pride. This was bleeding edge stuff at the time executed extremely well despite technical hurdles.

Gaming site IGN praised The Sims as "extremely addictive" upon its February 2000 launch for how every action had cascading consequences forcing players to creatively problem solve. With multiplayer gaming still in its infancy, controlling this virtual dollhouse became a solitary obsession for millions.

The Sims sold a staggering 11 million copies in just 4 years. For perspective, that was more than hot contemporary titles like Half-Life or Metal Gear Solid. This revelation stunned industry experts and critics who assumed simulation games lacked mainstream appeal compared to action-oriented titles targeted at men. The Sims proved them very wrong and went on to become the best selling PC game ever for its time.

Aging Through Generations – The Sims 2 (2004)

Riding sky high off the breakout success of The Sims, anticipation ran hot for how EA Maxis could possibly improve on near perfection for the sequel. It took 4 long years of development before The Sims 2 answered that call in 2004 with a generational overhaul becoming the highest selling game that year.

This game operated on an all new proprietary game engine flexing the power of contemporary GPUs. Characters and environments got doused with smooth, alluring textures across the board. But more crucially, Sims could now visibly age through 6 distinct life stages, allowing players to guide family legacies over generations with inherited traits and characteristics.

This ingeniously extended the player‘s emotional connection and storytelling capacity. No longer were households and neighborhoods static and frozen in time. Your decisions now impacted offspring down the family tree for better or worse!

Reviewers universally praised the DNA and aging components as impressive technical feats paired with intuitive gameplay hooks. Multiplayer elements were also folded in with head-to-head competition modes to influence rival households. On the back of staggering 10 million sales its first year, The Sims 2 expanded the franchise‘s cultural imprint into a full-blown phenomenon.

Whole Worlds to Explore – The Sims 3 (2009)

EA struck again in 2009 with the expansive The Sims 3, introducing a seamless open world without restrictive load times. This let players fully stretch their legs, exploring neighborhoods at will beyond individual home lots. Community buildings like libraries or markets all became accessible hubs.

The Create-A-Style customization tool also enabled new levels of individuality from eccentric fashion to personalized furniture aesthetics. This freed players to better express identities through detailed avatar projections. Reviewers praised The Sims 3 as a technical triumph in its generative world building ambitions paired with intuitive style.

However, some hardcore fans complained that performance struggled under these exponential new layers. Longtime players yearned slightly for the more focused scope and refined stability of earlier entries. Still, The Sims 3 sold 1.4 million copies on day one and continued the series‘ mega success to astronomical profitability.

Insane Customization – The Sims 4 (2014)

As the second best selling PC franchise ever behind only Minecraft, expectations weighed massively on The Sims 4 in this modern era. After taking heat for frame rate drops and limiting closed worlds, Maxis focused The Sims 4 on upclose quality and extreme customization.

Released in 2014, emotions and moods got complex overhauls with many more influencing variables for richer teamplay. But the biggest draw was exponentially granular makeover flexibility down to manipulating facial features seamlessly. This enabled transformative personal projection living out fantasy versions of self and others.

Reviews heavily praised these gameplay refinements and innovations. However, criticism arose around slim initial content offerings compared to past games. Thankfully vigorous continued support with meaty expansion packs over the following years quashed those complaints for still highly devoted fanbases.

And that community itself remains a core pillar of The Sims enduring legacy. A breathtaking wealth of player made custom content exists online to integrate from costumes to furniture. Entire meta-communities have spawned sharing this content and telling stories of adventures with their SIM citizenry. The Sims 4 may represent a peak in custom craftsmanship freedom and network connectivity through Mods extensions.

Creativity Unbound in Spin-Off Exploration

Beyond core series home runs, EA Maxis has leveraged The Sims fervent following over the years into all manner of spin-off experiments. Console editions like The Sims Bustin‘ Out on GameCube and handheld versions offered fans bite sized gameplay on the go. Novel detours like The Sims Medieval with guiding quests and light roleplaying hooks demonstrated daring departures could pay off.

One of the most fascinating spin-off initiatives tried leveraging emerging social networks of the late 2000s. The Sims Social exclusive to Facebook incorporated friends lists and wall posts into familiar Sims mechanics. And the recently enduring Sims FreePlay mobile app smartly employs social competition for community rewards.

These spins on the core virtual life simulation highlight EA‘s willingness to take chances around the edges. When one experiments with the highest grossing PC gaming franchise in history, there‘s ample room for left field ideas toshine or fail without risking the crown jewels. This spirit will no doubt push the franchise into even more experimental directions in future installments.

Lasting Legacy on Culture and Gaming

In over 20 years since SimCity birthed virtual citizens, The Sims series has ascended to legendary status as both a cultural phenomenon and the most successful PC game franchise ever crafted. Over 200 million copies sold globally would be staggering for any title. The fact a esoteric "dollhouse" simulator achieved this proves Will Wright‘s genius.

That genius lies in quintessential Wish Fulfillment we all crave. The Sims taps into universal desire to exercise control over miniature worlds and see direct impact from decisions. We imprint personalities and experiences onto unsuspecting Sims like playing dollhouse again but with no limits. This compulsion fuels such incredible success for the franchise.

Additionally, the creative playspaces The Sims enables fosters self discovery and community bonding. An entire generation of gamers grew up freely exploring identity in The Sims safe harbors. They connected later with common language and memories tied to these shared virtual upbringings no matter their walk of life in reality.

As gaming technology matures into Virtual and Augmented Reality realms, The Sims founding principles seem destined for even broader applications. Tech visionaries are already building business plans referencing The Sims model for shaping interactive worlds driven by user generated content and tokenized incentives. Few games prove so timeless and forward thinking over long time frames. That insurance should maintain The Sims prestige and profits for decades to come!