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17 Games Like The Sims to Play While You Wait for the Next Expansion

17 Games Like The Sims to Play While You Wait for the Next Expansion

The Sims have completely controlled the life simulation sandbox genre for over 20 years. It can be hard for developers to create experiences resembling the franchise in a niche genre. Its complex mechanics and interactions require time and money, which isn’t easy for a small indie company to come by. Because of this, there is no game like The Sims, but some get close.

Whether you enjoy the building, social interaction, or management, there’s something on this list for everyone. Let’s jump right in, and hopefully, you’ll find a game that can scratch that Sims itch until a new expansion or game releases.    

Animal Crossing 

New Horizons promo

Animal Crossing is one of the most polished and finetuned games that resembles The Sims. Players will create their characters and be transported to an island filled with charming anthropomorphic animals. It captures the relaxing aspect of The Sims by not rushing the player at all. You can spend time fishing, collecting shells, finishing objectives for villagers, or just furnishing your house.

One difference between the two games is the passage of time, as Animal Crossing uses real-world time for its simulation. Unlike The Sims, which has you speed up multiple days in a row, Animal Crossing will reflect your location’s current time and season. The villagers have a wide range of colorful personalities, and it’s sure to scratch that social simulation itch. The game can also be played in multiplayer, so you can visit your friend’s island or vice versa.       

The newest game in the franchise is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which can only be bought and played on the Nintendo Switch. 

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Stardew Valley 

Fishing on a pond in Stardew Valley.
One person created Stardew Valley and has since set the standard for the casual gaming genre.

As one of the most popular and successful indie games ever created, Stardew Valley is the perfect role-playing simulator. While some players will be turned off by its pixel graphics, its gameplay mechanics more than make up for it.

After creating your character, you will inherit a farm from your grandfather that you must manage and run. This means clearing land for crops, planting seeds, harvesting, and talking with local NPCs. With an addicting gameplay loop, you are guaranteed to lose track of time.

Stardew Valley also features a mining system that can be unlocked after a certain point. Players can travel down the randomly generated mines, collecting resources and fighting monsters. However, this is completely optional, and instead, you can spend your time farming and completing quotes for the locals. There are also a variety of festivals like the Stardew Valley Fair, where you can compete for having the best produce in town.

House Flipper 

House Flipper
Live our your fantasy home dreams, without the burden of real-world financial constrain.

House Flipper is a house customization simulator that puts you in charge of a one-man renovation crew. Players will purchase houses, clean trash, polish windows, and sweep floors to make them appear presentable. Once the cleaning is done, players have full control over customizing the house. You can knock down walls, retile surfaces, and furnish rooms with an extensive catalog of items. This is a game for fans of The Sims who can’t get enough decorating and expanding their homes.  

The game has a similar relaxing therapeutic feeling to it, as you can sit back, listen to music, and not worry about time constraints. Once you have built your dream house, ensuring everything is in the right place, you can put the house on the market.

NPCs will make offers, going higher or lower spending on their needs, which you can accept or deny. The purpose is to profit and move on to the next bigger house that you can customize even more. Not getting attached to your creation is a must, as once you sell it, you won’t be able to go back. 

Planet Zoo

Planet Zoo
A new take on a classic series.

Planet Zoo takes after Zoo Tycoon and Planet Coaster, allowing players to create their own Zoo’s. As you manage your Zoo, you will create and customize animal exhibits and habitats while balancing income. When the zoo is open, you must cater to your guests’ needs and keep them returning for more. However, there is a Free Play Mode for players who don’t wish to deal with resource management or the stress of going out of business. 

In Free Play, you have unlimited funds and can focus solely on creation and customization. Additionally, the game has access to the Steam Workshop, making downloading mods and add-ons as easy as clicking a button. Planet Zoo is for you if you are a fan of building in The Sims or those classic Tycoon games.    

My Time at Portia

My Time at Portia

My Time in Portia is a combination of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing. While having the 3D graphics and color characters of Animal Crossing, it also has the farming and commission aspect of Stardew Valley. Players will inherit their Pa’s workshop as they grow crops, raise animals, and fight off monsters. You can also customize your house and play a series of minigames with locals.    

City Skylines

A Steam promotional image for Cities: Skylines.
Cities: Skylines has a sequel coming out in the fall of 2023.

©Paradox Interactive

Taking a step away from following a small cast of characters or villages, City Skylines has you managing an entire city. Players will be given a plot of land off a highway and some funds before being set loose. You’ll start small, creating a suburban or rural town before slowly creating a metropolis. Having diverse spaces is important, as you’ll want large cities to make money but rural towns to grow crops and livestock. 

While you don’t follow a character or family like in The Sims, you can see how happy your citizens are. You’ll need to adjust things on the fly, like taxes, power usage, or traffic routes. While it can be complex when starting, it has a satisfying appeal like no other game. The joy you feel when the city works just as planned cannot be matched.   

Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress
Made by two brothers, Dwarf Fortress received a recent graphical update for its Steam release.

Dwarf Fortress is a randomly generated colony simulator that places you in control of a band of Dwarfs. Slowly, over months and years, your base will grow as random events send the base into chaos. Everything from dragon attacks to floods can cause panic as you and your dwarfs scramble to find a solution. Or perhaps you prefer causing the destruction, sending your dwarfs on a raid into enemy territory to claim resources and victory. Each world is unique and will have you playing for hundreds of hours.  

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If you are a fan of building and customizing houses, Dwarf Fortress can be perfect, as there is endless potential for fortresses. The game also features some of the most in-depth characters in video games. While you can’t customize appearance like in The Sims, you can read how dwarfs feel, their backstory, or their relationships. Each dwarf has a unique personality and connection to other members of the fort. You’ll even be able to see information like a specific tooth that hurts, adding to its depth.  

Virtual Families

Virtual Families

Virtual Families is one of the older games on our list that combines the family simulation of The Sims and the real-time element of Animal Crossing. The concept is simple: manage your character’s life to help them meet a partner and grow a family.

It may not offer the complexity of The Sims, but it does feature the drama that comes with raising a family. As mentioned before, it’s true to real-time, so if it’s night by you, it’s night in the game. This adds engagement and connection to the characters that can be lost in The Sims.    

The game has a free demo available on Steam and can be bought for the low price of $9.99, making it one of the cheapest games on the list.  

Dinkum

Dinkum

Dinkum takes players to the land down under with their Australian-inspired island. Players can play solo or with friends while exploring the outback, raising farms, and interacting with adorable animals. You’ll start small, having a tent at first to sleep in, but slowly grow your way into a house. Interact with locals and complete quests and minigames in a unique environment not featured in many games. The title is still in early access but was developed by one person, James Bendon.    

Kenshi

Kenshi
Everyone starts from small beginnings, but only a few will reach the top.

Kenshi is The Sims if it was a Souls-like game. The game is an open-world sandbox that starts the player out small, as a thief, farmer, etc. Throughout your journey to survive, you will meet NPCs that can be recruited and make your faction. You must deal with enemy factions, battling when necessary or surviving the harsh weather. It’s important to have a home when it begins raining acid.      

The game is one of the highest-rated games on Steam and has been praised for its depth and difficulty. If you love the simulation of The Sims but want something more challenging, Kenshi is the perfect experience. 

Project Zomboid

There is no winning in Project Zomboid, only prolonging the inevitable.

Project Zomboid is a darker, apocalyptic version of The Sims. Players will create and customize their character before being dropped into a world overran with zombies. You’ll want to find a home for shelter that you can slowly customize. However, it won’t be couches and antique furniture filling the living room; instead, you’ll want to build barricades and food storage. This is not for The Sims fans who enjoy the game’s relaxing and therapeutic nature, as Project Zomboid can be stressful.    

In video games, you should be the hero who overcomes adversity and stands at the top alone in victory. Other games tell you you can be the winner. Project Zomboid, on the other hand, tells you that you will die, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. There are consequences for every action, and a zombie hoard could surround you in a split second. While some of the game’s features can be seen as tedious or repetitive, it is unique. 

No other game makes you feel as alone and vulnerable as Project Zomboid. The game is still in early access but has a level of polish and impressive gameplay mechanics. It also features a co-op mode with up to three friends that will make you realize who the weakest link is.       

RimWorld

Different rooms shown in RimWorld colony.
Build your RimWorld colony with care before being invaded and burned to the ground.

©https://store.steampowered.com/app/294100/RimWorld/

Much like Dwarf Fortress, RimWorld places you in control of colonists who have crash-landed on a planet. These colonists can be anyone from cobblers to cooks to nobles. RimWorld’s purpose is for players to make their own stories. It’s not about getting to the end, it’s about the journey.

Dealing with issues and drama or celebrating a successful harvest. It’s the small things that matter in this game. As you play, your colonists take on personalities of their own. At first, they might be no one to you, but their actions and traits become clearer as you progress. This leaves players with a connection they never expected to have.

RimWorld is perfect for those looking for a colony simulator without a steep learning curve. While the game does feature advanced and intricate game mechanics, the tutorial is more than enough to get new players started. The controls feel intuitive, and with the added DLCs and Steam Workshop, the replayability for this game is endless. While it doesn’t feature the character customization options that The Sims offers, its management and resource system is on par.      

Tropico 6

Tropico 6
Rule with an iron fist in Tropico 6, keeping those ungrateful citizens in-line.

Tropico 6 is similar to other city-builder games. Players will create buildings, manage citizens, grow food, and, of course, tax. However, there’s one small change, as players are not the unseen creators of the world. Instead, they are the dictators of Tropico. As dictator, or “El Presidente,” you will run your banana republic as you see fit. Your word is law, and the law can change whenever you want. Keep your citizens in line by ruling with fear, or be a generous and caring island dictator.   

Minecraft 

Minecraft has sold the most copies out of any game in history.

This game needs no introduction. Minecraft is the most popular video game in history and one of the most innovative sandbox experiences. While you won’t find any story or character personality, you will have a never-ending building game. Players of The Sims who enjoy building and decorating their houses will love Minecraft’s gameplay. Additionally, you can turn the game on peaceful mode, so no monsters will spawn and attack you. 

Everyone knows Minecraft, and it’s a game that is only limited by your imagination. You can create anything you wish, with no restrictions at all. Plus, you can set up a server and play with friends and family in the same world.  

Unpacking 

Unpacking
Every item hold a memory, but its up to you to figure out what those memories are.

Unpacking gives one of the best experiences in gaming based on its simplicity. The game has a straightforward narrative of following the main character throughout her life through photo albums. However, players only unpack her belongings as she moves into new dorms, apartments, and houses. Small clues begin appearing as players unpack, allowing for an open-ended interpretation of what her life is currently like.  

The game does the impossible by making unpacking and moving houses relaxing and heartwarming. It’s the perfect experience for those who feel OCD about placing items in the right spot and ensuring everything fits perfectly.

By the end of the eight levels, you’ll feel a connection to a character you never see, only knowing her based on her belongings. It truly shows the power and personality of our own things and how other people view us.    

Previous Sims Games

Sometimes, there’s just no better replacement for iconic franchises. Try as you might, you always return to The Sims because there’s something special about it. Or you spent too much money on the DLCs to justify playing another game. Regardless, going back to older titles gives that classic Sims feeling without the burden of trying something new or unknown.

While previous titles may not be as polished as The Sims 4, they still possess the franchise’s roots. See which games are available to you and explore what made the series so popular in the first place. 

  • The Sims (2000)
  • The Sims Online (2002)
  • The Sims Bustin’ Out (2003)
  • The Sims 2 (2004)
  • The Urbz: Sims in the City (2004)
  • The Sims Life Stories (2007)
  • The Sims Pet Stories (2007)
  • The Sims Castaway Stories (2008)
  • The Sims 3 (2009)
  • The Sims Medieval (2011)
  • The Sims Social (2011)
  • The Sims FreePlay (2011)
  • The Sims 4 (2014)
  • The Sims Mobile (2018)

Sims Mods

The Sims has an active community constantly releasing new mods for the games every day. With thousands of mods to choose from, you are bound to find one you like. Some mods add more depth to characters’ personalities, while others will add more customization options like clothes or pets.

If none of these other games pique your interest, the best thing to do is play more Sims. Adding mods will make it feel like an entirely new game and one that you haven’t experienced before. Unfortunately, this option is only available to players on PC as consoles don’t allow for modding.

Upcoming releases 

Paralives

Paralives

Although the game has not been released yet, Paralives is a title to look forward to for Sims fans. From the game’s description, players can create their own characters, build houses, and manage their lives however they want. Sounds familiar. The game has an appealing stylized art style and many decorations and furniture. While we don’t know how in-depth the character’s lives will be, it is a promising title that we look forward to playing.  

Life by You

Life by You

Our second upcoming title to look out for is Life by You, developed by Paradox Tectonic. The game resembles a realistic Sims title from its screenshots and featured video. The developers have stated that they wish to make this one of the most open life-simulation games available, with in-depth characters and stories. They have also said it will be the most moddable game, allowing players to add their ideas. It is scheduled for release on March 5, 2024, and is highly anticipated by fans of the genre.   

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