The Sims is a series of life-simulation games. Players make virtual people and manage their lives. You can play hands-off and let the “Sims” make their own decisions, or you can micromanage and control every aspect of their virtual lives. The Sims has been a popular sandbox series since the year 2000, and every addition is more complex and lifelike. The Sims also has a humorous side that manifests itself in the Sims’ occasional bizarre behavior and the strange characters that populate the world.

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Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll

Violence: Violence in The Sims is very cartoonish. The player can make their Sims slap, shove, or tease each other. If they get aggravated enough, the Sims will fight—complete with a rolling dust cloud and flying keyboard symbols. But there’s no blood, and the Sims will always be able to walk it off. Sims can die, usually of old age, but accidents do happen. Moral of the story? Don’t cook without a smoke alarm.

Sexual Content: Players can get their Sims into relationships—that includes sex. Like the violence, it’s pretty cartoony. For one thing, it’s not called “sex,” it’s called “WooHoo.” The only visuals are the bed covers bouncing while your Sims go at it.

Strong Language: Good news! Sims speak an elaborate form of jibberish! And it’s fun to imitate too.

Crude Humor: Sims need to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom just like real people. If you don’t let them use the bathroom… well, you can guess what happens.

Nudity and Costuming: The clothing that Sims wear is all up to the player. There are lots of clothing choices, ranging from skimpy to conservative. Players also customize the Sims’ underwear and bathing suits. There is no nudity—when your Sim showers, all the important bits are blurred out.

Player Interaction: There is no multiplayer, but The Sims has a strong online community that shares stories, mods, and strategies.

Save Points

Players can save any time during the game!

Story & Themes

The Sims doesn’t really have a storyline—that’s all up to the player. There’s also not really a goal to the game.

The Sims comes with a neighborhood already populated with people. You can choose to play one of these households or create your own. There can be up to eight Sims in a household, and they don’t have to be related—though if you make children, they have to have adult supervision!

Sims come in all ages: toddlers, children, teens, young adults, adults, and elders. Their lifespan can be set by the player, and can last anywhere from 25 Sim days (a very short life), to 960 Sim days (every day lasts about 30 minutes). Some actions will influence how long Sims live; if a Sim is a vegetarian, for example, they’ll live longer! Finally, aging can be turned all the way off, and all Sims in the game will stop aging.

The player can customize their Sims down to the smallest details, like the angle of their nostrils (not kidding). They choose hair, skin, clothes, personality traits, ambitions, and more. As you can guess, kids have a lot of fun with this. Often players will create virtual versions of themselves and live out their fantasies through the game.

Adult Sims can get jobs, have relationships, and start families—and the player controls it all. One of the appeals of The Sims is making the Sims interact with each other. Actions like telling jokes, dancing together, or playing games can have interesting results depending on what personality each Sim has.

Not only do players control the lives of their Sims—they can control the environment too. With Buy Mode and Build Mode, players construct their Sims’ house and fill it with furniture and objects. Players can move their Sims into a pre-made home, or make their own house—choosing everything from the color of the wallpaper to what light fixtures go best with that carpet. Getting a job for your Sims will allow them to afford nicer furniture or to expand the square footage of their house.

Expansion packs for the Sims are constantly being released. Expansion packs offer new furniture and clothes, as well as fun, ridiculous themed content. The Sims World Adventures adds new vacation destinations, while The Sims Pets adds animal companions. As of October 2013 there are 11 expansions for The Sims 3, and that’s not counting the Stuff packs that just provide new items like clothing and furniture. There are a lot of choices here!

The Creators

Maxis has been making sandbox simulations since SimCity was first published in 1989. The company is behind many of the educational simulations from the 1990s, like SimSafari, SimPark, and SimFarm. Each game puts the player in a position to micromanage an environment to achieve the most efficient outcome.

SimCity is still a very popular series, with the latest SimCity dating from 2013. Maxis was criticized for requiring players to have a constant internet connection for SimCity 2013, which caused many people to have difficulty playing due to connection issues.

The Sims has been arguably Maxis’s strongest series to date, with The Sims 3 selling over 10 million copies since its release in 2009.


  • Mod websites for The Sims 2 came under fire for making downloadable content featuring nudity. In the game, nudity is blurred out with pixels (and if a player hacks the game to remove the pixilation, Sims are about as detailed as Barbie dolls), but some users made custom-content that was more graphic. This content can only be accessed if players seek it out online and install it themselves, and is not affiliated with the studio.
  • The Sims caught some flak for making same-sex relationships possible in game. Sims are neutral by default, and will fall in love with any other Sim that they forge a deep bond with. In The Sims 3, Sims in heterosexual or same-sex relationships can officiate their union with a marriage. In The Sims 3 there is virtually no difference in how heterosexual and same-sex couples interact.

Conversation Starters

The Sims is a great way for players young and old to explore personalities and ambitions. With careers like Chef, Professional Athlete, Politician, Movie Star, and more, players will find lots of value in seeing how different career and relationship choices affect their Sims’ lives.

  • Younger players will probably enjoy telling stories about their Sims. Ask about their Sims’ personalities, their friendships, and their jobs.
  • Resource and time management is an important part of The Sims. If your Sims don’t shower or eat before work, they might get smelly, hungry, and unhappy. But that means the player has to make sure the Sims wake up on time to fulfill all their needs. Talk about why it’s fun to perform mundane tasks like showering or cooking in a game, while it might not be so fun in real life.
  • If your kids like building, ask them for a tour of the houses they’ve built.
  • Money management is a big issue in The Sims. More expensive items often make Sims happier. Talk about whether that’s also true in real life, and what it takes to achieve wealth.


As mentioned before, modders create custom content, from clothes to realistic celebrity faces that you can download online. Websites like The Sims Resource offer thousands of user-made customizations. Some players also make movies or scrapbooks of their Sims and tell stories about their lives.


Build Mode: In this setting, the game is paused and the player can modify their Sims’ house; adding walls, floor, carpet, windows, etc.

Buy Mode: In this setting, the game is paused and the player can buy and sell furniture to furnish their Sims’ house.

Grim Reaper: A mysterious being that appears when your Sim gets too old… or catches on fire. Or when you remove the ladder from the pool. You can play rock paper scissors with the Grim Reaper to win another chance at life.

Goth family: The Goths are pre-made Sims that exist in every main Sims game so far. They are like The Sims’ answer to the Addams family—living in creepy houses, wearing elegant clothes, etc.

Live mode: In this mode, time passes and the Sims go about their daily lives. Players can speed up time to make mundane activities pass faster.

Simlish: The jibberish language spoken by Sims.

WooHoo: The Sims’ answer to sex. Don’t worry, it’s not that graphic.

This article was written by

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.