As Sim Life turns 25, a plea to developers

Maxis Sim game boxes
What I wouldn’t give to see all these in modern form…

It’s been a quarter century now since the release of Maxis’ Sim Life, and even longer for their other classics including SimCity, Sim Earth, Sim Ant, and Sim Farm. While Maxis was bought by EA Games in 1997, and killed off a couple years after releasing the disappointing SimCity reboot (i.e., SimCity 2013), the spirit of Will Wright’s software “toys” lives on.

Sure, you can still run the original Sim Life or, my personal favorite, Sim Tower, in DOS Box, but wouldn’t it be amazing if someone brought these games into the 21st century? Colossal Order has essentially done just that with Cities Skylines, carrying SimCity’s torch onward after the fall of Maxis. The game at least comes close to capturing the magic of the first four SimCity titles, though I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s not quite the same.

And Sim Earth, the glorious planet simulator, gobbled up months of my childhood back in the early 90s, even though half the time I wasn’t even sure what I was doing. It was fun to just play around with all the buttons and settings, seeing what I could create and destroy on a planetary scale.

Sim Farm and Sim Tower too were excellent games in their own right. Though Maxis didn’t have much to do with the actual development of Sim Tower, it is perhaps the best game developed outside the studio and the one to most accurately capture that “software toy” feel.

These games were all about experimentation; learning through trial and error and eventually discovering something important and useful about that way the world works. They represent among the most enjoyable types of informal education — for kids and adults alike.

And so I ask that developers at least consider revamping some of these titles for a whole new generation, as well as for old-timers like myself who just want a new digital sandbox to play in.



  1. You probably know this, but SimTower had a sequel called Yoot Tower, which was ported to iOS (renamed “The Tower.”) There’s also Project Highrise. Haven’t played much of it yet but it’s clearly inspired by the game.

    1. Indeed! But Yoot Tower is now getting up there too, and Project Highrise, although a decent game, just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of magic.

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