With so many versions of The Sims released over the years, you would be forgiven for thinking they’re all the same. This isn’t the case. Over the years, with each release, new features have been added, and others have been removed.
For some players, this has been a problem, with many sticking with The Sims 3. For others, though, The Sims 4 is the pinnacle of the series. But which is best? And what are the big differences between The Sims 4 and The Sims 3?
The Sims 3 vs. The Sims 4
The Sims 4 added quite a few new features over its predecessor. Of course, the games were released five years apart (The Sims 3 in 2009 and The Sims 4 in 2014), and the differences are based on hardware advances as much as they are on improving the gaming experience.
However, many popular features have been removed or revised in The Sims 4. The differences between The Sims 3 and The Sims 4 include:
- New Create-a-Sim Tool
- Cross Neighborhood Travel
- More Emotion-Driven Gameplay
- Flexible Building Tools
- Brand New Game Engine
- Say “Goodbye” to Create-a-Style
- No More Toddlers and Swimming Pools
- New DLC to Spend Your Money On
Let’s look at these key differences between The Sims 3 and The Sims 4.
1. New Create-a-Sim Tool
The Create-a-Sim tool lets you make custom Sims characters that resemble family, friends, celebrities, or even characters from your imagination. In The Sims 4, the experience is more tactile and intuitive than ever before.
Rather than tweaking sliders to shape characters, features can be manipulated by clicking on frames and faces, dragging bellies to make them wider or thinner, or tugging them up or down to make them taller or shorter.
Even fine features like eye angles, cheek bones, and lip shapes are all edited this way.
Personalities are different, too. The Sims 3’s character traits have been reduced from five to four; gone are rarely-picked, highly specific traits. The Sims 4 introduces traits that affect more aspects of life and gameplay. There’s also an animation style, from a confident swagger to a primitive hunch, to match their identity.
2. Cross-Neighborhood Travel
Travelling to other neighborhoods in The Sims 3 was a clumsy proposition. Basically, it involved freezing time for everyone in the main neighborhood while one group left for a new adventure. In The Sims 4, things are far simpler.
Not only are other neighborhoods and future special worlds (like the University and World Adventures areas from The Sims 3) just a short loading screen away, but you’ll be able to make regular trips without compromising a commonsense timeline.
In The Sims 4, your sim can easily commute to the city for work and make it home at night.
3. More Emotion-Driven Gameplay
Like its predecessors, The Sims 3 focuses gameplay around the desires and moods of your sims.
With The Sims 4, the emotional state of the sims is a bigger part of the game. Here, you can understand their moods just by looking at their faces.
This can have major implications on social interactions. For example, a sim who is feeling down will need some cheering up before they can hope to succeed at more cheerful or ambitious endeavors.
While it’s easy to spot when sims don’t get along in The Sims 3, the sequel combines this with ambitions to award bonuses. Sims are basically rewarded for being unpleasant (although the same system also awards perks to creative sims when they feel inspired).
The key difference here is a reduction in “interaction spamming”—the pre-programming of a set of interactions. This is often used in sim-to-sim romantic situations in The Sims 3.
4. Flexible Building Tools
The Sims 3 and its sequel both feature impressive building tools. Armchair architects will love The Sims 4’s prefabricated rooms (a feature added to The Sims 3 via an expansion pack). The Sims 3’s building tool is an aspect that still seems rooted in the original game.
Meanwhile, more forgiving building rules in The Sims 4 let you move poorly placed homes. New wall heights make vaulted ceilings easier without workarounds. You can even snap full rooms free of the main structure to rearrange your house’s layout.
No more dragging one object at a time when you decide you want the bathroom and bedroom to swap positions.
5. Brand New Game Engine
Expansions have been released for every version of The Sims, extending the gameplay with new skins and items and locations.
With The Sims 3, once you add a few expansions it sadly becomes the Frankenstein’s monster of video games. Neighborhoods get glitchy when they interact with content they weren’t future proofed to handle, and crashes become frustratingly common.
While some mods alleviate the worst of the problems, running too many can have similarly unexpected results.
The Sims 4 features a whole new game engine which is more stable. Some different issues have arisen, however, such as player-built mods requiring an update following game updates.
6. Say “Goodbye” to Create-a-Style
The Sims 3’s Create-A-Style tool allows players to drag choices from a library of patterns onto furniture and clothing. These items can then be recolored to your liking.
Want a zebra striped couch? Pick the couch model of your choice and drag it on. Then make it offensively garish by subbing hot pink and sky blue in for the black and white.
Sadly, this simple, powerful tool is absent in The Sims 4.
7. No More Toddlers and Swimming Pools
One of the key features introduced in The Sims 2 was babies aging into toddlers and then children. This was carried into The Sims 3, but the feature is missing from The Sims 4. Also absent is the sight of sims swimming.
While developers claimed the feature removals were to prioritize work on more interesting content, it means that the only way to create Sims with a full lifespan is to play The Sims 3.
8. New DLC to Spend Your Money On
The Sims games have long been sustained by downloadable content (DLC). The Sims 3 saw 11 full expansions, 9 stuff packs of themed furniture and clothing, 10 standalone neighborhoods, and thousands of objects available via microtransactions.
As with previous versions, however, The Sims 3 DLC is incompatible with The Sims 4.
On one hand, it’s unreasonable to expect a newer game to have content parity with its predecessor. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine playing The Sims 3 without its rich diversity of content.
Of course, DLC is available for The Sims 4, but again, this isn’t backwards compatible.
To learn more about The Sims 4 expansion packs, check out our reviews and if they’re worth buying.
What’s Best: The Sims 3 or The Sims 4?
Whether you’re edging towards The Sims 3 or The Sims 4, both remain available. You’ll find The Sims 3 available to buy on Amazon for PC and Mac.
Meanwhile, The Sims 4 can be grabbed direct from EA’s Origin digital distribution service. Or, if you prefer to own physical discs The Sims 4 is also available on Amazon.
Are you ready to play The Sims 4? Or do you prefer the older versions to The Sims 3? Here are the differences between all of the games in The Sims series so that you can make a proper comparison.