Critical Chicken
FeatureOpinionTuesday, 12th March 2019 by

The best Sims game is an oft-forgotten Nintendo DS title

The Sims, the popular life-simulator series, has always held a snug little place in my heart. In fact, the series is arguably the one that really got me into PC gaming — I’ve put more hours into The Sims 3 (and this fantastic custom map made by medion94) than I can possibly count.

But I’ve recently had reason to think back on my time with the Sims franchise and try to work out exactly which one I think is the best.

To put this a little into perspective, there are 32 games* in the Sims series: four main-series games, their many console counterparts, and a plethora of spin-offs. Of these, I’m almost ashamed to say that I’ve played 16, precisely half, of all the Sims games that have been released.

A screenshot of Matthew's Origin library, showing just 28 of the Sims series' massive line-up
*Not including Expansion Packs, Stuff Packs, and DLCs.

I think I may have a problem.

Only one of these, however, stands out as being nigh on perfect. And while I value the time I spent with The Sims 3, “perfect” it is not — it’s far too much of a poorly optimised, glitchy pile of garbage to ever come close to hitting that standard.

No, it’s The Urbz: Sims in the City that earns that award. More specifically, the Nintendo DS version of The Urbz: Sims in the City.

That sounds insane, I know, but bear with me.

The Urbz's Nintendo DS box art

The DS version of The Urbz: Sims in the City — OK, my fingers are already getting tired from typing that, so I’m gonna refer to it as DurbS from now on — is an isometric 3D game, that blends the need-management and decorating aspects of the main Sims series with RPG and adventure game mechanics. It has a story, a cast of characters, minigames, a series of hub worlds (each with tasks to complete before you can progress to the next one), vampires, time travel, gene splicing… the list goes on and on and on. If you can name it, it’s likely that developers Griptonite Games squeezed it into DurbS somewhere.

And it works. It shouldn’t work, I’ll happily admit that, but for some strange reason, it does. What starts off as a simple story of a lowly window cleaner being fired from their job, grows into a ridiculous parade of insane characters, beautiful world spaces, and oddly well-paced storytelling. It’s been years since I last played the game, but I can still remember the characters, I could still navigate the opening hub world with my eyes closed, and I still get little tingles of joy from the thought of the opening cutscene.

A screenshot showing the Urbz's endearing, isometric pixel art style

It’s rare that I can look back on a game as “virtually flawless” (in fact, thinking about it now, I can only think of two others). But DurbS is one of them, one that I will show with bated breath to my future children — and try my best not to cry when they pick it up and proclaim, “Ew.”