Before I start a “Hatfield and McCoy” situation over whether Sims 3 or Sims 4 is better, let me just say–both Sims 3 and Sims 4 have their own unique features and benefits 😊. Lets be real, when you delve into comparing these two super enjoyable video games, these fan-favorites are amazing in their own right.
Ultimately, if we are to attempt an answer to this question, I would have to say “it depends”. In general, if you’re looking for more content-laden gameplay, Sims 3 is the best choice. However, if you value graphics and smooth gameplay, Sims 4 is definitely the best option. However, there are many other pros and cons to The Sims 3 and The Sims 4 that can help you decide which to buy or which to play (if you have both and just can’t decide 😂).
Is Sims 3 or Sims 4 Better?
The biggest differences between The Sims 3 and The Sims 4 would include graphics quality, content quantity, game performance and story progression.
Right off the bat, The Sims 4 delivers better quality graphics to the world of simulation. There is a wide 5-year gap between these two video game titles, so a disparity between graphic quality is expected. For its time, The Sims 3 had pretty great graphics (at least that’s what my 13 year-old self thought 😋). However, in comparison, The Sims 4 has smoother and more details clothes, environmental objects and more.
The Sims 3 and The Sims 4 definitely have contrasting graphic styles. While The Sims 3 looked to be edging towards a more realistic vibe, The Sims 4 embraced brighter colors and a more cartoon-like style that balanced detail with reduced textures.
When comparing content, The Sims 3 trumps The Sims 4 any day, in my opinion. Not only did The Sims 3 basegame have more content by default, but The Sims 4 basegame didn’t offer some of the staple features such as pools, toddlers, and cars (all of which are highly controversial topics in the community). While The Sims 3 offered enough of content to keep your busy for hours and hours, The Sims 4 felt and sometimes still feels a little unfinished.
In addition, The Sims 3 released expansion and stuff packs that delivered a lot more “bang for your buck”. There is even a Sims 3 online store and community where SimsPoints can be purchased to buy possibly hundreds of individual additional content such as hair, clothing, interactive objects, and even entire worlds. Meanwhile, The Sims 4 has a much more user-friendly community through the game itself (eliminating the need to close your game to load new content).
The Sims 4 boasts a much more accepting platform for third-party custom content as well. Uploading custom content to The Sims 3 is time consuming with a higher risk of incompatibility. While The Sims 3 requires you to upload all custom content through a game launcher (which takes a long time, especially on a non-gaming computer), installing Sims 4 mods and custom content can be done with a simple copy/paste into a folder.
On the other hand, The Sims 4 provides much more consistent and reliable performance than The Sims 3. This is most likely due to a mixture of less-intensive but higher quality graphics, more performance-friendly development and a greater awareness of laptop gamers in the community.
While both iterations play better on gaming laptops or desktops, I personally experience far less lag, load times, and game crashing on The Sims 4 than I do on The Sims 3.
Many people also claim that The Sims 4 is much faster to start up than The Sims 3. But, the experimental side of me thought, “Why not test it?”. So, I used a stopwatch and timed the moment I pressed “Play” on Origin, to the moment the game zoomed in on my sim character (on a pre-created game save of course). Interestingly, there wasn’t too big of a difference!
The Sims 4 took 2 minutes 2 seconds to load.
The Sims 3 took a solid 2 minutes to load.
*Both on my Sims games had multiple expansions and custom content, but it is worth noting that these games were launched on a desktop computer with 14 GB of RAM and a gaming motherboard.
Open World, Story Progression & Cars
Other features that differ between The Sims 3 and The Sims 4 would be open-world gameplay, story progression, and cars.
While The Sims 3 loaded a bunch of content into open worlds with interactive cars and story progression for each individual sim, The Sims 4 cut back on the extras to focus on game performance. In The Sims 3, your sim can explore the entire world without the hindrance of loading screens, at the cost of introducing slower speeds and risk of crashing. On the other hand, The Sims 4 adopted more of a closed-world technique by loading each individual lot as your sim travels and completely removing cars. Though this method experienced some backlash from The Sims community (since it felt like taking a few steps back from its predecessor), it did help reduce lag and prevent game crashes.
Along with open world gameplay and cars, The Sims 3 basegame also offers story progression (a simulated effect that allow NPC sims to get married, get promoted, have families, move, and eventually pass away). Some simmers have debated on the effectiveness of vanilla story progression, so creators such as NRAAS have created script mods to build upon it and help to prevent game crashes. Story progression is perfect for gamers who love creating and sticking with save files for the long haul, making family trees, and watching the sim world develop.
However, The Sims 4 took a different path and skipped story progression (most likely for game performance). While the 4th iteration does offer an aging setting, the NPCs in The Sims 4 will not autonomously get married, move, have kids, or get promoted. This type of gameplay is best for those who prefer short-term save files or playing without the prospect of generations (you can, but the sim world around you will either stay the same or will need manual intervention). But! You can easily add story progression with MC Command Center.
So, is Sims 3 or Sims 4 better? That’s really up to you! Both additions to The Sims franchise are great additions and each has its own pros and cons. Whichever one you choose to play really depends on your gameplay style and what you look for in an entertaining video game.