The base game for The Sims 4 is currently free from now until the 28th of May. You should get it. Yes, you! If this frees up a little cash for getting an expansion as well, here are a few suggestions.
The Sims 4 base game has been criticised for not having much content in it, which I can understand. Every base game in The Sims tends to feel pretty barren. If you’re not content to add mods and custom hair or make up, getting an expansion or two can make your game feel more lively.
For every Sims game, the developers have released three different tiers of downloadable content. There are Stuff Packs, which are small, cheaper packs that have a limited amount of themed things, like Cool Kitchen Stuff. There are Game Packs, which usually introduce a couple new gameplay mechanics or new Vacation Worlds for your Sims to visit. There are also Expansion Packs, which add a lot of new content and mechanics, and in some cases radically change the game. I own every single item in every single category, and I’ve given a lot of thought as to what I would recommend for people to buy if they aren’t in a position to write off game purchases in their taxes.
As far as Stuff Packs and Game Packs go, it’s up to personal preference. Some people might need Vampires in their game, while others are more interested in sending their Sims to Selvadorada. The only one I’d really recommend is Parenthood, which makes toddlers, children and teens a bit more complex in both their emotions and in gameplay, but even that is up for debate.
Expansion Packs are more cut and dried for me. Some of them deepen the game play, and some add convenience in a way that I think would make any player’s Sims 4 experience fuller. Here are the ones I think you should buy, in order of importance.
When people criticise The Sims for putting essential features in expansions, usually I think they’re full of it, but when it comes to Seasons, I think they’re on the money. It’s not even the addition of seasons that makes this pack essential—it’s the calendar.
In The Sims 4's base game, any time you want to have any event of any kind, you’ll have to have it happen right away. Want to get married? It’s happening now. Want to have a party? Too bad for your kids coming home from school, it’s party time. Being able to schedule things in advance changes the game radically, and it’s the kind of quality of life improvement that I’d have hoped would be in the game at release.
Beyond that, having Seasons in your game makes the passage of time more clear. Even if you don’t take advantage of seasonal activities, like snowball fights in wintertime or running through the sprinkler in the summer, having your Sims grow up and have birthdays as the seasons change makes the world feel more real. And that’s not to mention the holidays, which offer a nice opportunity to bring your family together for some bonding.
This one is all about the world that comes with this pack, San Myshuno. The base game doesn’t offer many places for your Sim to live. You have a choice between a bland midwestern American world and a bland desert world. City Living adds a Sim version of San Francisco, and not only is it gorgeous, it added a system that makes these worlds seem way more alive.
San Myshuno is divided into different districts that have different characteristics. In these districts, you don’t have to load into a new area when you step out of your Sims’s flat—you can just hang out and walk around. In the Spice District, where the artsy hipsters live, you step out of your flat immediately into a park where you can play basketball, or you can walk down the road to a cute karaoke place. Sometimes there will be festivals going on in those outdoor spaces as well, which are a great place to meet new Sims. Looking for a mate for your Sim? Check out the Romance Festival, where the Sakura Blossom Tea will make everyone a little bit more flirty.
Cats and Dogs & Get Famous
I like both these expansions an equal amount, and if you have the option to get both, do so. They don’t add as much as City Living or Seasons, but if you really want to have celebrities or pets in your game, then you should pick one of these up.
They’re about equal to me because these packs are all about the added mechanics, and some people like being able to pet a cat more than they like being able to make adoring fans faint on command. It’s all down to personal preference, but luckily they’re both polished enough that either one will be a good experience.
If you’re in the category of people that’s more into pets, Cats and Dogs is the sure bet between these two. Sometimes, I spend half an hour just noodling around in Create A Pet, because it has a neat feature where you can mix breeds together. Ever wanted to see what a Maine Coon and a hairless Egyptian cat would look like if they had kittens? Or a Wiener Dog and a Poodle? You now have your chance, and your Sim can fall in love with whatever mutt you create. I especially like that Sims can go on a run with their dogs. It helps keep them active.
If you’d prefer adoring fans to an adoring pet, Get Famous may be the best realised version of the celebrity mechanic that The Sims has ever had. Anything that you think your Sim could get famous for, they can. If you start singing in public, or add to your Simstagram Story, or stream yourself playing a game, your Sim can ride that clout into celebrity. What I love is that it’s also a challenge to stay famous once you become so. If you stop streaming for a few days, you risk losing a level of celebrity. I also think the Acting career that’s been added with this pack is especially creative in its design; it makes the work/life grind a bit more unpredictable. Instead of going to a gig every day, Actor Sims have to audition for gigs and then fulfil specific requirements during a shoot if they pass the audition.
The Sims 4 is a good game on its own, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the puzzle of trying to keep everyone happy after the kids were up all night finishing homework and Dad burns breakfast and, well, the list goes on. If you do have the option of getting an expansion, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
If you can’t afford any additional expansions right now, the base game is still worth a try. Make someone that looks like you—or looks radically different—and send them out into the world. Have them get married, have some kids, get promoted. Open yourself up the idea of caring about them as they journey into old age. The Sims 4 might just lodge itself into your subconscious and change the way you think about life, as it has for me many times over.