2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Computer & Video games


Early cover arts of SimCity feature a jukebox-like design, with different versions depicting different cities and disasters.
Developer(s) Maxis
Nintendo EAD (SNES version)
Publisher(s) Brøderbund, Maxis, Nintendo, Electronic Arts and Superior Software/ Acornsoft
Designer(s) Will Wright (SimCity series)
Release date(s) See "ports and versions"
Genre(s) Simulation
City-building game
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ELSPA: 3+ (Windows)
ESRB: Everyone (E) (Wireless)
Platform(s) See "ports and versions"
Input Keyboard & mouse

SimCity is a simulation and city-building personal computer game, first released in 1989 and designed by Will Wright. SimCity was Maxis' first product, which has since been ported into various personal computers and game consoles, and enhanced into several different versions including SimCity 2000 in 1993, SimCity 3000 in 1999 and SimCity 4 in 2003, while the original SimCity was later rebranded as SimCity Classic. Until the release of The Sims in 2000, the SimCity series was the best-selling line of computer games made by Maxis.

SimCity spawned an entire series of Sim games. Since the release of SimCity, similar simulation games have been released focusing on different aspects of reality such as business simulation in Capitalism.


SimCity was originally developed by game designer Will Wright. The inspiration for SimCity came from a feature of the game Raid on Bungeling Bay that allowed Wright to create his own maps during development. Wright soon found he enjoyed creating maps more than playing the actual game, and SimCity was born.

The first version of the game was developed for the Commodore 64 in 1985, but it would not be published for another four years. While the game sparked a new paradigm in computer gaming (by creating a game that could neither be won nor lost), game publishers did not believe it was possible to market and sell such a game successfully. Brøderbund declined to publish the title when Wright proposed it, and he pitched it to a range of major game publishers without success. Finally, founder Jeff Braun of then-tiny Maxis agreed to publish SimCity as one of two initial games for the company.

Wright and Braun returned to Brøderbund to formally clear the rights to the game in 1988, when SimCity was near completion. Brøderbund executives Gary Carlston and Don Daglow saw that the title was infectious and fun, and signed Maxis to a distribution deal for both of its initial games. With that, four years after initial development, SimCity was released for the Amiga and Macintosh platforms, followed by the IBM PC and Commodore 64 later in 1989.

SimCity is predominantly a single-player game (the exception being a "Network Edition" of SimCity 2000, and an obscure Unix port of the original SimCity). SimCity 4 also makes an attempt at multiplayer gaming with the ability to share regional maps and cities with other players, allowing players to collaborate, but not play in real time.


The objective of SimCity, as the name of the game suggests, is to build and design a city, without specific goals to achieve (except in the scenarios, see below). The player can mark land as being zoned as commercial, industrial, or residential, add buildings, change the tax rate, build a power grid, build transportation systems and many other actions, in order to enhance the city.

Also, the player may face disasters including: flooding, tornadoes, fires (often from air disasters or even shipwrecks), earthquakes and attacks by monsters. In addition, monsters and tornados can trigger train crashes by running into passing trains. Later disasters in the game's sequels included lightning strikes, volcanoes, meteors and attack by extra-terrestrial craft.

In the SNES version and later, one can also build rewards when they are given to them, such as a mayor's mansion, casino, etc.


The original SimCity kicked off a tradition of goal-centered, timed scenarios that could be won or lost depending on the performance of the player/mayor. The original cities were all based on real world cities and attempted to re-create their general layout, a tradition carried on in SimCity 2000 and in special scenario packs. While most scenarios either take place in a fictional timeline or have a city under siege by a fictional disaster, a handful of available scenarios are based on actual historical events.

The original scenarios are:

  • Bern, 1965 - The Swiss capital is clogged with traffic, the mayor needs to reduce traffic and improve the city.
  • Boston, 2010 - The city's nuclear power plant suffers a meltdown, irradiating a portion of the city. The mayor must rebuild, contain the toxic areas, and return the city to prosperity. In some early editions of SimCity (on lower-power computers that did not include the nuclear power plants), this scenario was altered to have a tornado strike the city. Much like the Tokyo scenario below, the mayor needs to limit damage and rebuild.
  • Detroit, 1972 - Crime and depressed industry wreck the city. The mayor needs to reduce crime and reorganize the city to better develop. The scenario is a reference to Detroit's declining state during the late 20th century (See also History of Detroit, Michigan).
  • Rio de Janeiro, 2047 - Coastal flooding resulted from global warming rages through the city. The mayor must control the problem and rebuild. In some early editions of SimCity (on lower-power computers that did not include the flooding disaster), this scenario was altered to have the objective be fighting high crime.
  • San Francisco, 1906 - An earthquake hits the city, the mayor must control the subsequent damage, fires and rebuild. The scenario references the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
  • Tokyo, 1961 - The city is attacked by a Godzilla-type monster ( Bowser in the SNES version). The mayor needs to limit the damage and rebuild. The scenario is strongly based on the original series of Godzilla films.

The CD re-release, as well as the Amiga and Atari ST versions included two additional scenarios:

  • Dullsville, USA, 1900 - Boredom plagues a stagnating city in the middle of the United States; the mayor is tasked to turn Dullsville into a metropolis within 30 years.
  • Hamburg, Germany, 1944 - Bombing, where the mayor has to govern the city during the closing years of World War II and rebuild it later. This scenario references the bombing of Hamburg in World War II.

In addition, the later edition of SimCity on the Super Nintendo (SNES) included the basics of these two scenarios in two, more difficult scenarios that were made available after a player had completed the original scenarios:

  • Las Vegas - Aliens attack the city. This invasion is spread out over several years, stretching city resources. While somewhat similar to Hamburg, the scenario included casino features as well as animated flying saucers.
  • Freeland - Using a blank map without any water form, the mayor must build a game-described megalopolis of at least 500,000 people. There is no time limit in this scenario. While similar to the earlier Dullsville scenario, Freeland took advantage of the SNES version's clear delineations between city sizes, particularly metropolis and megalopolis. In the centre of Freeland is a series of trees that bear the familiar head of Mario. However, the player is unable to build any of the reward buildings from the normal game.

Ports and versions

SimCity was originally released for the personal computer, including the Amiga, Atari ST and DOS-based IBM PC. After its success it was converted for several other computer platforms and video game consoles, including the Commodore 64, Mac OS-based Macintosh, Acorn Archimedes, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Sega Saturn, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, EPOC32, mobile phone, Internet, Windows, Virtual Console, FM-Towns and NeWS HyperLook on Sun Unix. The game is also available as a multiplayer version for X11 TCL/ Tk on various Unix, Linux, DESQview and OS/2 operating systems. Certain versions have since been re-released with various add-ons, including extra scenarios.

Notable versions
Platform Version - Release date Comments Image
Amiga V.1.0 - NA 1989 Alongside SimCity for the Macintosh, this was the first and original version of SimCity. It ran on unexpanded Amigas with at least 512 kilobyte of memory, and was distributed on a single 880 kilobyte floppy disk.
V.2.0 Has new title sets, but requires 1MB of memory.
Amiga CDTV EU 1991 Features a new interface fitted for the remote control.
Amstrad CPC V.1.0 - EU 1990
Atari ST V.1.0 - NA 1989 Features 16 colors
BBC Micro
Acorn Electron
V.1.0 - UK 1990
Commodore 64 V.1.0 - NA 1989
Macintosh V.1.0 - NA 1989 Features high resolution monochrome graphics
PC MS-DOS - NA 1989 Features high resolution EGA graphics and PC speaker audio.
CD-ROM Released by Interplay for DOS, it added multimedia content in the form digitized photos, sounds and live-action video.
Windows - NA 1991
Super NES JP April 26, 1991
NA August, 1991
EU September 24, 1992
Published by Nintendo under license by Maxis, the SNES version of SimCity had additional features not found in the original SimCity, including graphics changing to match the seasons (trees are green in summer, turn rusty brown in the fall, white in the winter, and bloom as cherry blossoms in the spring), civic reward buildings, and a very energetic green-haired city advisor named Dr. Wright (after Will Wright), who would often pop up and inform the player of problems with their city. In addition, the SNES version of SimCity had two additional bonus scenarios, accessible when the original scenarios were completed: Las Vegas and Freeland (see section on scenarios). The style of the buildings also resemble those in Japan rather than those of North America in Western releases.

Nintendo also put their stamp on the game, with the most dangerous disaster being Bowser attack on a city (in place of a generic movie-type monster), and a Mario statue awarded once a Megalopolis level of 500,000 inhabitants is reached.

The SNES version of SimCity has been released for the Wii's Virtual Console service

ZX Spectrum V.1.0 - 1989
  • SimCity Classic is available for Palm OS and on the website as Classic Live. It was also released by Atelier Software for the Psion 5 handheld computer, and mobile phones in 2006.
  • The July 2005 issue of Nintendo Power stated that a development cartridge of SimCity for the NES was found at Nintendo headquarters. Never released, it is reportedly the only one in existence.
  • Additionally a terrain editor and architecture disks were available with tileset graphics for settings of Ancient Asia, Medieval, Wild West, Future Europe, Future USA and a Moon Colony.
Multi player SimCity for X11 TCL/Tk on the SGI Indigo workstation
Multi player SimCity for X11 TCL/ Tk on the SGI Indigo workstation
  • Versions of SimCity for the BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, and Acorn Archimedes computers were published by Superior Software/ Acornsoft. Programmer Peter Scott had to squeeze the 512k Amiga version of the game into 20k in order to run on the ageing 32k BBC Micro and Acorn Electron. Despite this, it kept almost all of the functionality of the Amiga game and very similar graphics (although only using four colours).
  • DUX Software published a Unix version of SimCity for the NeWS window system using the HyperLook user interface environment, and a multi-player version of SimCity for the X11 window system using the TCL/ Tk user interface toolkit, both developed and ported to various platforms by Don Hopkins.

For other Sim games, see the list of Sim games.

Critical acclaim and legacy

SimCity was critically acclaimed and received significant recognition within a year after its initial release. As of December 1990 (from a Maxis document by Sally Vandershaf, Maxis P.R. Coordinator), the game was reported to have won the following awards:

  • Best Entertainment Program 1989.
  • Best Educational Program, 1989.
  • Best Simulation Program, 1989.
  • Critics' Choice: Best Consumer Program, 1989, Software Publisher's Association.
  • Most Innovative Publisher, 1989, Computer Game Developer's Conference.
  • Best PC Game, 1989.
  • Member of the 1989 Game Hall of Fame, Macworld.
  • Game of the Year, 1989., Computer Gaming World.
  • Second Best Simulation of all Time for C-64.
  • Fourth Best Simulation of All Time for Amiga, .info.
  • Editors' Choice Award: Best Simulation, 1989, Compute.
  • Editors' Choice Award: Best Recreation Program, 1989, MacUser.
  • Best Computer Strategy Game, 1989, Video Games & Computer Entertainment.
  • Best Game Designer of the Year: Will Wright, for SimCity, 1989, Computer Entertainer.
  • Best 20th Century Computer Game, 1989, Charles S. Roberts Award.
  • Software Award of Excellence, 1990-1991, Technology and Learning.
  • Best Educational Program, 1990, European Computer Leisure Award.
  • Tild D'Or (Golden Award): Most Original Game, 1989, Tilt (France).
  • Game of the Year, 1989, Amiga Annual (Australia).
  • World Class Award, 1990, Macworld (Australia).

In addition, SimCity won the Origins Award for "Best Military or Strategy Computer Game" of 1989 in 1990, and the multiplayer X11 version of the game was also nominated in 1992 as the Best Product of the Year in Unix World.


The subsequent success of SimCity speaks for itself: "Sim" games of all types were developed — with Will Wright and Maxis developing myriad titles including SimEarth, SimFarm, SimTown, Streets of SimCity, SimCopter, SimAnt, SimLife, SimIsle, SimPark, SimSafari, Sim Theme Park and The Sims, as well as SimsVille and SimMars, which were both never released. They also obtained licenses for some titles developed in Japan, such as SimTower and Let's Take The A-Train (just called A-Train outside of Japan). The most recent development is The Sims, and its sequel, The Sims 2. An upcoming release, Spore, was originally going to be titled "SimEverything" - a name that Will Wright thought might accurately describe what he was trying to achieve. Three SimCity sequels were also spawned - SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000 and SimCity 4. At present, a fifth SimCity is revealed by EA chief financial officer Warren Jenson to be "in the pipeline."

SimCity inspired a new genre of video games. "Software toys" that were open-ended with no set objective were developed trying to duplicate SimCity's success. The most successful was most definitely Wright's own The Sims, which went on to be the best selling computer game of all time. The ideas pioneered in SimCity have been incorporated into real-world applications as well. For example, VisitorVille simulates a city based on website statistics.

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