Why I'm obsessed with SimCity

Andy Kelly on why the SNES version will always be his favourite...

Before SimCity, my Super Nintendo experience had been limited to colourful platformers and space shooters. Then, suddenly, I was building entire cities with my controller. Complex networks of power lines, roads, railways, and skyscrapers.

It seemed unbelievable at the time that they'd managed to squeeze all this into a tiny 16mb cartridge. Not only could you build your own metropolis, but there were scenarios set in pre-built cities designed to test your skills: a nuclear meltdown in Boston, flooding in Rio de Janeiro, a monster attack in Tokyo.

But it wasn't always so dramatic, which was actually part of the magic. Between moments of stress, SimCity was oddly relaxing. In quiet moments you could plant trees or tidy up your road network, waiting for your buildings to develop.

Close Close

Danger zone
The calm never lasted, though. While you were busy in one corner of your city, disaster would strike in another. Roads would fall into disrepair, causing massive traffic jams. Citizens would become irate about their increased taxes. Power lines would break, plunging entire blocks into darkness. It was like spinning plates.

SimCity also allowed you to be creative, which was unheard of on consoles at the time. The most efficient cities were built using a grid system, as favoured by American city planners in the real world, but where's the fun in that? I'd always try and give my creations personality, making interesting shapes out of roads and buildings.

What made this version special were the little Nintendo touches. On PC the monster that invaded your cities was a knock-off Godzilla; on SNES it was Bowser. If you managed to grow your population to 500,000, you'd be awarded a Mario statue to place in your city.


The SNES version also added some new features. Occasionally you'd be given special buildings as gifts, including casinos, amusement parks, and zoos. A character called Dr Wright, based on series creator Will Wright, would serve as your advisor, and Nintendo's Soyo Oka composed a memorable new score.

SimCity has grown ever more complex over the years, much like its sprawling cities, but the simplicity of the SNES version was appealing. Watching your tiny village grow into a teeming megalopolis was a real thrill. You needed a lot of patience, though. I lost count of how many cities I abandoned because the problems became too numerous to deal with.

I did manage to create one megalopolis, which I'd colourfully named 'Bumtown'. Pollution was high, the roads were thick with traffic, people were unhappy, the police and fire departments were under funded, and entire streets were disintegrating because there was no money to repair them. It was a nightmare, but it was my nightmare, and I was immensely proud of it.