The Sims taught us how to Get a Life at a time loaded with pop culture touchstones

The Sims
(Image credit: EA)

The 2000s brought us spiral hair gems, Avril Lavigne, and Groovy Chick everything – and also one of the best-selling games of all time: The Sims. The life simulator became a pop-culture phenomenon overnight and a cornerstone of sandbox gaming. Only PC players were able to board the launch bus to Sims city in 2000, however; we had to wait till 2003 to live our Big Brother dreams on PS2. 

So let's fast forward a few years, to when The Sims upped sticks and finally arrived on console, having undergone some serious renovations. It came to us in glorious full 3D, and with a far more nimble camera than the PC version had. Thanks to the analogue sticks, we were spinning around more times than Kylie Minogue as we decorated the kitchen of our Y2K pad, which felt more immersive than it would have from the older version's four static angles.

Show me the Simoleons

The Sims

(Image credit: EA)

The only playable mode upon starting the game on PS2 was Get A Life, the series' first dedicated foray into story mode. In it, once you've created your Sim, they fall well and truly on their feet, taking up residence in an extravagantly large mansion. They are then quickly swept into their lover's arms to share a steamy kiss, followed by a blurred-out dip in the infamous heart-shaped hot tub. Living the dream! 

Ah no, dreaming the dream. Just when your Sim seems to be living their best life, they are dragged from their idyllic reverie and slapped with harsh reality by their own mother – and she is far from happy. In truth, she's a nightmare to live with, and a menace for turning the radio on while your poor Sim was trying to have 40 winks. Yet she is surprisingly compliant when you ask her for a few simoleons (the game's currency) – §800, to be precise. 

Your first story goal is to fly the nest. When you move into a new home you have a number of tasks to complete before you can progress. Some goals enable you to access paid services such as housekeeping, but most unlock items in the catalogue so you can purchase them. Although limited, Get A Life holds some items that you won't find elsewhere, such as a Teppanyaki table. The catalogue's also packed with staples that became classics, such as the §80 Werkbunnst Chair – if you know, you know. As you progress through the six stages, levelling up your life gets harder as the unlocks keep flowing. 

You're also able to unlock a series of two-player minigames, adding yet another fresh feature into the mix. Each location lays out a scenario and gives you a typically timed goal for completion. Tasks vary from swindling unsuspecting Sims out of money to making friends with a certain number of 'Townies', and even stealing someone's food (an unforgivable crime). It's a great Sims twist on the typical PvP fare, allowing you to claim sweet victory for tidying up an apartment quicker than the mate sitting beside you. If you'd rather live in domestic harmony, you can run a home in multiplayer freeplay instead.

Sim-ply the best

The Sims

(Image credit: EA)

"The Sims holds up admirably almost 20 years later, and its unique modes make it well worth a revisit – as Avril says, can we make it any more obvious?"

Unlocked once you've got your start in Get A Life, the classic freeform Sims experience is yours with just a tap on 'Play The Sims'. And as much as we love the new modes, classic play still reigns supreme. While adding wallpaper can be a bit of a faff while building, once you're used to the DualShock's sensitivity constructing builds and commanding your Sim is intuitive, meaning you can lead that dream life in no time. 

Having the ability to pan around freely as you build really is a blessing. It only falls down when it comes to furnishings. With technical storage limitations on the console, you're only able to place as much furniture as your Buy Mode meter allows. But if choosing the heartshaped bed over the heart-shaped hot tub is your toughest decision that day, it's not all that bad – you win some, you lose some. 

So whether you're running a harmonious home with a pal in multiplayer or flying solo, The Sims holds up admirably almost 20 years later, and its unique modes make it well worth a revisit – as Avril says, can we make it any more obvious?

This feature first appeared in Play Magazine. For more fantastic features, interviews, reviews, and more, you can subscribe to Play magazine here .