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25 years since it launched, the best city building game ever is back

25 years since it first arrived, and changed the genre, the best city builder ever and ancestor to Cities Skylines 2 is finally on Steam.

SimCity 3000 Steam: A beautiful city from city building game SimCity 3000

Think of the games that are the best in their respective genres. Doom, you might argue, is the greatest FPS. Skyrim, perhaps, is the greatest modern – or at least Bethesda-style – RPG. But what about a game that’s so revered and highly regarded that it’s not just the best above all of its genre peers, but that it’s actually been featured in the Museum of Modern Art? We have Cities Skylines 2. We have rivals like Frostpunk 2 and Anno 1800. The city building game genre however will always belong to one incredibly special game from 1999. 25 years since it first arrived, it’s finally back, and available now on Steam.

SimCity 3000 is the city building game on which all others would eventually be modeled. It wasn’t the first – even Will Wright’s visionary 1989 original owes a creative debt to Utopia, from 1982 – but SimCity 3000 formalized, stratified, and defined the genre, in a way that makes it still feel modern 25 years later. If you play Cities Skylines 2 and then the first ever SimCity, although they have elements in common, the gulf between them feels pretty wide. Put on SimCity 3000, however, and you could be playing a city builder from 2024.

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I mentioned the Museum of Modern Art. In 2014, then-architecture student Vincent Ocasla used SimCity 3000 to create Magnasanti, a terrifying vision of dystopian, despotic regimentalism. On the surface, Ocasla’s city – with a population of six million – appears prosperous, efficient, and communally maintained through shared social values. In actuality, it’s a totalitarian nightmare with no schools, no public services, and a mean citizen life expectancy of 50. It features in a MoMA collection on the intersection of design and violence.

So that’s how good SimCity 3000 is – you can use it to create literal works of modern art. And now, finally, it’s been rereleased on Steam, where it’s currently available for $1.99 / £1.71. It’s part of a huge relaunch of EA classics onto Valve’s platform, which also includes a sizable new Command and Conquer collection. If you want to get SimCity 3000, just head right here.

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