SimCity’s legacy is most notable on the PC, but the original city builder also had a notable console port courtesy of Nintendo on the SNES. An NES version of the game was in development even earlier than that, and historians have managed to get hold of a very late prototype of the title. The resulting breakdown gives us a massive insight into what happens when two of the most notable game designers of all time work together.
The SimCity NES port has many of the same features as the SNES version that would eventually be released. It has a much more defined structure than the true sandbox of the PC original, giving players population goals to work toward and special buildings for reaching those milestones. It offers bank loans to give your more cash management options, and it has a friendly advisor named Dr. Wright who helps explain the basics to you.
These sorts of changes are the result of a collaboration between Will Wright and Shigeru Miyamoto, as the Video Game History Foundation details. When Nintendo and Maxis struck a deal to bring SimCity to console, Wright was flown to Kyoto, and he spent a week there alongside Miyamoto redesigning the city builder to fit the platform.
Since the NES port was in development first, this prototype – which first surfaced last year – serves as a sort of rough draft for what we’d eventually have on the SNES. There are some notable changes, like a smaller tile size for zones in this earlier edition.
A ROM of the prototype is available on Archive.org, along with a commentated source code disassembly, full soundtrack, a FAQ, and various other artifacts related to development. There are certainly better ways to play SimCity these days – this is still a buggy, unfinished prototype – but this is incredible as a piece of gaming history.