The next generation of The Sims will finally have some much-needed competition

The Sims 4
(Image credit: Maxis, Electronic Arts)
Recent updates

May 2024: We've updated this story to include the announcement of another life sim being worked on by a new studio co-founded by XCOM 2's creative director and also the (latest) Life By You delay.

The Sims series has enjoyed decades of uncontested dominance in the dollhouse-core simulation genre. It's been a steady staple, but I'm not alone in feeling trapped by it. I love the Sims, but it desperately needs a challenger and finally there are three games queued to take it on.

Former Sims developer Rod Humble is working on Life By You while the indie team behind Paralives continues public-facing development. More recently announced, InZoi is also joining the lineup with its extra beautiful visuals. All three contenders are singleplayer and will have a character creator, a live mode life simulation, and a build mode, and are offering some features they think The Sims hasn't been.

Lately it feels like The Sims 4 is drifting into retirement on a cushy pension built by yearly expansions without any major systematic shakeups. This is the moment (and by moment I mean the next three-ish years) that would-be Sims-killers need to strike. Here's what they're bringing in an attempt to usurp the throne:

Life By You: The Sims but customized 

(Image credit: Paradox tectonic)

When it's coming: Unknown—was previously planning to launch in early access on June 4, 2024 until it was delayed.
What's the pitch: "One of the most moddable and open life-simulation games"

Life By You is being developed at a Paradox Interactive studio, the publisher who's responsible for other deep simulations, notably SimCity destroyer Cities: Skylines. The name Life By You is drab, but it does communicate its core values of extreme customization. "We want to sell a life simulator that I think the community has been asking for for a long time," creative director Rod Humble told us in a Life By You interview in 2023.

Humble talked about letting players get granular with the rules of their worlds, even. There will be a default spread of skin colors, sexualities, and other characteristics but you can tweak those yourself to create a world "full of people who just fall in love with me," or where other traits are predominant. It's also going to be highly moddable, with scripting tools available to go so far as building your own jobs, objects, and maybe your own expansion. That freedom of creation is enticing, so long as it can grab and sustain players willing to feed each other new content.

The sticking point for me on Life By You is that it's a bit ugly—it's got big 'virtually staged Zillow listing' vibes. Aesthetic builds and beautiful creations are a huge part of The Sims community and I struggle to envision something similar forming around Life By You the way it looks now. Not for nothing though, Humble is also extremely enthusiastic about mods, telling us modders are welcome to monetize however they want

Here are the important features Life By You is touting:

  • An open world with no loading screens
  • Over-the shoulder view with direct WASD and mouse control of your characters
  • Cars you can actually dive, a miracle
  • Characters communicate with real language, not a Simlish equivalent
  • Sharable custom quests akin to community challenges

Paralives: The Sims but flexible 

(Image credit: Alex Massé)

When it's coming: Early access in 2025
What's the pitch: A life sim with fewer guardrails on your creativity

There's also Paralives, which has been in development for several years and is being funded by Patreon contributions currently totaling over $37,000 per month. If visual style is your must-have, then Paralives is the life sim to watch. It's got a cozy color palette, soft lighting, and characters with a perpetual blush.

As a build mode lover, I've been very excited about what I've seen of Paralives so far. Curved walls are a blessing as is grid-free building. I bow down before resizable windows and furniture designs I can customize, like dragging a table lamp until it becomes a floor lamp variant. There's plenty for Create-A-Simmers to be psyched about too from color wheel choices to tattoo and scar placement. Oh, and a height slider so your Paras won't all be identically-statured.

My concern with Paralives is that it's being made by a small team and has no specific launch date yet. It may be a while yet and no matter how much grumbling Sims players do about long-awaited features I fear that EA's powerhouse will steamroll this indie effort if it doesn't get out far enough ahead of The Sims 5. It seems to be planning for longevity though. When announcing its 2025 release year plans, Paralives also comitted to free expansions and no paid DLCs—ever.

Here's what we can expect Paralives to bring to the table:

  • Cats, dogs, horses, and seasons are all included (not expansions, bless)
  • An open world with cars, bikes, and boats
  • Highly custom character creation with height, body size, color wheels, and manually placed skin effects
  • Curved walls and grid-free building

InZoi: The Sims but super realistic

(Image credit: Krafton)

When it's coming: Sometime in 2024
What's the pitch: A very polished and pretty life sim "where players become gods"

From everything we've seen of it so far, it's clear that Inzoi is pushing its realism and beauty as a key component. I certainly can't argue with how pretty it looks in the initial reveal video. The emphasis on visuals is definitely going to be a draw for the Sims players who love installing realistic hair, clothes, and skin mods. 

Like Sims, your avatar "Zoys" will have traits, jobs, romances, and be able to explore the city. In particular, its job system seems to prioritize active jobs way more than The Sims 4 does. The gameplay reveal shows a Zoy working at an office, another mopping at a convenience store, and one waiting tables. The Sims 4 has added a few more jobs where you're actually going to a location and performing tasks, instead of leaving home and skipping most of the day, but InZoi gives the impression that simulating job tasks on site will be the standard.

Its latest gameplay video showcase, Inzoi showed off a lot of other wild features like sleepwalking, tarot readings, and a reputation system. 

Here are a bunch of other featurse we can expect from Inzoi:

  • Drivable cars with color customization (and car accidents?)
  • Autosave functionality
  • Group activities like karaoke, chess, and visiting cafes
  • Difficulty settings controlling how quickly you can progress relationships
  • A reputation system based on your good and bad actions
  • City editing features for controlling weather, landscaping, cleanliness, and crime rates
  • Support for modding and custom content
  • In-game catalog of player-made content called "canvas"
  • An in-game "studio" location for staging your own screenshots

Midsummer Studios' unnamed life sim

When it's coming: Unknown
What's the pitch: The Sims but "you can't play without writing a story."

The newest life sim that's been announced comes from a slightly unexpected source: the former creative director of XCOM 2 and Marvel's Midnight Suns: Jake Solomon. It's so early days that there's nothing visual to see yet, but we were able to get a lot of information about Solomon's plans in a Midsummer Studios interview.

Solomon describes a life sim that's inspired by small town drama where everyone knows everyone. He wants to create a game "that you can't play without writing a story." It's expected to be a Sims-style overhead view where you can control your own character or hop around to others while juggling their wants and motivations across various scenes of their day.

Solomon told us that Midsummer is enthusiastic about mods, though doesn't have details yet on what mod support may look like. He also would like a decorating and build mode, but says simulating relationships is his top priority and isn't positive that a building system will be included in its initial launch.

As for when this game might launch, well it's likely much further away than these other choices.

The Sims 5: best hits of The Sims, maybe 

(Image credit: Electronic Arts, Maxis)

When it's coming: Sometime after the "next few years" of development
What's the pitch: It's the devil you know

Of course we also know that the next major release in The Sims series is on its way too. Currently nicknamed Project Rene, "The Sims 5" as we're calling it in the meantime is the game that Life By You and Paralives will actually be competing with. 

We've seen glimpses of The Sims 5 in development so far, with promises from EA that it will continue sharing throughout the process. From that openness we know that the next Sims game will have cross-platform multiplayer and cross-saves. We've seen a peek at several players all editing an apartment by moving furniture simultaneously. We'll have greater choices for sharing creations like saving a furniture layout or a customized couch. Personally, I'm quite jazzed that the colorpicker and pattern choice Create-A-Style tool is returning from The Sims 3.

The drawback in The Sims 5 is that, well, it's more of The Sims, for better and for worse. Though a recent job posting has revealed that the base game will likely be free, we all know that means paying in the form of many, many DLCs. There's no hope that seasons and pets come in the base game this time, is there? The same job posting hinted at an in-game marketplace for free and paid content by other players. For all my hand-wringing about a litany of DLC though, Paradox Interactive is known for extensive catalogues of sim game DLCs, so I don't expect Life By You to buck this trend.

Here are the other improvements we know The Sims 5 is bringing so far:

  • The return of Create-A-Style for customizing furniture and modular furniture pieces
  • An in-game marketplace for custom content
  • Apartment units will be in the base game
  • Cross-platform save files and crossplay multiplayer
  • Base game will likely be free-to-play
Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.