Sims 3: Upping My Game

sims3logoRight on the edge of official announcements for the upcoming release of Sims 4, I find myself lately rediscovering Sims 3 in ways I never have before. This is mostly due to finding the community of Sims folks who share experiences and content through Tumblr. These people often call themselves Simblrs, and the Simblr tag is an amazing array of story, images, downloads and all things that makes a game like Sims 3 flourish.

I look at their amazing fashion and screenshots, look at my paltry images for Time Travel Tuesdays, and knew instantly I’ve been doing it wrong. However, it took me the better part of weeks to learn what they have that I don’t. Most of those are mods.

Before I work through this list of discovered mods and methods, I’d like to note that I have a fairly new and powerful computer that has no issue running Sims at highest settings, even with HD mods. Not everyone can do this, and it’s only something I suggest if your hardware can handle it.

Modding Madness

After lurking around the Simblr tag for a while, I discovered much of the beauty of their work comes from a combination of mods, custom content, poses and photoshop work. I wanted to gather a list of Sims 3 mods that have really made the difference in my game and screenshot quality.

NRaas – I’m going to throw this out there at the top of the list as mods I’ve known and used for years, and simply can’t play without. Especially Master Controller, Overwatch and Story Progression. To some, it may be cheating, but to me, it gives me the flexibility to alter the game in ways that makes it more fun for me. Plus, when glitches arise, these mods can help reset stuck Sims and restore lost Sims.

simphotoHQ Mod – This is the biggie, the High Quality mod that makes all the difference. This is not something you should run constantly unless your computer can handle it. But if you want beautiful screens of high quality sims, this is what you’re looking for. Here’s a wonderful tutorial that got me started.

Base Skins – There’s not much point in making your sims look high quality if you’re using the sub-par default skins. There’s lots of talented people who create beautiful skin blends that you can download and install. I’ve started to use You Are Real as my default and let me tell you… the quality of my sims’ appearance has improved greatly. You just don’t know until you see it! There’s tons of skins to pick from, and many Simblrs create their own, or list their favorite skins in a CC or Downloads section. Pick some that you love!

Lighting Mods – There are some breathtaking Sims 3 landscape shots as well. I thought that maybe some of it was heavily filtered in Photoshop until I discovered much of it comes from installed lighting mods. Again, the difference it makes is astounding! I chose Perfect Day, created by Tumblr user brntwaffles. You can find a ton of options to download there, or search around for other lighting mods online.

Poses – Sim folks also create custom poses that freeze your sims and allows you to take photos of them in an environment or a photo backdrop. You install these poses just like any other custom content, and must install the Pose Player mod to use them. To make it much simpler, I also installed the Pose Player Interaction Add-On, which allows you to launch poses from the Sim itself, rather than the Pose Player object. Again, you can find poses created by the community — there are tons to install!

Camera Mod – Now you have the poses, let’s get that camera lined up the way you like! Shimrod’s Camera Mod with brntwaffle’s low level zoom is amazing for getting all the shots you need!

Custom Content

Custom content (CC) is another huge part of upping your game. I know some folks only like to play vanilla Sims 3 for fear of the glitches CC causes. This is true — anytime you introduce mods and CC into your game, you risk something being incompatible or glitching. But there’s some truly lovely clothes, skins, poses, worlds and lots that you can add to your game which will make it all the more fun.

Sims 3 cityscape taken with lighting mods.
Sims 3 cityscape taken with lighting mods.

Finding CC – You’ll find that as you start looking for CC, it’s everywhere! You can go to Mod the Sims, The Sims Resource, or a variety of websites that talented creators set up for their downloads. Lately, I’ve been on an indie kick. A lot of Simblrs don’t rely on the big sites to display their gifts and newest work. You can find some of the best things highlighted at the My Sims 3 Blog — it has an amazing daily stream of beautiful content. I really don’t know how they do it!

CC Magic – Then comes the problem of having too much CC. The more you add, the slower your game will launch — just makes sense. I’ve been experimenting with CC Magic, which not only helps you organize new and old CC downloads, but compresses them and helps your game load faster. I just started using this, and haven’t found any issues with it so far, so I wanted to offer it as a possible option for helping folks with huge libraries. This tutorial and this tutorial may be helpful.


With The Sims 4 launching (hopefully) sometime this year, the content and mods for The Sims 3 have come to an amazing height. It’s going to take the community quite a while to figure out Sims 4 to the point where they can create custom content of this depth. I saw the same happen when Sims 3 was launched — Simmers complained about how little content there was in comparison to Sims 2. 😀

So even though new gaming experiences are on the horizon, this is a wonderful time to get back into playing Sims 3. The game is at its peak, and content from the community just keeps coming. I know that I’m having fun with my sims in ways I would have never imagined back when this game first released (and I remember getting it on release day!).



    1. It doesn’t fix everything, but I did see an improvement when it came to launching the game load times. I think my neighborhood is getting too large, though, and that always bogs down my game. :/

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