Since the game first launched in 2014, The Sims 4 has given players a ton of great updates for free. Upon release, the latest title in the long-running life simulation franchise was criticized for leaving out key features players have come to expect in a base game for The Sims, including pools, terrain shaping tools, toddler life stage, story progression and more. To remedy this, is Sims the team has added new features in a series of free updates and patches to the base game, along with the game’s extensive DLC releases of expansion packs, game packs, item packs and, more recently, kits.

The Sims 4 infant update coming in 2023 is set to expand gameplay through a brand new life stage never before seen in The Sims game. The announcement was an unexpected but pleasant surprise for fans of a franchise criticized for its high amount of paid DLC, but the addition of infants is not the first free update for The Sims 4. Over the past nine years have Sims the team has patched plenty of long-awaited features, including gender customization, neighborhood stories, and curved walls. The updates have had varying degrees of success, with some receiving a more positive response than others.

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At launch, longtime players were horrified to find The Sims 4 lacked features that were part of previous base games, including swimming pools. A key feature even in the original, harder Sims wildly, swimming pools are associated with one of the longest-running and best-known Sims memes: killing a sim by removing the pool ladder. Puljer’s exclusion from the regular season was a source of disappointment to the point that they were quickly rectified less than two months after The Sims 4‘s official release. Although it’s more of an expected feature than something innovative, the addition pleased builders and malicious players alike.

Pronouns and sexual orientation

The Sims 4 Pronoun Customization screen.

The Sims 4s focus on diversity was demonstrated by 2016’s gender alignment update and has continued in subsequent free patches, notably the pronouns and sexual orientation update released before The Sims 4 high school year expansion pack in 2022. Now players can choose Sims’ sexual orientation and pronouns. While the sexual orientation aspect may feel redundant—all Sims are pansexual by default, allowing the player to choose their orientation through gameplay—it’s a great step for visibility and inclusion. Pronouns will hopefully also pave the way for similar opportunities in the future Sims titles and other video game franchises.

Stairs that can be customized

Stairs with configuration options shown during a Sims 4 live stream.

Building is a central component of The Sims 4, with intuitive building tools that often make up for sluggish live-mode gameplay. One of the most requested updates is spiral staircases, a feature that came with the DLC The Sims 2 and 3. While still to be added The Sims 4there was a free update with a brand new stair building system in 2019. Stairs can be adjusted in multiple directions, allowing for customizations that can really enhance a build The Sims 4. While it may not be the spiral staircase many want, it is a useful tool that can be used to create custom spiral staircases, albeit in a blocky fashion.

Freelance career

A digital artist freelancer working in The Sims 4.

The Sims 4 makes every effort to reflect modern life and does away with some of the traditional details found in previous games. For example, Sims now depend on cell phones instead of newspapers. The game also offers a more modern take on working life, particularly working from home and freelance careers. Freelancing arrived in a base game update in 2019 and allows Sims to become freelance programmers, writers or digital artists. Although it is not the fastest way to make money The Sims 4giving the careers a more modern feel to the game, and the patch also brought content that would typically be reserved for paid DLC.

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Extended activities for children

A child sim cooks with an adult in The Sims 4.

Children were a long neglected stage of life The Sims 4 but Sims the team aimed to fix this with a free base game update in July 2021, which brought new activities for kids: cooking and gardening. Gardening can be done alone, while cooking is an activity kids can do with older Sims, and both help kid Sims build their skills. While this was a relatively minor update compared to some, it marked the start of more activities for kids, a foundation that will likely be built upon in 2023, with the new roadmap giving fans hope for The Sims 4.

Lots of hills in The Sims 4.

Another feature is missing from the original release of The Sims 4 were terrain tools – the ability to terraform the landscape. Terrain tools included in all versions of the game until The Sims 4 and really came into their own Sims 3giving players the ability to create valleys and mountains with ease, which made their omissions off The Sims 4 even more confusing. Released as a free update in 2018, terrain tools can be difficult to master due to sometimes confusing controls, but they provide an extra level of creative freedom that any builder appreciates – especially those into fantasy gameplay in The Sims 4.

Gender adjustment

The Sims 4 renders artwork with Sims created with the gender customization tools.

In 2016, the biggest free update to The Sims 4 was the gender customization patch, which introduced create-a-sim options that promote gender diversity. Players can now choose whether their Sims can get pregnant, their preferred clothing style, and dress Sims in clothing previously only available to the opposite sex. While the game sometimes struggles to accommodate the latter due to the different frames used for male vs. female Sims, the sheer size and importance of the update should not be overlooked. It confirms The Sims’ commitment to diversity and allows for more of what The Sims is about: freedom of expression.


A sim profile that shows emotions in The Sims 4.

Emotions, a selection of feelings Sims have about others that are affected by interactions, were added The Sims 4 as a free update in 2020. Emotions can be affected by both positive and negative interactions and will affect how Sims behave. While not a replacement for a memory system, it is a much-needed feature in one Sims 4 generations pack, emotions add an extra depth to the gameplay. Perhaps the most exciting part of the emotes update, however, is the possibilities it opened up for community modders. Sims 4 content creator Lumpinofor example, was able to create a useful First Impressions system thanks to emotions.

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Little children

Sims 4 toddlers stand in a circle and look down at the camera.

Another feature left out at launch arrived toddlers The Sims 4 in 2017. The addition of toddlers provides a whole new stage of life to play with, and is one of the most ambitious free updates to The Sims 4 until now. While they probably should have been introduced to the game much sooner as a solution to The Sims 4‘s lackluster babies, the Sims the team took the time to get toddlers to fit – they prove to be as much of a handful in the game as they are in real life. Toddlers were a much needed gameplay element and a fun addition to The Sims 4 family that keeps the players on their toes.

Neighborhood stories

The Sims 4 Neighborhood Stories configuration screen.

Included in Sims 3, story progression came to be The Sims 4 in the form of a free update in 2022. Sims can move out, get married, have kids, and more without input. A landmark update to The Sims 4it extends the concept introduced in Sims 3 as players can now choose which families are affected by the storyline and can influence neighboring Sims’ decisions through in-game prompts. Not only does the update The Sims 4 feel more alive, but it adds an element of chaos and unpredictability to the game, which is a true hallmark of The Sims series.

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