SimTower is a tower management game made by Yoot Saito, and then acquired and published in the US by Maxis in 1994. That means it’s now old enough to smoke and drive, and it’ll be drinking soon. It’s still a great game, but unfortunately doesn’t work on Windows 10, so these days I play it with the help of DOSBox running a Windows 3.1 environment.
Click below to visit the different sections of this shrine:
- Installing the game
- Gameplay Basics
- Tips & Tricks
- Newer Reimaninings and Tributes
Installing in 2022
There are no versions of this game still for sale, so you can find and download the game here:
SimTower on Abandonia
There's an excellent tutorial about how to set up DOXBox to play Windows 3.11 games that I used here:
HowToGeek Tutorial on how to install Windows 3.11
You can also sometimes find games like SimTower and others at thriftstores around the place. Even now in 2022, while Goodwill and their ilk seem to have figured out that console games are worth something on the secondary market, PC games still sometimes get overlooked and undervalued. I got SimCity this way, and it's been clearly marked as an educational version, which is fun. I'm pretty sure the features are the same, but it's neat to have a special edition on the case.Back to top
You start out by building a lobby and offices and condos, which will gain you enough money to keep building upwards. Offices pay rent on the first day of each quarter, and you'll need to connect them together with elevators. Only lobbies can go on the first floor.
Here we have a small tower with a lobby on the first floor,
and offices on the second. One of them's even been rented out!
If you want to mix things up a bit in the early stages, you can also build condos, which house one family each. They pay once when you place them, but do not pay any rent afterwards. This works well if you need a quick cash influx at the beginning of the game. Also, make sure to keep them happy! If they ever get angry and decide to leave, the cost of the unit will be deducted from your balance.
Look at those nice condos! Make sure not to put them on the same floor with the offices, or they'll complain about the noise.
As you expand your tower and gain star ratings, you’ll unlock more things to build, like stores, theaters, hotel rooms, and party halls, and can build extensive commercial zones and funnel your visitors into them on the weekends to maximize the amount of money you make from them. Commercial spaces are actually my favorite things to build in this game. They're colorful and have a lot of variety!
This is an extensive commercial section--note the lobby in the middle and the escalators connecting each floor. This relieves pressure on the elevator system.
And speaking of the elevator system, you'll want to get used to using them-one of the biggest aspects of SimTower is traffic management. Optimizing your elevators to avoid making your tenants angry is a part of the game that will take up more and more time as your population grows. The longer your sims have to wait for a car to arrive, the angrier they will get, and the lower the happiness of your tower will go.
Oh no, look at that sea of red! Tenants start out black, turn pink when they're upset, and become red when really angry.
A couple of thing to note here: firstly, folks who are traveling downward will always stand on the right side of the elevator, like those in the pic above. People going up will be on the left. Keeping this in mind can help when you're trying to optimize travel around your tower.
Secondly, if you're ever curious to find out where these folks are going and why they might be mad, you have a handy little magnifying glass tool in your toolbar. You can use that to click on any sim in your tower and get a few details about what makes them tick. The game will even let you name and track them if you'd like to keep tabs on them for a while.
This guy is a little stressed out from waiting too long at the elevator. As you can see in his "Eval" meter, this has affected his overall attitude about the tower he's in.
There are several other buildings that you will unlock as you go along, and I don't want to spoil all the little surprises you will find as you expand your empire upwards. The notes I've made here should get you started, though. Once you unlock that 3-star rating you really get a lot more freedom to go wild!Back to top
Screenshots & Pics
Click to see full version
This isn't really a screenshot, but I have the CD version of this game, and I managed to lose the box and case over the years. There wasn't a cover that worked for me over on TheCoverProject.net, so I made one of my own, and it looks really snazzy:
If you, too, would like to have your own awesome Sim Tower DVD Slipcover, you can dowload the file and print your own on letter-sized paper here:
Sim Tower DVD Cover
- Clicking in the lower left-hand corner of the map after you first open a new game (without clicking on anything else first) will double your starting funds!
- You can build three story lobbies by holding shift+alt when building a lobby for the first time, or holding alt while clicking for a two story one. You can't change the lobby after placing it though, so make your decision early.
Having a nicer lobby makes a slight difference in the amount of time sims are willing to wait for elevators. The reasoning is that if they have more cool things to look at, they don’t get stressed out as quickly. Also, you get really cool looking stairs and escalators!
- Here are the star unlock requirements for each tower rating:
- 2 stars: population of 300
- 3 stars: 1,000 plus one security office
- 4 stars: population of 5,000 plus more than one hotel suite, recycling and medical demands met, plus a favorable VIP rating
- 5 stars: population of 10,000 plus a metro station
- Tower status: 15,000 plus a cathedral, only buildable on the top floor
- You only need security offices every 11 floors. The only thing they’re really needed for is to meet tower and office requirements, and for finding bombs when and if you get a terrorist call. Each office comes with a certain number of guards (six) who will search half the floors in every direction when running sweeps. Placing every 11 floors including the basement ensures that they can reach every spot in the tower without missing any before time is up.
- Condos are great but don’t give any additional rent once the initial price has been paid. I usually hold off on them until I’m able to build stores and restaurants so that they can feed my commercial sections and make more profits.
- Lobbies cannot be deleted, so place wisely!
- Housekeepers can only clean a certain amount of hotel rooms per day, but each unit deploys one housekeeper per floor with no exceptions. Once you’ve found the limit to what they can clean each day, you can extend up and place that same number of rooms per floor to make sure that they’re all taken care of each day. Rooms that sit dirty for more than two days develop roach problems and cannot be saved. They must be deleted or they will spread one room in each direction each day.
- Sims will only travel on 6 escalators max, and are only willing to change modes of travel once (elevator to stairs, etc). Keep this in mind when building your transportation systems so that they don't get frustrated trying to get where they want to go.
SimTower hasn't been ported nearly as much as Maxis' other games like SimCity and its sequels, but it did get a few ports to other systems that you can sometimes find around the place. Here's an overview of where else you can find this game.
The Tower GBA
The Tower for GBA is a basic port of the PC game, with a few changes made in order to have it run better on the limited Game Boy Advance handheld. There are more limits on what you build, and a more robust help system. Several mechanics have been changed, and there are certain rooms that you can select and tap "A" on in order to help clean them, or attract customers. A few of the other changes included are listed below:
- Your tower has a power usage mechanic, which can cause blackouts once it gets larger. According to the game, there's no way to avoid them; it's just a disaster that you'll need to weather through
- Condos require security at 1 star, and offices require bathrooms. On the weekends, security will patrol all floors and the offices themselves will be cleaned. Offices can now also get roaches in addition to the hotel rooms.
- Escalators are added at 2 stars and are not limited to commercial spaces
- Parking spaces for your offices required at 2 stars instead of 3
- Hotels require vending machines, as well as men's and women's saunas, which are two separate rooms. They can service multiple floors as long as they're not too far away.
So far I've actually only played up to a 3 star tower. Like the PC game, at this point I need a successful VIP visit and I've been struggling to make sure all their needs are met. One thing I do like about this is that there's a lot more feedback during the visit. In the PC version, you get a message at the end of the visit saying "They seem to have had a good stay" if you did well, but otherwise you're left waiting and hoping until they leave. In the GBA version, your tutorial guide, Professor Yama, will provide you with more detailed feeback at the end, and you can see him as he travels around the tower. Hopfully I'll get past this stage eventually, so that I can write up a more complete list of differences.
I'd say this is a really fun port. I enjoy the few differences, but they're not pervasive enough to make it feel like a completely different game, and it still maintains the feel of the original. I did need to wait a while before the English version showed up on Ebay, though. It wasn't too expensive once it did--I think I paid about $30 USD for it--but it didn't sell a whole lot when it came out, so it's relatively rare here. The Japanese version can be found really easily, but since I'm not fluent in Japanese and this is a text-heavy game, I wouldn't say this is one that can be played without a translation. Naturally, this is only a concern if you're interested in owning physical versions of your games, because it's still available as a ROM that you can play in an emulator. I will warn you, however, that in the one I was using (Retroarch for Android) I experienced a game breaking bug. Once my tower got past a certain size, it would freeze up and I just couldn't play anymore. Hopefully your mileage will vary.
These aren't super great, but my GBA is front-lit only, so I've tried to make them as clear as possible.
The Tower DS
This one was only released in Japan, and seems to have never gotten an English translation. As such, I haven't really been able to play it, although you can find it emulated online. From what I've been able to tell, there are a few sprites that have been changed, but otherwise it's pretty similar to the Game Boy version. If anyone out there has some experience with it, let me know!
Yoot Tower is the official sequal to SimTower, but never really took off well in the US. Although I played SimTower a lot growing up, I don't really remember hearing about this one when it came out, so it may have just missed its time. That said, it generally gets good reviews, but is supposedly quite a bit harder than the original. I've spent a little bit of time with it, and couldn't ever quite get the hang of it the way I've done with the first. Eventually, I would like to figure it out and write up a full review of it as well. It is also abandonware, and can currently be picked up online:
Yoot Tower at MyAbandonware
Newer Reimaninings and Tributes
Proejct Highrise was released in 2016 and was specifically aimed at old fans of the SimTower games. You can certainly tell the developers were fans of the game themselves, because it's got all of the same elements--star ratings, offices, condos, shops, etc--but goes more in depth than the original game ever could have. I currently have over 40 hours in this game on Steam, so I certainly think it's fun and would recommend it if you liked the original. There are a few drawbacks, however. The first is that there's no real elevator management beyond making sure all the floors are connected. For some, I'm sure this is actually a plus, because I feel like many players didn't really like that aspect of the game, so you may not even be bothered by that. The second is that as you get further in the game, management can get a bit overwhelming. In all of the towers I've had so far, I've reached a point where I get a ton of electrical system, water, cable, and tenant evaluation failures and it gets a bit frustrating to juggle it all. It may be that I'm just not good enough at it, yet, though, so I don't think it's a massive drawback just yet.
Mad Tower Tycoon
I've just purchased this one recently after having it on my wishlist for a while, so my review will be coming soon!Back to top