The Sims 4 on Mac: Can you run it?
While not everyone’s cup of tea, it is undeniable how popular The Sims franchise is. Hell, I’ll go ahead and admit there was a brief period in my life when all I played was The Sims. Create a Sim, build a house, get a job, make friends, find love, all in the comfort of your computer.
But a lot has changed since the heady days of the 2000s and after 3 main entries and countless expansions, developer Maxis has now delivered The Sims 4, their most beautiful and complex life simulation game to date.
The premise is the same, yet The Sims 4 creates more depth and introduces new mechanics, features, and vastly improved graphics. Speaking of graphics, this is a game that looks surprisingly good on a high-end Mac at the highest settings. But what if you have an older Mac or an entry-level model?
I’m here to help you answer those questions. And as we always do, we will be testing the game on 4 different Macs, ranging from the new and powerful to the older and more basic models.
But is this still the case for The Sims 4? Is it as good as its predecessors? Reviewers can’t seem to agree. The game has a 70/100 Metascore, which is good but not great and as you probably know, Metascores are telling because they are the weighted average of a lot of reviews from respected websites.
But taking a closer look at some of the reviews, a trend begins to emerge. Gamespot gave it a 6/10 score, concluding that:
The Sims 4's biggest problem is that The Sims 3 exists. [...] This is a lovely and lively game that elicits constant smirks, but The Sims 4's moments never feel like part of a bigger picture.
In the same vein, IGN gave it a 7.5/10, but came to a similar conclusion:
Transitioning from The Sims 3 to The Sims 4 is a little rough. The Sims 4 seems barren of content and features by comparison, especially with regard to the severely limited scope of the world [...] and noticeable absence of toddlers, pools, and cars.
But here’s where it gets tricky. Everyone agrees The Sims 3 had more to do, yet The Sims 4 has more depth:
Yet The Sims 4 does succeed in being a deep and complex game when it comes to Sim interactions, with lots of entertaining emotional potential. The emotions system and its contextual actions are really strong.
Plus, excellent building tools make architecture more fun than ever.
When looking at the user reviews (on Metacritic, as the game is not available on Steam), it doesn’t look good for The Sims 4. The game has a 4/10 average score of over 2100 users. Again, for the same reasons: the world is too small and there aren’t enough things to do…
My take? If you haven’t played The Sims 3, that could be a better place to start. It will be cheaper, will have more Expansions (and things to do) and will be even less demanding on your Mac.
If you have, The Sims 4 should have enough depth and new features to be worth a shot, especially now that enough Expansions have been released that add more stuff to do.
To evaluate how well The Sims 4 runs, we’ll test it on these models:
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016):
2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
iMac (5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)
3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
Mac Mini (Late 2014):
2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2012)
2.6 GHz Intel Core i7, 8 GB RAM, GeForce GT 650M (1GB)
Be aware that the system requirements are not perfectly clear regarding integrated graphics. Are the 2012 MacBook Pro and 2014 Mac Mini supported? More on that below.
Why these machines? Our purpose is to help you understand how well this game runs on different setups. And hopefully, one of these setups will be similar enough to yours to give you a very clear idea of what to expect. These are the setups we will be covering:
- Recent high-end Macs (the 2014 iMac).
- Recent entry-level Macs (the 2016 MacBook Pro).
- Older Macs (the 2012 MacBook Pro and the 2014 Mac Mini).
These are the settings we used to test The Sims 4 using our in-house FPS counter Count It for a fixed duration of 5 minutes:
- 1280x800 resolution
- Graphics Quality: Medium
- Vertical Sync: Off
- Retina display: Off
Why these settings? Remember, we are testing vastly different machines. Some high-end, some not. 1280x800 and Medium settings won’t impress anyone, but they are acceptable and should meet the requirements of the average gamer.
It seems those reports were a little overboard (or perhaps Maxis has improved the MacOS version over the years):
The target? This chart includes the average frames per second (FPS) recorded on each machine. We usually aim for 30 FPS, because 30 FPS is enough to guarantee a smooth and fluid experience.
Some readers argue that 30 FPS is not high enough, but it’s still what current-gen consoles aim for, and considering most Macs were not built for gaming, 30 FPS is a good target.
To give you some perspective, this is how I describe the different levels of performance:
- Below 20 FPS: Unplayable: Laggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.
- 20-30 FPS: Borderline: Can be Ok in slow paced games. Still, not optimal.
- 30-45 FPS: Playable: Acceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).
- 45-60 FPS: Smooth: Fluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.
- 60+ FPS: Very Smooth: For hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.
You’ll notice all Macs did better than 30 FPS, which is a good thing, but let’s dive deeper into the results and see how far The Sims 4 can be pushed.
Do you have a high-end Mac?
The real question is not whether a high-end Mac can play this game. We know it will.
Haters may claim Macs can’t run games, but if you have a recent high-end Mac with a dedicated graphics card with 2GB of Video RAM (or more), you can safely play ANY game that exists on MacOS.
The real question is: How high can you increase the graphics settings while still experiencing a smooth experience?
Case in point, my 2014 iMac’s results. While nowhere near as fast as the latest iMacs, it still ran the game at 60 FPS using the Medium settings defined for these tests. And it only did 60 FPS because the game locked frame rates at 60 FPS maximum.
But what happens when we bump the graphics to make The Sims 4 really shine? When increasing the settings to Ultra and raising the resolution to 2560x1440, the iMac still ran the game at 56.2 FPS.
Take away: If you have a high-end Mac, you can expect to smoothly play this game at the highest settings.
Do you have a recent entry-level Mac?
This is when things get complicated. Many of us own $1500+ MacBook Pros we believe to be high end (otherwise, how can you justify that price?). Unfortunately, they are not, at least when it comes to graphics performance.
I’m not here to criticize Apple’s choices. They decided that mobility and battery life come first, which is great for most users, but bad for gamers.
Anyway, having an entry-level Mac means you have integrated graphics. And that means gaming performance will be limited. But how limited? It depends on the game.
In this case, The Sims 4 did great on my 13-inch MacBook Pro. The game ran at 54.9 FPS, which is almost double our 30 FPS target.
These results mean you could slightly increase the graphics settings and still get a smooth experience out of The Sims 4. I did two more tests on high and ultra settings, and as expected, there was still some room (although ultra is a little too much):
- 1280x800 and high settings: 44.5 FPS
- 1280x800 and ultra settings: 24.1 FPS
Take away: The Sims 4 is properly optimized for macOS and not particularly demanding. Any recent Mac should be able to handle it, even those with integrated graphics.
But what if you have an older Mac?
According to our results, there is hope for you. Our test 2014 Mac Mini ran the game at 45.40 FPS, which is way above our target.
But can you really call a 2014 model old? For our purposes, it is. We decided to make a distinction between the latest Macs with the most advanced integrated cards (such as the Iris Graphics on the latest MacBook Pros) and the generations that came before.
And as you can see from this result, older integrated graphics can run The Sims 4 just fine.
But what about a 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2012? This machine ran the game at 39 FPS and also passed the test. Do keep in mind this one has a dedicated graphics card with 1GB of Video RAM. A similar model with integrated graphics wouldn’t do so well.
Take away: If your Mac has integrated graphics, anything older than the Intel Iris 5100 from our Mac Mini will be risky. If your Mac has dedicated graphics, any model from 2012 onwards should be fine.
There is one last method that can help you estimate how your Mac would run this game.
You can run the free Unigine Heaven Benchmark using the Basic Preset and compare your results with ours:
- Look at our Heaven results and choose the one most similar to yours.
- Look at the FPS that same machine scored when running The Sims 4.
- If your machine had a better/worst Heaven score, expect a higher/lower FPS score
The correlation between in-game performance and a standard benchmark is far from perfect, but it can still be a good comparison point.
You can also input your Heaven result into this form to estimate the FPS your Mac could score when running the game:
Keep in mind that this is an estimate and far from exact. If your estimated FPS are too close to 30 FPS, don't risk it.
Bottom line: Turns out, The Sims 4 is a forgiving game that should run just fine on most Macs out there (unless you have a pre-2012 Mac with integrated graphics)...
Maxis clearly did a good job optimizing the game, but this is an inherently simple game (graphics-wise) that is not meant to push your machine to the max. After all, there are plenty of other games out there for that!
These are The Sims 4 Mac system requirements (minimum):
- OS: 10.7.5
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz Processor
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 320M, 9600M, 9400M, ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro or better. Video RAM of 256MB or better.
- Memory: 4GB RAM
- Hard Drive: 10 GB of Hard Drive space
Warning: You’ll be forced to use EA’s Origins client (which I deeply dislike)
Expect to run it on its highest settings on modern high-end Macs
Macs with integrated graphics handled it nicely
Even models from 2012 ran it well!
Demand level: ✅ Low