SimCity Mac Review: Can your Mac run it? Should you try?

by | Jan 31, 2020 | Simulation

In 1989, the original SimCity created and defined the city building genre. Later versions built on the original winning formula, making the franchise one of the most successful and beloved among gamers. I personally spent uncounted hours with SimCity 2000, so when I heard it was coming back after a ten year hiatus, I was quite excited.

But you probably know what happened next. The always-online requirement, the server issues, the much smaller cities, and so on, led to a terrible launch. The game’s reception was extremely poor and it seemed like SimCity was done.

Worried about updating to macOS Catalina? SimCity is now updated to 64-bit and supports Catalina!

But here we are six years later, SimCity is still plugging along, and many of those release glitches have been ironed out. EA and Aspyr did enable an offline mode, and while cities are still small, SimCity can be fun.

But is it too little too late? Can SimCity challenge Cities: Skylines, the indisputable king of city-builders one of the top Simulation games on Mac?

First things first, is the game any good?

There’s no doubt the “new” SimCity did many things right. The graphics are amazing and are actually integral to the experience. The day-night cycle gives you instant feedback as to how things are looking and working, and contextual changes in appearance make it easier to create and place things in the best positions.

In fact, EA says this level of detail is why they had to abandon their efforts to make larger cities possible: computers (at least in 2013) wouldn’t be able to handle the graphics load of larger cities.

When it comes to reviews, SimCity is still suffering from its initial release problems. Even though some reviewers waited until the initial problems were solved, SimCity still only rates a 64 Metascore from critics. This, however, looks good compared to the 2.2 it has from users.

SimCity Mac Metacritic

This is how IGN summarized the game at launch:

In some ways I’d equate SimCity to an early version of Minecraft: a wonderfully creative toy attached to a barely functional game.

At this point, whether the new SimCity is the right game for you, boils down to what you’re looking for. Are you looking for the best SimCity game to play or the best city-builder?

SimCity Mac gameplay

The new SimCity does can be a fun city-builder, but if you’re looking for a classic SimCity experience, SimCity 4 might be a better choice.

If you’re looking for the best city-builder, period, Cities: Skylines is hands down the way to go.

The new king of city-building games, Cities: Skylines managed to surpass SimCity in every imaginable way.

Our score: ★★★★☆

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GenreCity-builderLife simulationRPG simulation
Release date201520142016




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SimCity Mac requirements

These are the game’s Mac system requirements:

  • OS: 10.7.5 Lion
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Video Card: Intel HD Graphics 3000, NVIDIA GeForce 9600M or ATI Radeon HD 2600 or higher
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Hard Drive: 12 GB of Hard Drive space

As you can see, the system requirements are light. In fact, if your Mac struggles with Cities: Skylines, SimCity can be an easier alternative to run on an aging Mac.

Ready for macOS Catalina: The Mac App Store version of the game, handled by Aspyr, has been updated to 64-bit. Kudos to Aspyr for putting the effort and updating so many of their back-catalog games, including SimCity!

The Test: Can you play SimCity on Mac?

These system requirements seem modest, but to evaluate how well SimCity really runs, we decided to test it on the following model:

  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016): 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)

Using our in-house FPS counter, we tested the game using the following settings:

SimCity Mac settings

Why these settings? 1280×800 and Medium settings won’t impress anyone, but they are acceptable and should meet the requirements of the average gamer.

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The Results: Not as easy to run as expected!

This graph shows you how our Mac performed:

SimCity Mac test results

As could be expected from a six year old game, SimCity runs fine on our test machine. As mentioned above, Maxis/EA kept city sizes small so the improved graphics could really shine without slowing down your computer.

As a reminder, this is how we 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.

That said, our test machine barely met the 30 FPS challenge, but read on further to see how far you may be able to go.

Can you play SimCity on a MacBook Pro?

If you happen to have an“average” MacBook, say a 13-inch MacBook Pro with integrated graphics, you should be able to easily run this game.

SimCity Mac gameplay 2

Again, looking at SimCity’s system requirements, you wouldn’t expect a more modern MBP like our 2016, even with integrated graphics, to have a problem on our default settings. And sure enough, it had no problem running the game.

  • 1280×800: 28.7 FPS

Take away: Again, the age of SimCity helps ensure a smooth experience even on a modern laptop. Any recent Mac should have no trouble with it as long as you meet the minimum graphics requirements.

But What If You Have An Older Mac?

Unfortunately, older Macs will struggle with this game. The system requirements do officially support of Intel HD 3000 integrated. As those graphics were used on Macs from around 2012, one could expect SimCity to run well on older machines. And technically, you can. The game will run.

We just fear performance will be sub-par. If the game barely runs at 30 FPS on our 2016 MBP, the only way a 2012 MBP can run it is on the lowest possible settings.

Take away: SimCity is not as easy to run as we initially expected. Make sure your machine meets the system requirements but also be prepared to run the game on its lowest settings if you happen to have an old Mac.

Bottom line: SimCity is an fine game for anyone with a Mac that meets the system requirements and wants to build their perfect city. While the cities are smaller, specialized regions and good graphics make this a good SimCity. That said, Cities: Skylines remains the better alternative.

Download SimCity for Mac

SimCity is available for download through EA’s Origin service but we definitely recommend the Mac App Store version, handled directly by Aspyr.

SimCity Mac Review

A genre-creating game, this new SimCity allows you to build differently. Connect smaller cities together in regions, created specialized cities, and get your multiplayer on with this gorgeous-looking version of genre-creating classic.

Operating System: macOS 10.12 and up

Editor's Rating:

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  1. Alexander De Giorgio

    I understand that poor performance was mentioned in the review but perhaps more could have been made about the fact that the game has locked out higher resolution options, even for brand new machines. Running a brand new Retina Mac Book pro and being told maximum res is locked at 1440×900 is quite the disappointment. I thought we were passed the days when one should dig into forums extensively regarding performance issues, before buying a game, but it seems in this case it would have been wise to do so. Blatant lack of optimisation will be a deal breaker for most I assume…

    • Mac Gamer Ric

      That’s a very good comment and I’m glad you point it out. It is important to give as much information as possible but keep in mind that this is a solo operation (mostly) and without a Retina MacBook Pro…. Your problem wasn’t one for me. I know, that’s not ideal but it’s still representative, specially when most Mac users do not have a retina display.
      But I understand your pain man. Other than limited Rez, did the game run well for you?

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