The Sims 4 on Mac: This is the cheapest it has ever been!

by | Mar 19, 2020 | Simulation

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, one of the most addictive simulation games for Mac.

The Sims 4 is currently $4.99 on Amazon. This is the lowest it has ever been, don’t miss it!

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.

It may not have as many things to do as The Sims 3, still, this is the most sophisticated, better looking and fun Sims ever made.

Our score: ★★★★☆


First things first, is the game any good?

With the enormous success of every Sims game ever released, The Sims 4 should have been flooded with pre-orders. But with the catastrophic launch of SimCity, fans were cautious.

So did The Sims 4 delivered? 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: 

The Sims 4 Mac Metacritic

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.

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…

The Sims 4 Mac gameplay

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.

The Sims 4 Mac requirements

These are The Sims 4 Mac system requirements:

  • 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)

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The Test: Can you play The Sims 4 on Mac?

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).

The Sims 4 on Mac: This is the cheapest it has ever been! 1

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:

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

The Results: A surprisingly easy game to run!

There were reports of poor Mac performance that had me worried, but it seems the reports were a little overboard (or perhaps Maxis has improved the macOS version over the years):

The Sims 4 on Mac: This is the cheapest it has ever been! 2

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.

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.

We usually aim for 30 FPS, because 30 FPS is enough to guarantee a smooth and fluid experience.

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.

Can my Mac run The Sims 4?

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.

The Sims 4 on Mac: This is the cheapest it has ever been! 3

But what happens when we bump the graphics to make The Sims 4 shine? When increasing the settings to Ultra and raising the resolution to 2560×1440, 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.

Can you play The Sims 4 on a MacBook Pro?

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.

The Sims 4 Mac gameplay 2

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):

  • 1280×800 and high settings: 44.5 FPS
  • 1280×800 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. If your Mac is even older than that, it will depend on your machine’s graphics. If you have dedicated graphics, like our 2012 15-inch MacBook Pro, you should be fine.

And if you don’t and worry yours won’t be able to take it, you can always try Stardew Valley, an excellent, albeit different, simulation game that supports macOS.

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.

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 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!

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Download The Sims 4 for Mac

The Sims 4 is available for download from several digital stores including Origin and MMOGA:

It may not have as many things to do as The Sims 3, still, this is the most sophisticated, better looking and fun Sims ever made.

Our score: ★★★★☆


Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission (this is how we pay the bills). This commission comes at no additional cost to you

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  1. Bob

    First off, thank you for these articles. They’re interesting even if I’m not interested in the game. Maybe I’m missing something obvious here, but I’m confused by the Heaven benchmark results. Unless you’re changing settings, shouldn’t the Heaven results be roughly the same for the same machine regardless of the game? I’m making an assumption that your test machines are consistent from review to review. They sound like they are. So why does the 2014 iMac get a result of 60 for The Sims 4 and 121.2 for Tomb Raider if both benchmarks use the same settings?

    • Ric Molina

      Hey Bob, yep these are the same machines and the Heaven benchmarks do not change. I’m thinking the charts were not clear, which is why I changed them for this review. Let me know if everything makes more sense now and if it does, I’ll make sure we do this for all future reviews 🙂

      • Bob

        Thanks Ric. That makes more sense now. I get about 86fps on my late-2014 iMac with the top i7 and M295X 4GB (yes, I splurged). If you’re getting 96, I’d like to know exactly what settings you use in the Heaven benchmark, because I would expect I would get a better score.

  2. How...?

    I have no idea how you got these results. I have a 2016 MBP touchbar, and the best I can do with a *lot* of concessions is about 20fps (measured using your tool–ty for that, btw), and that’s an improvement I achieved after messing around with every setting, utility, resolution, etc., I could find for two weeks. More often than not, I’m getting less than 20fps. And I get about a +/- 10fps difference depending on what floor of a house I’m on, which is bizarre. CC/mods or not, big full house or tiny empty one, makes no difference.

    I’m completely baffled. If there’s something else I’m missing, I’d love to know what it is, but I genuinely thought this was just another situation where it sucked for all of us.

  3. Emily

    I don’t know a lot about computers.. I bought a 2017 MacbookPro 13 inch back in 2017 because I needed something for college, it has two thunderbolt 3 ports, 2.3 Ghz intel core i5 8GB
    I play sims 4 but after just five minutes of gameplay, my computer overheats. the fans run loud and im worried i will break it. and now i am at the point where i am unsure if I should use my sister’s imac desktop or purchase a better laptop? or give up on my hobby the sims 🙁

    • Ashley

      Something may be wrong with your mac because i have the same computer and desktop and play the Sims 4 regularly for hours on end without that issue. I would get it looked at.

  4. Sam

    very detailed stuff here. Just found my reference in term of capability to run a game on my mMac,

    thanks for all this.

  5. Ashlee

    Hi! I just purchased Sims 4 for my 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro (Retina)….I have done everything I can think of to fix my problem but it isn’t working lol. I keep getting an error that says I can’t run Sims 4 with the video card in this system. I’ve tried, installing, reinstalling, updating origin, updating my computer, I have to open in safe mode, etc…..I have no idea what else to do. Any advice?

  6. Zeynep Sezgİnel

    I have a 2019 Macbook Air and I am worried if the Sims 4 wil slow down my MacBook Air. Has it been tested on my model? What are the results?

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