It is said that when Alexander the Great reached Babylon, he paused a moment there upon the windswept Euphrasian steppes and beheld the great Mesopotamian city across the river, its golden minarets dappled and radiant in the noonday sun. And turning to his marching host, he declared, “Here, I shall plan, construct, and coordinate a vast and expensive network of bus depots, and for no obvious reason, the people shall not deign to use them.”

Or something like that, accounts do differ a bit.

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Anyway, originally released back in 1994, SimCity 2000 was the second in the series, but also a significant extension of and improvement on the concept, and remains – arguably, perhaps – the best of the lot.

The premise is simple enough – build a city, and keep it going. But just like real life, it’s rather more difficult than that. At its most fundamental level, you’ll have to create dedicated zones for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, and as it turns out, nobody much likes living in an apartment next-door to a heavy-duty manufacturing plant.

Once you’ve got that basic stuff down, it’s all about the bigger matters of managing crime, health, education, transport systems, power resources, taxes and public fund allocations, and the occasional nuclear reactor meltdown – sometimes all at once, and with everything in a state of constant flux just to keep things interesting. And just when you think it’s all under control and you’re making a profit, ALIEN ROBOT INVASION AND EVERYTHING IS TOTALLY DESTROYED.

The standard game is pretty open-ended, although time passes and technology improves along with it, until you’re finally able to replace entire blocks with so-called “Arcologies”, or humongous, self-sustained cities-within-cities. There’s also a number of scenarios included, that task you with achieving certain objectives with a preset city.

But all that aside, my absolute favourite thing about SimCity 2000, and maybe the best thing in any game ever (until UT2004’s Flak Cannon, anyway), is the SimCity Urban Renewal Kit toolset. With this, you’re able to create custom buildings from the existing template that you can place in the game. The SCURK also supports palette cycling, for simple, keyframe-based animation. The obvious next step is a dystopian metropolis, featuring gigantic neon billboards reminding citizens to comply, and punishment factories on every corner, but it’s really up to you.