Jump to content
  • Mikeaut1

    Suburbs: Creating Realism in SimCity 4

    Please PM Mikeaut1 if you have any questions about this article.


    Welcome to my guide to creating realistic suburbs in SimCity 4. I am glad to bring you this tutorial. Hopefully, it will benefit you when you zone suburbs in your SimCity. It will teach you the basics on how to make realistic – looking suburbs, if that’s what you’re aiming for in your outer city areas.

    I. What is a suburb?

    Suburbs – Inhabited districts located on the outer rim of a city, or located completely outside the official city limits of a city or large town. Usually, suburbs are characterized through single-family homes and smaller populations, which make up one metropolitan area.

    In the United States, a large percentage of the population lives in suburban communities, located not far from major economic centers in the region. Living in the suburbs means more responsibility: paying higher taxes, keeping your lawn and gardens neat, and having a clean appearance to your house. Actually, the suburbs are known for single-family homes. Very rarely are there larger apartment complexes located in the suburban neighborhood, except for community centers or retirement homes.

    American suburbs include a variety of architecture, including many forms of different houses. For example, there is the Cape Cod Homes, Shingle Houses, Split Levels, Victorians, and Tudors. Fortunately all of these homes appear in game, and some on the STEX. This is just one element to spicing up your suburban neighborhoods.

    American styled suburbs are greatly looked upon. The miles and miles of sprawling suburbs outside our major cities of Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago often characterize the architecture of the major city as well. Most suburbs are also a haven for middle class citizens. Shopping is also a big industry in many of the suburbs, and business is run through shopping icons like department stores and malls.

    Let’s continue with our tutorial by presenting you with how to create realistic suburbs in SimCity 4.

    II. Building In Game

    Here is the major part of the tutorial. We will discuss basic layout in the suburbs, some facilities that are greatly suggested in the suburbs, and much more.


    Usually, suburbs start after some medium wealth growth just outside a major city’s downtown. The way you must zone is having your medium wealth circle around the higher growth of your city, and then easy your way into gentle suburbs, usually an avenue blocking the mid dense to the low dense growth.


    Picture By MayorTim (Gotland 2)

    In MayorTim’s great example, the suburbs should be zoned after some mid dense growth around a downtown area. If you look at aerial photos of the New York or Chicago metro areas, you will see a spread of mid-dense growth surrounding the downtown, and then sprawled out suburbs.


    Picture by Chicago333 (Mandursuro)

    Chicago333 also represents his beautiful suburbs in this aerial photo of his city, Santa Terra. The same method was used here.

    So basically, suburbs should be outside of downtown and your mid dense growth altogether. This is the best and realistic method to use when building in your city.


    So, what is different with education and health in a city and in a suburb?

    Usually, suburbs have a better educational and health system than in urban areas. Urban areas have a larger population to tend to, so funding for health and education may be lower in a city.

    In your suburbs, try to fund your educational and health facilities more than in your cities. Don’t under fund; this will cause some picketing and strikes in your cities and suburbs.


    By far, city layout determines the realism of a suburb in SimCity 4. Many people like to build grids in their suburban communities, which is all right. But a better realistic approach to building suburbs in SimCity 4 is to make your residential streets a bit windier.

    Usually suburbs are a bit griddier if they are closer to a downtown. But as you move farther outside the city, the suburbs seem to open up and tend to wind around a bit. Avenues and other major thoroughfares wind through the suburbs, and streets are for the residents.

    TIP! For a more realistic approach, save your lower density commercial zones for avenues and some roads, and keep the streets for your houses and residential development. This is a very realistic point to building SimCity 4 suburbs and comparing them to real-life suburbs.

    Here are some pictures of realistic suburbs that compare to real life suburbs. Make note that commercial services appear more on the avenues and important roads, while residential sprawl is located off those roads on designated streets in neighborhoods. Also, make a note that the suburbs aren’t griddy, but more spacious and realistic.


    Picture by Chicago333 (Mandursuro)


    Picture by Mikeaut1 (Euphora)


    Picture By Mikeaut1 (Euphora)

    Usually suburbs with highways that wind through them look more realistic then just a straight highway through the whole region.

    TIP! Another great idea for realistic suburbs is adding in small parks or gazebos in your residential areas to increase desirability. Tennis courts, gazebos, and small or medium parks will up the desirability, making more houses appear. Also, grass or adding trees will decrease pollution, and increase demand.


    Picture by Jeronij (Simtropia)

    So, lets go over some major aspects of this section.


    • Saving commercial zones for larger capacity roadways and saving residential zones for the streets is a good idea.

    • Avoiding griddy suburbs, unless suburbs are within great proximity to a downtown or large town.
    • Highways should try to wind through your suburbs rather than run straight through it.


    • Educational and health should be well funded.
    • Near your schools, try to include a baseball diamond or some tennis courts for a more realistic suburban school.

    • Small clinics should be placed around your suburbs. Think of each clinic as a different type of doctor. (Ex: pediatrician, chiropractor, dentist).


    • Remember that mid dense growth should surround a major downtown first, and then start your suburbs, easily outward from the city.
    • Griddy suburbs are meant for suburbs that are inner lying and immediately after a downtown (a bit unrealistic).

    III. Suburban Essentials

    So, you know the basics about building suburbs. Keeping your grids near the city, your educational and health facilities fully funded, and keeping your commercial buildings on the main roads. So what’ll make your suburbs from there seem 110% better?

    Simtropolis is the answer. Simtropolis, being the ultimate SimCity 4 community on the web, offers thousands of lots and bats that could easily change the look of your city. From lots and bats, to modifications, your city will look awesome with some of the downloadable items.

    There are many lots and bats meant for your city suburbs, and they are located right at your fingertips… on the STEX.

    Recommended BATTers, Authors, and Links

    The following four people are noted for their outstanding contribution to improving suburbs in SimCity 4.

    Simgoober – Simgoober has created all sorts of bats and lots, for both urban environments, and suburban. Just by typing "Simgoober" on the STEX, over 200 creations pop up. He is well known for his batting of the major hotels such as Best Western, Days Inn, and Hampton Inn. Also, he has created some very nice suburban restaurants, town homes, and stores.

    The Plop a Shop lots are a great addition for your suburban communities, and include stores such as Old Navy, Famous Footwear, and Pier 1 Imports. There are some dependencies so please read the readme.

    Don’t forget he major shopping icon of the suburbs: the Mall. A mall is a large collection of stores brought together in one huge building. Several anchors like Sears and Hechts are included within a mall, as well as dozens of other stores and usually a food court. Fortunately, thanks to Simgoober, we have a mall ready on the STEX. The Suburban Mall. There are many dependencies. Please read the readme and collect the dependencies associated with this lot.

    Rob_2616 Rob’s Urban Housing Mod modifies all R$ suburban homes and adds a detached garage, backyard props, and some trees. They come in 1x1, 1x2, and 1x3 lot sizes. I personally think this mod is amazing, and it should be an essential for your suburbs. All of the SimCity 4 pictures shown in this tutorial use the mod, and the suburbs look great!

    Joerg – Known for his contribution to some towers and a beautiful Target on the STEX. His Target store looks great in the suburbs. A very important necessity for any suburb is department stores. Large department stores like Wal*Mart and Target offer middle class citizens a great place to shop for everyday needs. Joerg has created his outstanding Target model on the STEX.

    Kevdan25 – He is well known for his amazing talent on batting many of the world’s famous fast food restaurants, including McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, and Wendy’s. His restaurants look great, especially in the suburban environment. Kevdan25 has a great collection of amazing restaurants. There are 2 pages worth of great stuff.


    Basically, this section explains that the addition of department stores, malls, and other suburban stores to your suburbs will make your communities much more rich in detail, and realistic. There are hundreds of items on the STEX designated for the suburbs, and some authors are listed above. I forgot to mention that some schools and hospitals that are better looking than the original Maxis buildings are located on the STEX.

    Well, that’s about it with this tutorial.

    If there is anything you would like me to add to this tutorial, please PM me!


    I would like to thank Chicago333, MayorTim, Rob_2616, Simgoober, Joerg, Jeronij, and Kevdan25. I have gotten permission from them to use their pictures in this tutorial. Thanks to them for enhancing the tutorial, and contributing so greatly to the community.

    If you have any questions about this article, please PM Mikeaut1.

    User Feedback

    Good tut but what about industrial? is industrial behind the suburbs or what?


    I believe there would be some districts of high industry plopped around the urban area and then agriculture surrounding the suburbs.

    Share this comment

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an Account  

    Sign up to join our friendly community. It's easy!  

    Register a New Account

    Sign In  

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


Thank You for the Continued Support!

Simtropolis relies mainly on member donations to continue operating. Without your support, we just would not be able to be entering our 15th year online!  You've really help make this a great community.

But we still need your support to stay online. If you're able to, please consider a donation to help us stay up and running, so that we can help keep bringing SimCity players together to share our creations.

Make a Donation, Get a Gift!

Expand your city with the best from the Simtropolis Echange.
Make a donation and get one or all three discs today!


By way of a "Thank You" gift, we'd like to send you our STEX Collector's DVD. It's some of the best buildings, lots, maps and mods collected for you over the years. Check out the STEX Collections for more info.

Each donation helps keep Simtropolis online, open and free!

Thank you for reading and enjoy the site!

More About STEX Collections