The Sims 2 was a sequel that introduced a number of innovations to the now iconic life simulator game franchise – including, perhaps most importantly, a narrative. In each neighbourhood of the game, you can find a sequential plot line that guides and motivates each character.
Pleasantview is a town riddled with alleged adultery and intimate relations. Veronaville is a Romeo and Juliet-inspired town where the Capps and the Montys find romance beyond family trauma. And in Strangetown, the deepest mysteries of the entire Sims franchise lie.
At PAX Aus 2022, the GamesHub team dove into these mysteries, spelling out a tale of disaster and alien invasion at the very heart of The Sims. While the loose threads of this dastardly plot only rarely appear in modern Sims titles, the narrative and events of this period in Sims history are still worth exploring.
For those unable to attend the original Dark Underbelly of The Sims panel, this deep dive should illuminate more about everything discussed, and how The Sims 2 hid a major alien invasion beneath everyone’s noses.
The Sims 2 is a lynchpin in The Sims timeline
As we’ve previously discussed, The Sims exists on a nebulous timeline, which we know because certain characters appear in each game, at various ages.
Bella Goth, for example, appears in the first canonical game – The Sims 3 – as a small child, before appearing as a married adult in The Sims. In The Sims 2, her disappearance is a major event in the timeline, and one that haunts the folks of Strangetown.
Likewise, there are other characters that make multiple appearances throughout the timeline, like Tank Grunt, who connects the tissue of The Sims 2. In the base game on PC, he occupies Strangetown, and is a teenager with the aspiration of joining the military. In The Sims 2 for Game Boy Advance, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo DS – all distinct games from one another – he is an adult who has realised this potential.
While the canonicity of Sims games has never been made clear, it’s fair to assume each of these recurring characters are ‘canon’ to the Sims story, and help to shape it. There’s no reason to think the Tank Grunt of The Sims 2 is a different character from the one that appears in the handheld games.
Yet if we accept everything in The Sims 2 spin-off games as canon, then the entire Sims story becomes extremely weird.
Tank Grunt’s wild adventures shake up The Sims canon
Tank Grunt plays only a minor role in The Sims 2, but rises to prominence in The Sims 2 for Game Boy Advance, and the PlayStation Portable version of the game. To again be clear about this – every iteration of The Sims 2 is different, depending on which console you play on.
The Nintendo DS version of the game is a hotel simulator with a dense story. The Game Boy Advance version is a meta-narrative featuring a Truman Show-like version of Strangetown, which is a TV show watched and rated by the Goth family. The PlayStation 2 game is a life simulator with goals to advance towards better houses. The PlayStation Portable game is a narrative adventure with multiple tasks to complete.
Let’s talk about the Game Boy Advance version first. Tank Grunt appears in multiple ‘episodes’ of this adventure, often playing the ‘himbo’ stereotype – outwardly angry and tough, but silly and goofy on the inside. He shares frequent jokes with the player, and is friendly to the point of naivety.
In one episode, this leads him to drinking a can of cola that shrinks him down to bug size. You then need to accompany him on a mission to defeat bug royalty, and escape with your life.
In another episode, Tank Grunt is taken off-screen and replaced by an imposter alien. Essentially, he’s accidentally ‘swapped’ with a shapeshifter, with Strangetown receiving the replacement, in the guise of Tank. The punchline of the episode is that, despite the imposter not speaking perfect Simlish, everyone is much happier with this version of Tank – and he’s the one they end up keeping. This heavily implies the Tank you meet in later episodes is the imposter, rather than the original.
While this game technically takes place after the events of The Sims 2 on PC, it establishes that aliens are able to change their shape, with their only weakness being water. This is a common thread in many of the handheld games – to defeat an alien, you spray it with water.
This explains why aliens are so drawn to the Sims 2 neighbourhood of Strangetown, a mostly-desert land where water is scarce. It’s the perfect grounds for these creatures to launch a full-scale alien invasion, and replace the townsfolk with imposters.
In The Sims 2 on PlayStation Portable, this advent is even accounted for, with the town playing host to an alien research base where Tank Grunt operates.
But to fully understand the motivations and development of this invasion, we have to go all the way back to patient zero: a loving housewife named Bella Goth.
Bella Goth is patient zero for the alien invasion
Bella Goth was a standard NPC when she made her debut in the original Sims game. She was a loving wife, with a loving husband, and a young daughter. There was nothing remarkable about her. That is, until The Sims 2 – where she mysteriously disappeared on the deck of Don Lothario’s home. While Lothario was initially a suspect, it was later canonically revealed that Bella was abducted by aliens at night, and lost her memories in the process.
The assumption is that the aliens studied Bella, analysing her human form and taking whatever data they needed from her. Only male Sims can get pregnant from abduction in the series, so we can assume Bella was not taken for more nefarious purposes, and was instead a catalyst for the aliens to investigate the Sims world further.
She was simply taken, experimented on or analysed, and then returned. It’s likely the trauma of the event wiped her memories, and left her wandering Strangetown alone.
Given the handheld Sims games take place after these events, we can assume the data the aliens gained from Bella helped to inform their idea of humans, and their disguise creation.
Alien menaces are everywhere in The Sims
The theory that aliens have infiltrated human society in The Sims 2 – perhaps even used their rudimentary analysis and technologies to replace existing Sims in Strangetown and beyond – can’t be disproven by canon lore in the game.
In fact, there are clues to this invasion in many of the PC and console video games. While it’s more overt in the Nintendo DS version of the game – which initiates a fully-fledged alien invasion led by Emperor Xizzle any time you try to readjust the game’s clock – there are subtle hints at sinister happenings even in the original game.
The Sims 2 base game on PC, for example, introduces players to Pollination Tech#9 Smith, a retired alien whose former career involved impregnating alien Sims. When a Sim is abducted and impregnated, a ‘Pollination Tech’ is typically allocated as the genetic parent of that child. The baby arrives as a Sim-alien hybrid (or a full alien in The Sims 3), acting as a bridge between species.
Abductions when using a telescope at night are fairly common, so we can assume there are many impacted Sims who are saddled with Sim-alien hybrid babies – the next step in alien evolution, and part of a grander plan to allow aliens a greater footing in Sim society.
Pollination Tech#9 Smith raises an entire family this way – although he shares hybrid children with a human Sim woman named Jenny Smith, who he seemingly married for love.
Their story doesn’t discount the sinister nature of the Pollination Technicians, who only appear in Sim family trees, and never as visible, fully-formed characters in the game. They live in space, biding their time for the eventual invasion of alien armies.
In the Nintendo DS version of the game, as mentioned, Emperor Xizzle is wording harder to make this happen – even attempting to launch pilot invasions of the Strangetown Hotel, by sending roving bands of aliens to attack Sim players and force them into retreat.
He’s one of the first major bosses in this game, and retreats as quickly as he arrives.
His intention, when he appears, is to ‘take over’ the land of Sims – a quest he says is hard-fought, and unstoppable.
While this declaration only appears in the Nintendo DS version of the game, Xizzle does appear to be referring to a larger quest to conquer Strangetown, a land that has long fascinated the alien race of The Sims. Should his words be accepted as canon, then the goal of the aliens becomes unsettlingly clear.
With their shapeshifting abilities and their occupancy of Strangetown – a land bereft of water – it’s highly likely the aliens of The Sims 2 have already kickstarted an invasion in the game. In fact, Strangetown may already be lost. With aliens quickly gaining the power of human speech, and the ability to blend in, it’s possible Pollination Tech#9 Smith isn’t the only pure alien townie around.
If you ever choose to revisit this game, check up on your neighbours. Make sure they’re okay. You never know – they could be an alien in disguise. In the world of The Sims, anything is possible – most certainly a burgeoning alien invasion.