Tho e’eryone remembers SimCity & The Sims, most people have forgotten the many other “Sim” games that Maxis made before they were cannibalized by EA, games which were not so successful, such as insomia-cure-simulators SimEarth & SimFarm, noneuclidean-human-face-simulator SimCopter, Grand Theft Auto if ’twere e’en mo’ buggy & broken Streets of Sim City, & a game that simulates the US’s shitty healthcare governance, SimHealth — a game I’m sure people all round the world where this “conundrum” was already solved found very riveting & informative. Since those games all suck, I won’t be writing ’bout any o’ them — tho I may someday write ’bout Streets of Sim City or SimCopter, as those suck in an entertaining way.

No, I’m going to talk ’bout SimAnt, a game where your goal is to commit genocide gainst ’nother race o’ ants & chase humans out o’ the house they were probably going to lose when they failed to pay their mortgage, anyway. There were 2 main versions: the original DOS/PC/Mac version & an SNES version. Unlike most sim games, wherein the computer versions are far superior to the console version or the 1st SimCity, wherein the SNES version is far superior to the computer versions, this game has pros & cons on either, which I will discuss later. For now we’ll look @ the SNES version, since it’s the version with which I’m most familiar &, mo’ importantly, makes for better screenshots.

Like most sim games, you start small: you’re just a single yellow ant ( tho I think this is just a visual convenience for the players’ sake & you’re s’posed to be black ), who must dig a nest & lay eggs.

( Fun fact: you can get an early game o’er if you let the 1 red ant roaming round kill you while you’re the only black ant. Howe’er, @ this point o’ the game the red ant isn’t all that interesting in fighting & will rarely be near you @ all, so you have to try hard to lose @ this point ).

Once that happens, you become the newly-birthed worker ant while the ant you were before becomes “queen”. If you’re smart, you’ll dig your nest right in the midst o’ a pile o’ peas, as next you have to gather peas to keep the colony fed till your queen pops out ’nough new ants to do this work for you.

Once you do have mo’ ants, you can go inside a pile o’ peas, right click1 or press B on your ant, & choose to recruit 5, 10, or all other ants to come to you ( it makes a whistle sound when you do this, but I’m pretty certain real-life ants use scents to attract other ants ). When they arrive, you can press B on your ant & choose to release ½ or all following you. If you do so surrounded by peas, most will grab a pea & go.

Oft a message will pop up warning o’ rain, which will s’posedly wash ’way trail scents. I don’t know if this is s’posed to impact the recruitment mechanic in any way — it seems like it works just as well, either way. The manual makes no mention o’ this rain mechanic.

There are also caterpillars & spiders roaming round. The latter can eat your ant if you get near it.

Howe’er, if you have ’nough ants you can recruit 25 or so ants & surround the caterpillar & your ants will ’ventually kill it & turn it into peas ( don’t ask me how ); you can do the same to the spider with 30 or mo’, tho they’ll have to chase it round for a while — which can sometimes, annoyingly, lead them to run offscreen, where you can’t get them.

Also, the human sometimes walks round outside, which you can hear by the loud thumping, & if you’re unlucky they may step on you & squish you to death. They also mow the lawn, like, e’ery few minutes, which can also kill you.

Like all sim games, this game has menus for numeric settings. The 2 main important ones are “behavior” & “castes”. These start out automatically set by the computer, but can be changed manually, which I usually do, as the CPU makes stupid decisions like having tons o’ soldiers when there are no red ants & having no breeders when you have mo’ than 100 population. Annoyingly, the game will oft switch back to automatic & these stupid decisions, specially when leaving a plot & coming back ( more on that later ).

Behavior sets what existing ants will do: forage, dig, & nurse. It’s usually better to keep forage & nurse ’bout half & half, with maybe more on the side o’ nurse if your colony has plenty o’ food & you want to boost your #s faster. Dig is mostly useless & you can do a better job o’ digging tunnels than the other idiots on the rare occasions it’s necessary, anyway.

Castes sets what types o’ ants are being born: workers, soldiers, & breeders. Workers are best @ gathering food, soldiers are best @ fighting, & breeders are needed to move to new plots. If there are red ants, near the beginning you want ’bout half-&-half workers & soldiers, but you’ll want to transition ’way from soldiers toward breeders as you come nearer to annihilating the red menace & you come closer to the 100 or so population necessary for the breeders to start being useful. If there are no red ants, soldiers are useless & you’ll want mostly worker ants, transition to mo’ breeders as you near 100.

E’en with these settings set certain ways, having your populations grow can feel random, specially near the beginning, & the red ants always seem to grow much faster @ 1st. The way the game measures how much food you have is also weird. 1 time @ the beginning o’ a game e’en when the colony was almost covered in peas, the blue meter, which I think is s’posed to represent food, was low & I was getting a message telling me to feed the queen, she’s hungry.

When your population is near 100, you’ll want to finally rid yourself o’ the red ants, as I don’t think your breeders will travel ’less the red ants are gone. Tho I will note that, if you’re @ a point where you’re sure to decimate the red ants, I would recommend changing the behavior & castes to ’bout 75/25 nurse/forage & 80/20 breeders/workers so they’ll already be ready to fly on.

Anyway, the best way to rid yourself o’ the red menace is to recruit all your black ants & head o’er to the red ant holes. If the holes are mostly unprotected ( there are few red ants ), then you should just swoop in. Otherwise, you should circle round the red ants so that your black minions fight them, while you stay clear ’way from the red ants. Fighting red ants yourself is not a good idea, as if you lose — & it’s random whether or not you win — you’ll go all the way back to the black nest & have to start all o’er. I don’t e’en know if the other black ants stay there or continue to fight.

Once you’ll decimated ’nough o’ the red ants to leave a clear opening to the red ant holes, go inside, bringing your minions with you. Head for the red queen — digging round the main paths to avoid any other red ants — & fight the queen or, if there are few red ants & it’s safe to loiter round, wait for a black ant to finally come o’er & kill the queen. After that you’ll want to wait a bit, trying to avoid other red ants & stay ’live till finally a message pops up telling you that the red queen is dead.

If you have mo’ black ants than red ants, it may be worth it to go round trying to kill all the rest o’ the red ants. Otherwise, it’d be best to retreat & build up your population till you’ve o’erpopulated them. They’re unlikely to grow much after the red queen’s dead — tho ’ventually they can get a new queen if you wait too long.

You want to wait till you’re near 100 ants to kill the red queen, as once you kill the red queen a rival red ant plot appears @ the other end o’ the house & they start spreading ’cross the lawn. This also happens if you take too long to kill the red queen, so it’s best to hurry, so they get as li’l a head start as possible.

If you’ve set your castes to generate breeders & reach near or ’bove 100 population, a message should pop up saying that breeders are flying.

If you look outside 1 o’ your nest holes you should see a whole patch o’ winged black ants flying up into the air, 1-by-1. If you look down @ your population you should see it decrease as the breeders leave for other plots.

If you click the house icon you’ll go to the, well, house menu. There you’ll see a grid o’ green squares with 1 black square in the bottom right where you are. Annoyingly, whene’er you enter this screen the roof is covering half the squares, so you need to click an icon to hide it, after which you’ll be able to see some red squares in the upper left where the red-dominated plots are. If the breeder message appeared, after waiting a bit on this screen a bunch o’ black dots should appear ’bove your black plot & then a few minutes afterward you’ll see an adjacent plot from yours turn black, allowing you to click on it & enter it.

Howe’er, I wouldn’t recommend that. 1 o’ the oddities o’ this game is that populations tend to grow mo’ quickly when you’re not in them. It’d be best to just wait round with your behavior almost entirely set to nursing & your caste set almost entirely to breeding breeders. If you’re bored & don’t want to do anything else, you may want to dig round the nest or lead other ants to food, specially if the bar’s starting to dip below max or a marquee message appears telling you that the nest needs mo’ food, but I’m not sure how dire it is. Once your population get back up to round 100, the breeder message will appear & they’ll fly ’way ’gain. But you shouldn’t worry too much ’bout that & ’stead spend your time checking the house screen to watch your black plots expand & prepare for when the red & black plots meet & you get red-&-black striped plots. As far as I know, nobody knows a way to make this part faster.

Not unlike many strategy games, the earliest parts o’ this game matter the most: the faster you expand your population, the mo’ empty plots you’ll get & the fewer the red ants will get, which will make the rest o’ the game much easier. This is why maxing out your breeders as soon as it’s practical to do so is the best plan: on my 1st playthru this year I forgot or didn’t realize this & the red plots out#’d mine, driving me into a tedious stalemate. Meanwhile, my most recent playthru had me quickly outpace them.

When the red-&-black-striped plots appear, it’s a good idea to switch to them & check your relative populations. Oft you’ll have ’bout 3 ants vs. 300 red ants. If you’re venturous or want a challenge, you can try going on a solo mission past 300 ants & try killing the queen. Keep in mind, tho, that it’s luck-dependent, & there’s a good chance the red ants will kill your queen before you e’en reach their queen.

Much less annoying is to wait till you have a striped plot where your population is near or ’bove the red ants’, giving you plenty o’ room to plow thru their ants, giving you plenty of opportunities for wagering gainst the queen & making it much easier, as you won’t have to weave ’mong hundreds o’ red ants, & may e’en be able to have your backup do your dirty work gainst the queen ’stead.

’Nother quirk o’ this game is that if you kill the red queen & get the message & then switch to ’nother plot, that plot will usually turn full black & immediately lose all its red ants, no matter how many hundred there were before.

& that’s basically the game. ’Ventually you’ll whittle down the red plots & eradicate all the red ants, completing your diabolical genocide. If you’ve played well, you may eradicate the red ants before taking o’er all the plots, in which case you’ll have to take o’er the rest o’ the plots to chase the humans out & truly win the game.

While all the plots outside have the same brown dirt & scattered tufts o’ grass ( presumably from the human mowing the lawn too much ), with a stray golf club or golf ball here or there, once you get inside the house you’ll get to see 3 new tilesets. In the bottom half o’ the house there’s pink carpet covered pencils, crayons, quarters, & boxes o’ playing cards with cat faces on them. Why they have so many o’ these, I don’t know.

The top half o’ the tileset, near the kitchen, are blue & gray tiles.

Finally, the very top row o’ the house has a variation on the checkered tileset, but with this weird green spongy mat with giant sinks.

These tilesets do have some extra behavior. In addition to saving you from the lawnmower & rain, they offer new ways to kill you. For instance, if you walk onto a power outlet you may get shocked to death.

They also crowd the area with mo’ junk that gets in the way. The sink, in particular, can be devious & trap your idiotic minions on the faucet fore’er.


In addition to the full game, a short game, & a tutorial, there’s 8 scenarios. In contrast to the full game, where half o’ the plots have the same tileset & there are @ most 4 different tilesets, each o’ these 8 scenarios have completely different tilesets, with the possible exception being the 4th scenario, “In the House”, which borrows much o’ the pink-carpeted tileset from the full game, but with new graphics added: what looks like a tatami mat with black dominoes & white erasers.

Some o’ these scenarios add extra gameplay mechanics & gimmicks, such as new dangers that can kill you, such as what I think are s’posed to be motorcycles in “On the Road”, some human slapping their hands on the stone porch in, well, “Under the Porch”, & antlions in a few scenarios.

Other scenarios have special gimmicks, such as the sheer summer heat o’ “On the Road” causing your hunger to increase faster; “By the River” being crowded with shit, including a giant eponymous river that spreads thru near the whole area; “Under the Porch” trying to add extra difficulty by putting food on your opponents’ side; & the final scenario, the autumnal, “In the Woods”, being a an autumn harvest feast o’ a stage with peas all o’er the place.

These scenarios also tell something o’ a story that goes down the seasons o’ the year, starting with spring & ending with autumn, with the ending cutscene taking place during the winter.

Despite all these variations, howe’er, e’ery scenario boils down to the same goal: defeat the red queen. You don’t e’en have to annihilate all the red ants, just the queen. & this is where the fatal flaw with these scenarios lies, as they also make the red ants start out with only a single ant on e’ery scenario. This means that all the variations & gimmicks I mentioned are nugatory if you understand the obvious trick to beating these scenarios: go straight to the red nest & kill the queen. Unlike in the full game where you’ll almost ne’er face a red ant colony with only 1 ant, but will oft be facing hundreds, where this kind o’ surge is unlikely to succeed & tedious, with no other ants in your way, it’s a breeze, e’en if you have to worry ’bout bad luck.

These scenarios do give you limited lives, which you might think would make this solution less valuable, but it’s the opposite: with the threat o’ game o’er always hanging o’er your head any time some random danger happens to hit you, anything that makes you linger longer only increases your chances o’ losing & wasting your time — specially when it involves allowing the red ants to build their population, which only increases the # o’ dangers that can whittle down your lives. The fact is that the very start is always your optimum chance o’ success & waiting to build your #s will always only decrease your chances o’ winning.

To put things into perspective: just before writing this I played these scenarios for the 1st time. I didn’t get game o’er a single time in any o’ these & was able to beat all o’ them in probably less than 10 minutes — & this was including doing the long, boring method in the 1st scenario, “In the Park”, as I hadn’t thought ’bout this strategy yet ( e’en then, it only took a few minutes to build mo’ black ants than reds, @ which case there was no reason to wait ).

( I should add that, having now read this ol’ Let’s Play ’bout SimAnt, — sadly the closest thing to a “guide” I could find on these scenarios, as GameFAQs stupidly has a bunch o’ PC guides on the SNES game’s page — I now see that there’s also ’nother cheat wherein you can just block the red ants into their hive & wait for them to starve to death ).

In short, the scenarios are all trivial & the gimmicks make no difference. Some might say that what I did was arguably “cheating” & that having such shortcuts doesn’t necessarily make the game worse, I can just choose not to employ them. The problem, tho, is that doing anything else is way too luck-dependent, thanks to the lives system. The scenarios completely butcher the gameplay mechanics o’ the full game — which, as I’ve indicated, were hardly rock-solid game mechanics in the 1st place. The manual makes a point o’ emphasizing that death is a slap on the wrist in the full game & you shouldn’t worry ’bout it for a reason: the randomness o’ deaths, specially when fighting red ants, is less frustrating & unfair if it’s just a small speck in the o’erarching game. Most o’ the game mechanics, such as building your population thru gathering food, comes from long-term planning, which is satisfying when you get fulfillment out o’ it, but would just be frustrating if ’twere all thrown ’way ’cause a motorcycle happened to run you o’er 1 too many times.

I think these scenarios could’ve been improved greatly by changing up some o’ the goals so that they’re not all just “kill the red queen”. Maybe make some o’ them be reaching a certain population # or having breeders take off. Breeders are completely useless in these scenarios — which is funny, ’cause on the 1 scenario in which I went thru the castes menu, they start you out with lots o’ breeders, which is a rarity in the full game. So they must’ve intentionally programmed the auto-caste system to be shitty to punish lazy players. I also think it would’ve made sense to increase the # o’ red ants & remove the limited lives “feature” — maybe make it a gimmick for 1 scenario.

The PC/Mac/DOS version

As I said earlier, the SNES vs. computer versions are mixed. In general, the SNES version mostly has much better aesthetics, while the computer version has mostly better gameplay, with the exception that it lacks scenarios ( as lackluster as they were ).

The SNES version has much better music & consistently plays it, while the computer version plays a short snippet o’ some cacophony o’ MIDI beeps, boops, steel drums, maracas, & police whistles that some programmer probably made up in a few minutes, & takes a long break o’ silence before feeling like playing ’gain. Tho I will admit, it is useful to get a special sound when new food appears, e’en if it’s gross & sounds like someone hocking the biggest lougie in the world.

The graphics have some weird tint effect applied to them, presumably to give the illusion o’ mo’ colors from what seems like a mo’ limited palette than the SNES has, & are much plainer. For example, many o’ the house tilesets are just flat blue with no other frills. No playing cards with cat faces, crayons, or quarters. A’least they still have the kitchen sinks.

On the other hand, you do get a cool animation whene’er you share food with ’nother ant:

Also, the ending isn’t nearly as cool as the SNES version. Whereas that version has this epic cutscene wherein the black ants swarm o’er the entire house, the computer version just shows a human & his cat & dog with wacky spiral eyes.

Also, you can’t fling the cat off the fence on the map screen like in the SNES version.

The computer version does have 1 aesthetic advantage: there’s an option called “silly” that causes ants to say silly things in word bubbles. For instance, queens will whine & have existential crises, spiders will brag ’bout how cool they are & how dumb ants are, & when ants fight each other they will call each other names, like “wood pulp eater”, & the red ants will say, “Better red than dead!”, like the loyal commies that they are, while the black ants, like true-blue capitalist Americans, say, “Better dead than red”.

Spider: “I’m so cool I can hardly believe it!”.
Queen: “Ungrateful offspring! They never write!”.

On the other hand, the computer version doesn’t botch its mechanics as much as the SNES version. For instance, when you set behavior & caste the game keeps it — in fact, it keeps the same options for any plot you go into. Generating new queens for other colonies is much mo’ convenient: unlike the SNES version, where you have to have near 100 population & you can only place a single batch o’ breeders in a plot you already have ants in or wait for them to decide to enter a plot you don’t already have access to on their own, the computer version allows you to generate queens any time you have breeders by clicking the “mate” button on the house screen, gives you an explicit # o’ new queens, & lets you place them anywhere within a short radius round your current plot. The game doesn’t automatically eradicate all red ants in a plot after you kill the red queen & flee, tho. I think the computer version is much better @ keeping track o’ information thruout different colonies, while the SNES version clearly fudges #s when you change plots. The pathfinding is just as bad, tho. In fact, it might be e’en worse, as sometimes while in the nest right next to an exit I’d click the exit & my ant would go off to the side in a dead end & get stuck. I have no idea what “logic” caused this to happen, but it happened repeatedly.

The game also has other li’l conveniences. For instance, you can use keys to call or release ants & get separate windows for easily changing options. For instance, you can easily switch to the map screen, click to where you want to go, & click back ( admittedly, due to its limited screen space, the DOS version — I couldn’t get the PC version to work on e’en ol’ Windows virtual machines — is less convenient, as the windows have to o’erlap each other ), whereas the SNES version makes you slowly scroll the screen round or slowly go into the map screen & back & doesn’t pause gameplay when you’re going back & forth thru menus.

Also, like most Sim games, you can set different speed levels, which also makes this game go much mo’ quickly than the SNES version.

The consequence to all this is that the computer version is much, much easier. If you don’t try to fail @ the beginning & start pumping out breeders early, you’re guaranteed to have black plots spread like fire & you won’t have to deal with stalemates caused by red-&-black-striped plots ne’er having mo’ than a few black ants, as you can keep manually forcing new ants into any plot. E’en tho the computer game has way mo’ plots than the SNES version, the computer version can be beaten much mo’ quickly.


Like I do with many games, I’ll talk ’bout the music I find interesting.

I’ll start with the computer version, ’cause it’s better to end on a high note. I basically just took these songs from this YouTube video that will probably disappear before you read this.

“Game Theme”

I swear, this song reminds me o’ the music from infamously bad game, Isle of the Dead. If you make it to the end o’ the song you’re treated to police whistles — yeah, I wasn’t making that up when I mentioned it before.

“Ant Theme”

It’s certainly a fresh idea to make your main ant theme be nothing but a drum solo — with steel drums, no less.

“Ant Theme 2”

I also wasn’t joking when I mentioned the maracas. These songs sound less like “songs” & mo’ like just hitting drums & shaking maracas a bunch o’ times.

“Ant Theme 3”

This is just straight up hitting a bunch o’ MIDI drums randomly.

“Human Theme”

When I think o’ humans I think o’ annoying high-pitched carnival music. It’s so you understand why you despise humans & want them chased out o’ the house.

“Human War”

¿Would you believe me if I told you this song is e’en worse than the “Human Theme”?


I don’t e’en know what the hell “QN4Day” represents, nor do I remember hearing this song during gameplay, which is why I neglected to mention MIDI organs in my instrument list earlier. This variety o’ instruments probably would’ve worked better if they were mixed together, rather than each song getting, like, 1 or 2 instruments.

All right, I can’t tolerate that music anymo’.

In contrast, the SNES soundtrack has more o’ a theme to it, & as a bonus, includes actual melodies, too. Rather than going for the surreal dadaist techno theme that the computer soundtrack has, this soundtrack uses high-pitched buzzing sounds, tingling bells, wooden instruments, & mo’, giving this soundtrack a mo’ natural, but also upbeat feel. Unlike the computer soundtrack, whose songs mostly sound the same, with no matching o’ topic & sound, this game does a great job o’ making songs fit where you hear them. Admittedly, this soundtrack has an unfair advantage, in that the SNES had a far superior sound chip to what computers had back then, & this game makes use o’ it to devise interesting, fitting instruments; but having actually melodies that go for mo’ than just a few repeated notes — that, in fact, e’en have bridges — also helps a lot.

Pretty much e’ery song in this game is great, but I’ll only list my favorites, ’cause this article’s already getting way too long.


As the name says, this music plays while outside — both the house & the ant hills. It’s a good thing I really like this song, since, as you can imagine, you’ll be hearing it a lot. The main instrument is the insectlike high-pitched notes that almost sound like singing, backed by thin, wooden-sounding drums & then a wooden-sounding bass bridge.

“Full Game in House”

The do-do-dos & emphasized base give this a fitting domestic feel o’er what “Surface” has. I like that this game manages to make its soundtrack sound both alien with its insectlike instrumentation, but also have warm melodies. Arguably it makes this soundtrack lose some o’ the silly, alienness o’ the computer soundtrack — it domesticates it, if you will. But the game’s not that weird, & I’d say a game that makes you play as ants for such a long time, & thereby gets used to them, should have some domestication to its music. This soundtrack is less “ants are weird” & mo’ “now you know what it’s like to be an ant”.

“Black Ant Nest”

Slower & mo’ natural-sounding with its waterlike beats, which fits its location, your home, which is the safest place to be — or, a’least, the least dangerous, since the red ants can still invade & attack you.

“Red Ant Nest”

In contrast, the red ant nest music screams “dangerous” with its deep bass, thumping drums, & general “dun-dun” melody & wasplike buzzing strings in the background. This is probably 1 o’ the most repetitive songs in the game, & for good reason: it’s not s’posed to evoke pleasure, but to give the feeling that you don’t want to stay long. ( Despite this, this song is still mo’ tolerable than any song on the computer version ).

“By the River”

I love the sheer variety o’ drum instruments this song uses.

“Under the Porch”

I love the cricket noises in the background & the general nighttime feel o’ this song.

“In the Woods”

Same for this song. The slowness fits the calmness o’ how this scenario is s’posed to work if you don’t just kill the queen @ the start.

Originally published @ The Mezunian.


1Unlike SimCity, SimAnt is compatible with the SNES mouse.