So it’d been twenty years or so since I last made an earnest run at getting Megalopolis in the SNES version of SimCity. After so many failed attempts as a kid to get to 500K, I had pretty much given up hope of ever get’n her done. And then I introduced the game to my son.
We were toying with the million dollar money code recently, creating the kind of bizarre city only a five year old could dream up, when I informed him that you could get a Mario statue if you grew your city big enough. When he turned to me excitedly, his eyes as wide as could be, I knew the time had come.
And you know what? It panned out much easier than expected. There were two things working in my favor this time around: 1.) The wisdom that comes from not being a stupid kid, and 2.) The internet.
The challenge that had completely thwarted me as a child was easily overcome with a little bit of strategy, patience, and exploitative trickery. Let me share with you the tips and tricks that helped me get there.
USE MAP #061
This is the landform with the least amount of water (12%) and the most available space for slapping down buildings. With the exception of only a handful of other maps, getting to Megalopolis on any other landform will be difficult, if not impossible. Make no mistake: Map 61 is the absolute best!
USE RAIL EXCLUSIVELY
Okay, it’s not the most realistic building strategy, but it completely eliminates the problem of traffic, not to mention all the pollution associated with that. Say ‘no’ to roads and ‘yes’ to mass transit!
USE RAIL SPARINGLY
This is probably the most important thing to know: Residential, Commercial, and Industrial zones need only a single piece of adjacent rail to function and grow as normal. One little piece. It doesn’t even need to be connected to your main railways. It can just be floating off on the side or, better yet, in the water.
Yeah, once I learned that, everything else easily fell into place. It gets better when you realize that Airports, Seaports, Stadiums, Police/Fire Departments, and even Gifts don’t require rails whatsoever. In the case of Airports and Seaports, you don’t even need to keep them powered. Hey, it was the early 90s. Things were simpler back then.
By keeping your rail placement to a minimum in this fashion, you get a ton of extra space to drop zones, even though it’s sure to make your city look like the north end of a turd facing west.
I’m pretty sure I screwed that up somehow.
Depending on the platform you’re playing the game on, you may have the option to fast-forward the gameplay and spare yourself the agony of having to wait so much. In the case of the ZSNES emulator, it’s as simple as holding down the tilde key (the one that looks like ~). You could feasibly get to Megalopolis in a single day using this method.
USE THE MONEY CODE
You could do it the legit way, with the paltry sum of money they give you at the beginning of the game, or you could say ‘Screw that noise’ and use the money cheat. I’m a huge advocate of the money code, since it doesn’t technically make the game any easier (many people have invoked the money code, few of them ever got to Megalopolis). What it does do, however, is give you free reign to plan and build your city without all the pesky waiting that comes from going broke. It also allows you to drop your Tax Rate all the way down to 0%, which helps facilitate growth a little. Come to think of it, that little bit might actually make it like cheating. It all depends on how much of a stubborn purist you are, I suppose.
Here’s how to instantly get $999,999:
- Spend all of your money, ensuring that you have some fire departments, police departments, and some roads/rails. Make sure you spend every last cent, and that your buildings are powered.
- Reduce your police, fire, and transportation funding to 0%.
- Wait until year’s end for the budget screen to pop up.
- Hold down the “L” button. Don’t let go until instructed to!
- Exit the budget screen.
- Return to the budget screen and bump your funding levels back up to 100%. Then exit the budget screen once more.
- Release the “L” button. Ka-ching! Repeat as necessary.
A donut block is essentially eight residential or commercial zones arranged around a Gift in the center. They look like this:
Their purpose is to eek out the maximum growth benefit of Gifts by surrounding them with zones that can top out. The amount of population you get from a pair of topped residential/commercial zones is huge, and it’s essential to get as many tops as you can if you want to get to 500K. Donut blocks are one of the easiest ways to go about getting topped zones, though they aren’t necessarily guaranteed to do so.
I used to build my entire city with donut blocks back in the day; I’ve since learned this to be a generally bad idea. You should only build them when you have a gift to shove in the middle. And it’s best to spread them out a little if you can.
COMMERCE ON THE WATER, C-TOPS IN THE SKY
For whatever reason, commercial zones seem to thrive when built right on the coastline. With that in mind, you should reserve as much of your waterfront as possible for commerce. Any spot where you can have two commercial zones touch water and top out is ideal. You might as well put the adjacent rail in the water, too, to free up more space on land for placing buildings.
Coal plants produce tons of pollution and aren’t able to power as many zones as nuclear plants. The choice between the two is as clear as it gets: spend the extra cash and use nuclear plants exclusively. Yes, they can melt down, resulting in catastrophic, irreversible damage to your city. You could also die tomorrow on your way to work. If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space, man.
You only need one each of the following for your city to thrive:
• Fire Department
The Seaport doesn’t need to be near water, or even have rail run by it. Same goes for the Airport.
You only need one Stadium, though it’s recommended that you build three in order to get both zoos. Once you have them, feel free to obliterate all but a single stadium.
Same with Fire Departments. Build enough to net you those three precious Fire Headquarters, then get rid of all of the regular FDs to save space. If you get a nasty fire, you can always bulldoze around it to contain the blaze.
Fire Headquarters are much better than regular Fire Departments in that they actually boost the land value of surrounding zones, making growth easier and better. They also make decent donut-hole fillings, if you catch my draft.
If you plan to go the Fire Departmentless route, however, you should make frequent saves in case a plane crash or tornado takes out something irreplaceable before you can put the fires out. Hell, this is just a good habit to get into, any way you slice it. On my quest to 500K, I had three instances of nuclear meltdown. It’s best to just cut your losses at that point and boot up your most recent save.
There’s no time limit, baby, so take it slow and give your zones some time to develop. Instead of just slapping down zones en masse, let your existing zones grow and tell you what to do next. For example, if you’ve got a block of residential zones that have stopped developing or have inexplicably dropped in quality, then you may need to add a few commercial or industrial zones to get them going again.
Trying your best to let your zones blossom before planting new ones is key to creating a city of topped out buildings. Experiment – try replacing defunct residential zones with commercial zones and see if they fare better, and vice versa.
KEEP INDUSTRIAL ZONES ON THE OUTSIDE EDGE; SPREAD THEM OUT
And I mean the very outside, all the way to the wall. That way, the pollution they produce spills off the map, effectively halving their negative effects. Try to keep a buffer at least one zone wide between your industrial zones and commercial/residential zones. Zones that develop adjacent to industry tend to get a little slummy; the buffer can help mitigate the effect. Consider throwing police departments in this buffered space, since you’ll need a ton of them to keep your yellow “ring of crime” under control. Also, keep some space between your industrial zones at first, and fill them in later after you’ve gone all the way around the map.
As you get nearer and nearer to 500K, you’ll have to fill in all your buffer areas and give up on the idea of keeping your industry spread out. But, until then, you might as well glean the benefits that come from keeping your pollution down.
HOSPITALS AND SCHOOLS SUCK
Bulldoze hospitals immediately – they don’t house people and don’t benefit existing zones. Schools are just as bad with one caveat: You need nine in order to get all three libraries. Once you have those, then schools serve no purpose and should be disposed of with no remorse.
Education? Health Care? What is this, some kind of fairy tale? Welcome to SimCity.
THAT FINAL, INDUSTRIALIZED PUSH
Building zones by the 2/1/1 rule seemed to work out well in the early and mid-game. By that, I mean 2 residential zones for every 1 commercial and industrial zone. But at the end, when every residential zone seemed to come up slummy (if at all), I was getting more bang for my buck by filling out the last remaining holes with industry. If you’re at 480K or so, struggling to get that last push you need, then consider replacing defunct zones with industrial zones, regardless of how many residential zones are nearby. It worked for me, and it may be just the kick you need to cross the finish line.
GIFTS: HOW TO GET THEM, HOW TO USE THEM
Gifts are crucial to boosting growth; you should aim to get all of them. Here’s a handy rundown of what they are, how to get them, and what you should do with them.
Unlocks: When you have 2000 population
Very simple to get, go ahead and plant your house right in the middle of a residential donut block and watch those buildings soar!
Unlocks: When your population is 10K+ and your money is less than $2000
Allows you to take out a $10K loan every 21 years.
The Bank works wonders when placed in the middle of commercially zoned donut blocks, so go ahead and do just that when you get it.
Unlocks: When you have a Seaport and an Airport.
Annual Income: $100
The expo is best for enhancing nearby industrial zones, but I always end up putting them near commercial zones as they seem to have a positive effect on those, too.
Unlocks: When your city has 3, 6, and 9 schools.
Annual Income: $100
Like hospitals, schools randomly pop up sometimes in place of houses when a residential zone develops. While it’s tempting to zap them immediately (they don’t hold populace, nor do they boost any land values), you should hold on to them, at least until you have all three of your libraries.
Libraries are best for boosting surround residential zones, so put them in the middle of red donut blocks.
POLICE HEADQUARTERS (3)
Unlocks: When you have 6, 12, and 18 police departments.
These have an increased crime prevention radius over regular police departments. Use them where crime is unusually high, or strategically deploy them to reduce the amount of police departments you need to provide an effective police net.
FIRE HEADQUARTERS (3)
Unlocks: When you have 6, 12, and 18 fire departments.
Fire coverage is over-rated in SimCity, so their usefulness is relatively lame in that regard, but they do increase the land value of nearby areas, making them a good candidate for putting in the middle of a residential/commercial donut block.
TRAIN STATION (2)
Unlocks: When you have 50KM and 200KM of railroad.
Annual Income: $100
It will look goofy, but your best bet is to jam these in the middle of an all commercial donut block. They work wonders.
LARGE PARK (3)
Unlocks: When you build 300, 600, and 900 squares of parkland.
Annual Income: $100
It’s worth building a whole bunch of little park areas to get all three large parks. They are great for upping the land values of surrounding Residential zones.
Unlocks: When you develop 150 and 350 zones.
Annual Income: $100
These perform best around commercial zones, so try to surround them with commerce.
AMUSEMENT PARK / CASINO (Combination of 3)
Unlocks: Uncertain – seems to be linked to how much rail/roads you deploy.
Annual Income: Amusement Park $100 / Casino $300
You can choose between the Amusement Park and Casino up to three times per city; each gift affects different zones in a positive manner. The Amusement Park encourages massive growth to nearby residential zones, while the Casino provides nearby commercial zones with a massive boost in addition to providing $300 in annual revenue. Unfortunately, Casinos also generate a lot of crime, but that can be easily combatted with police presence.
Unlocks: When your city is 50 years old.
Annual Income: $100
The fountain provides an equal boost for both residential and commercial zones, so go ahead and place it in the center of a mixed donut block for maximum effect.
Unlocks: As your available open land becomes more and more scarce.
These little guys are great for creating islands in the middle of the water – it’s best to put commercial space on them. How many you can acquire seems dependent on your chosen map; on map #061 I was able to get six landfills.
Unlocks: When you have 1 and 3 stadiums.
Annual Income: $100
As you might have guessed, zoos work best when used to inflate nearby residential zones.
Unlocks: When you reach Megalopolis (500,000 population)
If you got this, then you don’t need this damn guide anymore. Congratulations! Place Mario anywhere, as he’s good for boosting both residential and commercial zones.
I couldn’t have made this guide without some useful advice already on the internet. If you’re hungry for more knowledge on SimCity, then please check out these helpful sites:
- Peter Naughton’s SimCity Guide
- Incise.org Advanced SimCity Strategies
- Justin Holme’s SimCity (1991) FAQ
About the Author
|Mark A. Brooks uses the A. initial in his name so as to seperate himself from the teeming legions of other Mark Brookses (there are at least 65,000 in the state of Michigan alone).
Keep up with him on twitter, because why not. @unoriginalG
Mark A. Brooks has written 572 posts on Delta Attack.