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I would like to know what elements of the game are NOT necessary for a successful city.

Farms I have built and they take up a lot of space, but I am not sure what the contribution is to create a successful city. I usually skip them altogether, and things seem to go fine.

But, do Landmarks really contribute to a city?

I never built streets, skip railways or other monorail/elevated rail type, because they take up too much space.

Or is it really necessary to built all types of zone densities in a city to make it successful?

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You don't necessarily need to use farms, they are just there for completeness since people like to recreate actual locations, you can't reproduce farmland without the farms. –  Jeff Mercado Jan 28 '13 at 15:17
    
perhaps I should broaden my question into what elements of the game are not necessary for a successful city? –  Hendrik Beenker Jan 28 '13 at 15:37
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up vote 14 down vote accepted

Strictly speaking, the only elements required for a city are:

  • Power, since zones do not grow without electricity
  • Residential and industrial zones, to provide homes and jobs for Sims. Commercial zones are not strictly necessary I believe
  • Roads
  • A fire station, since fires are disasters which pauses the game and will destroy an entire city if left unchecked

And... that's about it. A city which contains only the elements above will be a fairly crappy city, but it should survive assuming you can finesse the budget enough, and live with how poor it is. SimCity 4 is a sandbox game - most elements of the game are by definition unnecessary. Now, about elements of the game which which may not be very good value for money

  • Agriculture is good as a form of employment. Unfortunately they don't provide any tax revenue and creates terrible water pollution (easily avoidable by placing towers and pumps away from them). The only benefit they bring is allowing you to build the farmer's market reward structure

  • Landmarks are very useful as commercial demand boosters. Unfortunately they're usually too expensive for that purpose. I recommend the Functional Landmarks mod if you wish to build them.

  • Airports boosts commercial demand, but like landmarks smaller commuter airports aren't usually worth the expenses. Larger cities can still benefit from larger regional/international airports

In the end, the question as to whether something is worth building is always "it depends". Every choice you make have tradeoffs, and making the best of what you have (short of using mods) is part of the fun.

If you need more information, http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/561176-simcity-4/faqs/21501 contains excruciatingly detailed information on every building and game concept. Well worth a read if you want to know if something is worth building.

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Technically you don't really need a fire station either. If a fire does break out, you can just create firebreaks by destroying all buildings (and other fuel sources) around it and let it burn itself out. –  Jeff Mercado Jan 28 '13 at 16:33
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@JeffMercado - Technically, you don't even need a city. The simulation will run just fine without one ;) –  Robotnik Jan 29 '13 at 4:10
    
I guess it will be a matter of defining a successful city. you could create a city of 2000 residents with some farms and some local mom & pop shops and light industry that can sustain itself. I guess I mean a successful large city/metropolis. –  Hendrik Beenker Jan 29 '13 at 19:38
    
@Hendrik THe problem is that 'successful' is subjective and ill-defined in your question. 'Minimally viable', on the other hand, is far easier to answer. As mentioned in the answer, SimCity is a sandbox game. In the right situation, everything has a use. Look through the linked strategy guide for comprehensive table on what each of the buildings do. –  Private Pansy Jan 30 '13 at 1:51
    
I guess my original was better defined. I was just asking about the necessity for farms. I found the link to that massive gamefaq guide very useful though, thanks for that! –  Hendrik Beenker Jan 30 '13 at 8:19
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