Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Release Date: March 20, 2020
Platform Played On: Switch
2018 Placement: Unranked
What It Is:
The Switch version of the wildly popular simulation game that started back on the Gamecube. The game is all about going into crippling debt to a capitalist raccoon while maintaining your house and island and being friendly with all your neighbors, except for when you want a cooler neighbor so you kick out the people you don’t actually like.
Okay so that’s the cynical version of the game, but this is one of those games where the goals are what you make of it. There’s no dating, no skill trees, no combat (except vs. tarantulas). It’s just a slice of life simulator where all your neighbors are anthropomorphized animals. There is a “credits” sequence once you reach the goal of having the famous K.K. Slider perform at your island. But then the game continues because it’s not about “finishing” it, it’s about relaxing and having a good time with your buds.
Why It’s Important To Me:
It’s kind of fitting that I’m writing this the day I got my second COVID vaccine shot, as Animal Crossing was the game that made the first half of this pandemic bearable. I’d never played a game in this series before because I never really “got” simulation games. But after lockdown suddenly happened to everyone, I downloaded this game as a distraction and to try it out. And let me tell you, it’s been worth every penny. It’s a game that hits the perfect spot of relaxation when I don’t want to play something competitively.
Every morning I would wake up and check on my villagers, do a little weeding and island beautifying, and work towards my goals of making my perfect house. I became best friends with Sherb, who is far away my favorite villager and will always be my best bud. Marshal and O’Hare are my bros, Nana, Bunbun, and Sprinkle are my gals, and Monty is the crotchety old monkey who lives in the corner but we all love him anyway. I’ve gotten to the point where I wouldn’t trade any of my 10 villagers away for anybody else, even the elusive Raymond, because they’re like an extended video game NPC family to me. Even when I don’t play the game for a while, they’re always excited to see me come back to the island and visit for a day or two.
My Strongest Memory:
The crazed turnip rush of the first few months was a highlight of the entire experience. Comparing stalk market prices, sharing friend codes, visiting other people’s islands and marveling at how nice they were, and of course making those bells off turnips so I could improve my island. It was a refreshing community to be a part of when in-person communities had been shut down indefinitely. There was never any bad blood in the sharing of islands and it was just a nice, wholesome time to spend with other people.
There is also the fact that not a single character in Animal Crossing judges you for your appearance. When I changed up my look, I cried because Sherb and Monty and Rowan and Nana all greeted me the exact same way and complimented me. It was weirdly affirming to see these companions of mine so readily accept me for who I was, no matter how I looked or what I wore. It sucks that I can’t change my name (please fix that Nintendo, please) but otherwise the denizens of AC are such a supportive crew and these little pixelated friendly creatures mean so much to me.
Why It’s #38:
When I think of COVID and the year spent in lockdown, Animal Crossing is always going to be the first game that comes to mind. It was an escape to a community when we were all divided from them. It was relaxing when the world was stressful. It was the perfect game released for the perfect moment, even if that moment lasted a year and sucked for everyone. Sometimes a game is worth more than just what’s done when you play it, it’s the memories made and the feelings it gives you. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to replicate the experience New Horizons gave me, and I’m not sure I’d ever want to.