I wrote this article to celebrate Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s first anniversary.
Animal Crossing New Horizons is a Nintendo exclusive videogame for Nintendo Switch, released on March 20th, 2020. You sign up for the quiet island living, and the greedy Tom Nook (a raccoon/tanuki) makes you pay for everything as you go. I know, it doesn’t sound as interesting when I put it like this.
When Animal Crossing New Horizons was released last year, lockdown had just started. The rules were much stricter then, at least in Portugal. The virus was new; there were not enough medical supplies, masks, or alcohol. Plus, the health authorities told us to stay home. For most of us, Animal Crossing was a window to escape the anxiety that this new reality brought us. Of course, any videogame can do that, but Animal Crossing uniquely delivered that experience.
The initial island is wild, covered in trees, and two more villagers moved in at the same time. As you collect materials and upgrade, your island may look more like a civilized place, depending on your effort. What exactly is this island life? Picking up and selling fruit, exploring, catching bugs, fishing, decorating. It’s like The Sims (but without the burden of simulating life) with cute characters and for nerdy kids. The time in-game is the same as in real life, and so are the celebrations and holidays. It’s a family game, but I know a lot of other 30-year-olds playing it.
I started streaming Animal Crossing on Twitch (and Splatoon 2 too, read more here). This allowed me to make lots of friends, as the Animal Crossing community is one of the kindest.
During the lockdown, ACNH allowed us to visit each others’ islands. When combining specific colors, the flowers generate hybrids. This chance is increased by having friends water your flowers. These visits also promoted sharing DIY recipes, items to catalog and, above all, get inspiration from other players. All islands have different items in their shops so, if you want to collect all the fabulous outfits, you need to travel around.
Celebrities all over the world started playing this, which helped skyrocket Animal Crossing’s popularity. Gary Whitta (Saturday Night Live) turned it into a talk-show when he began streaming Animal Talking on Twitch, with in-game guests such as Elijah Wood.
Animal Crossing is so full of nerdy nuggets that I wish I had played this as a kid. There are insects and fish you can collect to fill in the critterpedia. A more recent update added Redd, a suspicious Fox who sells both real and fake art. You can also donate insects, fish, and art to the museum and see as you complete all collections. In this museum, I could experience visits that reminded me of going on field trips as a child.
Animal Crossing was also the cover of the French newspaper Le Monde and featured in Financial Times because of how ingenious the Turnip Stalk Market was. We can buy turnips on Sundays and have the rest of the week to sell them, while prices fluctuate during the week. It didn’t take long until fans developed apps to predict price spikes and make sure the way to bellionaire was easier.
Your island is yours to decorate and do whatever you want. It’s about self-expression. You have so many available items that the sky is the limit…and so is the storage. Furthermore, anyone can create and share patterns used as stamps on the ground or clothing items. This results in so many beautiful island areas.
There are also over 400 villagers, with 8 distinct personalities. Some are cuter than others, and one of the most exciting moments in the game is to hunt for our favorite villagers. They all have unique houses and be more popular because of that, such as Ankha, whose house is based on an Egyptian crypt). There is one character, Audie, who pays homage to an elderly lady who had hundreds of gameplay hours in Animal Crossing New Leaf.
Even though I lost interest after seven months of playing consistently, now that I’ve restarted my island, I fell in love with the game again. There are regular updates with new additions that keep the game engaging, and that’s the reason why players return after a while.
According to fans of the other saga titles, ACNH is not too innovative compared to older ones. However, Nintendo Switch is the bestselling Nintendo videogame system, which allowed the doors to open to millions of new players.
Happy Anniversary, Animal Crossing! Here are some more of the best moments from last year:
Watch my Animal Crossing New Horizon streams on Twitch!