What is the Appeal of Animal Crossing: New Horizons?

Not everybody understands Animal Crossing, but one of our agents went undercover to see what the big deal is.

If you’ve been on the internet at all lately, you’ve no doubt seen the influx of posts about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the latest entry in the long-running Nintendo franchise that has been winning the hearts of gamers both young and old.

Customize your pad like @MarioWorldFun

The hype surrounding New Horizons‘ release was monumental, and that hype has seemingly paid off for many fans. That said, for a game that essentially boils down to a social-space with some customization, Animal Crossing has left many traditional gamers confused.

Why do people like Animal Crossing so much? For a game with minimal progression and some exceptionally annoying multiplayer restrictions, what is it about Animal Crossing: New Horizons that has Nintendo Switch owners so amped up?

After spending a few dozen hours inside the happy-go-lucky word of New Horizons, I think I’ve found some answers.

Low Stakes Gameplay

Although games have gotten easier and easier as the years go by, Animal Crossing has never been a punishing franchise. In fact, there’s really no way to lose.

In New Horizons, you’re whisked away on a tropical island getaway, touching down on a deserted island with the intention of making it your own. Led by a money-hungry raccoon named Tom Nook, your island expedition quickly turns into an island renovation, complete with construction and decoration costs.

To pay off these sizable debts, you can explore the island, catching bugs, fish, and collecting an assortment of other items to sell. As you frolic around the island, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a cathartic and relaxing loop of scavenging, selling, and upgrading. It’s the perfect game to play while listening to an album or a podcast, where you’ll never have to worry about restarting checkpoints, losing progress, or generally being in danger at all (unless you’re hunting down tarantulas or stumble across a wasp nest).

The Social Element

Just two buds hangin’. Image courtesy @kuniotchi

There have been several changes to the Animal Crossing formula in New Horizons, namely the introduction of crafting, a new island setting, and some notable customization options. Despite these overhauled mechanics, one of the main draws of Animal Crossing remains the same; sharing your creation with your friends.

Once you’ve completed the opening days of the game and have tidied up your personal island with a bit of style, you can invite your Nintendo Switch friends over for a good ‘ol fashion hang-out session.

Since there aren’t a ton of unique activities for multiplayer groups to take part in, you’ll have to make a lot of the fun for yourself. From what I’ve seen, this mostly involved showing off your decorated home and island, giving small tours, and engaging in a few friendly fishing competitions.

To be fair, I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent checking out my friends’ islands, taking in each persons’ unique flair and eye for design. There’s a lot of stuff you can customize in New Horizons, from the furniture in your growing home to the clothes on your back.

For those who are artistically inclined, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a nice way to subtly brag about your superior decorating skills, where every hour your spend agonizing over small details is rewarded with clout from your buddies.

Family-Friendly Fun

So I guess we’re all set up for some backyard wrestling?

Of course, this kind of idle, relaxed gameplay is best for younger gamers or those just looking for a more casual experience. There’s also no denying how surprisingly addictive New Horizons can be, which makes it an ideal product for parents looking to distract their kids for a few hours.

Better yet, it’s a consistently positive and lighthearted experience, packed with charming characters that are as funny as they are adorable. Every time a new NPC arrived on my island for a visit, I made sure to chat them up, admire their style, and (if they played their cards right) invite them to potentially live on the island.

As silly as it might sound, I really started to connect with the various cutesy NPCs, mostly due to their variety in style, expression, and generally good vibes.

It might sound like a joke, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a good game for teaching kids about the basic concepts of banking, fiscal responsibility, and investment. There are some good values to be gained from playing, which is more than you can say for some of the more mindless kids games on the market.

It also urges all players to embrace their creative side, be it in custom designs, planting and arranging flowers and trees, or just generally making the island their own. A long checklist of collectible bugs, fish, furniture, and fossils encourages everyone on the island to work together towards a common goal, which also promotes cooperation and forward-thinking.

Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons Overrated?

When all is said and done, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game that rewards you based on the time you’re willing to invest. It’s fun and enjoyable for a few hours at a time, but those who push past the 30, 50, or 100-hour mark will definitely get the most satisfaction out of their purchase.

For those of us with busy schedules and little free time, New Horizons might seem like a lot of busy-work with not a lot of pay-off. While that might be true for some, it’s also worth noting that in a time of societal tension and chaos, a bit of stress-relief is always worthwhile.

While Animal Crossing: New Horizons might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s important to remember that everyone enjoys games differently, and New Horizons does its best to accommodate all manners of play. Similarly to games like Minecraft and Roblox, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game where you’re the arbiter of your own enjoyment.

So, is New Horizons overrated? I guess it depends on who you ask. For those with an open mind and a substantial amount of time on their hands, New Horizons can quickly become your latest obsession. Alternatively, it could feel like an utterly pointless time-sink. When it comes to Animal Crossing in general, it usually comes down to your attitude and perspective.

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