Animal Crossing: New Horizons proves games don’t need drama to be fun

Animal Crossing Opinion
Animal Crossing Opinion

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is on its way on 20 March, and while we wait impatiently for it to arrive so we can start exploring those new islands (and making flower crowns, people), we got to thinking about just what it is that makes us love the series so much.

Try to explain the concept of Animal Crossing to a newcomer to the series, and the reaction is often one of bafflement. You arrive in a town full of adorable animals, get slapped with a massive loan you weren’t expecting, and are left to your own devices to pay it off again.

Animal Crossing NH logo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is on its way on 20 March, and while we wait impatiently for it to arrive so we can start exploring those new islands (and making flower crowns, people), we got to thinking about just what it is that makes us love the series so much.

Try to explain the concept of Animal Crossing to a newcomer to the series, and the reaction is often one of bafflement. You arrive in a town full of adorable animals, get slapped with a massive loan you weren’t expecting, and are left to your own devices to pay it off again.

What that description doesn’t include is the sheer, wholesome joy of having a little house that’s your own, which you can decorate however you want without the landlord getting antsy, and a whole host of animal friends who think even your most dubious fashion advice is the best thing since sliced bread.

There might be no gigantic enemy to defeat, no sudden betrayals (unless you count Tom Nook’s surprise loans), and no life-or-death battle to stop the forces of evil, but that’s exactly what makes Animal Crossing so charming – it’s just a big old sandbox with lots of pleasant things to do and all the time in the world to do them in.

And while Animal Crossing has become a genre all its own, it’s hardly the first time that games have dispensed with the traditional slaughter-all-the-bad-guys format in favour of a gentler, more open-ended approach.

Take a look at The Sims, for instance – there’s no defined goal unless you make one yourself, and no time limit that you have to factor in (well, okay, Sims can age and die, but you can also turn that option off). You don’t even have to play with actual Sims at all if you don’t want to: filling empty neighbourhoods with exquisite architecture is an equally valid way to play.

Then there’s Ooblets, an indie game on its way in 2020, which sees you collecting and training adorable knee-high creatures to participate in dance-offs. Or Stardew Valley, where you restore a dilapidated farm to life while building up relationships with your fellow villagers and dressing horses in hats. Or Slime Rancher, where you corral cute and squishy space monsters in pens and harvest the, er, by-products of feeding them.

Probably the most stressful thing about the Animal Crossing games is the knowledge that you’ve been lumbered with an eye-wateringly high loan thanks to the financial trickery of an extremely intelligent raccoon. But even then, the terms are pretty reasonable: there’s no deadline for paying it back, and you can even choose how big your instalments are going to be. Heck, you don’t even have to pay it back at all – depending on how long you can stand walking past Tom Nook while awkwardly avoiding eye contact.

Animal Crossing New Horizons

Everything else is all very unhurried. The fluffy residents of your town or campsite will come to you now and again for help, but it’s entirely up to you how hard you work to fulfil their requests. In New Leaf, you’re the mayor of the town, but you don’t have to do your job. If you just want to wander around picking fruit, gossiping with friendly animals, and going fishing whenever the fancy takes you, nobody’s going to get cross.

Then there’s the matter of collecting furniture and cool clothes. You’ll see something in the catalogue and immediately fall in love with it, and then it’s just a matter of saving up to buy it. Your house might not entirely belong to you yet, but is that going to stop you from furnishing it to perfection? Absolutely not. After all the effort you’ve put into creating the perfect furniture layout, adding that adorable biscuit-shaped table to your sweets-themed room will be the most satisfying moment of your day. Bonus points for when the Happy Homeroom judges swoon at your flawless interior design skills.

So with all that and more to keep you both occupied and pleasantly chilled out, who’s got time for shooting matches with evil overlords?

And if you want the latest news, features, and deals from GAME, sign up to our newsletter today!