Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Game Reviewed: Nintendo
Developer: Mobius Digital
Reviewer: Samuel Gronseth II
Category: Social Simulation
ESRB Rating: E
The Animal Crossing games have been a staple in relaxing life sims ever since their debut on the Nintendo Gamecube. The premise is simple; you’re a cute little human who moves into a village full of cute little animal people. A racoon named Tom Nook gives you a house, letting you pay it off and upgrade it at your liesure, and you spend the game collecting things, hanging out with your animal friends, and selling any random things you find to buy furniture and clothing or pay off your house. Oh, and it runs in real time; if you play at 2:35pm, it’ll be 2:35pm in the game, and if Tom Nook says your new house will be ready tomorrow, he means actually, literally, the next real-life day.
The new game has players going to an uninhabited island and starting a little village; they’ll build things and invite other villagers to live there, and slowly grow the island into a nice little community. And you can even play with other people, and visit friends’ villages, either on the same Switch or on multiple ones.
It’s one of those games that can be hard to understand without playing it. It’s basically a game about doing chores and paying bills, which does not sound fun. But the series has been around a long time now, and with good reason. It’s adorable and relaxing, and that appeal means even more now. New Horizons has taken over the internet as scared, anxious people quarantined because of the Corona Virus use it to socialize with their friends and escape to a world where none of these cute little animals are at risk of dying from a global pandemic.
So let’s see if it would be good to get for your kids.
What Parents Need to Know
Sometimes, when you chop or shake a tree, a wasp nest falls out and a swarm of the little jerks chases you and stings you; your villager has a sore-looking eye for the next few hours when this happens. There are also spiders that can sometimes bite you, at which point your villager faints and wakes up at home moments later.
…frankly it feels weird to even write such nonviolent things in this section, but that is legitimately all this game has to offer in the violence department.
There’s a round little ghost who sometimes shows up on the island at night, and if the player accidentally scares it they can then go around gathering little bits of its spirit to help it recover.
There is some user-created content; players can design patterns and put them on shirts, signs, or other items. It’s possible for people to put bad language or sexual drawings on these (though it would be super pixelated), but Nintendo has a function for reporting such behavior and encourages players to do so.
At its heart, Animal Crossing is about a bunch of people working together to make life better for each other, and there’s a genuinely good heart to these games. Right now, it’s largely being used by friends who can’t see each other, and are supporting each other in this digital, worry-free space. It’s kind of beautiful to see, honestly, and I think the game is legitimately helping people get through this scary, difficult time of isolation.
A Child’s Perspective:
I can’t even count all the families I know who play this game (and the previous ones) with their kids. Kids love Animal Crossing.
Animal Crossing has always been a great series, but this is the first time it’s truly felt important.
I probably don’t need to say what a comfort relaxing, calming media can be in a time of crisis. Settling down with an old, nostalgic show on Netflix, sitting in your favorite chair reading your favorite book, replaying your favorite video game from childhood; these are all things that help us stay grounded when it feels like the world is falling apart around us.
Animal Crossing provides that in spades, but its social functions are also acting as a substitute to the person-to-person interaction that’s unsafe to engage in during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the merits of the game itself, it’s providing a sense of community and love and friendship in a time where that is desperately needed.
So if you’re wondering if you should buy Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if you should let your child play it, the answer is also yes. But I encourage you to also play it with your child, and with your friends, and with their friends. Let it be a gathering place for scared, lonely people. Because we all need that right now, and you’d be surprised how well this cute, silly little video game about doing chores for a racoon can provide it.
Samuel Gronseth II
Samuel Gronseth II is an avid video game enthusiast who manages Video Game Reviews at TheSource4Parents.com. He has experience teaching about video games, and is passionate about their storytelling potential. Sam's favorite movie is The Empire Strikes Back, and his favorite video game is Persona 4. Sam lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife, Jimi. To see more of Samuel, check out his Youtube series Games as Lit. 101, where he examines the stories of beloved video games to see what we can learn from them: https://www.youtube.com/gamesasliterature.