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What the heck is ‘Animal Crossing’? An intro to the game everyone’s playing.

Warning: Reading this may cause you to want to play “Animal Crossing,” too.


You’ve probably heard someone talking about Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. There’s good reason! Nintendo Switch users are taking a well-needed break from reality to play a beautiful, charming video game set on a dream island filled with nice friends, fruit trees, a bright blue ocean, and a capitalist crook raccoon. (More on that later.)

There’s so much hype for Animal Crossing because so many people are sitting on the couch, social distancing from society. Everyone’s got a lot more time on their hands than expected. There’s also history. Long-time Nintendo fans have been waiting nearly a decade for this game to come out.

Late to the party? I don’t blame you. I’ll catch you up on what you’re missing.

What is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and why is everyone playing it?

New Horizons, released on March 20, is the fifth main-platform installment of the Animal Crossing series, which started all the way back in 2001 for Nintendo 64 in Japan (it was enhanced and brought to the U.S. for Gamecube in 2002). It’s the first since New Leaf, which was released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS.

Animal Crossing stans have waited eight years for this game!

What is Animal Crossing about?

There’s so much to do in Animal Crossing even though it’s going to read so simple. The TL;DR: you slowly build a delightful island using basic equipment like a shovel and an axe.

To go a bit deeper, players get to design their own character, pick an island, then spend forever on that island gathering resources, planting trees and fishing. The game uses a real clock system, with your island changing to day and night appropriately, and different fish and insects appearing based on time and month.

The point of the game is to build a utopian island filled with neighbors who are your best friends, and lush greenery to harvest. That’s it. That’s what the game is really about.

How is that fun?

I have no idea. It just is. I’d never played a single Animal Crossing game until this weekend but now I finally understand what the hype is about.

It sounds like it’s for kids. Is Animal Crossing for kids?

Shut up. I’d like to see a kid catch two coelacanth fish in one sitting. But also yes, it’s rated E for Everyone.

What animal are you?

OK, here’s the trick. You aren’t an animal. You’re a human. You just become friends with animals. Just friends. No romance. I promise. This is a nice peaceful island, remember. Rated E.

What are the animals crossing?

Well, I’m not sure. I just built a bridge they can cross, so there’s that I guess. Crossing isn’t really a main focus here. It’s just a name.

What’s the point of Animal Crossing?

Here’s where the capitalist crook comes in.

After landing on your new tropical island, Tom Nook, the raccoon, gives you your first tent home. Sounds nice right? Well, Nook doesn’t do anything for charity. He gives you a crappy tent, knowing you’re going to say yes to his “generous” offer of a big, new house for 98,000 bells (Animal Crossing currency) instead.

You’re then tasked to go around the island and gather whatever Nook needs. You catch and sell fish, insects and whatever else you can find to repay his debts. Once you do, Nook is elated. His predatory loan plot has just begun. For 198,000 bells, you can upgrade your home, and so on.

The game is equal parts you developing a sweet little island to enjoy and appeasing your raccoon overlord.

Can you play Animal Crossing with friends?

Yes! There’s multiplayer. You can invite friends to your island to exchange resources. There aren’t any competitions, though. You’re all in this together. If you’re looking for a head-to-head game, this probably isn’t for you.

Can you die in Animal Crossing?

What part of happy, little island are you not getting? There is no death. You can try and hit your friend in the face with an ax, but they won’t get hurt. I’ve tried.

You can try swiping a net over their eyes, but they’ll also be fine. I tried that, too.

You can get hurt. If you shake a tree and upset the wasps, they’ll sting your eyes (yes, only eyes for whatever reason). A tarantula can bite you at night and make you faint. But there is no death. The only thing dead is whatever is behind Nook’s stare.

Should I play Animal Crossing?

Nook didn’t ask me to say this, I promise. But yes. If you’re able, play this game. It’s a great escape, and will keep you inside.

Where can I buy Animal Crossing, and how much does it cost?

Animal Crossing costs $59.99 on the Nintendo online store, which is where you should be purchasing games for best social distancing practices.