Animal Crossing: New Horizons one year retrospective: Thanks for the memories

Acnh Toast In Front Of Museum
Acnh Toast In Front Of Museum (Image credit: iMore)

As of today, it's officially been a year since Animal Crossing: New Horizons released on Nintendo Switch. Crazy, right? This little life sim surprised just about everyone when it became a worldwide sensation, not only outselling any other Animal Crossing game that came before it, but also outselling most Nintendo Switch games already on the market.

New Horizons's record-breaking streak is undoubtedly due to the cheery gameplay and multiplayer options that helped us through one of the bleakest years we've ever encountered collectively. So here's a thankful look back at all of the things New Horizons journey and all it did for us over the past year.

Animal Crossing retrospective: How it started

Animal Crossing New Horizons Upgrade Tent To House (Image credit: iMore)

A huge chunk of New Horizon's success is undoubtedly due to the game launching at just the right time. It had originally been slated for a September 2019 release, but was officially delayed to the following March during Nintendo's E3 2019 event. Little did Nintendo know how good this new release date would play out for them and little did we know how much we would need this game at that time.

Animal Crossing took care of our emotional and social needs.

As uncertainty and the pandemic were starting to hit the United States in March, New Horizons' sunny shores beckoned us away. Later, when we were physically stuck inside during the summer months, Animal Crossing allowed us to venture outside with the loved ones we couldn't see in person to a tropical getaway where a pandemic didn't exist. It also gave us cheery animal friends who were excited to see us every day, remembered our birthdays, and made us feel like we weren't alone.

from r/AnimalCrossing

In a very real sense, Animal Crossing took care of our emotional and social needs in 2020. It's no wonder that so many new Animal Crossing players joined the relatively small-but-dedicated fandom that already existed.

Never before had a life sim been so necessary for allowing us to live our social lives.

New Horizons also provided a creative outlet. Fan-made QR codes for clothing designs and patterns filled our Twitter feeds. We created gorgeous islands for others to visit. It's honestly no wonder that we got so sucked in to this gorgeous world that gave us a safe place to express ourselves. Never before had a life sim been so necessary for allowing us to live our social lives.

And of course, the chill gameplay wasn't nearly as demanding as many other games out there, which made it accessible to players of every age. New fish and bugs showed up every month, allowing us to fill out our Pokédex Critterpedia, while finding fossils, bugs, and fish also allowed us to get a sense of satisfaction when filling in our museums.

For once, owning a home, and even renovating it, was attainable. Playing the stock stalk market and trading villagers with other players allowed us to quickly get rich and even taught us a lesson in economics with supply and demand.

Animal Crossing New Horizons several people's avatars posing for a picture on one island (Image credit: iMore)

New Horizons allowed us to create happy memories in 2020.

As time went on, our islands became a symbol of wholesome goodness as uplifting Animal Crossing stories repeatedly showed up on social media. I definitely cried happy tears when I read about the groom who worked with friends to create an in-game surprise wedding for his bride after the couple had been forced to cancel their real-world reception. Many people lost their jobs, but found purpose by starting friendly Animal Crossing-focused Discord groups. People who couldn't leave their apartments made new friends online through their shared love of Animal Crossing. The state of the world might have been confusing and scary, but New Horizons showed us that human kindness was still out there.

And then, just as we'd squeezed about as much as we could out of our islands, Nintendo started releasing wave after wave of updates with new characters to meet. Eventually we learned how to swim and got to explore the waters surrounding our islands. We suddenly had an art musem and became a little more cultured as learned to distinguish real artwork from fakes. Even then, the fakes were fascinating as we learned they were haunted.

Acnh Bunny Day Outfits Hero (Image credit: iMore)

Animal Crossing New Horizons Swimming Laughter (Image credit: iMore)

Acnh Sprinkle Turkey Day (Image credit: iMore)

Acnh Jingle And Player (Image credit: iMore)

Acnh Halloween (Image credit: iMore)

Source: iMore

Of course, we can't forget the Animal Crossing holidays. From surviving the multi-week Bunny Day to allowing people to go trick-or-treating together with the in-game Halloween event or even celebrating Christmas with family and friends, there has consistently been something that shakes up the game, adds new items to collect, gives us new ways to have fun with others, and brings us back in for more.

Animal Crossing retrospective: How it's going

Animal Crossing New Horizons Villagers (Image credit: iMore)

Even though New Horizons has been out for a year, it continues to sell well and has been on NPD's monthly list of the 10 best selling video games since release. It's also the best-selling Animal Crossing game by more than double the units sold. Not to mention that in it's one-year lifespan, it's managed to become the second best-selling Switch game of all time, beating out Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at 22.85 million copies sold and just barely behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has sold over 33.41 million units according to Nintendo's last report.

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TitleCopies sold
Animal Forest (2001)0.21 million
Animal Crossing (2001)2.27 million
Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005)11.75 million
Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008)4.32 million
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2013)12.82 million
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (2015)3.47 million
Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival (2015)0.49 million
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (2017)N/A
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020)31.18 million

To celebrate its success, Nintendo just released the Animal Crossing anniversary update, giving us even more new goodies to collect and pose with. Things aren't stopping there either. Due to the game's popularity, more items and events are getting added into the game that we didn't experience last year. It looks like it's going to be yet another awesome 12 months for New Horizons, and we can't wait to see what's in store.

Thank you Animal Crossing

Acnh Kk Birthday (Image credit: iMore)

It's crazy to think that a whole year has flown by since New Horizons released on Nintendo Switch. During that time it's (literally) done the world good by providing family and friends with ways to interact with each other on a cheerful island getaway that helps meet our emotional and social needs. I owe some of my sanity to Animal Crossing, and I'm sure many of you do to.

Thank you Nintendo for giving me happy memories from 2020 and thank you Animal Crossing for helping us make it through such a tough time.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.