Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Providing the all-consuming, carefree escape you need right now

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local
Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local (Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is releasing tomorrow (!). We've been so excited for the release since it was first announced, but after a delay, waiting, and few details available until the Nintendo Direct on Feb. 20, we were understandably thirsty for something — anything. As popular as Animal Crossing is, Nintendo would have had no way of knowing that New Horizons would be just the game people would need to get away from the craziness happening in the real world.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons will provide the perfect distraction in the upcoming weeks. You'll get to control nearly every aspect of your island paradise, right from your couch. It's also accessible to almost everyone, so even kids will have something to distract them while they're stuck at home. Then, when you're craving some interaction, you can hop into multiplayer.

A simple premise accessible to all

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons (Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossing has always been an easy game that just about anyone can pick up and play. There are no real rules; you get whatever you put into it. Even if you put it down and forget about it, you can always just pick up where you left off — although don't expect your villagers to just wait around for you. The Animal Crossing games are alive, so your town will soldier on whether you're there or not, so there's no pressure to play every day.

There's no goal, no bosses, and no end game. Players can explore their world at their own pace, which in this case, is a deserted island paradise. You can run around collecting items, discovering different parts of the map, picking up materials, or just hanging out by the beach. The low-key gameplay makes it easy for anyone to jump right in without having to go through crazy tutorials. You have simple action buttons, an inventory, and the rest is all up to you.

In addition to exploring, you can get to know your animal neighbors. You can chat with them, do odd jobs, and send them letters. If building up your home and town is your goal, you'll want to do a lot of these jobs and save up the Bells (in-game currency) to do it. Or you can just get the extra dough to spruce up your home. Decorate, rearrange, and pretty much do whatever your heart desires.

That's the fun of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. There's no wrong way to play, and there's no need to power through to avoid spoilers. (Seriously, what spoilers?) It's the perfect casual game.

Build it your way and on your own time

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local (Image credit: Nintendo)

Okay, so you can do just about anything. Now, thanks to a mechanic added in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you can build just about anything, too. What better way to spend your time than creating the perfect furniture for your ideal house, using tools you made from scratch? That's right. You can craft endlessly, and because New Horizons is gifting us the NookPhone and all of its lovely recipes, we can craft for days!

With Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players can actually get rewarded for any painstaking completionism.

Of course, to build all of these fun things, you have to have the proper materials. That's where collecting comes in. You can chop down trees, pick up weeds, find some fruit, mine ore — or you can just buy it. But who has the Bells for that? Plus, you have all the time to DIY.

The gameplay isn't limited to picking up stuff off the ground. Life demands variety, and what better way to spend your time then by care-free tasks like catching bugs, fishing, and digging for fossils? You can keep these items, sell them, or you can put them in a museum for your whole town to see.

With Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players can actually get rewarded for painstaking completionism. With the introduction of Nook Miles, you can get prizes for collecting different things, trying all the recipes, and so much more. It's these relaxing little things that can help you feel accomplished without the stress platformers, puzzle games, and shooters put on you. It's about doing little things and taking enjoyment out of the simple aspects of life.

Building anything even extends to the island itself. From the start, you get to choose your map, where you live, and even where you live. You can micromanage all you want. Everything is yours to mold, and truly, that is the epicenter of this game. You can do whatever you want. Build a house on the beach, pitch a tent in the woods, throw your furniture on the lawn, or make an ideal town complete with a wrestling ring or spa.

Once you've reached that pinnacle point, you can even change the face of your island. Of course, with all of this, you'll have the earn the Bells to get you there.

Things change just about every day

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Image credit: Nintendo)

One of the great things about Animal Crossing is that if you ever miss a day, it doesn't matter all that much. Your town will go on without you. So, things will be just fine if you leave it for a couple of days (just expect it to be overrun with weeds the next time you show up). You'll want to log on every day though simply because you never know what you'll miss!

Since collecting is a big part of the fun, it's important to note that as the day turns to night or seasons change, there's a whole new batch of items to collect! There's always something different. In fact, some creatures only pop up during specific times or seasons. So, if you want to get everything, you need to play at different times.

Of course, collecting isn't the only thing that's affected by passing time. Presents fall from the sky, villagers pick up and move out or move in, all kinds of merchants visit on a random basis; there's no telling what will happen day-to-day. You might even find hidden stashes of Bells! As the seasons change, you'll experience different gatherings and events from bug catching tournaments to holiday celebrations. Since Nintendo promises to provide updates, there's no shortage of possibilities.

Explore with friends

Animal Crossing New Horizons What Is Nookphone

Animal Crossing New Horizons What Is Nookphone (Image credit: Nintendo)

What makes Animal Crossing: New Horizons so exciting is it's sheer size. Your island is going to be huge — so big you can get lost when exploring it. If you do get lost, you have a button on your Nook Phone should you need a rescue. You're not limited to just one island, either. You can go on island tours on Dodo Airlines and explore different areas, unlike your own island. If you get bored of your place, or you just want some ideas, you can get a ticket and go.

You can spend the whole time just exploring everything, gathering items, collecting fun creatures, and just forgetting the outside world.

If you are missing social interaction with non-NPCs and you have a Nintendo Switch Online membership, you can use the airlines to visit your friends' islands! If you have family members or roommates right next to you, they can also join your town with some local co-op play. You can spend the whole time just exploring everything — gathering items, collecting fun creatures, and just forgetting the outside world.

While the state of the world isn't the best, we can always lean on each other, even if you can't do it physically. So, pull out your Switch, start up a game of Animal Crossing and make some friends around the world who'll be playing right beside you. Or, if you prefer a solo venture, you can build your island to perfection.

With so much charm, vibrance, and activities to complete, this game is here just when we need a little bit of levity. And take it from a long-time Animal Crossing fan, there's no shortage of things to do.

Sara Gitkos

Sara is the Freelance Coordinator, writer, and editor at iMore. When not editing or writing away, she's glued to her Nintendo Switch, Xbox, or PS5, though she's a retro gamer at heart.