Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Who is this game for anyway?

Animal Crossing Hero
Animal Crossing Hero (Image credit: Nintendo)

Many people who are unfamiliar with the Animal Crossing series have been exposed a little more to it thanks to the many memes depicting a little yellow dog named Isabelle and the guy from Doom. I'm not entirely sure if it's due to these hilariously charming memes, but it seems to me like the hype for the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons game on Nintendo Switch is much higher than it's been for previous AC titles and has drawn in a lot of new eyes, including my own.

Through the years, I've had multiple friends tell me how much they love AC, but whenever I saw gameplay, it looked like an utterly boring way for me to spend my time. You see, I'm much more driven by competition and plot when it comes to video games, and AC doesn't provide much of either of those things. However, the internet's reaction to New Horizons gave me pause and made me want to take another look at the series. Cause, if that many people loved it, maybe I was missing out on something.

After spending several hours playing previous AC games, the series has really grown on me. However, I'll be the first to say that the upcoming Switch game is definitely not going to be of interest for everyone despite what some dedicated fans will tell you. So here's a break down of AC from someone who's recently been exposed to the series for the first time, along with my opinion for what kind of players will actually enjoy it.

What is Animal Crossing about?

Animal Crossing Hero (Image credit: Nintendo)

The central premise of every AC game is that your character comes to a new town or city and attempts to build a new home and develop friendships with your animal villagers. You get a loan from Tom Nook, a tanooki (or raccoon) with wads of money. You'll be in debt to him for the majority of the game as you work to pay off your house and make upgrades to your living situation.

As far as day-to-day gameplay goes, you basically do a lot of mundane chores that you wouldn't want to do in real life, but somehow it becomes satisfying within the game. For instance, you can run around your village pulling all of the weeds, talk to every villager in an attempt to return a lost item, remodel your home, plant flowers, go fishing, plan new village facilities, sneak up on bugs, decorate your home, rearrange your furniture, and sell everything that you can get your grubby little hands on to the local used goods store.

This seemed so boring to me when I first started playing New Leaf on my 3DS that I initially turned the game off shortly after starting it, never intending to play again. However, a few days later, I decided to force myself to continue, and a strange thing happened — I found myself enjoying this simple village life.

Who is Animal Crossing: New Horizons for?

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local

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

After some thought, I've come up with several reasons why people new to Animal Crossing will like New Horizons. If any of these bullet points describe you, you might want to check the game out when it releases on March 20, 2020.

Who will enjoy Animal Crossing: New Horizons?

  • Millennials who can't afford to buy a house in real life: I say that with my tongue firmly pressed into my cheek, but it's true. If you've dreamed of owning your own place, but like many of us, don't see it as a financial possibility, then New Horizons can allow you to build the home of your dreams.
  • Aspiring interior decorators and landscapers: Part of the fun in Animal Crossing is being able to acquire decor and furniture for your home. You get to arrange everything just how you like it and can even take and share pictures of your creations. This doesn't just stop with your interior, you also get to manicure your garden and eventually get to change the landscape itself by creating bridges, directing the flow of rivers, or editing cliffs.
  • Anyone who wants a friend: Whether you're an introvert like me who has a hard time making friends or are simply lonely at the moment, your AC friends are always there for you. They celebrate your birthday, say hello to you as you walk by, clap for you if they see you reel in fish, and in general, are just happy to see you.
  • Players who enjoy life simulators and playing house: If you are interested in games like Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon or The Sims, you have a much higher likelihood of appreciating Animal Crossing. If you've never played a life simulator, it's a bit like playing house with your toys when you were a kid. Only now, most of the toys make their own decisions and have their own personalities that you don't control, which adds an element of uncertainty and surprise to the gameplay.
  • People who like playing games with friends: New Horizons' online multiplayer allows anyone with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to visit their friend's island. If you mark yourselves as best friends, you can gather materials and participate in various activities together.
  • Anyone who loves photo mode: One of the best things about Animal Crossing is that it's a social experience. The community loves seeing what other players create so you can take pictures of your set up and share them with others.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons (Image credit: Nintendo)
  • Those who like to fish in video games: You know who you are. AC provides different catches depending on the time of year. You'll see a shape in the water and can cast your hook into the ocean, unsure of what you'll reel in. Seasonal fishing tourneys even allow players to compete for the largest and most rare fish caught. If somehow you get tired of fish, you can always hunt for creepy crawlies and participate in bug-catching competitions.
  • People who like to watch shows while they play video games: One of the beautiful things about AC is that you don't have to pay complete attention to the game at all times. So you can binge-watch your favorite shows while gathering materials or while creating that perfect home in AC.
  • Players who love to loot: Now you won't find guns or ammo while running around your New Horizons island (that would REALLY change the game), but you will find rare goods, coins, bugs, fish, vegetation, and more that you can collect and then cash in for Bells (AC's in-game currency). Some of these things can even be used as materials to craft tools and such.
  • People who get overwhelmed by complicated games: I once tried to convince a roommate to play Zelda. We liked a lot of the same things, and I was sure that she'd get hooked on the series. However, the moment a Deku Baba dropped from the ceiling, she flung my controller across the room in terror and stated that the game was too stressful. If this describes you, then New Horizons' laidback gameplay might be more your play style.
  • Anyone who loves "warm and fuzzy" or cutesy things: AC is arguably the most wholesome game out there. Your island residents are all adorable animals, and you'll be spending your time trying to keep everyone happy while adorning your home and your main character with cutesy decorations and accessories.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons 008

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons 008 (Image credit: Nintendo)
  • Those who like to get rich fast: It's ridiculously easy to earn Bells (money) in AC games. You simply loot up as much as you can and then run all the garbage in your pockets to the local shop. You'll be surprised how much you can get for certain bugs or rare materials. What's more, this game is like a mini-lesson on capitalism. The prices for certain items change from day to day, so you might earn more for selling turnips one day, but far less the next. Knowing when to sell and when to hold on to your inventory is part of the fun.
  • People who like making emotional connections in video games: While Animal Crossing games are extremely simple, the connections players create with the games can be very complex and even emotional, as Reddit user, simplebeianton, explains:

"Animal Crossing is not just a game. It is a manifestation of your ideal life and self... It's your birthday, no one at work remembers, but they do. The villagers, your friends remember. They throw you a party and give you gifts...You have a best friend now. That one villager that you see and talk to everyday who never fails to make you smile. You renovate your house. You can't wait to show them the next time your friend comes over...Your best friend moves out. There's nothing you can say or do, it just happens...You lose your motivation. You stop playing as often...The years pass quickly. You forget. There are other games to play, other things to do. There was a new Animal Crossing game announcement...How long has it been since you last thought about your town? You wonder what has changed, where everyone is now, but the crippling anxiety and guilt stops you from returning...What if they have all moved out and there is no one there to remember you? It might be best to start anew. You preorder the new game. Welcome to Animal Crossing.

It's really long, but you should really take the time to read simplebeianton's full post. It's definitely worth it.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons isn't for everyone

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons

Animal Crossing New Horizons Seasons (Image credit: Nintendo)

As I said before, New Horizons won't be a good fit for everyone. If any of the following bullet points describe you, you might want to steer clear from this game.

Who won't like Animal Crossing: New Horizons?

  • Anyone looking for speedy gameplay: Sort of like mobile games, AC sometimes won't allow your game to progress until a certain amount of time has passed. For instance, if it gets to be late at night and the stores are closed but your pockets are filled with goods that you want to sell, you'll have to wait until the following morning when the stores open up to make some Bells.
  • People who don't like repetition: AC is all about doing the same things over and over, not unlike real life. You'll gather, fish, build, sell, and repeat from day one. While there are seasonal activities and special characters that randomly show up on the island, most of your day-to-day will be the same.
  • Players who are solely driven by plot: There really isn't any plot in most AC games. You have to provide your own entertainment by going out into your island and deciding what you want to do for that day. Granted, I'm typically a very story-oriented player, but somehow I didn't mind the lack of plot in these games. I think if you prepare your mind to not expect a plot before playing New Horizons, you might actually like the game.
  • Those who prefer challenging gameplay: This is seriously one of the most chill games out there. Aside from getting chased by bees, scorpions, and deadly spiders, there aren't really any enemies or quick response moments that require intense gaming skills. If you get a lot of enjoyment out of making split-second decisions and turning on a dime, you might find gameplay in New Horizons to be pretty boring.

Well, what do you think?

Do you think you'll be buying New Horizons on Nintendo Switch? What made you decide to buy it or what made you decide not to buy it? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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.