With the COVID-19 epidemic affecting more countries and causing a second wave of cases in Hong Kong, waking up in the morning alone can be a lot. Do you ever just want to escape and forget all this for a second? Many people already have — and their fantasy destination is a Nintendo game called Animal Crossing: New Horizons, where you can create your own paradise on a deserted island with unlimited resources and animal friends.
The New York Times calls it “the perfect way to spend quarantine,” and it’s already on track to become one of the best-selling video games of all time in Japan. What’s so special about it? We speak to five regular Animal Crossing players — who have played over 400 hours combined to date — on what they love most about the game. Read on for more bonus content at the end: we have more games recommendations for you as you stay home and practice social distancing.
1. “In Animal Crossing, there is no rush.” – May, 30s, Graphic designer
“Animal Crossing has changed my life. I started playing the game during an extremely tough few weeks at work. People got laid off and it was very sad. I had a lot more work to cover and have been working overtime. To be able to come home and play as if nothing else existed in the world is immensely comforting. In Animal Crossing, unlike real life, there is no rush. Even in most other games, there’s usually an emphasis on winning or beating people up or completing this task RIGHT NOW.”
“Animal Crossing has none of that. The flowers don’t die. The island will be fine even if you don’t log on. When life gets busy you can leave it, but if you want to spend hours in the game you can. Last week, I went fishing on a friend’s island in the Southern Hemisphere. There were so many rare fish, including sharks! We fished literally overnight. It was so much fun.”
2. “You can hop on a plane without worrying about travel bans.” – Mic Mic and Yuki, 20s, Drum instructor and artist
Yuki: “I’ve wanted to play from the start, and he’s copying me.”
Mic Mic: “I’ve been unable to stop ever since. We share an island and we would discuss the town layout together and gossip about our fellow animal villagers. When we first started, I wasted a Nook Miles Ticket, which cost 2,000 Nook Miles. She got a bit mad. So I made it up to her by gifting her two Nook Miles Tickets.
Yuki: “Mic Mic promised to not play the game when I wasn’t there, but on the phone I heard him digging fossils!”
Yuki: “In Animal Crossing, I can have things I will never have in real life — my own house and band room. The game also doesn’t require intense focus like most other games. You can just chill out, which is perfect considering how depressing real life is with the coronavirus and protests. You can hop on a plane and visit others’ islands without worrying about travel bans and quarantines. With so much freedom in the gameplay, you can relieve your stress and anger in humorous ways.”
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3. “The joy I get from unwrapping a present from my friend is very real.” – Miru Wong, 30s, Owner of local embroidered shoes brand Sindart
“There’s so much to do with your friends on Animal Crossing. You can visit your friends on their islands, send each other gifts, fish together, organize shooting star watch parties. People are so sweet and kind in the game. When I visited my friend, for example, she wrote my name on the beach! A friend brought me a bunch of rare flower hybrids and even built me a garden. People may think this is ‘just a game,’ but the joy I get from unwrapping a present from my friend is very real.”
“Time passes in the game just as it does in real life, so there are a lot of things to look forward to. The views look different in the morning and at night, and there are four seasons in the game. It’s spring right now, and I hope to play long enough to experience all the seasons. Things also take a day to build, flowers take a couple days to bloom and breed, and mail from friends arrive the next day. It gets me pumped up for the next day.”
4. “The game is designed with a lot of heart.” – Emily So, 30s, Educator
“The game is designed with a lot of heart. There are different seasons and regions [Northern and Southern Hemisphere], and they spawn different fish and insects. It’s Sakura blossom season (which doesn’t take place for islands located in the Southern Hemisphere) right now, and there’s also an Easter event.
“You enjoy so much freedom within the game. If you want to play at a leisurely pace, you can do that. There aren’t levels that you have to complete. If you’re a hoarder, you can collect all the furniture, flower hybrids and rare fish. If you like a challenge, you can spawn your own tarantula island. You decide your own gameplay — just follow your own pace!
The real highlight is playing with your friends. It’s meaningless if no one sees your beautiful island. I love having friends over and taking cute pictures together. My friends and I are in a singing group together, and we recreated our costumes and sang our heart out in the game! It’s much needed fun in these painful times.”
5. “It makes me look forward to what the next day will bring.” – Yuuki, 20s, Illustrator
“Animal Crossing makes me look forward to what the next day will bring. The game runs in real time, so sometimes you’ll have to wait. For the museum to complete or for different insects to visit your island, for example.”
“The museum is an essential part of the game to me. You catch bugs, fish and dig fossils to donate to the museum, which then displays the collection in the most stunning space. Animal Crossing draws the fish and insects in such intricate detail it’s a joy to look at, and you can learn actual facts about the species. It is super satisfying as I witness my museum fill up with different species.”
Follow Yuuki’s art here
What else is there to play other than Animal Crossing?
Two Point Hospital
“I recently bought Two Point Hospital, another highly addictive game. It’s similar to Sims, only instead you’re managing a hospital specializing in weird diseases. Things like the “Light-headed Disease,” where the heads of people who have it become light bulbs. It’s also available on desktop, Playstation and XBOX One.” – Emily So
More info here
“I recommend Nioh 2, a notoriously difficult action role-playing game. It was released recently on Playstation 4. If you like a challenge, you have to try it.” – Mic Mic
Buy it here
6 Nimmt! (Take 6)
“It’s a super fast-paced card game for 2 to 10 players. I always bust this out in gatherings and it’s always fun. The rules are simple and very easy to pick up.” – May
Buy it here
“Splatoon is my favorite Nintendo game. It’s a shooter game available on Nintendo Switch. I love it for its level of customization. You can collect clothes, gear and weapons. You battle it out with online players and I’ve met so many amazing people. Some have translated into real-life friendships. There’s a highschooler that I met on Splatoon, and we now hang out regularly in real life.” – Miru Wong
More info here
Dragon Quest Builder 1
“I was going through my collection and started playing this 2016 game Dragon Quest Build. It’s available on desktop, Switch and Playstation, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s like Minecraft but with prettier graphics. There’s a central plotline you have to follow, but you can also design and build your own world. I will probably purchase the latest Dragon Quest Builder 2 once I finish with Animal Crossing.” – Yuuki
More info here