An illustration of a videogame displaying a virtual world like Animal Crossing
Animal Crossing isn't the only game that lets you escape to a simpler world. (Illustration by Elizabeth Wong, University of Rhode Island)

3 Games To Play If You’re Obsessed With Animal Crossing: New Horizons

These options promote a quiet, wholesome lifestyle and an escape from reality that has been difficult to find during the pandemic.

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An illustration of a videogame displaying a virtual world like Animal Crossing

These options promote a quiet, wholesome lifestyle and an escape from reality that has been difficult to find during the pandemic.

Since it was released for the Nintendo Switch earlier this year, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been a huge success. According to Nintendo, the newest addition to the Animal Crossing series has been the “best start ever” for a Switch game. In only the first six weeks of its release, the game sold 13.41 million copies worldwide.

Undoubtedly, Animal Crossing: New Horizons owes some of its success to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shuntaro Furukawa, the president of Nintendo, noted that 50% of the game’s sales were digital, which is likely due to its release being in sync with worldwide stay-at-home orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons emerged as a much-needed form of escapism for millions of people during the global pandemic. The game’s basic concept involves a “Deserted Island Getaway Package” — escaping to a deserted island that you’re free to customize as much as you want and however you want. Your island is inhabited by a variety of adorable animal neighbors, and you’re free to spend your days fishing, catching bugs and looking for fossils.

If you’ve found yourself drawn to the wholesome and escapist style of gameplay that Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers, you might be on the hunt for a few more games that fit within that niche. Whether you’re suffering from Animal Crossing burnout after spending endless hours terraforming your island to get the elusive 5-star rating or you’re simply looking for other wholesome games to add into your rotation, I’ve got you covered with a list of three more games for the Nintendo Switch that you might enjoy.

1. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles introduces you to the world of Gemea, a vast open-world island with beaches, mountains, forests and a variety of adorable creatures. Your main task is to save Gemea from the Murk, a mysterious purple substance that has taken over certain areas of the island, but really, you’re free to explore at your leisure.

Sure, the game’s goal is for you to eventually clear up the Murk to help Gemea’s population, but there’s no real threat of harm to Gemea’s environment or wildlife if you don’t. If you’d rather ignore the game’s storyline in favor of exploring, farming, befriending animals and getting to know the island’s villagers, Yonder won’t punish you.

Similar to Animal Crossing, Yonder boasts relaxing gameplay that truly allows you to escape the more trying aspects of real life in favor of exploring a sparsely populated island paradise. It also has no health bar and no enemies to hinder your exploration, so if you’re after another relaxing game that can be as slow or as fast-paced as you want it to be, this might be the game for you.

2. Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is definitely the most well-known game on this list. It was originally released for PC by Eric Barone, who developed the game after being inspired by the Harvest Moon franchise. Since its PC debut, it’s been released on a variety of platforms, including Nintendo Switch, and it’s developed a fairly large and dedicated fanbase.

At its core, Stardew Valley is a farming simulator, but it’s also so much more than that. Like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game’s exposition has you abandoning your former life in exchange for one more connected with nature, but instead of getting your own deserted island, you’re heading to Stardew Valley to run the farm your grandfather left you.

For some people, the villagers are what make the Animal Crossing games so enjoyable, and that’s definitely the case with Stardew Valley. The characters in Stardew Valley are all unique with well-developed personalities and lives. As you tend to your farm, you get the chance to venture into Pelican Town and get to know and form relationships with the residents who live there, which is one of the highlights of the game.

The farming and crafting mechanics in Stardew Valley are a bit more complicated than Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which could be stressful for some players, but if you’re looking for another game that encourages you to leave behind your capitalistic life in the real world while befriending unique characters, I would highly recommend Stardew Valley.

3. Summer in Mara

Keeping with the island theme that both Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles adopt, the setting of Summer in Mara is an archipelago of islands within the ocean of Mara.

You play as Koa, a young girl who lives on her own island with her adoptive grandmother, Yaya Haku. During the game’s tutorial, you’re limited to exploring your own small island where you can gather resources, plant trees and crops, go fishing and craft a variety of tools and foods. The game really gets going after Koa’s grandmother disappears, leaving you alone on the island with the responsibility of fixing it up yourself.

Eventually, you unlock the ability to travel by boat to the main island, which houses the bustling city of Qälis, as well as several other smaller islands throughout Mara. From this point on, you’re tasked with traveling between islands to gather resources and crafting items to complete quests for Mara’s inhabitants. You’re also free to customize your home island as you transform it from ruins to a cute, functional farm with crops and adorable farm animals.

Summer in Mara fits nicely alongside Animal Crossing: New Horizons in the genre of relaxing, somewhat mindless games that are perfect as an escape from reality. Unlike Animal Crossing, it offers more of an overarching plot and an antagonist who wants to exploit Mara for its unique resources, but like the other games on this list, Summer in Mara is still well suited to the leisurely, wholesome gameplay that fans of Animal Crossing: New Horizons enjoy.

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