I just started playing the wildly popular game 'Animal Crossing' that has taken over the internet, and I'm convinced it's the perfect way to escape COVID-19 lockdown life

‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’/Nintendo
  • “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is the latest instalment in Nintendo’s popular life simulator franchise, and it’s a much needed escape from everyday life.
  • The game takes you away to a deserted island, where your top priorities are building a new home, making friends, and exploring.
  • As people are staying home more than ever and socially distancing themselves from friends and loved ones, “Animal Crossing” provides a sense of simplicity, social connection, and routine.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons” finally launched on Friday after much anticipation, and the timing could not have been better.

As the coronavirus pandemic has upended daily life for many people across the United States and around the world, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” brings a sense of normality, routine, and social connection that’s sorely lacking for many in this moment.

If you’re not familiar, “Animal Crossing” is a long-running Nintendo life simulator game franchise where your biggest concerns are building a home, making friends, paying your debts, and going about your daily life.

In “New Horizons,” you’re whisked away to a deserted island, where it’s up to you to design and furnish your home and develop the island by bringing in new residents, planting trees, and more. If you have a Nintendo Switch Online account, you can also visit the islands of other players and friends as well.

At a time when people are spending more time at home than ever before, anxiety is on the rise, and people are feeling increasingly isolated as they’re socially distanced from their friends and loved ones, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is the perfect escape. Some players are even using “Animal Crossing” as a way to celebrate special occasions like weddings and visit friends they can’t see in person.

I’ve never played an “Animal Crossing” game before, but you don’t need to be familiar with the series to enjoy its simplicity and the way it makes even seemingly mundane facets of life rewarding.

Here’s a closer look at what it’s like to play “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”


It all starts with Tom Nook, who basically runs the island and is your best resource if you’re not sure where to begin.

Nintendo

A familiar face to “Animal Crossing” fans, Tom Nook works in the island’s resident services office and provides you with a tent and a few other items you need to get started.

You can come visit Tom anytime if you want to learn more about what to do with your time on the island.


But of course, his help doesn’t come for free.

Nintendo

Your first major goal in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is to reimburse Tom Nook for your move-in fees and expenses.

You don’t pay him through the franchise’s currency of Bells, however. Instead, you pay Tom through Nook Miles, which are essentially points that you earn for trying new things and completing tasks throughout the game, whether it’s catching a certain amount of fish or crafting a new item for the first time.

It’s a great introduction to the game that motivates you to try a little bit of everything as you’re getting started.


Your humble island life begins with your tent, which you can set up anywhere you like on the island.

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Here’s what my tent looks like on the inside after a little bit of wandering. I’ve furnished it with a few items I discovered during my travels, but I still have a long way to go.

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The game encourages exploration and creativity, and crafting new items is a great way to make progress toward your Nook Miles goal in the beginning.

Nintendo

Throughout the game, you’ll obtain new “recipes” for crafting items. Some of these objects will help with your exploration – like fishing rods and bug nets for catching critters – while others can be used to furnish your home.

Learning new recipes will also help you earn Nook Miles, so be sure to find recipes by exploring the island and talking to other residents when you can.


A ladder is an example of an early item you can make that will help you reach new areas of the island.

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But one of the first items you’ll probably make is a fishing rod.

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Catching fish will not only help you earn Nook Miles, but you’ll eventually also be able to donate them to the island museum’s aquarium.


As is probably the case in real life, you rely on your smartphone a lot in “Animal Crossing.”

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You can claim your Nook Miles, view a map of the island, keep track of the bugs and fish you catch, and more through your smartphone.


Here’s what the app screen looks like.

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One app shows all the challenges, like catching bugs and building furniture and tools, that you can complete to earn Nook Miles.

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Crafting items, fishing, decorating your home, and catching bugs are just a few of the ways you can pass the time when getting started in “Animal Crossing.”

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You’ll also come across other tasks and challenges to complete, like this one from a friendly ghost named Wisp, who roams the island at night.

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Early in the game, you help Wisp track down the missing pieces of his spirit that have been scattered around the island for a reward.


Once you repay your first debt to Tom Nook, you’ll get your first major upgrade: Replacing your tent with a small house.

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Here’s what the inside of my house currently looks like. Clearly, I still have a lot of crafting and decorating to do.

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My inventory is filled with useful tools like an axe, a fishing rod, a ladder, and building materials like wood and stone. But I still need to save up and keep exploring to find some furniture.

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And here’s my cosy home from the outside.

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Over time, you’ll discover more things to see and do. As in previous “Animal Crossing” games, you’ll be able to unlock a museum after a short amount of time, which you can then fill with critters and fossils you collect from around the island.

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Like this butterfly, for example.

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Here’s how the museum looks once you’ve had the opportunity to donate some of your discoveries.

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The island may start out deserted, but eventually you’ll make some new friends and find new places to shop.

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Like Nook’s Cranny, where you can buy items for your home like this portable record player, as well as new recipes.

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But most importantly, how you choose to spend your time is entirely up to you, which is a big part of what makes “Animal Crossing” so fun and delightful.

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“Animal Crossing” gives you plenty of goals and rewards to work toward, with none of the pressure, making it the perfect getaway.

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