One year later: Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the perfect pandemic game

Animal Crossing: New Horizon launched on March 20, 2020. Let's reflect on its significance and impact one year later.

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One of the biggest releases of 2020, both financially and critically, was Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The fifth game in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series, New Horizons brought the lifestyle simulator to the Switch. Now the second best-selling game in Switch history, there’s a great deal of cultural significance wrapped up in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Finding peace in the pandemic

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was one of those rare video game releases that quite literally could not have happened at a more perfect time. By March 20, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had brought everyday life to a screeching halt here in North America. Businesses shut down, schools were closing doors, and folks were either out of work or forced to work from home, if lucky.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons felt like a beacon of hope within the storm. For so many of us, it was escapism at its absolute finest. A world we could retreat to and be showered with positivity and love. Whether it be your villagers just excited to see you walk by in the morning, or the satisfaction of discovering a DIY recipe for a really cool item, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the perfect distraction from what felt like the world crumbling around us.

There was also a profound social aspect to Animal Crossing: New Horizons during this time. With practically every in-person event cancelled, people met up in Animal Crossing to meet with friends and have group hangouts. Players held graduations, birthday parties, trivia nights, and so much more all within this digital world. The amount of tools available let players express themselves creatively and socially, even if they couldn’t leave the house.

The stalk market boom

Seasoned Animal Crossing players are no strangers to turnips and their extreme importance within the game. For newcomers, it was a lesson in how to maximize your profits to start raking in bells.

Every Sunday, players would excitedly load into the game, spending every bell they could spare to buy turnips from Daisy Mae. Once Monday came, it was an all-out blitz to find the best turnip prices out there. Everybody would be texting or reaching out in search of massive turnip prices, ready to hop aboard a Dodo Airlines flight to another player’s island. From time to time, the phrase “turnips” would even hit trending status on Twitter. There were entire Discord communities formed, websites where you could get up-to-the-minute updates on new listings, and countless forums on websites like Reddit. It was a full-on craze. The staff here at Shacknews were also completely obsessed with the stalk market, going as far to dedicate one of our work channels to the game. Once you purchased turnips on a Sunday, you had exactly one week to sell them off, or lose out entirely when they spoil. We all followed the stalk market religiously with dreams of becoming filthy rich bellionaires.

More than a fad

As much as you can’t understate the social value of Animal Crossing: New Horizons at its launch, it must also be recognized how well the game stood up to the other major game releases of 2020. Animal Crossing went toe-to-toe with titles like The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima, and Doom Eternal and still took home a number of accolades. Here at Shacknews, Animal Crossing: New Horizons came in at number 2 for our 2020 Game of the Year award just behind Half Life: Alyx and was named Best Nintendo Switch Game, as well as Best Multiplayer Game.

Even a year later, we’re still finding more and more reasons to fall in love with New Horizons. Shacknews Long Reads Editor David Craddock states, "It let friends, family, and colleagues build a bridge to one another during a time when so many of us were quarantined and feeling isolated.”

David goes on to explain how the gameplay loop offered by New Horizons helped players escape the daily grind of the pandemic

Creating a legacy

It may sound overdramatic to say, but I don’t know how I would have mentally endured the earlier days of the pandemic without Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It was something to look forward to every day, and was a consistent source of positivity and happiness in my daily routine. This exact sentiment can be echoed by so many others that clocked hundreds of hours in Nintendo’s lifestyle sim over the past year.

Happy birthday, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Thanks for all the memories made, and here’s to those yet to come.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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