From toddlers to teenagers, this Nintendo Switch game has things that appeal to kids of all ages—especially as we social distance. Here's how to get your family into Animal Crossing.

By Fiona Tapp
April 16, 2020
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Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty Images (1)

Everyone who's everyone seems to be playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons on their Nintendo Switch while we social distance. While it's technically the latest offering in an already awesome series, now more than ever, this game centered around essentially moving to a deserted island has kids—and adults—hooked. Here's what Animal Crossing is all about and how to get the whole family in on the fun.

What Is Animal Crossing?

If you've played The Sims before, you'll appreciate the pleasure of designing what amounts to your own virtual world in Animal Crossing. You start the game by creating and naming an oh-so cute animal character, then you build a house for them to live in on your own personal island. Once you have shelter, you'll be free to fill your days with whichever activities and calm hobbies you choose, including fishing, gardening, making furniture, and collecting fruit. There are also special events and tournaments to take part in and attend.

So What Makes It So Fun?

Not to get too deep (it is just a video game after all), but there are some compelling psychological reasons why Animal Crossing is so popular right now. Given that we are all experiencing the global COVID-19 pandemic and many of us are in lockdown , this gentle game is providing some much-needed levity. It honestly feels a bit like a safer, more friendly world to retreat into.

But it's more than that. Animal Crossing is a social simulation game. Players interact with their friendly and cute village neighbors, do favors for each other, and contribute to a functioning society—something so many of us are missing right now. Simply engaging with a community, even virtually, feels really comforting. You can help your fellow characters to plant flowers, gather fruit, and spend time socializing together, something we're all longing to do IRL.

Another benefit of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is that there is a natural progression. You start with a tent and move on to your own home, building upon what you have, little by little. There's something very satisfying about that gradual progression especially as you are rewarded along the way.

How to Start Playing With Your Kids

Interested in giving it a try? You can buy the digital version of Animal Crossing: New Horizons directly from Nintendo.com after logging in, or your can order the retail version from your favorite online store. When it comes to playing, here's how the game appeals to different age groups so you can get the most out of Animal Crossing with your family:

Toddlers

Small children love the super cute graphics and friendly little animal creatures in the game. They may like to watch you build the world and help you to make choices about outfits for your character and furniture choices for your home.

Grade School Kids

The game follows a day and night cycle and correlates to the real-world seasons. This can make it feel "alive" for children and help them to exercise some control in these challenging times. Kids can also use the in-game camera to take photos of their island home to share with friends and family. (Note: Nintendo Switch features parental controls so that parents can manage the content that their children can access.)

Tweens

Older kids can further utilize the controls to effect major construction on the island which can reroute rivers or demolish cliffs to change the landscape. This game is essentially quite gentle and kind which makes it a great choice for kids starting to play video games independently but who may still need parental oversight.

Teenagers

Teens will enjoy playing socially with others either in the same room or online using the party play feature. It's worth noting that if you have children of different ages they will each need their own gaming system in order to create their own unique island paradise. As only one island can exist per Nintendo Switch system, irrespective of the number of users registered. However up to eight players can live on the same island within one game, so it is possible to play collaboratively as different characters within one world.

Adults

The game is suitable for all ages, and adults especially have been enjoying the escape, with celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen sharing on social media that she too has been playing. Why? We think one of the best features of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, is that there isn't an end to the game. It's a world, kids, and adults alike, can dip into and enjoy whenever they need a little island escapism.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
May 15, 2020
Not only is the game all the things mentioned in this article,it is also highly educational . I am using the museum when we find fossils,bugs,fish,and artwork to look up as we discover them in the game. My 9 year old loves it . The most exciting was fishing and catching the coelacanth fish . He immediately looked it up on the internet . Awesome game for this trying time.