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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

The latest installment in the Animal Crossing series, New Horizons, came out on Mar. 20. As a self-proclaimed Animal Crossing fanatic, I’m beyond excited about this new game. However, I’ve often been asked about the appeal of the games by people who have never played them. It’s certainly a valid inquiry, as they may appear to be very simple games, void of any real plot or action. Yet, any Animal Crossing fan will tell you that there’s much more to the games than just catching bugs and chatting with anthropomorphic animal villagers. 

In my personal experience, some of the appeal comes from the fact that I grew up playing the various installments. Although the later games stray from certain patterns established by their predecessors, they still maintain the same calming ambiance that’s characteristic of all Animal Crossing games. Whether I’m replaying Wild World and City Folk (and even the original GameCube edition) or enjoying Pocket Camp and New Horizons, the games offer copious amounts of childhood nostalgia that take me back to simpler times.

Animal Crossing’s main draw is that it is quite simple. Many video games on the market put the player in suspenseful, high-stakes situations. While those can be fun, not everyone is looking for that sort of thing. Those who use video games as a calming reprieve from hectic schedules and the complexities of everyday life often turn to Animal Crossing to satisfy that need. Unlike a lot of other popular video games, Animal Crossing doesn’t put pressure on the player and generally lacks intense situations in which one has to act quickly to succeed. Instead, the games transport the player into a tranquil world where they get to live a humble life.

While the premise of Animal Crossing is relatively simple, there are still countless intricacies within the games. A plethora of improvements and challenges exist for players to take advantage of, including building exhibits in the local museum or upgrading and decorating their homes to their hearts’ desire. While these are all fun tasks, arguably the most important element in the series is the ability to get to know villagers. Different villagers have different quirky personalities, and they have endearing little stories to tell. There are also special characters that pop up and wander your town, every once in a while! My personal favorite is Pascal, an otter that talks like a surfer dude and offers shower-thought-like insights. Although the games themselves have various complexities, they all further the series’ low-stress, peaceful atmosphere.

Due to the respite that Animal Crossing provides players, many people find that the games are beneficial to their mental health. These days, the majority of us live fast-paced lives, and an important part of self-care and maintaining good mental health is taking time to slow down.

I often find myself getting overwhelmed by the number of tasks on my to-do list or the onslaught of current events. I also suffer from social anxiety and other mental health issues that can feel debilitating, some days. In times like these, I need to slow down and take time for myself. Throughout my life, Animal Crossing has always been a sure-fire way to do so. Instead of worrying about my schoolwork or our increasingly tumultuous political landscape, Animal Crossing lets me escape to a world where my biggest worry is selling fruit to upgrade my home or catching bugs and fish.

Animal Crossing may seem like a very simplistic game—and that’s the whole point. The simplicity of Animal Crossing transports players into a peaceful world, providing them refuge from the anxieties of everyday life. Struggles are forgotten, as players immerse themselves in various calming tasks, such as catching bugs, decorating homes and chatting with other characters. For those looking for a tranquil gaming experience, Animal Crossing is a rare gem amidst a market saturated with horror and first-person shooter releases. Moreover, the Animal Crossing series is a much-needed reminder to slow down, take a break from our hectic lives and prioritize our mental health.

Madison Prentice

Chapel Hill '23

Madison is a first-year from Cary, North Carolina. She's an Advertising & Public Relations major with a minor in Spanish for Business. You can find her on Instagram at @mcprentice or on Twitter at @mcprentice8.