Animal Crossing Switch isn’t on the horizon. We learned as much during the E3 2018 Nintendo Direct presentation. I’m confident that, at some point, Nintendo will bring the series to the console, but it won’t be in 2018 or (presumably) early 2019. Unfortunately, Animal Crossing fans such as myself don’t have many other games that can fill that void. In fact, the pleasant anthropomorphic life simulator genre is sorely underrepresented. The reason behind the complete lack of games that allow me to live out my life among friendly human-sized dogs, deer, and sheep completely eludes me, but it’s something that needs to change.
I’m not quite sure why few games have sought to emulate the Animal Crossing formula. If the base goal of video games is escapism, then diving into a stress-free world of innocuous conversation and satisfying, achievable goals is pretty much the antithesis of reality. Animal Crossing is so wonderful because it provides you with a world that’s kinda like your own, but then replaces everything you hate with things you enjoy. Awkward, stunted chatter with acquaintances? Yeah, let’s remove that and instead add in a nice chat about sailing with a giant duck. The anxiety of trying to stay on top of our rent? In Animal Crossing you can pay back that loan whenever you want. Instead, spend your time fishing or drinking coffee in a cafe run by an owl.
Animal Crossing Switch: Where Are All the Alternatives?
You can’t really sit down with Animal Crossing for a substantial amount of time and find a wealth of things to do. It’s designed to be played in short bursts, inserting itself into your daily routine. You wake up, weed your village, perform your daily chores, decorate your home a tad and then return later to perform some other tasks. You play it during real-world special occasions and take part in its own equivalent of holidays, birthdays, and national events. It’s a more idealistic way of living that permeates your day-to-day life.
There are other games that take a similarly laid-back approach. Stardew Valley is a farming game, so it requires you to be more hands-on than Animal Crossing, though it still presents the same “home away from home” scenario. Tomodachi Life is an oddball life simulator in which you build up friendships between citizens and focus on their relationships. Fantasy Life is a stripped-down RPG in which you choose a “life class,” including Woodcutter, Angler, Cook, and Carpenter. Each of these games presents similar life sim attributes to Animal Crossing, though doesn’t come close to replicating what Animal Crossing excels at — offering an alternate world intended to complement your own.
Animal Crossing Switch: Mobile or Nothing
So why haven’t we seen more games like Animal Crossing? Perhaps the best answer is that there isn’t really a platform that could allow for such a game, outside of the 3DS, Switch, and mobile devices. You’re hardly going to turn on your PS4, Xbox One, or PC for a quick 30-minute blast, and the other potential homes for a rival to the Nintendo series are mostly owned by Nintendo. As such, Android and iOS devices remain the best bet for seeing a game in the vein of Animal Crossing.
Nintendo has already released its own mobile equivalent in the form of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, though it didn’t retain the charm that the series is known for. While furniture hunting is a key part of Animal Crossing, Pocket Camp being so heavily reliant on the pursuit of material goods and the microtransactions that came with them made it infinitely less inviting. The series has always made you want to keep returning to it by virtue of its charming interactions and satisfying everyday tasks, but transforming every facet of the game into a grind for rewards was tiresome.
Maybe mobile games aren’t the best fit for a game like Animal Crossing. Most mobile titles attempt to insidiously strong-arm their way into your life by way of dangling a carrot ahead of you, convincing you to buy items and power-ups with real money. On the flipside, Animal Crossing is addictive because its world is just so damn lovely that you want to keep visiting it. It’s a shame more games haven’t attempted to follow in its footsteps, and I’d quite happily replace all of the battle royale games with life simulators in which I could befriend talking alpacas.