It’s been just over two months since the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and I’m sure you’ve already seen dozens of reviews stating that the game couldn’t have come at a better time and that it’s helped alleviate the stress and woes of players across the globe as we face the COVID-19 pandemic – and they’re right.

Animal Crossing has been one of my favorite series since my first experience in the early 2000’s when I saw a “Real World” style commercial for the original game and called my mom on a whim asking her to pick it up for me.

Apart from The Sims it was only other simulation game that I’d ever played and I was confused about the goal of living with furry critters who spoke in some gibberish language but it took less than a few hours for me to fall in love with my villagers and the world around us.

While I will always miss the inclusion of the NES games in the original game, and doodling in the night sky on Wild World, New Horizons has cemented itself as my favorite title in the series and has provided me with over 60 hours of entertainment as I spend my time scouring for new recipes, buying gifts for friends (villagers and real world ones alike!), gathering resources and building new gardens, playgrounds or whatever other project comes to mind!

I glanced through my friends list on the Nintendo Switch and was surprised to find that my play time is definitely on the lower side as several others have put in upwards of 150+ hours since the March 20th launch. I believe this serves as a testament to the depth and freedom that New Horizons gives you to make your deserted island, truly yours.

My friend JC and I pose for a picture showing off our brand new outfits!

However, my favorite aspect of New Horizons isn’t the terraforming or the creative freedom but instead the sense of community and liveliness you get with your NPC villagers. These characters have several new animations and ‘routines’ that make them feel more alive than previous entries and on more than one occasion, I’ve had an emotional reaction to the way they’ve treated me.

The best example that comes to mind is from my 28th birthday. K.K. Slider performed a special celebration show for my big day and during the performance the screen filled with letters from my wife, Timmy, and two villagers who expressed their appreciation for the hard work I’ve put into our island and demanded that we all remain friends forever.

This made my heart swell. Of course I was pleasantly surprised to see a sweet note from my wife pop up but I also felt a very real connection to these digital characters that made me never want to let them down and to continue working on our friendships as often as possible to ensure that we all continue to live happy lives together.

Nintendo has managed to give me the keys to paradise and allow me to craft a world in any way that I see fit, and yet I’m more impressed with their ability to have me bond with real emotions to these villagers and be excited to come home from work each day and have friends who are happy to see me.

Custom content helps truly make New Horizons your own world!

So yes, Animal Crossing: New Horizons came at the best (and worst) possible time. But regardless of it’s release window, the game has also managed to blow me away at every turn and tends to make the hours melt away whenever I sit down to play.

It’s an absolute joy that I can’t recommend enough to anyone and everyone.