Rated “E” for everyone, this game is a fantastic blend of creativity, skill-building, and age-appropriate fun. It also provides a safe virtual world that kids can customize and enjoy, which is the perfect activity for the upcoming winter months, when staying home and social distancing will likely still be the safest way to spend time.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Animal Crossing series, the general premise of the game is that players (as a cute, customizable character) are taken to a deserted island, where they meet an enterprising raccoon named Tom Nook. He helps you settle on the island, giving you a loan to get started with a campsite (and eventually a house).
Then, you keep working to develop the island! You can catch insects, go fishing, grow fruit, dig up fossils, build furniture, and so much more. You’re able to sell items you collect to earn “bells,” the in-game currency. You can use those bells to buy furniture, expand your home, and decorate your island.
As players pay off loans, customize their island, and generally make progress in the game, villagers (who are all animals with distinct personalities) will move in! New visitors will also start arriving on the island, selling unique wares, and offering special challenges.
All of this gameplay uses controls that are very kid-friendly, but do require solid reading abilities. Check out the video below to get a general overview of these adorable activities.
All of that may sound like a lot, but it is really just the beginning of the possibilities for this game, which is designed for Nintendo Switch consoles. (For kids, I would personally recommend the Switch Lite, which is smaller and the perfect size for little hands!) What I love most about this game — which, I must add, adults will love, too — is that you can play to prioritize your favorite aspects of the game. If kids really love fishing and want to spend most of their time doing that, they can! If they have a creative idea for a themed island and want to focus on decorating it just so, that’s another great way to play.
Parents will also love that this is a very safe video game option for kids, as I mentioned before. Unlike some popular games, Animal Crossing New Horizons is not based online. In fact, it is possible to enjoy the game without ever using an internet connection. However, it is possible for users to visit each other’s islands using WiFi. But don’t worry — it is set up in a way that requires players to share either a friend code or one-time travel code with anyone who wants to visit, so random users aren’t going to show up. Nintendo also offers a highly rated Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app, to give some additional peace of mind. Within the app, you can set limits on kids’ gaming time per day, restrict internet-based features, and more.
Finally, I want to note that this game keeps things fresh with a constant stream of free, seasonal updates that add new components to the game, which will help keep kids excited about the game. In the summer, for example, players could enjoy weekly fireworks shows and got a new snorkeling activity. The Halloween update just launched on Oct. 1, packed with costumes, special decor, and the ability to grow pumpkins!
Overall, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a great first video game experience, and one that every member of the family can enjoy. No two islands are the same, and there is so much to explore!