I don’t think Nintendo could’ve timed the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons any better if they had tried. It was released in March of 2020, right when the whole world was going on lockdown for who-knew-who-long and provided some very much needed routine and constructive activity. Even folks who didn’t normally get into life simulator-type games were drawn in. But it’s been a couple of years since then (even if it doesn’t always feel like it), and though it probably took awhile, you might be burnt out on Animal Crossing. Never fear, there are plenty of other games like it. Here are some games similar to Animal Crossing.
So what exactly makes Animal Crossing, er, Animal Crossing? Well, there’s a few schools of thought, but here’s how I see it:
- World maintenance: It’s not just about building a world, but keeping it running. Anyone could stack some blocks on top of each other and call it a city, but a game like Animal Crossing gives you chores to do, events to engage with, and goals to achieve.
- Social simulation: A game like Animal Crossing is populated with distinctive characters, each going about their own routines. You can befriend them, hang out with them, and depending on the game, go a little further than that.
- Cute and wholesome design: Animal Crossing is aggressively cute. There isn’t a mean bone in any of its characters’ bodies, and that’s nice when you’re trying to have a relaxing time.
Games Similar To Animal Crossing
With those qualities in mind, here are some games that make use of one or more of them to achieve something similar to Animal Crossing:
- Stardew Valley
- Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
- My Time at Portia
- Cozy Grove
- The Sims 4
If you grew up during the Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64 eras, chances are good you have some experience with a Harvest Moon game. Stardew Valley, despite what it’s pixel graphics may imply, is a more modern indie take on the small town farming lifestyle simulators of generations past. After inheriting a plot of land from a relative, you’ll become one of the town’s foremost farmers, not only for your own betterment, but to maintain the town’s local charm against an encroachment of big business. There’s a big cast of townsfolk to get to know, and you can even start up a family with them!
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
Perhaps you’d prefer your Harvest Moon-like games to be a little more name brand? Well, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is basically a new official Harvest Moon game in all but name. There’s a whole copyright thing to it, don’t ask. Anyway, Pioneers of Olive Town employs a similar gameplay loop to Harvest Moon, encouraging you to develop both your farm and the town around it, though there’s also an additional emphasis on recipe-based crafting to create new tools and constructs.
My Time at Portia
Someone told me once that the reason a lot of post-apocalyptic stories are unbelievable is that, sooner or later, humanity would just naturally start building back to its previous level of society and tech. That’s effectively the goal of My Time at Portia, since you’re working as both a farmer and an engineer in a world that’s just getting back on its feet after an apocalyptic event. Besides the usual farming shenanigans, you can use your workshop to build all manner of devices practical and cosmetic to earn commissions from the local townsfolk. You can even customize your home and workshop to give it a personal touch.
Here’s a hypothetical: what if the flooded world in Waterworld was actually the afterlife? And instead of trying to find land, Kevin Costner was guiding the souls of the departed to their place of rest? And was also a little girl? Well, then you’d effectively have Spiritfarer. Bring the aforementioned departed souls onto your massive town-ship and travel the land as you help them come to terms with their lives, their deaths, and whatever comes next. Fair warning: while this game is very wholesome (you’re encouraged to regularly hug your passengers), it also gets super sad. Like, relatably sad.
Speaking of the souls of the departed, people are often less-than-willing to share a dwelling with the living-disabled, which, frankly, means missing out on a lot of prime real estate. In Cozy Grove, you’ll explore a massive, decidedly haunted island, making buddies with the local specter population and giving their gloomy forest some much-needed color. Like Animal Crossing, Cozy Grove’s world is synced with real time, so there’s new stuff to do every day. Of course, once you finish the new stuff, you’re free to fish, craft, and generally bum around for as long as you like.
The Sims 4
Perhaps you’re not satisfied with maintaining the life of a single person. Maybe you want to maintain the entire world of a whole family, including their home, their jobs, their friends, and more. The game for you is, and has been since 2000, The Sims, and in this case, The Sims 4. You can create an entire world around a family and guide the way they live in it, from their personalities to their interests to where the toilet is located in their house. Your Sims will learn and grow on their own, gaining new quirks to their characters. It’s like the world’s most advanced ant farm.
For other related lists, check out our post on games similar to Hollow Knight.