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Animal Crossing Explained (By Someone Who Has Never Played It)

Nintendo's 5th installment into the animal crossing series

First things first, I don’t really play video games. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect them—most of them look really cool, but I’m a very obsessive person and so I know if I start playing a game like Animal Crossing I will never stop. Seriously, I nearly killed myself walking into the street to catch a Snorlax when Pokemon Go was the big thing.

And thus, I am the perfect person to explain Animal Crossing to you, as someone whose only experience with Nintendo Switch is the Goose Game and constantly losing to Wario in Mario Party (I hate that guy!). Since Animal Crossing has taken over all my social media feeds, I can totally figure out what it’s about.

So what is Animal Crossing? Well, I don’t think it’s all animals because I keep seeing cute little doll people in screenshots. So, I assume that users play as people the come to a mystical island full of animals. I think the animals also control the “crossings” to other islands? Is there like, a ferry system?

Once you’re on your private island, it’s not a paradise. There is a raccoon there and he quickly puts you under the yoke of a capitalist system much like our own. There are loans? I think you use these to build things but you’re already beholden to the capitalist raccoon, who is named Ted Nook?

Like a medieval lord exploiting his serfs, Tim Nook makes you farm turnips and sell them for cash but in a modern twist, the price of turnips changes? Also, you can catch fish and other stuff. Some fish are valuable, but plentiful ones are useless. Sturgeons are … something. And there were eggs. Lots of eggs. People were very very mad about the eggs because they made it hard to pay off their mortgages or turned into more sturgeons or possibly turnips?

Like in life, and I think many video games, there are all sorts of things to buy and cute outfits to covet. Also, like in life, you inevitably become part of a colonizing force bent on reshaping the pristine natural world you’ve landed on. And if you own a home you end up hating raccoons!

In addition, there are thieves and gifts, and you can just, I guess, cross over to other islands with the animals and steal stuff from other gamers and your friends? Or trade and give people things? And I think sometimes there are balloons with little treats, or maybe those were eggs. Again, it’s sorta like real life where most of the time people are nice but some folks (and those dang raccoons) are awful.

Which brings me, an Animal Crossing expert, to my one question: why? This sounds like a game where you “play” at being part of a world that sounds a lot like this one? The Raccoon is just The Man. Sure, it’s a version of capitalism where you can actually pay off your loans and stuff, but … is that really fun?

Well, I’m not one to judge, as I spend time fighting with weeds in actual dirt to fill the time nowadays, and it doesn’t even help me pay off my house. And all my raccoons do is eat every bulb I try to plant, so Trey Nook is probably an upgrade. At least there are no eggs in my yard. Currently.

(image: Nintendo)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.