In early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started to take effect in a serious way, something magical happened. Amidst the doom and gloom, Nintendo released Animal Crossing: New Horizons, giving everyone with a Switch a way to escape from their real lives and tend to a beautiful island full of adorable animal residents.
Nintendo’s long-term support for its games isn’t great, unfortunately, which means New Horizons probably won’t receive any further major updates, but don’t worry, because other devs are on the case. Here are 12 games similar to Animal Crossing.
1. Stardew Valley
For a long time, the twin royals of life sim gaming have been Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons, but indie farm-’em-up Stardew Valley may well have taken Harvest Moon’s crown. Of course, that’s largely because it mostly is Harvest Moon; it has the same cycle of farming, selling crops, and getting to know the locals, so if you love Natsume’s farming sims, you should definitely check this one out.
2. Hokko Life
You might not have heard of Hokko Life, but if you’re an Animal Crossing devotee, you definitely owe it to yourself to add this one to your wishlist. It’s an indie life sim in which you move to the town of Hokko and quickly begin building a life for yourself, learning about its townsfolk and crafting yourself a beautiful new home. This is much more similar to Animal Crossing than other life sims, and it’s all the better for it.
3. Disney Dreamlight Valley
Imagine Animal Crossing, but populated with all of your favourite Disney characters. That’s pretty much the idea behind Disney Dreamlight Valley, a rather unexpectedly magical experience in which you explore the titular valley, meeting classic characters from movies like Toy Story, Moana, and The Little Mermaid, among many others. This one’s getting updated regularly, too, with updates adding new characters and lots more.
If you wish Animal Crossing had more of a story, then Spiritfarer might well be the game for you. Just be aware that this game does not pull its emotional punches, so if you aren’t prepared for its characters and their heart-wrenching stories, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re along for the ride, though, Spiritfarer offers cosy life sim-style gameplay and a rather unique take on the afterlife.
5. Cozy Grove
For many, Cozy Grove slipped unfairly under the radar, which is a shame because it’s a rather beautiful little game. You play a Spirit Scout, whose role it is to wander an ever-changing forest and placate the ghosts that live there. Don’t worry, though; there’s no combat and no danger. You’ll mostly be crafting items, chatting to residents of the island, and exploring to your heart’s content.
6. My Time at Sandrock
If you played Pathea Games’ My Time at Portia and enjoyed it, then you’ll likely appreciate this sequel, which sets out to polish the original’s formula and add more content. It’s in Early Access right now, so it’s not technically complete, but it still has more to offer than many games do in their finished states, so give it a look if you don’t mind some rough edges.
7. The Sims 4
A slight curveball here, perhaps, but Animal Crossing shares a lot of “sim”ilarities with The Sims. You can customise your house, meet lots of different people around your town, and pretty much live any kind of life that you want. The Sims 4 also offers a ridiculous amount of DLC, so if you do like the base game, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of money to make it feature-complete.
8. Garden Paws
Somewhat unfairly forgotten by the rest of the indie gaming world, Garden Paws is a frankly adorable farming and life sim in which you play as an incredibly cute little anthropomorphic cat. You must assist your town’s leaders in helping the place reach its full potential, and as you do so, you’ll complete quests, farm crops, and even find time to pet local wildlife. What more could you want?
Having spent a couple of years in Early Access, Ooblets was released in full on PC, Switch, and Xbox in 2022, so you can check it out now if you’ve been holding out for the 1.0 version. It’s a cute little farming sim in which you collect the titular Ooblets, raising them, caring for them, and pitting them against one another in strange little dance battles that stand in for a combat system. It’s cute, however weird it sounds.
Most Animal Crossing-like games give you a farm or something else to take care of, and that’s the case in Staxel as well, so if you’re looking for the pure Animal Crossing experience, you may not find it here. Still, Staxel is a Minecraft-esque farming and life sim with plenty of characters to meet, crops to farm, and animals to hang out with, so it should scratch the Animal Crossing itch.
11. Castaway Paradise
Somewhat shamelessly, Castaway Paradise describes itself thus: “it’s like Animal Crossing!”. That should tell you all you need to know. If you’re looking for a game that’s similar to Animal Crossing, then you can start with this idyllic island life simulator, in which you’ll decorate your island, catch bugs, and help out your neighbours with whatever tasks they need doing.
12. A Short Hike
We close with a game that isn’t really like Animal Crossing in terms of its core gameplay loop, but that should give you the same feeling as Animal Crossing does. A Short Hike is a small, relaxing game that simply asks you to explore a park and talk to its residents. You play as a bird, and you can fly around the game’s world, collecting feathers to increase your flight time.