As much as I love it, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a dead end now

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
(Image credit: Nintendo)

When Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched in 2020, it very quickly occupied my day-to-day life at a time when I needed it most, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Islands were decorated for birthday parties, graduations, and anniversaries, while islanders were exchanged for in-game goods, and we all obediently paid our dues for our newfound island lifestyle. It was a communal experience, and despite its flaws and missing features, for a moment it was the only game that really mattered. 

But before long, the player base fizzled out, and waiting a few days for construction felt like waiting for a lifetime. After a few months of constant, almost 24-hour playing, I slowly lost the drive to sign in and complete my daily tasks, let alone fish for hours on end, or even fathom starting to terraform. It’s sad, really, considering that Animal Crossing has been one of my favorite game franchises for as long as I can remember. With that said, there’s something about Animal Crossing: New Horizons which I just can’t hack anymore, and I can’t help feeling like it’s a real dead end for the franchise. 

The Ghost of Crossings past 

best Nintendo DS games: Male and female animal crossing players with villagers like KK Slider in the background

(Image credit: Nintendo)

I spent hours across Animal Crossing: Wild World and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and even now, I can still jump in and out of them and feel the same enjoyment as picking the game up for the first time. It raises the question of why New Horizons doesn’t scratch the same itch as its predecessors. It’s the same concept; the same cute animals, and mostly the same characters that I’ve spent hundreds of hours alongside, but there’s a definite void now content has been the same for almost three years. 

Having spent so much time with the Animal Crossing franchise prior to New Horizons, the number of missing features upon release made updates feel exciting, like the final addition of Brewster in late 2021, but it just wasn't enough to reignite the spark. Unlike previous games, I think that the latest entry in the series relied too heavily on the pacing, making it impossible to feel like you could play it in your own time. 

Each task felt like you were chasing a deadline, and regardless of what you were doing, there was probably a one-to-two-day waiting period before you could do anything substantial. Fast forward to today, May 2023, with no upcoming updates, or even any development on the paid DLC, there’s not really anything to encourage me to pick it up besides my own self-motivation, which isn’t enough for a game so reliant on its community and its coinciding creativity. 

Back to basics

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(Image credit: Nintendo)

I think it’s such a shame to feel like one of my favorite franchises has been abandoned. Even after I’ve desperately tried to get back into the groove, even going as far as to reset my islands several times to reignite my original creativity, I just can’t. While a lot of the abandonment I hold toward the game stems from my own feelings of ditching my island for the sake of a more engaging adventure, if there was more to keep me invested in gameplay, I doubt I would’ve jumped ship so soon. 

If this isn’t the end though, and there is a future for the Animal Crossing franchise without lazily building upon the sinking foundations of New Horizons, I honestly think it would be more beneficial to return to what made the franchise so enjoyable in the first place. With a game like Wild World or New Leaf, everything is ready to go the second you land in your town, and while it's satisfying to build your own island entirely from scratch in New Horizons, the lack of deadlines in previous games is what makes them so enjoyable. 

That’s not to say that everyone feels this way, though. Although the vast majority of players who jumped on the bandwagon when the island getaway seemed ideal have now disbanded and gone on to new adventures, there’s still a bustling community of avid Animal Crossing fans devoting hours to their islands. Although I couldn’t see myself pouring hours into recreating movie scenes or decorating my island from shore to shore, I appreciate that people are still finding the same enjoyment as three years ago, and I really hope that we all get to experience it again when the next installment eventually launches.

Kara Phillips
Evergreen Writer

Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.