Games to play if you like Animal Crossing
Trade reality for a slower pace of life in one of these charming RPG games suitable for PC, Nintendo, Xbox and Playstation
This year's most talked-about video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out back in March in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The fifth installment of this uplifting series quickly became the first-ever console game to reach five million digital sales in a month and Nintendo Switches quickly sold out across the UK. Going by these stats, it's clear the game's vibrant world of friendly anthropomorphic characters is the escapism the world needs right now. Those who couldn't get hold of a Switch (and still can't) or a physical copy of the game have been left with extreme Animal Crossing FOMO and those who have it can't get enough.
Switch or no Switch, there is a variety of similarly heart-warming and chilled out life and farming simulator games like Animal Crossing out there. Packed full of adventurous storylines, delightful dreamy landscapes and adorable critters and townsfolk, you can get a fix of tranquility and joy from the following games which all follow in the footsteps of the coveted Animal Crossing.
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope
The OG of slow-living farming simulation games has to be Harvest Moon. The first edition of the game was released in Japan in 1996 on the SNES and a further 26 releases across various Nintendo platforms (and PlayStation versions) have been hugely successful. The concept of Harvest Moon is simple: maintain and cultivate your deceased Grandpa's farm over a period of years. Daily tasks include tending to the planting and watering of crops, and breeding and raising your livestock throughout the seasons. Conditions change and you must adapt your strategies accordingly. You can prevent mishaps – like losing cattle in a bad storm – and gather supplies from freshly chopped lumber to medicine in order to fix things when they've not gone your way.
Much like Animal Crossing, each day holds plenty of activities like fishing to celebrating one of the many festivals held in town. The social element comes from daily interactions with townsfolk whom you'll form bonds with and court if you so wish (an objective of the game is to start a family!). Harvest Moon: Light of Hope requires you to work with locals to restore the lighthouse and when you're not hanging out with them, you can form co-ops with a friend to get tasks done. It's worth looking into older, higher-rated versions of the game as Light of Hope has received mixed reviews.
Imagine ditching your desk job to go and live at your own glorious farm, with not a care in the world except for how your crops and animals are doing. It might not be a practical thought to have in real life but that is exactly how Stardew Valley begins. You move into Pelican Town to run the farm that you've inherited from your grandfather, armed with only a few tools and coins. The objective is to turn this neglected field into a thriving farm, where you can grow crops, raise animals, craft machines and more.
Like Animal Crossing, the game is also all about forming bonds with the townsfolk that you meet along the way, all of whom will give you tasks and ask for help in exchange for their love and friendship (and money). The real charm of this game though is the dream-like setting and its endless content, as you get to decide how you spend each day, whether it be farming, fishing, fighting monsters or even getting someone to marry you. If real life is getting a bit much, the relaxing and relatively stress-free world of Stardew Valley is the perfect place to go.
Story of Seasons
A direct replay of Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons is a retelling of its storylines with a slightly different look. The first instalment was released in 2014 on the Nintendo DS and the latest instalment Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town comes to Nintendo Switch in July 2020.
Story of Season: Friends of Mineral Town is available for pre-order for Nintendo Switch now.
Prepare for cuteness overload! Garden Paws may just be the most adorable looking game on this list and is similarly the closest to Animal Crossing. Playing as a cute critter (choose from a cat, badger, fox, chipmunk, or more) your objective is to expand your farm slowly over time. Daily activities include growing planets, running the farm shop, taming and caring for animals and collecting coins to help rebuild the town. Off the farm there are plenty of relaxing activities to enjoy such as digging in the caves, fishing on the river, cooking and crafting. The more you play, the more quests you unlock and the bigger the town's population gets.
Garden Paws is available for PC and is coming to Nintendo Switch soon.
Doraemon: Story of Seasons
If you've not met Doraemon yet, you're in for a treat. He started out in a Japanese manga series and has gone on to become one of the most well-loved Japanese characters across the globe. Similar to most games mentioned here, Doraemon: Story of Seasons takes its players on a heart-warming journey through the seasons. You must nurture your farm, grow crops and explore. Each season brings with it new opportunities and tasks to undertake. Go bug hunting, meet familiar faces from the Doraemon series and work with the locals to develop the town as well as your farm.
My Time at Portia
Inspired by the magic of Studio Ghibli, My Time at Portia whisks players away to the enchanting post-apocalyptic land of Portia. You must work your way through life gathering resources to craft machines in your workshop, tending to your crops and animals and joining in activities with the local quirky inhabitants. My Time at Portia is much like other seasonal farming games but with the added element of craftsmanship. Make furniture, decorate and upgrade your workshop alongside developing your farm. From Portia you can explore new lands, attend festivals, play mini-games, and even ride a llama. It's up to you how you spend your time in Portia.
Little Dragons Café
From Harvest Moon designer and producer Yasuhiro Wada comes Little Dragons Café. Much as the title suggests, the objective of this visually stunning game is to run a successful cafe whilst raising your very own dragon. In order to create culinary masterpieces, you must farm the land and search for fresh and delicious produce. Fishing the rivers and growing crops teaches you to appreciate nature's bounty, but in addition to an appealing menu, a good cafe needs excellent management skills which you'll develop alongside your eccentric members of staff. Let's not forget you must do all this whilst successfully raising your adorable pet dragon! Little Dragons Café teaches you to embrace your nurturing instincts and make wise decisions to raise your healthy and happy flighted companion.
A true juggernaut of the life simulation genre, The Sims has almost too many iterations to count, from the classic Sims series, to the more building-focused SimCity and the short-lived MySims. Standing heads and shoulders above all these, however, is Sims 3: by far the most ambitious riff off Maxis' tried-and-true formula.
Unlike its predecessors and Sims 4, the 'Story Progression' option in Sims 3 means that your town and its characters continue to age and act autonomously, even when the player isn't controlling them. Though some players balked at the idea of not exerting omnipotent control over every aspect of their Sims' lives, this element of unpredictability meant your communities were able to evolve through time, and made towns feel truly alive and dynamic. And with 11 expansion packs to its name, your simulated world can only become bigger and brighter.
FarmVille: Tropic Escape
Thanks to the ever-addictive Facebook, most people were hooked to FarmVille before they ever knew Animal Crossing existed. If you're stuck without a games console, chances are you have a Facebook account. Sign in daily to cultivate your farm by plowing, planting and harvesting crops and trees. You are also required to care for your cows and chickens.
FarmVille has advanced a lot since its 2009 boom and now allows players to complete advanced storylines, interact with friends and even go for a surf… that's right, FarmVille got tropical. Run your very own beachside inn and meet exotic animals. You'll grow pineapples, coconuts and orchids and catch fresh seafood.
Farmville: Tropic Escape is available on Facebook.