20 YEARS OF
By Matthew Byrd
Over the last 20 years, Animal Crossing has captured the hearts of millions. It's an impressive legacy for a game that wasn’t designed to be a blockbuster.
Animal Crossing was supposed to be released for the 64DD: a failed Nintendo peripheral that featured an internal real-time clock. The game was moved to the N64 due to the 64DD’s struggles.
The N64 lacked an internal clock, so one had to be added to the game's cartridge. It was an incredibly advanced piece of technology that was necessary for the game’s central theme: time.
Animal Crossing was based on designer Katsuya Eguchi's realization that having to leave home and go somewhere new made him appreciate the value of spending time with loved ones.
Eguchi also said he wanted a way to share a video game world with others without having to play at the same time with them. It was meant to be an ultimate family experience.
The Animal Crossing developers believed in their idea but were worried about selling a game based on taking your time. Interestingly, that's not the only way "time" would hinder the game's release.
Animal Crossing was first released on N64 in Japan as Dōbutsu no Mori. It was one of the last N64 games, and some worried its late release meant that few people would play it.
Animal Crossing was ported to GameCube for its NA release in 2002. That console's internal clock allowed for new possibilities, but the port soon left Nintendo with a logistical nightmare.
Animal Crossing required one of the largest localization efforts in gaming history. Thousands of lines of dialog needed to be changed as well as references to specific Japanese culture and holidays.
The effort was worth it. While a modest sales hit, Animal Crossing's themes, wholesomeness, innovations, and relaxed nature connected to millions who soon spent countless hours with it.
Though not every feature of the original Animal Crossing survived through the years (such as its NES emulator), the game’s core design has remained appropriately timeless. The original feels as fresh as ever.
Animal Crossing's dedicated fanbase made its handheld sequels some of the best-selling Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS games. However, it was the series' 2020 console return that sealed its legacy.
2020's Animal Crossing: New Horizons connected us at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic left many unable to be with each other. True to its creators' visions, Animal Crossing gave us a place to share.
As New Horizons breaks sales records, we're left wondering what's next for this series that's impact is still being felt 20 years after its unlikely debut.