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The History of Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a social simulation game in which you live in a village inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, in which you live alongside the other animals completing tasks for your fellow neighbors, renovating your home and the town, and collecting various fossils, bugs, and fish. Animal Crossing was created by Katsuya Eguchi in 2001.

Eguchi is credited for being the mastermind behind the Animal Crossing franchise. Eguchi is also credited with directing other games such as Super Mario World, Star Fox 2, Wave Race 64, and Yoshi’s Story.

Eguchi’s personal experiences are what helped create Animal Crossing. Whenever Eguchi moved from Chiba to Nintendo’s HQ in Kyoto, he was all alone and had no friends or family that resided in Kyoto. During this time, he realized just how much he missed everyone back at home and wanted to recreate the feeling of being able to spend time talking and playing with them. 

Animal Crossing (2001-2003)

On April 14th, 2001, Animal Crossing was released as a Nintendo 64 game in Japan. It was later re-released on the GameCube in Japan and, later in the year, worldwide. This improved the Animal Crossing experience by having the game be synched with the GameCube’s internal clock and calendar. This would allow the game to be played in real-time. It even allowed the game to follow the seasons and holidays. The GameCube port added certain features that are still used in the game today, such as the Able Sisters and the Museum. 

Whenever Animal Crossing got ported to North America, it underwent a massive translation project, which ended up having more text than the Japanese version of the game. The game also had to be changed to add in different holidays to be more relatable to players that lived outside of Japan. 

Upon the release of Animal Crossing, the game received critical acclaim for the use of the GameCube’s internal clock, calendar, and the inclusion of NES games that you can play within the game. It was a commercial success, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide. By July 2006, 1.3 million copies had been sold, totaling 43 million dollars in the US. With the success of the first game, it was clear that Animal Crossing had a lot to live up to in its sequel. 

Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005)

animal crossing wild world

Seeing that Animal Crossing was a success at E3 2004, Animal Crossing: Wild World was announced. It was also announced that the region would not be a factor of what holidays you would celebrate, but everyone would celebrate the same holidays in-game. It would be released on the Nintendo DS and would utilize the two screens in various ways. It would allow the player to manage their inventory, create clothing designs, write messages, and move your character. Both screens also allowed for both the ground and sky to be visible at the same time. 

Wild World was also the first game that allowed online play and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Players were able to do this by exchanging friend codes, and this allowed the player to invite friends to explore the same village for up to four players. Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection allowed for players to exchange items, player-made design patterns, and gifts from Nintendo themselves. 

Animal Crossing: Wild World received wide praise of its use of online play and the use of both screens on the Nintendo DS. It also received positive reviews, even with an 8.8/10 from IGN. On December 1st, 2005, Media Create stated that Animal Crossing: Wild World sold 325,460 copies in Japan in just the first week. In March 2016, Wild World had sold 11.75 million copies. 

Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008)

animal crossing

Animal Crossing: City Folk is the 3rd installment in the Animal Crossing franchise. It was announced at E3 2008 and ended up releasing that same year in November of 2008. This game was very similar to that of its previous iteration, but the biggest change was that for the first time in the series you could travel to a city where the player could buy clothes, get a haircut, go to a theater, and even bid on furniture items. 

In City Folk on the Wii, you use the Wii remote and nunchuk to move your character and to handle your tools. In this adaptation, you are allowed to create a “pro” design of clothing where instead of in previous games the image created would be copied all around the piece of clothing, you can customize each piece of the clothing, such as the front, back, and sleeves. The game allowed the use of Nintendo DS connectivity, which you could import your character from Wild World into City Folk without having to create a new character. City Folk also was the first game to use Wii Speak, which enabled you to voice chat with other players.

Animal Crossing: City Folk received mixed reviews, receiving a 7.5 from IGN. Reviewers alike fans thought that it did not do much to innovate the series, the music sounded too similar to Wild World and past games, and the city area was lackluster. However, the game was still very popular in sales, and in December 2008, it sold 497,000 copies in the United States. By May 2009, Animal Crossing: City Folk had sold 3.38 million copies worldwide. 

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Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012)

animal crossing

Animal Crossing: New Leaf was announced at E3 in 2010. This title was announced so that it could garner attention for the Nintendo 3DS and would be one of the first titles released for the new system. However, it wasn’t until 2012 in Japan that the game would be released, and until 2013 that it would see light in the United States.

New Leaf innovated the series. Unlike past versions, you would not just be the “new guy” in town, but you would be the mayor. Being the mayor of a town allowed you to have much more control and customization in the game. You would be able to create public work projects to build bridges and buildings such as a cafe and police station.

You as the player had so much more control in New Leaf, which allowed for you and your friends to have towns that were completely different from one another. The player as the mayor could decide when the shops opened and closed, which helped if you played the game early in the morning or late at night. 

All of these systems and the amount of customization helped create one of the best Animal Crossing games in the series, and reviewers gave it positive reviews. The game received an 8.6/10 from GameSpot and a 9.6/10 from IGN.  When it released in Japan, it sold just over 800,000 copies. By December 2019, Animal Crossing: New Leaf and the Amiibo version have combined sold 12.45 million copies.


It is clear that Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a legacy to live up to, with all of the games in the series doing well. We will have to see if it can surpass New Leaf, in in terms of total sales and popularity, but only time will tell. Want to know what Nintendo items the SwitchWatch team wants in New Horizons? Check out Chris’ article! Thank you for reading, and let me know the first Animal Crossing game you played in the comments below.

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