In March 2020 the whole world changed. ‘Work life’ shifted to ‘home life’ and the streets outside no longer seemed safe. While we’re now on the path towards normality, there’s no forgetting how strange the entirety of 2020 really was. Amongst all the chaos, there was one thing that helped a lot of us through it: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In a time when going outside wasn’t an option, this wholesome life simulator went viral. As people turned to video games to connect with friends and keep themselves occupied, it became one of the real MVPs of March 2020 and beyond.
It’s been a year since the game wasn released and while there’s still a lot of content coming out, it’s understandable if you’ve finally reached your endpoint with it. After 250 hours of planting, exploring and decorating, I know I’m looking for new games to keep me occupied.
For everyone looking for their next big life sim fix, consider checking out the below games. None of them will exactly replicate those beautiful, halcyon days of Animal Crossing days past, but they’re all wholesome, fun and excellent to play around in.
Here’s what you should check out once you’re done with the Animal Crossing: New Horizons grind.
Stardew Valley (PC, Switch, XBO, PS4, Vita, Mobile)
Let’s start with the obvious one. By now most people have dived into Stardew Valley, whether it was the original release on PC or the subsequent console ports. But even if you’ve played the game before, there’s so many reasons to dive back in.
Frequent content drops have meant the life sim has remained fresh, with new things to do landing every few months. The latest update is one of the biggest yet and includes new features like the sandy ‘Beach Farm’ for advanced players alongside new shops and activities.
If you’re playing the game for the very first time, you’ll have an absolute blast with its mining and farming gameplay. If you’re returning after a while away, you’ll find plenty to keep yourself occupied. Either way, it’s solid fun.
Graveyard Keeper (PC, Switch, PS4, XBO)
Graveyard Keeper is exactly what it sounds like: a life simulator about managing a graveyard. While it’s a hell of a lot more morbid than the wholesome antics of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you’ll get just as much fun out this game.
The premise is a bit of a mystery: you wake up one day to find yourself tasked with maintaining the local graveyard and making friends with your neighbours. To survive, you’ll need to build strange contraptions, deal with dead bodies and improve your daily life skills.
There is a bit of grind in Graveyard Keeper but the game is constantly engaging and will keep you coming back day-after-day for set tasks and to ensure everyone (and every body) is happy on your land.
Ooblets (PC, XBO)
If you want to go in the exact opposite direction of Graveyard Keeper, jump on Ooblets. While the game is still in early access, there’s already plenty to see and do in this wholesome adventure.
Ooblets plays out like a mix between Pokémon and Animal Crossing and features farming, exploration and monster raising. There’s also very fun little dance battles, card collecting and relationship-building with your fellow villagers. It all adds up to one lovely package.
The art style is also incredibly cute and the game itself is so, so wholesome. Jump into this adventure if you’re looking for a game to give you the warm fuzzies.
Doraemon Story of Seasons (Switch, PS4, PC)
Doraemon: Story of Seasons is a spin-off from the mainline Story of Seasons farming franchise, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. Even if you’re not into Doraemon or you’ve never played a Story of Seasons game, you’ll fall in love with this charming little life simulator. There’s nothing too surprising here: you’ll fish, farm and look after animals as you travel through the game and learn life lessons. But what’s great about this game is how sweet and gorgeous it is.
If you’re looking for a game that expands on Animal Crossing‘s farming mechanics and adds its own flair, you’ll find it here. Even if you’re just looking for something nice to pass the time, it’s a solid option.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PC, Switch, XBO, PS4)
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is an Aussie game that deserves your attention. In it, you’ll play as an enthusiastic adventurer exploring a wild land and carving out a bountiful life filled with animals, farming and relationships. Like others in this list, it focuses more on the ‘adventure’ side of life simulators than Animal Crossing does, but it gives you plenty of time to stop and smell the roses along the way.
There are unique animals to find, plenty of Easter eggs and stunning lands to conquer. You’ll find plenty of mystery and magic in Yonder, and much more. It’s the perfect answer to the usual hustle-and-bustle of adventure games.
Fantasy Life (3DS)
This is one game absolutely ripe for a Nintendo Switch port — but until then, you’ll have to crack out ye old 3DS to enjoy this magical life sim. In it, you can take on a variety of ‘class’ roles including fighter, crafter or miner in a fantasy land and forge your way through a magical story as you improve your skills and thrive in the world.
While it’s more of a traditional RPG than a classic life sim, there’s still plenty it has in common with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. For one thing, you’ll be able to customise your home and character, and master practical skills like fishing, gathering food and making friends along the way. Every character class is good fun, and you can swap between them at any time for a great, diverse gameplay experience.
Fantasy Life might be one of Nintendo’s most underrated and under-loved franchises. Anyone who likes life sims will fall in love with the game. We just hope one day it’ll make its way to the Switch. (If it doesn’t, My Time At Portia features similar mechanics, and you could absolutely jump in with that, too.)
There are plenty of fantastic life simulators out there if you’re craving your next big and wholesome adventure.
On the horizon, there’s also Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town (out March 23) and other ‘date TBA’ indie games like Hokko Life and Mineko’s Night Market, as well as recent Kickstarter hit Coral Island.
It’s a great time to be a life simulator fan.