Animal Crossing: New Horizons released earlier this month to critical praise and plenty of internet hype. But not everyone owns a Switch, which means they can’t play Animal Crossing—a true tragedy. Fortunately, many indie devs have been making games that capture parts of the Animal Crossing formula for years now.
Fans love the Animal Crossing franchise for its simple and relaxing gameplay, uplifting tone, and sense of wholesome charm. The games we selected for this list all try to capture at least one of these pillars of Animal Crossing, usually in wildly different ways than the actual Animal Crossing games.
And, we aren’t looking for “Animal Crossing clones” either—we want games that give people who’ve never played Animal Crossing at least a taste of what the series is like, but could still be played by existing fans to give them a unique experience. And, of course, they should be available on a wide variety of platforms, whether that be PS4, Xbox One, PC, or mobile.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the list.
Editor’s Note: We generally try to provide pricing as often as we can, but with varying prices on different platforms and constant game sales, it’s nearly impossible to provide accurate details in a post like this. For that reason, we decided not to include prices here. The games range between $15-30 without sales.
The One You Already Know: Stardew Valley (PS4/Xbox One/PC/Mobile/Switch)
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve at least heard of Stardew Valley. Since its initial release in 2016, the game has gotten tremendously popular; it has sold millions of copies and is now one of the most iconic indie games around. And, that success is well-deserved—Stardew Valley is an amazing game.
For those who don’t know, Stardew Valley is a farming game set in the small town of Pelican Town. You grow your farm, make money, and befriend a colorful cast of characters. Everything about Stardew Valley makes you want to keep playing, as the presentation is fantastic, the dialogue is natural and well-written, and most importantly, tending to your farm every in-game day is extremely relaxing.
While it’s more commonly compared to the Harvest Moon franchise, Stardew Valley perfectly captures many of the popular elements of Animal Crossing in the context of a farming game. The game is still being updated to this day, and it even has full co-op multiplayer so you can enjoy it with friends and family.
You can currently get Stardew Valley on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and the Nintendo Switch.
An Adventurous RPG: My Time at Portia (PS4/Xbox One/PC/Switch)
Welcome to Portia, a fantastical land brimming with secrets, creatures, and colorful visuals.
You start the game at your Pa’s abandoned workshop, and it’s your job to restore the building to its former glory, alongside building up a farm around it. However, farming is only what you’ll be doing a small portion of your time. You can explore the world, fight enemies, chat with townsfolk, and gather resources for crafting. With so much to do, you should have little trouble spending 50, 100, or even 200 hours in My Time at Portia.
However, even with so many mechanics, the game still keeps things simple. You won’t be reading hundreds of wiki pages to make sure your gear is the best it can statistically be; as far as RPGs go, My Time at Portia is definitely on the more relaxed and chill side of the spectrum.
My Time at Portia is currently available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Exploration-Based Relaxing: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PS4/PC/Xbox One/Switch)
If done properly, exploring a video game’s world can be one of the most relaxing experiences you have. That’s the feeling Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles chases, and it definitely succeeds. With eight distinctive regions of the world and collectibles hidden throughout, you’re looking at an enjoyable 10 to 15 hours of discovery and wonder.
There isn’t any combat in Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, and it’s certainly not for everyone—there are many players who leave it because they’re bored. Still, if a game solely-focused on exploration sound appealing to you, you should really give Yonder a shot.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles varies in price per platform and is available on PS4, PC, Xbox One, and Switch.
You’re Trapped on an Island Here, Too: Castaway Paradise (PS4/Xbox One/PC/Mobile)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons takes the series in a new direction, taking place on a deserted island rather than the normal hamlet you were dropped into in previous entries. Well, Castaway Paradise also traps you on a deserted island, but it did it five years earlier.
This game is probably the most similar to Animal Crossing of all the games covered so far. You’re the sole human living in a town of humanoid animals, you catch bugs and fish, visit shops, and customize your home. There’s also some farming mechanics included to give you more stuff to do.
There isn’t as much overall content in Castaway Paradise compared to the recent Animal Crossing titles, but considering this game’s relatively low price it’s worth checking out. When it goes on sale it’s typically under $5 which is an even better deal.
Castaway Paradise is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Android, and iOS.
Animal Crossing, Stardew, and Minecraft in One: Staxel (PC)
Staxel is an interesting mash-up of genres and mechanics, and while it might get a bit over-ambitious, it’s still a great game. In Staxel, you’ll build, farm, and interact with the various townsfolk as you build relations and help them solve their problems.
As you can probably guess from the cube-based art style, Staxel has taken some inspiration from Minecraft and allows the player to deconstruct the environment and any premade buildings. This means you can fully customize your world to be exactly how you want, whether you want to build a steampunk-themed crop farm or a fantastical tower, the choice is in your hands, which is always nice.
Staxel even has full online multiplayer, so you can share a town with a friend.
Staxel is currently only available on PC.
To Keep an Eye on: Hokko Life (PC) and Garden Story (PC/Mobile)
All the games mentioned so far are available to purchase right now, however, there are a couple of games coming out later this year that are worth keeping your eye on if you’re interested in this particular style of game.
Hokko Life is, without a doubt, the most similar to Animal Crossing out of all the titles on this list in terms of looks and gameplay. You have the Animal Crossing staples of animal villagers, fishing, catching bugs, and now with New Horizons, crafting.
Not to say everything here is taken from Animal Crossing. While we don’t know much about how the game’s story pans out, it seems like you’re living deep in the wilderness in Hokko Life, which is different from the settings Animal Crossing has used in the past. Farming is also added to the mix, along with far more in-depth customization of furniture than Animal Crossing allows; in fact, customization seems to be what Hokko Life is advertising as its defining feature.
It’ll definitely be interesting to see how Hokko Life turns out. The game’s slated for release sometime this year—if you want more information or want to follow the development, you can either visit the developer’s website or wishlist it on Steam.
In Garden Story, you play as a grape named Concord who’s in charge of defending the local village. It’s a simple premise, but it opens the door to a unique and charming world.
The gameplay of Garden Story largely persists of fishing, exploring, solving puzzles, completing quests, and fighting enemies. The simple pixel art makes the world feel unique, and the character designs are as adorable as they are charming.
Garden Story has actually had a couple of demos available over the past year (neither of them is active right now), but players walked away from both with good impressions. We’re thinking Garden Story will be a game worth checking out once it finally releases.
Garden Story is currently slated for release in the spring of 2020 for mobile devices and PC. You can follow its development on either the developer’s website or the Steam page.