What if Nintendo franchises took on new genres? Part 4: Animal Crossing as a life simulation game

Animal Crossing life simulation game like The Sims with you as Tom Nook

Love him or hate him, most fans of Animal Crossing feel a certain way about Tom Nook. The adorable tanuki has been the bane of many players with bell debt issues, but there are people that just feel like he’s doing his job. Animal Crossing players that have aspired to become beautiful home or island owners must often contend with Tom Nook as a potential obstacle in their way of progressing to their ideal homestead. But what if we could step into his shoes to understand that perspective just a bit more? This is what Animal Crossing could look like as a life simulation game.

(For the last part in this “what if” series, check out Splatoon as a rhythm game.)

New Horizons, new perspectives with Animal Crossing life simulation

Animal Crossing is known for being a series about building up your ideal home, environment, and neighborhood full of adorable anthropomorphic animals. Another series with a similar basic premise is The Sims. The core difference is that in The Sims you get the option of being an overseer, in addition to an individual participant. If Animal Crossing were to attempt to take on the life simulation genre, I think The Sims would be the template it could learn the most from, and other upcoming games can give you an idea of how this might look too.

Instead of being a custom-made Animal Crossing villager, an Animal Crossing life sim game could have you take the role of characters like Tom Nook, Isabelle, or perhaps your own custom-made manager. In this position, you would get a bird’s-eye or isometric view of the town and be able to observe the villagers going about their day-to-day lives.

Animal Crossing life simulation game like The Sims with you as Tom Nook

As in both The Sims and Animal Crossing proper, the core gameplay loop would revolve around you building up the town with increasingly better infrastructure, whilst also managing the lives of the villagers inhabiting it. As a neat personal touch, this game could let you import your villagers from Animal Crossing: New Horizons too. Villagers would behave in accordance with their unique personalities. You could watch them do tasks such as gardening or laundry, but you could also exert some control by setting up situations that create things like rivalries, friendships, or romantic relationships. In time, villagers could even open up shops, have children, and improve their houses, depending on the balance between your leadership and their own freedom.

As the manager, you would start the game with a predetermined budget of bells depending on the size of the land the game creates for you. Some custom-made or imported villagers would fill out the town initially, but more villagers would need to be naturally inclined to move in based on how well you build up amenities like housing and facilities.

Animal Crossing life simulation game like The Sims with you as Tom Nook

Villagers could pay regularly scheduled tax bells as well as revenue through their purchases. This becomes your core income to spend on further building out the town and improving the lives of the villagers. Bells could be used to attract new villagers through tourism adverts, to strengthen buildings from dangerous weather, or even to invent new means of income. Whether that’s through opening up cute features like ice-cream shops and parks or being a little meaner and increasing the bell tax is up to you.

Just like in traditional Animal Crossing though, your actions may not go down well with the villagers in this life sim game. That would open up the possibility of your denizens leaving the town for good. No remaining villagers in your town would result in a game over, so much like Tom Nook, your role would be a balancing act between sustaining a high income of bells and maintaining the happiness of the villagers under your thumb.

Outside of the core mode, this game could also lean into sandbox elements and let you mess around with your town. You could let the game run on auto-pilot and watch how your villagers act over a long period, or perhaps you could take the role of a citizen yourself and see how things play out without your influence on the ground level. Visiting other players’ towns would be reminiscent of in regular Animal Crossing, but if you wanted to be cheeky, you could even attempt to poach some villagers from them with some well-placed bribes or advertisements. Regardless of how you choose to manage your town and villagers, Animal Crossing as a life simulation game could offer plenty of sandbox customization and a fresh way to interact with your favorite villagers.

How would you manage your villagers if Animal Crossing took a page out of The Sims for life simulation?

Chirag Pattni
Psychologist and long time gamer. Has a love-hate relationship with technology and enjoys all things Japanese.