Animal Crossing has gone from being a slightly odd, niche franchise into one of Nintendo’s biggest system sellers. Back in the days of the Gamecube it seemed as if it wasn’t going to hit Europe at all. The game where a horned character bought furniture and said hi to his dog neighbours, understandably, seemed a risk. There were no bosses, no combat, no scores. The inclusion of playable NES games within the title was much publicised. Donkey Kong Jr Math seemed easier to explain than Animal Crossing. Let that sink in. Its also one of the first times I remember considering importing a game. So what’s changed?

Animal Crossing on the Gamecube title was decidedly single-player. With each successive entry in the series the multiplayer features have been dramatically enhanced. It got easier to share and show off your town and interact with other players. The DS game, Animal Crossing: Wild World, was a big step forward. The game’s structure definitely lends itself better to a portable system. It’s best played in short bursts, and needs to be played regularly. The biggest leap for the series undoubtedly came from Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It was a huge boon to the sluggish sales of the Nintendo 3DS (hard as that is to believe now).

The Series Turns Over A New Leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf took advantage of the 3DS’ improved internet and ‘street pass’ features to make the game a communal activity. It also improved the extent to which you could customise your town. Instead of just acting as a resident you were given the job of Mayor. That’s some responsibility. It also gave you the power to enact rules that tailored the game to your play style. You could make residents responsible for stopping weeds growing, or make the shops stay open later. Vital tweaks for adult players with busy lives. You could also fund new buildings or works of art, and select where they’d go in your town. It gave each town a more unique feel.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is looking increasingly like its building on these features. The latest Direct, above, shows off a huge increase in your control of your town. You can now build paths, move cliffs and even rivers. You’re also given a choice of 4 islands to choose from – no more restarting the game to get a layout you like. Another much request feature – choosing where new residents put their houses – has also been added. You can also invite friends over to help you terraform – with a permissions list to prevent griefing. Check out the full presentation above for all the details. Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrives on the Nintendo Switch March 20th.