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15 games like Animal Crossing that are so wholesome it hurts

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is finally here, and we're obsessed with it. It lets you build and decorate a home on a beautiful island, complete with fruit trees and flowers and butterflies flapping about. There are friendly animal neighbors to swap gifts with, and fossils to uncover and donate to the museum. The sweet as pie sim has the internet aflame, sharing fashion designs, crushes on the anthropomorphic characters, and even setting up their own bartering systems for hard to craft items. Of course, the world of Tom Knook and his relentless loan sharking isn't for everyone, and some people aren't lucky enough to have a Nintendo Switch. Worry not if that's you, because we've found a bunch of games that are similar to the Nintendo classic, letting you customize your world, socialize safely, and you'll never have to pay Tom Knook one bell to do it. 

Doraemon Story of Seasons 

Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch

Whether or not you're a fan of the Japanese manga series, cat robot Doraemon's cuteness transcends genre and cultures. This game merges that universe with farming simulator Story of Seasons for a cartoon caper that will appeal to anyone who loves the friendships of Animal Crossing or the farming of Stardew Valley. Just like Animal Crossing, you can catch and collect insects, customize your home, spend hours fishing, and take part in the town's special events and festivals. On top of that, you can tend crops, keep bees, chickens, and sheep and try your hand at mining. 

If that all sounds familiar, it's because Story Of Seasons is the new name for the Harvest Moon series, so there's a side order of nostalgia too. 

Garden Paws

Available on: PC (coming soon to Nintendo Switch) 

Developers Bitten Toast Games brought this adorable simulation game to life on Kickstarter, and it rings a lot of similar bells to Animal Crossing in its gameplay and style. You can choose to play as a bunny, dragon, cat, bird, badger, horse, dog, fox, or chipmunk, and every single cute cartoony character is very customizable. You inherit a farm from your grandparents, and work with the Mayor and construction worker to build up the town and customize your home. Just as you need bells to expand your home, getting yourself a healthy supply of coins to work on the town is a must. By exploring caves for treasure, completing quests, and running your own shop to sell everything you find around the world, you'll begin to fill up that coin purse. As the town begins to expand, more residents will move in and unlock more items and quests. There are no enemies in the caves to pose a threat either, so it really does make for one very relaxing time that lets you play at your own pace. With farming, fishing, cooking, crafting, and animals to raise, there’s no shortage of ways to pass each day. 

A Short Hike

Available on: PC

Less like Animal Crossing in mechanics, but very like it in vibe. This delightful little indie is about exploring the lush landscape of Hawk Peak Provincial Park. No pressure, no time limit, just one little birb making friends, going for a swim and stretching his wings to soar between cliffs. It'll give you the same warm fuzzy feelings you get from Animal Crossing at its best, and demand very little from you in terms of time or difficulty. Short and sweet, it's the perfect way to kill a few hours when the world outside is being particularly crazy. 

Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands

Available on: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, iOS

Like Animal Crossing: New Horizons this game sees you building a new life on an island, but the main difference here is that you've arrived by shipwreck, rather than Dodo Airlines. You're in charge of setting up camp for you and your fellow survivors, farming crops to feed the masses, and ultimately trying to build a ship to escape. Work with your fellow castaways and they'll give you side quests, which are the perfect excuse to explore and interact with the various flora and fauna. Unlike the serene world of Animal Crossing, Stranded Sails is home to some supernatural nasties you'll need to face, and that whole "cursed" thing is a worry. At least you'll have the soothing sounds of the waves to help keep your anxiety at bay. 

Stardew Valley

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android

Ditching your old life as an office drone, you move into Pelican town and begin to run a farm you inherited. In Animal Crossing, visiting your favorite residents and lending them a hand by fulfilling favors or giving them gifts helps you bond with them. From Goldie to Bluebear and Tia, the town would be nothing without the animals you meet. The residents of Stardew Valley are also at the heart of its charm, and forming friendships or even romantic relationships with the townsfolk is one of the most relatable, and heartwarming aspects. Lots of activities are also very reminiscent of what you get up to in Animal Crossing, such as fishing, mining, digging, and working to save up to improve your farm and house. You can also decorate your home, and while there is combat involved in the caves, you still get to decide how you want to spend your day. 

Forager

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

If grinding for resources is your favorite part of the Animal Crossing experience, then Forager is the game for you. Its cute visuals hide an addictive loop of exploring, resource management, building, combat, crafting, and puzzles that will keep you lost in its brightly colored world for hours, days, weeks... what even is time anymore? The developer says the game was inspired by Stardew Valley, Terraria, and Zelda and it shows, stealing good bits from all of them to make something new and special. It's up to you what you do and when, so you're free to make spend time in the game doing whatever you want, whether that's dungeon raiding or obsessively building. 

My Time at Portia

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch

There are endless things to do in My Time at Portia, and many Animal Crossing fans will feel right at home in its cartoony world. Surprisingly, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic time where lots of secrets dwell beneath its unassuming charm. When you move into the town, you assume the role of a builder who can craft all manner of buildings and items to fulfill commissions. These commissions are your main source of income to start with, but with ample opportunity to set out into the big open-world and discover relics, go fishing, raise cows and chickens, and farm, you’re free to build a life for yourself in whatever way you wish. There is also more of a storyline to this game, so you can also work towards completing the various quests to uncover the mysteries of Portia. Getting to know the residents is also a huge part of the experience. Again, there is combat involved, but if you’d rather avoid the fighting, you can send out the Civil Corps to collect items for you so you can avoid venturing out into dangerous areas. Overall it’s quite slow in pace and a relatively gentle life sim. 

Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch

Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a very appealing and relaxing open-world adventure that takes you on a journey across the island of Yonder in Gemea. With no threats in sight, you’re free to roam the world and do whatever you want at your own pace. You can get to know the inhabitants of the world and fulfills their quests for them to learn useful skills and tricks. There are a lot of professions you can try out, from being a chef to a tailor, and running your own little customizable farm. The world is made of several different environments and biomes, giving every area its own distinctive look and feel. As you explore, creatures who roam the lands will become your friends if you feed them treats. With plenty of different ways to fulfill objectives and lots of skills to build, the life you lead is up to you every step of the way. Yonder truly is a very charming, chilled out experience that may appeal to Animal Crossing fans. 

Fantasy Life

Available on: Nintendo 3DS

If you were a big fan of New Leaf, chances are you still have your Nintendo 3DS lying around, and if you fancy giving it a new lease of life of the fantasy variety, Fantasy Life is a great way to fill that Animal Crossing shaped hole. In the world of Reveria, you can choose one of 12 professions, from being a carpenter to a mercenary. Each profession gives you a certain skill set and lifestyle, and you can switch between them at any time. In the world, you can get to know the residents of the different towns, own several houses that can be decorated however you wish, and complete quests and activities that gain you bliss points to aid in your progression. On your adventures, you’ll meet people who can join you and help you in certain scenarios. With a cutesy style and lots of similar elements, this is a great option for the handheld console.

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns

Available on: Nintendo 3DS

A precursor to Doraemon Story of Seasons, Trio of Towns is a charming, more expansive entry in the series that has a similar feel to Animal Crossing. After leaving the city to peruse your dream of living your life in the countryside, you set up a new farm that lies at the crossroads between three towns. Each town has its own unique items, style, and residents, and you can become friends with all of the locals in each neighboring town. It gives you a lot of freedom to live out your best farm life however you want. Activities include growing crops, raising pets and livestock, making clothes, and cooking up a storm. And for anyone who loves decorating, you're sure to enjoy making up your farm and home. 

Castaway Paradise

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, iOS, Android 

Originally released on mobile and PC before coming to and consoles, Castaway Paradise has very similar vibes to Animal Crossing, and seems to draw inspiration from the series in its own way. After finding yourself ashore on an island when you get caught up in a storm, you encounter some of the locals who give you a tent to call home. After setting up your tent, you can set out to explore the island, get to know the residents, and work towards unlocking more parts of the island to explore. Some of the residents are also anthropomorphic animals like pigs and ducks, so it will feel very familiar. Just as you do favors for Punchy and Hamlet and any fellow neighbors in New Leaf, you can help the villagers with their activities in Castaway Paradise and form friendships. You can even fish, catch bugs, and grow your own crops. It’s probably the closest tropical Animal Crossing-like experience you can currently play while you wait it out for New Horizons.

Staxel

Available on: PC 

Staxel is a cute blocky sandbox adventure that has a lot of elements that will feel familiar to you. As the newest resident in the village, you’re tasked with restoring a farm. Getting to know the residents and forming friendships is a big part of the game, and you can help the villagers out in various ways. The locals will help you get settled in, and all have their own unique personalities. With your rundown home and farm, you’ll have your work cut out for you, but you can spruce the place up however you like with lots of customization options (like putting floor tiles and picking furniture). Eventually, you’ll be able to expand and grow your farm with some hard work. And thanks to its sandbox nature, you can even customize the world around you. If you fancy a break from farming and talking to your neighbors, you can also venture out into the Wilds and catch bugs, fish, and hunt. With lots of collectible items and hobbies to occupy your time, it’s a delightfully laid back little adventure that also features co-op functionality. 

Happy Street

Available on: iOS, Android 

Building a town with cute animal friends? Happy Street is a great alternative for anyone looking for something on their smartphone. As a little fox called Billy (who wears goggles on his head - very important, that), you float down in a hot air balloon to land on the ground and be greeted by Pepin, the globe-trotting extraordinaire. With Pepin, you set out to build yourself a new home and a town to make new friends. After collecting resources around the landscape and constructing more buildings, new animals will move into the town you’re beginning to grow. With the chance to explore different areas, expand your town, and build all manner of shops and stands while you chat with the residents and fulfill objectives, it’s a fun little mobile game that will help stave off your hunger for more Animal Crossing adventures.

The Sims 4

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4 

The Sims is the classic life sim, and there’s a lot to love about it. If you enjoyed designing the perfect homes for all your favorite animal pals in Happy Home Designer, or putting together your camp in Pocket Camp, creating homes in the Sims 4 takes that to the next level with some very satisfying and intuitive home building tools. Instead of having neighbors who are elephants with teapot-shaped heads or camo alligators, you have human-like sims. You’re not in debt to start off with, but you can be if you don’t send your sim to work and avoid using the classic money cheat (we all do it); it’s entirely up to you. Be warned though, if you don’t pay your bills, your power and water will eventually get shut off. If you think about it, Tom Nook is good, really. I mean, maybe you didn’t want that extra floor space, but hey, at least you could take your time racking up those bells without having to worry about losing your amenities. With a vast library of expansions available to add more content to your sim worlds, there's no end to the number of activities you can get up to. Some are even quite similar, such as collecting bugs, going fishing, and finding collectibles around the towns. 

Little Dragon Cafe 

Available on: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch

Little Dragon Cafe is another relaxing little simulation that’s all about relationships, raising a dragon, and running your very own cafe. The sense of community in this game from the original creator of Harvest Moon packs it with heart and charm. You play as either one of two twins, Rin and Ren, who find themselves having to run a cafe when their mother mysteriously falls ill. You also come into the possession of a dragon egg, which you must nurture and raise on top of trying to keep the cafe running smoothly, and work to find out what happened to your mother. All in a day’s work, right? But you won’t always be behind the counter serving up dishes. You can also venture out and explore the world with your little dragon friend, farm for ingredients, make friends with the residents of the world, and discover new recipes to spice up your menu. As your dragon baby continues to grow, you can even ride on its back to make exploration all the more interesting. It’s a very chilled out experience with a fun story, little cooking mini-games, and charming characters.