How catching a Barreleye fish in Animal Crossing: New Horizons reminded me what I love most about the series

(Image credit: Nintendo)

A few weeks into playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I was fishing on the sandy shores of my island when I caught a very unusual fish. Quite small in size, my eyes were immediately drawn to the fluorescent green globes sitting on the top of its translucent-looking head. 

Since it was nighttime the luminous green eyes really stood out...  but was its head actually as see-through as it appeared? I had to know. The game informed me I had caught a Barreleye, and I was instantly intrigued. So, without wasting a second, I raced to the museum to present it to Blathers and find out more about my new catch. 

Passing over the fish in a bag, Blathers took it with the same excitement and enthusiasm he always has about my latest finds - unless you're donating bugs, of course. The wise owl then asked me if I wanted to know a few fascinating facts about this new aquatic addition to my museum. And did I ever. What Blathers told me only served to heighten my curiosity. 

"The barreleye is a deep-sea fish with protuberant eyes and a clear head," Blathers tells me, before visibly shaking," so some of its organs are… visible." That's right. My eyes weren't deceiving me, after all. "At first blush, a transparent head seems absurd," Blathers continues, "but there is a reason: so it can see things directly above!" 

 A world of discovery 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

While I was still reeling (pun intended) from the whole transparent head thing, I wanted to know if those neon green globe-shaped things on its head were in fact the eyes it uses to "see things directly above". With Blathers only giving me a mere taster of information, I immediately went to Google to learn more. 

One thing I can't resist doing is looking up all of the critters I find to see what they look like in reality, and I could hardly wait to see my first glimpse of a real Barreleye. Honestly, I was in awe. I ended up spending a big chunk of my evening reading about this fish and watching YouTube videos of it swimming around in the depths of the ocean. I couldn't believe this wonderfully unusual fish existed and I was only just finding out about it. 

And here's the thing: If it wasn't for Animal Crossing, I very much doubt I would have come across this fascinating fish. From playing it for the first time on GameCube to my current island-dwelling days on Switch, I've always loved the way the series has taught me little bite-sized pieces of information about creatures that roamed the earth in centuries past, or ones we share the planet with now. Even if the information isn't always entirely accurate, I still appreciate that it draws my attention to an unusual insect or fish, and awakens an urge in me to learn more about them. 

Hooked on learning

(Image credit: Nintendo)

I'm someone who harbors a great love for history and archaeology - so much so in fact, that in another life, I think I would have become an archaeologist. Sure, at a young age that desire might have initially stemmed from watching Indiana Jones countless times, but it eventually transformed into a real passion, and I pursued it into higher education before I decided writing was for me.

On a very small scale, New Horizons lets me feed this neglected passion. I always look forward to settling down with a cup of tea each morning and scouring my island for those telltale little crosses on the ground that indicate a fossil is underneath. New Horizons is a virtual world filled with things to discover, and it brings a small dose of excitement to my day.

Barreleye fish aside, I've caught plenty of other wondrously fascinating insects and aquatic creatures since the game launched, and uncovered no shortage of interesting dinosaur bones and fossils. Take, for example, the large Atlas Moth that you may have seen chilling out on trees. These moths have very short life-spans and emerge from their cocoons without a mouth… yeah, it's true. They really don't have a mouth. And don't even get me started on the Dunkleosteus fossil. Described as an armored fish that lived and thrived before dinosaurs walked the earth, its aggressive-looking face and impressive size make it the perfect fit for a sort of prehistoric Jaws movie.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The museum is easily my favourite building in the game. Not only is it a fount of knowledge that brings all kinds of interesting critters to my attention, it's also a time capsule. In years to come, I can revisit the museum and know the exact date I caught and donated a frog, or the recall the very day I caught that Barreleye fish and lost myself to learning about this wonderfully weird finned friend.

Oh, and if you wanted to know, the green domes on the Barreleye are its eyes. Capped with green lenses and tubular in shape, its eyes can rotate and look upward in search of prey. Wild. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is filled with wonders, and I can hardly wait to see what else I'll discover during my next fishing session or bug-catching escapade. 

Looking to add to your own collection? Here's our guide to all the Animal Crossing: New Horizons fish

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.