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Joy-Con drift almost ruined my perfect Animal Crossing life

We almost lost Marshal

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A villager stares in surprise at Marshal the squirrel in the campsite in a screenshot from Animal Crossing New Horizons Image: Nintendo via Polygon
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

I won the Animal Crossing villager lottery early. Days into playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Marshal the squirrel showed up in my camp, and I immediately accepted him as a resident on my island. The smug villager is one of my favorites — a widely held opinion, as Marshal is the second-most-wanted villager according to, the website where players buy and sell Animal Crossing items and villagers.

On Wednesday, I almost lost Marshal, and my drifting Joy-Cons are to blame.

My left Joy-Con drifts up and down. It makes playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons difficult sometimes (and playing Picross almost impossible). I’ll frequently dig in the wrong spot or whiff my swing when a swam of wasps is chasing me. Using the Dodo Airlines customer service desk is a nightmare, trying to navigate six menus to get a flight out with a bum joystick. Fishing, in general, sucks. But today’s Joy-Con drift-induced error was a moment of sheer terror.

Marshal approached me this morning and said he was thinking of leaving my island, Odoshima, for greener pastures. Of course, I opted to decline his offer to leave. Or so I thought. Approximately one frame before firmly pressing the A button to tell Marshal to stick around, my drifting Joy-Con switched to the other option instead. Marshal said his goodbyes.

I screamed.

A villager speaks with Marshal the squirrel in a screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons Image: Nintendo via Polygon

I wasn’t sure what to do. Would Marshal ever return? Should I delete my save file and start the entire game over? Had the Switch saved this awful mistake? Should I join that class-action lawsuit against Nintendo? (I did not consider this last option, actually.)

I immediately powered down my Switch before the system could write this grave error to my save file. I restarted New Horizons, found Marshal, and rewrote my fate.

How to avoid the same mistake

I’m telling you this traumatic tale just in case you ever find yourself in the same situation: Quickly reset your game before Animal Crossing auto-saves. You can salvage your island relationships if you’re fast enough.

After saving Marshal from departing Odoshima, I found him sitting by the river, itching from fleas. I freed him from his itchy affliction with my net, and we became best buds, completing the “True Friends” Nook Miles achievement. Later, he gave me some “slightly used” cream and sugar. After suffering a major blow earlier this week, when Hamlet the jock hamster was refused a spot on my island by Resident Services, it’s the happy ending that I needed.

Marshal the squirrel speaks to a villager in a screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Marshal stays. But soon, I hope Penelope the horrible mouse inflicted upon me by Polygon’s Russ Frushtick will ask the same question and depart for greener pastures, and that my newly ordered Joy-Cons will have arrived by then.

I can’t wait to tell you to get out, Penelope.

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