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Leopold, a lion with a green mane, says to the player: “So the famous Nicole has finally decided to grace me with her presence.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

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Animal Crossing’s villagers will not let me escape my guilt for abandoning them

After being away for a year, I had it coming

Chelsea Stark (she/her), executive editor, has been covering video games for more than a decade.

What is it with cute video games and guilt trips? Ever since my first digital puppy (in Nintendogs on the Nintendo DS) turned her back on me after a few weeks of neglect, I’ve fallen prey to doe-eyed animals making me feel bad for choosing to play something else.

Animal Crossing games have a long history of guilting players, of course. Return to your home after a few weeks, months, or years away, and you’re liable to get dragged for being gone for so long. Despite the long life of my Nintendo 3DS, I never once returned to New Leaf after six months idle, afraid of how previously treasured pals Curt, Sylvia and Rosie would react. Sure, I can logically tell myself these are pre-preprogrammed lines spat out by fake animals, but they still somehow sting — especially if I realistically only pop in once every few months after the initial gluttonous gameplay period. The inevitable guilt trips mean I’ll likely never come back.

But, of course, now Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s is getting a massive, free update, and despite not visiting my lovely Piña Isle for over a year, I dove back in last week. (As did a lot of other Polygon staff.) Were my villagers ready to guilt trip me? Boy howdy. But I endured it, and then it was over.

If you’re faced with the same squeamish feelings upon having to face your island’s residents, you’re not alone! Consider this a warm-up round, to help ease your conscience. Here’s how some of our villagers greeted us after months (or more than a year!) away.

Eugene, a koala in sunglasses, says to the player: “Oh, but seriously... you’re not an actual ghost, right?” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Plenty of characters refused to believe we were real. Ghosts, mirages, a different person with the same name....

Agnes the pig, speaking to the player: “Well, I guess I’ve finally lost my mind. I could swear I see nicole c in front of me.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon
Agnes, a pig, says to the player character: “ It’s a really, really… REAL-looking mirage too. Like, super real! Even kinda smells real, snuffle.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Some villagers just wanted us to really feel it.

Miranda, a pink baby bird, to the player: “I dropped by your place to look for you, but you were never home…” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

They also just pretended to forget who we were.

A bear in sunglasses and a sweater addresses a player character in an aquarium: “Yo! Nice to meet you. My name’s Teddy. I’m big into fitness, but I bet that was obvious. I was just about to... Oh! Champ! Hey! Wow, how’ve you been? What’s your bench weight up to?” Image: Nintendo via Polygon
Canberra, a bear, to the player character: “OK, so it’s awesome to see you again, but you really had me worried. You just kinda disappeared.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Adventures, like Metroid Dread or New Pokémon Snap? Rosie, I would never!

Rosie, a purple cat, says to the player: “You have a different vibe about you … Have you been having adventures without me?”  Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Sprinkle deserves an Academy Award for this performance.

Sprinkle, a penguin, says to the player: “Huh? Wonder bud?! NO way! It’s been… 1 year and 2 months since I saw you last!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon
Sprinkle, a penguin, says to the player: “Yes. I counted. I have a notebook where I mark the days. And the pages are all tearstained!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

This is a little confusing, since Zucker is one of the few characters who is dressed as a food.

Zucker, an octopus with takoyaki sauce on his head, says to the player: “You gotta stay! Show your face around here more often. I miss my snack buddy!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

And then there are the villagers who disguise their hurt with sarcasm. I see you, Leopold.

Leopold, a lion with a green mane, says to the player: “So the famous Nicole has finally decided to grace me with her presence.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

A totally normal comment here...

Pashmina, a goat in a sweater, says to the player: “We heard weird rumors, like a shark attack, or an alien abduction, or that you’d joined an alien-shark circus.” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Unfortunately, I think Beau has figured out we’re all living in a simulation.

Beau, a deer, says to the player: “I tell ya … You went away and I got so bored. It’s almost like nothing happened around here!” Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Oof, that was a lot. But hopefully it has made going back a little easier.

Thanks to Nicole Clark, Nicole Carpenter, and Emily Heller for their contributions to this story.