Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a master class in inherent accessibility. The developers at Nintendo don’t seem to have done anything to specifically include players with disabilities, and yet they produced one of the most accessible AAA experiences of 2020. Obviously, this is the result of Animal Crossing itself being an incredibly laid-back franchise that’s designed to be played at a casual pace and engages players by asking them to be consistent with the care of their island rather than proficient in any one activity.
Even though there’s no controller customization, the game is still barrier free for those with fine-motor impairments because it can be played with a single finger or mouth stick if necessary. The only question is whether the individual user can access the Switch’s hardware. Once they do, they’ll find a laid-back collect-athon that puts almost no pressure on the player. In my original review, I compared New Horizons to an interactive virtual diorama. You have complete control over your island, and there are plenty of ways to fill it up, but there’s no pressure to do so and no penalty if you don’t. The case is much the same for deaf and hard-of-hearing players and those with visual impairments. Animal Crossing’s art style is overstated and cartoonish, meaning that even if you can’t catch the fine details, you aren’t missing anything. It has no real story to speak of, and all crucial dialogue is communicated via highly legible text.
Yes, it’s true that Animal Crossing has very little in the way of purpose-built accessibility, but if the developer’s vision is already accessible, there’s often no need for high-tech solutions or industry-leading accessibility suites.