Animal Crossing: New Horizons will include gender-neutral character options for the very first time

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

We didn’t think it was possible, but our excitement for Animal Crossing: New Horizons has just grown exponentially.

The latest instalment in Nintendo‘s adorable animal world simulation is out on March 20 with a whole host of new features – and it includes gender-free character customisation options.

In previous games your character and entire island environment would be generated by your answers to a series of questions, starting with whether you were “a boy or a girl”. You were unable to switch your character features beyond the gender you chose at the start of the game.

That’s all changed with New Horizons. Players can now customise their character throughout the game, and you’re also no longer limited to male and female-only features and hairstyles.

New character features will be unlocked as the player accumulates achievements, so it’ll be easier than ever to change your look as you play.

Why does this matter? As well as ensuring non-binary and gender non-conforming players will be better represented in their favourite game, it also means that Nintendo is taking a much-needed step towards diversity and inclusivity – something it’s had a poor record with in the past.

Many players will remember the Tomodachi Life controversy, but for those who don’t it may come as a shock that Nintendo was actually refusing to include LGBT+ representation as recently as 2014.

The life simulation game encouraged players to flirt, date and marry – but only between ‘heterosexual’ characters. When players asked for an update to include gay relationships, the company flatly refused.

“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life,” they said in a statement. “The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation.”

The company fell under further scrutiny when it inexplicably deleted a gamer’s custom-made stage on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that featured a transgender pride flag.

The fact that Nintendo is now including gender-free character options unprompted shows just how far it has come, even if it is only a game about adorable talking bipedal animals.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons will launch globally on March 20, 2020 for the Nintendo Switch.