Bowser. Ganondorf. Ridley. Nintendo’s history is full of villains almost as recognizable and iconic as the company’s heroes. Some, like Wario, are more empathetic or misunderstood (you try living in the shadow of Mario and Luigi!) Others are downright evil, like Mother Brain or Ganondorf. Many give us thrills and chills every time they recur, while others only needed to appear once to be permanently cemented in gamers’ minds, like Majora. Regardless of anything else, however, all of these characters are bad. But there is one boss who is the baddest of the bad, one sinister Nintendo villain who overshadows all others in his acts of cruelty and inhumanity. While their heinous crimes bring tears and instill fear, there is no exultation that matches overthrowing this wicked tyrant. Doing so is no trivial task, however, it requires patience, dedication, and the ability to stare evil in the face, the courage to stare straight into the cold, dead eyes of…
Tom Nook. Sure, he might seem like Neighborly Nook at the beginning of each Animal Crossing game. He takes a chance on a stranger and puts a roof over their head. But really he’s Nefarious Nook, who poaches on the poor and exploits everyone for his own gain. This wretched raccoon…well, actually he’s a tanuki, or Japanese raccoon dog, a breed of animal native to Asia named for its resemblance to a raccoon despite limited biological similarities… this terrible tanuki gives you a house, but at what cost?
To pay off the debt and the debtor’s “generosity,” the player must become Nook’s pet (read as another word for dog (or raccoon dog in this case). This is Nintendo, keep it clean!) and work for his store completing mundane chores that the guy could easily do himself but won’t. That’s not how Nook operates. His game is humiliation and marginalization. So, while you are busy paying off your hobo hut, filled with used and unwanted furniture your neighbors gave you or that you found in the dump, he is building an empire. Once he is done playing his sick game, he kicks you to the curb, leaving you to fend for yourself, jobless, and penniless.
You aren’t his only source for cheap labor either. Nook is unopposed to child labor, utilizing his nephews, Timmy and Tommy Nook once his store has expanded (further exemplifying the separation of class Nook’s bolstered within the town.) In Animal Crossing: New Leaf Tom Nook doesn’t even have to work at his own store, leaving it in the charge of his nephews, while he seeks to lay claim to more people and property in the form of Nook Homes, his real-estate and home remodeling business. Don’t feel too bad for Timmy and Tommy though, at least they have regular jobs. You are left to hunt and gather fish, fossils, and bugs to make a buck. Guess it’s all in who you know!
Nook is also a ruthless predator, urging individuals to live outside their means and follow their American dreams. Each and every time a debt is paid off, Nook suggests a home expansion, urging you to turn your hovel into a home. He knows you can’t reasonably be satisfied with your standard of living, and then preys upon your desire to live in something larger than a shoebox. With each consecutive expansion, there is a hike in Nook’s price. For every hole of debt you climb out of, he places another pitfall in your path sending you tumbling back down. Conniving and in control of the market, you’ve no choice but to play his sadistic game.
Though there’s some diversity, Nook owns the biggest and most essential store in town. It’s the go to place for furniture, tools (Tom Nook is the biggest tool Nookington’s has!) and everything you and your home need to get by. Unfortunately, Nook owns this market too, setting prices and the supply. Sure, he sells some lovely furniture, a large quantity of sets with which you can mix and match, but you know for a fact that he is withholding that final piece you need to finish the set, insisting instead on selling you exactly what you don’t want and the same thing he offered last week.
There’s no end to Nook’s reign of terror. His depravity is unrivaled. There is only one thing you can do–beat the villain. Though Nook will try to drown you in debt, there are only so many expansions the tanuki can throw your way. Paying off your last debt will forever free you from the fiend’s clutches. Not only that, but it will also reward the player. In the original Animal Crossing for GameCube, Nook actually builds a golden statue of the player’s character near the train station for paying the final mortgage(and silver for the next character, then bronze, then jade). If that isn’t him conceding defeat, I don’t know what is. You may have helped the monster build a huge store, but you know who doesn’t have a golden statue in town? Tom Nook. Nor is his store made of gold, like your house can be in New Leaf. Don’t let Tom Nook lord over you. Not only is freeing yourself from his tyranny a fun and rewarding experience, but few can truly claim they have defeated Nintendo’s biggest, and most brutal, of baddies.