"It definitely became a different way to hang out," Awkwafina tells PEOPLE of playing Nintendo Switch during the pandemic

By Nigel Smith
November 12, 2020 12:00 PM

Awkwafina wants her fans to know something about her: she's a lifelong gamer.

The Crazy Rich Asians actress, 32, leads a hilarious new commercial for Nintendo where she shows off her skills at playing her two favorite games on the Nintendo Switch platform: Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

"It goes really far back for me," Awkwafina tells PEOPLE of her passion for all things Nintendo. "As a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with Donkey Kong on the Super Nintendo. I remember getting my Super Nintendo, and it was the best day of my life. I was at school, I couldn't wait to come home to it. And it was the first game that I was actually good at."

"And then I played Mario on the Nintendo, the 3D [one]," she continues. "And then I've always had Game Boys. So to be an adult now, and to have the Nintendo Switch in my life, and to be able to also partner with them, it's a ... I don't know, it's just auspicious, because I definitely do use it a lot."

Credit: Bec Lorrimer/Courtesy Nintendo

Like millions of gamers around the world, Awkwafina found comfort in exploring and building her Animal Crossing: New Horizons island while self-isolating during the pandemic. She also took advantage of the game's ability to connect with other gamers.

"It's always cool and also strange to connect with strangers," she says. "With Animal Crossing, I think the cool thing was, and especially at a time when we all felt this responsibility to stay home and keep each other safe, all of my friends were on it. I was able to play with a lot of people. I was able to go to visit my friends' islands. So it definitely became a different way to hang out, and stay in touch, and stay connected in a really interesting way that I didn't really expect at that time. It was a blessing."

Credit: Bec Lorrimer/Courtesy Nintendo

As for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Awkwafina makes the gaming experience a family affair.

"I play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with my little cousins all the time," she says. "At some point in the beginning [of the pandemic], I had this big race between all my cousins who were in totally different states and stuff. It's almost like you're together. So it was cool."

Awkwafina isn't the first female celebrity this year to profess her love for Nintendo; in March, Captain Marvel herself Brie Larson also teamed up with the company to promote Animal Crossings: New Horizons, telling PEOPLE that the latest iteration of the game "hits a deep childhood memory" for her.

"I think more than ever, we're realizing that video games are for everyone," says Awkwafina. "I don't think that they're specifically a male thing. A lot of the people I play with, and all the people that are really good, are mostly women."