Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons[a] is a life simulation video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. It is the fifth main entry in the Animal Crossing series and was released on March 20, 2020.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing New Horizons.jpg
Developer(s)Nintendo EPD
Director(s)Aya Kyogoku
Producer(s)Hisashi Nogami
  • Yoshitaka Takeshita
  • Hiromichi Miyake
Artist(s)Koji Takahashi
Writer(s)Makoto Wada
  • Yasuaki Iwata
  • Yumi Takahashi
  • Shinobu Nagata
  • Sayako Doi
  • Masato Ohashi
SeriesAnimal Crossing
Platform(s)Nintendo Switch
ReleaseMarch 20, 2020
Genre(s)Social simulation
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

In New Horizons, the player assumes the role of a customizable character who moves to a deserted island after purchasing a package from Tom Nook, a tanuki character who has appeared in every entry in the Animal Crossing series. Taking place in real-time, the player can explore the island in a nonlinear fashion, gathering and crafting items, catching insects and fish, and developing the island into a community of anthropomorphic animals.

New Horizons was a major commercial hit, breaking the console game record for most digital units sold in a single month with five million sells, and has currently sold over 26 million copies. Currently standing as the 28th best-selling video game in history, it became the best-selling game in the Animal Crossing series, the best-selling Nintendo Switch exclusive, the second best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch (after Mario Kart 8 Deluxe), and the second-highest selling game of all time in Japan (after the original three Pokémon games); its success has been partially attributed to its release during the COVID-19 pandemic, with players spending more time at home. It received acclaim from critics, with many praising its gameplay and customization options and calling it the best game in the series; it won the award for Game of the Year at the Japan Game Awards, and received three nominations at the The Game Awards 2020, including for Game of the Year.


As in previous installments in the Animal Crossing series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a nonlinear life simulation game played in real-time. The player assumes the role of a customizable character who moves to a deserted island after purchasing a deserted island package from Tom Nook, a tanuki character who is a staple of the series.[1] The game proceeds in an open-ended fashion as the player explores the island, and develops it into a community of anthropomorphic animals.[2]

Players can collect different items to use as decorations within the game. Like in the 2017 spin-off game Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for mobile devices, the game introduces a crafting system that allows the player to convert materials into tools and furniture, which can be used to decorate the game's interior and exterior spaces.[3][4]

The game allows the player to customize the appearance of their character at will, and does not lock specific hairstyles or facial features to specific genders.[5] Players are additionally able to select their character's skin color, a feature introduced in the 2015 spin-off game Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.[3] Nook Miles, an in-game currency earned by completing various tasks, can be used to purchase premium items.[6] Players are able to invite animals to live on their island, and have the option to choose or influence where the animal constructs their home.[7] The game's weather adjusts to the seasons of the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, depending on the player's real-world location, a first for the Animal Crossing series.[6][8]

Once the player has made sufficient progress in New Horizons, Isabelle appears in the game.[2] Additionally, Mr. Resetti no longer lectures the player about saving due to the game's autosave function and the removal of the ability to reset. Instead, it is implied that he is the operator for the Rescue Service.[9] K.K. Slider also appears on the game after the player has achieved a three star rating island.[10]

The game supports one island per Switch system.[11] Animal Crossing: New Horizons supports both local and online co-op gameplay, with up to four players locally and eight players online able to occupy an island at any given time.[3] The game does not connect directly with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, though there are collaboration items between the two games.[7] The game does support amiibo cards and figures from the Animal Crossing series. Nintendo Switch Online cloud saving was added during a late July update, allowing users to recover game data if their Switch is broken or lost.[12]

Additional content is regularly added every few months, added on every update by downloading the latest update from Nintendo.[13]


Development of a new main series Animal Crossing title for Nintendo Switch was confirmed in a Nintendo Direct on September 13, 2018, with an unspecified 2019 release date.[14] Nintendo released the game's title and first trailer at its E3 2019 Nintendo Direct on June 11, 2019.[15] The game was delayed until March 20, 2020, with Yoshiaki Koizumi stating that in order "to ensure [that] the game [was] the best it [could] be, [Nintendo had to] ask that [players] wait a little longer than [Nintendo itself] thought."[15]

Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser cited a desire to avoid crunch and maintain a healthy work–life balance for Nintendo employees as the primary reason for the delay.[16] Nintendo's stock market value posted a 3.5% loss in reaction to the delay, amounting to a total loss in value of more than US$1 billion.[17][18] Director Aya Kyogoku and producer Hisashi Nogami stated that they selected a deserted island as the game's setting to differentiate it from previous Animal Crossing titles, which are set in established villages, and to allow greater freedom for the player to customize the game's world.[4]


Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on March 20, 2020. Video game retailer EB Games attracted criticism for allowing fans who pre-ordered the game along with Doom Eternal to line up at its flagship Canadian location on Yonge Street, Toronto amid a COVID-19 pandemic in the country, when all levels of government urged the public to close non-essential businesses and maintain social distancing.[19]


Nintendo confirmed that Animal Crossing: New Horizons would receive frequent post-release updates, most of them being based around real-life events and holidays.[13] On the week of the game's release, Nintendo pushed an update in preparation for the game's "Bunny Day" event in April, which is loosely based on Easter. A second update was released at the end of April, including events for "Nature Day" (based on Earth Day) and May Day, and the return of Animal Crossing: New Leaf special character Leif as a gardening supplies peddler.[20]

A third update was announced at the end of June for summer and split into two parts. Released at the beginning of July, the first wave of the update included the return of diving from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, long-time popular character Pascal, and a new character similar to existing special character Gulliver but dressed as a pirate named Gullivarrr.[21][22] The second wave of the summer update released late July, re-introduced Firework shows, the return of the character Luna and dream towns, as well as the ability to back up save data.[23]

In late September a subsequent update focused on a fall theme and added farmable pumpkins, that when harvested, can be crafted into Halloween themed items, candy, costumes, customizable "body paint", and new eye colors.[24] The Halloween event showcased Jack, the Czar of Halloween, who challenged players to collect candy for the event.[25] The update also added the ability to control in-game reactions through the Animal Crossing: Nook Link section of the Nintendo Switch App.[26]

A winter update was released on November 19.[27] Two characters from previous games will return for Thanksgiving and Christmas; they are Franklin for 'Turkey Day' and Jingle for 'Toy Day', respectively.[28] The update also included new 'hip reactions' (e.g. sitting down and dancing) and more ethnically diverse hairstyles. Additionally a 'save data transfer' ability was made available.

The next free update is confirmed for late January 2021.[29]


Aggregate score
Review scores
Game Informer9/10[34]
GamesRadar+     [35]
Nintendo Life10/10[38]
VG247     [40]
Japan Game AwardsGame of the Year 2020

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has received "universal acclaim" according to review aggregator Metacritic,[42] becoming the highest-rated game in the series on the website. However, the game has been subject to review bombing due to its handling of Switch profiles and multiplayer.[43][44]

Jack Rear of The Telegraph praised the game, writing that its elements "[add] up to the perfect DIY recipe for the most chilled out, relaxing, and engaging life simulator ever."[45] Sarah Fields of Game Rant wrote that, "[i]n addition to making full use of the Switch's graphical capabilities, New Horizons fixes a myriad of annoyances and problems that New Leaf had", and called New Horizons "a laid-back game that ultimately lets the player choose what they're going to do at any given moment".[46] The game was also named game of the year at the Japan Game Awards.[47]


New Horizons sold over 1.88 million physical copies at launch in Japan, breaking the record held by Pokémon Sword and Shield for biggest Switch game debut in the region.[48] The game sold 720,791 physical copies in its second week in Japan,[49] selling more than Animal Crossing: New Leaf did in its first week. As of 26 April 2020, the game has sold 3,895,159 physical copies in Japan.[50]

In North America, it was the best-selling game of March 2020, becoming the second best-selling game of 2020 and surpassing the lifetime sales of all previous Animal Crossing games. New Horizons generated the third highest known launch month sales of any Nintendo-published game (since The NPD Group began tracking video game sales from 1995), after Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008).[51]

In the United Kingdom, the game's physical launch sales were 3.6 times larger than those of New Leaf,[clarification needed] making it the biggest single Switch game launch in the region.[52] It also sold triple the units of the number-two title, new entry Doom Eternal.[53] In Germany, New Horizons sold more than 200,000 copies after a few days of release, for which it has been certified with a Platinum Sales Award by German trade association GAME.[54]

Nielsen division SuperData estimates that New Horizons sold five million digital copies worldwide in March 2020, setting a new digital sales record by selling more digital units in a single calendar month than any other console game in history. It surpassed the previous record set by Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018).[55]

Nintendo reported that 11.77 million units sold by March 31, 2020, and a total of 13.41 million units after six weeks on the market, making it one of "the best starts ever for a Nintendo Switch title" by the end of its 2019 fiscal year,[56] as well as one of the best selling games on the console and the best selling game of 2020 and the Animal Crossing series.[57] As of 30 September 2020, the game has sold 26.04 million units, making it the second best-selling Nintendo Switch game.[58]

On August 9, 2020, it was reported that Animal Crossing: New Horizons became the second-highest selling game of all time in Japan, only after Pokemon Red and Blue.[59]


Reviewers and news organizations highlighted the game's sense of escapism, in contrast to the COVID-19 pandemic, as attributing to its success.[60] An NBC News op-ed declared, "[New Horizons] is the coronavirus distraction we needed" at a time of widespread social distancing and stay-at-home orders.[61] Imad Khan of The New York Times called the game a "phenomenon", and stated that "with the world in the grip of a pandemic, the wildly popular game is a conveniently timed piece of whimsy, particularly for millennials."[62]

Many people have utilized the game in different ways for business and/or socialization. Funerals, weddings, and graduations were held in the game, with even a talk show spawning, with the name Animal Talking.[63] The Monterey Bay Aquarium, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has regularly held live streams of animal feedings. Some of the zookeepers, who have been playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, have also given a tour of the in-game museum on livestream. On stream, they discussed the realistic dimensions of the layout in the museum.[64]

The Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign released official digital yard signs for use in the game that players could use to decorate their islands.[65][66]

The game was used by democracy activists in Hong Kong, including Joshua Wong, as a platform to protest, including flags containing protest slogans such as "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" and funeral photographs of Communist Party of China (CPC) general secretary Xi Jinping as part of the virtual protests. In reaction, the game has been removed from online stores in China such as Taobao where it had been available on the grey market.[67][68][69]

Nintendo announced on November 19, 2020 a new set of guidelines for using the game, including the ban on using it for political activities.[70]

Related mediaEdit

A tie-in manga series, Atsumare Dōbutsu no Mori: Nonbiri Shima Dayori (あつまれ どうぶつの森〜のんびり島だより〜, lit. "Gather Animal's Forest: Carefree Island News"), began serialization in the manga magazine Ciao on December 28, 2019. The series is written and illustrated by Minori Katō, and follows a villager named Hana who moves to an unpopulated island.[71] Another manga series, Atsumare Dōbutsu no Mori: Nonbiri Shima Diary, launched in the June 2020 issue of Coro Coro Comics.[72]

Nook Tails, a tie-in comic strip series by Cho Hanayo featuring the characters Tom Nook, Timmy, and Tommy, began serialization on the game's Japanese website on October 15, 2019.[73][74] An English-language translation of the series has been posted on the game's English Twitter account beginning on March 4, 2020.[75] Multiple guide books have been released in Japan, some with well-over 1000 pages. These guides have been greatly popular in the country, with large queues (despite shelter-in-place orders), and prompting mass reselling online.[76]


  1. ^ Known in Japan as Atsumare Dōbutsu no Mori (Japanese: あつまれ どうぶつの森, lit. Animal Forest: Gather)


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External linksEdit