Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a 2020 life simulation game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch; it is the fifth main game in the Animal Crossing series. In New Horizons, the player controls a character who moves to a deserted island after purchasing a getaway package from Tom Nook, playing the game in a nonlinear fashion and developing the island as they choose. They can gather and craft items, customize the island, and form it into a community of anthropomorphic animals.
According to the developers, New Horizons began development in 2012. The game director, Aya Kyogoku, had the philosophy of retaining old content from previous games to keep fans happy while also making the game simple enough to appeal to newcomers. With art and graphics, they used the concept of “trigger of play” and the “imagination gap”, where the former kept the gameplay simplistic and easy to pick up while the latter kept the art style simple for the player to imagine the rest.
New Horizons 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 Famitsu Dengeki Game Awards 2020 and the Japan Game Awards 2020, and was nominated for Best Game at the 2021 BAFTA Games Awards, where it won the Best Multiplayer and Game Beyond Entertainment awards. It was nominated in three categories at The Game Awards 2020, and ultimately won Best Family Game.
New Horizons was also a major commercial success, selling over 32 million copies worldwide and breaking the console game record for most digital units sold in a single month. It is the best-selling game in the Animal Crossing series, the second best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch, the second-best-selling game of all time in Japan, and the 15th best-selling video game in history. Its success has been attributed in part to its release amid global stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
s in previous Animal Crossing games, New Horizons is a life simulation game played in real time. Weather also 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. The game follows a villager customized by the player, who, after purchasing a getaway package from Tom Nook, moves into a deserted island. After Tom Nook gives the player essentials, such as a tent, the game proceeds in a non-linear fashion, allowing for the player to play the game as they choose.
The player is given open access to natural resources such as fruit and wood, which can be collected and crafted into a variety of items and furniture known as D.I.Y. crafting. Alongside this, they can catch bugs and fish, plant and grow trees and flowers, extract natural resources such as rocks, swim in the ocean, and eventually are given the option to alter the terrain of the island directly. The island gives open space for placing items and decorating as the player chooses. Doing simple tasks rewards the player with “Nook Miles”, which in return can purchase premium rewards in Resident Services. The other currency “Bells”, a staple in the Animal Crossing franchise, can be used to purchase other goods and services. Another feature offered early on is the “Dodo Airlines”, an airport; through Dodo Airlines, and tickets purchased through Nook Miles, the player can visit other vacant islands for harvesting resources, and meeting other villagers. The player can invite other villagers they meet to their island if they choose.
The player starts with two other random anthropomorphic villagers that also purchase the getaway package; these villagers will live alongside the player and can be interacted with, building relationships. When the player has made sufficient progress in the game, Tom Nook will give more freedom of expanding as a village. Other shopowners will visit and settle on the island, such as museum-owner Blathers, who will display creatures that were captured by the player. Eventually, the main area will expand to a Town Hall, run by Tom Nook with the help of Isabelle; other buildings and villagers will populate the community, and old tents and shops will grow into a more permanent structure that can still be moved if the player chooses. From there, the island will be given a star rating out of five, usually starting off at a one-star rating. As the island grows further, the island’s star rating will increase. When a three-star rating is achieved, K.K. Slider, a popular musician, will visit and perform a concert at the island, marking the “end” of the game as the credits roll. However, more options for island customization are given to the player for further community growth – such as the ability to construct and destroy cliffs, bodies of water and paths, coloquially referred to as “terraforming”.
The game supports one island per Switch system. 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, an option available through the Dodo Airlines. The game supports amiibo cards and figures from the Animal Crossing series, which can be used to invite a villager to the island temporarily that can be convinced to join the island. Nintendo Switch Online cloud saving was added during a late July 2020 update, allowing users to recover game data if their Switch is broken or lost. Additional content is added every few months, added on every update by downloading the latest update from Nintendo.