Skip to main content

Animal Crossing New Horizons review: This is how it runs on Nintendo Switch

Animal Crossing: New Horizons will make your day entirely better

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Nintendo)

Our Verdict

Animal Crossing: New Horizons makes your wildest dreams become a fantasy because let's be honest, who can actually afford a house?

For

  • Relaxing gameplay
  • Awesome customization options
  • Refreshing new content for Animal Crossing veterans

Against

  • Poor online performance
  • Long loading times

Animal Crossing: New Horizons removes you from the chaos of real life and places you in a calming little world. Your task? To turn a deserted island into a cute and functional town and to welcome more and more villagers on your adventure. (You can even argue that it’s as calming as ripping and tearing through demons in Doom Eternal.) 

What's not to love about Animal Crossing’s calming storyline? With its soothing tunes that play throughout your journey, the game immerses you in a cute world that will make your long and boring day into something adorable and exciting.

A mix of new and old

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is filled with a ton of new features to lull you into its arms without getting bored, but the primary gameplay remains the same.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons continues to use Bells as its monetary system. In order to gain Bells, you can sell basically anything that fits into your pockets. Animal Crossing veterans will be happy to know that you can still fish, catch bugs and shake trees for fruits, but New Horizons adds the ability to gather materials from rocks and trees.

To do so, you need an axe, which you can create with sticks and a rock (yes, there’s a crafting system now). Once you obtain these, you can start collecting different types of wood, stones, iron nuggets and clay. These items give you the ability to craft various things, like shovels, furniture, stronger axes, fishing rods and more.

The crafting in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a wonderful addition to the game. Originally, it felt like I needed to fast forward in time just to accomplish anything. Crafting fills the game with new activities and provides another layer of depth.

Another new feature is the Nook Phone, which I absolutely adore. Who can’t live without their phone? The Nook Phone features a whole bunch of apps,including the camera, Nook Miles+, Critterpedia, DIY Recipes, Custom designs, Map, Chat Log, Passport, Best Friends List and the Rescue Service.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Nook Miles+ is a new function that allows you to gather miles by doing daily activities or finishing quests. You can then use the miles you earn to buy cosmetic items or upgrades, such as the ability to increase inventory space (get this one first), at Resident Services. 

Another thing you can do in the Resident Service is construct furniture by using your DIY Recipes, which you get in Nook’s Cranny, on the beach in bottles or from your neighbors. Meanwhile, the Critterpedia lets you view all of the bugs and fish you've caught while playing. 

When friends visit your town, you can add them to your Best Friends List so you can more easily invite them to your island. The list also lets you text them using the Chat Log, whether they're in your town or not. Rescue Service can fly you out of “dangerous” situations and back to your house. By “dangerous,” I mean if you find yourself in a place with no tools to get yourself out. Finally, the Map and passport are functions found in many of the previous games. The map helps you with locating certain buildings or homes, while your passport contains general information that other players will see.

You can customize everything

Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ character customization is amazing. Nintendo now lets you create your character from a simple select screen. No more choosing random dialog to give you unknown features. You can now customize your eyes, mouth, nose, and hair, along with the colors of each. Don’t like what you originally chose? No worries! The game allows you to change your features while playing. You can even change your gender whenever you want, and there are no customization options limited to gender, either.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

New Horizons gives you a ton of new activities and quests, unlike the older Animal Crossing games, which gave no guidelines for what you could do with your island. Now, the game lets you design and create all on your own.You choose where your house, museum, Nook’s Cranny, and more goes. Another cool feature that wasn’t in some of the previous games is the ability to create and place new furniture, both inside your house and around your town.

When I was designing my town, I avoided putting buildings and objects too close to each other. But that's a difficult challenge because you’re stuck on a small portion of the island at the start of the game. It takes time before you can build a bridge to other parts of the island. As hard as I tried to seperate everyone, it still felt too cramped. However, you can move buildings later, but for a steep price.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Similar to the previous games, improving the size of your home requires some moderately expensive loans from Tom Nook. By taking out a loan, you can triple the space in your main room, add three additional rooms on the same floor, and add an attic and basement. With each upgrade comes a new loan with a higher price (at least there’s no interest, though).

New Horizons now offers the option to customize the layout of your house through easy access on the D-Pad. By pressing the down arrow, you now have the ability to change the layout of your home without having to pick up or drag furniture around. 

When you begin designing your home, there’s not much to do. All you have to start with is simple furniture, such as a radio, lamp, and a sleeping cot. As you play more, you’ll start to build and buy new furniture.

Bigger buildings, cramped spaces

Each new Animal Crossing game brings a new look to some of the buildings around the town. The museum, Nook’s Cranny and Resident Services are all featured in New Horizons, like the previous games, but the airport is new.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

As you'd expect, there weren't any over the top changes made to Nook’s Cranny and Resident Service besides some differences in the furniture and layout design. Like the old games, buying more furniture will increase the size of the store and the quantity of items sold there. I even suspect small changes in the Resident Service building over time. 

The airport is the newest transportation feature to the Animal Crossing franchise. Here, you can fly to other people’s towns and random deserted islands to find new flowers, fruits and trees. Finding bugs and fish are a lot easier on these islands, too. But once you leave the island, you can never come back to it.

Finally, my favorite aspect about Animal Crossing is the museum. The museum always gets an exciting update, but, I have to say, New Horizons presents it in ways that is even more astonishing.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The museum contains three different sections: the aquarium, the bug exhibit and the fossil exhibit. All three have a very unique layout and contain selfie stations. When you walk through the bug exhibit, you’re surrounded by lush greenery: trees, bushes, and flowers envelop you as you walk along the path of the displays. As you continue, you can view different insects behind glass enclosures and containers, and even visit the butterfly conservatory, which is my favorite part of the museum.

The inside of the aquarium looks like what you’d expect. There are tanks all around showcasing the fish you caught. What I love most is the water tunnel that you can walk through. A visit to the fossil exhibit lets you browse through all of the different skeletons you helped piece together.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons performance

Nintendo hasn’t said much in ways of performance regarding Animal Crossing: New Horizons. We reached out about what resolution the game is set in tablet and TV mode as well as how many frames the game is running at. Our guess is 720p and 1080p, respectively, at 30 frames per second, but we won’t know for sure unless Nintendo confirms this.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The urge to jump right into the game almost consumes me everytime I pick up my Nintendo Switch, but the game’s initial loading time can sometimes be unbearable. However, once you’re in the game, there doesn’t seem to be any more major loading issues.

The online feature in Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows for up to 8 players to join your game. Whether you’re travelling to someone else’s island or hosting people on your own, the initial loading time isn’t terribly long. In fact, they added a feature that allows you to see how long the loading time will be, making it a little more bearable. 

What used to be a small loading icon in the corner of your screen is now replaced with an airport sign. The sign contains information about the traveler, such as their name and their island’s name. Underneath is the loading bar consisting of four planes. Each section glows as the loading continues, until it eventually cuts to the traveler flying over your island. 

I personally never had any issues with friends joining my game, nor have they ever complained about connectivity issues. However, when I joined my sister’s game, I was constantly lagging and freezing while trying to pick the weeds or shake the fruit off of trees. Not long after, I was booted from her game entirely for poor connection.

Bottom line

During a time of crisis and hardship, Animal Crossing: New Horizons immerses you in a world filled with peace and harmony.

It gives solid life lessons on kindness, hard work, dedication and a bit of financial advice. Not only is the game fun and educational for young kids, but it's just as fun for adults.

If you have some downtime, or even a lot of downtime, I definitely recommend picking up Animal Crossing: New Horizons -- aka the land of goodvibes.