A parent guide to Animal Crossing: New Horizons
31 May, 2024
4 minute read

A parent guide to Animal Crossing: New Horizons

New Horizons is the latest island-themed instalment of Nintendo's Animal Crossing franchise. The peaceful, low-pressure style makes it the perfect game to relax with; but what about for children? 

Here's everything you need to know about Animal Crossing: New Horizons.


What is Animal Crossing: New Horizons?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game for the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite in which the player is tasked with bringing civilisation to a deserted island.

The player starts out with little more than a tent and some basic tools, so to create their dream town, they’ll need to forage, collect and save. But with few set missions or objectives in the game, they have the freedom to do everything at their own pace.

The game follows the rhythm of a real-world day, so if the player logs on in the morning, they’ll be treated to a glimpse of the in-game sunrise and be able to collect some of the fish and bugs that only come out at that time. Similarly, at night all the shops will be closed and most fellow islanders will have gone to sleep.

Animal Crossing is not only about building a town, but also a community. The player can travel around to other islands and convince anthropomorphic animals – including French-speaking ducks and capitalist racoons – to join their up-and-coming colony.

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Why is it so popular?

The game is easy to play and has few barriers to younger users. It’s creative and engaging yet also peaceful, as your character adapts to the pace of their new island life. You can invite other players to visit your island, and there is a multiplayer option. However, you can only save one game per console, which might cause trouble if children are sharing a Switch console.

What do parents need to be aware of?

Friend lists

You can add any other players you know to your Animal Crossing ‘friends list’.

You can choose whether to open the island to all the people on your friends list, only ‘Best Friends’ or to require an access code – or Dodo Code – from people who want to join. Using a Dodo Code is the only way to invite people who are not on your friend list. 

If your child has played Animal Crossing online with someone on their friends list, they can choose to make them a ‘Best Friend’. This means that they will be able to alter their island and get in touch via text chat, so it’s a good idea to think twice before handing out invites.

Overall, the multiplayer experience is very well shielded. 

Online play

Animal Crossing mainly focuses on its single-player elements, but some features allow you to visit other players’ islands and vice versa. 

First, there is Party Play, which allows up to four people to play on the same island using one Switch console and one copy of the game. Sadly, only the player who owns the island they’re playing on can make any changes to it so, for now at least, there’s not a whole lot for the rest of the players to do during Party Play sessions.

Wireless Play lets up to eight people play on the same island, each using their own Switch and copy of the game. You will not need a Nintendo Online membership (see below) or internet connection to use this feature, but for it to work all players need to be in the same room.

Finally, there is Online Play. If your child wants to go online, they’ll have to subscribe to the Nintendo Online service at a cost of £17.99 a year for a single membership, with the option to upgrade to the expansion pack for £34.99. for a family membership it costs £31.49 a year, and £59.99 with the expansion pack.

You can only access wireless or online play after playing for two days. You can then visit other players' on your friends list islands, or have them visit yours, by going to the Dodo Airport. 

Parental controls

If your family has a Nintendo Switch, you can download the ‘Parental Controls’ app on your mobile to customise your child’s gaming experience. There is more detail on these controls in our Nintendo Switch parent guide.

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In-game purchases

Animal Crossing doesn’t offer microtransactions or loot boxes. There is no way to speed up the game; the player simply has to wait until the next real-world day for their buildings to be completed. This teaches children that it pays to be patient and helps naturally divide the gaming sessions into reasonable chunks of time. 

However, there are certain features that require payment. For example, if you want to invite specific characters to your island, you need to purchase ‘amiibo cards’ for your desired character. Similarly, if you want to play online and invite other players to their island, you will need to purchase the annual Nintendo subscription. 

Spot something that doesn't look quite right? You can email librarian@parentzone.org.uk to submit comments and feedback.

This article was last updated on 17/08/22.


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