Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Is the multiplayer any good?

Acnh Multiplayer
Acnh Multiplayer (Image credit: iMore)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has finally arrived, and many players are wondering if this latest installment in the series has a quality multiplayer. While the multiplayer is great in many ways, it's also unfortunately pretty flawed in others, and there are lots of improvements that could be made. Here's our full analysis of the pros and cons of the multiplayer in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The Good: Online and local wireless multiplayer

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer (Image credit: iMore)

The best part about Animal Crossing: New Horizon's multiplayer is its online and local wireless modes. Using either an internet connection or a local wireless connection with other Nintendo Switches, up to eight players can explore someone's island together. For someone to be able to join an island, they need to either be friends with the island owner or have the owner's Dodo Code and the island itself needs to have its Dodo Airline gates open.

While on an island, visiting players can shake trees, go fishing, catch bugs, collect items on the ground, talk to NPC villagers, and buy anything on display in shops (you can also sell turnips for the local price!). In addition, all players present can use a text chat to communicate with one another. However, visiting players can't use their shovel to dig or their axe to chop trees down by default. If you want visitors to have this capability, you'll need to mark them as Best Friends using the Best-Friends List app on your NookPhone. This is much appreciated, as it stops untrustworthy griefers from ruining your hard work.

While there aren't any unique multiplayer activities like minigames, that's not really a bad thing. The core of Animal Crossing multiplayer has always been to goof around with your friends at someone's island while trading good loot, and New Horizons' large inventory space and robust photo mode make it easier and more fun to do so than ever before. Plus, the fact you can place down fences, furniture, and custom designs outside means that if you wanted to, you could simply create minigames of your own. Animal Crossing musical chairs is surprisingly fun!

The Bad (and The Ugly): Local couch co-op

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local (Image credit: Nintendo)

While the online and local wireless multiplayer modes are awesome, Animal Crossing: New Horizons leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to couch co-op. Eight players can live on one island, and four players can play at once using four separate Joy-Cons. However, there are a lot of limitations imposed on additional players.

The main problem with living on an island cooperatively is that only the original owner of the island can progress the development of the island by working on infrastructure and completing quests. This means that all of the other players are forced to wait for the owner to do all of the work required before they can take advantage of completed projects, which just doesn't feel right in a game that encourages you to work together.

I can understand the logic to an extent — a mischevious sibling may try to build things in terrible spots, for example — but there should at least be an option to toggle the restriction on or off. The fact that option doesn't exist is harmful to the cooperative potential of the game. Other players can't even make their own island, either, since currently only one island can exist per console.

Related: Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Multiplayer guide

When multiple people are playing at once, there are also some issues as well. The three additional players don't have an inventory, and while they can use tools to catch bugs, go fishing, and dig up fossils, everything they collect is automatically sent to the recycle bin in the Resident Services building for the main player to collect later. On top of this, there's no splitscreen support, so the three additional players are forced to stay within sight of the main player at all times.

If they try to go beyond, they'll be teleported back. Splitscreen would have been fantastic to have because it would have eliminated this issue entirely. Maybe the Switch wasn't able to handle splitscreen for New Horizons, but considering that games like Mario Kart 8 and Overcooked! 2 work with splitscreen, I'm skeptical of that. Lastly, you can't go on Mystery Island Tours or visit other player islands online while playing in a local group either, which feels like a massive missed opportunity.

Final thoughts on the multiplayer

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer Local (Image credit: Nintendo)

Overall, the type of experience you'll have with Animal Crossing: New Horizon's multiplayer will largely depend on which part of it you use. If you play with your friends using online or local wireless play, you'll have a great time taking advantage of the freedom and opportunities that internet play offers.

However, if you're planning on working on an island together with your family or playing with multiple others on your Switch at once, you'll be let down by the numerous problems that the couch co-op multiplayer modes have. Hopefully Nintendo is able to patch in some of the features that players want so that local multiplayer is more enjoyable moving forward.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available now on the Nintendo Switch for $60.

Brendan Lowry