Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Tips, tricks, and cheats guide

Animal Crossing New Horizons Wishing
Animal Crossing New Horizons Wishing (Image credit: iMore)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is bigger and more complex than any Animal Crossing before it. There are so many different goals and activities to participate in, and things can seem overwhelming at first. Or you might even be questioning where to find anything from previous Animal Crossing games since you start the game with almost nothing. Whether you're restarting your island or just picking Animal Crossing up for the first time since it came out in 2020, these tips will help you start on the right foot.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons takes place on a deserted island. Start with a tent and upgrade to a house, customize it to your liking, make friends with the villagers, and play with your friends.

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Overwhelmed? Confused? Or just trying to make the best island you possibly can? Never fear. Here are a bunch of helpful tips and tricks for making the best island possible in Animal Crossing: New Horizons:

What to focus on first

Animal Crossing New Horizons Museum

Animal Crossing New Horizons Museum (Image credit: iMore)

When you first start Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game can seem overwhelming. You simultaneously have nothing but want everything. How do you figure out what parts of your island to prioritize first?

Once you finish the tutorial, here is a list of items you should focus on, in the order you should focus on them:

  • Pay off your first debt to Tom Nook. You can do this very, very easily by selling fish, bugs, and shells. It gets you out of your tiny tent, and lots of other elements of the game are unlocked once you're in a proper house.
  • Unlock the Museum. This gives you a place to catalog unique bugs, fish, and fossils, as well as unlocks the Vaulting Pole and several other things. You get this by donating fish and bugs to Tom Nook until Blathers shows up and then to Blathers until he builds a Museum.
  • Visit other deserted islands and talk to the animals you meet there. When prompted, invite them to come to your island and live. This is key for unlocking more town features.
  • Turn in the materials required to build Nook's Cranny when Tom Nook prompts you to. Iron Ore can be tough to find early on, but visiting deserted islands and hitting rocks there can yield plenty.
  • From there, it's up to you what to focus on. If you want to keep building your town, make sure you set up your new resident's houses quickly when prompted to. If you want to get a bigger house, collect fish and bugs for Bells, and maybe participate in the Stalk Market. If you want to design, explore for more DIY recipes. The game opens up a lot once Nook's Cranny is established, so follow your star!

Get the tool wheel and better tools quickly

Animal Crossing New Horizons Shovel

Animal Crossing New Horizons Shovel (Image credit: iMore)

Two quality-of-life upgrades that you should aim to get within the first few days of playing are the tool wheel and the recipes for better quality tools.

Both can be purchased with Nook Miles from the kiosk in Tom Nook's tent. The first is called a Tool Wheel and costs 800 Nook Miles. What it does is give you a quick-select mapped to the "up" button on the D-Pad so that you can swap between tools rapidly. It's invaluable and far better than going to your inventory every time you need to pick up your ax.

The second is found in the same way, through the kiosk. The upgrade is called the Pretty Good Tools Recipes, and it gives you DIY recipes for better versions of the Shovel, Fishing Pole, Axe, Net, and Watering Can. You'll need to craft the Flimsy versions of each of these first, then augment them with additional materials to make the better versions. However, they break far less easily, making it worth it to craft them whenever possible.

Visit other islands often

Animal Crossing New Horizons Invite Villager

Animal Crossing New Horizons Invite Villager (Image credit: iMore)

Regardless of what your long-term goals are in the game, you'll definitely want to visit other deserted islands often via Nook Miles tickets.

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, this is the only way to unlock the next few animal villagers to move to your town, and you want to do that fairly early in the game. Look for these animals at campfires on deserted islands, and talk to them twice to invite them to come live on your island.

The second is that these deserted islands are teeming with raw materials: wood, stone, weeds, and more. You'll need more of these materials than your island can offer, especially in the beginning, so you want to make sure you visit several islands and harvest what you can.

Finally, these islands offer a quick and easy way to get non-native fruits and flowers on your island. If you see fruits on deserted islands you don't have at home, simply bring them back, dig a hole, and plant them for a brand new tree. When sold, these fruits will be worth far more than your native fruit, so you want to make sure you grow lots of them!

Play with friends

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing New Horizons several people's avatars posing for a picture on one island (Image credit: iMore)

This is less a tip and more of a suggestion, but seriously, play with friends! If you don't know anyone playing Animal Crossing, head onto social media and look for communities opening their gates.

You can earn Nook Miles by playing with others, find new furniture and DIY recipes, go shopping, collect new fruits, find more raw materials, and get inspired by other town designs. It's one of the most fun parts of the game, and with New Horizons' online features and Nintendo Online App integration, it's easier than ever. Give it a try!

Fish and hunt bugs for Bells

Animal Crossing New Horizons Bug

Animal Crossing New Horizons Bug (Image credit: iMore)

Though this seems like an obvious tip, make sure you're regularly fishing and hunting for bugs and fossils to earn Bells. You don't want to sell raw materials, as you'll need these for DIY projects and other milestones.

It's recommended to donate the first of each species you capture to the Museum, but after that, you can sell any more that you find. Some rare species will fetch especially high values, including ones available around the game's launch, such as the Oarfish and Tarantulas.

But keep in mind that the available fish and bugs are affected by factors such as the time of days, seasons, and the weather. When these change, so does what's available. Make sure you're hunting for creatures in all kinds of climates and times to get the full breadth of what the island has to offer.

One more tip: fishing in the rain has a chance for you to capture the rarest fish of all, the Coelacanth. Good luck!

Canvas your island for materials daily

Animal Crossing New Horizons Island Peaches

Animal Crossing New Horizons Island Peaches (Image credit: iMore)

Chances are, you're playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons daily (though it's okay, of course, if you aren't). Part of the rhythm of this game involves establishing a daily routine of "chores" you do across your island. And you should make resource collecting one of those tasks.

Every day, collect wood from trees, stone, and ore from rocks, weeds, and water your flowers if you want hybrid colors. Even if you're not immediately trying to reach a milestone or make a specific DIY recipe, it's essential to harvest these resources daily, so you have plenty later on when you do need them.

Some resources, like Wood and Iron Ore, will get used up very quickly doing various tasks. But if you're harvesting daily and storing away what you can't use in your house's storage space, you'll have plenty later on when you need them.

Engage with everything

Animal Crossing New Horizons Crafting

Animal Crossing New Horizons Crafting (Image credit: iMore)

One thing you may struggle with early on is collecting Nook Miles. In the past, if you played other Animal Crossing games, you might have only engaged with certain parts of the game -- for instance, you may have only hunted bugs, or focused on decoration.

In New Horizons, the game rewards you for doing a wide variety of tasks. So if you're struggling to collect Nook Miles, look at the game and think about what you haven't done much of lately. Have you visited any friends' islands? Or sent cards to other animals? What about photos? Are you taking some of those? Are you decorating or doing DIY projects?

When in doubt, scroll through your Nook phone and see what activities you haven't done much of lately, then give those a shot. Chances are, you'll be rewarded quickly for participating.

How to time travel (and why you probably don't need to)

Animal Crossing New Horizons Nooks Cranny Outside

Animal Crossing New Horizons Nooks Cranny Outside (Image credit: iMore)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game that is intended to be played in sync with real-world time at an easygoing pace. You'll eventually reach a point of diminishing returns each day where the things you are doing net fewer rewards. And that's fine. Come back tomorrow for something new.

However, if you're absolutely insistent about speeding things up, you can do something called "time-traveling," which will let you skip days and reach milestones (such as unlocking shops and houses, refreshing resources, etc.) faster.

This isn't the recommended way to play! But you can do it, and it's okay if you do. Here's how to time travel in New Horizons:

  1. Close the game entirely. Do not have it open or even suspended.
  2. From the Nintendo Switch's Home menu, select System.
  3. Select Date and Time.
  4. Turn off the Synchronize clock via Internet setting.
  5. Change the date and time. You can set it one day in advance to get to the next day in New Horizons, or multiple days, months, or even years ahead if you're feeling, uh, adventurous.
  6. Reopen the game. Your game will now be as far ahead as you set the clock.

WARNING: There can be some undesirable effects on your game if you jump too far ahead. Lots of weeds will grow, and villagers may move out without checking for you.

Also, be warned that if you want to skip ahead to participate in in-game holidays or events, that won't be possible. These events require connection to the Internet and will be added by Nintendo when they come around. So if you're trying to hurry things up to Toy Day, don't bother. You'll have to wait for actual December to roll around.

More little tips

Animal Crossing New Horizons Villagers

Animal Crossing New Horizons Villagers (Image credit: iMore)
  • You can speed up the crafting animation by rapidly tapping A during it
  • Leave one or two tree stumps without digging them up. Some bugs will only appear on stumps, and you can sit on them!
  • Be careful when shaking trees -- a wasp nest might fall out. You can escape by running into a nearby building or catching them with your net if you're fast.
  • Talk to your animal residents daily. Sometimes you might see them at a crafting bench working — definitely talk to them then, as you'll usually get a new DIY recipe from it!
  • Walk through your town daily. Keep an eye out for bottles on the beach (which can include DIY recipes), special visitors (such as Gulliver), fossils, or other rare treats
  • Craft a slingshot early and keep it with you at all times. Shoot down presents attached to balloons in the sky.
  • If you see a shooting star at night, press A quickly to make a wish! You'll be rewarded the next day.
  • Build a campsite as soon as the option is available. It allows you to get new neighbors.
  • Plant similar species of flower near one another and water them daily. That's how you get special flower hybrids.
  • If you see a glowing spot on the ground, dig there for free Bells. Then, replant a bag of Bells -- as much as 10,000. When the tree fully grows, you'll be able to harvest three times the amount you buried initially, though only one time.
  • If you've purchased the Happy Home Paradise DLC or have access to it through your Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass, you will need to complete some things on your island to access the, "I want to go to work," option at the Dodo Airport. Make sure you have your own house, a Resident Services building, and that you've completed the DIY workshop. 

Enjoy your virtual vacation!

With these tips, you're sure to get the most out of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Grab your favorite Nintendo Switch controller and have fun getting creative with your island and your villagers as you play!


Animal Crossing: New Horizons

It all starts on your very own island! What it turns into is totally up to your vision. Build up your museum, create your own community, and relax on the beach.

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Animal Crossing New Horizons Perfect Town

(Image credit: iMore)
Reb Valentine
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