Are you looking for an escape from the stresses of modern life? Do you find yourself wishing you had the time (and money) to brighten up your home with the latest DIY Pinterest trend? Do you also find yourself wishing you owned your own home, free from compounding interest on mortgage payments that never seem to end?
Are you okay with all of your friends being cute, talking animals?
If so, Animal Crossing may be the game series for you. It’s pretty small for a Nintendo IP (boasting only five main series games), but don’t let that fool you. Its fan base has grown steadily since the series’s initial release, exploding in popularity with New Horizons.
If you’d like to learn more about the series, feel free to read on. This week, we’re looking at the Animal Crossing games ranked from worst to best.
All Animal Crossing Games Ranked
“So which Animal Crossing game is best?” you may ask. To give you a holistic view of the franchise, we’ll be ranking the spin-off games in addition to the main series titles.
Let’s get started!
8. Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival
Image Credit: Amazon
Platform(s): Wii UDeveloper: Nintendo EPD, NDCubeRelease Date: November 13, 2015At the bottom of our list of Animal Crossing games ranked is the ill-fated Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. If only this game could serve as a warning to all Triple-A publishers — when you create a game just to sell toys, the game itself probably won’t be any good.
Amiibo Festival exists primarily as an excuse to create and sell Animal Crossing Amiibos. Now, the Amiibos themselves are pretty cute, but you’d think that a game designed around a physical toy would actually incorporate the toy a bit better. They’re so minimally-featured that the one-Amiibo requirement to even play the game seems unreasonable.
The game has a handful of game modes that incorporate Amiibos and Amiibo Cards, but the main game mode is a digital board game. You and your friends play as iconic Animal Crossing characters (provided you have the corresponding Amiibos) or one of several default Villager skins, and travel around the board collecting points and playing mini-games.
The problem is that everything Amiibo Festival does, Mario Party does better. If you’re looking for a fun Nintendo party game and the Animal Crossing characters are a must-have, you’re better off spending your money on Smash Ultimate or Mario Kart 8 instead.
7. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer
Image Credit: Nintendo
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DSDeveloper: Nintendo EADRelease Date: September 25, 2015If you’ve ever gifted one of your New Horizons islanders a fancy new bed and watched with abject disappointment as they continued to proudly display their old sleeping bag, Happy Home Designer might be the game for you.
Another spin-off of the main Animal Crossing series, Happy Home Designer is more of a sandbox title that gives you free rein over other villagers’ homes rather than just your own. As an employee of Nook’s Homes, you’ll visit villagers in desperate need of a home makeover and deck their halls according to their individual style and preferences.
With no in-game budget ceiling and a huge list of villagers to design for thanks to Amiibo Cards, this game is the micromanaging Animal Crossing player’s dream come true. It’s not a particularly challenging game, but who wants more restrictions in a game about interior decorating?
6. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
Image Credit: Nintendo
Platform(s): MobileDeveloper: Nintendo EPD, NDCubeRelease Date: November 21, 2017Pocket Camp is another spin-off, but its gameplay more closely resembles the main series games than the two listed above. In this game, you’re in charge of decorating a campsite where you can host several animal campers and human guests. New furniture and items that fit your chosen theme (natural, cute, sporty, or cool) can be commissioned from Cyrus using crafting materials earned by doing favors for neighboring campers.
This favor-based trading system is the primary way of progressing friendship levels with campers and the game’s main source of criticism. Many players found the need for daily interactions excessive and complicated — where previous Animal Crossing games punished inattention with only weeds and bedhead, Pocket Camp actively locks forward progress.
It doesn’t make the game unplayable, and it’s still a charming and fun game that makes you want to check in every day. If New Horizons isn’t in the cards for you or you want a more convenient way to experience Animal Crossing, we definitely recommend Pocket Camp!
5. Animal Crossing: City Folk
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Platform(s): WiiDeveloper: Nintendo EADRelease Date: November 16, 2008City Folk marked Animal Crossing’s return to home consoles, making it even more disappointing that its debut was so lackluster. Despite the Wii’s improved processing power and motion controls, the game neglected to build on Animal Crossing’s existing mechanics in any meaningful way.
Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s not a bad game. If you like the core gameplay loop of the Animal Crossing series, you’ll like City Folk just fine. It’s also not completely devoid of innovation. As the name suggests, you can now travel to a city full of in-game activities like shopping, going to the movies, getting your hair done, and more. The game also supports Nintendo WFC, meaning that you can voice chat with other players when playing locally, check up on their islands, and auction items (assuming you have more than one Wii in the house).
Our advice? Skip this one. Unless you’re a die-hard Animal Crossing fan, you’re better off playing the newer (and more improved) installments — you’re not missing out on much.
4. Animal Crossing: Wild World
Image Credit: Nintendo
Platform(s): DSDeveloper: Nintendo EADRelease Date: December 5, 2005Next on our list is Wild World, the handheld sequel to the original Animal Crossing. There aren’t many mechanical changes between the two games, although the general aesthetic is largely improved. You’re able to further customize your character through clothing and hairstyles (the latter of which is introduced with this installment), and the world is made more lifelike by abandoning the top-down angle in favor of rolling terrain with a visible skyline.
All in all, Wild World is an excellent follow-up to the original Animal Crossing, adding a few tweaks that foreshadow the kind of experience you can expect in future entries.
3. Animal Crossing
Image Credit: Nintendo
Platform(s): GameCube Developer: Nintendo EADRelease Date: September 16, 2002Animal Crossing is the blueprint for this entire list of Animal Crossing games ranked, and I mean that almost literally. There haven’t been a lot of major changes to the series since the first installment — aside from a few new mechanics and some quality-of-life changes as far as customization goes, Animal Crossing as a whole remains true to its charming, neighborly roots.
Animal Crossing is a game about friendship, and that theme permeates every second of the gameplay. As a new resident of a procedurally-generated town, you’ll interact with your fellow villagers, making nice and competing in local events as you slowly work your way up to your dream home.
2. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Image Credit: AmazonPlatform(s): 3DSDeveloper: Nintendo EADRelease Date: June 9, 2013New Leaf was my first Animal Crossing game, and I’m glad I came into the series when I did. New Leaf offered more customization than previous titles — for your player avatar and your new home. Since you’re introduced to the town as its new Mayor, you’re given free rein over creating the town name, flag, and jingle. Public Works Projects allow you to further customize the town with constructs like bridges and fountains; City Ordinances encourage your residents to be more active in the community (donating more to public works, planting more flowers, etc.).
New Leaf introduces a few new elements to the series, including the “smug” and “big sister” personalities, two new animal types, and a handful of new NPCs to populate the world and offer you a greater range of services. The most iconic addition is Isabelle, the plucky Shih Tzu assistant that captured everyone’s hearts within minutes of her first onscreen appearance.
1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Image Credit: NintendoPlatform(s): SwitchDeveloper: Nintendo EPDRelease Date: March 20, 2020To no one’s surprise, our pick for the best of the Animal Crossing games ranked is New Horizons! This game came at the best possible time — the first round of pandemic shutdowns left a lot of us stuck at home with little to do but worry, and New Horizons proved to be the tropical vacation we all desperately needed.
Even with very few changes to the daily Animal Crossing routine, New Horizons offers the most gameplay variety. You start the game on a deserted island, meaning that you literally build your little paradise from the ground up. You get complete control over where buildings and roads are placed, and the terraforming options unlocked later in the game mean that you can shape the flow of the island to your choosing.
If you liked the customization in New Leaf, you’ll be blown away by New Horizons. You control every aspect of your avatar’s physical appearance and can change it regularly, you can craft and customize furniture and other items at any time (provided you have the supplies), and you can share custom designs over the internet to ensure you have a constant stream of creative new content.
We love this game. If you’re looking for a new game to help you kick back and relax, we’re sure you’ll love it, too.
That’s it for our list of Animal Crossing games ranked! There’s so much fun and creativity packed into every installment, and each brings something unique to the table. Feel free to tell us about your favorite Animal Crossing achievement in the comments, or share this article with your friends to see how it compares to your personal rankings.