Animal Crossing: New Horizons Tips

Go for a swim, cross-breed flowers and other ways to make the most of Nintendo’s hit game.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the wildly popular island life simulator for the Nintendo Switch, is continuing to introduce exciting new updates every few weeks — including the recent addition of swimming to your list of potential daily beach activities. Yes, scooping up scallops is the latest entry in our long list of Animal Crossing obsessions, joining the hunt for rare fish, fossils, bugs and plants that populate the beloved franchise.

As ever, Nintendo continues to mix the perfect video game cocktails to help us face the realities of social distancing and quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic — especially if you play online with friends.

Along with the fossils scattered around my island, I’ve dug up a few nuggets of wisdom to make the game smoother and more rewarding as you build your life on the island, and I’ve added more as I’ve explored. So here are a few tips and tricks for players of all kinds, whether you’re already hard at work filling your museum or buying the game is still on your personal horizon. I’ll update this post as more tips come along.

The latest tips

Go for a swim

The latest update to Animal Crossing allows players to hop into the water around their island and dive below the surface to investigate bubbles. In much the same way as you can find unique fish and insects around your island, you can now scoop up a variety of marine critters out at sea — whether to donate them to Blathers at the museum, or to sell them for a quick bell.

Look out for fake art

Animal Crossing introduced Redd, the art-dealing fox with whom fans of the series may already be familiar, a few months after the game launched. Redd sells paintings you can hang in the new wing of your museum, but he also tries to offload knock-offs on unwitting players. When you ask to inspect a painting before buying it, check it against guides like this one to see if you should lay down the money or keep your bells in your pocket.

Alternatively, if you don’t want a straightforward cheat-sheet for identifying fakes, you can use Google Lens to identify paintings, then make your own attempt to find discrepancies.

Cross-breed flowers

Breeding new varieties of flowers is a slow but rewarding process in Animal Crossing. When you water flowers, they reproduce. But if you water adjacent flowers of the same type but different color, they reproduce with blended colors. So if you’re looking to discover new colors, plant the same varieties near each other, but leave room for them to spread.

On the other hand, if you want more of a rare variety you happened to grow (like my prized black tulips), separate them from other flowers and water them daily. It’ll take some time, but others will sprout soon enough.

Travel back in time before you move forward

Time travel is a major topic of conversation in the Animal Crossing community, and it’s a controversial one. Since the game takes place in real time, you actually have to wait a realday for buildings to get built and plants to grow. And Animal Crossing: New Horizons starts slow. So if you suspect you’ll want a quicker start, consider setting your Nintendo Switch’s clock back 7 to 10 days. That way, as you play, you can bump it up a day every few hours to cover some of the early, slower-developing portions of the game more quickly.

By setting the clock back before you start rather than zooming forward afterward, you also give yourself the chance to get back on real time. That way you can pretend you never cheated (and you don’t have to have a wonky clock forevermore).

Don’t put off paying your debts

Tom Nook, the wealthy business-raccoon funding your adventure and constantly pressuring you to spend more money than you have, puts you in what feels like deep debt on your first day. It takes a little time to build up Nook Miles — an achievement-based currency — early in the game, but work to earn them quickly and pay off that first debt ASAP. The faster you pay back your first loan, the faster Tom will build you a home and, most crucially, give you the extra storage you need for everything you’re about to start collecting.

Find every type of fruit

The first fruit you find on your island — I found pears — sells for 100 bells a piece. But as you get more “foreign fruit,” you can sell it for as much as 500 bells each. The problem is, finding those pesky fruit trees can be a challenge, even if you spend all your Nook Miles traveling to other islands in pursuit.

Since every player starts with different fruit on their island, though, one of the easiest ways to get all six types of trees growing at home is by sharing. If you have friends playing the game, you can travel to their island. If not, you can always look on Reddit for strangers sharing public codes so you can get a few new fruits to grow. And remember, if you don’t have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you can always get a 7-day free trial to find what you need, then cancel before you get charged.

Fruit gives you superpowers

If you eat fruit, you’ll notice a counter in the upper-left corner of the screen. This indicator shows how many pieces of fruit you’ve eaten (up to 10), and for each one, you can perform a super feat, such as breaking a stone or digging up a full tree. Digging up trees helps make groves easy to pick, and when you visit other islands, it helps transplant new fruit trees without having to wait for them to regrow. All that said, DO NOT BREAK ROCKS! In fact…

DO NOT BREAK ROCKS

Iron, clay and stone are all useful resources early in the game, but they’re hard to come by. When you hit a rock with an ax or shovel, it spits out one of these three resources. But you only get a handful. “So,” you’re thinking, “let me eat some fruit and hit a rock. Then I’ll get all the resources, right?” Wrong! When you break a rock, you will get a single resource, and you’ll have to wait for another rock to spawn elsewhere on the island (which, remember, takes real-time days). The two exceptions are if you’re trying to make space for another construction, or if you’re destroying rocks to get them to spawn closer to your home for easier harvesting.

Catch all the fish and bugs

Another early tip: Catch every animal you see — which pretty much consists of fish and bugs. Keep an eye on flowers for stinkbugs and mantises, snag butterflies in the groves, and shake trees and rocks to find pill bugs and spiders. Here’s how my colleague caught the elusive stringfish.

As soon as you craft your first bug net and fishing pole, start handing over your collected critters to Tom Nook. Sure, you could sell these creatures to Timmy and Tommy, the island’s resident traders, but Tom Nook will send each unique discovery to his friend Blathers the owl, who lives off-island.

Long story short, after enough donations, Blathers the owl will come build a museum on the island and set you on to a much larger collection project, opening up the game considerably.

Plant plenty of fruit (and even money)

Fruit trees are a great way to get income early in the game, and once you get a shovel, planting a pear or apple tree is easy and pays off quickly. Another semisecret form of income: money trees! 

Around the island, golden beams occasionally shine up from the ground. Dig them up and you’ll find a bag of bells (the island’s primary currency). Instead of pocketing the bells and covering the hole, you can plant the bag to grow a money tree. In fact, if you select the bells in your inventory and portion out a bag of 10,000, you can grow a tree that drops bags of 10,000 bells when it grows up. If you do this once per day, you should maintain a consistent income of 20,000 bells per day, between planting and harvesting your money bags.

Take advantage of special visitors

Within the first few days of your island adventure, you’ll likely come across a unique visitor — such as Gulliver, the sea gull asleep on the beach, or Wisp, the easily frightened ghost. Each of these visitors will teach you something, sell you something or send you on a short mission. These missions will earn you unique item rewards.

My personal favorite visitor so far is C.J., a beaver-blogger who loves to fish. He’ll ask you to catch special fish for him, order fish decorations for you (from another unique visitor), and pay you extra for any fish you sell him. In a single day with C.J., I ordered a handful of fish decorations to hang on my walls and made nearly 60,000 bells just angling as usual. It was a good day.

Invite new villagers to your island (and befriend them)

There are hundreds of potential villagers — all with their own personalities and unique designs — who can move to your island, but your little swatch of land can only accommodate 9 at a time. As you build on the barren island of the beginning of the game, hand-picking your cohabitants adds richness to your personal utopia.

To attract the first three townspeople, just buy Nook Miles Tickets to other islands from the Nook Stop machine in Resident Services. The first three islands you visit will feature a character excited to join your community. But once you’ve welcomed the first three newbies, Tom Nook will ask you to build a campsite, where tourists will stay for one day at a time. Invite campers, and they’ll also move to your island.

As a bonus, you can buy collectible Amiibo figurines or cards of your favorite Nintendo characters online, and they allow you to invite unique villagers with special attributes to your island. As those who have used Amiibo in other Nintendo games know, they’re not essential for the core game, but they add small elements to further personalize your experience, and sometimes even cross over characters between Nintendo properties.

Finally, befriend those villagers by talking to them every day, giving them gifts and sending them cards in the mail (do this at the airport). Not only do you earn Nook Miles by befriending villagers, but your new friends will also begin to give you more gifts, like clothes and medicine.

Use a stone ax, not an iron one

If we’ve learned anything over the past few millennia, it’s that iron cuts down trees better than stone does, right? Well, in Animal Crossing, you might not actually want to cut down your trees; you might just want wood, soft wood or hard wood for crafting. Luckily, the stone ax extracts those types of wood without chopping down the tree.

Learn to creep

Catching fish takes a little practice, but I didn’t realize I was catching bugs wrong until a few days into the game. Instead of rushing up and swinging the net wildly, you can creep forward by holding down the A button when the net is in hand. Creeping is even more important for bugs like tarantulas and scorpions, which will poison you if you approach too quickly. Creep forward, pause when they enter a defensive stance, then keep creeping forward once they calm down. This will get you close enough to snatch up a bug before it tries to bite you or escape.

Make and use fish bait

As you go for long, peaceful walks on the beach, you might notice little jets of water spraying up from the sand. When you see them, get out your shovel and dig! Manila clams are hiding under the sand, and you can craft them into fish bait. When you’re angling for rare fish, you can use that bait to give yourself better odds, luring in more fish in specific spots like mountain streams and at the end of the pier.

Always hold a net while you’re shaking trees

During your first day or two on the island, when you’re running around shaking trees to get sticks (how else are you going to build that ax?), wasp nests will occasionally fall from the branches. Find yourself on the wrong side of a stinger without medicine and you’ll pass out. Once you build the bug net, though, it’s a good rule of thumb to always hold it while you’re shaking trees. Not only can you catch vengeful wasps, but you can also snag spiders and other creepy-crawlers dislodged from their homes overhead.

Play the Stalk Market (once it’s worth the time)

Playing the Stalk Market is a pretty reliable way to increase your weekly revenue. You can buy turnips on Sundays from Daisy Mae for prices that usually hover around 100 bells. For the rest of the week, you can check in the morning and the afternoon at the Nook’s Cranny store to see the rates for turnips. The goal is to buy low and sell high.

A few important notes: Turnips rot after a week, so you can’t just hoard them waiting for a giant payday. They also rot if you travel back in time. And checking prices twice a day takes time, so you probably don’t want to start investing in turnips until the time is worth the payoff. I don’t invest unless I have at least 50,000 bells. Then, even a small rise in prices can lead to a significant return. If you want to get intense about it, you can even check out websites that fans have built to calculate the trajectory of the Stalk Market across the week.

Organize your island

While you’re settling into island life, you’ll start developing a daily routine: exploring, collecting and building. But your routine can be much easier — and require fewer trips back and forth from your house to store what you find — if you organize efficiently. The easiest way to do this is by planting your fruit trees in clear-cut orchards. You can even label those orchards with custom signs, made using the design app on your Nook Phone, as one reader pointed out in the comments below. Once you organize, harvesting fruit in the mornings will be quick and profitable, and you can spend all the saved time exploring, fishing and collecting shells like you really want to.

If you want to get even more organized, you can break stones around the island until they spawn near your home — creating a little patch for easy stone, clay and iron harvesting. Plus, planting a field of flowers not only creates a beautiful space, but it also will cause cross-pollination, which sprouts new varieties of flower.

Keep your eye on the sky

At night, shooting stars will occasionally flash across the sky. If you look up and catch sight of one, you can press the A button to wish upon it. Wishing on stars makes star fragments wash onto the beach the following day, which can help you craft unique items, like wands.

Pay attention to morning announcements, because Isabelle will occasionally mention nighttime meteor showers, which are the perfect time to scoop up a dozen stars or more. Shooting stars seem to move in packs, too, so if you see one in the sky, keep looking up for a few seconds — you might get another handful of free wishes. Finally, depending on when you wish on stars, you might get unique Zodiac fragments. Only time will tell if these fragments combine to create special items, but I can tell you that’s what I’m wishing for with each shooting star.

Crafting is king (especially on the go)

Crafting tools and items out of the refuse you discover around the island is a huge element early in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and you’ll often want to craft while you’re roaming far from home. If you keep a workbench in your inventory at all times, you can just plop it down anywhere and get your craft on without the inconvenient trek back to your tent or house.

Once you put these tricks into action, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will truly begin to open up to you. Keep discovering and crafting, keep chatting with your island friends and most of all, keep destressing while you do it.

Now that you know how to jump-start your island getaway in Animal Crossing, check out some other tips for getting the most out of your Nintendo Switch and the seven other Switch games you need to play.

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