If you ever wanted to make a cozy home, indulge in a pastoral lifestyle or kick back in a playfully colourful environment, you may have been drawn to the world of Animal Crossing. Nintendo’s long-running series has captured the hearts of millions with its casual but engaging gameplay, charming graphics and near-limitless potential for personalization.
Since its debut in 2001, a lot has changed in Animal Crossing across its five core titles and other spin-offs. That means if you’re relatively new to the franchise you might not know where to start. Well, we’ve got you covered. This article will rank all the core Animal Crossing games from worst to best, ensuring that you can dive in at the best point possible.
That said, all of these games are pretty good, so if you’re a long-standing fan of the series don’t shy away from any of the titles even if they’re lower down on our list—they’re all a blast to play!
Top 5 Ranking
5. Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005 Nintendo DS)
Wild World was the second installment in the Animal Crossing series, bringing the series to the legendary Nintendo DS. While the game introduced new online play via Wi-Fi, its portable hardware added several limitations. These made the graphics and some of the gameplay among the least engaging in the series, especially compared to later titles. But it’s a fair compromise for being able to play Animal Crossing on the go!
o Introduced online play.
o Limited graphics
o Less engaging NPC interactions.
4. Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008 Wii)
Building on the village lifestyle of Animal Crossing, this Wii release took players into the city, providing a whole new style of gameplay and environment in the process. The graphics were definitely a step up from the previous two releases, however, the game was quite strongly criticized for having repetitive gameplay alongside the fact that the city area is only a small part of the game, and not the colossal shift that you might have expected.
o Novel city area.
o Nice graphics.
o Repetitive gameplay
o The city is less important than it sounds
3. Animal Crossing (2001 GameCube)
This is the Animal Crossing. The first in the series. Making it arguably the most important title of them all, given that its innovative mechanics and lovable style kicked off all of the games on this list. While this game is an important and beautiful introduction to the franchise, in the two decades since its release Nintendo has raised the bar. Providing even better versions of Animal Crossing. So this one has to place third on our list.
o Foundation for future games
o Memorable characters.
o Limited by the GameCube’s capabilities.
2. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2013 Nintendo 3DS)
This game turned over a New Leaf for the franchise, revitalizing its aesthetic and gameplay potential thanks to yet another new console from Nintendo. It introduced a variety of new gameplay elements too, many of which have found them core to the series’ identity since. Honestly, this would take our top spot if it wasn’t for the most recent heavy hitter of a game which is our number one!
o Introduced new mechanics and the mayor role.
o Significantly more customization.
o Can feel overwhelming for new players.
1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020 Nintendo Switch)
This may come as no surprise, but New Horizons easily takes the top spot as the best Animal Crossing title released to date. Much of this is, of course, down to the fact that the game is released on the current generation of consoles—on the Nintendo Switch—which allows the game to pack in huge improvements to graphics, gameplay, and multiplayer capabilities. Speaking of multiplayer, if you want to boost your time in New Horizons you can buy Animal Crossing Bells! While some found New Horizons a little underwhelming upon release, since then it has received frequent updates to expand the game far beyond its initial horizons—turning it into the top Animal Crossing game you can play today!
o Current-gen graphics and gameplay
o Extensive customization
o Multiplayer features with lots of active players
o Timely and ongoing updates
o Initially lacked some features of previous games
o Most expensive
While New Horizons is a clear winner here, there are a few other things we can glean from this discussion. First of all, Animal Crossing has been a staple hit of Nintendo consoles since it was initially released way back in 2001, meaning that we’re likely to see much more of this series in the years to come. Not only that, but we can also assume that the next title will only come after Nintendo moves to a new console generation—seeing as all the other titles have been released on different consoles. But only time will tell. For now, it’s time to jump into one of these wonderfully charming games to relax.