Since its debut on the Nintendo GameCube in 2001, the Animal Crossing games have been a Nintendo staple. They have appeared on (nearly) every subsequent hardware release, including both console and handheld. There’s even been a host of spin-off games, a mobile release, and full-fledged DLC as well.
As one of the more popular and successful Nintendo franchises, we want to take a closer look at each game. Therefore, we’re going to go over all of the Animal Crossing games ranked from worst to best.
To compile the order of this list, we’ll use a mix of critical and audience responses, as well as personal opinions. You may agree with the list; you’ll probably disagree. Either way, be sure to sound off in the comments below.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is undoubtedly the worst of the Animal Crossing games
There are spin-offs and then there is Amiibo Festival. The first home console Animal Crossing game since 2008, Amiibo Festival did a great job at aggravating fans and a poor job at just about everything else.
Festival plays more like Mario Party than a traditional Animal Crossing title. This would be a good idea in theory, except for the fact that the Mario Party franchise was also in the middle of a gigantic downturn as well.
As a result, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is boring, repetitive, and seen merely as an avenue for Nintendo to just sell more Amiibo. It was a critical and commercial failure, as well as the only Animal Crossing game for the Wii U. Fans would have to wait five more years for a traditional home console release.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a decent enough spin-off that is better suited to being DLC
If Happy Home Designer was simply DLC for the wildly successful New Leaf, then it would be higher up on our list of Animal Crossing games ranked. Instead, as a fully-priced spin-off, it’s down here.
Happy Home Designer trades in the traditional gameplay of the mainline games for a focus solely on, well, designing. While there are more features found here in terms of creativity and design, the overall gameplay feels lacking and shallow without the traditional town experience. It is as if Nintendo focused a little too much on the design aspect and not enough on what makes the Animal Crossing games so enjoyable.
Home Designer is able to offer a good experience, but it can’t match up to the expectations of the franchise. Especially since fans were (impatiently) waiting for a new mainline release at the time.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a good yet frustrating mobile release
The return of a traditional Animal Crossing title for the first time in five years is a mobile release. All things considered, it was a pretty good little game!
While lacking compared to other Animal Crossing games, Pocket Camp still does a good job of translating the mainline experience to the mobile platform. As a free-to-play title, there’s a good amount of content available at your fingertips. Most of the meat on this bone, however, is going to be locked behind microtransactions.
The game preys upon the player’s fear of missing out when it comes to acquiring select items. Furthermore, it’s a disappointing experience after the enjoyable Fire Emblem Heroes mobile release. It also made far less money than Fire Emblem Heroes.
Animal Crossing: City Folk doesn’t do enough to move the franchise forward
After the original GameCube title and DS follow-up, Animal Crossing: City Folk has a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, it cannot fully meet the hype and expectations.
City Folk’s key new feature is, well, the city. Players can make their way downtown and encounter both new and familiar characters. Redd and Katrina make their return, as well as new characters that offer things to do and items to buy.
Players can also communicate via the Wii Speak microphone or live text chat via a USB keyboard. If you completely forgot about either one of these features, you can be forgiven. They highlight the main issue with Animal Crossing: City Folk: it’s a bit forgettable, failing to live up to the weight of its predecessors while also not being as good as its 2012 follow-up, New Leaf.
As a result, City Folk is the worst of the mainline Animal Crossing titles.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise is a DLC update for New Horizons that should have existed in the original game
Sadly, releasing content post-launch that should have been in the original game is a very 2020s gaming move. Thankfully, Happy Home Paradise is a textbook example of high-quality, fully worthwhile DLC.
An expansion on the Happy Home Designer spin-off, Happy Home Paradise brings a host of features to New Horizons. It adds in not just the ability to design and create but also to plan and organize the island itself.
The Facilities feature to create new buildings and shops is a very welcome addition, adding in the ability to customize not just the items you acquire but the island itself. It adds a certain amount of ownership of your island to what was otherwise missing.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a lot of style but not so much substance
New Horizons was the most fun I had with Animal Crossing games in quite some time. Some of it was due to the amount of polish the game had. The fact that it was released during the COVID-19 lockdown is absolutely a factor as well.
Yet for everything great about New Horizons, it was equally disappointing. After a certain point, it feels like your time with the game is over. You can still progress through collecting and customizing, but it requires seeking out other islands that have the specific items you need.
The initial rush of New Horizons at launch features some of the best Animal Crossing memories to date. The characters are as memorable as ever and completing the game’s “story” offers a satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately, you run out of things to do faster than you hope.
Animal Crossing is a charming, relaxing, and unique title that kickstarts the franchise
The Nintendo GameCube Animal Crossing, released in 2001, is unlike any other Nintendo game. It offers a host of things to do and explore while offering a lack of distinct direction or handholding.
Part life simulator, part home decorator, part “play a bunch of these old NES games” emulator, Animal Crossing offers an experience that builds upon how you interact with it. On the surface, yes, this is a life simulator where you run errands for a bunch of strange animals. Once you buy in and dig deeper, it’s so much more than that.
What makes the original Animal Crossing such a beautiful game is the time of its release. There was a distinct lack of widespread information available online at the time. Sure, walkthroughs and places like GameFAQs existed, but there weren’t hundreds of YouTube videos telling you how to get the best of the best as soon as possible. You forged your own path, played your own way, and discovered things on your own timeline.
Could the original Animal Crossing exist in 2022? Maybe, maybe not, but it wouldn’t be the same. While other releases have improved with new features and quality of life updates, they are forever indebted to that magical experience from the original game.
Animal Crossing: Wild World proves that the Animal Crossing games are now a Nintendo staple
With the release of 2005’s Wild World, it became clear that the Animal Crossing games are made for a handheld console.
While not taking full advantage of the Nintendo DS touch screen, the dual-screen setup is a dream come true. Being able to play through Animal Crossing while having a second stream for inventory management is a match made in heaven.
The biggest breakthrough for Wild World is online connectivity. As great as a social experience was with the original Animal Crossing and multiple players living in your village, it was limited to whoever had direct access to the GameCube console. By bringing Animal Crossing online, it feels like Wild World unlocks the full potential of the franchise.
While the base experience didn’t change too much, a lot of these quality of life changes were a very welcome addition.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is an unmistakable high point for the franchise
When New Leaf was released in 2012, it changed the Animal Crossing franchise forever.
It also gave me something to do on my flight to E3, but that’s another story.
Releasing on the Nintendo 3DS, New Leaf proves that Animal Crossing games are at their best on a dual-screen handheld. The same quality of life changes from Wild World are still present, with some gameplay updates and polish the franchise has not seen since then.
The marquee feature of New Leaf is the fact that you’re not just a new citizen of your village; you’re the Mayor. This enables the player to have more control over customizing their village. It’s a bit limited in scope to, say, Happy Home Paradise, but it still allows you to control several key features of your town.
Furthermore, everything about New Leaf simply works well together. There isn’t anything lacking in terms of features, nor is there anything missing in terms of gameplay content. It’s the total Animal Crossing package.
When it comes to the mainline Animal Crossing games, it’s hard to call any of them bad. City Folk offers some cool ideas despite being one of the more disappointing releases in the franchise.
The most recent title, New Horizons, is absolutely lacking in terms of features. You can’t deny, however, that it’s polished to an absolute shine.
So what do you all think? Did we get this ranking right or wrong? What do you agree with? Disagree with? Keep the conversation going in the comments below!