Casual Animal Crossing: New Horizons vacationers think the game is all about hunting for critters, playing the stalk market, and enjoying the quiet island ambiance. Psh! In fact, New Horizons is a hardcore designer sandbox, where true architects flock to show off their skills. And thanks to social media and the new tools Nintendo gave players to sculpt their island in countless ways, we’ve found some truly beautiful (and weird) islands that push the game to its limit.
Here, we’ve scoured all corners of the internet to pull together a list of the 25 best designs in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. They feature everything from recreations of real places to a spooky cemetery to a quaint coffee shop and zen garden. But no matter how unique they are, they all share one thing in common: An eye for great design.
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A Santorini vacation
— gwen (@peachliIy) July 2, 2020
In normal times, more than 2 million tourists a year flock to the gorgeous Greek island of Santorini, or Thera, where its classic whitewashed buildings are built into the hilltop. In lieu of visiting in person, make a trip to this excellent locale, which really captures the bright urban aesthetic. The creator mostly succeeds using regular game items, but there are also patterns used to great effect for the fake windows on the walls.
Using custom dirt patterns, watermelon beach balls, and some excellent gardening choices, this designer created a rustic garden that truly wouldn’t look out of place in a 3D farming simulator. Most architects tend to focus more on urban mini-cities, while flowers and trees are merely decorative — but this island shows you can make the nature tools of New Horizons into an aesthetic all your own.
— Lex Sugden ???? (@AlexisDraws) July 29, 2020
Where most people would see a creepy, massive bug crawling out to attack, one creator saw an opportunity. This silly office layout is filled to the brim with cute little touches, thanks to custom designs. One bug is actually coding, while another slacks off watching YouTube (and is apparently close with the villager Rocket). One bug sketching in the back has even crumpled some designs in frustration, and the middle-left bug is a bit vain. These are the kind of meticulous details that really “wow” island visitors.
Many island planners tend to shove the houses to one corner of the island so they have more room for zany designs and public spaces. Yet, as this island shows, incorporating them into your design can be truly impressive. The creator gave each villager their own distinct yard and front lawn that showcase their personality, and the tiered layout makes it a beautiful journey to go and visit each home.
Just looking at this recreation of an Ichiraku Ramen restaurant makes our stomach rumble. The creator used a nice mix of terraforming and fencing for the walls, custom designs for the signage, and common kitchen items to add to the decor. Many creators design around outdoor dining instead of outdoor cooking, but this restaurant stall adds a unique visual landmark to the island that won’t feel as empty if no one is sitting at it.
— Danii ???? (@kikowaii) August 29, 2020
Some designers create such magical realms that you forget this game is set on a tropical island. Terraforming is tricky when you’re not creating straight lines or circles, but this island’s whimsical path, crooked rivers, and lush waterfalls truly make you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere special. The custom-patterned leaves, mushrooms, petals, and path really complete the look.
— 너심ʕ•̫͡•ʔ (@NEOSIM_) April 30, 2020
Did Nintendo release a City Folk DLC, or are some creators just incredibly creative? Many designers like to play with forced perspective, using small items and tricky camera angles to make the island look bigger than it is. In this case, they used barrels that double as smokestacks, making the silos and poles look that much taller — the island is now a downtown metropolis. If you want to surprise your friends with an optical illusion screenshot, seek out other forced-perspective designs on social media. They’re surprisingly simple to recreate.
NYC’s High Line
Here’s another instance of a designer really capturing the essence of a real-life location. Using terraforming to simulate a giant elevated track and excellent custom-designed panels in front of furniture to imitate buildings, you’ll feel transported into one of the prettiest portions of the Big Apple — except it’s less crowded than usual!
Find me a gamer who would say “no” to owning a personal gaming den like this one. The arcade cabinets, consoles, and wallpaper are in-game items, but this design goes the extra mile with little custom touches. Retro Pokémon posters, nerdy gaming attire, and a Zelda screensaver all add up to make this a prime hangout spot.
Retro rose garden
Garden art is a surprisingly cool way to create art on your island, without having to fiddle with the Custom Designs app or buy the right furniture. As the creator runs past his excellent Pac-Man recreation made using flowers, you can almost hear the famous waka-waka noises in your head. If you build up your flower collection in all colors, you’ll have the tools to brighten up your island with your favorite characters.
— marnie ???? finals week ???? (@faunery) April 19, 2020
While many beautiful islands in New Horizons rely on rare items, Twitter user @kklilies has found a way to keep things minimal while bringing out the natural charm of the island. The town is nothing more than well-designed waterways, wooden plank walkways, and carefully-placed trees and flowers. If you have plenty of time on your hands — but lack some of the more valuable items in New Horizons — this is a great island design to try and replicate.
— ボボみ (@imotarez) April 23, 2020
Sometimes you come across an island that looks so different from your own, you wonder if you’re even playing the same game. That’s the case with this masterpiece, which is easily one of the most compact, dense, and gritty urban layouts we’ve ever come across.
— ヒノッチ (@hinopika) April 14, 2020
Making liberal use of custom path designs, this user was able to recreate the visuals from early games in the Pokémon series. It even features a giant Snorlax that is “blocking” the villager’s path.
Another excellent urban design, this island offers players a bit more space to roam about and includes several city blocks full of shops, houses, and public gardens. The amount of zen fencing in this one is staggering — we can’t even imagine how long it took to stockpile enough resources to build it all.
It’s a bit on the scary side for Animal Crossing, but this cemetery is easily one of the coolest things we’ve seen players create. And with the addition of Redd’s sculptures, it’s a bonafide masterpiece. On the bright side, Wisp now has a place to call home!
Finding the right furniture to accent your home can be a frustrating experience. However, this designer shows that you don’t need fancy items to put together a beautiful room. Using simple tables, a few lamps, and lots of picture frames, you can easily replicate this relaxing aesthetic.
— ♥️ Ashley Jade ♥️ (@summerbornrose) April 29, 2020
Summer may be ending soon for us, but on this island, beach life is always in season! Not only is the house just steps from the shore, but the seashell-related items in the game have given this corner of the world a washed-out, beachy vibe. Plus, there’s great use of custom designs to draw hearts in the sand. How can you not like it?
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i’m not the best at designing yet but I gave it a try! It was very relaxing to put this together. Beau’s Café cookie was my very favorite in Pocket Camp ♡ #ACNH #AnimalCrossingNewHorizons #どうぶつの森 pic.twitter.com/s1w3X4BBue
— ????kellie 公主???? (@nookimchi) April 29, 2020
While this design does rely on some rare kitchen furniture, there’s no denying how cozy it is. Accenting the corner bookcases with rustic table stands and flowers pulls the room together, and excellent use of the NookPhone’s camera app makes this shop look incredibly inviting.
— alex ???? diona haver (@faesylveon) April 30, 2020
Sometimes all you need are flowers, trees, and a place to sit. A simple, well-crafted layout goes a long way — and this breezy plaza proves it.
Blathers’ biggest fan
It’s hard to tell what the island looks like on foot, but from the air it’s a sight to behold. While some gamers are struggling to use the new terraforming tools, this player took things to the next level and turned their island into a massive shrine for their favorite museum curator.
Fine beach dining
After the wedding on Harv’s Island, this is definitely where Reese and Cyrus held their reception. The impeccable place settings and floral centerpieces, the elevated stage for classical concertos, the custom flooring, and the sound of the waves make this beachfront restaurant a beautiful spot.
We’re not sure if this is good island design, but it sure is hilarious. Visitors to this player’s island are instantly greeted with a series of beds that they need to lie down in before getting to town. All told, it takes an additional 10 seconds to go through the checkpoint — something you won’t want to do after having to deal with the lengthy load times associated with flying on Dodo Airlines.
— Amy ???????????? (@acrossingamy) April 20, 2020
Unfortunately, this design exists for your viewing but not for your playing pleasure. This talented Twitter user utilized custom paths to construct a mini-golf course on his island, which is one of the more innovative creations we’ve seen. Each hole has its own theme — such as Bunny Day, beach, and outer space — and all those unique objects probably go a long way toward raising their island rating.
I designed a Zelda-inspired dungeon in Animal Crossing
While it’s not a true replica, this user pays homage to The Legend of Zelda series by crafting a mini-dungeon that would be right at home in Hyrule. You have to conquer a “boss” character similar to The Legend of Zelda, although you won’t be seeing any Heart Containers to signal defeat.
This tiny zen garden epitomizes the graceful implementation of an uncomplicated design and offers the most peaceful refuge to leave your island worries behind. Most of the items seen here can be easily crafted but are arranged in a tasteful way that somehow manages to pack in a lot of content without overcrowding the space.
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