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The coolest Animal Crossing: New Horizons islands

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.

Further reading

A Santorini vacation

made a santorini residential area for my fave islanders!! #acnh

— gwen ੈ♡ (@genshngirls) 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.

Stardew Crossing

A photo of an Animal Crossing character standing and smiling amidst a custon garden full of vegetables, surrounded by trees and flowers
Reddit u/krannich47

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.

Office drones

An animation studio that’s all giant isopods #acnh #AnimalCrossingNewHorizions

— 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.

Hilltop housing

My tiered residential area! from animalcrossingdesign

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.

Ramen restaurant

Depicts an outdoor restaurant with stools, cooking tools, Japanese kanji and a character with a fox mask
Reddit u/leath-r

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.

Magical forest

I updated my butterfly trail 🦋✨#ACNH #AnimalCrossing #Fairycore

— 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.

Forced perspective

눈 오는 게 예뻐서🌨 #ACNH

— 너심sim🌨 (@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

A screenshot of an overgrown bridge overlooking buildings in Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Reddit u/xqz-moi

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!

Gaming den

A montage of images showing an Animal Crossing character sitting in a room full of games, arcade cabinets, and consoles
Reddit u/Baileybay18

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

Pac-Man rose design (finally got enough blue roses) from animalcrossingdesign

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.

Rustic simplicity

here's hoping lily likes her new home ♡ #acnh #animalcrossing

— marnie 🍞🧚🏼🌷 (@loafsie) 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.

 Urban utopia

朝のこのBGM好き #どうぶつの森 #AnimalCrossing #ACNH #NintendoSwitch

— 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.

Pokémon themed

なつかしの ジョウトちほうへ・・・!! ▼#どうぶつの森 #AnimalCrossing  #ACNH #NintendoSwitch #ポケモン

— ヒノッチ @ 沖縄北谷 (@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.

Japanese town

Reddit u/Ah00n

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.

Spooky cemetery

Reddit u/ -Sinbound

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!

Simple bedroom

Reddit u/amberingo

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.

Beach life

I love life on the beach🌴🥥🌞#animalcrossing #nintendo #animalcrossingnewhorizons #newhorizons #acnh

— 🌺 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?

Coffee shop

???? ????????????????’???? ℂ????????é ☕️

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

— ????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.

Outdoor plaza

a peaceful day in O l i v i n e ; ???? #AnimalCrossing #ACNH

— 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

Reddit u/PM_ME_A_COLOR

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

A screenshot of a fancy outdoor dining area in Animal Crossing New Horizons

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.

Visitor checkpoint

Reddit u/ImNotChineseOk

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.

Mini golf

I ADDED A CRAZY GOLF COURSE #AnimalCrossing #ACNH #NintendoSwitch

— Amy 🌿🌲🍂 (@acrossingamy) April 20, 2020

You cannot putt on the mini-golf course as it only serves as a pleasant backdrop that adds to the island’s vibe. This very talented Twitter user was able to customize paths to construct this visual golf course, which is one of the more inventive island designs we’ve seen so far. Each hole even comes with its own special them, like Bunny Day, Beach, and Outer Space. Each of these unique objects likely contributes significantly to raising their overall island rating.

Zelda dungeon

I designed a Zelda-inspired dungeon in Animal Crossing

New Horizons! #AnimalCrossing #AnimalCrossingNewHorizons— John Pirruccello (@PairofCellos) April 17, 2020

While it does have significant differences from the real thing, this construction would make The Legend of Zelda creators proud. This user created a mini-dungeon that would fit in seamlessly in Hyrule. You’ll also find a “boss” character to defeat in the dungeon, similar to Zelda. However, there are no Heart Containers to signal defeat in the process.

Zen garden

Reddit u/theroxaz

Check out this tiny zen garden for the epitome of peaceful design, graceful work, and uncomplicated application. This serene garden provides a safe haven from your bustling island life. You can create and construct any objects you like in the garden and they will disperse seamlessly into the minimalistic and vast design of the garden area.

Michael Hicks
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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