Animal Crossing: New Horizons co-op and online multiplayer let you share the fun with others. Here's how to get started.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Multiplayer & Co-Op Guide

Animal Crossing: New Horizons co-op and online multiplayer let you share the fun with others. Here's how to get started.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a great single-player game, but it’s more fun when you party play with friends in co-op. The game knows that too and encourages you start your New Horizons multiplayer experience first thing after you finish the opening ceremonies.

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There are actually quite a few ways to play with friends, though, and we’ve got you covered with this New Horizons multiplayer and co-op guide.

We go over how to play co-op, how to access local multiplayer and online multiplayer, and how to voice and text chat while doing it. 

How to Play Animal Crossing: New Horizons Co-Op

Co-op in Animal Crossing New Horizons is simple, though everyone has to follow the leader.

Co-op, also called Party Play, is the easiest multiplayer mode to start in New Horizons, but it is also the most limiting. Even though eight people can live on one New Horizons island, only four can play co-op simultaneously on the same system.

The first thing to do is, obviously, have more than one player living on an island.

The first Switch account that sets up on an island is the official representative, which is New Horizons‘ version of a mayor. Others who join the session can leave the island if they want to and don’t have the same decision-making powers as the representative.

After a second person joins the island, Tom Nook gives you the Call Islander feature for the NookPhone. It doesn’t matter who gets it first because it automatically gets installed on every islander’s NookPhone.

How to Play Together

When you want to play together on your island, fire up the NookPhone, and choose the Call Islander option. It sends out a call for other players to join in the fun, but the one who makes the call is the leader for that co-op session.

The ones who aren’t the leader can still fish and catch bugs, but what they pick up goes into the recycling bin for the time being. They also can’t enter buildings, buy things, or pick up items like fruit. Since New Horizons‘ co-op isn’t split-screen, everyone has to follow the leader as well.

If you want to change up who the leader is, though, you can easily do that by either shaking the Joy-Con or using the Call Islander app again.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Local Multiplayer

Speak with Orville at the Airport to access online multiplayer.

If you’ve got friends nearby IRL, you can opt for New Horizons‘ local multiplayer feature. You don’t have to connect to the Internet for this, which also means you don’t need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription for local multiplayer.

But you want to make sure your friends aren’t too far away, so the connection is as stable as possible.

To kick off local multiplayer, head to the island’s Airport. Speak with Orville at the reception desk, and he’ll ask what you want to do. Choose whether you want to visit someone else or invite people to your island, and then select Local Multiplayer.

It goes without saying, but make sure your friends are coordinating this as well. You don’t want to all be trying to visit someone else’s island, after all; one of you needs to be welcoming visitors.

Orville will search for nearby Switch systems welcoming visitors. Choose the right one from the list that shows up, and you’re off. Some have recommended it’s best to stagger arrivals as well (i.e. having one player show up at a time and then another). Otherwise, it could overload the connection and cancel everyone’s flights.

Since you’re all playing on your own screens in New Horizons‘ local multiplayer, you don’t have to worry about following the person acting as host. However, unless you’re registered as Best Friends in the NookPhone, you can’t use your shovel or axe while visiting someone else’s island.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Online Multiplayer

New Horizons‘ online multiplayer works almost the same as local multiplayer. Speak to Orville, decide if you’re visiting or hosting visitors, and then choose online play as your option. Because you’re connecting to the Internet, this option does require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.

You’ll also need to pick from friends registered in your Friends List. If you want to visit or invite someone you don’t have registered as a friend, you’ll choose the Dodo Code option. This gives you a random code to use (or for your not-friend to use) and lets you hang out together anyway.

You’ll need a different code for the next visit, though, as it’s a one-time thing.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Voice Chat, Text Chat

Download the Animal Crossing New Horizons chat app to talk with friends while playing.

If you’re playing online, you can also take advantage of the Nintendo Switch Online app to use voice chat and text chat. Don’t forget to download it from the App Store or Google Play first, though.

For voice:

  • Open the Switch Online app
  • Choose voice chat
  • Choose New Horizons
  • Make sure everyone’s running the app and has voice chat open

For text:

  • Open the Switch Online app
  • Pick New Horizons‘ Nook Link
  • Use the chat keyboard
  • Make sure your friends are doing the same

That’s everything you need to know about Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ multiplayer and co-op, but be sure to check out our growing collection of Animal Crossing: New Horizons guides. If you found this guide helpful, consider giving it a share! 

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Josh Broadwell
Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.