Animal Crossing: New Horizons Guide – How to Set Up Multiplayer

New Horizons introduces a variety of fresh features for Animal Crossing, such as a DIY crafting system, the Nook Miles rewards program, and island terraforming.

The game also includes a more robust multiplayer experience than previous iterations, offering the option to play locally with friends or online with up to 8-players inhabiting the same world.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to set up multiplayer as well as offer tips for staying connected with friends between visits.

If you would like to learn more about island living, check out our New Horizons tips and tricks guide to help get you started.

With a couple of joy-cons or an internet connection, you’ll be setting off on new adventures in no time.

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Local Couch Co-op Multiplayer

Animal Crossing Local Couch Co op Multiplayer

New Horizons handles local multiplayer, or “couch co-op,” a little differently than other games, requiring each member of your party to share the same screen with one player acting as The Leader.  However, this feature doesn’t become available until the following conditions have been met:

  • One player sets up the island by completing the introduction, which entails establishing himself as the Resident Rep, throwing a welcoming party, and finally going to rest for the night at their tent.
  • A second player then starts the game on their own Switch profile, creating a character before joining the already established island and completing a much shorter introduction.

Each player receives their own separate house along with total access to the island’s amenities, regardless if they’re the Resident Rep or not. Once a second player has joined the island, a new Call Resident app will be added to everyone’s NookPhone.

This app lets you call other residents who live on the same island and invite them to join your game by doing the following:

  • Open up your NookPhone by pressing ZL on the controller.
  • Select “Call Resident” and the player(s) you want to invite.
  • Have each player configure their controller by following the on-screen prompts.

Note: You can have up to 8-players living on the same island but only 4-players in the same session at any given time.

The player who makes the call is automatically given the role of leader while the joining players are considered followers. Since New Horizons doesn’t allow for split-screen, followers will automatically trail behind the leader as they make their way around the island.

Additionally, the leader is the only player who can open their pockets, enter facilities, buy items, and carry materials.

Followers can still use tools as well as pick up any items, insects, and fish they desire; however, they’re automatically sent to the Recycling Bin located in Resident Services. Thankfully, the game allows you to easily swap leaders by shaking your controller and having the new leader press A

Local Wireless Multiplayer

Animal Crossing Local Wireless Multiplayer

If you and a friend are in the same area and each has their own Switch, as well as a copy of New Horizons, you may consider visiting each other’s islands via local wireless.

This method doesn’t rely on having an internet connection but does require you to have unlocked Dodo Airlines, which becomes available after Day 2 on your island. To set up local wireless multiplayer, do the following:

  • Decide which player will be hosting and which will be joining.
  • The host player should head to Dodo Airlines and speak to Orville.
  • When asked, select “I want visitors” and then “via local play.”
  • Alternatively, the host can wait until the other player(s) try to join and accept their request.

If you’re trying to join someone else’s game via local wireless, simply head over to Dodo Airlines and select “I wanna fly!” then “I wanna visit someone,” and lastly, “via local play.”

Orville will search for any available local islands, at which point your friend’s name should appear. We suggest doing this one player at a time to avoid anyone’s flight getting canceled.

Note: It’s recommended that the host and joining players stay close to each other (about 4-6 ft.) for the entire duration of the session. Otherwise, there’s a fair chance that the connection is going to timeout.

Online Multiplayer

Animal Crossing Online Multiplayer

Setting up online multiplayer in New Horizons works similarly to local wireless, only with different selections. Since there’s no way to invite friends directly on the Switch, you instead have to tell Orville to open your island’s gates to visitors.

This is done by first unlocking Dodo Airlines by completing Day 2 on your island. From there, do the following: 

  • Go to Dodo Airlines and speak to Orville.
  • When asked, select “I want visitors,” then “via online play.”
  • After connecting to the internet, you’ll have the option to open your island to “All my friends!”, “Only my Best Friends!” or “Invite via Dodo Code.”

Here’s a breakdown of what each selection means:

“All My Friends!”

Every player on your friends list can visit

“Only My Best Friends!”

Only players you are Best Friends with can visit

“Only My Friends!” (Dodo Code)

Only your friends who enter the Dodo Code can visit

“Only My Best Friends!” (Dodo Code)

Only your Best Friends who enter the Dodo Code can visit

The More the Merrier! (Dodo Code)

Anyone who enters the Dodo Code can visit

Note: If you ever want to remove players from your island, press the minus “-” button on your controller to end the session. If you just want to stop new players from joining your island, go to Dodo Airlines and ask Orville to “close the gate.”

If you’re trying to join someone else’s game via online multiplayer, head over to Dodo Airlines and select “I wanna fly!” then “I wanna visit someone,” and either “Search for a friend” or “Search via Dodo Code.” 

When you want to return to your home island, simply press the minus “-” button on your controller or go back to Dodo Airlines.

How To Add Best Friends

Animal Crossing How to Add Best Friends

Before you can become Best Friends with a player, you’ll first have to have the Best Friends List app installed on your NookPhone. To get it, head over to Dodo Airlines and ask to visit someone “far-away” “via online play.”

Orville will add the Best Friends List app along with the Chat Log app to your phone. Once that’s out the way, ensure you do the following:

  • Add the other player as a friend on your Switch.
  • Play together online at least once.
  • Open the Best Friends List app on your NookPhone.
  • Send the player a Best Friend request via the app.

Note: The Best Friends List app can also be used to manage/remove your existing Best Friends.

There are many advantages to being Best Friends with someone, including being able to use tools that would typically be off-limits on someone else’s island, such as axes and shovels. Here’s a breakdown of what you can do on someone else’s island depending on your friend status:

Collect fruits and flowersAll Friends
Plant flowersAll Friends
Catch bugs and fishAll Friends
Pick up materials on the groundAll friends
Enter housesAll Friends
Purchase/Sell itemsAll Friends

Talk to villager

All Friends

Strike rocks

Best Friends only

Dig up fossils and clams

Best Friends only
Plant treesBest Friends only
Chop treesBest Friends only
Access Resident Services resourcesNone

Note: You can’t place items or terraform on your island while hosting other players. Items can still be dropped.

How To Send Messages And Use Voice Chat

Animal Crossing How to Send Messages and Use Voice Chat

Aside from granting players more access to your island’s resources, becoming Best Friends gives you the option to message other players when they’re away. But, for this to work, you’ll both need to be online at the time of messaging.

If you’re hosting a player you’re currently not Best Friends with, you can still communicate via the Chat Log app or by pressing the “R” button on your controller while they’re on your island. These messages appear as speech bubbles above your character’s head and are recorded in the Chat Log app.

Alternatively, you can connect your copy of New Horizons to the Nintendo Switch Online app available on mobile devices.

This connection is called NookLink and allows you to access a host of exclusive features as well as type out messages directly from your phone. NookLink can be used to scan custom design QR codes and communicate via voice chat.

You can find out how to setup NookLink here.

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Justin Fernandez
Justin Fernandez

As a fan of both indie and triple-A games, Justin finds joy in discovering and sharing hidden gems with other passionate gamers. In addition to reporting on the latest and greatest titles, he manages GamingScan’s social media channels.

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