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Animal Crossing: New Horizons vs. New Leaf – comparing which is better in 2024

Posted on March 23, 2024 by in 3DS, Features, Switch

Animal Crossing New Horizons New Leaf comparison

Today, we’re looking at the two most popular games in the Animal Crossing series: New Horizons and New Leaf. More specifically, we’re comparing and contrasting them to determine which is the better experience and how a future game could blend elements of both to make something really special.

What was different about ACNL?

What was different about ACNL?

From an objective point of view, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is almost certainly better than Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Though it’s lacking content from previous games in the series, its newly-introduced ability to place furniture outside and use Island Designer are significant steps forward. That being said, the game was criticized for its “free post-launch update” content policy, which left ACNH feeling somewhat undercooked at launch. Even to this day, many fans believe New Horizons focused too much on island customization and too little on island interactions.

One particularly popular criticism of ACNH is its villagers. If you’ve played the original Animal Crossing on GameCube, then you might remember its villagers having a certain degree of depth. At first – and depending on their personality – they’d act harsh and mean to the player. As you continue doing them favors and earning their friendship, however, they’d warm up to you and give you gifts. Villagers have been slowly made nicer ever since, and back in the day even New Leaf drew criticism for toning them down a bit relative to previous entries in the series.

In ACNH, villagers don’t really have much of this depth. There’s more or less a status quo with them that never gets broken – they’re essentially always nice to you, even if the villager has a Cranky or Snooty personality. Even at the highest possible friendship level, you’ll often see your villagers repeating the exact same dialogue. Though villagers in Animal Crossing: New Leaf did repeat their dialogue sometimes, they generally had more topical things to say. They also asked for favors more often. While doing favors for villagers isn’t the most fun task in the series, it did offer a layer of interaction to those who wanted it. They even sent goodbye letters when they left, something they no longer do in New Horizons.

Holidays were also more plentiful and arguably more in-depth in New Leaf. For example, in ACNH’s version of Toy Day, you deliver predetermined gifts to each resident. In ACNL, you have to talk to the villagers a few days before to figure out what kind of gift they would like. In ACNH’s version of Halloween, you gather candy for several days before handing it out on Halloween night in exchange for furniture. In New Leaf, you have to figure out what each of your villagers is scared of and buy the corresponding mask from the Able Sisters ahead of time. Overall, there was a lot more to find out about each of your villagers in previous games. They had depth!

What content is ACNH missing?

What content is ACNH missing?

The big thing missing from Animal Crossing: New Horizons is buildings. You can only construct the shop, Able Sisters, and the museum, and that’s about it. In New Leaf, you had the shop, the museum, the Able Sisters, the garden store, the club, the shoe store, the post office, Shampoodle, and the fortune-teller shop. And those were just the buildings that already existed! You eventually gain the ability to build a Police Station and the Roost anywhere in town. New Leaf’s general store also upgrades four times, whereas the one in New Horizons only upgrades once.

The data of Animal Crossing: New Horizons implies that a museum shop was once planned (according to TCRF) but there are currently no known references to any other unused upgrades. The fully upgraded shop in New Horizons only stocks three big furniture items per day, which is much less than the fully upgraded shops in the other stores. To add to this, New Horizons has scrapped Gracie furniture altogether, and she makes no appearance in the game outside of amiibo cards.

Multiplayer comparison

Animal Crossing multiplayer comparison ACNL

One aspect that Animal Crossing: New Leaf arguably did better was its multiplayer. For one, it takes much longer to visit a friend’s island in New Horizons than it does to take the train to a friend’s town in New Leaf. ACNH does support eight players whereas ACNL only supports four, but that isn’t a huge plus when it’ll often take over five minutes to gather everybody on the same island. Not to mention, every time someone enters or leaves your island in ACNH, everyone is forced to stop and wait for them to arrive or leave, which does kind of break up the vibe.

Furthermore, there was much more to do with other players in New Leaf. Despite New Horizons’ emphasis on customization, it’s impossible to place or remove furniture from your island or house while other players are present. That’s understandable, but at the same time it would’ve been neat to invite friends over and give them permission to help you decorate. In New Leaf, you could invite a friend over and go shopping, get haircuts, or even go to the tropical island and play cooperative minigames together. Even that wasn’t a ton of content, but it was much more than New Horizons has to offer. In this game, you can’t do very much with friends other than give them a quick tour and take some silly pictures.

Is ACNH still better in 2024?

Is ACNH still better in 2024?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons definitely left things behind from previous games in the series. That being said, the advances it brought to the franchise can’t be overstated. Outside of the obvious improvements to customization, New Horizons also has a much better storage system. In all previous games, you were incredibly limited in the number of items you could store. This time around, however, you can store upwards of 2,000 with the proper upgrades. ACNH’s focus on quality-of-life features makes ACNL relatively difficult to return to, even if that game does have advantages of its own.

It’s hard to believe, but ACNH is already just over four years old. We could be closer to the next Animal Crossing game than you think – it’d almost certainly be on Nintendo’s next system as one of its top sellers. There are a lot of ways to improve for the next Animal Crossing game, and we think it’d be a great idea to combine what ACNH and ACNL did well on top of some new extras, too. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is already the best-selling game ever in Japan, and there’s nowhere to go but up!

What’s your favorite Animal Crossing game, and which do you hope the next entry in the series draws the most inspiration from? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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