Animal Crossing: New Horizons couldn’t have been released at a better time. The game offered a break from the constant uncertainty of the pandemic’s earliest days, giving players a routine of small tasks to depend on, and a semblance of social interaction at a time when we were all hunkered down in real life. Players could snag some fish, catch a few bugs and dig up fossils with the goal of one day displaying them in their island’s museum. Alternatively they could sell their findings for some bells, throwing their newly earned cash at furniture or even a house payment. While there were plenty of activities to do in the game, there was one mainstay of the series that players couldn’t: time traveling.
Okay, so time traveling was definitely in Animal Crossing: New Horizons when it released—there was just nowhere to go. Sure, players could travel a few days into the future to hasten the construction of their Island’s shop or museum. But there were no seasonal events to skip ahead to like in previous entries in the series. Players who set their system clocks over to December wouldn’t see their pavilion set up for toy day, and those traveling to October wouldn’t see a spooky spirit in sight.
Seasonal events were locked away behind updates, with Nintendo deciding to trickle them into the game as the year progressed. To the dismay of time travelers, these events are still only available during their real-life timeframes. While seasonal events come and go, the updates behind them have still added countless, permanent goodies that are now staples in the game. With over a year’s worth of updates now included in the game, there’s certainly some that stand out more than others. Here are our favorites.
The Bunny Day seasonal event was baked into the game’s first big update, and unlocked shortly after. The event sounds fun on the surface: look for colorful eggs hidden around your island and use them in fun recipes. The reality of it was that for 12 brutal days, players were subject to the whims of one Zipper T. Bunny and his army of hidden eggs. Every activity players would normally partake in was suddenly inundated with semi-worthless eggs. Oh, you’re trying to fish for fish? No, you really want eggs. Digging for fossils? Surely you mean eggs. Mining a rock for rocks? Nope! Eggs.
Players were getting eggs in such obscene amounts that Nintendo had to step in and reduce their appearance rate. Even Zipper T. Bunny was fed up with the event; if you walked away from him he would let out a sigh of relief, no longer having to put up a facade of happiness. It didn’t help the image of the update that the egg DIY recipes players could earn were on the drab side. There’s only so much egg-themed furniture one house can handle.
Festivale could have been a great seasonal event, but lacked the flair it had in previous iterations of the franchise. In both Animal Crossing: City Folk and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, players could play a number of minigames with their villagers and the event holder Pavé for fun and prizes. In Animal Crossing: New Horizons the event had been drastically scaled down to a small treasure hunt and dance party. There’s a number of DIY recipes up for grabs, but they are all earned in the same way: Collect three of Pavé’s feathers from around the map. But at least you can watch your villagers have a good time dancing, so it’s not a total wash.
The second Summer Update added the season’s primary event: the Fireworks Show. Players can show up on any Sunday in August, pull up a chair, and point their camera up to see the sky erupt with fiery color, surrounded by all their villagers. While you’re at it, you might as well try your luck at Redd’s Raffle and end up with a sparkler or pinwheel to run around frantically in circles with.
The Fireworks Shows are a great time, made even better when you give Isabelle your custom designs and see them blow up in the sky. The second Summer Update also added the dreaming mechanic into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, allowing players to visit and view copies of other player’s islands as well as share their own. Players could share their islands in full view without having to go through the hassle of the game’s multiplayer system.
Outside of dreaming, however, there’s not much from this update that bleeds over into the rest of the game. I’ll be the first to admit that I have one or two used fireworks on my lawn at any given time. But unless you’re going for the trash heap aesthetic like me, the Fireworks Shows come and go without leaving much of a lasting impact on your island.
The first Summer Update created an entire new realm of possibilities within the game by opening up the ocean to players. With a diving suit equipped, players could swim in the ocean around their island. Not only that, they could dive for critters on the seafloor. With new creatures came new additions to the museum, as well as a new stream of income for players—no tools needed. If you were lucky, you’d find a scallop on the seafloor and a plucky otter would appear and trade you some words of wisdom for it.
While the first Summer Update didn’t include much else outside of swimming and diving, it added an activity that could be done year round. The mermaid furniture DIY recipes from the update are also phenomenal, and don’t feel out of place in unthemed rooms.
The Winter Update has a distinct advantage over others in that it had not one, but two seasonal events to add: Turkey Day and Toy Day. Players can cook up some meals with Franklin the Turkey for his big day and earn some decent DIY Recipes for their trouble. They could also help Jingle the reindeer deliver gifts to all their villagers. Both these events are rewarding, and don’t replace any of the game’s existing mechanics, unlike a certain day of bunnies.
Outside of festivities, the Winter Update also brought some major quality of life improvements to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Players could expand their home’s storage if they needed some extra space. They could also transfer their island from one Switch to another with a relative amount of ease. While dreaming, players could choose to visit a random island as well, taking inspiration from whatever came their way.
The Fall Update added one of the best seasonal events into the game: Halloween. Halloween translates very well into the Animal Crossing world. You go to Nook’s Cranny and buy some candy, then head over to the Able Sisters for a costume. Come Halloween night, you share your candy with villagers and the event holder Jack for DIY recipes and other goodies. It’s the sort of event that doesn’t feel overwhelming while also not feeling undercooked.
Outside of Halloween, the Fall Update also added pumpkins to the game. Players could plant pumpkin patches for aesthetic purposes, to earn a few extra bells or for a wide variety of DIY recipes. As the first real crop in the game besides fruit trees, pumpkins were a versatile addition to the game. They can also be grown all year round, making this update one that keeps on giving.
The Super Mario 35th Anniversary Event was a surprisingly great update for the game. The update added a host of items from the Super Mario franchise, including brick blocks and flags. The items felt oddly at home in animal crossing, and didn’t stand out that much when used as decorations. Players could also dress up as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and even Wario.
But where this update really went right was the inclusion of the warp pipes. Players could place two warp pipes around their island and were able to teleport between them. There are very few fully functional items in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, let alone ones that allow for completely new ways of travel. The warp pipes opened up an entirely new way to create builds in the game, no longer restricting travel over graded terrain to bridges and ramps. The warp pipes alone elevate the Super Mario 35th Anniversary Event to being one of the best updates for the game.
The Earth Day Update arrived on the heels of Bunny Day, and only had to not infest islands with hordes of stodgy eggs to be leagues better. But Earth Day was a surprisingly delightful update, and continues to be the one with the biggest legacy in the game. The actual May Day seasonal event was fairly good, allowing players to solve a maze for rewards. But the real meat of the update was the very important character it brought to the game: Leif.
Leif is utterly indispensable for creating a good looking island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. He sells shrubbery to the player, which can act as fencing or landscaping. He also gives the player a DIY recipe for hedges, which are some of the best looking fencing options in the game. Not to mention that he sells unique flowers and buys weeds for double their price.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons introduced an entirely new level of customization to the series by allowing players to place furniture and decorations outside, and mold their entire island to meet their creative vision. Leif rounded out this customization, giving players landscaping options that allowed them to see their vision through. He arrived in the game precisely at a time when players would have just recently gotten access to island landscaping tools. For longtime franchise fans, Leif served as a sort of guide for players, showing them the possibilities that decorating outside the house could hold.
Nicolas Perez is a freelance writer who has played way too much Civilization. He’s rambling on Twitter @Nic_Perez_._