Restarting Your Animal Crossing Island Is The Most Cathartic Thing You Can Do

Restarting Your Animal Crossing Island Is The Most Cathartic Thing You Can Do
Image: Kotaku Australia

When Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched in March 2020, I was enraptured by the game’s sense of calm and fulfilment. Every day was bliss with fruit picking, fishing, bug catching and fossil finding. There was something new to discover every day. Not even Tom Nook’s constant begging for money dampened my mood.

The critterpedia and fossil encyclopedia kept me busy. I was determined to complete every last page of my collection. I was 200 hours in before I started to neglect my daily duties.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

It started with fossil hunting.

I’d reached a point where Animal Crossing refused to give me new fossils no matter what. Mystery Islands were a bust. Eventually I got so tired of digging up the same three fossils I started trading online.

My first major disappointment was Blathers giving me nothing for completing his exhibit. The second was realising there was no reason to keep digging. In past games, you have the additional surprise of digging up a music-making ‘gyroid’ to decorate your room — but they’ve yet to be added into New Horizons.

When I caught my 999th sea bass, even fishing started to get tiresome.

While Animal Crossing: New Horizons has consistently added new content every few months to keep players hooked, many of these activities are short or simple. You duck in, try them out and leave feeling very unsatisfied. In 2021, there hasn’t been any real hook to keep going unless you count the Mario item range.

So what do you do when the magic’s gone? It’s simple, really. You pull the plug and start again.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons only allows one save file per console. This means once you’re done with fossils, fishes, bugs and sea creatures, you don’t get another chance to experience the fun of collecting all over again.

There’s two solutions here: change consoles or nuke your save.

Nuking your save file is a harder decision to make, but equally rewarding. You’ll say goodbye to all your collection progress and your favourite villagers. But a fresh start can really reinvigorate the world of Animal Crossing. You might get a new town fruit, interesting new layouts or a different coloured airport. There’s even the option of starting a town in the opposite hemisphere for different activities, collectables and creatures each season.

When you restart, you’ll land on a totally new island with two randomised villagers to keep you company. I wound up with Plucky and Coach, two animal villagers I’d never had in any Animal Crossing game.

It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of only inviting your favourite villagers to live on your island, particularly if you have their amiibo cards. It can be fun to choose the perfect stable, but opening yourself up to new villagers is great — you might even make some new friends.

Re-establishing your village from scratch doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s great to discover recipes again, catch unique fish, bugs, and to meet new animal villagers. Your first few days will be spent rebuilding homes, clearing weeds and establishing bridges. But once your town is set up all over again, the island is your oyster.

Even if the more menial tasks aren’t your jam, starting again is great for many reasons. First, you can redecorate and re-plan your island.

When you started on your Animal Crossing: New Horizons adventure, it’s likely you didn’t put much thought into your layout or what you could do with your island’s many cliffs, rocks and beaches. If you were planning a giant city fortress or themed landscape it’s likely the default layout got in the way of your plans. While you can terraform parts of the island, the overall structure remains the same.

Starting over means you get to choose where everything goes from the start. There’s countless Animal Crossing builds to get inspired by and you’ll probably be relieved to know your ugly first attempt can simply vanish with a few button clicks. That lake you absolutely hate? Gone. Your tiny wrestling arena? Say goodbye.

Starting over gives you the chance to experiment.

You could try building a Pokémon-themed town, or even a Legend of Zelda island. Restarting Animal Crossing gives you a blank canvas to work off. Go nuts! You might even discover new items and recipes you’ve never seen before.

The second best thing about restarting Animal Crossing is the ability to meet new villagers and invite them back to you island.

In the first two weeks of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, one of your primary objectives is to gentrify the neighbourhood and invite more animals to live with you (presumably so Tom Nook can fleece them for cold hard cash). This means you get to hop on a plane, head to nearby Mystery Island and search them for brand new faces.

There’s 391 villagers available in Animal Crossing: New Horizons so the chances of getting someone you’ve already lived with are fairly low. On my first trip to a Mystery Island, I ran across my new best friend, Megan. She first appeared in Pocket Camp and is actually a very cute, very rare get.

animal crossing new horizons restart game
Image: Kotaku Australia

Subsequent trips yielded Animal Crossing‘s favourite penguin, Roald, as well as cat villager Felicity. I chose to take these three and leave cow villager Norma (who’s followed me through three save files) and mouse villager Bella (weird-looking, sorry).

Being able to fill out your village once more means a variety of choice and some very pleasant surprises. You might even run into Raymond, the cat villager Animal Crossing fans are obsessed with.

While animals can choose to move out in late game save files, this doesn’t happen often and it’s likely you’ll be too attached to let some villagers go. Restarting takes choice out of your hands and opens up your future horizons. Every few days you may also get a surprise move-in, giving you something to look forward to every day.

Sudden change isn’t for everyone. But if your time with the game is growing stale over a year on, starting over is a great option. It was one of the greatest decisions I made this year. Restarting was extremely cathartic and brought back the joy of playing the game for the first time. Everything felt fresh again, whether it was meeting new villagers, or redesigning my island.

So give it a go. If you’re struggling to maintain interest in your Animal Crossing world, it might be time for a restart. You’ll be surprised by how cathartic it feels.


  • – “So what do you do when the magic’s gone? It’s simple, really.”

    Yeah it is, you find a different game to play instead.

  • I’ve given thought to this. ACNH is my first Animal Crossing game, so many mistakes have been made (not even realising there’s two turnip prices a day, until just recently). Now that the wonder of discovery has faded, correcting those mistakes becomes a grind, as you churn through repetitious endeavours to generate the bells to afford the ability to move buildings around, and the accoutrements that surround them. And then there’s the process itself of get the kits for buildings and bridges and planning them out. This game would be less frustrating if you had a Sim City style island builder to better structure your layout. You kinda have one for your rooms!

  • I would love to restart the island, made a lot of dumb mistakes with the layout that I can’t be bothered changing and I’d love to just let it flow more naturally next time.

    Only downside is my wife and son also have houses on the island. My wife still plays daily whereas I haven’t touched it in days by this point and I’ve moved onto other games. My son would be devastated if I nuked his house, so that’s out of the question. Wish it had multiple saves.

  • A friend lent me his Switch Lite long term so I could check out Animal Crossing and BOTW during the whole ‘stay at home’, so I was playing it for like a month and I was so delighted with it, when a deal on a real switch presented itself I immediately bought it. Never regretted it. At first it was weird to have a new island but I have learned so much it was definitely well worth the restart.

  • My partner wasn’t happy with their island’s look, so they were ready to delete the save and start again, but I quickly put a stop to that because I remember her making near deranged noises and gestures at 2am in the morning because some bug or fish wouldn’t calmly walk into their inventory, and I wasn’t gonna have a repeat of that, so I moved everyone to the beach and terraformed the entire island to something else, did up 1/4 of the island with painted floors and trees and a few villager houses, and it’s now her project to complete the rest of the island

  • For my partner and I the ‘restart’ comes from re-theming and completely overhauling the island. It’s like new game+ in that you still have all your resources, but you’re turning them to a different challenge.

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