Tips for starting out in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

As I mentioned in my previous post with recommendations for things to watch, play and read during lockdown, I have been totally addicted to Animal Crossing: New Horizons since it was released last month! I have to admit, it wasn’t really on my radar until I caught a bit of this Nintendo Direct and then offered to write an article about it for The Nerd Daily, which you can read here.

Before New Horizons, the only Animal Crossing game I’d played before was Wild World, which released for the Nintendo DS back in 2005. I was fourteen and remember enjoying it – along with some frustrating memories of being stung by wasps and not knowing how to shoot down those darn balloons with presents attached! Just to clarify, these were frustrations in Animal Crossing, not with being fourteen (that had frustrations of its own… maybe a post for another day). 

As I researched and wrote the piece for The Nerd Daily, I decided I’d order myself a copy of New Horizons as a treat (to play on my partner’s Switch, which I have been totally hogging ever since the game arrived). I ordered from Simply Games – a super reliable retailer, by the way, who often have competitive prices – and my copy was delivered on release day. 

The game is a joy. The timing was spookily perfect, as New Horizons is a great game to play during lockdown – there are daily tasks to complete, which keep you popping back on to check on your island and its inhabitants, catch a few fish, shake a few trees, spend hours and hours terraforming waterfalls and cliffs and rivers until your island looks absolutely perfect in every way, maybe even change your outfit. 

Coming back to Animal Crossing, there were a few things I remembered from Wild World but plenty of little tips and tricks that I either had to figure out for myself or check out online. I thought I’d share those tips for anyone else who might find them useful – these are just a few very basic suggestions, feel free to share your own in the comments! 

1. Craft or buy a slingshot to shoot down those darn balloons! 

OK, this is a pretty straightforward one – as soon as you can, get your hands on a slingshot in the game. Whenever you see a colourful balloon floating overhead, hold your slingshot, try to stand roughly underneath the balloon and hit A. This will fire up into the air, hopefully popping the balloon and sending the present falling to the floor. Pick it up and find out what’s inside! 

Sometimes you can’t see balloon, but you might know it’s there by the shadow and a distinct wooshing noise that sounds like the wind. You can tilt your view by pushing up on the right stick – this will give you a better view of the sky so you can aim.


Be careful if you’re standing near water – the present can fall in and then it’s lost to you! Don’t worry if you do this once, though – there’s actually a Nook Miles achievement for it called ‘Lost Treasure’ that will earn you a stamp and a few miles! I totally knew this before I lost my first
present in a river. It was intentional. Yep. 

2. You don’t have to buy medicine – you can craft it!   

Sometimes when you shake trees, wasps fall out and attack you. It’s a fact of life. If you can’t avoid them and end up getting stung, your islander’s face will swell up! Be careful, because if you then get stung again without healing up, you’ll faint and wake up back at your house (still swollen). 

To get rid, you can simply sleep it off – shut down your game and when you come back the next day, you’ll be fully recovered. The alternative for an instant fix is to take some medicine, which you can buy from Timmy at Resident Services / Nook’s Cranny for 400 bells. This heals you up instantly. 

What I didn’t realise until I stumbled across details online is that medicine is actually a craftable item! If you speak to your islanders while your face is swollen, there’s a good chance they will offer you the recipe – I spoke to two islanders, the first one just told me how ugly I looked but the second one delivered. You can then learn it and craft medicine yourself using one wasp next and three clumps of weeds. 

Oh, and of course the best method of all is just to avoid getting stung – make sure you’re holding a net when you shake a tree and shake it from the front! As soon as the wasps drop, you will automatically turn to face them. Press A as soon as possible and you should catch one. It’s worth doing to avoid the sting, and wasps also sell for 2500 bells each! 

3. Use the ‘two hole’ method to get the most out of rocks 

If you hit a rock with a shovel, resources pop out – that’s just how it works in real life too, right? You might get stone, clay, iron or, if you’re really lucky, a golden nugget. The first few times I hit rocks on my island, I assumed you could only get three resources per day as that’s all that appeared. 

But then I spotted the ‘two hole’ method online! When you strike the rock, you get knocked backwards, preventing you from hitting again quickly. If you have a barrier behind you, stopping you from moving back, you can hit the rock up to eight times in a row if you’re quick enough, and get a resource every time. It doesn’t have to be a hole – I think some people uses fences – but the hole method works for me. 


This also applies for the one rock on your island each day that will produce bells instead of resources. If you manage to hit it the full eight times, you can gather around 16000 bells every day! There’s also a Nook Miles achievement for hitting a rock eight times in quick succession. 

4. Hold onto those iron nuggets until you’ve built Nook’s Cranny! 

Early on in the game, I was only getting three resources from my rocks every day and hadn’t starting using Nook Miles Tickets, so my iron supplies were increasing very slowly. Then I got the recipes for advanced tools (a bit more robust than the flimsy ones you start off making) and started using iron for those. 

Big mistake! Soon enough, Timmy and Tommy wanted to build their shop, Nook’s Cranny, and needed 30 iron nuggets from me to do it. It took me a while to get back up to that quantity and I could have done it much sooner if I’d just held off on making those higher-level tools. So, my advice is, don’t use up any iron nuggets until Nook’s Cranny has been built! 

5. Some bugs require special conditions, and some are worth more than others 

While lots of bugs will just appear on your island without any special prerequisites, there are a few I’ve discovered so far that need certain conditions to be met: 

  • Fleas only appear on your islanders, so pay attention if they tell you they’re itchy!
  • Certain beetles only appear on tree stumps, so make sure you’ve chopped down a tree or two if you want to attract them. 
  • Flies are attracted to trash left on the ground! I used an old boot. 
  • Ants will appear if you allow some turnips to spoil and leave them on the ground. 

I’m sure there are more, these are just the first few I’ve found. Also keep an eye out for the pink orchid mantis – it only appears on white flowers but it’s worth catching any you see as they sell for 2400 bells (quite a lot more than most of the other common bugs). 

Peacock butterflies are also worth grabbing when you see them, as they sell for 2500 bells each. There are a few other butterflies worth similar amounts or more, but so far they seem less common for me, whereas there are often peacock butterflies roaming around my island during the day. 

Other fairly high-value bugs that I’ve caught so far include jewel beetles (2400 bells, appear on stumps as mentioned above), giant water bugs (2000, appear on the surface of ponds and rivers) and tiger beetles (1500 bells, they appear on the ground but they’re quick and scurry away when you get close). 

And then of course there’s the tarantula… worth an amazing 8000 bells but THEY ARE SCARY AND THEY CHASE YOU! You have to be really careful – approach slowly with your net held up with the A button, pause when the tarantula raises on its back legs and hisses at you, creep forward again when it goes back down and repeat until you’re within snatching distance. 


There we go, that’s just a few very basic tips if you’re getting started with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It really is a fun game, and designing my island, collecting bugs, fish and furniture has been helping me to stay relaxed and calm during this strange period of social distancing and isolation. 

If you’re playing too, how is the game helping you? Did you already know these tips, and do you have any others to share? If you haven’t played yet, are you tempted? Let me know! 

Until next time (by which point I’m sure I will have done EVEN MORE unnecessary terraforming on my island) – so much to say, so much to do, somuchkat. 

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