In all of the Animal Crossing games, the player assumes the role of a human character, who moves into a rural village populated with anthropomorphic animals and lives there indefinitely. Gameplay is open-ended: players have no defined objectives, but are instead encouraged to spend their time in the village performing any number of activities, which include collecting items, planting plants or other items, and socializing with the village's residents. All Animal Crossing games are played in real time, utilizing the system's internal clock and calendar. Thus, passage of time in the game world reflects that in reality, as well as the current season and time of day. Some in-game events, such as holidays or the growth of a tree, occur at certain times or require some duration of time to have passed.
One notable feature of the Animal Crossing series is the high level of customization available, some of which affects the outcome of the game. The player character is both named and gendered by the real life player at the start of the game, and their appearance can be modified by buying or designing custom clothes and accessories or changing the hairstyle (introduced in Wild World). The player's house can also be furnished, decorated, and later expanded: the player can purchase and collect furniture from Tom Nook, the village merchant, and place it anywhere in the house, as well as change both the wallpaper and floor designs. While its terrain, building locations, and initial residents are randomly generated when the game is first begun (unless you are playing the latest installment, Animal Crossing New Leaf, in which you decide between four towns that are given to you, but the residents are still random), the village's name and anthem, as well as some of the residents' catchphrases, are also determined by the player.
Collecting items is a major facet of Animal Crossing: the player can explore the village and gather objects, including fruit from trees, seashells, and discarded items. Nearly all objects can be sold to Tom Nook for Bells, the in-game currency; objects that Tom Nook will not pay the player for will be taken by him free of charge. Players collect objects as often as possible to obtain more Bells, which can then be used to buy desired items. A number of specialized tools are available for other activities such as fishing and insect collecting. Special items, such as fossils and paintings, may be donated to the village museum. The player can choose to socialize with the other animal residents by engaging in conversation, sending and receiving letters, bartering, or playing hide-and-seek. Residents may move in or out of the village depending on the player's actions.
All installments of Animal Crossing allow some form of communication between players, both offline and online. A single village can house up to four human players, though only one can be exploring the village at any given time. The players can interact via written messages through the village post office or bulletin board. The GameCube iteration allowed players to travel to other villages by trading memory cards written with the game data, but all subsequent installments allow players to travel and interact online via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, although City Folk also allows the DS Suitcase to travel to others' towns.
Animal Crossing (どうぶつの森, lit. Animal Forest) originally released only in Japan for the Nintendo 64 in 2001. It was enhanced and released on the GameCube the same year. This version was localized and released in North America on September 15, 2002, Australia on October 17, 2003, and Europe on September 24, 2004. An extended version titled "Dōbutsu no Mori e+" was released on June 27, 2003 in Japan in 2003. The game was also released in China in 2006 for iQue Player.
Animal Crossing: Wild World (おいでよ どうぶつの森, lit. Come to Animal Forest) was released for the Nintendo DS in Japan on November 23, 2005, North America on December 5, 2005, Australia on December 8, 2005, and Europe on March 31, 2006. It was the first game in the series to use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Animal Crossing: City Folk (街へ行こうよ どうぶつの森, lit. Let's Go to the City: Animal Forest; known in Europe and Oceania as Animal Crossing: Let's Go to the City) was released for the Wii in North America on November 16, 2008, Japan on November 20, 2008, Australia on December 4, 2008, and Europe on December 5, 2008. It was later released in South Korea in 2010. It was the first Wii game to utilize the Wii Speak, an accessory that allows players to talk to each other during online play.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (とびだせ どうぶつの森, lit. Jump Out Animal Forest) was announced at E3 2010. It was released for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan on November 8, 2012, North America on June 9, 2013, Europe on June 14, 2013, and Australia on June 15, 2013. Unlike in previous games, players can play as the town mayor. In November 2016 was a new update released along with Welcome Amiibo release in Europe (featuring game + one card), update added several new places, items and minigames for in-game, Wii U, etc.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is a community simulation game for the Nintendo 3DS and the first spin-off of the Animal Crossing series. It was released in Japan on July 30, 2015, North America on September 25, 2015, Europe on October 2, 2015, and Australia on October 3, 2015. The game revolves around designing houses for villagers based on their requests. By scanning amiibo cards, players can unlock the ability to design special characters' houses. The game has a score of 66 out of 100 on Metacritic, which signifies "mixed or average reviews."
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is a party game for the Wii U that heavily utilizes amiibo. It has a score of 46 out of 100 on Metacritic, signifying "generally unfavorable reviews."Animal Crossing Plaza, a WaraWara Plaza App for Wii U. Promotion for Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Animal Crossing Clock, a Clock system app for Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS.
Animal Crossing Calculator, a Calculator app for Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS.
Photos with Animal Crossing, a Camera app for Nintendo 3DS allowing players to take photos with Animal Crossing characters.
During a financial meeting in April 2016, Nintendo announced that Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem Heroes will become Nintendo's second and third mobile games, respectively. In September 2016, Nintendo announced that the apps will be released worldwide in early 2017 in favor of the recently announced Super Mario Run. In January 2017, Nintendo announced that the Animal Crossing game was delayed in order to focus on the Android version of Super Mario Run, and stating they expect to release the game in the next fiscal year that starts in April.
The Animal Crossing games have garnered positive response. The four main series games are among the best-selling video games for their respective consoles. Animal Crossing has sold 2.321 million copies; Wild World 11.75 million; City Folk 3.38 million; New Leaf 10.45 million, and Happy Home Designer 3.04 million. Amiibo Festival was a critical and commercial failure, in Japan it has only sold 26,325 copies. In total, the Animal Crossing franchise has sold over 30 million units.
An anime film adaptation of Wild World, titled Dōbutsu no Mori, was released in Japan on December 16, 2006. The film was produced by OLM, Inc. and distributed by Toho. Dōbutsu no Mori earned ¥1.8 billion (approximately $19.2 million) in the box office.
The 2008 Wii game Super Smash Bros. Brawl features elements from Wild World. Most prominent is a stage based on the animal village, called "Smashville," which changes its scenery in accordance with the Wii system clock and features a number of songs remixed or extracted from the original game. Mr. Resetti and a pitfall seed, which appear in all Animal Crossing games, are available as an Assist Trophy and an item respectively. Brawl also features 24 collectible trophies based on Animal Crossing characters and items.
Wii Music features two playable songs from Animal Crossing.
The minigame "Animal Crossing: Sweet Day" in Nintendo Land is based on the Animal Crossing game series. The objective of the game is for the Wii Remote players (1-4), to gather large amounts of candy scattered around the area and store them in their head without getting caught by the Gatekeepers, who are controlled using the two Wii U GamePad analog sticks.
A playable character called "Villager" represents the Animal Crossing series as a fighter in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. His or her moves include the ability to catch other players in a net and firing Lloid the gyroid as a missile. Additionally, Isabelle from New Leaf appears as an Assist Trophy, and two new Animal Crossing stages appear in the games: "Town & City" from City Folk in the Wii U version, and "Tortimer Island" from New Leaf in the 3DS version. "Smashville" from Brawl returns in the Wii U version.
Villager and Isabelle are playable characters in Mario Kart 8 via downloadable content, along with a racetrack based on Animal Crossing.
On June 5, 2015, Isabelle and Mr. Resetti were added as craftable costumes for the player's "Palico" in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.