Nintendo Shares How They Designed Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Villagers

Nintendo Shares How They Designed Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Villagers

Wonder how the adorable villagers of Animal Crossing: New Horizons came to be? Here’s an inside look into their creation!

This weekend, the developer-oriented conference CEDEC 2020 took place with Nintendo as one of its guests. In particular, the company revealed some interesting tidbits and slides about how they designed the many animal villagers of the game – with a focus on appearance, personalities, and actions.

You can take a look at a rough outline of Nintendo’s presentation below (with translations courtesy of Siliconera):

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons has around 400 unique villagers.
  • This is so that each player will have their own unique set of villagers to show off to others.
  • To make the villagers beloved by players, the team needed to design the animal villagers so that players would “want to interact with them,” and “want to watch what they are doing.”


  • This all starts with diversifying their appearance – which involves the villagers’ silhouettes.
  • The animal villagers all have distinctive silhouettes by species.
  • This makes it easier for players to tell which villager they are, even from a distance.

  • By limiting the amount of information at the start, it also excites the imagination for people to find out just what sort of cat they are.
  • The silhouettes themselves are very simple, since adding more specific features like “fluffy fur” only limits the sort of cats that the developers can think up.

  • Just like this, the developers start with the simple silhouette, and create the characters from different textures.
  • Limiting the silhouette actually enhances creativity, because the developers can create some villagers with very out-there designs, while still having them be recognized as cats.


  • When deciding the villagers’ personalities types, Nintendo looked towards real-life.
  • It helps create a sense of connection towards the villagers, as players can imagine them being similar to someone they might know.

  • Although all 35 Animal Crossing: New Horizon different villager species are designed to draw out the distinctive traits of their species, one thing fans might not have noticed is that how their feelings are expressed similarly regardless of their species.
  • This is also in order to help further the connection between the players and animal villagers.

  • Here’s a look at some of the different styles that the developers experimented with before settling on the signature character design style.


  • Another factor to making the villagers beloved are the actions they take in gameplay.
  • The players must not feel like they are robotic or too formulaic in their actions.
  • Thus, villagers have two general categories of actions:
    1. Ones that they enact themselves; and
    2. Ones that are derived from their current situation.
  • These include eating, doing yoga, sweeping the floor, fishing, etc.
  • Villagers with an interest in music will be seen more frequently singing, while villagers who like to read will be seen reading more.
  • By adjusting the frequency of actions and patterns, the developers are able to make the villagers seem as if they have their own will in what they do.

  • Actions where the villagers find something and do something depend on what the villagers happen to see at the time.
  • For example, if they see a bug, they might chase after it to catch it…or they might sit down on furniture that the player has put down.

  • By differentiating the villagers’ appearances, personalities, and actions, as well as leaving just enough room for the players’ imaginations, the developers were able to make each villager unique and beloved by the players.