Animal Crossing: New Horizons Hero Image

You just bought Animal Crossing: New Horizons and can’t wait to play local multiplayer with two to four other players using a single Nintendo Switch console. Unfortunately, the process of setting up a couch co-op game is not immediately obvious. Here’s how to do it.

Understanding The Three Types of New Horizons Multiplayer Modes

New Horizons’ multiplayer options can be very confusing because there are three different ways to do it, and they are not all unlocked immediately at the beginning of the game. All of them are co-operative (or “co-op” for short), which means you play together and not against each other:

  • Couch Co-Op (Party Play): Up to four people in the same room play on one Switch with two to four controllers (which this guide covers).
  • Local Wireless Co-Op: Up to eight people play in the same room, each with their own Switch.
  • Internet Co-Op: Up to eight people play over the internet via Nintendo Online, each with their own Switch.

How to Connect With Friends in Animal Crossing: New Horizons covers the local wireless and internet multiplayer options, which involve using Dodo Airlines. Here, we’ll be talking about how to use couch co-op (Party Play) with multiple players on one Switch console.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Couch Co-Op Requirements (Party Play)

If you’d like to play New Horizons’ local multiplayer (couch co-op) with just one Switch console, you’ll be playing a game mode called “Party Play”. Here’s an overview of what you need:

  • One Nintendo Switch console.
  • One Copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
  • Two to Four controllers (single Joy-Cons are OKAY).
  • A local user account for each player on the Switch.
  • Each player must start New Horizons with their Switch account and place a tent.

Let’s go over some of this in detail.

Create Switch User Accounts for Each Player

To play New Horizons in couch co-op mode, you’ll need to have a Switch user account for each player. If you don’t already have them created, here’s how.

Navigate to System Settings > Users > Add User.

Nintendo Switch: Add User

Select the “Create New User” button and then choose an icon for the user. Enter a nickname for the user and select the “OK” button. When it asks to link a Nintendo Account, select “Later”.

For more information on Nintendo accounts on the Switch and how they work, consult this guide.

Create Animal Crossing Profiles for Each Player

Next, you’ll need an Animal Crossing player (island resident) for each person who wants to play couch co-op.  If you haven’t created them already, here’s how.

When you launch Animal Crossing: New Horizons (if it is not already running), the Switch will ask you to “Select a User.”

Nintendo Switch: Select User

Pick the user you’d like to use to create an Animal Crossing player. The first player to start in a new copy of New Horizons will be the primary resident and will have more control over the island.

Begin playing New Horizons. After an introduction, Tom Nook will give you a tent. Find an empty spot on the island and use the tent in your inventory to place it.

Placing a tent in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

After you place the tent, press the Minus (-) button and then select “Save and End” to quit playing.

To change users while Animal Crossing is running, press the physical Home button, select the New Horizons icon, and then press the “Y” button for “Change User”. Select the user you’d like to set up next and repeat the process.

Launching Couch Co-Op (Party Play) Mode

Launch New Horizons with any Switch account that has an Animal Crossing player set up.

Next, open the NookPhone with the “ZL” button and then select “Call Resident”. (Call Resident does not appear in your NookPhone until two or more players have already placed their tents on the island.)

Select Call Resident in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The game will ask you which island residents you want to play with. Highlight the ones you want and then select “Confirm”. A pop-up message will tell you that you need a certain number of controllers to play.

Within 30 seconds, activate the controllers for the desired characters, one at a time. You can use individual Joy-Cons, Pro Controllers, or third-party Switch controllers.

Assigning Controllers for Party Play in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

After that, Party play will begin.

How Couch Co-Op Mode (Party Play) Works

During each Party Play session, there is a leader and one or more followers. The leader can play New Horizons as usual while followers are limited in their abilities: they can’t chat, use the NookPhone, or access their inventory. But they can use tools and move furniture. Items they pick up or creatures they capture will be sent to the Recycle Box in Tom Nook’s Resident Services tent/building.

To change leaders during a play session, the leader can shake their controller. Other players will have a chance to press a button on their controllers to gain leader status. You can also change leaders from a menu by pushing the Plus (+) or Minus (-) button on the controller or from the Call Resident app on the NookPhone.

Switching Leaders in Party Play mode in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

How to End Couch Co-Op Mode (Party Play)

To end local co-op, the leader must press either the Plus (+) or Minus (-) button—depending on the controller setup—and then select “End Session” from the menu list.

Have fun in New Horizons!

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a Staff Writer for How-To Geek. For over 14 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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