It has officially been one year, two months, and nine days (and counting) since Nintendo has made any significant content updates to its second-most successful game in history — Animal Crossing: New Horizons. So, on January 4th, YouTuber NintenTalk released a challenge to their viewers to "Make Animal Crossing: New Horizons fun again" by introducing what they have dubbed #ACNHHardMode.
Having sold upwards of 40.17 million pcs. since launching in March of 2020, and literally making the history books regarding its social impact during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact that Nintendo appears to have ceased support for this wildly popular and impactful entry into the beloved Animal Crossing series is baffling. And frankly, fans will not stand for its stagnation, which is why this mode has been created. Here is a list of rules from NintenTalk:
This new twist on the game calls for "veteran players and new players alike" to restart their islands and test their skills by following a strict set of guidelines intended to revive the joy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The restrictions and added challenges are an attempt at rebuilding the community-wide excitement that made the game so popular from the start. Think Pokémon's Nuzlocke mode and you're not too far off — no animal deaths here, of course.
NintenTalk was inspired to create this mode to recapture that magic, and said this in his YouTube video explaining ACNH Hard Mode:
"That's kind of the beauty of this mode, is to... go back to when we first started... I wanna start from scratch and really take our time, I guess, with Animal Crossing."
"Hard Mode" begins by restarting your island from scratch, with no Bells or materials. There are also five separate categories of challenges: Restarting Rules, Villager Rules, Daily Rules, Design Rules, and Economy Rules.
One of the most unique challenges comes from the "Design Rules" where players are only allowed to wear and use their own designs (or those obtained from another player's Able Sisters shop), and their outfits must change weekly. The hope is that this socially-focused challenge will add a unique spin to each individual and their island and also make sharing and playing together even more interesting.
Aside from the fun rules, there are also many tasks which at first seem extremely daunting — specifically, everything under "Economy Rules". For example, with selling crops, one of the most popular ways to make money, players may only grow them in up to four 3x3 garden areas (which also requires watering them each day). You may also only sell crops that are grown in groupings of three, such as potatoes.
Additionally, players are only allowed to sell fruit from up to nine fruit trees and four coconut trees, in order to make things more valuable and require more time to progress in the game. To top it all off, you may only sell your items via the box at Nook's, requiring that players wait until the following day to receive their money. Creator NintenTalk says that they implemented these rules in homage to beloved farming and sim games such as Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons.
Finally, to add to the community aspect of this challenge, a feature referred to as "Sunday Flea Market" (a throwback to the weekend events of the same name in Wild World and City Folk) allows players to trade items with each other and obtain things they may need, without resorting to treasure islands or Nookazon.
Fans of the Animal Crossing series have been known to keep the fun going for years after the updates and support have ended, often by buying additional copies of the game to start entirely new villages while saving their originals. Unfortunately, New Horizons was designed in such a way that each Nintendo Switch system is limited to just one island — and this applies across the entire Switch device, not just individual user profiles.
For many dedicated islanders, the ACNH Hard Mode challenge will mean choosing between saying goodbye to their beloved islands in order to start fresh, or possibly contemplating the purchase of an entirely separate Switch in order to start anew.
Those of us who may be on the fanatical side — or simply spent quite a bit of time writing guides for the game — might already have a few islands going, with a spare one to restart in Hard Mode... If that happens to be you, we are by no means judging.
Hopefully, this refreshing new twist on the almost three-year-old game might entice Nintendo to consider implementing some additional updates of their own in the near future. Who knows? In the meantime, we'll definitely be testing out ACNH Hard Mode for ourselves and enjoying a jaunt back to our own island lives.
Curious about the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Hard Mode challenge? Vote in our polls below to let us know if you're taking part, and share what you think in the comments!