Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) Controls and Tips

Need to know how to go fishing, how to sprint, or how to move items around your camp in Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH)?

It has been almost eight years since the last proper Animal Crossing game was released, with Animal Crossing New Leaf coming out in Japan way back in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS.

The wait for Animal Crossing New Horizons has been very long indeed, with months of rumours finally being ratified by the September 2018 Nintendo Direct.

Finally, on 20 March – or a bit earlier for some lucky gamers – Animal Crossing New Horizons came out, proving to be well worth the wait.

As the game doesn’t feature a controls menu, instead deciding to give you prompts and let you discover them yourself, we’ve compiled a list of ALL the Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) controls, as well as a few tips to help you start out in the game. Here are the Animal Crossing basics.

For the purposes of this controls guide for New Horizons, the directions on the D-pad of the controller are called Left, Up, Right, and Down. The analogue sticks are referred to as L for the left analogue and R for the right analogue.

Animal Crossing Basics – The Controls List

Here are all of the basic controls that you need to know for Animal Crossings New Horizons (ACNH), including how to equip and cycle through tools.

Action Controls
Move (L)
Sprint B (hold)
Pan Camera (R)
Interact / Talk A
Speed-up/Skip Text B (hold)
Access Inventory X
Shake Tree A
Pick-up Item Y
Write Speech Bubble R
Reaction ZR
Enter Tents and Houses A
Show Map Remain Still / ZL and then select the Map app
Use NookPhone ZL
Get in Bed Push R towards the bed
Open Package A
Pick-up Placed Item Y
Move or Rotate Placed Item Stand still, then hold A and move (L) in the direction of choice
Craft Items Go to Tom Nook’s Workbench or yours, then press A
Equip Tool X to enter your Inventory, A to select and then Hold the tool
Change Tool Left or Right
Unequip Tool Down
Toggle Tool Selection Ring Up
Enter Design Mode Down (when in your house)
Save and Exit
Get Rescued ZL, then select the Rescue Service app with A

Using Tools Controls for Animal Crossing New Horizons

Much of the gameplay loop in Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) centres around you using tools to acquire items to sell, eat, or build with to develop your island.

Here are the controls for the starting five tools in Animal Crossing:

How to use an Axe

  • Equip the Axe by going into your inventory (X) and selecting to Hold the item (A).
    • Or, you can cycle through your tools until you get to the Axe by pressing Left or Right.
  • To use the Axe, simply walk up close to a tree and press A.
    • For all of the existing trees in your part of the island at the beginning, you can strike them tree times to get different types of wood.
    • Using an axe to chop a tree won’t cut it down, but you won’t be able to harvest wood from it again for a while.
  • You can also use the Axe on the rocks that you see by pressing A.
    • By using your Axe on a rock, you can acquire stones, iron nuggets, Bells, and sometimes a centipede will crawl out – which you can catch with your Net.
    • Striking a rock with the earliest Axe in New Horizons won’t destroy the rock, and it can be harvested from with multiple strikes.

How to Fish

  • Equip the Fishing Rod by going into your inventory (X) and selecting to Hold the item (A).
    • Or, you can cycle through your tools until you get to the Fishing Rod by pressing Left or Right.
  • Stand near water, not necessarily right on the edge of a bank, and then press A to cast your line.
  • When your lure is in the water, you can press A again to reel in your line and cast again (A).
  • To catch a fish with the Fishing Rod in New Horizons, you’ll want to cast your lure close to the fish’s head or at least in front of the fish.
    • The head of the fish is usually the larger, more spherical part of the silhouette.
  • You will also need to make sure to never use the sprint button (hold B) around water because you’ll scare the fish away.
  • When your lure is in the water, you have to wait for the fish to come to the lure.
  • Most of the time, the fish won’t hook on immediately: it will nibble the lure.
    • If you press A again before the fish takes the bait, the fish will swim away.
  • You have to watch and wait for the fish to pull the lure underwater. When this happens, press A to hook the fish, and then continue to press the A button as much as you can to battle the fish to shore.

How to use a Net

  • Equip the Net by going into your inventory (X) and selecting to Hold the item (A).
    • Or, you can cycle through your tools until you get to the Net by pressing Left or Right.
  • Press A to swing the Net.
  • To catch an insect, you’ll need to line-up the front of your body with the insect and then press A as your character will use the Net by pulling it over their head.

How to use a Slingshot

  • Equip the Slingshot by going into your inventory (X) and selecting to Hold the item (A).
    • Or, you can cycle through your tools until you get to the Slingshot by pressing Left or Right.
  • The Slingshot only shoots upwards in New Horizons but can be used early on to shoot down balloons carrying presents.
  • To hit the balloons, stand underneath them but a little bit further back as the Slingshot doesn’t shoot directly upwards, and then press A.
  • If you want to hold and wait for your target when using a Slingshot, press and hold A to keep from firing, and then release.

How to use a Watering Can

  • Equip the Watering Can by going into your inventory (X) and selecting to Hold the item (A).
    • Or, you can cycle through your tools until you get to the Watering Can by pressing Left or Right.
  • To use the Watering Can, simply stand over some plants and press A to water the plants.
  • A Watering Can is useful if you want to grow some planted flowers or trees to increase the number of harvesting points on your island.

Animal Crossing New Horizons advanced controls

After your first day, many more tools and activities will open themselves up to you, such as crossing rivers and storing items. So, here are some more controls in ACNH that you need to know.

How to Cross Rivers

To cross a river in New Horizons, you’ll need to build a Vaulting Pole. To craft a Vaulting Pole, you’ll need to acquire the recipe from a certain famous owl.

Early in the game, you’ll be asked to put down a tent for Blathers, who’s interested in the local fauna. The day after you’ve set-up Blathers’ tent, the owl museum curator will move to your island.

Speak to Blathers as soon as you can as they give you the crafting recipe for a Vaulting Pole and the all-important Flimsy Shovel.

Once you visit a crafting station, you’ll learn that you need five pieces of softwood to craft the Vaulting Pole. To get these, you’ll need to chop trees with your Axe (by pressing A against a tree). Doing so will produce one of three types of wood, with the lightest in colour being the softwood.

With your Vaulting Pole in hand, all you have to do is approach the bank of a river, move in the direction that you want to vault, and then press A to cross rivers in New Horizons.

How to use a Cot

When you start the game and progress through Tom Nook’s tasks, he will give you a Sleeping Cot to put down in your tent.

To place the Cot, simply go into your inventory (X) and select the Sleeping Cot (which will appear as a leaf icon). If you then wish to move the Cot, you can either pick it up (Y) or move it by: standing still, holding A, and then moving with R in the direction of choice.

To use the Cot in New Horizons, simply walk towards it with L until your character gets in and lays down. To leave the Cot, use L to move in the direction which gets your character out of the Cot.

How to Sleep in Animal Crossing New Horizons

If you’d like to know how to sleep in ACNH, the simple answer is that you can only do so when the story allows you to sleep.

For the most part, using a Cot, Bed, or Sleeping Bag will mean that your character lays down while you look through your NookPhone or storage.

Animal Crossing progresses in real-time, with your night time also showing as night time in-game.

How to Store Items

You’ll find early in the game that your inventory fills up very quickly, but the only way to get access to a great deal of item storage space is by completing the first big Tom Nook task of accumulating 5000 Nook Miles.

Once you’ve done this, he’ll ask you if you want your tent changing into a house. Once you accept and confirm that you’ll pay the hefty price later, your house will be built and ready the next day.

When you have a house, you’ll have a tremendous amount of storage space to use for all of your tree branches, rocks, butterflies, fish, and anything other items that you want storing.

To store items in New Horizons, go into your house and then into your inventory (X). In your inventory, hover over the item that you wish to store and select it (A).

You’ll now see that there’s a new option in the drop-down for the item, ‘Put in Storage.’

Select this option to put the item into storage. You can retrieve the item whenever you want by going back into your storage. To do this, enter your house and press Right.

How to Rotate Items in Animal Crossing New Horizons

To rotate items in ACNH, stand still in front of the item, hold A and move the left analogue stick in the direction that you want to rotate it in.

Animal Crossing Rotating Camera Controls

When you’re out and about, the only camera control that you have is the right analogue stick, which allows you to pan the camera.

However, when you upgrade your house and get some rooms, you’ll be able to rotate the camera as you please within your house. To do this, you’ll just have to move the right analogue stick.

How to Save and How to Save and Quit in ACNH

Animal Crossing New Horizons has an auto-save feature, so it will automatically save your progress just in case your Nintendo Switch runs out of battery.

You can also perform a manual save, but doing so also pulls you out of the game. If you press – you can then select to Save & Quit in New Horizons. Doing this will save your game and return you to the title screen.

While the controls set-up for Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) is quite basic, the game leaves a lot for the player to discover while they explore and build their island.

With this guide, you should now know all of the Animal Crossing basics that you need to maximise your playing time on the new Nintendo Switch exclusive game.

Looking for more Animal Crossing New Horizons Guides?

Animal Crossing New Horizons: Complete Fishing Guide and Top Tips

Animal Crossing New Horizons: How to Time Travel, Skip Days, and Change the Season

Animal Crossing New Horizons: How to Cure a Wasp Sting and Make Medicine

Animal Crossing New Horizons: Complete Iron Nuggets Guide (How to Farm Iron Nuggets and Where to Find Them)

Ben Chopping

Will give almost any game a chance, particularly those that include wildlife, monsters, or prehistoric creatures of any kind.