Animal Crossing Happy Home Paradise does what all DLC should: make a great game even better


The Happy Home Paradise DLC finally puts home design front and center, giving players the chance to decorate numerous homes — their interiors and the yards around them — for villagers on vacation. And it absolutely delivers.

It’s a joy to design with reckless abandon, finally getting more chances to experiment with one of New Horizons’ best elements. I’m making my dream reading nook and indoor spa, and noodling over the finest details — from wallpapers to garden landscaping. Gone is the stress of changing my core island, hunting down furniture, or having to use finicky terraforming tools for outdoor projects. Happy Home Paradise is a perfect getaway for me: It lets me use New Horizons’ design tools to make numerous cute, themed spaces for both myself and other villagers.

New Horizons has always had limitations around home design, with only six rooms to decorate — unless players got creative with workarounds, like traveling to Harv’s Island to stage a photo shoot. Other players created interior-looking vignettes on their island using dividers, stands, hats, umbrellas and pathways to create the illusion of themed rooms and buildings. The DLC not only gives players a solution to this — it does so in a way that’s both streamlined and structured enough to feel rewarding without being overwhelming.

A screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise DLC, with a brown bear in a room decorated with forest wallpaper and lots of stuffed animal bears. Image: Nintendo via Polygon

To access the DLC, I tell Orville “I want to go to work,” a jarring statement that recalls Tom Nook’s whole deal, since the raccoon has made me pay for island upgrades for the past year. My first client Eloise arrives, and she tells me she wants a “Relaxing Reading Room’’ consisting of bookshelves and cozy chairs. She selects a home — after this tutorial level, players get to choose house locations — and we head there to get to work. Her new place is empty, save for three packages, each containing a key item for the general motif. As long as these three items are situated (inside or outdoors), Eloise seems pleased with my work.

There’s a lot to play with, but the DLC does a great job of streamlining the design process. Rather than unleashing New Horizons’ overwhelming furniture catalogue on players, each home comes with a set of furniture relevant to the villager’s desired theme. Using it didn’t feel limiting, because the items are all coordinated, mitigating the frustration of furniture hunting for the last “missing item” that plagued the first year on my core island. No more keeping intense tabs on Nook’s Cranny to see if it finally has the right rice maker, or visiting a friend’s island just for a paper lantern lamp.

External aesthetic touches are also intuitive. You can change the color and style of roofing and doors, and easily move the home’s location on the plot — no relocation fee required. Bridges and incline types, for each home’s yard, are also customizable via a simple menu without having to pay any extra charge. There’s also finally an option to easily lay down fences, hedges, and trees.

While Paradise curates specific furniture for a villager’s taste, you can arrange it in whatever manner you like, or incorporate items unlocked from past designs. One of my villagers got a front yard full of swords. Another villager got a gym with a spin class setup because, why not. And this was despite cues that I could have focused more on their stated themes: Eloise reacted with hearts, clapping, and exclamation points when I put in cozy items for her reading nook — but she took my more interesting choices in stride.

A screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise DLC, with a blue cat standing in the front yard of a home, which has a rocky foundation full of swords. Image: Nintendo via Polygon
A screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise DLC, with a wolf villager standing in a home gym that looks like a spin class, with tons of spin bikes and several yoga mats. Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Where I often felt hemmed in by the fear of making mistakes on my own island, Paradise gives me chances to try all sorts of designs with minimal downside. Courting a new client is easy and each has specific taste; so each project is a fun opportunity to try something new. One might prefer the aesthetic of a “mystery magician,” while another wants a “spa getaway.” I decide which island their home will be on, and even what season it will be on said island. And because I can easily remodel a home or move a villager — the DLC encourages me to check on clients to make sure they’re happy — I don’t have to worry about the permanence of my choices.

All of this is wrapped in cute elements that incentivize a job well done. After you’re done designing, you can take a photo of the home and save it into the Paradise Planning design portfolio. The new Pro camera is especially flexible here. Just as you can change the lighting when photographing indoors, you can change the time of day to modify the ambiance of your outdoor shoots. What’s more, each job also rewards players with a cutscene in which you can see a client enjoying the home or yard you designed for them. Watching Eloise lounge on her sofa made me feel like a house flipper on HGTV, or like Bobby Berk in Queer Eye.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the DLC consistently rewards my investment and dedication. So far, I’ve designed about seven spaces, and the more I design, the more the game doles out additional rewards. I’ve gotten the chance to design facilities, like a school, which brought its own reward: Leif recently visited the school, and taught me how to make hybrid flowers. Now I can use hybrid flowers in any of my home designs. I also just unlocked the ability to scan amiibo, which will let me invite some of my favorite villagers and design Paradise homes for them. I’m also excited to eventually get a promotion — each job pays players with a currency called Poki, which can be spent on items sold from the Paradise Planning office (Bells don’t work here).

A screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise DLC, where villagers are sitting in a classroom and Leif is giving a lecture about hybrid flowers. Image: Nintendo via Polygon

Happy Home Paradise is, ultimately, a chance for anyone who favored the game’s home design to dive into it without all of the hassle. It’s also the perfect solution for anyone who has core island fatigue — whether from having an already full island or being unsure of how to proceed with design. It’s also great for anyone looking for a structured way to play New Horizons post update. Happy Home Paradise streamlines New Horizon’s intimidatingly open-ended gameplay so well that it’s made it even easier to chill out. Though it may be presented like a job, it really does feel like a vacation.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise launched Nov. 5 on Nintendo Switch. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.