Animal Crossing is one of the most beloved Nintendo franchises in history. Its characters have won fans over for decades, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons has taken the series to heights never seen before. Now that it’s now been out for a while and players have gotten the chance to become familiar with the New Horizons cast, I thought it’d be fun to hop on the tier list bandwagon and rank (almost) every special character in the game.
Before we get into the tier list, there are a couple things to note. First, this ranking was determined by weighing character design, function, and dialogue after 200+ hours of consistent playtime since launch. Second, though Rover and Lloid are technically special characters, they won’t be considered for this list. With that out of the way, let’s get into it!
S Tier: Undeniable
If there’s one character who’s transcended Animal Crossing as a whole, it’s Isabelle. Her debut as the mascot of New Leaf–and eventually the series as a whole–catapulted her to a level of stardom no one could’ve imagined, including guest appearances in the most popular entries of Nintendo’s biggest franchises: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Now in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Isabelle more or less occupies the same role she did in New Leaf but with fewer responsibilities. Likely knowing that players wouldn’t go to her often for island tune or flag changes, Nintendo ratcheted her charm up to 11. Her daily updates can consist of everything from campground visitors to what she watched on TV last night. Seeing her dusting furniture and tending to flowers in her office is adorable, and her aerobics routines with Tom Nook have spawned their own viral Twitter account. As the bright-eyed ambassador of Animal Crossing to the world, Isabelle is one of a kind.
The eldest of the Able Sisters, Sable’s backstory from the previous games is one of tragedy, turmoil, and inner strength. These story beats are referenced in New Horizons, but the passage of time has treated the relationship between the sisters well. Though she takes a bit of time to win over, Sable eventually opens up about her struggles raising Mabel and Label on her own and how proud she is of who they’ve become. Her exchanges with Mabel as she reminisces on the past contain some of the best dialogue in the game thus far and do a top-notch job of continuing the lore series fans have been following for decades.
As far as special characters go, Sable also offers a pretty useful perk. She’s the only special character who develops a rapport with the player the more she interacts with them, and once she has, she gives gifts a range of special patterns players can design furniture with. Though the Able story is one for all the sisters to share, it’s Sable’s loving praise and pride in her younger siblings that puts her out on top.
Okay, I’ll say it: Tom Nook gets a bad rap. As the OG mascot of the series (though Isabelle has taken up that mantle in recent entries), he’s long been villainized as a greedy, conniving loan shark whose only goal in life is to make players suffer in eternal debt.
In reality, though, few people will ever get a lender as understanding and lenient as Tom. He charges no interest, enforces no deadlines, and even ensures any construction on your home is done in a day’s time. Better yet, despite owning a real estate empire and successful travel company, Mr. Nook still comes into the office every day and gets his hands dirty alongside Isabelle. As the master of ceremonies of the entire Animal Crossing: New Horizons experience, it’s safe to say that Tom has done a bang-up job.
A Tier: Top-Notch
If there’s one prevailing series mascot aside from Isabelle and Tom Nook, it’s the legendary musician K.K. Slider. His rise to superstardom throughout the series has been inspiring to behold, to say the least. Not only does every villager know about K.K. and his music (as they make clear leading up to his first visit), but they’ll even sing and dance along to his songs. His New Horizons catalogue is massive, each with a distinct sound and absolutely brilliant cover art design.
What really makes K.K. Slider himself such a top-tier character, though, are his weekly concerts on Saturday nights. The classic credit sequence has been totally blown out of the water and is a genuine treat to behold as the talent behind such a special game gets honored to the tune of whatever song you choose. Though he only shows up once per week, K.K.’s pawprint is all over the Animal Crossing world.
Label (formally Labelle) has always been the more ambitious and reckless of the three Able trio. After deciding to make amends with her sisters in City Folk and reuniting in New Leaf, Label has once again struck out on her own in New Horizons–but now with the full support of her family behind her.
As a fashion designer traveling the world to find inspiration for her own clothing brand, encounters with Label are exciting because players have an active role in helping her conduct her research and further her clothing line. Unlocking new “Labelle” clothing in the shop feels that much more special because you had a hand in developing it. Though it’s a bit strange that she never goes into the shop and catches up with Sable and Mable on-screen, it’s hard not to be proud of her for becoming an accomplished globetrotting businesswoman nonetheless.
For as long-winded as Blathers’ speeches are, the passionate museum curator provides some of the richest dialogue in all of New Horizons. His info dumps on every single bug, fish, and dinosaur fossil (though not art, strangely enough) are as enlightening as ever and provide plenty of fun facts players can use in everyday conversations.
The real appreciation for Blathers comes with his handling of bugs, though. He clearly hates them with a passion (and directly calls them “the bane of his existence,”) but still carries out his duty of educating and cataloging no matter how horrifying the creepy crawly is. As someone who likewise hates insects with a passion, his unwavering resolve made me appreciate his dedication to his craft all the more.
Of all the new faces added in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Daisy Mae is easily the most endearing. A far cry from her beloved grandma Joan, Daisy Mae is tiny, fresh-faced, and adorable in her enthusiasm for taking up the Stalk Market mantle. Seeking her out every Sunday is a vital part of every aspiring bellionaire’s get rich quick scheme, and though she doesn’t always sell for the lowest of prices, Daisy Mae is always happy to provide you with fresh turnips regardless. Besides, who can deny that adorable little jingle she sings at the end of every transaction?
B Tier: Great
Few visitors are in as high demand as Celeste. Blathers’ younger sister only shows up once in a blue moon, but when she does players have the chance to get one of the exceedingly rare star recipes to build anything from a magic wand to an asteroid. Plus, despite losing her mainstay position in the museum with Blathers this time around, Celeste delivers some truly fascinating background on astrology and mythology when asked to analyze zodiac ore. As the harbinger of meteor showers and the keeper of exclusive DIYs, Celeste’s appeal can’t be undersold.
Flick is a champ. His punk design is unparalleled in the Animal Crossing world, and his side gig as an artist that lives off commissions is a smart nod to modern culture. Unlike his presumed father Nat, Flick’s interest in bugs seems to come from a purely artistic point of view. His mad musings can sometimes border on the extreme, but it’s his quirky passion about capturing the essence of every bug in existence that makes him so memorable.
The only actively antagonistic character in the Animal Crossing series, Redd (now going by “Jolly Redd”) is as much about his business as Tom Nook–just in a different way. While Tom keeps things on the straight and narrow with his money-making schemes, Redd is infamous for trying to trick players with meticulous forgeries of famous paintings and sculptures.
His trademark shadiness and conniving nature make Redd one of the most refreshing personalities to encounter in the game. New Horizons never felt quite right without having an extra “cousin” around, and his return via the post-Bunny Day update was exactly what this wholesome island getaway needed.
C Tier: Good
Though not quite as sought after as Celeste, Saharah is yet another beloved series mainstay who offers some of the best exclusive items in the game. Her abstract way of speaking and acute business sense (“Ah yes, that’s my favorite size”) gives her an unshakable charm that makes her visits all the merrier.
Though the backstory of the Able sisters is fantastic in general, Mabel is the only sibling who doesn’t have a ton to contribute narratively or functionally. Her lighthearted discussions with Sable reveal an older, more mature hedgehog who’s happy to have “made it” with her sister but looks back fondly on their humble beginnings. Her gentle encouragement of Sable to open up more is endearing, and her peppiness while manning the store is charming in its own right.
A new Animal Crossing entry just wouldn’t be the same without Gulliver. His blundering nature and all-around failure when it comes to navigation are back in full force along with some of the funniest dialogue he’s ever had. That said, since interactions with Gulliver amount to a simple run along the beach in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, his dialogue is far more repetitive (and skippable) than in New Leaf. Nonetheless, he’s a series staple that I couldn’t imagine going without.
Timmy & Tommy
Tom Nook’s cute and competent apprentices don’t have much unique dialogue, but they make every trip to Nook’s Cranny a bit better nonetheless. From their general willingness to help players learn the ropes to the way they speak in unison (or echo each other), the game would’ve felt that much less charming without the twin duo.
Orville & Wilbur
I have a love/hate relationship with Orville and Wilbur. On the one hand, everything about their design–from being named after the Wright brothers to being dodos in charge of flying planes–is ridiculous and brilliant. On the other hand, interacting with them is far more tedious and repetitive than it should be. The endless dialogue boxes and confirmations Orville makes you endure whenever you fly is exhausting, and while Wilbur has some amusing chatter during flights, the fact that it never changes makes the jokes wear out their welcome rather quickly.
Just like Daisy Mae, C.J. is yet another member of the new generation taking up the mantle for classic characters. Both Chip’s son and the new host of the now-seasonal fishing tournaments, he has a likable design and is paired with an exciting seasonal event. However, his obsession with streaming and appeasing his online fishing audience feels like a strangely forced way of making fishing more appealing to a younger crowd. This paired with his excessively long dialogue sequences during fishing tournaments makes me happy we only have to see Chip a few times per year.
D Tier: Passable
Wisp is a conundrum of a character. He’s cute, and it’s novel to have a ghost on the island, but catching his scattered wisps is tolerable at best and frustrating at worst. It wouldn’t be so bad if you were granted a decent reward for your efforts–like with Gulliver–but the randomization of Wisp’s items means that players can get anything from a beautiful wallpaper to a box of tissues. More than any other event-based character, the time you put in doesn’t feel worthwhile.
Despite having a great design, Kicks is one of the least exciting visitors in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Able Sisters sells a variety of shoes, socks, and bags every day, and though Kicks has some rare options, his stock isn’t varied enough to be worth checking out after the second or third encounter. His warm “chum” catchphrase is appreciated, though.
The only sloth in the entire series, Leif’s role as a nature enthusiast and advocate is endearing, and his design remains one of the more unique ones in the entire series. That said, like Kicks, what he offers as a visitor simply isn’t doesn’t compare to the rest of the cast.
F Tier: Bad
For as much fun as Harvey was in New Leaf as the owner of the campground, his relegation to presiding over “Harv’s Island” has doomed him to obscurity in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Since the island is only used for the incredibly niche purpose of taking photos of villagers summoned via amiibo cards, very few players will ever see him after his initial visit. Harv’s design is still great, but it’s wasted on poor utility.