The short answer is no, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is not free with a Nintendo Switch Online membership. But there‘s a bit more to it than that simple answer, so let‘s break it down.
What Exactly is Included with Nintendo Switch Online?
A standard Nintendo Switch Online membership, which runs $3.99/month, $7.99 for 3 months, or $19.99/year, includes:
Online multiplayer gaming – Play online with friends and others in popular Switch games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and many more.
NES and SNES games – A selection of classic 8-bit and 16-bit Nintendo games, now playable online. New games are added monthy.
Cloud saves – Backup and sync your game progress to the cloud.
Special offers – Get exclusive deals on digital games and DLC.
Now here‘s the key thing: a standard Nintendo Switch Online membership does NOT include free access to full retail games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You need to purchase those separately, either physically or through the Nintendo eShop.
The Nintendo Switch Online membership simply allows you to play those games online and access certain other benefits. But it does not give you the actual game for free.
What About the Expansion Pack Membership?
There‘s an upgraded version of Nintendo Switch Online called the "Expansion Pack" that costs $49.99/year. This membership level includes everything mentioned above, plus:
Access to the Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons
A library of classic Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games
The Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass (additional tracks)
The Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion DLC
So with the Expansion Pack, you do get the major Animal Crossing: New Horizons DLC bundle Happy Home Paradise as part of the membership. But you still need to own the base Animal Crossing: New Horizons game in order to play it and access the DLC.
Think of it as getting free DLC for a game you already paid for. But you don‘t get the full game for free.
Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons Worth Paying For?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become a breakout hit as both the best selling game on the Nintendo Switch, and one of the best selling Nintendo games of all time with over 26 million copies sold.
As a fan of Animal Crossing myself, I can certainly say it‘s worth the $59.99 price tag! Here‘s a quick rundown of what makes New Horizons so special:
Relaxing escapism – The lighthearted, low-stress gameplay is perfect for relaxing and winding down. There are no game overs or way to really fail.
Social connection – Play together with friends, interact with fun animal villagers, and share custom designs, items, and more.
Creativity and customization – The amount of customization for your character, home, and entire island is staggering. Express your creativity!
Rewarding progression – There‘s always something to work towards whether it‘s upgrading your house, filling the museum with artifacts, breeding hybrid flowers, or perfecting your island landscape.
Special events and updates – Regular free updates add new items, activities, seasonal events, and quality of life improvements.
For fans of games like The Sims, Stardew Valley, or social virtual worlds, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers an addictive and charming experience with unlimited hours of content.
What Does the Happy Home Paradise DLC Include?
The Animal Crossing Happy Home Paradise DLC unlocks an entire new gameplay area and career for your character as a home designer on a tropical archipelago. Some of the highlights are:
- Design vacation homes for animal clients according to their styling requests and personalities
- Unlock hundreds of new furniture and decorating options
- Use new partition walls and columns to heavily customize room layouts
- Add ambient lighting, soundscapes, and percussion instruments to homes
- Work with resident teacher Lottie to learn pro decorator skills and design tips
- Earn Poki currency to buy rare items and merchandise
- Show off your designed homes in a catalog for other players to tour online
This is a major expansion that adds fresh design challenges and gameplay for those who have already put dozens or hundreds of hours into the base Animal Crossing game. Overall, Happy Home Paradise is a fantastic addition that‘s absolutely worth the $24.99 asking price. Or free, if you have the Expansion Pack membership!
Some Key Membership Details and Tips:
A Nintendo Account is required to purchase and manage any Nintendo Switch Online membership level.
Memberships can be canceled and resumed at any time, you won‘t lose access to re-downloadable games or cloud saves.
Family plans are available for up to 8 accounts for $34.99/year (standard) or $79.99/year (Expansion Pack)
Physical game cards must be inserted to play physical copies, digital versions can be redownloaded at any time.
Check for sales on membership levels for chances to save money. Retailers like Costco sometimes offer deals.
If you love Animal Crossing and play often, the value is there for the Expansion Pack upgrade.
Also try the free-to-play mobile game Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on your phone to get a feel for the gameplay before you buy.
The Bottom Line:
While Animal Crossing: New Horizons itself is a full-priced title you‘ll need to purchase separately, subscribing to the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership will grant you access to the massive Happy Home Paradise DLC at no additional cost. That‘s an excellent value-add for any fan still actively playing New Horizons!
I hope this fully answers your question and gives you all the details you need to decide if an Online membership is worthwhile for you! Let me know if you need any other help deciding which games or membership level makes the most sense for how you plan to use and enjoy your Nintendo Switch.