As in previous installments in the Animal Crossing series, New Horizons is a nonlinear life simulation game played in real-time. The player assumes the role of a customizable character who moves to a deserted island after purchasing a vacation package from Tom Nook, a raccoon character who is a staple of the series. The game proceeds in an open-ended fashion as the player explores the island, and develops it into a community of anthropomorphic animals. Similar to the 2017 spin-off title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, the game introduces a crafting system that allows the player to convert materials into tools and furniture, which can be used to decorate the game's interior and exterior spaces. The game will allow the player to customize the appearance of their character at-will, and will not lock specific hairstyles or facial features to specific genders. Players will additionally be able to select their character's skin color, a feature introduced in the 2015 spin-off title Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer appearing for the first time in a main series Animal Crossing title.