Wanna play Animal Crossing without a Nintendo Switch? Try Pocket Camp

If you still can't find (or afford) a Nintendo Switch, you can play the mobile version of the popular game.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
5 min read

Yes, this is my bug-catchin' dress.

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become a comfort blanket for Nintendo Switch players during the coronavirus pandemic. The game's simple tasks, like catching fish and bugs, decorating your island, gardening and collecting fruit -- even just stopping by a friend's island to say hello -- are helping many cope with the loss of normalcy. Island life has started bleeding into reality with folks turning their real-life living spaces into makeshift paradises. One of our editors even threw a virtual birthday party in the game.  

I'll admit, a bit of FOMO set in when I saw so many of my friends playing the game, but I don't know if I could justify buying a Nintendo Switch -- especially since the gaming devices are sold out almost everywhere right now. Fortunately, there's another option -- Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. 


Eugene is a pretty cool koala. 

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Pocket Camp is a free version of Animal Crossing that's available on iOS and Android. In Pocket Camp, you're in charge of a campsite -- craft furniture, personalize your tent and customize your camper. You can travel to different recreation spots, meet animals and grow your friendships in exchange for rewards. While you're visiting, you can fish, gather fruit and collect bugs to trade later. All the friends you make can visit your campsite, too.

Read more: Animal Crossing: New Horizons updates add gardening, art sales, wedding season

Here are five reasons Pocket Camp is worth checking out:

You're new to Animal Crossing

If you've never ventured into the Animal Crossing world, you can quickly learn the ropes of the game with Pocket Camp. I played Animal Crossing: New Leaf back in the day, and quickly became frustrated with Tom Nook, a surly capitalist raccoon. Pocket Camp was far less frustrating for me than starting out with New Horizons would have been. 

Pocket Camp also offers a smaller world to manage compared with New Horizons. There are four recreation spots to explore: Breezy Hollow, Lost Lure Creek, Saltwater Shores and Sunburst Island. The longer you play, the more spots on the map you'll unlock, like Pete's Parcel Service, the Happy Home Showcase and Gulliver's Ship. 


Catching bugs on Sunburst Island.

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

In addition, the tasks are easier on the mobile version, and update daily. Essentially, you're getting big rewards for picking up everything on the ground and shaking all the trees. Who needs Nook Miles? 

You don't have a Switch 

As fun as New Horizons looks, one game isn't enough to shell out big bucks for a Nintendo Switch, assuming you can find one right now. Even if you have the money, getting a Switch is difficult due to increased demand. If you have no plans to buy a Switch, Pocket Camp is a great way to scratch the FOMO itch without breaking the bank. 


I'm happy that everyone feels at-home enough to nap though. 

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

No system is required or Pocket Camp -- you can download it for free on your mobile device. I play mine on my iPad. As a casual gamer, this is a big draw for me. If you're watching your budget, this could be a plus as well.

Playing the game on mobile takes out the extra complication of learning controls. Everything in Pocket Camp is just a tap away, so if you're more of a mobile game player, there's not much of a learning curve. 

Watch this: Maximize your time in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Bells are life

In my experience, it's been really easy to accumulate Bells, Animal Crossing's currency, in Pocket Camp. You can earn Bells by fulfilling requests for other animals and completing little gathering challenges. The game also has Leaf Tickets, which are another form of currency you can use to craft items for your campsite. You'll get fewer Leaf Tickets through regular gameplay, but you can also choose to purchase more with real money (the game may be free to download, but there are some optional in-app purchases like this). Leaf Tickets can make crafting go faster and unlock more items, but I appreciated that Pocket Camp still lets you experience the full game without paywalls. 


A peek at my camper (left) and my garden (right).

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Read more: 17 best Animal Crossing: New Horizons tips for all players

You don't have a lot of time

Animal Crossing: New Horizon is pretty involved, but Pocket Camp offers a more streamlined gaming experience. For example, every three hours there's a new animal at a given location. The mobile game is designed more for short, daily bursts of play, rather than hours of immersion. You can play longer, of course -- there will just be less to unlock, unless you use Request Tickets to fulfill more tasks for friends.

Even though there's a steady stream of events happening in Pocket Camp, you don't have to participate if you don't want to. Also, odds are the events won't be as intricate as the ones in New Horizons, like Bunny Day, the island's Easter equivalent. The first event I participated in was Sakura Picnic in the park. Most, if not all the tasks, were to collect sakura glass spheres, which were often rewards when I completed tasks.


My sister and I found each other on Pocket Camp.

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

The social aspect of Pocket Camp is also a little different. If any of your friends (in real life) play Pocket Camp, you can add each other using your ID code. The downside is that you can't "play together" as you would in New Horizons. When you visit a friend's campsite, you'll only see them standing next to their camper. Tap on them, and you can view their Market Box or give them Kudos. 

Goldie is everything


Goldie is one of the best parts of Pocket Camp.

Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Pocket Camp doesn't scrimp on the cute characters. One of the first friends I made was Goldie, a sweet dog villager. I can generally find her snoozing by my tent wearing the little flower hat I gave her. Each animal has a distinctive personality based on its style -- cute, cool, natural, sporty, rustic, hip, elegant, modern or historical. 

Along with Goldie, Jay and Filbert are currently hanging out at my campsite. You can ask any animal to come to your camp, but they'll make a few rather bold requests in exchange for their friendship. Depending on their style, they'll ask that you acquire certain pieces for their comfort. The invites get more challenging to fulfill the longer you play, but so far it doesn't inhibit the game if you don't keep inviting animals. 

You'll also notice a distinct lack of Tom Nook. Instead, you'll meet Tommy and Timmy Nook at the marketplace, but don't worry, you can't fall into debt with them. Instead, you can take out loans at OK Motors. The shop is owned by Giovanni and his bird brothers Beppe and Carlo. The trio works fast if you order upgrades to your camper, but it'll come at a price. On the positive side, they're pretty relaxed on repayment.

If you're at all curious about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I highly recommend grabbing your phone and checking out Pocket Camp to see if it's the right game to help quell your pandemic boredom and anxiety.

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