The 15 Best Hourly Tracks From Animal Crossing, Ranked
Whether you play in real time or choose to time travel, you're bound to have a favourite.
Like many other Nintendo soundtracks, the music of Animal Crossing is uniquely nostalgic for a lot of people, occupying that cozy subgenre of YouTube mixes: video game music compilations to study and relax to.
I love those compilations and make regular use of them myself, but sometimes I want something a little more personalised to my tastes, and to my own experiences of the games. After all, because the background music changes every hour on the in-game clock, your relationship to Animal Crossing’s ambience is determined by the times and contexts in which you choose to play - whether you play in real time or choose to time travel (alter the system clock manually to accelerate or reverse your progress). So, I went back and listened to all of the hourly music from each game to determine the best and most nostalgic tracks once and for all. Actually I only listened to, like, a quarter of City Folk after realising most of it is Wild World remixes, but still.
Let’s get started!
15. Wild World - 2pm
This one is short but sweet, with a lilting vibraphone backing hinting towards a quaint paradise. The melody comes in just occasionally and hints so well towards the game’s gorgeous main theme.
14. New Leaf - 8am
New Leaf is the only Animal Crossing game I haven’t played - I was so late to the 3DS party that I never got around to it. But I love that the New Leaf music feels the most like background music. It takes up as little space as possible, reflecting the turning point of the franchise, going towards you making a much bigger impact on your town as the mayor - the game makes space for you to do just that. I wonder if this is why the more maximalist approach of New Horizons’ music didn’t work for everyone - you can shape worlds, but the music is more bold and jostles with you for space. Anyway, this is a gorgeous and low-key track with a gentle tremolo on the piano notes.
13. New Leaf - 1pm
I’ll be honest, because I never played New Leaf, this track gives me the most associations with SungWon Cho (ProZD) and his wonderfully relaxing ranking and food sampling videos. And I can see why he selected this piece in particular for his videos - the track feels like taking a walk to a cozy café to meet your friends for lunch. No responsibilities or expectations, just a relaxed afternoon.
12. GameCube - 5pm
This one feels bossa nova inspired, with a gentle bass. It feels like the hardest part of the day is over and it’s time to slow things down. I’m nostalgic for this track because it’s what I’d hear after coming home from school, so that bumps it up a few notches for me!
11. New Leaf - 10pm
I love a sparse night theme, and this one is gorgeous. I love the chords - there’s not much resolution, which gives it the feeling of meandering to bed and taking your time with it because you still have a decent amount of energy.
10. GameCube - 1am
Another night theme, and this one’s more upbeat. It’s a little dance party all of its own, capturing the manic energy of being busy at 1am. I love the old analogue sounding bass throughout the GameCube soundtrack - it fills me with such nostalgia for that era of gaming, and also feels more charming - it’s less polished, more about building a rich atmosphere.
9. New Horizons - 7am
It is a shame I’m a night owl with an afternoon shift, because the early morning themes in New Horizons are all bangers. This one is like a gentle alarm clock to get you going on your day, with a wistful piano. There are some beautiful harmonies in this soundtrack and I think it goes underappreciated for that!
8. New Leaf - 6pm
This one feels odd, and I love it for that. It’s kind of like a late night theme but it’s 6pm... I think maybe because the main hook isn’t really tied to a time signature? Again, it delivers more of an ambient sound, like the music is just coming to you on the wind like a song you want to whistle.
7. GameCube - 6pm
Demonstrating that 6pm slaps in just about every game, this track is cute and funky. It’s like coming home from your responsibilities and getting ready to have some fun. I want to hunker down like a goblin to the GameCube 6pm theme.
6. Wild World - 2am
But for something totally different, Wild World’s 2am theme is a beautiful lullaby, nudging you to bed - without chastising you! - because you’re up past your bedtime. It’s peaceful and sweet, with a jazzy feeling to the chords given all those sevenths.
5. New Horizons - 9am
I’m sad they tucked this one away at 9am, when most people would be at work or school (or would be if not for the game coming out during lockdown)... it’s a beautiful track with, again, a nice bossa nova feel. The melody is cute and catchy!
4. New Horizons - 5pm
This one is so funky! One of the best, in terms of being a track I’d want to listen to as more than background music. I didn’t expect slap bass in Animal Crossing but I’m here for it. Knocking off after work to hear this - feeling the victory of making it through the day, with the whole night ahead of you... it’s perfect.
3. Wild World - 10pm
This track makes me want to go stargazing - which I guess fits that Wild World was the first game where you could do that! I love the gradual evolution of this track; it blossoms and inspires a real sense of wonder.
2. Wild World - 12am
This one feels like a new day is about to begin, with whatever you did yesterday fading away - like the way the accordion playing a variation on the main theme fades away to that lovely synth bass and keys, recontextualising the theme with new harmonies. It’s gorgeous and makes me just as emotional now as it did back then.
1. GameCube - 9pm
This track fills me with such nostalgia for playing the original as a kid. I remember hearing a lot! Like many of the entries on this list, it’s so artfully gentle, with the guitar and synth having a conversation before they wind down - they’re getting sleepy! It’s so precious and I’m gonna die.
So there you have it - my favourite 15 hourly tracks from the Animal Crossing franchise!
Which are your favourite tracks? Are there any glaring omissions? Let us know in the comments below!
Mal Morgenstern is a writer, visual artist, and musician. Follow them on Twitter here.
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