An islander is an inhabitant that lives on Animal Island in Animal Crossing and Doubutsu no Mori e+. Despite their islander status, they are not exceptionally different from the mainland villagers, and only display slightly different dialog and behaviors. In Doubutsu no Mori e+, however, no islanders are present on the island by default, including the original Animal Crossing islanders, and can only be brought to the island through the use of their e-Reader cards. In installments after Doubutsu no Mori e+, Animal Island was no longer a feature, and various Islanders returned in later games as regular villagers.
There are 36 islanders in total, starting with the original 18 islanders in Animal Crossing, and an extra 18 added in Doubutsu no Mori e+. In Animal Crossing: Wild World, only six islanders return as regular villagers. City Folk sees a return of four more islanders absent in Wild World, and New Leaf sees a return of twelve—six in the initial game, and six more in the Welcome amiibo update. As of New Horizons, 14 islanders have not reappeared since Doubutsu no Mori e+.
Although all villagers are technically "islanders" in New Horizons (as the main setting of the game is an initially deserted island), none of the special behaviours such as fruit preferences that applied to islanders in Animal Crossing and Doubutsu no Mori e+ carry over to the later game.
Islanders are no different than regular villagers, as both have the same set of personality types and general interaction. However, the lazy, cranky, and normal islanders exhibit a unique behavior from their mainland counterparts. For instance, cranky villagers behave in a similar manner to the smug personality introduced in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Normal islanders are also very down-to-earth and ancient-sounding, using phrases such as "heed my words" or that they "had a dream" of a certain event; however, they are also childish and airheaded, speaking of living in "a fairy tale" or describing their feelings in extreme detail. Lazy villagers behave the complete opposite of their mainland counterparts, stating a love for adventure and exploration and explaining that "they listen to no one".
Unlike villagers, islanders' houses have very little to no furniture, and thus will request specific furniture from the player to decorate them. If the player gives them the requested furniture, they will use that furniture to decorate their house, and will express their gratitude by giving the player a special gift only obtainable from them. All of the Doubutsu no Mori e+ islanders request the same furniture as the original Animal Crossing islanders, the only difference being the wallpaper and flooring (For instance, Madam Rosa in e+ requests the same items normally requested by Ankha in Animal Crossing, except she does not request ancient wallpaper and flooring). The female islanders also wear Red Aloha Shirts by default, while the male islanders wear Blue Aloha Shirts. Additionally, prior to Doubutsu no Mori e+, all female islanders (with the exception of Ankha) wear a hibiscus in their hair, while Cranky islanders wear a straw hat.
Game Boy Advance Connection
If a connection between the Nintendo GameCube and the Game Boy Advance is present, the player can interact with the islander on the Game Boy Advance via a small minigame. For this minigame, each islander has one favorite fruit and one fruit they are allergic to. If the player gives the islander a favorite fruit, they will drop Bells or NES games, which can be collected upon return to the island. However, if the allergic fruit is given to them, they will become angered and not give any more Bells. The same annoyed event can be triggered by repeatedly tapping on the islander, which will also upset them. Additionally, if a tool is dropped, the islander can use that tool to perform certain actions. For instance, if the player gives them a fishing rod, they will use it to catch fish; if they are given an axe, they will chop down trees. Nets can be used to catch the items that hover past the island. This feature is removed in Doubutsu no Mori e+, due to the player no longer requiring a linked Game Boy Advance to access the island.