Stardew Valley rekindled the gaming world’s love for the farming sim RPG genre, and it will always have a special place in our hearts. But if you’ve danced your last Flower Dance, or if you can’t stand the thought of hucking one more turnip into a bin, you should know that there are plenty of other options to get your farming fix.
I want to give you a heads up about some upcoming titles and talk about some games that are already out that you may have missed.
Now, on to my list, in no particular order, of 10 games that can fill the Stardew Valley-shaped void in your soul.
10 Harvest Moon: Mad Dash
|Initial Release Date||October 29th, 2019|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4|
Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is a departure from the usual for the venerable Harvest Moon franchise. As you can see in the launch trailer, Mad Dash is all about doing things fast.
Most of the activities that you expect to see in a farming sim are here, but it’s all been broken up into timed minigames. If you’re burned out on the farming sim genre, the much more casual approach here might reel you back in.
Like the 2-Player update to Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon: Mad Dash features couch co-op. It fits with the simplified gameplay, and makes Mad Dash a good game for introducing your insanely time-draining addiction to farming sims to your friends and family.
There’s some party gaming potential here too. Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is a good way to get your farming sim fix without the time investment.
9 Animal Crossing New Horizons
|Initial Release Date||March 20th, 2020|
If you’re a fan of the farming sim RPG genre you probably are already aware, but on March 20th, 2020 a main series entry in the Animal Crossing franchise is coming to the Nintendo Switch. Animal Crossing: New Horizons maintains the cutesy, kid-oriented art style of earlier titles, but don’t let soft exterior fool you: it looks like there will be some serious depth to this game.
Like Dragon Quest Builders 2 and My Time at Portia, you will build your whole town from scratch in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The teaser trailer is done like an advertising reel for a property developer, which I guess you are, in a way.
Stardew Valley may get all the glory, but Animal Crossing is one of the oldest names in the farming sim RPG world, so I expect big things with New Horizons.
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8 Rune Factory 4 Special
|Initial Release Date||Coming 2019|
|Publisher||Xseed Games, Marvelous!|
If you missed Rune Factory 4 on the 3DS way back in 2013, the cult favorite farming sim RPG is making its way to the Nintendo Switch with Rune Factory 4 Special.
The games industry as a whole may be moving towards simplified mechanics in order to appeal to the broadest possible market, but that is just not Rune Factory’s style. There is just an extraordinary amount of things to do; it’s like they said “YES!” to every single idea that the programmers had.
Rune Factory 4 has a deeply immersive farming/gathering/crafting system, interesting town life, and a character interaction/romance system is good enough to be its own standalone dating sim.
There’s also a strategy layer to the game where you can alter events in your kingdom. On top of all that, they managed to fit an entire Secret of Mana-style JRPG into Rune Factory 4 as well! The Nintendo Switch Version has a bunch of updates and improvements over the original game.
7 Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands
|Initial Release Date||October 17th, 2019|
|Platform||PC, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Apple Arcade|
|Publisher||Maple Whispering Limited, rokaplay|
Coming out on all systems in October 2019, Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is (as you may have guessed already) a nautically-themed take on the farming sim RPG genre. In a twist on the “inherit the farm from a relative” trope that’s so prevalent in this genre, your pirate ship crashes into an island and you inherit the leadership role from your father, the ship’s wounded captain.
Over on the Playstation Blog, Stranded Sails creative director Roman Matuszczak sites both The Legend of Zelda and Harvest Moon as inspiration. Watching the trailer, my first impression was that it visually reminded me of Wind Waker or some of the other more cartoon-style Zelda games.
It also looks like they added some complexity cooking, in a similar fashion to Breath of the Wild. I will note that as Stranded Sails is available on the Apple Arcade, the combat and action segments of this game may not live up to your expectations, since it’s touch screen compatible.
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6 Gleaner Heights
|Initial Release Date||February 21, 2018|
|Platform||PC, Xbox One|
Gleaner Heights is a farming sim RPG with an extra dash of aging hipster nostalgia. I mean that in the best possible way, of course. While Stardew Valley is a love letter to the origins of the Harvest Moon series, and Graveyard Keeper is an absurdist parody exploring the limits of the genre, Gleaner Heights just wants you to be entertained. It’s very open about how much it draws inspiration from Twin Peaks, which as a 30-something nerd I’m happy to shell out money for.
The combat in Gleaner Heights is marginally improved over Stardew Valley, and the farming/crafting system is largely unchanged. There’s greater focus on the characters, and a creepy supernatural vibe.
Learning their secrets and exploring all of the different story paths means that it’s worth doing multiple playthroughs. One of the best games out there for getting your Twin Peaks nostalgia fix.
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|Initial Release Date||May 29th, 2018|
|Platform||PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, macOS|
|Publisher||11 Bit Studios|
Moonlighter isn’t really a farming sim but it scratches the same itch. Instead of owning a farm, in Moonlighter you run a store. Run through the Zelda-like dungeons smashing monsters and collecting items, then sell the items in your store. Rinse and repeat.
The risk vs. reward in the dungeons is great, and really had me agonizing over the decision to head back to town or push a little deeper.
There’s much more focus on combat than in Stardew Valley, but your time management skills are just as crucial. It seems weird saying that about a video game, but it’s true.
You may be off the farm in Moonlighter, but you’ll still find that there just aren’t enough hours in a day. If you found yourself wishing that the dungeons in Stardew Valley had just a little more stage variety and mob types, then I highly recommend Moonlighter.
4 Dragon Quest Builders 2
|Initial Release Date||Worldwide release July 2019|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4|
|Developer||Square Enix LTD, Omega Force|
|Publisher||Nintendo, Square Enix LTD|
I really enjoyed the original, but Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a large improvement in almost every way. If you’re new to the series, it’s part Minecraft and part Stardew Valley all done in that unmistakable Dragon Quest art style.
There’s much more of a traditional quest structure, but you can keep farming and building even after you finish the main campaign.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a loooong game too. I tend to hunt down every last secret, side quest, etc. in a game like this, but even if you speed through it will still take you 40-50 hours.
It’s a nice treat playing a farming sim RPG that a major studio has spent a lot of time putting together. The building is very fun with a lot of variety, and the ability to manage the actions of your townsfolk is an excellent addition to this genre.
Once you get your fields laid out and the first run of crops in the ground, your townsfolk will harvest, replant, and cook food for you. I do wish that they had amped up the combat difficulty a little bit, but that’s the only gripe that I have with Dragon Quest Builders 2.
3 Graveyard Keeper
|Initial Release Date||August 15th, 2018|
|Platform||PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, mobile|
|Developer||Lazy Bear Games|
The farming sim RPG is usually saccharine-sweet, relentlessly cute, and suitable for all audiences. Graveyard Keeper provides a refreshing break from tradition with its adult humor and grisly themes. If you passed on this title earlier, Halloween is the perfect time of year to give Graveyard Keeper a try.
The gameplay mechanics are nothing new, but they are well-executed, which is part of what makes Graveyard Keeper such an effective (and hilarious) parody of the farming sim RPG genre.
The 16-bit sprite graphics are the only way a game this dark could work. Burning heretics at the stake and cannibalizing the dead for profit just would not work with modern graphics.
2 My Time at Portia
|Initial Release Date||January 15, 2019|
|Platform||PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC/macOS|
|Publisher||Pathea, Team17 Digital Limited|
My Time at Portia might be the best choice to satisfy your Stardew Valley cravings. I recommended Graveyard Keeper and Gleaner Heights because they exactly mirror the playstyle and graphics of Stardew Valley, where My Time at Portia is like its next-gen cousin. Next-gen is relative of course, and in this case I mean Playstation 1- not 5.
Unlike Stardew Valley, in My Time at Portia you upgrade your whole town, not just your property. If you were looking to escape the slow upgrading pace and daily grind of farming and chores, I’d recommend you try Dragon Quest Builders 2 instead.
The upside is that with the improved graphics there is an insane amount of customization in building and fun objects to discover. My Time at Portia is still getting updates and support, including a big retooling of the romance system, so it’s a good time to check it out.
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|Initial Release Date||May 16th, 2011|
|Platform||PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android|
Terraria is right up there with Minecraft in popularity, and I think it has a lot of crossover appeal for Stardew Valley fans who are looking for a new experience. The 2D sidescrolling perspective speeds up the combat and resource gathering, and the retro graphics are very well done. You won’t be farming as much, but the gathering/crafting race against the clock will make you feel right at home.
Terraria skips a lot of the story and narrative depth of other games, but if you’re tired of checking to see whose birthday it is and what gifts they like, maybe that sounds nice. Maybe you just want to clobber monsters with an increasingly complex array of weapons and not have to worry about things as much. There’s a massive final update coming soon, which the developers said would make its way out to consoles as well.
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought when it comes to picking out your next farming sim! Sorry for the terrible pun, I couldn’t resist.
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