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Yes, it’s true. I am a shameless farming game addict.
Around 18 years ago I got my hands on a copy of Nintendo’s Harvest Moon 64 and it was all downhill from there. I started off with a little light farming, nothing big, but then I built a barn and started buying livestock. It was near on 4AM when I realized I had just spent several hours playing a game where the majority of action came from doing chores. Sure I had a thriving farm, several cows named after fruits, and a local girl was really warming up to me, but how could repetitive manual labor be so darned fun? I wasn’t a big fan of doing housework and yet I was glued to the TV spending hours watering my crops and gathering wild berries from the nearby forests. What had I become?
One existential crisis later, I came to accept that there is something alluring and satisfying about farming games. Their simple worlds are often bright and beautiful (unless you’re looking for a dark, gothy game. We’ve got that too) and offer goals achievable through a little bit of effort and patience. Fulfilling your neighbors orders for food and home-made crafts itches that quest-completion need and somewhere along they way you find yourself getting really involved in the social-politics of these tiny towns.
One of the unique things about farming games is that hours advance while you play, giving you a limited window to get all of your chores done before the day ends and your character needs to sleep. Every day you’ll need to water your crops, feed your animals, visit friends, and fulfill orders, so learning how to manage your time efficiently is super important. Yes, I know that may not sound thrilling, but like I said, these games are surprisingly fun. What titles exemplify farming games? Check out this list of games that got me hooked on the genre.
As I mentioned before, the Harvest Moon games are where this all began for me and Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town and it’s sister title Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town are great examples of the series. You play as a disgruntled city-dweller looking for a simpler life, who moves to Mineral Town to revive an abandoned farm. Working hard to maintain a balance between farming and making friends with the locals, you’ll be able to upgrade your home, raise animals and crops, get married, have kids, and eventually retire to a mountaintop retreat. It’s serene and rewarding and I can’t get over how cute the dog is. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is a fantastic title to check out if you are just getting into farming games.
If you’re looking for something with more modern sensibilities, but with that classic retro-look Stardew Valley, is like a modern-day love letter to Harvest Moon. You’ve got a similar premise: a character fed up with their unsatisfying life in the city, moving to a small town to build up a farm, but Stardew Valley adds some interesting depth through more complex characters and relationships, the addition of monsters you can fight, and some quality of life upgrades. (How did I ever farm before sprinklers?)
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Oh Animal Crossing, how many hours did I wile away in your quaint little games? I love the seemingly endless amount of content to explore and the cute and quirky animal characters. (Except that loan shark Tom Nook. I hate you Tom, I truly do.) There are a ton of Animal Crossing games, but New Leaf offers a lot of different options that make it one of the most expansive title in the series. In it you not only are a newcomer moving into town, but now you’ve been made mayor! While upgrading your own home, you’ll have the responsibility of working on public works projects and ordinances to help grow the town. You can add new buildings and pass laws, making the town feel personalized and you can show off all your awesome work by inviting other players to visit your town using the Nintendo 3DS’s online and local play features.
My Time at Portia
My Time at Portia is a newer game (having only been released this year) and has all the heart of Harvest Moon, but with an added twist: Instead of focusing on farming, My Time at Portia is all about crafting. Your character inherits their father’s workshop and is tasked with making it the best in the land. You’ll be building everything from tools to clothing to vehicles.
Inspired by the art of Studio Ghibli and themes from games like Dark Cloud 2 and Animal Crossing, My Time at Portia is stunning and delightful to play. While it starts out light-hearted, Portia has a slightly ominous post-apocalyptic history where mankind seems to have almost destroyed itself with technology and thus there are a bunch of ruins to explore and lost technology to discover. The game is still in early access so the developers are still adding new content, but so far the game is a blast to play.
These games have eaten countless hours of my life because there is something special about them that makes me come back for more. What farming or crafting games do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments below!
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Hailing from New York, Jessica Fisher is a writer, artist, and all around geek. In addition to Geek & Sundry, she writes for Gameosity.com and produces the Gameosity Reviews Youtube Channel. Find her talking about all things geeky on Twitter as @miniktty.
Image Credits: Natsume, Nintendo, Pathea Games, Chucklefish