I do not want to be a farmer — I’m a city girl, or, on my most vulnerable days, a suburban wife in the making — but something about farming games is simply so relaxing.
Though casual and cosy games have historically been smeared as “not real gaming,” I feel that titles like Animal Crossing can offer people a low-stakes pathway into a hobby they might not have considered before. Personally, I like playing games like Nioh 2 and Elden Ring that make me so stressed I might one day throw up in my mouth, but usually, when a self-described non-gamer asks me for game recommendations in real life, they’re looking for something that feels as filled with clean, sweet air as Stardew Valley.
And I think that’s really nice, that some games are universally pleasant. So I’ve put together a list of more farming games Stardew Valley fans will enjoy if they want to sink even deeper into gaming but aren’t sure where to go next. And even if you see yourself as more of a “hardcore” gamer like me — a city girl, if you will — you’ll probably find something in this list that inspires you to sit down, shut up, and just harvest.
The xianxia-grounded farm management sim Immortal Life is an atmospheric take on the genre, and also a Kotaku favourite — writer Sisi Jiang wrote earlier this year that the game is the best farming sim they’ve played since 2009’s Rune Factory 3.
The game has some role-playing game elements, rewarding you for exploring a smooth, soothing 2.5D map and helping your community. Its strength, Jiang writes, sleeps in “the sheer charm of its worldbuilding…I mean, just look at these beautiful crops. There’s something incredibly meditative about rolling out of bed every morning and shaking your plants until teeny vegetables fall out.” The game is still in early access, meaning it has “some rough edges,” but it also lets you cook eggs fried with tomato, and sometimes that’s more important.
Rune Factory 4 Special
The 2021 instalment of the popular Rune Factory franchise — role-playing sims introduced in 2006 as a spin-off to the big-dog farming game, Harvest Moon — is packed with options. You can get married, farm, enjoy your farming sim town and its festivals, or cut through monstrous dungeons with a sword. You can, as many Steam reviewers note, enjoy the tranquility of a farming sim and the stimulation of different immersive RPG activities.
Special was released on Steam in 2021, but it’s really an extension of Rune Factory 4, which came out in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS. Because of that, you’ll notice some very 2012 textures, but if you’re looking for a great farming game with gameplay elements that will cheerfully surprise you (swords!), you found it.
Billed as a “cosy farming roguelite,” Moondrop is another early-access game, and it’s currently trending on Steam. It lets you play as a handkerchief-veiled farm girl who has to hike up procedurally-generated, misty mountains in order to complete puzzles and deliver goods to your dilapidated village, which you hope to restore to its former splendor.
Early reviews suggest that, in an interesting contrast to the typical farming sim conceit, Moondrop leans a bit deeper on its interpretation of roguelites and relies on metaprogression.
Like Immortal Life, this one needs a bit of tending to — according to its developers in a Steam note, Moondrop will be in early access until 2023, and “currently needs many playtesters (with their ideas, bug reports, and enthusiasm) to make [it] magical.”
Doraemon Story of Seasons
This game is so very cute — the farming sim looks like it’s made of colouring book characters come to life, and it exists within the dreamily muted world of Doraemon, a Japanese manga and anime series. In this iteration of Doraemon, players enjoy a washy, watercolor world and its array of crops, fish, and horses, and chat with kind villagers. There are also some chubby cows you can milk, but I mostly enjoy looking at them. Upgrade your farm, stomp around under autumn rain, and try not to hold your breath while working through the introductory, unskippable, hour-ish long tutorial.
Ooblets — the squishy life sim first debuted as an early-access game in 2020 — has all the farming stuff you’d expect. You can grow squiggly plants, sell treats you made, and engage in the noble but classic farm game objective of transforming your run-down town into charming paradise. But it also places a surprising and delightful emphasis on dancing.
A good chunk of Ooblets involves growing and hanging out with ooblets, small creatures with jawbreaker-sized eyeballs that look like radishes, or fish, or anything else tiny and tender, and you can battle them like in Pokémon. Except! Instead of engaging in actual combat, you send your ooblets off into White Chicks-style dance-offs. It’s a nice chill-out game, and was released in its final form for Switch, Xbox, and PC (via the Epic Games store) on September 1.
The first-person sandbox game Slime Rancher isn’t a traditional farming sim, but its slime-slurping, spacefaring farmer protagonist, its edge-free world where everything looks like mochi, and its emphasis on casual growing carves out a comfortable niche in the canon. This is a syrupy little game for people who like their playing experience to consist more of vibes, not stress, and who enjoy farming elements, but don’t want to think too much about management.
As Harper Jay wrote in their 2016 Kotaku review, “Slime Rancher doesn’t have much for me to manage and I’m not afraid to make a mistake on my little farm. My slimes always have a smile on their face even if I mess up.” It’s low-stakes, it’s relaxing, it’s Slime Rancher!
No Place Like Home
A slightly more sarcastic interpretation of farming-in-space, No Place Like Home imagines what our trashed Earth might look like by the time most of humanity decides to give up on it, pack up, and head to Mars. In this eco-focused sim, you play as a girl who is trying to find her missing grandpa on his ruined Earth and, on the way, must tidy up, recycle, and manage a farm. You can make mayo in this game, which I like — no matter how on the brink of collapse humanity may be, I will always have time for mayo.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Block-building role-playing game Dragon Quest Builders 2 is “fantastic,” Jason Schreier wrote in a 2019 Kotaku post. It has a bit of a ridiculous conceit — tragically, its story description on Steam says, “The evil Children of Hargon are determined to eradicate all creators and have outlawed the building, cooking, and creation of all things.”
It’s lucky, then, that “all hope seems to be lost until you, a young apprentice builder, manage to escape from the clutches of evil.” Good for you.
Once safe from evil, you can harvest and cook delicious home-grown foods, fight bad guys, and work to restore hope and creativity through different lands. And Minecraft pros, listen up — your main island on Dragon Quest, the Isle of Awakening, offers a sandbox mode you can shape with up to four players to make “anything you can imagine.” “Or, as will no doubt be inevitable,” Schreier writes, “a big phallus.”
Farming sim fans might want to put apocalyptic farming and role-playing game Harvestella, out on November 4 but now available for pre-purchase on Steam, on the anticipatory calendars in their hearts.
I never really want to get my hopes up for a game before I play it, but it’s hard not to get excited for what seems to be a story-heavy farming game with beautiful graphics and magical creatures. The game’s Steam description notes that its world is plagued by the Quietus (not to be confused with our world’s The Quietus, a very nice music site), a “season of death that visits with the changing of the seasons. Plants wither. People cannot even walk around outside, due to the dust of death that fills the air,” but the land is fertile enough to produce what Kotaku writer Ethan Gach identifies as “horny produce,” so it can’t be so bad.
What farming game do you think you’ll play next? Let us know below!