As more and more people worldwide pick up and enjoy Nintendo’s latest machine, the number of indie games appearing on the eShop increases by the day. As a result, it can be difficult to weed out the gems among the mess. In this new series, I’m hoping to shine a light on the best games from independent studios on the Nintendo Switch. This is Nintendo Switch Indiessentials.
Stardew Valley is a farming/life simulator from the talents of Eric Barone (under the pseudonym “ConcernedApe”), and published by Chucklefish. While it didn’t have the lengthy development cycle of Owlboy, Stardew Valley enjoyed a 4 year tooling following a successful Steam Greenlight campaign. Stardew Valley is everything you didn’t know you wanted from a video game.

A Wonderful Life

You’re a lowly employee of Joja Corp: a faceless mega corporation swallowing everything that gets in its way (it’s Amazon). During a particularly tiring shift, you’re compelled to open a letter from your late Grandfather, imploring you to leave the city life behind, and move to his old farm in the country. From there you take a bus to Pelican Town, handed the keys to the land, and left to your own devices.
That’s pretty much all you can say about Stardew Valley. It takes more than a pinch of inspiration from the delightful early Harvest Moon titles, even drawing great praise from Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of the Harvest Moon series. Across the course of your play through, you’ll dabble in crafting new buildings for your farm, helping the locals with various dilemas, even falling in love and marrying the person of your dreams, if you so choose. Stardew Valley is a life simulator, after all, and the perks of, well, life, can be enjoyed here.

Look, right, this is far more exciting than it looks.

Naturally with a game such as this, the objective of Stardew is to make as much money as possible. This can be achieved through a successful farming outfit. If that doesn’t sound to your taste, how about a deep fishing mechanic to keep your attention? No? I suppose you could explore the caves to the north west, and mine for ores. I wouldn’t say there are LIMITLESS ways to enjoy your time in Stardew Valley, but there’s enough here to keep your busy for a long, long time.

While the primary goal is to try and escape the scourges of modern life for as long as possible, sometimes you do need something to work towards. Fortunately, a derelict Community Centre is about to be turned into a Joja Warehouse, unless you, with the help of some weird supernatural beings, can sort it out. In turn, you’ll see improvements pop up around the town, and Pelican Town will rise once more!

Routine Dream

It’s tough, really, to talk about these kind of games. You can forgive an RPG for tedious mechanics if the story is engaging, but with Harvest Moons, Animal Crossings et al, there really isn’t anything to fall back on. Stardew Valley absolutely has to nail making routine fun, and, to it’s credit, it achieves that. Various seasonal events help keep you motivated. There’s something to be said for a game that makes “water the crops at 7, sell the produce at 9, fishing til 4, to The Saloon ‘til 9 then it’s off to bed” seem genuinely entertaining, yet Stardew achieves this and then some.

As with the previous games covered in the Indiessential series, Stardew Valley adopts an SNES-type 16 bit look. If you were none the wiser, you’d be convinced Stardew was a sequel to the Harvest Moon series, or at least a spin off, of sorts. Pixel art is IN this season, and this aesthetic helps endear you to the environment, and the characters that inhabit it. Good job, I say.

In Conclusion

With plenty of places to explore, people to meet, and secrets to uncover, Stardew Valley is as easy a recommendation as I can make. For £10.99 you get a game that will eat hours of your life at a time. Local and Online multiplayer is being worked on as well, so you’ll get even more bang for your buck once that drops. Honestly, I think you’ll really love it.

Stardew Valley is available on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. If you’re interested in the game for PS4 or Xbox One, amazingly there is a physical version available. Follow this link, and if you choose to purchase from there, you’ll actually be doing me a favour. Every time someone buys from one of those links, Amazon chucks me a couple of quid for my troubles. It doesn’t hurt you, but it helps me keep content coming for the site.