Stardew Valley, developed by ConcernedApe (Eric Barone) and released for PC in early 2016, has finally been ported to Switch, and we couldn’t be happier about it. While we hadn’t heard of this country life simulator until recently, it’s become one of our favorite indie titles for Switch, and we’re excited to tell you why.
Stardew Valley opens with a cutscene of your sleepy grandfather in bed. He has an envelope for you, but you’re not to open it until later, when you’ve grown tired of contemporary capitalist society and its brutal daily grind. Years later, you’re working for a ruthless corporation, where you sit at a grimy desk and stare at a computer screen with hundreds of miserable coworkers each day. But one day, you’ve finally had enough of this empty existence, and you reach into your desk drawer to find your grandfather’s envelope. Inside lies the deed to his old farm in Stardew Valley, and you catch the next bus to the countryside to start your new life.
As a country life simulator similar to Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, time in Stardew Valley is structured around the four seasons. You’ll start the game in spring, which will give you plenty of time to prepare for the in-game winter. Each day, you’ll wake up at 6 AM, and you’ll want to be in bed by 12 AM. If you force yourself to stay up past 12 AM, you can do that, but you’ll automatically pass out if you’re not in bed by 2 AM, and you’ll likely lose money and/or resources in the process. (Also, you’re free to go to bed as early as you like, which is a good idea if you’ve completed your daily activities and are out of energy.)
As soon as you wake up, you’ll want to start your daily activities, since time passes rather quickly. One in-game hour is only 45 seconds in real time, and the entire 18-hour in-game day lasts for only 13.5 minutes. Seasons also pass quickly, as each season lasts for just 28 in-game days. (This means that one Stardew Valley year is only 112 in-game days!) Each season features exclusive crops, collectibles, events, and more, but you’ll want to pay close attention to your crop seasons. (Don’t go planting a bunch of blueberries on the last day of summer; they’re a summer-only crop, so they’ll wilt on the first day of fall!)
In Stardew Valley, you choose how to spend your time, and your options are almost endless. Want to grow crops for profit and/or pleasure? Have at it, and don’t forget to water! Love animals? Save funds to purchase animals for your farm! Like to fish? Fish to your heart’s desire in your town’s ponds, rivers, and beaches! Prefer the mystery and danger of the mines? Spend your days mining the depths below Stardew Valley! Like to work with tools? You’ll love cutting grass, chopping wood, and breaking boulders, and you’ll also stock up on plenty of valuable resources! However, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of energy to work with each day. When you run out of energy, you pass out—which isn’t a good thing—but if you notice you’re low, you can always eat something to refill your energy bar a bit.
Another major component Stardew Valley is developing relationships with the villagers. (Of course, like everything else in this game, making friends is entirely optional!) Some of the villagers are more difficult to befriend than others, and we must admit that we’ve had a hard time making friends in this game. Then again, if we consulted an online guide, we’d probably have an easier time with this, but we kind of like the challenge. We do know that you can befriend people by giving them gifts, but different villagers have different preferences for gifts, which complicates things a bit. If you don’t want to use a guide, you’ll need to figure out what people like through trial and error.
Did you know you can get married in Stardew Valley? Well, you can! If you have a strong enough relationship with an eligible villager, you can marry them, and it doesn’t even matter what gender they are! So far, we haven’t managed to marry anyone, so we can’t tell you much about this feature—but we also know that you can have kids and raise a family, and we’re excited to reach that point in the game!
The best part about Stardew Valley is that you don’t have to pick just one thing to focus on; you can do it all! Of course, you can’t do everything in one day, and you’ll likely have to develop and use some in-game time-management skills. But if you love doing every activity Stardew Valley has to offer, you certainly don’t have to limit yourself, and we’re sure you’ll find time for everything you want to do eventually. After all, there’s no end to this game, so you literally have all the (in-game) time in the world to do what you want.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
Stardew Valley is styled after classic SNES games like Harvest Moon and Chrono Trigger, and this retro style fits the game perfectly. Its pixelated graphics are remarkably detailed and quite charming, and they perfectly complement the game’s color scheme, which shifts depending on the weather, time of day, and season. In short: playing Stardew Valley is like feasting on eye candy.
In addition to these great visuals, Stardew Valley features a soundscape that’s perfectly curated for each of the game’s unique moments. So whether you’re fishing in the rain, farming in the sunshine, or mining underground, you’ll hear sounds that set the mood for the moment you’re experiencing. (We’ll add that the sound of chopping wood is particularly satisfying.)
Stardew Valley’s graphics and sounds are top-notch, and we’re floored by the fact that they were all developed by one person—Eric Barone, a.k.a ConcernedApe. (We’re basically floored that Eric Barone developed each and every aspect of this entire game by himself.)
Overall, we can’t recommend Stardew Valley enough: if you like farm simulation games, we think you’ll love this one. Even if you don’t love farm games, there’s still a good chance you’ll find something to love in Stardew Valley. However, there are certain players who may not like this game. For instance, you might be disappointed if you want to play with friends, since co-op mode is currently unavailable for Switch. Also, you may not like Stardew Valley if you’re only into fast-paced action games, like first-person shooters. But if you’re willing to slow down, leave the city, and enjoy the country life for a while, we think you’ll love this game. There’s a little something for everyone in Stardew Valley—and for just $14.99 on the Nintendo eShop, this game is too good to pass up.
Also, we want to make a note about the philosophical side of Stardew Valley. As you play, you’ll encounter ideas about sustainability, society, and life in general, and you might even find yourself questioning things you take for granted every day. We really enjoyed encountering philosophical concepts while playing a video game, and if you find yourself in the same boat and want to talk about it, feel free to start a discussion with us on Twitter!
Nick and Sarah are the ultimate gaming couple. Nick is a Super Mario Maker 2 enthusiast, but working with Nintendeal has fostered a love for tough-as-nails indies such as Enter the Gungeon, Celeste, and Cuphead. Sarah prefers sim games like Animal Crossing, Don’t Starve, and Stardew Valley, but she challenges herself by grinding Slay the Spire from time to time.