While feelings about video games can be mixed depending on who you talk to, and plenty of people have allowed too much mindless gaming to get them off track of other goals in life, for many of us gaming has been a great way to socialize, keep some semblance of sanity during an insane time, and the right games are actually incredibly relaxing. Even therapeutic.
I think this is part of the reason that Stardew Valley has been such a huge hit. Even beyond the nostalgia from those of us who fell in love with Harvest Moon games back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there is something calming, peaceful, and just straight out “feel good” from that game that goes beyond genre.
It’s one of my favorite games and one I come back to on a yearly basis with a new file, ready to relax after weeks or months of 60–100 hour work weeks freelancing.
But I’m also one of those types who needs change. There’s a reason I’ve moved over 50 times by the time I was 30 years old, and why my library is full of various games at the 3/4 completed point when I was distracted for a week and never went back :)
With that in mind, there are tons of farm simulation games, and many that I feel are in the “Stardew Valley Vein” where something about the game just pushes it above and beyond another sim and into a game that really delivers a relaxing, uplifting, and truly wonderful experience.
And since 2020 and beyond who couldn’t use more of those three things?
So with that in mind, here are 9 games like Stardew Valley that I absolutely adore, and believe you will, too!
#1: My Time at Portia
This game is so well developed and has such an expansive world that it’s really hard to believe there were so many troubles during production for the small independent gaming company that creating this game.
My Time at Portia has remarkable characters, one of the best social systems in a game I’ve seen, incredible crafting mechanics, and a world that feels endless as you explore it.
While farming can be a part of this game, the main goal here is crafting. Crafting is to Portia what Farming is to Stardew. You need to rebuild your father’s workshop, learn to create furnaces, workspaces, and other tools, explore abandoned ruins from the old world before the apocalypse, and move the main story line along at your leisure.
This is an incredible world that is entertaining, has you taking pride in the long haul it takes to build up your workshop and surrounding property, yet never feels grindy.
This game is exciting, fun, and offers a really unique world that is a delight to explore and be a part of. If you want a Stardew-like game you can pour 100+ hours into on a single playthrough, this is the one.
This game is an absolute treasure, and highly overlooked! It was overshadowed a bit by the release of Animal Crossing, and that’s a shame. Because between the cute pixel art, wonderfully unique time mechanic, and total control over creating and re-designing your town, Littlewood is an incredibly relaxing game that does a great job bringing its own mark on the indie game genre.
You are the great hero who defeated the Dark Wizard in a “For the fate of the world” confrontation. And you won. Just one problem…you wake up the next day with no memory of that incident or your life beforehand.
There’s a single friend who stood by you and promises to remain as you live your new post-hero life. Start by building yourself a house, then another. You clean up the messy remains of what used to be your home town, meet strange new characters, learn to farm, gather, and mine.
From there you progress through the game. Your town expands in amazing ways and ends up including workshops, stores, and a mayor’s office. This is really a wonderfully designed game and the way it handles time makes it arguably the most relaxing on the list.
There’s a large bar that fills up a little bit with each action you take like pulling weeds, mining stone, or collecting fruit. The end of the day comes when you fill up the bar. When the bar is about 3/4 full it switches from day to night.
That means if you have to get up and wander off, no problem! The game doesn’t move by. You always have time for free actions like talking to everyone, exploring the world as new locations open up, and the day doesn’t finish until you’ve taken the full number of actions.
This is an interesting take on the day length and sets the stage for how laid back the rest of this cute game is.
Kynseed is an ambitious project that brings unusual but beautiful art style and combines fairy tales with farm simulation games to create something very familiar yet completely different.
Kynseed is all about decisions and your decisions actually matter. It changes how people and animals react towards you, whether you have good or bad luck, and in this game your original character grows old, gets married, has kids, and dies — and you carry on with the next generations.
That does put a bit of a heaviness to it but Kynseed works in a really amazing way to be death positive and embrace the joy of life and the continuation of family through the gameplay.
This is a game that is already a really amazing and deep experience while the developers continue to grow it over time. A really cool game that won me over very quickly despite my initial hesitation.
#4: Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
If you were a Harvest Moon fan chances were you got your start with either “Back to Nature” or “Friends of Mineral Town.” The original Harvest Moon is now “Story of Seasons,” and so this is a remake of the classic so many of us fell in love with, with updated graphics.
As well as some additional content and quality of life changes to the game.
This means you can grab your nostalgia from the old days with Friends of Mineral Town with modern graphics and quality improvements to smooth over the old controls that might not have bothered you in 2000 but would ruin the old school experience for you today.
There are a couple new characters, and a lot to like about the game. It’s not going to be a rival to Stardew Valley (what game is?) but it’s a wonderful game and for younger gamers if you want to know what inspired Concerned Ape to create SV then here it is!
#5: Verdant Skies
Stardew Valley on a completely alien planet you’re colonizing after barely surviving your crash landing…for which you will be charged to replace the non-functioning space ship that is now random scrap across the planet.
Welcome to Verdant Skies!
This game is very different from the others in the list. There are familiar aspects: growing crops, upgrading tools, raising alien livestock. But they each have their own twist on them and don’t forget the genetic splicing machines to find the perfect crops and animals that give you what you actually want.
You must progress story sections in order to fulfill the necessary conditions to get even more colonists. Each with different personalities, backstories, and interactions.
In some ways Verdant Skies is very simple, and clearly limited by the small team and funds that put it together. In other ways, Verdant Skies drops some huge bombshells in the story and really creates some unusual potential routes to explore.
It’s a game that is comfortingly familiar and stunningly different, unfortunately limited and yet willing to take bold risks all in one package. It’s a game that is definitely worth playing and will definitely be a “change of pace from other farming sim” games. I’ve yet to find another game that is anything close to being like this one.
A great overlooked title that deserves more love than it has received to date.
#6: Slime Rancher
This game is PURE, unadulterated Joy! It is just delightful in ways that are pretty much impossible to describe without experiencing it. It’s fun, it’s crazy, and those slimes are just so freaking happy.
The game is funny, it’s entertaining, and when I need a smile it’s the one that I grab. Imagine the cutest bouncing slimes ever…and then watch them devour a chicken and smile.
Or find out there’s a slime that actually attacks you. Vacuum it up, aim high and laugh as you launch it half way across the map.
Almost everything in this game is just enjoyable, funny, or raises the spirits. Slime Rancher was a game I didn’t think I’d like based on previews.
I was wrong. So, so wrong. This game is an instant mood lifter and just hilarious on so many levels. Or maybe one childish one. But it makes you feel like a delighted child so either way, it works.
#7: Graveyard Keeper
Have you ever thought that these games are great, but where is the super dark humor, drunk supernaturally animated skull, and communist donkey making your life of burying, burning, or reanimating bodies as a graveyard keeper consistently difficult?
Aside from having really unusually specific tastes, there’s now a video game for you!
Graveyard Keeper is actually one of my favorites on this list. But it’s not going to be for everyone.
The humor is dark, this game is set in Medieval times and embraces that setting. The themes of gathering resources, upgrading a tech tree, upgrading tools, and making money will be familiar.
But this game is very much a grind — and that is the single biggest complaint that many players have. That the game is way too grindy, and they have a point.
To me it hits a point where even the long trudge of grabbing materials and converting them to more refined materials actually is cathartic. But not everyone is going to feel the same way.
However if a good challenge outweighs a bit of grind and dark humor sounds right up your ally, then you’ll like this one quite a bit. Buy the DLCs. The game is much better and more complete with them installed.
#8: Doraeman: Story of Seasons
I honestly don’t know much about Doraeman. And by much I mean nothing. But I know Story of Seasons games, and I adored the water color art style of graphics used in this latest installment of ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶a̶l̶ ̶H̶a̶r̶v̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶M̶o̶o̶n̶ the most recent Story of Seasons.
This isn’t a game that is going to set the world on fire with anything different, and if you don’t care about story but prefer to jump right in the beginning can be a bit slow to get to the point.
But the gameplay is there, the mechanics you love are on full display, and the graphics are just really gorgeous.
You’ll want to wait for a sale, but it’s a game that is definitely worth picking up.
#9: World’s Dawn
A simple game made from a single independent developer via RPG Maker, World’s Dawn has its warts. You can see the limitations in design, and sometimes it can be annoying to need to move through three screens to do something simple, but there is a deep charm to this game that’s hard not to fall for.
More than any other game on this list, this isn’t about taking a small rundown farm and sprinting to create an industrial powerhouse. This is about a truly tiny village, the relationships of those there, and thriving within your place to make the whole community better.
I gave the game a chance to grow on me, and I’m really glad I did. One strong point is the writing. Characters have an incredible amount of changing dialogue that also changes based on whether you’re tipsy, exhausted from overwork, or sick.
Tons of writing went into this game and many of the characters are unique and quite likeable.
It’s a simple game, but if you can appreciate it for what it is instead of comparing it to others on this list, you’ll be happy with what you have. I never feel like playing for hours, but I’m often drawn back for one more in-game day, like a pleasant visit back to an old friend.
Plenty of Relaxing Gaming Fun!
That list will leave you with hundreds of potential hours of gameplay that feels relaxing, and brings the best and most enjoyable parts of video games to the forefront. And many of these are from small or independent studios, meaning you’re helping hard working go-getters who are chasing their dreams.
If you wanted more information, I did an in-depth article I’m very proud of about 21 Best Games Like Stardew Valley that also includes around 15 bonus games that have similar traits, are different but create some of the same feelings, or are in Kickstarter and slated to be released in the next two years.
That is also the article where all my screenshots of the games come from.