This year has given us a fresh bounty of farming sims to harvest.
Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct alone gave us five forthcoming farming sims: Harvestella (which now has a demo), Rune Factory 3 Special, another new Rune Factory, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, and Fae Farm. Plus Japanese Switch Online subscribers are getting N64 game Harvest Moon 64.
That’s on top of recent additions like Final Fantasy 14’s Island Sanctuary mode, the quirky Ooblets, and the just-released in early access Disney Dreamlight Valley.
Before those, this year has seen Rune Factory 5, Immortal Life, Harvest Days: My Dream Farm, and bee-keeping sim Apico among others.
And still to be released are indies like Coral Island and Roots of Pacha.
Not all farming sims are created equally, however. Farming meets Final Fantasy combat and character design in Harvestella? Sign me up. Twee, cutesy farming full of witches and frogs? I’m out.
It’s not as if players haven’t been having a field day with farming sims for some time: just look at the long history of the Harvest Moon / Story of Seasons series, or even Zynga’s Farmville.
But the popularity of these games has escalated hugely in the last couple of years. That is, predominantly, down to the success of indie darling Stardew Valley and Nintendo’s behemoth Animal Crossing.
The latter in particular rose to prominence during the pandemic, with players seeking a more relaxing experience during stressful times. A second wave came with its DLC release.
It’s unclear when this current crop of farming games first began development, but it’s not unthinkable they were conceived in the wake of Animal Crossing and are all wrapping up development at a similar time.
What’s more, there’s the cosy, comfy revolution over on Twitch where farming sims have proven especially popular with viewers finding solace together in crop growing, animal tending, cottagecore, and a sprinkling of romance. It’s like gaming ASMR.
Farming sims absolutely have their audience, then, and the genre has produced a bumper crop of successes – with more surely to come.
For those not interested in farming sims, though, their prevalence has become something of a joke.
Imagine a Zelda farming sim! Actually, I’d definitely play that.
Or imagine if Kratos had got in on the act at Sony’s PlayStation State of Play? Actually, I’d definitely play that too.
Someone else has mocked up a Mega Man farming sim. I’d probably play that as well.
Uh oh. If you see me with a pitchfork and a straw hat…no you did not.