As soon as I saw that this topic was available for me to write about, I quickly finished my previous assignment and started up this one. I have been a huge fan of the Harvest Moon franchise ever since I was a kid. I’ve played every single version from the N64, GameCube, Wii and several of the handheld games. It saddens me that Harvest Moon isn’t anywhere near as popular as it once was but the main thing is that the franchise is still alive. And I’m still holding on to hope that someday there will be at least one more console Harvest Moon game, rather than them all being directly ported to the 3DS.
What is Harvest Moon?
Harvest Moon is one of the greatest farm-simulator type games that has ever been released. The player begins the game as the titular character and discovers he (or she) has been given a farm. There are many Harvest Moon games that span across multiple gaming systems but the general storyline is always the same. Once you begin playing you choose to be either a male or female. You can also choose to name your beginning pets which usually are your faithful dog and energetic horse. You may also choose what to call your farm, amongst other things.
Once you get the tour of the town you are ready to start your adventure. Most people start slow in the first season which is what I recommend to most people. The game begins in Spring and you’re able to purchase a few Spring-related crops, like onions and cabbage. You plant your crops and water them once a day until you are able to harvest them. Once they’re fully grown you can sell them off and earn money. Each season has their own different types of crops, like corn and tomatoes in Summer and pumpkins and carrots in the Fall. A few other ways you can make money include foraging for items in the forest and working part-time which you may do on the Wii versions of Harvest Moon.
Other activities to enjoy include mining for ore to upgrade your tools, fishing for fish to sell for money and learning recipes to make food for your friends. There are always new people in town that you can meet and some of them you can marry and have children with.
The best aspect of Harvest Moon though is raising the animals. Each game has their own set of animals like cows, chickens, llamas, goats, horses and even silkworms. There are also random critters you can befriend which live in the wild, like turtles, penguins and bears. You must take care of all of your animals if you wish to keep them healthy and in return you are able to make money by selling their produce.
Harvest Moon is a wonderful series. If you’re looking into the games you could check out the relatively new ones like Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley or Story of Seasons. If you want to check out older versions of the series then you can’t go wrong with Harvest Moon 64 or Harvest Moon: Back to Nature.
Top 5 Games like Harvest Moon
#5 – Rune Factory 4 (3DS)
I don’t think you can really call yourself a Harvest Moon fan unless you’ve heard of Rune Factory. If you’re looking for a game that is similar to Harvest Moon but you want a little more to do – than look no further! Rune Factory is a spin-off of Harvest Moon that focuses more on the fantasy element. Rune Factory is a spin-off of Harvest Moon and they are both developed by the exact same company. In total, there are six Rune Factory games with a seventh still in development. While you can start out with any entry of the series (so long as you own the appropriate console) I’m mainly going to focus on the most recent entry – Rune Factory 4, which is available on the 3DS. You read correctly though, there is six entries to the franchise but for some reason this is dubbed the fourth. I don’t get it either!
The storyline of Rune Factory 4 begins very similar to the other games in the franchise. The titular character (who you may choose to be either a male or female) is on board an airship which eventually gets overtaken by rogue knights. The player gets knocked out and thrown off board and ends up safely landing in a town called Selphia. Through some unforeseen circumstances the player is assumed to be royalty by the residents of Selphia and because of that you must earn the respect of the citizens by doing work for the town and getting to know everyone.
The gameplay for Rune Factory is leaps and bounds different than Harvest Moon. While Harvest Moon focuses mainly on raising animals and growing crops, Rune Factory takes it a step further by incorporating dungeon crawling and an RPG system. The player is able to equip a variety of weapons and explore the open world and fighting monsters. Fighting itself is very fast-paced so if you see a monster you can simply run up and kill it. Throughout the game you can level up, craft new weapons and accomplish other things you typically find in most RPGs.
The graphics for Rune Factory 4 is a step-up from previous entries of the series but it is still completely different from Harvest Moon. The graphics in Harvest Moon are more homely. You get a sense that you’re one with nature and it feels cartoony. With Rune Factory you get a more RPG feel. The graphics look like you’re playing an old school Final Fantasy game. This is obviously something that needed to happen so the player can get a better sense of the game they’re playing. Graphics can determine certain feelings that the player internally reacts to so the developers made the right choice.
Other similar gameplay mechanics that Harvest Moon and Rune Factory share are being able to cook dishes and obtain recipes, harvest crops, get married to your choice of bachelor or bachelorette and attend town festivals.
I personally believe a fantasy / RPG version of Harvest Moon has generated an incredible amount of new interest in the series. While they’re not directly related, being able to play a version of Harvest Moon where you can fight monsters and level up has drawn a broader audience to a series that unfortunately was phasing out. Reception for Rune Factory 4 has been very well and in fact I’ve met several people who are eager to research into Harvest Moon thanks to the success of this game.
#4 – Farming Simulator 15 (PC)
As the name suggests, Farming Simulator is, well… a farming simulator. If you’re seeking a more realistic version of Harvest Moon then more than likely you’re going to become addicted to this game. Farming Simulator articulates what it’s like to live on a real farm. There aren’t any cutesy marriage candidates. You won’t have to save the Harvest Goddess from withering out. This game is just a straight up, pull no punches farming simulator.
The graphics for Farming Simulator are very realistic. This is the main feature about the game that separates it from Harvest Moon. You play as a human character that is very life-like and you are able to roam around the open world doing various jobs like a real farmer would do. Your main tool is considered the tractor. This is something players familiar with Harvest Moon will get to enjoy, as there aren’t any tractors in any of the Harvest Moon games. There are actually more than fifty tractors in the game that are modeled after vehicle companies. The player can freely ride them around to either harvest crops or gather lumber. In Harvest Moon you plant the seeds by tossing them inside the fertile soil. With Farming Simulator it’s a bit different, as you use your tractor to plant one of the several crops on your field. Considering your fields are gigantic this is obviously quicker than planting seeds one-by-one. Once you sow the seeds into your plot you must then fertilize the crops so they’re able to quickly grow. Give it some time and your crops will sprout and you may sell them for money. Remember that all the work is done using machines to make things go by quicker. You may also hire workers so that multiple tractors are simultaneously working on your field.
Another cool tractor feature is chopping lumber. The first time you are able to chop lumber is when you purchase a chainsaw. This is kind of time consuming but well worth it. With the tractor it makes life a lot simpler. The tricky part with chopping trees down is loading them into the vehicle with a crane. It takes some practice but you will get the hang of everything once you get the ball rolling. Chopping lumber is a great way to make money as you can sell the logs by themselves or turn them into wood chippers. Just remember to be environmentally friendly and plant a new tree when you’re all finished!
The best way to make money is through animals. There are only three types of animals in the game (cows, chicken, sheep) but those are always the most popular animals in Harvest Moon anyway. Animals in Farming Simulator are done a bit differently. Rather than just owning a few, you are able to purchase dozens. You set them up outside or in barns / coops and take care of them. You must feed and take care of your animals on a daily basis to make money off of them. Chickens are fairly cheap but you’re going to need to save up for the sheep and cows. You can also use vehicles to transport your animals around and feed them by the masses by carrying large stacks of hay bales around.
Farming Simulator is a great game if you want a more life-like experience. New versions are released every few years and each version tends to offer something new to the franchise. While there is a Farming Simulator 16 (for iOs and Android phones) you may want to check out Farming Simulator 15 instead as it’s generally more favored and you can play the game on your computer.
#3 – Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
People have been comparing Harvest Moon to Animal Crossing ever since Animal Crossing was first released on the GameCube back in 2001. While there are obviously numerous difference between the two games, there are also quite a few similarities, especially in the newer versions of both series.
The main similarity between the two is the most obvious thing – they’re both life simulators. In Harvest Moon you have complete control over a town. You raise animals, plant crops and you’re essentially the driving force of the entire town. Animal Crossing is the same way, especially in New Leaf. You begin the game (like the previous two) by boarding a train and starting your new life in a new town. You meet some very annoying cat named Rover who asks you various questions about your life. Depending on what you say, your character becomes customized. Certain things affect your eyes and your hair color so if you are picky then you can find a guide online.
Upon entering the town you’re immediately thrown into a managerial position. This is very similar to what happens in the beginning of Rune Factory 4. Whether you want the position or not doesn’t matter as you are now in complete control of the town. Being mayor has a lot of interesting perks. You can set up various objects around town to make your little area more unique. You may also design road blocks and plant them around the village to give it a more homely feel. Other things you can do is design your house using any of the hundreds of pieces of furniture you can buy, meet new animal villagers that each have their own personality and unlock several shops in the villa area. These shops vary from museums to places to buy shoes. Playing this game makes you feel at home in the country which is something Harvest Moon does brilliantly.
Making money in this game is actually very similar to Harvest Moon. While you can’t plant any crops, what you can do is plant trees. There are five different fruit trees which you may plant and after a few days they will drop fruit for you to sell. Native fruit sell for 100 bells each while foreign fruit sell for 500 bells each. You can also go fishing which can be rather soothing when you’re bored and just want to relax. There isn’t a mining system in place but you can use a shovel to dig up fossils. Fossils are neat because you can get them identified at the museum and set them up for display there (or in your house) or you may sell them for bells. And finally there is bug catching. In order to succeed in being a master bug catcher you need precision, a trained eye and lots of patience. Using your net you must sneak up on a bug to catch them. The rarer the bug, the more they will sell for. Just don’t get strung! To top it off there is a cute island you are able to sail to which has its own set of unique fish, fruit and bugs that you can bring back home.
Animal Crossing is the type of game you can play all year ‘round. The game is based on real-time, meaning seasons change every few months. There are also popular holidays in place like Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s which take place on their actual days. I have very fond memories of playing the original Animal Crossing as a teenager and if you’re like me then you know what I’m talking about.
#2 – Farm For Your Life (PC)
One of the more unique games in this list is Farm For Your Life. It takes two of the most popular game genres – Farming and zombies – and combines them into one super game. The game begins with the player learning the very basics of farm life. You begin to harvest several crops and water them so that they are able to grow. Once you accomplish this you give the crops to a merchant who then gives you a cow as a reward. After receiving the cow your farm encounters a dangerous storm. This storm completely wipes out all of your crops, makes your cow disappear and magically turns some people into zombies.
Once the storm passes it is your job to clean the area up. You are given a wide variety of tools, like a hammer and an axe, to accompany you with your mini quest. You must use these tools to chop down lumber, mine rocks and even clean up weeds. Afterwards is when the game finally starts to get good. You begin to grow more crops and continue with repairs by building a fence. When night falls a hoard of zombies attack but there’s not much you can do. The following day you will be able to begin recruiting helpers for your farm as it is very important for your crops to continue growing. Your main job is to ensure the restaurant that your family owns can continue to receive daily shipments. Zombies of course get in your way of that and it’s your job to help defend your farm from their attacks.
Outside of farming there are a few more similarities to Harvest Moon. One of them is being able to raise animals. The only bad thing about the animals in this game is there aren’t many options. You can raise a cow and a chicken but that’s it. The cow will live in a barn and the chicken lives in a coop and you will need to feed them daily.
There’s also a neat little cooking game. Using crops that you harvested from your farm you are able to play a Fruit Ninja type cooking game. Using your mouse you chop ingredients into a bowl. It takes some time at first to get the hang of this game but you’ll be making three-star recipes in no time.
You may also use your tools to continue chopping wood and mine rocks and by using those two resources you are able to craft various items. Some of these items you can make are tents, fences (to keep zombies out), a well, objects to feed your animals and other helpful things.
Farm For Your Life is a charming little game that will have you putting in a decent amount of time finishing. It’s different from most other Harvest Moon type games by introducing zombies but it lacks fully fleshed out systems. It gets a bit repetitive at times but what it does have to offer makes up for its downsides.
#1 – Stardew Valley (PC)
Be honest, you knew this game would be on this list, didn’t you? Well it’s no surprise as even though it was only released less than a month ago, Stardew Valley has completely taken the Steam community by storm. Eric Barone, the sole developer of Stardew Valley started the project back in 2011 when he was searching for alternatives to Harvest Moon. He really enjoyed the series but felt it had been lacking in quality for a couple of years. Rather than continuing his search, he decided to instead code his own farming simulation game. Since then he has spent countless hours working on the code, making the graphics and also the soundtrack.
The gameplay is nearly identical to the original Harvest Moon games. If you’re into that sort of thing you will without a doubt love Stardew Valley. The game also takes inspiration from other life-simulator games like Rune Factory, Terraria and Animal Crossing to give the player more options in gameplay. When you begin the game you receive a message from your grandfather who states you have inherited a farm and when you’re ready to live a simple life you should move-in and settle down. Realizing you’re tired of your current day-to-day life you decide to drop everything and move in to the farm which resides in Pelican Town.
When you start the game off, your farm is littered with rocks and grass so you will want to spend some time cleaning everything up. When you get your farm going you’ll be able to plant crops all over your field and sell them to make money. It’s done in your typical Harvest Moon fashion so you won’t have any problem figuring it out.
Other fun things you can do include improving a community center, relaxing by the lake by fishing for fish and using them to make profit or for recipes, going exploring in a dungeon to go mining for ores to upgrade your tools and meeting all kinds of people who also live in Pelican Town. There are over 30 characters you can be introduced to, all of whom have their own unique quirks and personalities. Outside of just normal villagers you are also able to marry and start a family with one of the many bachelors or bachelorettes.
The main feature what seems to be drawing people to this game is raising animals. In total there about ten animals that you can raise, including: Cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, dog, cat and a horse. Each animal or pet has their own little area where they are primarily located, like the barn for the cow or the coop for the chicken. There is actually more than one type of chicken which you can raise that has never been done before in a Harvest Moon game but I’ll let you figure out what it is on your own.
Overall the game is just fantastic and you can easily spend countless hours each day playing because there is always something new to be done. I will say though that it’s better to play this game by going in blind. There are quite a few surprises and allowing yourself to get spoiled ruins half the fun.
And that’s it for the top five games like Harvest Moon. I imagine most people who enjoy Harvest Moon will get a kick out of all of these games. They can’t quite match the magic that the original Harvest Moon games have but that doesn’t stop the developers from making an incredible game.
What is your favorite Harvest Moon game? Do you prefer the games being on console or handheld systems? Karen, Ann, Popuri, Maria or Elli – who is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!
Good list, hopefully our game ‘Rite of Life’ will make lists like these one day. 🙂