Stardew Valley is a Harvest Moon-type game with retro graphics and fascinating gameplay created by one person – “ConcernedApe”. Even though it was just released February 26, 2016, it already has a dedicated subreddit, modding community, and fanart! Here are some reasons it shot to popularity (and why you should get playin’):
In the game, you farm crops and build up social ties to other characters, which is similar to Harvest Moon. You also travel to a mine, where you look for ores and encounter different monsters, which is similar to Minecraft – you even see green, blobby slimes. Stardew Valley is also open-ended like both; when you get out of that pixelated bed, will you go down to the beach and look for seashells? Flirt with Alex? Water the plants? Kill some monsters in the mines? …Okay, that was an easy choice. Let’s find Alex.
Shane shows signs of depression, Kent has PTSD from being in the military, and Pam hangs out at the bar all night while her daughter does the housework. One of your quests is to find Mayor Lewis’s purple “shorts” – and they’re in a single woman’s bedroom! You also stumble upon Linus, a homeless man, rummaging through garbage – and decide whether to yell at him. So, despite Stardew Valley’s brightly-colored graphics and peppy music, this game isn’t a fairy tale; it’s real, and makes you think hard about how to best help your fellow (wo)man.
The game is inclusive of gender, orientation, race, and more.
The game is LGBT-inclusive – your character can marry a man or a woman, regardless of its gender (unlike the Harvest Moon games). It’s also race-inclusive – all colors of skin and hair are available for your character. Look at the title and profile images – my character looks just like me! (Why yes, I do have a pixelated complexion.) Finally, the other in-game characters are diverse – Maru is biracial, Linus is homeless, and George is disabled. (Although, there are four white, red-haired women in the game that look nearly identical… hopefully, that’ll be fixed in a future update?) Which brings us to:
He goes right to the Stardew Valley subreddit to read bug reports and listen to players’ suggestions! Right now, he’s working on adding a multiplayer feature and possibly adding two new marriage candidates because of players’ requests. Fans aboard the “Shane Train” want to make Shane an eligible bachelor, and there’s a similar following for Emily. (And, really, who doesn’t want to marry a girl with blue hair?!)
The game isn’t mindless clicking.
Once you get your farm up-and-running, you can use data and calculations to optimize your in-game income. Players use spreadsheets that include variables like the seed price, the sell price, the grow time, and the number of days left in the season to guide their choices of what crop to plant next. This adds more fun and decision-making to the game!