The rise of farming simulators on Nintendo Switch

Photo of author

| Updated:

The last few years have seen an explosion in the popularity of cozy farming simulators. Common video game objectives like saving the world take a back seat to watering your digital plants or picking out the perfect gift for your online friend’s birthday. 

Learn about the freshest farming games on the Nintendo Switch this year. Photo credit: [email protected]/Depositphotos.

Today, Nintendo Switch features a bumper crop of two dozen farming games. But not too long ago, video games were synonymous with guns, gore and ghouls. So what happened to make millions fall in love with the gentler side of gaming? 

From Harvest Moon to Stardew Valley

Harvest Moon, released in Japan in 1996, is popularly considered the first-ever farming game. In Harvest Moon, you play as a young man who has just inherited his grandfather’s old farm. You can socialize with non-playable characters, tend to your chickens and cows and plant as many crops as your heart desires. 

Today, Harvest Moon’s retro graphics and slower pace might come across as a little clunky, but thankfully, there are about thirty sequels to discover. And despite the franchise’s age, there’s no denying the influence it has had on the beloved genre of mobile farming games.

From 1996, flash forward twenty years to the 2016 release of Stardew Valley, where another young man has just learned that he has inherited his grandfather’s overgrown farm. Inspired by Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley instantly became a smash success when it was released for the PC in 2016. The game sold over one million copies in the two months following its release. 

In the years since, gamers have spent countless hours maintaining their virtual farms, exploring the quaint village of Pelican Town and befriending the charming local townsfolk. Shortly after Stardew Valley’s release, the game made its way to the Nintendo Switch. There, it quickly found an audience of gamers excited to take their farmstead on the go. 

Subscription Form

Save this article and we'll send it to your inbox. Plus we'll send you more great article links every week.

A day on the virtual farm

In Stardew Valley, you play a young adult who is whisked away from their life in the city to the rural village of Pelican Town. Your first days might be spent clearing away weeds and gathering tools to till the earth, but soon you’ll be welcoming your first harvest of fruits and vegetables. 

The action is all driven by the in-game calendar. Following the tradition of games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, the days in-game progress in real-time. This means that players must make careful decisions about which crops to plant and how much time to spend exploring the forests and glades that surround the valley. Exploration gives you a great chance to gather rare crafting materials and, more importantly, to find gifts to give to your friends in town. 

Stardew Valley’s vibrant cast of characters is one of the game’s best features, and throughout your time playing, you’ll be unable to keep yourself from falling in love with the village locals. If you’re tired of gardening for the day, why not hang out with Abigail, the purple-haired occultist who works at the local convenience store? Or perhaps Elliot, the long-locked poet, will pique your interest with his tender verses?

Spending more time with the Valley’s residents and bringing them the right gifts will let you learn more about the characters and their unique stories. In fact, if you play your cards right, you might even end up becoming more than friends: you can enter into a romantic relationship with many of the in-game characters. 

Why Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch is the ideal place for gamers to delve into the cozy game genre. Unlike other gaming consoles, the Switch’s portable nature makes it the perfect device for playing relaxed titles. Games like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing allow you to squeeze a couple of in-game days of playtime into the most mundane moments of everyday life. 

For instance, if your commute is getting you down, why not escape into the virtual world of Pelican Town and spend some time researching new farm layouts for next year’s growing season? Or if you’re looking to unwind from a draining day, why not curl up in bed and redecorate your Animal Crossing home? Cozy games are great at offering players bite-sized tasks that don’t require you to spend hours in front of the screen to feel like you’re making progress. 

A cozy escape

Another appealing aspect of cozy games is their stark contrast to the intense, demand of action games that make up much of the gaming landscape. The enduring popularity of titles like Fortnite may be evidence that many people are interested in fast-paced, competitive gaming experiences. But the persistence of cozy series like Animal Crossing demonstrates that there’s also a passionate market demand for games with more relaxed themes.

In contrast to the adrenaline associated with action-packed games, cozy games can evoke a zen-like sense of tranquility. The steady progression of the farming season and the consistent development of in-game relationships can be a temporary escape from the numerous anxieties of modern life. In the Valley, life seems all the more serene by comparison. 

As a result, cozy games offer a tempting outlet for those looking for a brief vacation from the difficulties of the real world. Even if life feels like a mess, you can still log on to a game like Stardew to water your virtual plants and see them prosper under a digital sun. For many people, that is more than enough. 

What’s next for farm lovers on Nintendo Switch?

Agriculture fans will be pleased to hear that Nintendo is cultivating a new batch of cozy Nintendo Switch games. Here are some titles worth keeping an eye on:

Wholesome: Out and About, an upcoming title by UK developer Yaldi Games, promises to teach players real-world foraging techniques while letting players explore a woodland environment, collect recipes and roast exotic morels over an open flame.

The Garden Path, by developer carrotcake, balances a mysterious art style with a relaxing vibe that will see players uncovering a long-forgotten garden and befriending the anthropomorphic vegetables that reside within. 

Botany Manor teleports players back to 1890, where you play as a botanist visiting a regal English manor who is tasked with researching exotic plants.

There has never been a better time to be getting into cozy games. New titles with cute art styles, well-written characters and chill vibes are being announced daily. If you’ve just finished your Stardew playthrough and are concerned that no other game will come along to fill the void in your heart, worry not. Cozy farming titles are here to stay. 

Kristen Wood is a writer, photographer, avid cozy gamer and creator of The Cozy Gaming Nook, your source for everything cozy games. Her work has been featured in various online and print publications, including Elle, Martha Stewart, Good Housekeeping, Well + Good, Chicago Sun-Times and more

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.