Farming is the backbone of human survival. And even if a majority of us don’t know how to do it, we wonder what it would be like to work with the land itself. Considering that most of us live in cities, farmlands may seem like a thing of the past. Thankfully, they dominate a huge part of the gaming world. This is because farming is unpredictable and demanding while engaging and making you feel productive.
The farming genre continues to grow, and some of the best games in the genre can also be found populating the simulation categories. They range from quirky and cute to extremely precise and realistic depending on what you’re looking for from such an experience. It’s such rich activity that other game types like adventure and RPG titles often incorporate some kind of farming mechanic. Though, if you’re really looking to get your virtual hands dirty, some farm-life games simply can’t be missed. Here’s a look at our choice for the 19 best farming games you’re sure to love.
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Stardew Valley is a game that no one expected to be as big as it got. All these years later and it’s still attracting new players, especially with the developer periodically releasing new updates and adding new content. It encompasses quitting the urban rat race to pursue an honest and hardworking life in the country on your own land. Your character starts by quitting their job and inheriting a fixer-upper farm near the small and charming Pelican Town.
This game feels like it’s a farming sim made for people who don’t know anything about farming sims, and that’s me. I never really took an interest in games that essentially give you chores, but I was surprised at how absorbed I became in my farm. The way time passes so quickly really does feel like you’re getting a lot done in just one play session.
Whenever I need a break from farming, the hack-and-slash looting and questing through the mines work nicely. The fishing mini-game is one of the hardest I’ve ever played, but fishing craft recipes are unexpectedly useful and you really get into trying to master the mechanics of it.
Story Of Seasons
To gain a real appreciation for the farming genre, you need to understand its origins. The first official farming game credit goes to Victoria Entertainment Software with the Harvest Moon series. These days, the original series lives on with the new series title Story of Seasons.
The original creator had a clear idea to create a game that captured the feeling of living a simple-but-full life in the countryside. Every entry has you playing as a new farmer in a small town with the goal of building your town and contributing to it.
Even though I didn’t grow up with Nintendo, I’ve played a lot of games on those systems, and Harvest Moon never really appealed to me. However, I finally understand that farming may be its base, but the heart is its sense of community. Every game works to get you involved in the town and its people who all have things going on. It also has a big emphasis on events, and you can bet that I was trying to get recognition in all the ones that I was able to enter in time.
Simulators have gotten so popular that having the very word “simulator” in the title is enough to draw attention. That attention to detail is what the Farming Simulator series has in spades. It’s a less personal feel for a far more technical and accurate one. Games in this series revolve more around the management and organization of the lands and tools. The level of precision is impressive, allowing you to control almost every aspect of farming production.
The main reason I (and I’m guessing many people) play games is for escapism, so simulators often scoot under my radar. But, thanks to my growing love for the farming genre, I decided to take a look at Farming Simulator. It does exactly as advertised, and even a layman such as myself discovered a fascination in real farming.
The amount of effort placed into every aspect of the business is remarkable, and you can find yourself getting really invested in multiple or just one area. It’s a great way to learn about farming and then see how it works in practice. Just be warned — it may not be your cup of tea if you’re looking for something simple to pick up and play.
If there’s one thing that the Pokemon games could use, it’s a farming element to provide a space for your little buddies to roam and grow. Though this doesn’t seem to be a priority, something close to it has appeared in the form of Ooblets. This colorful and stylistic game has you playing as a young and right-eyed farmer who has moved to a small farm in a small time where Ooblets are all the rage. These little creatures literally grow from the ground from seeds that you need to plant and grow.
I have a personal connection to Ooblets, as it was one of the very first games I gained early access to as a journalist. While I may not play it as often as I used to, I still have very fond memories of it. It feels like something kids would come up with if they wanted to make-believe a farming world.
The creatures are the stars since they’re participating in the dance contests, but there’s also RNG since dance moves use cards instead of a menu giving it the elements of a collection game. The colors are pleasing and the low-maintenance nature gave me time to explore and hunt for rarer seeds just so I could see new Ooblets.
The only certainties in life are death and taxes, with so much speculation being applied to the former. So many games explore the idea of an afterlife, and Spiritfarer does in a serene, emotional, and at times very exciting way. You play as the titular Spiritfarer, whose job it is to ferry lost souls to their final resting place. By using a boat that serves as both a vehicle and a shelter, you need to collect various souls, reveal their true forms, fulfill their last wishes, and help them pass on.
The concept of the afterlife is one that I enjoy thinking about, and Spiritfarer is definitely one of my favorite interpretations. While you’re not playing the personification of death, you’re playing Charon with an expanded role. The idea that dying is just another journey really appeals to me especially when you get to play the role of the guide.
It makes you feel a very personal connection to each of the souls, especially considering how varied their forms can be. I wanted to build up my boat to offer as much as I could so that my passengers can have a comfortable last trip which in turn makes you feel at peace.
There were complaints floating around that farming games didn’t have enough excitement; they they were too slow. An answer to this issue came in the form of the Rune Factory series, which marketed itself as a “fantasy Harvest Moon.” Although Harvest Moon does have some fantasy elements, Rune Factory decided to add some RPG adventuring into the mix. You start as a young conventionally attractive protagonist who moves into an old farmhouse before learning that there are threats surrounding the land.
The 3D anime style is distinct. You might think that it wouldn’t work in something grounded like farming, but it works for Rune Factory. I grew up on the 3D Final Fantasy games, so the visuals here were familiar to me and did not disappoint. Farming is sort of treated like an expanded side activity, while the real adventure is happening outside of it. The thing is, anyone who’s played RPG knows how expensive equipment can be, so having a farm to fund your adventures makes for an interesting balance.
My Time At Sandrock
In terms of places to start a farm, the desert would probably be the last place you would think of. However, many cultures have managed to thrive in the desert, and My Time At Sandrock tries to provide an explanation as to how. As the sequel to My Time At Portia, the stakes and seriousness have been raised. You arrive as a new contractor with a workshop to help build things in town as well as your own plot of land to farm and space out your machinery.
My experience with My Time At Portia is minimal, but I was immediately drawn to My Time At Sandrock simply for the desert setting. I think it appeals to that human desire to thrive wherever you find yourself, and that’s the feeling you get from the people of Sandrock. I got to experience the characters in such a way as to learn that they’re not trapped, and that they believe the town can be amazing. I wanted to make that happen by building, foraging, farming, and questing as much as I could. And despite the cartoon style, I felt the weight from the importance and value of water, which adds a whole new level to resource management.
Given an ominous name like Don’t Starve, you get an immediate sense of what kind of experience you can expect. With a cute-creepy art style, you can play as one of several Victorian-era characters trapped in a hostile land. You start with next to nothing and need to start foraging and picking up anything that looks remotely useful. After you start building some stuff, you can begin constructing shelters and reliable food sources like animal traps and farm plots.
This game looks like it could come from Tim Burton’s sketchbook, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The sketch-like art style combined with the serious, and dark themes work well for me. On one hand, you have a very harsh world, and on the other hand, you have a noticeable humor which creates a nice mix. I’ve died so many times in this game, sometimes within the first few minutes, but it gives you all the knowledge you need to quickly restart and rebuild. You can have the stability and safety of your base, but you need to take risks in order to advance, which keeps the tension high.
The essence of farming is land management, and this can apply to all sorts of businesses, such as cemeteries. The dead take up quite a lot of space, and someone needs to tend to that space like in Graveyard Keeper. As the caretaker of a medieval graveyard, you need to make sure that the dead are laid to rest properly… or you can skimp on your duties for a profit. As you tend the graves, you can also use space in the graveyard for additional facilities to aid you or provide other services.
As a kid, I used to explore this huge cemetery with my father and brother, yet I was never scared. While I found some scary stuff in Graveyard Keeper, I was also able to find the peace in just doing a good job of caretaking. The decision of how to handle the dead adds an interesting ethical element, essentially logic vs. emotion. Either way, you can run your graveyard peacefully or as a more active business. I found this out very literally when I had to explore people’s basements to slay pests which is a nice change from the day/night job.
Farming games are quite a popular project for indie developers while still providing a lot of room to be creative. You can see the results of such efforts in games like Forager. As an adorable but blank little humanoid, you’re trying to make a life for yourself in a large, lush, and sometimes dangerous world. From your house, you can start turning the surrounding land into your very own farm growing as many colorful fruits, veggies, and plants as you can.
When I saw that this game was inspired by classic Legend of Zelda games, I had to try it out. However, the more I played, the more I found myself spending more time farming than adventuring. And there’s plenty of adventuring to be had, particularly with the variety of gear and weapons you get to fight the different dangers. Still, there’s something to be said for trying to live a chill life while expanding your homestead, tending to your crops, and trying to find the best way to use them.
There’s nothing more pleasing at an eatery than knowing that all the ingredients in your meal are fresh. A test of how fresh they can be is covered in a little game called Lemon Cake. You play as the new proprietor of a rundown little cafe in search of new life. After some fixing up, you’re able to convert the backroom into a place where you can grow and harvest all the ingredients needed for your goods.
Among my job fantasies, running a homey little cafe is right at the top. I can’t be the only one with this thought, and I picked up Lemon Cake because it comes very close to the vision I have. You start with a cafe that just bursting to the brim with potential, and you feel driven to get it up and running as soon as possible. The hectic and exciting service aspect of the game contrasts with the slower farming element in the back of your shop. We all like to think that every eatery uses the freshest ingredients, and with this game, I got to make it so — and you can too.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Although farming can be very demanding and keep you in one place, there are ways to have a farming base while still seeking adventure. Such is the way of the world in Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. With a fantasy-sounding name like that, you show up as a new arrival to the fantasy land of Yonder. It’s full of lush greenery and various animals just waiting to be tended. You can set them all up on your own farm and spend time working on your house as well.
I’m a bit shallow when it comes to cute and stylistic games — mainly due to my attachment to Animal Crossing — which is why I picked this game up. While it’s definitely not the same kind of game, I found it to be just as immersive and engaging. Farming your crops, raising animals, and building your home is a big part of it, but it has that “new frontier” feeling. You want to see what’s out there, and you’re rewarded for your curiosity, at the very least with some beautiful sights. The threat of darkness consuming the land adds some conflict, but that’s just icing on the cake.
There’s always a part of you that says that maybe you should learn some survival and cultivation basics should the need arise. The main character from Subnautica was thinking about this as they were crashing onto a mostly aquatic alien planet. Luckily, enough of the technology could be salvaged to identify foreign flora and fauna. Using this tech, you’ll explore a vast ocean to recover parts of your ship to build yourself a whole new base as you look for a way off the planet.
You may find it weird that I’m including this title on the list once you hear that I’m kinda scared of the ocean. It’s deep, dark, and filled with terrifying things that you would never want to be in the same… well, ocean as you. And yet, the moment I hit the water, I couldn’t quench my curiosity. There’s a story here, but I was too busy playing with all the convenient sci-fi tech and scanning everything that moves, even if it tries to eat me.
The farming here is all about survival, culling fish and other sea creatures to keep yourself alive. Whether it’s for food, fresh water, or just for decoration, this game’s vast and sometimes frightening underwater world is ripe for farming potential.
It’s almost comical how many games will throw Slimes at you as fodder enemies, but how often do you actually get a chance to study them? This is one of the ideas behind the quirky and fun Slime Rancher. You play as Beatrix, the newly assigned rancher to a planet that may only be populated by different species of slimes. Despite what other games may have you believe, most of these slimes are harmless and friendly which makes them easy to catch with your vacuum. Then you can take them back to your ranch to raise them in various pens and collect their plorts for profit to expand your facilities.
I think we have Dragon Quest to thank for showing just how iconic and adorable slimes can be, but Slime Rancher takes it to new levels. In a way, it’s kind of like a creature collector, but you’re not breeding them to fight or use them as tools. Instead, you’re collecting them for cataloging and for their valuable byproducts. The more I explored, the more I just wanted to catch slimes for the sake of catching all the different colors and shapes. It’s also fun to learn that some slime behaviors are more difficult, which adds another layer of strategy to managing and caring for the blobby beauties.
Films and video games are as different as night and day. Still, game developers often take inspiration from movies and filmmakers to bring their concepts to life. Some have said that David Lynch’s directing style is behind the feel of Gleaner Heights. This Stardew Valley-like game once again has you as a new farmer in town. However, from the very start, you feel that something isn’t right in this town.
Do you ever watch a movie and never get the sense that things are okay? That’s how I felt playing Gleaner Heights, yet I wanted to keep going. It had some kind of hold on me, and the farming acts as a hook or just as a place which you feel you can control. I was never sure what kind of weirdness was going to happen by the day, but I wanted to make sure I was prepared for it. It’s kind of like a mystery game in a way where you want to find answers just in hopes of some normalcy in the end.
Before there were human farmers, the universe was doing all the farming itself through a combination of complex and intense processes. You can have a hand in this great natural machine by controlling sizable beings in Reus. This 2D game has you controlling one of several titanic beings brought to life by the land itself. By using the elements associated with your titan’s body, you can help the land below you grow and thrive as more and more life appears.
God games are an empowering genre of gaming, and Reus literally has you playing as what can be seen as primordial gods. Even though I was nervous about messing up considering their size and the delicate nature of the land, I found it to be far more relaxed than expected. It sort of reminded me of a 2D SimCity, but here you are the overseeing force in control, and you’re not aiming to build a sprawling urban landscape. I got simple enjoyment by watching and helping the land grow. It can be very uplifting, but you will need to give it time.
The idea of a ship full of humans crashing on a new planet with no way off appears in many stories and many fears surrounding space. However, there is hope surrounding this situation in the game RimWorld. It follows the story of a colorful crew of characters that crash land on an unknown alien world. Thankfully, enough of the ship has survived that they have all the tools needed to build a brand-new society. The health and integrity of your base and farmlands are just as important as your crew’s physical and mental health.
Just how big this game is was enough to intimidate me, but I still wanted to try it just to see if I could master it. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to playing properly, but that’s part of the experience. Even if your first colonies don’t make it, you can make it a game to come up with small goals for yourself. The sense of pride I feel from getting to the point where my crew can farm is grand and well-earned. That’s just a small part, however, since you are on an alien world and you’ll get more involved in your crew’s lives as time goes on.
Few games are so painstakingly developed that you can see the effort as soon as you boot it up. A video game wonder has appeared in the form of Dwarf Fortress. This game goes back to the late 1990s as the labor of love from a small and dedicated team. This expansive and highly complex universe follows your group of dwarves as you lead them to mine, build, and farm to create a grand society.
If RimWorld is intimidating, this is the game that puts it to shame. As one of the most complex games ever made, I had no idea where to start. Luckily, the team has maintained the same site for the game since they started developing so you can follow the journey, and recently a tutorial of sorts has been introduced.
After a bit of heavy reading, I got invested in my little hairy friends as I helped them expand beyond mining, to farming, building, adventuring, business, and beyond. You can make this game whatever you want it to be — and don’t be ashamed of looking up guides. After all, every new start is truly new, and you never know what fate has in store for the dwarves.
There are so many fantasies about island living and it’s likely one of the top fantasies fantasized by humankind. Still, it’s easy to get bored on a quiet island, so you may as well try to work toward something like Coral Island. The namesake land serves as your new home as you become part of a small but diverse island community. You’ll be given a home, a farm, and easy access to the ocean.
I’ve been very lucky to have visited a couple of islands in my life, and this game is another reminder that island living isn’t always easy. You have to work to earn and maintain said paradise, and I was happy to plug away at this game. The town you join is small enough that everyone feels important. This vacation setting made me feel active, even when I was doing the traditional activities of going to the beach and swimming. Still, these activities are opportunities to discover new things, add to your farm, grow new stuff, and give to the town. The game paints a picture of a lush and natural island where you’ll never be bored, even while farming.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best farming game?
Though this is the subject of much debate, general consensus names Stardew Valley frequently at the top of the genre. This is likely due to its charm, versatility, and accessibility.
What is the first farming game?
This answer can change based on what is classified as “farming”. However, it can be said that the game that first established the concept of a person running a farm solo would be the first Harvest Moon game, released in Japan in 1996.
Which is the best Farming Simulator entry in the series?
Since the very first game was released, the series has continued to release a new game almost every year. Being the latest and most up-to-date, Farming Simulator 22 is considered to have the best quality.
Are any of these games free to play?
By default, none of these games are free. However, they are frequently affected by random discounts and sales. For those with Xbox/PC Game Pass, the following entries (some being part of the related series) are included: Stardew Valley, Coral Island, Farming Simulator, Slime Rancher 2, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, Forager, My Time At Portia, and Rune Factory 4.
Are all of these games on the same platform?
Every game on this list is available for PC and all can be downloaded on Steam.