Games We Can’t Stop Playing: Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon is one of those game franchises that I have always struggled to explain my enjoyment of to those not indoctrinated to the series.

The general objective is that it’s your responsibility to restore a farm that has fallen on hard times to its former glory.

You will have a variety of tasks to complete every day, and allocating the time and energy into the many tasks continues to get harder with the more responsibilities that you will take on: Farming and harvesting crops, grooming and breeding livestock, fishing, and foraging are just a few of the tasks that need to be completed. Of course, with the added pressure of elapsing time and seasons, alongside season-appropriate inclement weather, games in the Harvest Moon franchise require the player to be prepared for anything.

On top of farm-related tasks that need to be completed, it is also your responsibility to forge and maintain relationships with the games various non-playable characters and involves talking to them, giving them gifts (and they all have preferences!), celebrating birthdays and holidays, and competing in contests and festivals. Animals and characters are born and die over the course of the game because, you know, that’s life. Even if it tears your heart out and stomps all over it.

I know, I know. You’re asking, “How the hell is this game enjoyable? Let alone become a game that you won’t be able to put down?” I felt the same exact way and even joke about how the game sounds boring when recommending to my friends, but it is undeniably a series that doesn’t disappoint. The series has twenty-five official entries in the series and eleven spin-offs including the Rune Factory series. Every game has had a slightly different focus that implements new and different mechanics, such as the introduction of seed making, diving, and town editing while attempting to keep and improve on the things we love such as farming and animal care.

Undoubtedly, Harvest Moon is the series I cannot stop playing. I picked up Harvest Moon DS on a whim sometime in the mid-2000’s and here I am ten years later and absolutely obsessed with the newest entry into the series: Story of Seasons.

The last few handheld versions of Harvest Moon have had small multiplayer aspects and Marvelous Entertainment has been capitalizing on the online improvements and implementation of street pass functionality of the 3DS. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning was the first entry into the series that I saw some sort of online community for and Story of Seasons definitely has a much more dedicated community used for sharing goods and doing farm tours aimed at helping farms prosper in the short time it has been out.

You do everything from tilling the soil, planting the seeds to watering and fertilizing daily. The harvested crops are made into food or processed and are shipped out to other countries to stimulate the economy and help the town grow and prosper. In the most recent release, you are in competition with four other farmers to take control of the many public fields that are specialized for various crops, trees, and goods. Nothing feels better than knowing you beat Elise by shipping out that surplus of 2000 fodder in a ridiculous attempt at total domination of the farmer’s guild.

Almost every non-playable character that you interact with is important to your development as a farmer. Whether it be a carpenter, florist, or perfume maker, each character offers something unique to the town and to you. Every single one of those characters has a birthday that they like to celebrate, has gifts they hate or love to receive, and may offer you vital blueprints, recipes, or some sort of unlockable item if they like you enough. You may even somehow force them to fall in love with you and marry you if you are persistent enough. Occasionally you may find yourself in a pickle — should I woo the Harvest Goddess or marry the black-belt blacksmith Iroha? Why must they make it so hard to choose?

At this point in the series, you can practically own a menagerie of livestock for profit and the goal is to make them love you. Let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying than having a cow named after your real life best friend giving you five-star golden milk because you somehow forced it to love you enough. You can own cattle, sheep, goats, alpacas, chickens, rabbits, camels, and quite a few other animals that produce by-products for you to use in whatever way you want to.

These physical acts performed all over the farm and around the town all require different tools that need to be forged, repaired and upgraded. How does one forge and upgrade tools? Mining. Mining in Harvest Moon has had many faces over the last twenty years. It used to be the one thing that could be done during the grueling winters, but is now made simpler by having a few veins that can be accessed daily and farmed for ores and gemstones used in production for, you guessed it, things that make you money.

This game is basically capitalism. With love. And marriage.

These games have the ability to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something with the couple hundred hours of hard work and responsibility. They capture your heart and make you fall in love with the many characters that care so much about your success. They also have the ability to make you groan in frustration because you forgot to save five bags of turnip seeds before the end of Spring. If you’re looking for something new to add to your repertoire of time wasters now is as good a time as ever to start your own Harvest Moon adventure!

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Managing editor over video games here at Cinelinx. Let me lose myself in Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley for days, thanks. KakeBytes is my podcast adventure through gaming history.