While we indie gamers are a pretty multifaceted bunch that pride ourselves on being able to enjoy all manner of video games, whether that be high-octane FPS shooters, mind-bending puzzlers, or true-to-life simulators, we tend to blend like a chameleon to our surroundings.
However, there is an even more niche brand of indie gamers that consider themselves ‘cozy gamers.’ Those who seek out exclusively wholesome and relaxing titles, often boasting cute animals, vibrant shapes and colors, and relaxing, addictive gameplay. Well, one of the leading sub-genres within the cozy gaming community is the farming simulator.
Made famous by Harvest Moon, and arguably perfected by Stardew Valley, this sub-genre has blossomed, to the point that every digital market is bursting at the seams with games allowing you to plant crops, romance the townsfolk, and generally, chill out.
This creates a dilemma where one might not know which Farming Sims are worth your time, and which are just trying to cash in on a trend in the industry. Well, worry not, as we have a list of the best options out there. So, without further delay, here are the Best Farming Simulator Games to Play in 2023!
I should lay out the ground rules before we begin because I want to make sure we absolutely get the balance right here and only list brilliant options for seasoned, cozy gamers. Here are the criteria we will be working with here:
- All games must be indie titles, so no Farming Sims like Harvestella, Disney Dreamlight Valley, or others like this.
- All games must have a Metacritic aggregate score of 65% or higher
- We will be playing it fast and loose with what constitutes a ‘farming sim,’ but all titles must have a farming component, and typically offer other varied resource management mechanics
- We will only be including games that push the genre forward and try something new and interesting. (I.E., No Stardew Valley clones)
- If the game has co-op will be a big swaying factor
- General parameters such as Visuals, gameplay, score, replay value, etc., will also be taken into account
Watering can filled; check. Pickaxe sharp, check. Animals fed, check. Okay, let’s get going!
The Best Farming Simulator Games To Play in 2023
#1 – Harvest Moon
Metacritic Score: N/A
We begin with a game that, in this day and age, under the name ‘Story of Seasons’, cannot be called an indie game at all. But without this one, one could argue that there would be no such thing as the farming simulator genre at all, so we feel it’s only right to tip our hat to the Harvest Moon series at the top of this list.
Harvest Moon was the title that established the format for what all farming simulators use as a blueprint for success today. The game would have you start with an empty farm in disrepute and have you work tirelessly to turn it into a thriving business. All the while getting to know the townsfolk and molding a life for yourself in a new town.
While Story of Seasons isn’t doing anything all that interesting in the sub-genre anymore, the older Harvest Moon titles still offer some of the richest farming sim gameplay you’re likely to find, so we would urge you to acknowledge your roots before you dive into the rest of the games on this list.
#2 – Stardew Valley
Metacritic Score: 89%
Harvest Moon was undoubtedly the grandfather of this genre, but Stardew Valley was the plucky new kid on the block that took the dated formula and tweaked it ever slightly to create what is still the undisputed best farming simulator of all time, despite countless others trying to jump on the bandwagon to outdo Eric Barone’s masterpiece.
Part of the reason why no one has been able to come close to dethroning Stardew Valley as the king (or Queen) of all farming sims, is because Eric Barone continues to provide large-scale free updates to the game even to this day with a 1.6 update currently in the works.
Stardew Valley offers accessible gameplay, gameplay variety, mountains of content, a relatable and interesting batch of characters, timeless 16-bit visuals, a fantastic chiptune score, and that only really scratches the surface of why this game is so special.
While every other game yet to come on this list has its own quirks and draws, Stardew Valley remains the standout Farming Sim approaching a decade after its initial release, making this a completely unmissable farming sim for fans of the genre.
#3 – Coral Island
Developer: Stairway Games
Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)
There are a lot of folks out there who are looking for games within the sub-genre to do something outlandish and different to outdo Stardew Valley.
However, there are plenty of folks who are quite happy to see the Stardew blueprint taken and slightly reworked to offer a fresh but familiar adventure, and that’s exactly what you’ll get from Coral Island, a farming simulator clearly inspired by Eric Barone’s farming sim masterclass, which is still in early access but offers so much for players already!
This game offers farming, fishing, romance, dungeon crawling, and basically all the trappings of a farming sim you would expect. However, there are cool tropical additions like deep-sea diving and island community projects. Plus, the game both graphically and based on it’s plethora of clothing and furniture options, gives us real Animal Crossing vibes, if that’s your thing.
It is still a little rough around the edges as bugs persist, and the gameplay is limited in some areas as they develop, but all in all, this is a great farming sim to jump into right now.
#4 – Fae Farm
Developer: Phoenix Labs
Metacritic Score: 77%
Plenty of games on this list have embraced the small rural town setting, and leaned into vibrant, colorful art styles. However, if you’re looking for a farming sim that swaps out the humdrum life of a farmer for one filled with pixies, fairies, magic, and mystery, then Fae Farm should be right on the top of your wishlist.
The world of Azoria is one where magic is embued into everything you do, meaning you’ll need to care for mystical creatures, use potions and spells to tend your farm, or delve into the mines, and, there might even be a little magic in the air when you develop close bonds with the townsfolk.
From a gameplay perspective, Fae Farm is a much more streamlined and dynamic sim, with no quality checks, friendship meters, or other more admin-based tasks, making it a much more calm and relaxing experience than some other farming sims that ramp up to become complex, automation-heavy affairs.
Plus, there’s a jump button, which seems like no big deal, but believe us, it makes such a difference.
The story and characters are a little weak, and the co-op will force you to make a whole new character, but when all is said and done, this is a very eye-catching and worthwhile farming sim to jump into.
#5 – Moonstone Island
Developer: Studio Supersoft
Metacritic Score: 83%
Well, what if we took these two sub-genres and then mushed them together with a farming sim? Well, if we did, we would probably create a wonderfully cute Frankenstein’s monster like Moonstone Island.
Moonstone Island as a farming sim really doesn’t push the boat out, as it’s your typical grow crops, tend crops, sell crops, pixellated adventure.
However, the USP of this game is that you can use said crops to tame creatures in the wild who then battle in your stead via card-based encounters. Which sounds a little out of left field, but it works wonderfully in practice.
Not only that, but the game has 100 separate islands to explore, lots of people to meet, plenty of intriguing dungeons, and a surprisingly well-written narrative.
I would stick my neck out here and say that Moonstone Island is probably the closest anyone has come to rivaling Stardew Valley for this community’s attention, and for that reason alone, this deserves your time.
Developer: Pixel Sprout Studios
Metacritic Score: 71% (Based on User Score)
If you are looking for a farming sim that tries to align itself more with the fantasy RPG crowd, then you might want to take a look at the successful Kickstarter project, Sun Haven. This title is a visually impressive farming sim with a vast world, characters who boil down to more than just exaggerated stereotypes, and a gameplay loop that will have you engage with magical spells, combat, RPG skill trees, and up to 8-player co-op if you have a big entourage to accommodate.
Sun Haven caters to those who simply want to farm crops, keep animals, and romance the locals, but equally, it also offers more complex RPG gameplay with dungeons and boss battles if that’s your bag, making this a very versatile and worthwhile sim to play. We will concede that it’s a little bit of a slow burn, but once you get going, you’ll struggle to pull yourself away from this one, we promise.
#7 – Dave The Diver
Metacritic Score: 90%
Now we move onto a game that really stretches the criteria and what we can really label a ‘farming simulator,’ but seeing as farming crops does make up a portion of Dave The Diver’s gameplay, we have decided to make an allowance for this one.
Dave The Diver, the title that took the indie and mainstream gaming community by storm this year, is a game that primarily sees you manage a Sushi restaurant.
By day, you’ll head out to see and dive to find tasty treats worth serving to your customers. Then, by night, you’ll head to shore and manage the restaurant’s dinner service.
It’s a resource-management game that captures the essence of what a farming sim is, but then proceeds to flip the script by adding a surreal level of variety to the gameplay with mini-games aplenty and a core gameplay loop that feels unlike anything we have witnessed before.
There really isn’t a dull moment in Dave The Diver as the game continues to switch things up and keep each new day as lively as the last. It might not float the boat of farming sim purists, but for those in search of something unique, Dave The Diver is likely the best game in this category you’ll play all year!
#8 – Dinkum
Developer: James Bendum
Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)
I must fight every urge to make a cringy Australian joke as I introduce Dinkum, a farming sim title that has you start from nothing in the Australian outback and work to create a bustling Bush town.
This is a title that allows you to play with up to three other players as you work to create a settlement with enough amenities, attractions, and luxuries to attract visitors who may even become full-time residents.
You’ll have your typical farm, fish, mine, and socialization boxes ticked here, but the unique angle of needing to please your residents with decorations, shops, luxury items, and more adds an extra layer of motivation to create a truly marvelous place to settle down in Oz.
There’s so much to do and discover in this game, the visuals and music on offer are delightful, and there are plenty of fun mechanics, like hunting, for example, that set it apart from the competition and also link the gameplay seamlessly with the developers love for their chosen setting.
So get into this one and get ready for a bonza time! Almost got all the way through without doing that. Almost.
#9 – Slime Rancher
Developer: Monomi Park
Metacritic Score: 81%
If you’re a big Stardew Valley fan, which I can only assume you are based on the topic in question here, then you may remember a rather throwaway mechanic that allowed you to gather Slime Eggs and keep tonnes of veritable slimes as pets. Well, Slime Rancher is a farming sim crossed with a first-person shooter that takes this to the Nth degree.
In this game, you’ll need to seek out different slimes in the wild, capture them, farm and breed them, and use these slimes to capture or feed rarer slimes, allowing you to create new crops, slime variations, and resources that will make you filthy dirty rich.
It’s a game that, once again, really stretches the boundaries of the farming sim genre, as this game is part shooter, part puzzler, and part creature tamer. Yet despite this outlandish format, I can guarantee that anyone who loves farming sims will take to this one like slime to a Vacpack. Do yourself a favor and get out to the Far, Far Range today!
#10 – My Time At Sandrock
Developer: Pathea Games
Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)
We considered putting down My Time at Portia here, but considering that My Time At Sandrock is penciled in for a full release in November of this year, we thought that now is as good a time as any to build some hype for this indirect sequel.
My Time At Sandrock is an open-world sandbox where players will arrive in a town ravaged by the Day of Calamity, and you will need to take on the arduous task of restoring this post-apocalyptic setting to its former glory. The game has a lot of resource management, upgrading, fishing, mining, and more to keep you busy, but where this game truly succeeds is in creating a vast open world to explore.
There’s so much to see and do, and so many cool characters to meet along the way, not to mention a wild amount of mini-games to lose yourself in too. All in all, Sandrock is like My Time At Portia, just bigger and better. So get prepared for the full release of this one really soon, or hop into early access; up to you!
#11 – Forager
Metacritic Score: 78%
Most farming sims really love to throw players in at the deep end, offering an overwhelmingly large amount of places to explore, mechanics to learn, and people to meet.
Well, the same cannot be said of Forager, a game that has you start off on a tiny little island, and only through clever planning and problem-solving through resource management will you be able to explore and expand your island as you would like.
It’s a wonderful re-work of the sub-genre that turns the typical farming sim into a top-down Zelda game where exploration, combat, and puzzles are just as important as crafting, farming, and customizing your world.
It’s another example of farming sim gameplay blended seamlessly with RPG tropes, creating a wonderfully addictive gameplay loop with gameplay that is paced expertly to keep players engaged from start to finish.
I personally don’t like that it has no trophy support on PlayStation consoles, but outside of that small tidbit, I would recommend this to just about anyone.
#12 – Roots of Pacha
Developer: Soda Den
Metacritic Score: 83%
Most of the time, when we drop into games of this nature, we tend to be the new entity in an otherwise established social structure of a town. But what if just about everything in the world was new? I mean like, Stone Age levels of new. Well, then you’d have a game like Roots of Pacha that takes us back in time and asks us to make essential discoveries, live off the land, and evolve to become more than just your basic Neanderthal.
You’ll need to invent new tools, discover new farming techniques, uncover the secrets of Pottery, Metalwork, and Spirituality, and you’ll need to develop strong bonds with your clan members into the bargain.
It has all the fixings of a typical farming sim, but thanks to the unique setting and time period, the vast amount of unique mini-games, the cool characters, and the sheer amount of customization on offer, Roots of Pacha has done enough to cement itself as a must-play game for those that love traditional farming-sims.
#13 – Wylde Flowers
Developer: Studio Drydock
Metacritic Score: 84%
Here’s one for both the PC and the mobile players out there. Wylde Flowers is a game that takes a leaf out of Fae Farm’s playbook, offering a world that is steeped in magic and mystery, and you, the player, will need to guide Tara as she tries to make sense of this quaint rural town she finds herself in.
The key selling point for this game is that the title has a rich narrative and fully fleshed-out voice acting throughout, which allows you to engage with the cast of characters more than a lot of titles on this list. Not to mention, your own protagonist.
The narrative on offer is the star of the show, but there are also wonderfully implemented farming, animal tending, potion-crafting, spellcasting, and cooking mechanics on show here, too, making this one an essential sim to play at home or on the go!
#14 – Everdream Valley
Metacritic Score: 68%
Pretty much single-handedly, thanks to Stardew Valley, every farming sim that has come after has needed to be a farming simulator and something to catch the eye of players. However, Everdream Valley is an example of a game that keeps it simple, offering a much purer farming adventure that really leans into animal care and harmonizing the different aspects of your farm to create an animal paradise.
You’ll have over twenty-five different animal species to care for on the farm, alongside your crops and maintenance. But the real magic occurs when you hit the hay, as, through the power of magic, you’ll be able to take control of your critters and play fun mini-games to help enhance the farm when you rise bright and early the next morning.
The game does scale back on variety in favor of farming-mechanic depth, which won’t appease everyone, but if you have been craving a more focused farming adventure, then Everdream Valley is a great option.
#15 – One Lonely Outpost
Developer: Freedom Games
Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)
While we didn’t exactly give this one a glowing review when it entered early access earlier this year, one thing we will say about One Lonely Outpost is that it does have potential.
One Lonely Outpost sees you take to a far-off planet where you will need to terraform, search for signs of life, and create a colony fitting for all of those back home to embark on when the time comes.
The game has very striking visuals and a lovely soundtrack, not to mention a lot of cool space-based farming mechanics that initially are a blast to play around with.
However, at the time of writing, the gameplay is a little limited and linear, making this one you might want to temper expectations for, as it’s far from the finished article at this time.
That being said, we have every faith that this game can take the foundation they have laid down and build upon it to create something quite special. It already has a stellar storyline, but it needs to work on creating that addictive gameplay loop to accompany it.
If you can’t wait and want to see for yourself, or just want to support the devs on their mission to create this off-world sim, then jump into early access now!
#16 – Spiritfarer
Developer: Thunder Lotus
Metacritic Score: 84%
With a tagline that reads ‘A cozy management sim about dying,’ you can immediately see why Spiritfarer nestles nicely into this list of cozy hits.
Right off the bat, we have to say that farming is a very small part of the Spiritfarer experience, which primarily sees you explore new lands, upgrade your ship, collect new resources, and look after the residents of your houseboat as you ultimately send them into the afterlife when the time is right.
The lack of urgency, and the relaxing gameplay make this one a joy to experience, and gameplay is so varied that you always feel like there is something to do, but equally nothing you’re missing out on by focusing on one thing either.
However, the biggest selling point for this game is the writing, as the characters you meet and their individual tales will have you on the floor like a blubbering fool, but in the most beautiful and wholesome way possible.
Spiritfarer could be a bit of a leap for rigid farming sim players, but I urge you to take that leap, as this is one of the best indie gaming experiences of all time.
#17 – Aka
Developer: Cosmo Gatto
Metacritic Score: 65%
While Aka is a game that wasn’t all that well received, mainly down to poor UI implementation, if you can look past these flaws, Aka offers a chill and serene adventure that delivers a rather important message about military veterans and the need for aftercare when discharged from their posts.
Aka is a game that focuses on downtime, not aiming to overload players with quests, or daily tasks to complete. Instead, it offers enough to keep you busy, but ultimately gives the player enough time to just watch the day go by, enjoy the serene sounds of the wilderness around you, and if there’s time for a little exploring, then great.
Basically, the world is your oyster, but equally, doing nothing at all feels just as rewarding. It’s not a perfect game by any means, but a flawed gem well worth checking out.
#18 – Sprout Valley
Developer: Vadzim Liakhovich
Metacritic Score: TBD
If you were a fan of the previous entry, Forager, then you will probably really like Sprout Valley, a game that uses like Island-living approach where you work to create an expansive and fully-fleshed out home island, while also exploring the archipelago around you to find cool new shops, resources, items and more.
This title is much less Zelda-esque as there is no combat or fail states to speak of here. This means this is a much more calm and serene experience where discovery and resource management reign supreme.
Plus, you can get fancy hats and cute creatures to follow you around, which is a welcome bonus in any game if you ask me. So, for a Forager-style experience without any stress or challenge whatsoever, you need to play Sprout Valley.
#19 – Paleo Pines
Developer: Italic Pig
Metacritic Score: TBD
Our penultimate entry is a game that I have a personal link to, as the developers are from my home country of Northern Ireland, a little country where not many games of note are made, but Paleo Pines aims to change that, offering a farming sim where cute animals are swapped out for cute and colorful prehistoric beasts.
The game allows you to tame and take care of your dino-pals, and in return, they will serve as faithful steeds that will ferry you around the island, allowing you to explore every nook and cranny of this enchanting world.
Your Dinos will play a key role in just about every aspect of this game, and with their help, you’ll be able to create a beautiful ranch and settle in nicely as a key member of the local community. So for all you Paleo-heads out there, this one is a must-play.
#20 – Core Keeper
Metacritic Score: TBD (Early Access)
Then, lastly, we have Core Keeper, a game that takes the core gameplay of Stardew Valley, mixes it together with Terraria, and, in turn, creates a masterful dungeon-crawler adventure that is perfect to play with friends.
Starting underground with next to nothing, players will need to create a makeshift base and work to create tools, machines, and resources that will allow them to delve deeper into the underground network, uncovering the mysteries all around you.
Sure, there is a main plot that will see you uncover the secrets of the cores, but due to continued updates from the devs, and the expansive sandbox world you inhabit, the game never truly ends, offering an infinite and addictive experience well worth getting acquainted with.
It is a game that pulls no punches and will ask you to become pretty adept at planning ahead, managing resources carefully, and, of course, will need you to be pretty handy in a fight too, but all the while, this game maintains its cozy status with aplomb.
So, if mining was your favorite aspect of Stardew Valley, then Core Keeper is a great one to play next.
Now, just before we sign off and allow you to get out there into these serene worlds to create the farms of your dreams, we want to shine a spotlight on a few other options briefly.
These might not be up there with the best of the best, could still be worth checking out when you exhaust all the options above. So here is an honorable mentions list below:
- My Time At Portia
- No Place Like Home
Farm, Fish, Fight, Relax
As you can see, there are so many incredible fully released farming sim games to play right now, as well as a number of early access projects that are already well worth hopping into.
The farming sim genre may be a divisive one within the indie community, but if games of this quality keep being pushed out to market, I think we will soon see the ‘Stardew Valley Clone’ tag become a thing of the past, as other farming sims begin to cut off their own piece of the pie.
We hope that this list has given you some ideas on where you will be planting your next seeds, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture.
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