By Brett Weiss and Brian Lesyk
Farm World Correspondents
Video games have come a long way from the days of batting a ball around the screen, blasting alien invaders and gobbling dots. These days, there’s a game for everyone, and the graphics and sounds for many titles are borderline movie quality.
Do you like horse grooming? There’s a video game for that. Are you into big-rig driving? There’s a game for that. Hunting, fishing, boating? There are games for those, too. One genre in particular is on the rise like no other – farming. Yes, you can play as a farmer in a video game. In numerous video games, in fact.
Farming was a prominent element in games dating back to the early 1970s with text-based “edutainment” computer titles like The Oregon Trail, where you experienced the trials of 19th century pioneering life in the unexplored North American expanse. Along with a multitude of other basic survival variables, The Oregon Trail emphasized the importance of farming food, raising livestock and storing provisions.
While The Oregon Trail is by no means considered a farming simulator, the inclusion of the mechanics of farming is an important piece of its allure. In the years that followed, the increased prominence of farming in gaming is undeniable. Eventually, the practice of farming would become more than just a part of a larger game and would become a video game genre of its own.
One of the most successful examples of the genre is the ubiquitous, multi-platform Farming Simulator, which came out in 2008. In this game, players cultivate their farms, nurture crops, breed and raise livestock, maintain equipment and infrastructure, and even explore the complex economic facets of farming. The game is so popular that updated entries for the franchise are released ever two years. The series has sold more than 25 million copies and has had more than 90 million mobile downloads.
While there are a multitude of simulation-level farming titles like Farming Simulator available, there is also a subgenre of farming games that explore the subject matter in other imaginative ways. Creatively blending the practice of traditional farming with fantasy roleplaying elements gave us 1997’s Harvest Moon for the Super Nintendo, a lighthearted game in which your player maintains a farm he inherits from his grandfather. He oversees farm operations similar in many ways to Farming Simulator, but with a lighter approach and a broader, more overarching storyline. Nonetheless, the idea remains intact and provides for a fulfilling experience for the player as they learn, practice, adapt, and eventually overcome the difficulties that come with the agrarian lifestyle. Numerous games in the series followed.
If you’re into farming video games or you think you might want to take the proverbial plunge, there’s never been a more plentiful harvest of options for you.
On Sept. 13, Nintendo hosted one of its live online presentations highlighting some of the games planned for upcoming launch. These events are part of the Nintendo Direct series, and they often represent the first opportunities for gamers to see these new titles in action. This time around, farming games were at the forefront of the presentation as they showed off Harvestella, Faefarm, Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life (part of the aforementioned Harvest Moon series), Rune Factory 3 Special (yet another spinoff of the Harvest Moon series), and Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & The Secret Key.
While each game features farming as a core mechanic of its gameplay, each explores it in a different manner. Harvestella is a fantasy story-driven adventure that has players utilizing their farming skills to survive and even aid in combat. Faefarm takes a more whimsical approach as players indulge in lighter farming simulator tasks joined with traditional platforming and action elements. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a remastered version of 2003’s PlayStation 2/GameCube title of the same name. It carries on Harvest Moon’s traditional farming elements while adding lifestyle and relationship management components, thus creating a truly deep experience overall. Rune Factory 3 Special is an update to 2009’s title of the same name with a fresh coat of paint and some other improvements in keeping with Nintendo’s newer technology. Finally, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & The Secret Key brings us not only a game with an excessively long name, but a fantasy farming simulator that incorporates Japanese role-playing game elements just in time for the series’ 25th anniversary.
Nintendo is a ripe source for farming video games, but certainly not the only company. Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox machines offer a multitude of entertaining options, as does the PC format. Some of the more critically acclaimed titles like Farmer’s Dynasty, Garden Paws and Slime Rancher are sure to appeal to virtual farmers of all ages.
Mobile gamers can rejoice, too, as there is a wide array of available titles for iOS and Android users alike. A few of the more popular titles available include Big Little Farmer, Blocky Farm, FarmVille 3, and even a mobile port of Farming Simulator 20, many of which are either free to play or can be purchased for just a few bucks via the Apple or Android app stores.
Your video game farming adventures await, so don’t wait for the proverbial rooster to crow. Get out there now and let the virtual ranching adventuring begin. With all these new titles on the horizon, you’ll be playing ‘til the cows come home, and then some.