If you ask almost any Switch fan what they believe the most popular game was last year, it’s quite probable they’ll mention Animal Crossings: New Horizons, a game which, apart from peace itself, does share a little bit of farming thanks to its October update, and turnips have always been a staple in the franchise to help players feel like they have a green thumb of sorts. Yet, it is precisely in these farming/life simulators that we have seen an uprise in Harvest Moon clones.
At the time of its release, it seemed that the popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizon was the final chapter in the indie developer-powered resurgence of farming/life sim games which began back in 2016 thanks to the release of Harvest Moon-inspired Stardew Valley.
Following solo developer Concerned Ape’s hit indie title came dozens upon dozens of Kickstarter campaigns: Farm Folks 185% (AU$92,882), Wild Season 118% (£26,759), Dragon Acres 220% ($1,103), World’s Dawn 133% ($6,689), Lullaby Gardens 141% ($7,062), Snacko 152% ($45,700) and Farmer Supreme 100% ($10,760). Let’s also not forget the 2D MMORPG farming simulator Harvest Online 233% ($701) which saw its last update back 2014, but I still have hope!
This trend clearly hasn’t ended, however, as a Reddit user pointed out 3 farming simulators seeking funding at the beginning of this month simultaneously. Not only were they all funding at the same time, but they are some of the biggest farming simulator campaigns ever, raising over £691,000 ($961,000) so far. Sunny Side 211% (£31,662) has now ended, but there are still three campaigns going.
There are only two categories of games that consistently get so much funding on Kickstarter, and those are board games and farming/life simulator video games. With Harvest Moon: One World (Read my everything we know article here) launching next month on the Switch, I thought this might be a good moment to ponder as to why this is the case for farming simulators.
The Farming Sim: Perfect Escapism
I believe the primary reason people play these games so much (And spend so much money acquiring them) is to escape real life. While Animal Crossing players often have their favourite features, whether it’s selling turnips, home decor, or visiting your friends over Nintendo Switch Online, it’s the sum of its parts that makes Animal Crossing: New Horizons what it is. A classic case of 1 + 1 = more than 2.
The feeling of freedom to set out on your own and fend for yourself is hugely empowering, but in real life most of your worries stem from other people relying on you. Whether intentional or not, rent payment reminders from your landlord can not be found on the feature lists of any of these titles (Well, except for Tom Nook… kind of).
It follows that these games’ popularity is infinitely boosted by how unenjoyable life is for the most part, especially during this coronavirus pandemic. In fact, Animal Crossings: New Horizons‘s success wasn’t a culmination for farm/life sims but rather a temporary large boost to an already popular genre that continues to this day.
3 Farming Simulator Games You Can Back Right Now!
While only 22% funded, this title has already raised £7,944 from 136 backers. Visually, this is the least appealing of the three, but it speaks to the strength of the genre’s fanbase that this game is still raising large amounts of money despite looking okay (Supposedly the art style is modern and approachable). While there’s no mention of a Switch release on the game’s Kickstarter page, one can assume it may make its way to the hybrid console.
2. Ova Magica
Having funded 230% of it’s 30,000 euro goal in 24 hours, it has since gone onto raise over 188,000 euros (£164,000) from 2,970 backers. This game looks great! It takes more of a Japanese art style for its characters, and I’m super-excited to spend time hanging out with these cute spherical shaped creatures. There’s still 9 days to back this one!
3. Coral Island
Coral Island follows all the familiar gameplay tropes of the farming sim but aims to expand on it. One of the most interesting ways it does is by adding underwater reef areas to the map. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, Nintendo games traditionally don’t have the most fun water levels (I’m looking at you, Super Mario Bros.) but this game seems to have executed it really well.
You get to explore the underwater area, clean up the sea bed to make space for rare fish breeds, and collect kelp which can be processed to permanently upgrade items. The game has raised an incredible $698,000 from 15,264 backers (Average donation: $46), and as I write this, the number of backers keeps going up as the game gets excitingly close to it’s $700,000 beach and festival outfits stretch goal.
The game has hit it’s Switch goal, so if you want to back it and get it for your Switch, you still have 14 days to pick it up.
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link for all of your Kickstarter highlights! Jason’s been in contact with the Coral Island devs and you can check out his article going into more depth on Coral Island here. Will you be one of those who backs all three of these Harvest Moon clones? Why do you think the genre is so popular? Let us know in the comments below (And sorry for using “Harvest Moon clones”. I didn’t mean to sound negative!).