What is Harvest Moon? First off, this isn’t a game that’s for everyone. Not because it isn’t fun- quite the opposite. Harvest Moon is a game that rewards your patience and provides short bursts of excitement in between long periods of mundane “grinding”.
The plot of every Harvest Moon game usually starts with you inheriting a piece of farmland in some rural area. Then, you spend your life growing and expanding this property. New crops, machines, animals, etc. are required to boost your farm’s output and revenue.
You can also roam the village and interact with NPCs, which makes this a quasi-open-world game. But which entry in the series is the best Harvest Moon game? You know, that’s a tough question to answer simply because there are so many games dating all the way back to 1996.
However, I have created a list of the top 7 Harvest Moon games ranked from worst to best. Typically, these games are released for Nintendo consoles but they are eventually ported to other platforms. Those among you who happen to be handheld gamers are going to love this series.
It’s ideal for playing on the go, due to the casual design and long amounts of “wait time” between meaningful events. Plus, people of every age group can have a fun time with these games. So without further ado, let’s get started (and remember- these rankings are reflective of my personal opinions and preferences).
The Top 7 Harvest Moon Games: Ranked From Worst To Best
Let’s kick things off with the very first Harvest Moon game, which was released on Nintendo’s 16-bit SNES console.
7. Harvest Moon
|Release Date||June 15, 1997|
If you were around in 1997 with a copy of this game inserted into your SNES, the graphics and sound design were really something else. Amccus combined the beauty of Zelda with the fun of Pokémon, into a game that could be enjoyed by people of any age. The soundtrack was also awesome for its day, and really put you in the mood for some old-fashioned country life.
Talking of country life, the series creator Yasuhiro Wada spent his childhood in a rural area with lots of farms. That’s how he got the inspiration to create Harvest Moon- a game about simple people living their lives in the countryside. By the time you get acquainted with this game’s mechanics, it has already sucked you into an endless cycle of planting happy little trees and interacting with the village folk.
6. Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life
|Release Date||March 16, 2004|
A Wonderful Life is one of the best GameCube farming simulators you can get your hands on. It’s also a really interesting change of pace from the regular Harvest Mon titles that came before it. For starters, the graphics don’t look particularly impressive.
Textures and character models look worse in A Wonderful Life when compared to Save the Homeland. And that is a PS2 Harvest Moon game, released in 2001 (3 years before A Wonderful Life). But what A Wonderful Life lacks in terms of visuals, it makes up for through gameplay.
Let me give you an example of the improvements in gameplay- there are multiple breeds of cows that can be milked. And each one only produces milk for a limited time while pregnant, so you have to breed cows and get them pregnant multiple times in order to extract milk. There are also tons of grain and fruit plants (a much larger selection compared to previous Harvest Moon games).
5. Harvest Moon: Animal Parade
|Release Date||November 12, 2009|
Before we talk about Animal Parade, its predecessor- Tree of Tranquility must be mentioned. After all, both of these Harvest Moon titles were released on the Wii. Tree of Tranquility came first, in 2008 (one year later, Animal Parade was released and is based in the exact same fictional world as its predecessor).
What really made Tree of Tranquility stand out from previous Harvest Moon titles was its tight integration with the Wii’s motion controls. Plus, it was more “open-world” than previous installments. Simply because the Wii’s superior hardware could support higher levels of detail along with larger farmlands/ villages that were populated with more animals and people.
Animal Parade is more of the same stuff, with a few tweaks and extra bits of content. For example, you can raise ostriches in this game (along with a few other exotic animals). The process of marrying and having kids has been updated so your offspring will pick up on traits that you have (and you can have two kids).
4. Harvest Moon: Magical Melody
|Release Date||March 28, 2006|
Judging from the title, you can probably predict that this game includes elements from musicals. However, they are implemented in a very different way from most rhythm/ band games. You don’t exactly play tunes or notes (well you do, but it’s an automated process).
Instead, you complete certain achievements. Like planting “X” trees of a certain kind or feeding a specific species of farm animal. And then, for each successful completion of these goals, you’re rewarded with a new musical note.
Why do these melodies matter? You need a certain number of them to bring the Harvest Goddess who possesses certain magical powers (you cannot marry her in this Harvest Moon game).
3. Harvest Moon 64
|Developer||Victor Interactive Studios|
|Release Date||December 22, 1999|
This is a game that was released before the turn of the millennium and is also Harvest Moon’s first 3D installment. SNES Harvest Moon fans were initially apprehensive since casualized 2D farming sims have a charm of their own. However, Victor did a really good job bringing over the spirit of Harvest Moon into an entirely new 3D world.
Besides, the graphics and world design aren’t even Harvest Moon 64’s top attractions. Upon playing this underrated gem, you’ll realize that it has a better story than 90% of modern AAA games. With characters you feel attached to over the course of this game, and plotlines that keep you coming back for more.
2. Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns
|Release Date||February 28, 2017|
One of the more recent Harvest Moon releases, Trio of Towns emphasizes the social interaction aspect of this series more than anything else. Your goal is to bring together the cultures and people of 3 different towns. You do so by participating in various contests and building relationships with key characters (some of whom you can marry).
The increased focus on social dynamics doesn’t mean that farming and homesteading have taken a backseat. In fact, the farming mechanics from Story of Seasons for 3DS have been improved significantly within Trio of Towns. As a player, you have more options when it comes to growing crops and rearing animals.
1. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
|Release Date||November 17, 2003|
|Platforms||Game Boy Advance|
In my opinion, Friends of Mineral Town is the best Harvest Moon game of all time. It is simply a blast from start to finish, with endless possibilities for roleplaying (which adds to the replayability). You might have noticed that Friends of Mineral Town was initially released for the GBA back in 2003.
So, what’s so great about this game that was originally released nearly 2 decades ago for a cheap handheld console with weak hardware? Pacing, well-written characters, and excellent art design. You see, resolutions and textures are great but there’s something about well-done artwork that stands the test of time.
Even if graphical technologies advance, you can appreciate the amount of effort and care that went into designing the characters for this game. Plus, this is one of those farming simulator games that doesn’t feel like a mindless slog. The progression moves along at a steady pace, while also giving you plenty of time to absorb the atmosphere and get acquainted with everyone’s story.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Can I play the old Harvest Moon titles using an emulator?
A: Absolutely, and you can even run the old SNES/ DS games on phones (using Android/ iOS-based emulators). The latest Harvest Moon title (called One World) is available on Steam. You can play it directly on a PC, as your first experience with the series.
Q: Can I find an original copy of the SNES Harvest Moon game?
A: You certainly could, but the prices are going to be astronomical due to rarity. It came out towards the tail end of SNES’s lifespan and was never that popular at the beginning. People were a lot more interested in the N64, so new game production for the old SNES was quickly sidelined.
Q: Is “Story of Seasons” a spinoff?
A: Not really, it’s part of the mainline saga. Since “Story of Seasons” is the international name for a Harvest Moon series that started in 2007.
Q: How many Harvest Moon games are there in total?
A: Just the mainline series contains over 2 dozen games, spanning 4 console generations. And then you have 14 unique spinoffs, comprised of the Rune Factory series, Innocent Life, Hometown Story, etc.
Q: Is the gameplay similar to Farming Simulator?
A: Well, Harvest Moon is a slice of life game in which you happen to be the owner of some farmland. Meanwhile, Farming Simulator is a much more detailed and realistic experience that tackles large-scale agriculture and livestock rearing.
If you want a family-friendly game that can be enjoyed by everyone, Harvest Moon is worth a try. You can think of it as a special Sims mod that is focused on farming and peaceful life in a rural area. Of course, the big question is “where should I start?”, since there are so many of these games.
Honestly, the best Harvest Moon for you is probably going to be the one that you play first (since it is the most memorable). Plus, a lot of the entries have similar gameplay and plotlines with many characters that are carried over. I hope my list provides you with some perspective on where to begin- now install this awesome game and start playing already!