Marvelous’ Harvest Moon stands out as one of the most important sim games of all time. Essentially kicking off the farming sim as it’s now known, Harvest Moon was also quite revolutionary for pioneering a style of gameplay that neither featured combat while also emphasizing a gameplay loop that was more oriented towards a mature, slower play style.
It’s not unusual for older gamers to love Harvest Moon, but it’s also important to understand the series’ history. Harvest Moon is only named such in the west and, for the past few years, another company has been using the moniker while the real Harvest Moon goes under the Story of Seasons moniker. Buyer beware, not every Harvest Moon game is a Harvest Moon game. Here are the best and worst, according to Metacritic.
10 BEST: A Wonderful Life (79)
Rightfully in the top five, A Wonderful Life is far and away the most unique entry in the series. Taking place over the course of a few years like any other game, A Wonderful Life makes itself stand out by giving weight to the passage of time. The player’s life is split into chapters and the game ends when the players die of old age.
It’s a sadder, more thought-provoking Harvest Moon game, but it’s one that offers something few games do: an opportunity to live. It’s as much a life simulator as it is a farm simulator, as far as parasocial dynamics go.
9 WORST: Light Of Hope (62)
Beginning in 2014, the Harvest Moon series saw a split. The main, Japanese developed, games would now be titled Story of Seasons while the Natsume titles would shamelessly trick audiences into buying games that weren’t actually Harvest Moon games. The least offensive of the bunch, Light of Hope is just that.
The problem with these faux-Harvest Moon games ultimately stems from how low effort they are in comparison to the Marvelous originals. And keep in mind this was a series that was already fairly low effort at times. As a result, the modern Harvest Moon games feel shallow, uninspired, and charmless.
8 BEST: Friends Of Mineral Town (81)
A Game Boy Advance classic, those who grew up playing Friends of Mineral Town are sure to swear by it. It’s arguably the best Harvest Moon game for those looking to get into the series for the first time, giving it plenty of allure. Not just that, it has connectivity with Magical Melody, giving the game greater value.
It’s a classic as Harvest Moon gets without feeling archaic. Friends of Mineral Town is also arguably the last time the series had a solid grasp of 2D Harvest Moon. While the DS entries certainly aren’t bad, it’s clear that Rune Factory was getting the franchise’s full attention during that generation.
7 WORST: Boy & Girl (61)
Boy & Girl is a port of the original PS1 Harvest Moon for the PSP, and its Metacritic score is as deserved as it is undeserved. Plain and simple, it’s a worse version of the original PS1 game. It’s buggier, there are recorded instances of save data being deleted, and it’s a low effort port even for Natsume.
At the same time, most reviews seemed to focus on analyzing the game as if it weren’t one of the most important farming sims on the PS1, failing to attribute the proper context to the title. It’s a double-edged sword when it comes to reviewing. It’s important to advise buyers from a faulty product, but perhaps not to the point of ignoring an important title’s legacy.
6 BEST: More Friends Of Mineral Town (82)
Rarely does a re-release, port, or remake score higher than its original on Metacritic, but Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town manages to pull off that feat with a single point— and it’s an earned point at that. More Friends of Mineral Town is quite simply the definitive version of Friends of Mineral Town.
It has more content, greater gameplay depth, and generally just polishes up the game. This isn’t to say the vanilla release isn’t worth playing, though. It has its own unique content by virtue of starring a different protagonist, but those looking to get the most gameplay out of 2D Harvest Moon need not look elsewhere.
5 WORST: Sky Tree Village (59)
Visually ugly, an emphasis on tutorials, and empty days can only mean one thing: a Natsume Harvest Moon. Sky Tree Village was released for the 3DS in 2016 and it remains one of the worst farming sims on the handheld. It’s genuinely just so bland and uninspired, ripping off Harvest Moon in every sense.
Sky Tree Village is quite literally a poor man’s Harvest Moon and fans of the series or genre are better off looking elsewhere. Anyone still clinging onto a 3DS, just look into one of the DS titles or Rune Factory, they’re worth the time and money unlike Sky Tree Village or any of its ilk.
4 BEST: Back To Nature (82)
While More Friends of Mineral Town was able to beat out Friends of Mineral Town on Metacritic, the fact of the matter is that both games are actually based on the PlayStation Back to Nature. The GBA installments are technically remakes, but there’s enough fundamentally different between the games where comparisons can be drawn fairly.
For fans of older games, this is the Harvest Moon worth playing. It isn’t quite as archaic as the Super Nintendo original, but it also isn’t as modernized as even Friends of Mineral Town. As a result, it becomes very easy to place oneself into the game’s historical context in order to truly appreciate what Back to Nature represented for the genre. (It’s also still insanely fun.)
3 WORST: 3D: The Lost Valley (46)
Try and fathom a guess who’s in charge of this one. Here’s a hint: it isn’t Marvelous. Any Metacritic score in the red is bad, but a 46 attached to the Harvest Moon name might as well be damning. That’s a level of bad only the worst games get, but The Lost Valley is very deserving of its dismal Metacritic score.
Not only did critics note the rather strange situation that was plaguing the series, The Lost Valley was always going to be the worst entry between both series regardless. It’s a shallow, ugly game that doesn’t play well thanks to undercooked mechanics and a general lack of attention to detail. It’s one of the worst farming sims ever made.
2 BEST: Magical Melody (83)
The original Japanese release of this game was so buggy, a re-release had to be developed in order to fix the game. While not uncommon at the time, such a practice was certainly telling. It paid off, though, as this was the version localized as Magical Melody, the single best 3D Harvest Moon game.
Where A Wonderful Life goes for experimental, Magical Melody opts for a more traditional Harvest Moon experience. It feels like the most refined version of the series’ core philosophies, blending farming with light life sims. It doesn’t go as deep as A Wonderful Life, but it never needs to.
1 WORST: Puzzle De Harvest Moon (41)
A 41 is honestly generous. For whatever reason, the Nintendo DS attracted a lot of mediocre spin-offs from well regarded franchises. Puzzle de Harvest Moon was the beginning of the end for the series, marking the start of some rather shady localization as far as using a brand’s name and image go.
A puzzle game, there are no farming elements whatsoever. In general, this is a Harvest Moon game in name only. Which isn’t saying much these days, granted, but the point does still stand. There’s nothing Puzzle de Harvest Moon offers that other puzzle games don’t do infinitely better.