The Farm Life Sim genre is a sub-genre of Life Simulation Games focusing on life as a small-town farmer. They're not realistic farm sims like Farming Simulator, but instead use a lot of Artistic License while focusing on the general life of the main character.
The player is usually a City Mouse who decides to leave the ho-hum of urban life for a relaxing life as a farmer. Near to their farm is a small town full of quirky individuals. Several of these people will be Love Interests that can be married if wished. A good set of supporting characters is vital to this genre. The games can't work on farming alone. There needs to be a cast of interesting NPCs to befriend and interact with. There's also usually a Magic Realism element to the town.
This genre dates back to 1996's Harvest Moon. Released late in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System's lifespan, Harvest Moon was a niche but quirky game about the life of a young man who moves out to live in Flowerbud Village. The game was successful enough to get handheld sequels and eventually a true sequel in Harvest Moon 64, which takes place two generations in the future and expands upon everything in the original. The popularity of the games led to the successful Story of Seasons series (originally localized as Harvest Moon until a change in English translators in the 2010s).
The genre itself didn't begin until the mid-2010s. Despite its success, Story of Seasons had little in terms of rivals. The closest were games like Animal Crossing, Farmville, or Farming Simulator, which weren't quite in the same genre. 2016's Stardew Valley created the genre. It was essentially Story of Seasons with some added changes which appealed to both veteran Story of Seasons fans and newcomers. Originally released on PC, it became a Sleeper Hit which led to various ports. Many other developers took note of the game's popularity and were inspired to make similar titles.
- A Tale Of Heart And Homes is a board game inspired by Story of Seasons. If's a four-player game where you can farm, fish, go on quests, and marry. The main goal is to overthrow the mayor.
- Farm Folks takes place on an island and has over 35 villagers in the main town of Port Meridian. It's a farm sim, however it has story-driven quests as well.
- Gleaner Heights is a Darker and Edgier take on the genre that is heavily inspired by Twin Peaks. The protagonist moves to the Stepford Suburbia that is Gleaner Heights to become a farmer. There, they discover that the town is a Dysfunction Junction full of with infidelity, murder, Domestic Abuse, and occult activity.
- Harvest Master: Farm Sim, also known as Harvest Master Farm Adventure, is a mobile clone of Story of Seasons. It has a similar style, down to the Heart Events.
- Harvest Moon:
- Harvest Moon, now known as Story of Seasons in English, is the Trope Codifier and Trope Maker. You start as a young person who moves to a small town. There you start your own farm, meet various people, and usually have the option to settle down and have kids. The games have varying degrees of Magical Realism involving the local Harvest Sprites and Crystal Dragon Jesus deity, the Harvest Goddess. The series is also an Unbuilt Trope to degree. The series creator never intended on it to be a "farm sim". The series started out as being about life as a farmer. It was originally a series about a small-town and the characters in the small town, using farming as a backdrop more than the focus. This is why Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life (the creator's favorite game in the series) and Harvest Moon: Save The Homeland are so bare-bones when it comes to farming and ranching. Over the years, Executive Meddling led to more focus on the farming side, which caused the series creator to quit the series in the mid-2000s.
- Harvest Moon (Natsume) is a series of in-house Natsume games created when Marvelous decided to switch translators to X Seed. Natsume was kept with the brand name so they decided to make their own games "inspired" by Story of Seasons. They include the same focus on farming and romance, with some changes here and there (for example, Notes replace Hearts).
- Little Dragons Cafe has traits of this genre. It's by the same creator of Story of Seasons and has similar gameplay mechanics. You take care of a dragon instead of farm animals. The player also fishes, hunts, and gardens to obtain ingredients for their cafe. The main crux of the game is the story and your relationship with the other characters who visit the cafe.
- My Time at Portia takes heavy inspiration from Rune Factory, and to a lesser extent, Story of Seasons. It's more focused on Item Crafting as the player is a craftsman and trader, not a farmer (though crop harvesting and livestock raising exists).
- Orange Season is inspired by Story of Seasons, with some Animal Crossing and Zelda added in. There are four towns, over thirty types of farm animals, and over ten marriage candidates.
- Peaceful Days: You play as a MC who has graduated years ago but still can't find the ideal job. You see an old man sitting in front of your house ans give him food and water. He gives you a note about the rural "Aurora Town" then disappears. The protagonist moves to Aurora Town and becomes the owner of Evergarden Farm. In Aurora Town you can raise crops, befriend locals, etc.
- Stardew Valley created the genre. Until it, only the original Story of Seasons existed, but the popularity of Stardew Valley led to a slew of clones. The game started out as a Harvest Moon Fan Game before becoming its own Spiritual Successor. The game includes elements that differentiate it from its inspiration, such as Gay Options and modding (thanks to it originally being a PC title).
- Stranded Sails Explorers Of The Cursed Island has an emphasis on farming and exploration, but it does have NPC characters to interact with as well.
- Rune Factory is a Story of Seasons spinoff that became so popular it became its own series. It features similar gameplay to the original series, except that it uses a fantasy setting instead of a modern Retro Universe one. There's also combat due to the added RPG elements.
- Verdant Skies is a sci-fi twist on the genre. It takes place on an alien world named Viridis Primus. The protagonist is a part of a colony and the goal is to ensure the survival of the colony. Along the way you can farm, fish, cook, befriend fellow colonists, and marry other colonists.
- Wild Season is about a job-hunting city kid who takes up an ad for a farm. You end up in Bedford Valley, however everyone is unpleasant and uninviting. The plot revolves around befriending them and finding out why they want you out of town.
- World's Dawn is a colorful sim that's set in a quiet seaside village named Sugar Blossom Village. You're a farmer who harvests crops, tends livestock, discovers magical secrets, builds friendships, and more.