The Farm Life Sim genre is a sub-genre of Life Simulation Games and Roleplaying 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 their farm is a small town full of quirky individuals, including several potential Love Interests that can be married if the player wishes. 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).
Despite its success, Story of Seasons had little in terms of rivals. The closest were games like Animal Crossing from 2001 onwards, or Farmville and Farming Simulator after 2009, which weren't quite in the same genre. 2016's Stardew Valley propelled the genre into the mainstream gaming landscape. 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.
- Agricola is a board game for up to 5 players, in which the objective is to grow a farm and make it prosper.
- Stardew Valley, tabletop adaptation of the videogame listed below.
- 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.
- Animal Crossing has always been similar to a farm life sim, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons adds onto the similarities due to the deserted island theme: the player can now grow their own vegetables, craft tools, and till the land.
- Bountiful Life is an in-development game by Alcinous Studios. It's a Story Of Seasons-inspired game with 40-50 planned characters.
- Coral Island is an upcoming game set on a tropical, southeast-Asian inspired island. As well as the farming, ranching, and social mechanics common to the genre, the player can also collect resources in a cave on the island and go diving in the island's coral reefs to clean up trash.
- The Japan-only PC-engine game Daichi-kun Crisis - Do Natural can be considered the Ur-Example, predating Harvest Moon by over five years. It can also be considered an early Real-Time Strategy game. You play as a family of cows, planting crops, selling them, and fending off invading monsters. The goal of the game is to populate an island with trees.
- 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 infidelity, murder, Domestic Abuse, and occult activity.
- Gr0wing is a sprite-based farm sim based off of Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. It began development in 2016 but has hit Development Hell.
- ''Harvestella is an Action RPG crossed with a Farm Life Sim.
- 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).
- Harvest Town is an Android Game created by QY Games, and published by Avid.ly. Typical to its genre, the game allows players to plant crops, raise animals, forage, mine, fish, and interact with villagers. It does have an unusual premise in that the protagonist isn't a City Mouse newcomer moving into an abandoned farm. Instead, they are a Harvest Town native who had left the village for the metropolis decades ago, and had become old and regretful in their old age. While reminiscing the past, they inexplicably underwent a Mental Time Travel to the moment before their departure, whereupon they cancel their plans to leave, and are determined to rebuild the farm that they have neglected.
- Kitaria Fables advertises itself as an Action RPG, but one of its main features is developing and maintaining Thunderbunn Farm, from which you grow and harvest ingredients for cooking as well as crafting upgrades for your adventures.
- Little Dragons Café 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.
- Littlewood calls itself a "peaceful RPG". It's a fantasy-based farm sim and town-building game. The protagonist is an amnesiac former hero who has defeated the evil Dark Wizard. You settle down and try to convince townsfolk to stay in your town, all while trying to recover your memories.
- Lullaby Gardens is a shopkeeper and farm RPG inspired by Story of Seasons. You are a shopkeeper at a coastal town who must gather goods for the shop to bring back customers.
- Moonlight Tales is a cancelled sim inspired by Story of Seasons and Animal Crossing. Only a prototype exists. The game would have involved cooking, farming, decorating your house, and raising relationships with townsfolks.
- 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).
- Ooblets combines this with the Mons Series, and allows you to grow your own Mons.
- 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 and 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.
- Re Legend is a co-op farm sim where you raise mons called Magnus on a planet named Ethia.
- Rimworld has some elements of this genre, particularly if you add some of the game mods designed to expand on the existing mechanics like Fertile Fields or the Vegetable Garden Project. The overall tone is rather less Arcadian the other examples on this page, however. Especially if you don't plant enough crops before winter.
- Roblox has some: Farming and Friends (the most realistic), Farm Life, and Welcome to Farmtown!
- 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.
- Sakuna Of Rice And Ruin has been compared to Rune Factory in terms of combat and farming, taking place in the country of Yanato (Japan-equivalent). The titular protagonist Sakuna has to balance between farming rice to replace the destroyed stock that was meant to be a tribute to the gods, while also exterminating demons on the Island of Demons, both parts punishment. Farming rice is important to Sakuna as the better her yield is in quality, the better her combat stats are, courtesy of inheriting aspects from both her war god father and harvest goddess mother.
- Shepherd's Crossing is a rare pre-Stardew Valley example. What differentiates it from Harvest Moon was focusing more on animal husbandry and economics, and also having somewhat of a more mature and cynical tone. For instance, this is one of the few games in the genre where you can actually slaughter your livestock for meat.
- Stardew Valley is the Genre Popularizer. Until this game, only the original Story of Seasons and Shepherd's Crossing existed, but the popularity of Stardew Valley led to a slew of clones. The game started out as a Story of Seasons Fan Game before becoming a 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). Stardew Valley is inspired by the original few Story of Seasons titles, which is why it contains mature topics like alcoholism and depression.
- Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands has an emphasis on farming and exploration, but it does have NPC characters to interact with as well.
- Sunville is a retraux farm sim with survival and crafting 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.
- The Viva Piñata series is about turning a ruined wasteland into a beautiful garden that can be customized to your own will. But what makes this game truly stand out is the brightly-colored, animal piñatas that are actually living creatures. You can attract them to come visit your garden, and they might stay as "residents" if certain requirements are met. For each resident piñata, they have a "candiosity" meter. With it maximized, they can be sent to Piñata Central to be whisked off to parties, and then... *ahem* get bashed to pieces as any real piñata would. (Don't worry, they enjoy getting bashed ...well, most of them do.) Then eventually, they return to the garden seemingly unscathed.
- 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.
- Voodoo Garden is a clicker game about harvesting the fruits of a garden that grows automatically, buying new plants for it, and crafting various magic potions.