With my recent purchase of a Nintendo Switch, I was hit with the same dilemma most Switch owners were also hit with. I have like nothing to play. After I was tired of Just Dance 18’ing my heart away, I went to the eShop and looked around for the millionth time where I finally purchased Stardew Valley. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Harvest Moon or Minecraft like game so this seemed like a good time to re-enter that genre.
After playing through my first season in Stardew I feel like I have a good grasp of the game and the one thing that stands out the most is how similar it is to Minecraft. Many of the core elements are the same with minor differences that give each game their own unique play style. I don’t have a clear winner in mind, but by the end of this, we should have something. Sidenote, we’re talking about Minecraft’s survival mode. Not free create.
Minecraft follows a pretty simple crafting structure. If you have the materials, you can build it. There are no restrictions on what you can and cannot make and when. This makes for unique playthroughs as you develop different strategies and if you’re not checking the internet, through trial and error you’ve learned some new crafting recipes along the way.
Stardew takes a different approach. You are limited by progression as to what you can make. As you play the game and do things a certain number of times, new abilities and recipes will become available. But it doesn’t stop there. Even if you unlock a recipe, in some cases, the build requires a lot of materials. This forces you to play at the game’s pace. Early on in the game, you get the ability to build a chicken coop. That’s cool and all until you find out you need to chop down half the earth’s forest to build it.
A big part of Minecraft is upgrading your gear to survive longer, mine/chop faster, and kill stuff. You could probably get a diamond pickaxe on day 1 or 2 if you wanted it bad enough. All you need to do is get the ore required and craft that bad boy. Stardew handles upgrades a little differently. To go from your standard pickaxe to a copper one, you not only need the ore, you have to pay 2,000G’s to get it crafted by the local smith. 2,000 early in the game is a holy amount of money. I would have all my tools upgraded if I had 10,000G’s lying around. But you also need that money for crops.
In Stardew, upgrading gear is a balancing act of “do I really need it” and “should I be using this money for something more important like inventory space”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. There is much more strategy involved as you plan out your budget. It’s much more akin to real farming. Well…as real as 16-bit farming can be.
Normally once you’ve hit a certain point in Minecraft, it’s time to focus on sustainable living. This means getting seeds planted in that irrigation miracle you found on Minecraft wiki and building a barn for your cow slaves. This is all pretty straightforward in Minecraft. Make sure your plants are watered and gather when they are ready.
Stardew follows more of a Harvest Moon principle. (honestly, Stardew Valley is Harvest Moon but with Minecraft Monsters). You’ll have to go to the local store and buy the seeds that you feel will have the highest return on your investment. There is also a strategy to what you should buy. Some plants will produce all season and some are done once you harvest one. Some plants even block your path so you have to be careful how you lay out your fields and gardens. And there are no magic tricks to watering your plants. If you have a huge operation, you gotta water that whole thing by hand. Unless you build sprinklers or it rains, you spend 2 in-game hours pouring water on dirt. And you will love every second of it.
Stardew Valley takes a monster card straight out of Minecraft’s playbook. By default, there are no monsters around in Stardew, just in the local mine. But there are different options when you start the game which adds varying levels of difficulty to managing your farm. The final level is “Monsters come out at night”. Huge side eye to Minecraft there. But not considering that you only face monsters when you’re mining. And while mine you are going through deeper and deeper depths. Each level a little more difficult than the last with stronger monsters, more darkness and less of a chance to find the entrance to the next level.
On the subject of Mining and how specific that last bit was ongoing level to level. In Minecraft, you literally beat the ground straight down until you strike magma or diamonds. There is no in-between. But in Minecraft, Monsters also come out at night and also live specifically underground. Similarly to Stardew, the only time you really face monster danger is at night and if you go underground.
After all this writing and landing here I used the word different way more than I expected. And even though both games share many of the same elements, they are presented in completely unique ways. The true differential is, do you want to build or do you want to farm. If you play Minecraft and you love the farming and agriculture, I would strongly urge you to try out Stardew Valley. And if your favorite part of Stardew Valley is the mine and you focus all your time on constructing, Minecraft could be a great fit.
I hope I’ve at least swayed your decision one way or the other. Drop us a comment on what you like more or less about each game.
If you want to see more articles like this – help fuel the next one!