Stardew Valley vs. Animal Crossing New Horizons

A discussion of one of the top indie games out vs. a well known AAA game
Video games have been all the rage, and with the latest update to Stardew Valley and the spread of Animal Crossing New Horizons just which one is better?
Video games have been all the rage, and with the latest update to Stardew Valley and the spread of Animal Crossing New Horizons just which one is better?
Hunter Stadnyk

Spoilers ahead. 

 Time and time again we see game developers put out their creations for the masses to enjoy, but when it comes to big-time developers and indie game developers there’s a clear difference in how their creations are treated, viewed, and engaged with. 

Cozy Games 

When it comes to video games there are a multitude of genres, there are all kinds of games for any person. But two prominent games that have been grabbing the eyes of gamers around the world are Stardew Valley (2016) and Animal Crossing New Horizons (2020), two of some of the most popular cozy games available. 

 A cozy game is typically described as a relaxing video game that cause minimal stress. Cozy games started becoming popular during the pandemic, when everyone was stuck at home stressed with the world and turned to games to escape their struggles, even if it was only for a moment.  

Animal Crossing 

One of these games that game out was Animal Crossing New Horizons, a mini paradise away from all the fears from the real world, where players are sent to an island with the goal of improving that island by collecting fossils, bugs, fish, works of art from real life, decorating the island, and getting new villagers. Many were drawn to the game‘s designs of characters, furniture, and character customization. Allowing players to make their own islands how they want.  

Stardew Valley 

Stardew Valley was released in 2016 and created by Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone. Stardew Valley is a game where players inherit a farm from their deceased grandfather in a place called Stardew Valley, located near Pelican Town. The goal of the player can differ based on what route they want to go for, giving players two main options on how they want things to go for Pelican Town. With Stardew Valley, unlike Animal Crossing, there are more places to explore, more things to do, and building things that don’t take real days to complete. Of course, each has its uniqueness to it, but Stardew Valley has been getting updates for the past 8 years, giving players all the way back in 2016 more things to do, with the latest update giving a new location to explore, new items and crops, as well as a new event. 

Student’s Take 

Wren Hodgson, a graduate of Patriot High School, stated how for them they enjoyed when games gave the player multiple things to explore as well as little details into the games. Regarding cozy games, Hodgson explained their opinion that a cozy game had relaxing music, lighter graphics, and some puzzles. As someone who has developed some games themself, they expressed their enjoyment of cozy games and how they have brought a sense of peace and relaxation. Ever since they were a kid, video games have been a factor in their life and have made them more connected to stories and gaming in general.  

Game Developing 

 Robbie Dietrich, an Assistant Professor at GMU for game design, has worked with many people. Those people have influenced how they have done things, stating how they imagined certain people they’ve worked with and how they’d react to certain aspects of what they’re working on, whether something needed to be added or changed.  

Dietrich said when it comes to designing different genres of games there is a specific demographic you have to focus on, such as what genre goes with the player, and making sure to cater to that type of player, such as how the game is played out. “I am still thinking about how quickly and how snappy everything needs to respond to the player in order to let the game feel good and feel good ways that like the player probably doesn’t realize like consciously but they’ll kind of feel it as they play around.” 

 When it comes to game developing, color coding is more crucial than one might assume. Dietrich explained how color coding is used to identify stuff that’s in the game more easily for players, such as a health bar and classes. The reason they used specific colors for certain aspects of the games being developed as Dietrich explains is because of the history of how certain colors are associated with different gaming-related subjects, giving examples like red for health and blue for magic. In many games, you can see how color coding affects players, even if it’s subtle.  

Accessibility 

When it comes to games, some games can be played on a multitude of platforms or just one, and while it makes sense for specific games to be limited on one or two platforms, for other games it doesn’t make sense. Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) is limited to the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite, limiting the amount of players who can play the game, while Stardew Valley has a more wider range of reach such as PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and VITA, iOS and Android. Most people don’t own a console for just one game, and for those only interested in ACNH it can be discouraging to players who may wish to own the game. With Stardew Valley having a wider range, people can choose where they want to play from, without worrying about a new console if they already have a console with games. 

With more ways to play a game comes easier ways for players to showcase gameplay. PC and Mac players have a much easier time, being able to showcase their game with relative ease whether it be to an audience of strangers to streaming gameplay to friends on calls. Stardew Valley, with its wide range of platforms, has made it easier to stream and showcase gameplay to others with relative ease. Unlike ACNH, which requires a capture card.  

More Things to Do 

While both games have their fair share of things to do, with both having their respective Museums, fishing mechanics, and even the option of growing crops, ACNH tends to be limited. In ACNH players can choose where to build new buildings, gather things for the museum, get new villagers, upgrade the player’s house, customize things, and get new recipes. While this is not bad, ACNH does have a system where if you want to access customized clothing and portraits from other players or be able to play with others online from far away, you’ll need a Nintendo Switch online subscription, which costs $19.99/year. This is extremely limiting for those with friends outside of the local vicinity, and either forces people to buy the subscription or go out of their way to meet up with people in person. While this can be considered a price worthy of paying for some, for others that’s not going to be the case. Of course, players can still go to other islands, they just can’t visit islands belonging to other players. 

Stardew Valley gives players the option to go through two different routes, the Jojo route, and the Community center route. While most players tend to favor the Community center route it gives an interesting perspective on what is done and how they may be treated by the townspeople of Pelican town. In this game, players can also collect items, but they get a more divergent route, getting to go to the mines where they can venture deep and collect ore and items to donate to the museum, as well as a multitude of different locations to explore. Of course, the main area, the farm, and Pelican Town offer players the chance to not only build up the farm but to meet the locals and even grow a deep connection, that’s where we get our 12 marriage candidates. Stardew Valley allows players to date/marry any of the 12 candidates no matter their farmers gender. There’s also the bulletin board which gives the players small quests in order to gain friendship points and some money, as well as the new prize tickets to motivate players to be a good Samaritan. There are also bigger quests, which give higher awards with an added challenge. Not only can you play the base game, but you can also get mods to either expand the world or just get mods (modifications) to add more things to make your gameplay challenging or more unique, such as expanded dialogue, new NPCs, or a randomizer mod just to name a few.  

Final Take 

While both games give players a wide range of things to do, Stardew Valley takes the cake with just how much more you can do. With Stardew Valley’s 1.6 update and the addition to being able to add mods on the PC version of the game to improve the game, the answer is clear on who the is winner. 

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