Stardew Valley (PC, Android, iOS)
Our number one recommended farming game, Stardew Valley is a magical tale where you play as a small boy who inherits a plot of grim farming land off his grandad, Oh yeah and a bunch of worn out farming tools and a few coins too. It's up to you to use the little you have to build a successful farm from scratch. More than just your average farm time management game, Stardew is a lot more involved, it's like your experiencing a whole new life on the farm in a cute cartoon.
The game perfectly captures the challenge of learning to live off the land in a fun and innocent manner. While in terms of alternative activities there is everything from mining and fishing to meeting the love of your life.
One of the most endearing parts of the game are the visuals that breathe magical life into such a wonderful little gem of a farming rpg sim. If there was ever a game that could bridge the reality of life as a local farmer with that of the casual gamer this is it. It will teach you how to appreciate the simple life on the farm while you will also get to choose between saving your town from ruin or joining forces with a large coorporation looking to exploit it, meaning the game offers a not so innocent alternative scenario too!
Farm Frenzy 3: Ice Age (PC, Android, iOS)
I have really enjoyed playing the Farm Frenzy 3 games up to now so am delighted to say that Ice Age has not let me down in terms of content, fun and originality plus it is a more than adequate sequel to the previous editions. Set in The Ice Age it is a superb time management point and click game that will get the adrenalin pumping as you work your way up into a frenzy clicking away to complete each frantic level.
There are a number of editions in the Farm Frenzy 3 title now but each chapter has a different story and location making it different from the others in although much of the type of game play is the same. This does not however spoil the enjoyment as if you have played the other Farm Frenzy 3 titles you will be well practised in what is to come so will glean a lot more enjoyment from the game.
You will play as Scarlett, the main character, who is on a farm at The North Pole. Now I don't suppose in real life you find that many farms at the North Pole but in this particular story it is a charming setting for what is an enchanting game with an unusual theme. Scarlett must keep the well full so her animals have water. Scarlett can then gather products to sell in the form of eggs or feathers that the animals provide.
Upgrades are available in Farm Frenzy 3 Ice Age that enable you to make other products from your original goods such as ice-cream, cakes or biscuits plus you can also have your goods airlifted out for a price. Chaining items will also win you extra points. For instance starting with a basic product, using it to produce another product, using that one to make another until four or five products chained down the line you have a completely different item of merchandise to sell. It's great!
The animals you look after on this frozen farm are very much in keeping with the North Pole theme being very cute penguins with brilliant colouring or Walruses who lumber around along with mammoths in their woolly coats. Its all very effective with icy scenery plus snowy locations that give the impression of freezing temperatures. Dogs and cats are also available again this time around to assist you on the farm plus they help to keep would be attackers such as polar bears, who try to kill your animals at bay, its all great fun and very amusing.
You can actually catch the polar bears if you like by clicking away on them. You will then be able to sell them while on later levels you can dress the poor things up in amusing outfits to make even more money. As you progress through the levels they do become more difficult to complete plus the faster you complete a level the better the score you will achieve. I found it fun playing against the clock as it was more of a challenge plus its great when you complete a level in quick time giving you a sense of achievement when you win a gold award instead of a silver one.
Farm Frenzy 3 Ice Age has an endless mode to play while you will be pleased to know replaying the game over and over is also possible. Visually it is a real treat with lovely characterisation and colours along with a great soundtrack. All Farm Frenzy 3 fans will want to buy this edition as it is a brilliant sequel with plenty of added features that provides hours of game play fun. You can get the entire Farm Frenzy collection for PC at Steam here.
Alice Green Fingers (PC, iOS)
Who knew casual games and manual labor go together? In Alice Greenfingers, you try your hand at building the flower garden of your dreams. Grow some vegetables on the side and take care of animals too, then hit the town market. Harvest and sell according to your customers' demands. Expand your business by unlocking items throughout your 30-day farming adventure.
Created by the guys at arcadelab.com, Alice Greenfingers is a business sim game that features a customizable garden. With engaging game play and a logical control scheme to boot, it's no wonder that this gardening gem emerged as the 1st runner-up for Best Action/Arcade Game back in 2007.
As for the concept, well, think Harvest Moon meets Lemonade Tycoon. Your main goal is to tend to your farm, making good decisions in order to maximize profits in the town market. From sowing seeds to storing ripe vegetables in a box, you are in charge of everything that goes on in your garden.
The farming formula is nothing you haven't seen before. You click on the grass to prepare a patch of soil. This counts as an open tile. Afterwards, you pick the bag of seeds you wish to plant. Clicking on one of the dirt patches on the ground will sow the seeds. The plants will need time to grow so you can take this opportunity to add more vegetables to your garden. When the produce is ready, it's then time to harvest them. You click on a vegetable to place it in a box. Each box holds four plants. When filled, you may leave the box inside the storage shed. After that, it's time to head to the town market.
Because all of the interactions are done through mouse clicks, it's easy to get the hang of the controls. After finishing the mandatory tutorial, you will even be given a step-by-step reminder note in case you get confused with the process. As your garden grows, you may customize it with a variety of different flowers, fruits and vegetables. There will even be animals and decorations to unlock along the way.
As the game was released a few years back, the graphics, understandably, shows its age. With a dominant brown tone, the colors look muddy on an HD PC monitor. The pixel art is charming, though it could use a polish in terms of style. We're not really big fans of the character design either, as the art style used for the portraits remind us of Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head. Perhaps it's a good thing, as it reminds us why we fell in love with gaming in the first place. Just as it was during the 8-bit era, Alice Greenfingers puts its focus on great game play as opposed to the bells and whistles of CG eye candy.
Alice Greenfingers may not be as graphically impressive as, say, Farmer's Market reviewed below, but the bite-sized garden adventure hits the spot when it comes to game play. Any Harvest Moon fan will be familiar with the farming process, with the benefit of having a more simplified system. There's no need to chop up trees in the middle of your land and you don't have to water every single plant several times just to get them to grow. The challenge lies in the business side of things and not in mundane tasks in the garden.
Aside from sticking to the basics, this accessible garden sim game also earns brownie points for having an efficient menu system. For instance, travelling to the town market only requires a click on its icon on the game menu, eliminating the need to repetitively walk from garden to market. Of course, you will still have to wait for Alice to finish an animation before moving to the next.
Aside from genre fans, we recommend Alice Greenfingers for those looking for a straightforward farm-themed game that can be finished in a day. Those who love customization features will enjoy tending to their garden. There are a wide range of crops and produce to harvest. There are also 12 awards to earn and plenty of items to unlock if you are into achievements. Bottom line is, the game's intuitive controls combined with the familiar game play will ensure that even novice farmers will enjoy the 30-day farming crash course. That is, if you can look past the title's dated graphics. Grab the iOS version here too.
Farmers Market (PC)
From Fugazo, the creators of Bistro Boulevard, comes an engaging time management title with a unique theme. Farmers Market will allow you to manage your very own bustling Farmers Market from building stalls to selling various produce. You start with basic products include eggs, corn, milk and beef but once you have enough stalls, you can combine ingredients to include delicious treats such as ice cream, fruit pies and waffles too. Open your market in the city, at campgrounds, the pier and even the desert! Hire a band to attract more customers and charge a premium price for food after winning blue ribbon contests. Watch satisfied patrons walk away with bags full of your farm-fresh products and enjoy the hustle and bustle of a successful marketplace in this terrific time management game, aptly titled Farmers Market.
In order to build stands to fill up the marketplace, you will need Workers. These valuable men will be the ones to create the produce Stalls, upgrade them, deliver goods across Vendors and even collect the trash. You may hire and train any number of them for a price. There are three types of Stalls: Farmer stalls, Vendor stands and Special kiosk (Lemonade Stand, Bandstand, Judging Booth). In order to successfully best later levels, you will need to think strategically place these stalls to minimize your Worker's steps. This way, ingredients are delivered quickly and you get to maximize your profit.
In order to progress through the game, you will need to keep each level's Goals in mind. You will usually need to meet a minimum requirement when it comes to daily earnings, build specific stands and sell a set number of goods. The last one is the most tricky as some of the processed items require multiple stalls to create.
That being said, the special stands do help in a pinch. Bandstands attract customers (they do cost a lot though, so watch out). Lemonade stands keep your stalls running while Judging Booths double the price of winning stalls and are vital in meeting money goals.
With such an unassuming theme, it would have been easy to just slap on some farm elements and call it a day –thankfully, that's not the case with Farmers Market. We found the game play to be quite clever, with the interaction between stalls in the limelight. This prevents things from becoming dull and keeps your head in the game.
While the enjoyable game play alone gives enough of reason to check out Farmers Market, the visuals are nothing to scoff at either. The relaxed ambiance, topped with a busy market really immerses you in the action. The animations are smooth, with a certain level of realism when it comes to background rendering. The level of detail found on each stall looks amazing, with teeny tiny produce piled up in bins or neatly aligned to complete the look. Top it off with a superb soundtrack that captures fhe spirit of a true farmers market and, of course, a killer concept and you've got an irresistible combo. Fugazo really did a good job in terms of presentation. Though this is a busy time management game, seeing the satisfying flow of patrons helps things from getting frustrating.
It's not every day that you come across a title that explores the intricacies of a Farmers Market and after enjoying this gem, we wonder why not. Instead of producing just another garden game, Fugazo (https://www.wildtangent.com/developers/fugazo) captured something much more unique and interesting. They mixed elements from building games and simulations to the time management genre and came up with a marvel. We love the fact that they included unexpected locations, did away with a cheesy story and emphasized the benefits of having stands work together to come up with new things to sell. At the moment, it's a fresh concept that manages to provide a 60-level long game play and we love it. Not to mention, it has one of the best graphics for the genre.
If you're a time management game fan, it's almost certain you'll find something to love about Farmers Market. As long as you are up for a little micro management, then this nostalgic title will keep you entertained for hours on end.
The Joy of Farming (PC)
Will Make You a Master of Efficiency
Work your magic on a run-down homestead to turn it into a busy, thriving farm. Grow a myriad of healthy, mouthwatering veggies and expand your business in the process. Make the farm more efficient by installing ladders and ropes so that your workers can get to where they are needed the most. Build the farm of your dreams by upgrading your humble garden into a more elaborate facility fit to win Farm of the Year. With its challenging, strategic game play, mastering this time management game is no easy task.
So does The Joy of Farming live up to its name? Well, the beginning is easy enough even for casual time management players. However, things become hectic as early as level 10. Amassing enough to upgrade takes a while, and even then, attaining a gold rating is quite a challenge. Casual players are weeded early on in the game, as there are more than 60 different levels to figure out. If you're up for the challenge, however, then you'll definitely get your money's worth with tons of replay value.
On the plus side, The Joy of Farming won't tire you out with seemingly endless mouse clicking. Well, unless there are thieves after your goods. In which case, you will have to be vigilant and click away. Successfully imprison one of the sneaky robbers and you'll be given the chance to grab his bag of loot for an extra 25 credits to spend. That'll definitely go a long way in helping you with those upgrades.
If you're after fast-paced game play, then you may not dig The Joy of Farming. The characters here move slowly and you'll have to wait for their animation to finish before starting a new task. Joy herself takes a while to serve customers (give or take half a minute), which may be discouraging to those who need to replay levels to get a gold rating. This is unfortunate as replaying levels for better ratings is essential to proceed in the game. Certain levels need objects to be unlocked before becoming available. Stars are used to purchase objects and the rate they are earned depends on how well you did on previous levels.
Also, the bonuses for upgrading items could use a better explanation. For instance, the difference between a level 1 water barrel and a level 2 water barrel is barely noticeable –you have to wonder what exactly improved. While gardeners do get new duds, their animation hardly reflects the new bonuses. Though not everyone can appreciate seeing percentages, at least players would have a more realistic expectation when it comes to their hard-earned level ups,
While the technical side does need some work, The Joy of Farming doesn't lag behind when it comes to graphics. The detailed backdrops and colorful cast of characters look like they were pulled straight out of a story book. The artists were very meticulous, with textures and creases on even the tiniest carrot icon. The art style is quite traditional, almost like everything is hand drawn. Don't expect smooth Flash animation and gradient shading. Regardless, the visuals do look splendid and they fit in well with the game play. For those who are familiar with the series, they remind us a bit of the art found in old Strawberry Shortcake cartoons (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0995001/).
For a time management game, The Joy of Farming may have a steep learning curve but if you're looking for a game to last you hours and are into strategic game play, then it is perfect for you. It's really engaging on some parts and it teeters on frustrating in others. We would have liked some more polish when it comes to some of the technical details we mentioned, but at least it's just inconvenient and nothing game breaking. The graphics are wonderful and they fit in well with the homey farm theme of the title.
Bottom line is, you usually enjoy titles in the farming genre, then we recommend spending some time playing the demo. After an hour, you may just be craving for more. If not, you can always go for more relaxed farm-themed titles such as Alice Greenfingers.