Comparisons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons vs. Stardew Valley

Which one should I buy?

Intro

Two games I have really gotten into this year are Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley. People have asked me which game I think is better and honestly it has been hard to come up with a decision. Despite the similarities between the games, they are both VERY different and your gameplay experience can vary depending on which game you decide to play. In this blog post I will present different aspects of these games, and other information surrounding these games, to help you decide which game you should buy.

Game Releases and Success

Stardew Valley is a farming game, based off of the game Harvest Moon. Stardew Valley released in February 2016, and by April 2016, had already sold one million copies. As of January 2020, it has sold over 10 million copies. It is also one of the highest rated Steam games of all time. What’s amazing about Stardew Valley is it was all made by ONE person. Eric Barone, the creator of Stardew Valley, made everything in the game from scratch. The story, music, artwork, programming, sound effects and other aspects of the game were all originally created by him!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game created by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. It first came out in March 2020 and as of August 2020 has sold over 22 million copies! This game is so popular, it has overtaken both Super Smash Brothers Ultimate and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in copies sold. What’s even more impressive is that Animal Crossing has only been out for a few months!

I am very impressed with the quality of both of these games. Both kept me VERY entertained during the COVID-19 shutdown. If I was basing success off of how many copies each game has sold, Animal Crossing: New Horizons would obviously win. But I don’t think it’s that simple. Especially seeing how that would be pitting Eric Barone against Nintendo, a leading name in game production. However, it will be interesting to see how each game fares the test of time.

Pricing

If you are deciding which game to buy based solely on pricing, then Stardew Valley is the very easy choice. I was able to buy a digital copy of Stardew Valley on my Nintendo Switch for $15. I bought a digital copy of Animal Crossing for about $60. Sometimes Animal Crossing goes on sale, but you can’t get it much cheaper. You could literally buy four copies of Stardew Valley for the price of one copy of Animal Crossing. To be honest though, that’s not a bad idea. If you’re wanting to play with friends, you could buy your three favorite people a copy of Stardew Valley and then play co-op together (I’ll talk more about the co-op play later). If you are wondering where you can purchase Stardew Valley, it’s available through the Nintendo Store, Steam, or Humble Bundle. Generally a digital copy of Stardew Valley runs for $15, while a physical copy runs for $25. You can play this game on a Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. More likely than not you own one of these, so you do not need to worry about buying a new console. If you are wondering where you can buy a copy of Animal Crossing, it’s available on the Nintendo Store and Amazon. Unfortunately you can only play it on the Nintendo Switch. So, if you do not own one, Stardew Valley might be a more likely option.

Gameplay and Objectives

Something both of these games have in common is they are the type of game you play when you want to chill. This isn’t Breath of the Wild where all of a sudden you hear a crazy piano medley and know you’re going to get blasted out of Hyrule by a Guardian. You’re playing what I call zen-garden games. A zen-garden game is a game you play just for the sake of playing. The story isn’t super intense, and your objectives and tasks are simple. Because of these things, you can just relax. Both Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing have very similar aspects. For example, you can fish in both games and also develop relationships with the NPCs. However your objective in each game is different. In Stardew Valley, you are a farmer. You do farmer things like plant and harvest crops, care for livestock, and sell your products for a profit. You can also sell fish and mine for rocks and ore. Stardew Valley also acts as a life simulator game where you can develop friendships, fall in love, and even start a family.

Animal Crossing on the other hand is a game where you start off hopelessly in debt to a capitalist raccoon who brought you to your island and gave you the impression you would just get to be on vacation the rest of your life. (To be honest, that is probably the biggest pyramid scheme I’ve ever encountered in a gaming experience). As you can guess, you end up having to maintain the island and make it an Instagramable location. Basically what that means is you sell fruit, bugs, fish, and sea creatures in order to fund your efforts. You decorate your island, decorate your home, buy stylish outfits, and fill your museum all so you can make your island amazing. You also fill your island with the most adorable animal villagers who keep you company!

To sum up what I’ve described, if you are looking for more of a Story-Mode or life-simulation, or if you absolutely love a good farming game, pick Stardew Valley. If you want more of a decorating/collection game and a game with cute animals, pick Animal Crossing.

Graphics

Another major difference is the type of graphics your game will have. Animal Crossing: New Horizons looks newer with its 3D graphics and super detailed image. Stardew Valley contrasts that with an 8-bit design that makes it look retro. To be honest, the graphics in these games never really mattered to me. I care more about how clear and high-quality my games look when I’m playing a more intense game like Star Wars Battlefront 2 or Fortnite. But if you really care about graphics, Animal Crossing is the way to go.

Time

Time works differently in both of these games. In Stardew Valley, a regular day generally lasts for about 10 minutes, and will pause time when you take a break from the game. In Animal Crossing, time is synchronized with real-time (or whatever time you have your Nintendo Switch set to). You may wonder why time schedules matter in games like these. The main reason time matters is because it affects your scheduling, in real-life time, and how you play. Since Stardew Valley divides days up into 10ish minute intervals, you can play until you need a break for the day and come back to it without any time passing at all. Animal Crossing however, has events that only happen on a certain day, or has other activities and things available at certain times. For example, during the Summer, once a month you can participate in a “Bug-Off”, a bug-catching competition. If you miss it, you have to wait a whole REAL-TIME month to participate in it again. And once the last Bug-Off of the season happens, you have to wait until the following Summer to participate!

The only other option to undo your absence on a day is to “time-travel”. People who don’t want to miss certain events or other things will literally go as far as to turn back time on their Nintendo Switch to trick the game into thinking they are playing the game in the past. And while I think that this is not the best way to play a game, I will admit that even I have gone as far to do this in very extreme circumstances where I know I will not be able to get on my Nintendo Switch the day of an event. Having Animal Crossing synced up with real-time also affects you if you have a job (and can’t jump on at certain times) or don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to complete some tasks. Some bugs, fish, and sea creatures can only be caught at certain times. For example, the Walking Stick can only be caught July-November from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. So, if you aren’t on for those three hours of the day, you might miss it. One thing that makes me the saddest about time in Animal Crossing, is when you go on vacation or life gets busy, and you don’t get on for a few days, or sometimes even a few weeks. Your villagers will miss you. They’ll ask where you’ve been and some will even think you’ve been avoiding them.

The nice thing about Stardew Valley is you can leave the game for months and no one will even know you left since time will pause for you when you aren’t playing the game. So, if you are the type of person who cares about making sure you are able to take a break from the game whenever you want without consequences, Stardew Valley might be a better choice. But if you want a game that is synced up with you in real-time, pick Animal Crossing.

Playing with friends!

I love a good game that has co-op! It adds extra value to the game and provides another fun way to spend time with friends. Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley both have amazing co-op options in their games. However, the way co-op works in each game is very different. In Stardew Valley, you work together with up to four friends on a farm and pool your efforts together to make the farm successful. Basically, it’s like playing a Story Mode with four players. Honestly, working together with more people on the same farm really makes the game a lot easier and allows you to accomplish more errands and tasks in a Stardew Valley day. Certain sections of the game are also easier. For example, harvesting crops is MUCH easier the more people you have. If you try to do it by yourself, you might not get anything else done in the game. 

While co-op in Stardew Valley means you are collectively working together with your friends on the same farm, Animal Crossing’s co-op focuses more on hanging out with friends. You can invite your friends to your island, and they can invite you to theirs. You can have up to eight friends come to your island! There are some benefits to going to each other’s islands. For example, you can sell fruit at a higher price on a friend’s island (as long as their island’s natural fruit isn’t the same as yours). A friend can also invite you to their island, where you can buy items you have not yet encountered on your island. But honestly when a friend comes to your island, you just hang out for the most part. You can run around with them and show off your island, house, or villagers and that’s really it. I will say that one thing I think is lame about multiple people sharing a Nintendo Switch is that you can’t make multiple islands and accounts on the same console. So if you’re buying it for your family and think you can all make your own islands, you’re out of luck. If you don’t want to share the island, and don’t want to buy another Nintendo Switch and copy of Animal Crossing, you should definitely buy Stardew Valley. Because unlike Animal Crossing, in Stardew Valley you can make multiple accounts and farms. 

The only other difference in multiplayer modes I can think of is how communication with other players works. In Stardew Valley, you can’t communicate through the game to other players. So, unless you are chatting with them over the phone or Google Hangouts or something, you can’t coordinate efforts in the game. However, you can communicate with other players in Animal Crossing. You don’t even have to be on the same island as another player. You just text them through your Nook phone (the in-game phone you receive), and they can see your messages and reply back. Because of this feature, hanging out with friends on Animal Crossing is a lot more interesting, and allows better connection while playing.

NPCs

The last major thing I can think of in difference between Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley is the NPCs (or Non-Playable Characters) you encounter in each game. In Stardew Valley, you have set NPCs and you can develop friendships with basically anyone in the game. These relationships can even go as far as marrying an NPC in the game and even starting a family with them!

A major difference between NPCs in Animal Crossing (besides obviously the NPCs being animals in Animal Crossing), is that most of your NPCs are not set. You can have up to ten villagers at once. You can kick villagers off your island and replace them with more popular or cute choices. Not all villagers are made equal, and some of the best ones can be hard to find. There’s even a ranking system for villagers and how desirable they are.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve gotten really lucky with my villagers. With the exception of my hippo Bubbles, I like all my villagers. Somehow I’ve even managed to collect four of the S Ranked villagers (the most popular of all). But I’m still always looking for opportunities to bring new villagers into my island. Honestly collecting the cutest villagers is one of my favorite parts about this game. Personally, I like it more than decorating! Also, just like in Stardew Valley, you can develop friendships with the NPCs. However the friendships in Animal Crossing don’t go as deep as they do in Stardew Valley. So, if you want the ability to pick which NPCs will be in your game, go with Animal Crossing. If you want to be able to develop deep friendships with NPCs, go with Stardew Valley.

My Final Decision

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when comparing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley. And you can definitely tell that one dominates the other in certain topics. After analyzing different aspects of each of these games I now know, for me personally, I like Animal Crossing: New Horizons a lot more. It was a really hard decision, especially seeing how amazing Stardew Valley is. And Stardew Valley definitely does better than Animal Crossing in certain areas. But to be honest, I find myself playing Animal Crossing more than Stardew Valley. I love making my home beautiful, buying unlimited clothes, and beautifying my island. I really enjoy the NPCs in Animal Crossing, and like them more than the NPCs in Stardew Valley. I mean really, look at these cuties, don’t tell me you don’t think that’s adorable. 

And honestly, I really enjoy going to my friends’ islands and seeing their designs, and also being able to show off my island. Despite me loving Animal Crossing more, I still enjoy Stardew Valley a lot, and I DEFINITELY believe that both games are worth the buy. If you aren’t picky and want to buy both games, you TOTALLY should! They’re both so worth it.

Well that’s it for this post! Thanks for reading! If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments below! I am curious to see what people think about both of these games.

6 thoughts on “Animal Crossing: New Horizons vs. Stardew Valley”

  1. They are both great games, but for different reasons. I’m pretty sure I have more hours on Animal Crossing because of how time works in the game and the daily tasks. They also keep giving reasons to go back to it with the free content updates.

    Liked by 1 person

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