5. Stardew Valley
One of, if not THE, most noteworthy indie titles of the year is Stardew Valley. This farming simulator RPG is like a mix between Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon. Players take on the role of a character who takes over their grandfather’s ramshackle farm in an attempt to get away from the daily grind of their office job. The game is very open-ended, and while there is a story, players can involve themselves in whatever activities they prefer at whatever pace they like.
The game isn’t solely about repairing and building up their farm: players can raise livestock, craft goods, fish, cook, explore the mines (and engage in combat), and interact with the other nearby residents. Socializing with the townsfolk even includes romance and potential marriage. With so much to do, it’s not hard to believe how many hours you can easily sink to this game.
Stardew Valley perfects the idea of operant conditioning: small cycles of tasks with small rewards that chain together to form larger cycles with larger rewards. Every day in the Valley is a new, unscripted adventure. It’s up to you what you want to pursue, allowing you to set your own objectives and quests that will make you say “just one more day.”