Stardew Valley Nintendo Switch review: It’s still a big world outside

Credit: ConcernedApe
Credit: ConcernedApe /

At last, Stardew Valley plants its roots on the console it seems to have always belonged on, and blossoms just as we hoped it would.

Developer: ConcernedApe
Publisher: Chucklefish
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: October 5, 2017

My “hours played” on Steam for the original release of Stardew Valley is up at 85–much higher than I remembered it being. I stopped playing at last long after the effective “ending” of the game’s story (though it really has no end, if you don’t want it to have one) because I had to focus my attention on other titles. Were I not responsible for knowing about more games that one really good farming sim, I probably would have cozied up into Pelican Town for 85 more. The Nintendo Switch release of the title sealed me in for a full second round, all the way to Year 3 and beyond, as Stardew Valley is finally playable on the console it seems to have been made for.

Stardew Valley answers a pretty basic question by its very existence: what if Harvest Moon hadn’t changed all that much? Now, the Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon series are bogged down by atrocious graphics, hokey dialogue, and weird, gimmicky features like raising and lowering land. They can’t seem to re-emerge into the prominence they once enjoyed, despite the fact that an audience for these titles still exists. Stardew Valley relies both on the simplicity of the original concept (farming and forging relationships) while adding light touches here and there to expand the gameplay optionally beyond the daily cow-petting and blueberry picking. You can visit a procedurally generated mine full of monsters. Fishing isn’t garbage. You can smooch partners of the same gender as you.

stardew valley
Credit: ConcernedApe /

That simplicity carries well onto a handheld platform, just as we all hoped it would. Admittedly, it took me a few hours to fully get the hang of the controls, having not played the game with a controller before, but once I understood where all my usual buttons were, things fell into place fluidly. I think the game could benefit from a controller layout display in the menu somewhere instead of just on the initial loading screen, but that might be unnecessary nitpicking when most major functions are intuitive. Plus, everything feels right in handheld mode, with Joy-Cons and the Grip, or with a Pro Controller–no need to bother with the cursor at all.

My Steam time indicates that I haven’t played Stardew Valley on PC since February of last year. At the time, the game still had a few small bugs. None of them were game breaking (at least that I encountered), but the occasional weird moment of eating food while walking through a door or dialogue not appearing where it should still broke my zen immersion momentarily here and there. I assumed that by the time we hit an October Switch release, those little blips would be fixed, but unfortunately, they aren’t. You’re all but guaranteed to run into at least a few weird text or item quirks on a regular basis. I don’t think this hurts the overall excellence of the gameplay, but dang, it’s weird that these known issues were never addressed.

stardew valley
Credit: ConcernedApe /

The only other issue with Stardew Valley on Switch is that its load times are silly. If you played on PC, you’re used to exactly one “loading” screen ever, which occurs when you save the game for the night and start a new day. You may be used to that screen taking all of a second or two to complete, but on the Switch, you might be sitting there for 30-45 seconds twiddling your thumbs while the game loads the next day. I have no idea what makes the Switch version take so long, and again, it’s not a game-ruiner, it will just make anyone used to the PC version speed twitch a bit.

It’s easy to ignore these quirks and simply nestle in for hours and hours of the most relaxing, charming game you’ll play all year. If you’ve not seen the 1.1 updates yet, there are even more, subtle additions providing rewards for longer play. You wouldn’t think that simple things like a new crop or two or updated farm layouts would change much, but the extra options they provide in both the early and late game offer new avenues for veteran players. Forget the massive blueberry empire; let’s hype the town up with coffee beans!

stardew valley
Credit: ConcernedApe /

Stardew Valley already masters a kind of escapism for adults by offering a lovely, controlled environment within which to make plans and see them carried out over both short and long-term. Now in portable form, it targets busy grown-ups even more precisely. It’s not the title you take with you to rooftop wine parties, certainly, but it’s perfect for the subway ride or a wait at a doctor’s office or anywhere else, really. As excited as I am for online multiplayer, Stardew Valley on the Switch provides such a wonderful internal experience that, for now, I’m okay not sharing it with anyone else.

Next: Stardew Valley marriage candidates, ranked

. Stardew Valley. 9. Aside from a few technical blips, Stardew Valley remains a shining Stardrop in its genre, welcoming back fans of the series that inspired it and inviting newcomers to relax in the valley, too. Between farming, getting to know the townsfolk, exploring the mines, finding all the game’s quirky secrets, and building your sprawling money-maker empire, you’ll not run out of things to do for hours on end, especially now that you can take the game anywhere.. ConcernedApe

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.