Top 25 Best Harvest Moon Games Of All Time (Ranked and Reviewed)

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A farming sim seems like a weird idea but you have to hand it to this franchise for breaking the mold and truly becoming a massive success.

The first game in the Harvest Moon franchise was released in Japan as “Bokujo Monogatari” back in 1996, competing with a market full of platformers and adventure. But this SNES exclusive sold relatively well and with that the farming simulator genre was born.

Nowadays, the game that brought countryside life to the middle of our living rooms counting over 20 games under the Harvest Moon title, including several spin-offs such as the fantasy-adventure Rune Factory series.

Harvest Moon is a franchise that has kept itself fresh by listening to audience requests and not fearing to shake things up.

If you’re a massive fan or just want to keep up with the latest releases then this list is gonna be fun. Join me as I take a look at the series throughout the years, ranking each entry in the franchise to determine which Harvest Moon games make for the ideal farm life experience.

25. Harvest Moon “Natsume Era” Games (2014+)

HM Light of Hope screenshot

If I’m going to do this right then I need to address the elephant in the room.

Like many other Japanese games, Bokujo Monogatari had always been localized and released in the West under a different name: “Harvest Moon”.

In recent years, publisher Natsume who had localized the series since its inception lost the rights to the Bokujo Monogatari series… but kept the Harvest Moon name for in-house releases.

Ever since then, they’ve released several games following the same farming simulator concept under that name.

Regrettably, Natsume’s in-house developers don’t seem to understand what makes the original games so addictive. And while they’ve had some interesting ideas, they also threw out everything that had made Harvest Moon special up until that point.

I was taught as a child to stay silent if I had nothing constructive to say, so I won’t be including these games such as Harvest Moon: Skytree Village and Harvest Moon: Light of Hope in the ranking. I’m hopeful for the future of their take on the franchise, but right now, the whole thing is a bit sad to watch as a fan.

24. Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness (2008)

Harvest Moon DS Island of Happiness screenshot

My first “real” entry in the list is one of the most… unusual in the series.

Harvest Moon has never been afraid to try out new concepts, and Island of Happiness on the DS shows us that sometimes it can backfire.

Developer Marvelous Interactive tried to implement a fully stylus-based control scheme with terrible results.

Doing any action in the game, even the smallest, takes a lot of time. Moreover it feels overall clunky and inaccurate.

The game, which follows a group of people who get shipwrecked on an island and must build a village to survive, also included some game-play mechanics aimed at increasing realism. Stuff like crops needing a specific amount of sunlight days to grow, and the possibility of dying if it was sunny for too long. It’s fun to imagine in real life but gameplay-wise I think it suffered.

Worth a play if you’re a die-hard fan but keep reading on in this list to find a few newer titles with some better results.

23. Harvest Moon GB (1998)

Harvest Moon GB 1998 screenshot

Developed by Victor Interactive Software (VIS) in 1998 as an attempt to port the Harvest Moon experience from the SNES onto handhelds, this game accomplishes a lot by focusing on faithfully reproducing the farming aspect of the original rather than bringing a downsized version of the whole experience.

The most notable feature left out of the game is romance and married life.

This, coupled with the black and white graphics which contrast the original’s colorful palette, makes it a lackluster entry in the series.

But if you played it back in the day then you probably know it was pretty great as a first portable HM game.

22. Harvest Moon DS (2006)

Harvest Moon DS screenshot

Despite being the first Harvest Moon game I played and the one that got me into the series, I have to admit HMDS has its fair share of flaws.

While the graphics are colorful and cute, they’re almost completely repurposed from previous GBA game HM: Friends of Mineral Town.

On the other hand we have the story, which features the protagonist trying to rescue 101 Harvest Sprites and the Harvest Goddess from another dimension by connecting to nature and achieving various tasks… which is essentially the same as A Wonderful Life on the GameCube.

That said, I wouldn’t mind this mashup of repurposed assets by Marvelous Interactive if it wasn’t so glitchy.

Disappearing animals, characters stuck in beds, and even scenes that failed to trigger and advance the story are commonplace occurences. Which can end up quite frustrating when you’ve poured hours into the game.

That said, I do like that it’s a DS game and one of the first to utilize the split screen.

21. Harvest Moon DS Cute (2008)

Harvest Moon DS Cute screenshot

As was usual for Harvest Moon games up until relatively recently, a “girly” version of HMDS was released a couple years later.

It featured a female protagonist, a slightly altered storyline, and several bug fixes(which is awesome!)

Notable in this release is the possibility of marrying same-sex characters as well; a first in the series.

It wasn’t referred to as marriage, but rather “becoming best friends”. This is still a game marketed towards children, after all.

But it works almost exactly the same with the girls moving in together and the whole shebang.

20. Harvest Moon 2 GBC (2000)

Harvest Moon 2 GBC screen

Some years after their first attempt at bringing the franchise to the Game Boy, VIS developed a full-fledged sequel to the original game for the more powerful Gameboy Color.

While it still lacked a dating aspect, you could feel somewhat more connected to the characters and the community of the game.

The plot focused on working together to keep the land from being bought and turned into an amusement park. This is admittedly one of the coolest plots from the series and it’s only repurposed in a few titles.

Farming here is also more fleshed-out, the controls are more intuitive, and there’s generally a lot to do. I just don’t know how many people want to play GBC games these days but if you’re up for it I say give this a shot.

19. Harvest Moon DS: Grand Bazaar (2008)

Harvest Moon DS: Grand Bazaar screenshot

Grand Bazaar came later in the DS life cycle when Harvest Moon could better take advantage of the system.

And the beautiful graphics here coupled with the game’s unique personality make for a very fun experience.

The whole bazaar system where the player can sell their wares is very cool. It’s where you join a weekly market by interacting directly with customers and bargaining to please(or to be sting) rather than just shipping out goods.

A creative and very engaging aspect that I think fit well here.

Now the game suffers from noticeable pacing issues – meaning it plays slower than other titles – and other than the bazaar, it felt like there wasn’t all that much to do compared to other DS titles.

18. Sunshine Islands (2009)

HM Sunshine Islands screenshot

In an effort to set the record straight, Marvelous Interactive more or less revisited the setting from Island of Happiness with a new approach and much better controls.

This time, instead of building a community from the ground up, you have to go collect “Sun Stones” to restore a group of islands – including the one from HMDS: IoH – which were destroyed by an earthquake and sank under the sea.

Cool concept.

With better controls and an overhauled story, including more marriage candidates, this game became a very enjoyable experience with its own personality and a lot of depth. Possibly the best DS title in the series.

17. The Tale of Two Towns (2011)

The Tale of Two Towns screenshot

Released on both the DS and 3DS, HM: Tale of Two Towns follows a farmer who loses his memories after falling down a mountain.

Upon waking up, the mayors of two rival towns try to convince the player they belonged to their settlement. And the story begins once you choose which one you like.

Other than being aesthetically pleasing, Marvelous made sure to add a bunch of new stuff into the game. Some new additions include the ability to pickle fruits and vegetables, along with many more animals like alpacas and honey bees.

I must say, the adorable alpacas are a nice touch.

Overall it’s quite a fun game with a lot of activities and an interesting story that moves away from the traditional formula.

The whole narrative revolves around these two towns hating each other, which is a very weird mix of feelings to bring into a Harvest Moon game. But it’s not something that overshadows the game so it’s easy to keep playing regardless of the storyline.

16. Save The Homeland (2001)

Harvest Moon Save The Homeland screenshot

Save the Homeland is a multifaceted beast.

While in some aspects it seems way ahead of its time, in others, it feels somewhat rushed or maybe lacking very much post-game stuff.

This title was developed for the PS2 and took advantage of the machine’s power to create beautiful, detailed cel-shaded graphics that rival those on HM: A Wonderful Life.

And this was the first Harvest Moon title on the PS2 so it caught the eye of a brand new audience.

All that said, other than being pretty, the game feels a bit empty since it ends after each year passes by in-game.

There’s no marriage and no parenthood.

It’s also difficult to feel a sense of community, as befriending other characters has more to do with choosing a route to “save the homeland” rather than getting to know them all.

Overall, it’s a bit hard to feel invested in the protagonist’s quest to save his grandfather’s land from being repurposed as an amusement park when the game doesn’t show you anything worth saving.

But I still had a lot of fun playing it. I really do think if you can enjoy this game for what it is, and not compare it to other entries, then StH could turn out to be one of your absolute favorites in the series.

15. Story of Seasons (2015)

Story of Seasons 2015 game screenshot

Having lost the Harvest Moon name meant Bokujo Monogatari’s publishers had to switch over to a new title. They chose “Story of Seasons”.

This 3DS game was the first game developed by Marvelous AQL under this name.

After answering a call for farmers on a flyer, your characters travels to Oak Tree Town to take over a farm. Now along with the townspeople and rival farmers you aim to turn the settlement into an international trade hub.

Among the most notable features that set it apart from previous HM games are the wonderful customization possibilities for the player, first seen on HM: A New Beginning.

And the possibility to set up a Wildlife Safari where exotic animals like monkeys and parrots could be kept.

Although it’s a pretty solid game, one would expect the developers to go above and beyond to create a unique experience for their flagship title under the Story of Seasons name.

Instead we’re left with just another Harvest Moon under this new title. Certainly not terrible, although it may leave classic fans longing for what the games used to feel like.

14. Harvest Moon 3 GBC (2001)

Harvest Moon 3 GBC screenshot

This GBC title features two different stories depending on whether you choose to be a boy or a girl at the start of the game.

The boy is the same character from HM2, who goes to an island at the behest of the town’s mayor to help out a girl who just recently took over her father’s farm.

But you take control of said girl if your choose to play as the female lead. This is the very first Harvest Moon game where you can choose your gender and it came out back in the early 2000s which was a huge deal at the time.

Albeit a great game with lots of things to do: beautiful & colorful sprites, lots of crops, cool tools to collect etc…

HM3 features some pretty questionable design choices that affect playability.

For one, you can only go to the mainland to buy supplies once a week. Which makes managing your stock quite the challenge. Interesting challenge in-game but can make the game a bit less fun.

There’s also the fact that if you play as the girl and marry a guy, the game ends when you marry and settle into family life… while it continues if you play as the male character.

Easily overlooked but still something to note.

13. Magical Melody (2006)

Magical Melody screenshot

The Harvest Goddess has turned to stone because people don’t love nature anymore, and she must be brought back to life by collecting the individual notes of a magical melody.

Which reveal themselves once the player performs a loving action towards nature.

That’s the concept behind HM: Magical Melody, developed by Marvelous Interactive for the GameCube.

It’s a pretty unique entry in the franchise in many ways, including the hyper-deformed “chibi” character designs and the inclusion of a rival system that made you feel compelled to collect the notes and have a better farm.

I think what makes this game so special and loved among HM fans is the way your actions directly impact the game and its characters.

It’s the first one where characters can move into the town once you meet certain criteria, and also the only one where they can move out if you neglect their needs.

12. Harvest Moon SNES (1997)

Harvest Moon SNES screenshot

The very first Harvest Moon to see the light of day was developed by Amccus for the SNES, featuring beautiful sprites similar to the original Pokémon games. Or perhaps The Legend of Zelda as that also ran on SNES back in the day.

And I think the graphics for the original Harvest Moon really took advantage of the hardware’s capabilities(including the soundtrack).

The main idea and core concepts of the game come from series creator Yasuhiro Wada’s childhood and early life in the countryside before moving to Tokyo to work in the industry.

An RPG about farming was unusual, to say the least. But it ended up being so charming and addictive it developed into a franchise.

It does feel a little outdated by today’s standards but it’s certainly something to check out if you want to see where this game’s roots began.

11. Hero of Leaf Valley (2010)

Hero of Leaf Valley screenshot

Hero of Leaf Valley was developed as a sort of ultra-improved version of HM: Save the Homeland.

The game is essentially the same, but it adds more characters, married life, and several more endings.

It’s the best version of the two, and an amazing handheld title.

If you prefer console play then try StH, otherwise I think you might enjoy this one a teensy bit more.

10. Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning (2012)

Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning screenshot

The last Bokujo Monogatari game to be released under the Harvest Moon name was developed by Marvelous AQL for the 3DS.

It introduced a lot of what makes the Story of Seasons games on the console so enjoyable, such as extensive character customization: a first in the series.

You’re tasked with reviving the abandoned Echo Village by farming and attracting new settlers.

The way these characters arrange their houses and businesses is also entirely customizable, which makes navigating the town a breeze once you’ve got a good layout going.

There’s a lot to love here and really the biggest downside is if you don’t want to play on a 3DS, or if you’re looking for a more “traditional” Harvest Moon experience. This one is quite a bit different.

But innovation is always moving this franchise forward and I think that’s what makes ANB so appealing to fans.

9. Back to Nature (2000)

Harvest Moon Back to Nature

This PS1 game was developed as a re-purposing of the N64 title, but with a whole bunch of new stuff.

Many characters are similar but there’s new music, a whole new town, new crops, a new farm layout, it’s seriously a totally new game. And possibly a classic fan favorite if you grew up during the PS1 era.

I think in most ways it changes enough for the better to warrant a higher standing on the list, such as abandoning the isometric camera for something much more fluid. And there are so many secret cutscenes you’ll never be able to see them all.

I’m sure many people expected this to be in the first place. And I get it, but some people have their nostalgia goggles forgetting just how slow this game played.

Now if you can run this in an emulator where you can speed up the in-game time every so often, I promise you will have an amazing time replaying BTN.

8. Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl (2007)

Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl screenshot

If you wish to experience the wonderfully old-school style of HM: Back to Nature, yet with a slightly upgrade style, then I recommend this updated version compiled by Marvelous Interactive for the PSP.

Not only does it deal with a couple of bugs and streamline the experience, it also allows you to play as a girl if you so desire!

This is available on the PSN so you can play with the added fixes, somewhat updated graphics, but still get the exact same Back to Nature feeling out of it.

7. A Wonderful Life (2004)

Harvest Moon A Wonderful Life

Another game that surely takes the top spot in many people’s hearts is this GameCube title(also the first to hit the GameCube shortly after its release).

Although the graphics feel strangely downgraded when compared to Save the Homeland, the game-play itself is an upgrade in almost every way.

It features some very realistic elements that some fans loved(and I know others hated).

But for example, you’d be required to milk cows and after a while they stop producing milk. So you get them pregnant to milk them again. Plus there’s only so many times you can milk the cows and they even come in different breeds!

Also the fact that time doesn’t stop while indoors or chatting with other characters. In BTN and HM64 time would always pause inside which did slow down the game’s progression.

With AWL you also don’t wake up early automatically; to do that you need to obtain an alarm clock far into the game.

That said, I also feel characters aren’t as memorable here and marrying is a simple affair.

The game focuses much more on the farming aspect of the series, adding more crop variety and even fruit trees which had never been in any other game before.

You also get to age and grow older so this game, after a very long time, will eventually come to an end. With many different endings too!

This is a game for people with a lot of time who want to truly delve deep into the roleplaying aspect of Harvest Moon.

6. Another Wonderful Life (2005)

Harvest Moon Another Wonderful Life screen

One of HM: A Wonderful Life’s flaws is that it only lets you play as a guy.

HM: Another Wonderful Life came out a year later to fix that issue, allowing you to play as a girl and fixing a couple of other things with minor additions.

It’s the better version of the game, especially if you want to play as a female lead, albeit I’d say it’s better by a small margin. Both games are great and both will please the same target audience.

5. Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns (2017)

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns HD

Marvelous’ most recent release under the “Story of Seasons” name does many things to set it apart from the rest and moves the franchise in the right direction.

For starters, it adds the possibility to greet people in passing and increase your social standing in each of the game’s three towns without having to plow through hundreds of dialogue boxes.

If you remember how it was in classic Harvest Moon games then you’ll really appreciate this new mechanic.

Trio of Towns also achieves what I consider to be the perfect pacing for such a game, letting you get accustomed to each new feature before giving you something new.

The protagonist’s story is barely there, but the game makes up for it with the three amazingly different towns that you have access to, each with their own themes: the American Wild West, Hawaiian traditional styles, and Japanese culture respectively.

Definitely a great option you can’t pass up if you own a 3DS. I’d rank it higher but there are just so many damn good Harvest Moon games that it’s getting tough to decide by now!

4. Harvest Moon 64 (1999)

Harvest Moon 64 screenshot game

The first Harvest Moon to feature 3D graphics was a shocker for many.

It was also the first game that intro’d a big chunk of the fan-base to this series.

Which also makes it one of the most loved games of out every Harvest Moon title, period. Older gamers probably know what I’m talking about if you’ve sunk days into building the perfect farm, getting every upgrade, and waiting for Ellen to die in her rocking chair.

Another reason HM64 is so appreciated is that everything in this game is fast-paced.

You move fast, time goes by fast, and even the crops grow faster than usual!

This design choice seems to have been the right one, especially to market the game to new players rather than longtime fans. You can get a lot done with just 15-20 minutes of gameplay in HM 64.

This is what could entice older games back into playing this one, especially if you don’t have a lot of time for gaming nowadays.

While sometimes it feels like there’s way too much to do in too little time, that also means you never feel aimless. There’s always more to build and since the farm land is smaller than other games, it actually feels like you can build a badass farm here and reach a stage of completion.

3. Animal Parade (2009)

Animal Parade HD game screenshot

Some of the best entries in the franchise came by the hand of Marvelous Interactive to the Nintendo’s Wii.

Animal Parade is the second entry on the console and it features highly customizable clothing and very cute graphics.

All of the core game elements are beautifully executed in this game, and a lot of them are also expanded upon from older titles.

For example, you can have two kids rather than one after marrying. This was first introduced in the original SNES title but it was absent in many later games… until Animal Parade.

These children will take on some personality traits and looks of their other parent, which makes them much more of a character and less of a glorified pet. So having kids here is actually an adventure itself rather than just a gimmicky gameplay mechanic.

The main feature of the game, however, is the enormous amount of animals to interact with and have as pets.

You can even raise a squirrel to be your faithful companion!

This is where innovation went right and I think Animal Parade deserves a lot of praise for this.

2. Tree of Tranquility (2008)

Tree of Tranquility screenshot HD

Tree of Tranquility follows a similar setup as other games but has an interesting twist.

The story follows the protagonist as they try to re-connect the village and its population with nature.

You need to create magical rainbow bridges with different ingredients to access more areas, which greatly streamlines progression into an orderly well-paced structure.

This also encourages foraging and generally dabbling in every activity the game has to offer to get said ingredients.

Graphics are pretty solid, music is great, and the farming element is not lost in the shuffle. I’d almost call it a toss up between ToT and Animal Parade; both are so fun in their own ways.

1. Friends of Mineral Town (2003)

Friends of Mineral Town, the best Harvest Moon game

But let’s face it, to many fans this franchise simply works better on handhelds.

And nowhere is it more obvious than in Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town and its “girly” version, HM: More Friends of Mineral Town.

It was made for the GBA following the same setting as HM: Back to Nature, but with a ton of extras and re-built specifically for the handheld.

It features some of the most beautiful sprites that the Harvest Moon franchise had seen to date. Not to mention incredibly memorable characters that you’re bound to fall in love with and an even faster pace than the original PS1 title.

It’s a complex dichotomy here.

Harvest Moon is a game that’s all about patience, but it can also get boring if you overdo it.

Still, Friends of Mineral Town somehow managed to find the perfect balance. Take that and couple it with its bouncy personality and endearing characters, along with the framework of a classic title(Back to Nature) and you get an experience that truly feels like classic, yet also fresh, Harvest Moon.

And even though newer titles offer a lot of newer awesome stuff I still have to rank FoMT as the best Harvest Moon experience.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.