I’m ashamed to admit I never got into Stardew Valley on PC.
Though I played a few hours, it never quite clicked with me the way the almost sickeningly adorable Animal Crossing: New Leaf did on 3DS. Part of the reason for that long-running AC addiction was due to the portable nature of the game, and the fact I could play it anywhere. At the time I was frequently taking the subway, which provided the perfect opportunity to farm some bells on my 3DS, which I probably never would have done on a home console.
What I did play of Stardew Valley was excellent. It’s a beautiful game, with a very clear identity and level of polish that’s all the more impressive for the fact it was created by one person. Though I appreciated the game, it always felt to me as though it would be better suited to a portable console. The Switch port was certainly a good move, but even then, I rarely have my Switch with me unless I’m travelling. An Android port seemed like an obvious choice, and I put off losing myself in this beautiful, peaceful world until that port finally came.
Now it’s here, and as I suspected, being able to play Stardew Valley on my phone is just as engaging (and addicting) as I suspected it would be, despite a few small sacrifices due to the smaller format.
Stardew Valley on Android is more than just a competent port, it’s exceptional, and one of the best Android games you can get right now. Though playing on a small screen does hinder some of the visual richness, the portability more than offsets this small concession, and makes it a brilliant addition to any mobile library, especially if you’ve already spent time with the PC version.
What it’s all about
For the uninitiated, Stardew Valley is a farming and social sim. You inherit a farm in a small town, and slowly build it up from a messy plot of land to a fully functioning agrarian paradise, all the while socializing with the townsfolk, fishing, exploring mines, and engaging with a huge number of diverse dopamine triggering activities.
It’s not a new concept; games like Harvest Moon have been using this simple yet effective gameplay loop for decades. Stardew Valley is widely considered the pinnacle of the genre however, and is such a clear labor of love that it’s almost impossible not to get sucked in. Between the beautiful 16-Bit style graphics, the complex upgrade system, and the entertaining character encounters, Stardew Valley is a relentlessly charming game, and a wonderful place to spend time.
Though the game itself hasn’t changed much, the way you experience it has. The most obvious change is the fact that there is less screen real estate, meaning the camera has to zoom in considerably. As someone who didn’t play extensively on PC, this didn’t bother me at all, but for those used to a widescreen experience, the smaller scale might feel a touch claustrophobic. It doesn’t impact the gameplay in any meaningful way, though depending on the size of your screen, it might make selecting individual items occasionally difficult.
Probably the biggest change in this port is your movement options.
On PC, it’s trusty WASD that gets you around, on consoles it’s the stick or D pad. As you’d expect with a mobile port, you’ll use the touchscreen as your primary mode of control here. In the default mode, you’ll simply touch a section of the map, and your little farmer will head wherever you pressed. If you hold your finger on the screen, you can guide your character manually. I actually rather liked this style of movement once I got used to it, as sometimes ascertaining how to get somewhere requires some trial and error. Here, you simply press where you want to go, and they will take the fastest route to get there. No more getting stuck on cliffs or multi-level areas because it’s unclear how to get where you need to be.
If that sounds unpleasant to you, this port has a huge selection of control options, from external controller support to onscreen buttons. After some experimentation you’re sure to find the combo that works for you, though I found the default movement to be perfectly serviceable, and actually missed it when I went back to the PC version to compare.
One of the other noticeable changes comes in the mines, where you’ll be fighting cave creatures in-between cracking open rocks for precious metals and stones. The combat in Stardew Valley is relatively straightforward, and consists mostly of Zelda style sword swipes. In this version, the default combat is automated, meaning when a creature gets close, your character will automatically attack, assuming you have a weapon equipped.
While some might find this change makes the combat too easy, I enjoyed it, as combat is hardly Stardew Valley’s strong suite, and the touch controls make it very easy to miss your strikes. Luckily, this change is optional as well, as you can disable the auto-swiping for a more traditional experience in the control settings. This is yet another example of the high level of customization available, and a big part of why this stands out as a particularly good port.
There are other quality of life changes, like the location of your inventory and other minutia, but overall, it’s a very smooth adaptation. Other than some minor formatting issues when it comes to the display layout, it’s about as stellar a transition as you could reasonably expect from a mechanical perspective.
One of the coolest features of this port is the fact that you can bring over your PC save game to Android or iOS, and then bring it back. It’s surprisingly easy to do, and requires no conversion. Simply locate your save, and copy and paste in either direction, load it up, and you’re good to go. This could be absolutely huge for those who have already invested a great deal of time in the PC version, or those who want to play it on a huge monitor at home, and then transfer that save to a phone or tablet when they’re out and about.
It’s hard to overstate how excellent this seemingly simple feature is. Allowing you to take your PC save with you anywhere for $8 is a fantastic value for those who have already invested a great deal of time in Stardew Valley in addition to newcomers, and is another great example of how to thoughtfully port a game to mobile.
Stardew Valley is a stellar addition to any Android game library, and puts every money-hungry farming sim with cooldowns and in app purchases absolutely to shame. For the very reasonable price of $8, you’re getting an almost infinitely repayable game that functions beautifully on a phone or tablet, with plenty of customization options, PC cross platform saves, and nary an ad or IAP to be found.
This is the new standard for how to successfully create an Android port, and a great example of how when done right, mobile games do not have to sacrifice quality for portability.