If you're looking for a change of pace and some welcome distraction from your everyday life, few mediums offer such engrossing, ongoing escapism as video games. Even the best books have an ending, but some games can go on almost indefinitely and come to form a calming part of our daily routines.
If you're looking for just such a game, the list below of the best life sims and farming games on Switch should get you on the right track. Whether you've always dreamed of moving to the countryside, retiring to a deserted island, or simply heading to the watering hole for a spot of fishing, the games below will set you up with a new (digital) life and keep you busy with pleasant little tasks to melt away the stress of real life... or at least replace it with the low-stakes stress of sowing turnips, tending to animals and managing your crops. Just remember when you're stressing about squeezing these digital lives into your packed schedule, it's all for fun!
So, grab your spade and a handful of seeds, and let's take a look--in no particular order--at the cream of the crop; the best life and farming sims on Switch.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons helped a lot of people get through troubling times around the game's launch in March 2020, and it's the perfect tonic if you're looking to get away from hustle, bustle, trials, tribulations, and any other type of stress. It's arguably best enjoyed little-and-often, although many a player has been known to fall into the a-lot-and-often habit. If Animal Crossing grabs you, it'll never let you go.
Whether you're collecting sea shells, harvesting fruit, growing money trees, fishing, bug-catching, crafting items, diving for sea creatures or simply creating your ideal paradise island, it's one of the best games on Switch if you're looking to escape for a few hours, days, months or, yes, even years!
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Adding some traditional RPG elements into its Harvest Moon-style farm sim gameplay, Rune Factory 4 Special adds dungeons into the mix of farming, fishing, cooking and romance and serves up a tasty concoction in the process. One of the game's greatest triumphs is how it melds all those gameplay elements into a thoroughly satisfying whole. If you played it on 3DS, there's not enough here to warrant double dipping, but if you're after a modern classic with equally satisfying farming and combat that lets you decide your own pace, Rune Factory 4 delivers on all fronts. We can't wait for Rune Factory 5.
A 3D remake of GBA's Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, Marvelous' Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town offers up the celebrated original in sparkling form. The underlying game might be getting on a bit (it released back in 2003) but it's still a fine take on the farm sim genre - simple, straightforward and satisfying. Keeping your farm running smoothly day-to-day and pursuing romance are all part of the game and if you're after a classic Harvest Moon game without the complexities and complications of later entries, Friends of Mineral Town provides just that.
Throwing mining, monster-slaying and scavenging into the sim-style mix, Forager has you building an island community, expanding out and defending your land from nasties. This game is a life sim game for those who find Stardew Valley a bit too slow for their tastes. A few clumsy design choices are overcome with a sizeable dose of charm, so if you're looking for a not-that-slow life, Forager might be just the ticket.
My Time At Portia has crafting at its heart, and its timers and missions can be tough to grasp at first. Give it time, though, and it may very well become one of your most-played Switch games. Set in the titular post-apocalyptic town, it's your job to bring Portia back from the brink by completing missions and crafting your way back to prominence. Your relationships with the townspeople grow along with your crops and--provided you can get over that initial crafting hump--there's a good chance you won't be able to tear yourself away.
If all these airy-fairy fantastical worlds aren't serious enough for you, the Farming Simulator series enables you to put your nose to the grindstone and drive tractors, harvest crops and watch numbers go up without all that romance and relationship nonsense. Switch has a couple of series entries to choose from: the mobile-focused and streamlined Farming Simulator 20, and Farming Simulator: Nintendo Switch Edition, which converts the more in-depth Farming Simulator 2017 for Nintendo's console.
If you're not one to enjoy a long, languorous journey to success, you'd be better off sticking to the more abstract, friendly farming sims. However, once you get into Farming Simulator's low-key and repetitive groove, there's a wealth of wholesome, calming work to get lost in and a satisfying flow to cultivating a field, sowing seeds, harvesting, repeating and watching those numbers go up. Getting the key to a brand new combine harvester never felt so good.
If the visuals of Doraemon: Story of Seasons don't grab you, your specs must be steamed up from that mask you're wearing (quite right too) because its painterly visual style is one of the loveliest on Switch. This crossover is one of the slowest games on the list - perfect if you're looking to chill those beans right down. The fact that it offers a solid, relaxing romp and fabulous farming featuring everyone's favourite robotic blue cat from the future is almost incidental because... We. Can't. Stop. Looking. At. It!
Plantera Deluxe is an incremental little game that puts you in charge of garden which you tend periodically. The game saw release on both 3DS and Wii U, and while the Switch 'Deluxe' version version doesn't add a whole lot, the base game is just as addictive as ever. Obviously, its mobile, casual clicker nature isn't as deep as the other winners above and below, but if you're after something to really unwind with and the others all seem like too much hard work, Plantera will keep your green finger(s) occupied.
For people who loved the collect-craft-combat loop of Fantasy Life, this game might scratch that same itch, and it'll certainly take up a fair few hours – even if the "combat" part is missing. Littlewood is an incredibly impressive game for a solo developer, and though none of its ideas go particularly deep, it more than makes up for it in breadth. Fans of the life sim genre should definitely seek this one out.
One of the breakout indie hits of the last decade, to call Stardew Valley a 'farm sim' doesn't quite capture the depth and complexity of its remarkable pixel world. Taking inspiration from nearly all of the other series in this list (and others besides), Stardew has grown over time with patches and updates only making it more impressive. It's a time sink, to be sure, but that's what you came here for, right? If you're looking to escape to a world you can fashion to your liking and feel proud of at the end of the day, Stardew Valley is up there with the very best of them on Switch, or any platform.
Played any other life and/or farming sims on Switch? Think we've missed something? We'll be keeping this list up-to-date with new candidates as they crop up, but let us know your favourites in the comments.
This article is one of our Switch Essentials guides which cover a wide variety of genres, including the Best Switch FPS Games, the Best Switch RPGs, the Best Switch Games For Kids, the Best Switch Couch Co-Op Games and the Best Switch Fitness and Exercise Games. We can also help out hunting down the Best Switch Horror Games, the Best Switch Racing Games, the Best Switch Action-RPGs, the Best Nintendo Switch Roguelikes, Roguelites and Run-Based Games, the Best Free Switch Games, and even Games to Play After You've Finished Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Whatever your favourite genre, we've got you covered: Strategy Games, Metroidvanias, Puzzle Games, Party Games, Online Multiplayer Games, Local Wireless Multiplayer Games, Shmups, Visual Novels, Fighting Games, Hidden Gems, 2D Platformers, 3D Platformers, Run and Gun Games, Sports Games, Beat 'Em Ups, Chill Games, Family Games, Retro-Inspired Games, Short Games, Card Games and Deck-builders, Flight Sim and Space Combat, Point and Click Adventure Games, and the Best Switch Exclusives, as well as Every Arcade Archives Game, Every ACA Neo Geo Game, Every SEGA AGES Game On Switch, and the Best Switch Collections And Compilations.
If you're looking for the best Switch games regardless of genre, our reader-voted selection of the Best Nintendo Switch Games should help you out, and you can also find the Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. And finally, if you're interested in other Nintendo consoles and retro games, check out the Best Game Boy Games, Best Nintendo DS Games, Best Nintendo 3DS Games, Best SNES Games, Best N64 Games, Best GameCube Games, and Best Wii Games, as well as Every Nintendo Switch Online NES Game and Every Nintendo Switch Online SNES Game.