Plant yourself in a chair and follow us as we root through the five best gardening games on the market. Although to tell you the truth, the agricultural scene isn’t exactly brimming with waves of triple-A titles as of late. And if anything, gardening video games don’t really run alongside the market leaders in this day and age, with the majority of them just sort of dwindling in the dirt while other genres blossom effortlessly.
Gardening video games, despite being lesser-known, offer simple-minded fun, with easy-to-follow tranquil settings to boost your mindset. Whether it’s planting a row of vegetables or snipping the stems for a rose petal bouquet — gardening can be the change of pace every gamer needs during a cooldown period between heavier titles. But which of the few standing chapters are fit for a pair of green thumbs? Well, here’s what we think.
If Minecraft and Animal Crossing had a child, then Staxel would probably be the outcome. And to be fair, that’s a neat combination of two worlds, with all the best ingredients from both being fused into one gentle package where almost anything is doable under the right hand. Staxel, although drawing influences from multiple pools, is a true hybrid of fun-loving crafts and positivity, all compressed into one loveable little tale. And we’re all for it.
Staxel has you hot off the press and working overtime to rekindle the flame of an old farm, where the wilderness has reclaimed the majority of your homestead. However, through friends of friends and distant relatives, you too can look to rebuild the world and nurture it back to its former glory. Of course, to get there, you’ll have to reel in the help of other locals, as well as put in the labour yourself. After a few stepping stones, however, you’ll soon start to see the potential that idles in your quirky little capital.
Sometimes you don’t need a fully-fledged farm to cater to. Sometimes, surprisingly enough, all you need is a petal, a gust of wind — and a reason to take flight. And if you’re lucky, the rest tends to come naturally — providing you stay loyal to your vision, of course. And that’s essentially what Flower is. It’s an experience that tailors to the flow of the wind, without attracting unnecessary challenges to spoil the emotions it carries. It’s simple, yet oh so satisfying. Beautifully elegant, to put it simply.
Flower may not be the most advanced game in the world, nor is it really a gardening game as such — but it is, believe it or not — a nugget of tranquillity that slots perfectly into our little pot of roots and petals. And, as far as captivating journeys go, Flower definitely holds one of the most graceful tales in the book, with a narrative that practically tells itself without having to resort to played-out side plots to keep the story flowing.
3. Big Farm Story
If you think gardening games, in general, are somewhat scarce in this day and age — then how about ones that are completely story-driven? It doesn’t immediately ring any bells, does it? But in light of this, Goodgame Studios did actually step up to the plate to deliver such a game, with Big Farm Story carrying the torch for the newfound story-rich experience. Of course, buried beneath the tale, you are essentially carrying over the standard motions you’ve done a million times before in a gardening video game. Only this time around, the dirt isn’t the only thing that entices you.
It goes like this: you’ve found yourself at your grandpa’s old farm, only it’s riddled with weeds and rubble. The good news is, you’ve been gifted it out of the blue. The downside, of course, is that you’ll have to essentially wipe the slate clean and return the family heirloom to its former glory. How you do that, however, is entirely up to you and your newfound devotion to the dirt. On the plus side, you’ve got a world packed full of helping hands to help sway the inheritance to greener pastures. Just don’t expect it to be an easy ride — especially with a plot of land so vast and occasionally vindictive.
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
While the focus for Animal Crossing: New Horizons does fall on various pools and not a single plot of land, it does cater to a prickly pair of green thumbs, proving your ultimate goal is to create a luscious garden of sorts. Of course, having a deserted island where anything can be shaped into your own design, farming does play a major role in its overall image. And that’s where the hard work comes in. Well, I say hard work — when really it’s more shovelling out dead tree trunks and planting seeds, only to pick the harvest a few days later and sell for spare coin. Though sometimes, that’s really all you need in order to satisfy the thirst for the soil.
One thing Animal Crossing has enough of is the variety to keep you second-guessing. And, with Nook’s Cranny offering daily changeovers in the catalogue, players can essentially step into a whole new world each day, where a new flower can blossom or fruit can be grown. Plus, with the whole island to wipe clean and tailor to your own image, you’re not exactly short on space to transcend your ideas either. So long as you pluck the weeds first, of course.
As far as quirky little towns go, Ooblets definitely bags the gold for its adorable art style and happy-go-lucky roster of residents and kooky creatures. Despite being in early access, the team behind the loveable little farming simulator (Glumberland) truly hit the nail on the head for the innovative approach to the gardening world, with gameplay that easily sits on par with some of the triple-A releases on the market.
Ooblets has you exploring a crisp homeland in search of seeds, creatures and long-lasting friendships. And luckily for you, the picturesque seaside village of Badgetown has the lot, and you’re true north ultimately lies with weaving between the three to form a beautiful pocket-sized picture. Only, to paint such art, you’ll have to bond with other citizens, kit out your homestead and plot of land — and even battle other Ooblets through the medium of dance. So, quite the checklist to boot!