Top 5 Harvest Moon Games

In a mainstream gaming landscape that embraces uber-violence, guns galore, and copious amounts of  blood, video games that don’t stick to the traditional mold often slip through the cracks. Harvest Moon is one such series that has gone relatively unnoticed in North America. Where the shooter genre thrives among an enormously wide audience, simulation titles, especially farming sims, boast a much smaller following in the United States.

Despite the competition, the Harvest Moon franchise has continued to survive and succeed worldwide. For the past 15+ years, the Harvest Moon series has produced over 20 video games, numerous spin offs, and has inspired a slew of social farming games including Farmville and Happy Farm. With that in mind, take a look at the top 5 Harvest Moon games since the series was created in 1996.

5. Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility

Harvest Moon: Tree of TranquilityPlatform: Nintendo Wii

Release Date: 2007

Why it’s great: Besides being the first Harvest Moon titles on the Wii, Tree of Tranquility shines as one of the most dramatic departures from the conventional premise of the Harvest Moon series. With an entirely different graphical style; more realistic rather than cute, and a story that tasks players to not only restore their farm but also to rejuvenate the Mother Tree, ToT is truly a breath of fresh air. This variation paired with a bounty of new livestock, crops, motion controls, and new game plus capability showcases the memorable experience that is Tree of Tranquility.

4. Harvest Moon 3DS: A New Beginning

Harvest Moon 3DS: A New BeginningPlatform: Nintendo 3DS

Release Date: 2012

Why it’s great: As the newest addition to the franchise,  A New Beginning certainly had big shoes to fill. With an assortment of new features including the ability to tailor your character from head to toe, take vacations to faraway lands, and completely customize your farm and surrounding town, the game provides a unique experience to the tried and true Harvest Moon formula. With the addition of new crops and animals, original town festivals, and 3D graphics, A New Beginning is definitely a must-play for avid series fans.

3. Harvest Moon: Magical Melody

Harvest Moon: Magical MelodyPlatform: GameCube

Release Date: 2005

Why it’s great: Magical Melody stands out as a stellar addition to the Harvest Moon series due to the fact that it exemplifies freedom. From the get go, players are allowed to choose which parcel of land that they would like to start out with and make their own. The boundaries are limitless in Magical Melody. Gone is the separation between farm land and village territory, every inch of the landscape can be utilized.  Over time, the world opens up even more granting new areas to be purchased and cultivated. Not to mention, the town constantly changes with the arrival of new villagers, traveling patrons, and more. This installment stands above many in the Harvest Moon collection due to its innovated take on an open, customizable world.

 2. Harvest Moon: Back to Nature

 Harvest Moon: Back to NaturePlatform: PlayStation

Release Date: 1999

Why it’s great: Back to Nature epitomizes what everyone loves about the Harvest Moon franchise. A simple story paired with an unexpectedly difficult goal embodies the charm of Harvest Moon. With memorable characters, a rich world, and the allure of courting and marrying the girl of your choice, Back to Nature builds a deeply emotional gaming experience. Released only months after Harvest Moon 64, Back to Nature utilizes many of the same characters as its counterpart, only in a different world. Despite the similarities, each character’s personality, family, and occupation are vastly unique which makes Back to Nature even more appealing to previous fans of the series.

1. Harvest Moon 64

Harvest Moon 64Platform: Nintendo 64

Release Date:  1999

Why it’s great: Every series has its highs and lows, but Harvest Moon 64 is definitely a huge high. As the third installment to the franchise, it was instrumental in defining what the simulation role playing game could be. Harvest Moon 64 isn’t the kid-friendly game reflected in later titles of the series. The New Year’s Festival for example, encourages  the player to out drink as many villagers as possible. In preparation for the special day, it’s helpful to build up your tolerance to alcohol by visiting the bar daily months in advance; binge drinking Harvest Moon style. In conjunction with the more adult theme, town residents do not reflect the sunny disposition of inhabitants in other titles. Folks in Harvest Moon 64 are entrenched in their own personal struggles. If you give the townspeople a chance, even the rudest local has the potential to become a true friend.

Adding to its prowess, Harvest Moon 64 also manages to balance an intriguing mix of freedom and time-crunching stress. In other words, there is so much to do and so little time. With only a little over two in-game years, players are challenged to woo the mate of their choice, get married, rebuild their farm, befriend all of the villagers, raise livestock, and more. While two years may seem like an ample amount of time, transforming a field of weeds into a profitable landscape of farming success is a tall order, one that when completed, is one of the most deeply rewarding experiences I’ve ever encountered in a video game.

Have you ever played a Harvest Moon game? If so, what is your favorite? If not, have you ever tried out the social farming games like Farmville?

Editor’s Note: I’ve played nearly every Harvest Moon game from the original to the latest on the 3DS. I’m a huge fan through and through and I hope to shed some light on Harvest Moon as an underrepresented franchise.  While admittedly not for every gamer, I certainly was a skeptic at one point, anyone who is even remotely curious should check it out to see just how addicting it can be.

About author View all posts Author website

Taylor Stein

Gamer. Sushi-fanatic. Cartoon enthusiast. Overall big kid. Welcome to my journey throughout the world of video games and all around geekery.

  • Mike

    I’m so happy to see so many of my favorite games on the list. Harvest Moon is just one of those series that once you give it a chance, you’ll be hooked for life. It’s crazy how entertaining farming in a game can be.

    • I totally agree with you Mike. I was extremely skeptical of the games at first, I remember when my brother bought Harvest Moon 64. I made fun of him for the longest time until I played it, then I was sucked in lol The funniest thing is, my brother doesn’t play the series any more, but I’ve been a long-time fan and play to this day.

  • concretecactus

    Whilst its great to see HM64 get some recognition. Why no love for the original?

    • The original HM was ground breaking. I have extremely fond
      memories of spending countless hours perfecting my farm, harvesting turnips,
      and enduring storms. While I admire and appreciate the original, subsequent
      additions to the series have built upon the original model, expanding just
      about every aspect from gameplay and music, to graphics and things to do.

      Do you remember how you could only hold 2 tools at a time?
      Drove me insane! The original HM was successful in making me curious about the
      series, but it wasn’t until HM 64 that I was truly hooked.

    • Stefan

      See I actually played the games completely out of order. It’s hard to go from the newer ones back to the original. I could not get over the tool thing.

  • Check out this comic, HM fans will get it.

    • hannah

      Harvest moon a wounderful life haha

    • Julianto Cristian Sanyo

      i think harvest moon a wonderful live is the best

  • a cool list indeed , mine will be :

    5-Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland (PS2) 2001
    5-Harvest Moon: Magical Melody (GC) 2005
    4-Harvest Moon DS (DS ..well duh!) 2005
    3-Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (GBC) 2003
    2-Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life (GC) 2003
    1-Harvest Moon: Back to Nature (PS1) 1999

    • oshar

      Harvest Moon 64 was my first contact with the series and never have the opportunity to play some other deeply. It is just an amazing game, I was very lucky to play it with any previous knowledge and figure everything out by myself. I can’t even remember how I got the game and how I ended up playing it since it is not the kind of game that I used to like.

  • hannah

    I’m so happy to see harvestmoon64 @ the top I’ve had that game for 7years I begged my grandpa to buy Igor me for my birthday (I’m only 15) and to be honest no matter how many other harvest moon games I’ve had harvestmoon64 will always be my favorite<3

  • scionave

    You’d tell us if a new one ever came out that actually beat 64 right?

    • Of course! Have you heard about the new HM game in development? HM: The Lost Valley on 3DS. Fingers crossed

    • scionave

      I have heard of it, but I honestly stopped caring after the one for Gamecube. It was such a let down because I just couldn’t get into it at all. I just check forums every year or so to see if anyone’s found one that was as good as HM 64 or better. I’ve heard some good things about the most recent one for 3DS, but I haven’t tried it yet.

  • I totally understand. There aren’t many that top the ‘old school’ installments in the series but I will say, I really enjoyed HM: A New Beginning on 3DS. They added a bunch of features like the ability to customize your town, which I really appreciated.

    If you’re going to try a newer one, I would definitely point you in that direction.

    • scionave

      I’ll have to look into that. I’ve been debating buying it for a while. I can’t even exactly put my finger on what wasn’t good about the GC one. I just couldn’t get in to it. It still had the relationships and sort of a story and all the farm building aspects….I don’t know…

    • Well good luck my friend! Let me know if I can give you any other recommendations. Also, there are a ton of non-HM simulation or strategy games out there. Maybe you need something a little different this time around. Have an awesome day!

  • Joe

    You obviously know what you’re talking about and I can tell you have a great appreciation for this series judging from the list but I am surprised that Friends of Mineral Town didn’t make it into the top 5 considering how many people see it as one of the best HM games to date. Otherwise this is a very well thought out list ^.^

  • Poppinator

    I think my favorites go

    5. Harvest Moon Magical Melody
    4. Harvest Moon Animal Parade
    3. Harvest Moon Another Wonderful Life
    2. Harvest Moon A New Beginning
    1. Harvest Moon More friends of Mineral town

    I would put this at number one but since it’s technically not quite a “HarvestMoon Game” is Story of Seasons. I highly recommend it. So much better than Harvest Moon Lost Valley.