The Best Stardew Valley Clones Are The Most Blatant

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Coral Island is excellent, but Stairway Games’ wholesome life sim is also very familiar to any player who has flirted with this genre over the past decade. You’ll plant crops, befriend loads of locals, go spelunking in the local mines, and donate seasonal goodies to a shrine located on the edge of town. Over dozens of hours you’ll transform from a country bumpkin to a core social pillar of this community, spoiled with riches with a sweetheart hanging from your arm.


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It rocks the boat somewhat with a diving mechanic and ancient underwater metropolis filled with mermaids and other fantastical creatures, but the moment-to-moment action is still the same song and dance we’ve been doing since Stardew Valley first released in 2016 – even before if you’re counting the games it took inspiration from like Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons.

A cottage industry has emerged for comforting farming games that put unique spins on the things Stardew Valley did so well, even if few are able to match its brilliance. Coral Island will come pretty close though, as it’s been years since a game of this ilk has managed to capture my imagination so confidently. Everyday after work I’ve found myself slipping into town to do a few errands and water my crops, saying hello to a handful of people I’m flirting with before making dinner in reality. Last night I upgraded a few of my tools and built my first coop, so I now have an infinite supply of eggs for making mayonnaise. I will give it to people like some sort of strange coagulating fiend. Everything I’m working towards feels worthwhile too, with the underground, underwater, and above ground stories all leading to rewarding mechanical advancements and story beats that, while lacking in stakes, still prove engrossing.

While other games in the genre tend to loosely adapt Stardew Valley’s success, Coral Island is pretty unapologetic about the whole thing. So much so that many of the moments of the story and mechanical progression are near identical. You’ll attend a potluck and be asked to bring something nice to pop in the stew, while a mayonnaise machine is one of the very first things you’ll be rewarded with to make regular income. Watering plants, feeding animals, and doing the rounds in town all operate with the same cadence. Even the way I manage my energy is outfitted with the same levels of anxiety, like I want to get as much done before turning in at 4pm for a healthy 18 hours of sleep. God, I wish real life was like that.

Coral Island Shark Costume

It’s addictive in the same ways too. You’ll often plan multiple days in advance whether you’ve come to realise it or not, because there isn’t enough time to do everything. I’m close to a few different milestones in certain parts of the game, and setting apart three in-game days allows me to get everything done with time to spare. Next thing I know, an hour has gone by in real life and I’ve forgotten to play anything else for my GOTY list I’m still yet to write. Great job.

Coral Island is so excellent because it pulls so liberally from Stardew Valley though, and I’d be lying if said I’d be nearly as engrossed if that wasn’t the case. My Time At Sandrock, Ooblets, Mineko’s Night Market, Potionomics, Fae Farm, Slime Rancher, and countless others I don’t list here capitalised on the popularity of Stardew Valley with their own innovations, even if on a base level they’ll always be regarded as clones of the game that popularised this formula for modern audiences. It allowed games like this to be deep, personable, heartfelt, and very rewarding no matter what you ended up doing. You were making a life for yourself within its pixelated confines, finding love or raising a family while unearthing a mysterious legacy that was waiting at the centre. Coral Island iterates on this formula beautifully, even if it’s just by making everyone in the game really sexy and adding mermaids you can be friends with.

Stardew Valley - The farmer tending to his crops

If it tried to go out on its own a little more, I’m not sure if I’d be so enamoured, which is both a testament to Stardew Valley’s quality and the games that would follow in its footsteps. It has me wondering if Haunted Chocolatier will act as a catalyst for a similar evolution, encouraging hundreds of indie devs the world over to put their own spin on supernatural confectionery.

We shouldn’t be afraid to call out games like Coral Island for cloning Stardew Valley’s strong fundamentals before growing into their own ideas, but it’s equally important to understand why they decide to ape such a masterpiece in the first place, and why we keep on turning up again and again even if it feels like we’re doing the same things. There’s value in that repetition, and so much to be mined from Stardew’s foundations for myriad games to follow in its footsteps.

Next: Stardew Valley’s Continuous Updates Are A Testament To Its Greatness

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