When Stardew Valley first came out early last year, I was intrigued. Here was a game that brought back the supremely chill spirit of the Harvest Moon series, games where you could live out a quiet life as a farmer in a small town. But I didn’t have much interest in playing the game on PC, and when it was later ported to consoles I found myself without much in the way of free time. Deep down, I knew I would like the game, but I kept skipping over it — and I’m glad I did.
Today Stardew makes its debut on the Nintendo Switch, and (for me at least) it’s an ideal pairing. Stardew is a game about setting up a new life on a farm, and it’s structured as a series of days. During each day, you have a limited amount of time to do pretty much whatever you want. You can plant and water crops, clear out your overgrown plot of land, or venture into town to go shopping or make new friends. Certain days bring with them special occasions, like the spring egg festival, but otherwise your schedule is mostly left up to you.
This setup also makes the game work really well on a portable device like the Switch. Since each day lasts just a few minutes, you can make at least a little progress even if you only have a small amount of time to play. Like real-world farming, Stardew is largely about incremental progress. Even if you can only contribute a little bit in one particular session, that work still helps you build up your farm into something you can be proud of. And because it’s not an action-heavy game, you can also play Stardew while distracted; last night I harvested a huge crop of potatoes while watching the Toronto Maple Leafs win their first game of the season.
Stardew is a great example of how, often, it’s better to wait a bit before diving into a game. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of platform. For me personally, the Switch just fits into my life better, letting me play games when I otherwise couldn’t. This week, a surprisingly large number of excellent indie games launched on the platform, including Oxenfree and Axiom Verge, and I’m much more likely to play them again on Nintendo’s tablet. Similarly, while my wife thought Jonathan Blow’s puzzler The Witness looked cool when it came out last year, it wasn’t until the game’s recent debut on the iPad that she finally gave it a shot.
There’s also the fact that games simply get better over time. No longer is a game something that’s released and forgotten. Instead, they’re typically updated regularly to iron out the bugs or add new content. If you jump into a game a few months in, you get the benefits of all of that new stuff right from the beginning. This is especially true of large, open-world games like Final Fantasy XV or Fallout 4, which looked a lot different 12 months after they launched. You’re much less likely to get stuck in an elevator now.
Last month, I started playing the mobile game Fallout Shelter, which originally debuted in 2015, and I’ve been hooked, playing it in bits and pieces almost every single day. That might not have happened if I started when the game first came out. Many of my favorite parts of the game, like having pets or being able to craft new weapons and clothing, are things that were slowly added over the ensuing months post-release. By picking up the game much later, I get all of that good stuff right away, and it’s a big reason why I’m still playing.
This generally isn’t true for multiplayer games; if you wait too long to dive into Splatoon or Destiny, the playerbase may have shrunk significantly by the time to start playing. But for single-player games, it’s often good to wait. The incessant hype around new games can make this tough. When you hear about a new Assassin’s Creed or Super Mario for months or even years, it’s tempting to want to experience it as soon as humanly possible. But whether it’s because of platform or content, it’s important to realize that the best version of the game — the one that works just right for you — might not be available right away.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my strawberry fields could use some watering.