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Why Stardew Valley Is More Fascinating Than It Seems

Warning: this article contains spoilers.

Individuals all over the world have found entertainment through farming video games, but one of the most popular is Stardew Valley. Published by ConcernedApe (Eric Barone) in 2016, Stardew Valley has earned the love of millions of gamers, selling over 20 million copies as of March 2022.

The game goes deeper than what is found at face value. The impetus for Stardew Valley’s story is a grandfather leaving his farm to his grandchild—the player. The player must then spruce up the dilapidated farm, harvest crops, and descend into the Mines to search for ore. If a player is unwilling to delve beyond these aspects of the pixelated world, it’s easy to miss out on the following interesting—and sometimes, even emotionally moving—details.


Dwarf in Stardew Valley Mines

Stardew Valley, v1.56


Many new players don’t realize that there is a mysterious lore behind many functions of the game. For example, as a player collects lost books for the town’s museum, they find out that dwarves live underground and are believed to be “the remnants of a once advanced civilization whose interplanetary vehicle crashed on this planet long ago,” as revealed by an unknown M. Jasper in one of the lost books. Not only that, but players can meet a dwarf when they enter the east tunnel in the Mines and—after collecting all of the dwarf scrolls—understand his language.


Dwarf dialogue

Stardew Valley, v1.56


Along with dwarves, aliens appear to exist in the world of Stardew Valley as well. Some time after the first year of the game, there is a small chance that the player will hear UFO sounds while sleeping during the night. In the morning, an Alien Capsule can be found somewhere on the player’s farm. If the capsule is left alone, the player will find out that the glass of the capsule has been shattered and a shadowy form will be periodically found throughout Pelican Town.

But the lore of Stardew Valley doesn’t end with dwarves and aliens. In the most traditional route of the game, players participate in restoring the run-down Community Center to its former glory as a social hotspot, only to find out that it has become inhabited by sphere-like, colorful forest spirits called Junimos. Not much is known about these creatures. except for the fact that they appreciate the player’s efforts and offerings to restore the building, and after it is restored, they leave.


Stardew Valley Community Center

Stardew Valley, v1.56


On the less mystical side of things, intrigue can be found in the NPCs in the game, many of whom possess unique and distinguishable personalities that come to light as players interact with them. For instance:

  • Marnie, a kind shop owner who sells animal supplies
  • Linus, an outcast living in a tent in the mountains
  • Kent, a military man recently returned from serving in the army
  • Lewis, the perfectionistic mayor of Pelican Town
  • The Wizard, a wizard living in the forest
  • Shane, an unhappy employee at JojaMart
  • Pam, the local bus driver

Among this list, Linus is perhaps the most misleading. He spends much of his time alone, except during the Spirit’s Eve Festival when he can be found standing next to the Wizard. He claims that people have called him a ‘wild man’ and torn down his tent. However, players witness many instances of kindness shown by the villagers to Linus—a fact that allows for skepticism on the player’s part surrounding Linus’s veracity.

In stark contrast to Linus, there is Mayor Lewis, a man deeply concerned with image and propriety. He lives alone in the nicest house in town, regularly making the rounds to many areas of the map. However, the mayor is not as straightforward as he seems. Lewis makes a request at an early point in the game, asking the player to surreptitiously find where his purple shorts have gone. Scandalously, these shorts can be found in Marnie’s bedroom, indicating that the two are in a secret relationship.


Mayor Lewis's purple shorts

Stardew Valley, v1.56


On another note, one of the most misunderstood NPCs in Pelican Town is Kent who enters the game at the beginning of Year 2. He comes off as a bit distant to the player which is mostly due to his ongoing struggle with PTSD. Another villager with poor mental health is Shane who appears to grapple with depression and alcohol dependence which seems to lessen as the player interacts with him. Pam also has a problem with alcoholism but does not recover.There are so many fascinating aspects to this mellow indie product that often get disregarded in favor of more challenging video games. But Stardew Valley is a paradox; it’s filled with simplicity and complexity. It’s understandable why many people cast it off as a simple concept without plot, but they’re not giving this slower-paced game enough of a chance. As the player gets to know the villagers and explore every corner and crack of the town, they begin to form an attachment with these stories being told through pixels. Hopefully, uninvested players will stumble upon one of the more fascinating aspects of Stardew Valley before they give it up and call it boring.


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