One of the big things that makes Stardew Valley such a magical gaming experience is discovering everything for yourself, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some spoiler-free tips and tricks to help you get started.
For the unfamiliar, Stardew Valley is an incredibly popular indie role playing game in which you inherit your grandfather’s farm (and all the subsequent adventures that arise from that). The game serves as a spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon RPG farming game franchise (and, even better, remedies many of the frustrating aspects of the Harvest Moon games in the process). Playing Stardew Valley blind is a truly enjoyable experience, but there are a few new-player pitfalls that you can either stumble your way through or get a little help with a tip list like this one.
The following tips and tricks have been carefully selected to accomplish three things:
- First, we love the game and want to help ease new players into it by covering some of the basics.
- Second, we want to do so in the most spoiler-free way possible, as the game has a wonderful story.
- And, finally, by answering some of the pressing questions a new player might have about the game, we’re keeping new players away from the comprehensive (and spoiler filled) Stardew Valley wiki. Speaking with the voice of experience, we assure you that it is all too easy to hit up the wiki searching for a simple answer about an in-game concept and, in the process of doing so, see significant spoilers about game mechanics, characters, undiscovered areas of the game, and more.
With that in mind, we’ve not only strove to keep our suggestions spoiler free, we’ve gone out of our way to arrange the list so that the least revealing suggestions are at the top of the article. You can stop reading any time you feel at risk of losing a little bit of the self-discovery magic.
Don’t Rush: It’s Soothing Single Player, We Promise
Or first tip is less a single tip and more like meta-advice for playing the entire game. If you’re used to playing games with multiplayer elements you might need to take a long, deep breath and get yourself into a proper chill state of mind to play Stardew Valley.
Stardew Valley is a well-balanced, single player experience. Unlike grinding in, say, a popular FPS or MMORPG game to get the best loot drops before they’re gone, there’s nothing in Stardew Valley you can truly miss out on because you screwed up or didn’t play the game in some sort of correct or optimized way.
Within the context of the game, you can be the most industrious farmer Stardew Valley has ever seen, or you can get by doing just enough to keep your farm running so you can explore the game.
No matter how you play, the only person setting the pace of the game is you, and if it seems overwhelming or you start to get stressed about it, just take a deep breath and relax. There’s no setback in the game you can’t recover from.
Friendship is Magic: Be Kind to Creatures Big and Small
To advance in the game, be kind to everyone (and every thing) you come in contact with—except the things that want to eat you, go ahead and punch them in the face a few times. Friendship and kindness are fundamental underpinnings of the Stardew Valley universe, and if you are kind to creatures big and small, you will be rewarded.
Talk to your neighbors. Bring them treats from your farm. Take notes on what they like (and what they dislike). As you befriend people they’ll open up to you, sharing their lives (and often tips and goodies in the process). Even animals respond to your kindness. A cow you stop to pet every day produces better milk; a chicken you dote on produces bigger and higher quality eggs.
This is the shortest section in our tips guide (because we’re strongly trying to avoid spoilers) but it’s also the most important. We think you’ll find the game far more enjoyable if you work on befriending even the gruffest and most eccentric townsfolk.
Hoeing with Precision: Turn Hit Locations On Immediately
One thing that new players are almost always thrown off by is the “hit location” mechanics of the game. The game is 2D and everything (planting crops, placing objects, etc.) happens on an invisible coordinate plane of boxes. Because of how the orientation of your on-screen avatar, the tool you’re using, and the grid interact, the effect of using your tools can seem a bit wonky sometimes. You can sometimes swing your tool while facing forward and have it hit an object beside or behind you.
Some tools have a reach of 1-3 squares that you can use strategically to your advantage. You have to move less and you expend less energy, so it pays to really get good at targeting your tool “hits.” In addition, taking these actions costs you a little bit of energy. Hitting the right square means not wasting that energy.
To help you get good at putting your tool right where you want, hit the ESC key to open up the game menu, and then select the tab with the little controller icon, as seen below. Check the “Always Show Tool Hit Location” option.
This places a red box directly on the square that a given tool will interact with (as shown in the image at the top of the section).
There’s also a keyboard shortcut to turn hit location on temporarily. Hold the SHIFT key while using a tool to show the hit box, even when the option’s turned off. That’s a handy little tip to remember for those times tool placement is frustrating you.
Food Is Life: Eat! Now Eat Some More!
Second only to frustration at misplaced pickax strikes is new player bafflement at how tired their character is. Unlike many RPGs, where you can swing your tools and weapons without ever getting tired, Stardew Valley has an exhaustion meter. Physically demanding activities, like swinging tools and weapons tire you out. Thankfully, walking and running do not.
In the beginning of the game, it can feel like you’re tired all the time. You can deal with the exhaustion one of two ways: eating or sleeping.
Eating food boosts your energy levels. Raw food gives you decent energy; cooked food gives you more. In the early game, there’s a delicate balance between selling your food for profit versus eating it for energy. If you find yourself out of energy early in the day and don’t want to waste food, take the time to attend to tasks that don’t consume energy. Sort your chests. Plan your farm. Explore the map. Head into town to chat with the townsfolk and build friendships.
Or eat all your food and cut down a whole forest like a mad man. Far be it from us to stand in the way of your lumberjack desires.
Lights Out at Dusk: Sleep Is Not Optional
Food might give you energy to tackle task after task during the day, but there’s one thing you can’t eat your way through in Stardew Valley: the clock. You have to sleep every night.
You wake up at 6:00 AM in your farmhouse every morning. If you haven’t already returned to bed by 2:00 AM, you pass out from exhaustion. Each of those 18 in-game hours is equal to 45 seconds of real-world time, thus a jam-packed day in your new farming life is equal to 13.5 minutes of real world time. You’ll be amazed at how much there is to do in the game and how fast those days whiz by.
It’s best to get to sleep before midnight, because your energy bar will be fully refilled the next day. If you get to sleep between midnight and 2:00 AM, you’ll have less energy the next day.
And, if you’re not asleep by 2:00 AM, you’ll pass out wherever you are and wake up with even less energy the next day.
But that’s not all. If 2:00 AM strikes and you pass out anywhere outside your farmhouse, the consequences can range from a minor financial ding (the in-game equivalent of emergency responders finding you and hauling you home for a fee), to a major ding if you’re in the more dangerous areas of the game (where you can lose not only money but random items from your inventory).
As long as you’re in the front door of your farmhouse before the clock strikes 2:00AM you’ll be fine, but you won’t necessarily get the full benefits sleep.
Additional sleep tip: the game only saves when you go to bed (be it planned or passed out on a dusty trail) each night. The downside to this is that if you exit the game before going to bed you lose all your progress for the day. The upside is that if you do something really dumb (like dig all your best crops out of the ground instead of watering them), you’re one rage quit away from absolution. Just quit before you go to sleep.
Time Marches On: Seasons Exist In Quarter Time So Plan Accordingly
The days in Stardew Valley aren’t the only things that whiz by. One of the things that almost always catches new players off guard is the fact that the in-game seasons (which mirror our spring, summer, fall, and winter) are not ~90 days long like you would anticipate. In-game seasons are only 28 in-game days long. When you first start playing, 28 days might seem like an eternity as you get your bearings but trust us, in short order you’ll be like “%*#@! It’s summer already!”
Seasons in Stardew Valley matter because each season has unique crops you can grow, unique wild plants to forage, and unique fish to catch. If you miss growing a particular crop or catching a particular fish in a given season, you’ll have to wait (in most cases) all the way to the next in-game year to get it. That’s not the end of the world, but if you need that thing for some project or quest you really want to work on, waiting a year is rough. Remember, if you play your days to their fullest, each season is approximately 19 hours of game play.
With that in mind, we recommend planning carefully. Stardew Valley rewards good and thoughtful planning. Don’t plant crops late in the season when you won’t have time to harvest them. Instead, try to get ready (and save some money) so that you can buy crops and plant them on the first day of the season.
Also, make sure to harvest all your crops before the season rolls over (because unharvested crops will wither the moment the seasons change).
Upgrading Your Tools: Advanced Is Better, But Time Your Upgrades Well
You might do a lot of exploring in Stardew Valley, but you’re a farmer at heart and a farmer has tools. Better tools mean an easier time working your farm. Early on, you’ll meet a character who can upgrade your tools and you should absolutely take advantage. Tool upgrades can make your tools work faster (fewer hits to fell a tree), more efficiently (more water in your can and the water reaches more crops), and even be able to hit special items lower level tools cannot.
You need to save up resources to upgrade, and you should time when you perform the upgrades. The upgrade process takes two in-game days and for those two days, you won’t have that tool. If you leave your watering can to be upgraded in the middle of summer, there will be two days where you can’t water your crops—and thirsty crops don’t grow.
With that in mind, time your upgrades for a window on the calendar where the effect of missing the tool will be minimized or totally removed. If you upgrade your watering can on the last day of fall, for example, you won’t incur any penalty because 1) you don’t need to water the crops on the last day when you’re harvesting them and 2) there’s no crops to water in winter, so you won’t need your watering can on the first day of the new season.
Don’t Ignore the Tube: TV Is Educational
Despite the back-to-nature vibe of the game, and the strong push towards an earthy low-tech existence in your new valley home, the television in your farmhouse is really useful. Depending on the day of the week, you can tune into a weather report, a horoscope, or either a cooking channel or an outdoorsman’s channel.
These channels will, respectively, tell you the weather forecast for the next day (rainy days are great for exploring because you don’t have to water crops), reveal your horoscope (the game has a “luck” variable and how lucky or unlucky your horoscope is plays a role in luck based endeavors like finding rare items), teach you a recipe (cooked foods are very powerful in the game and you want to learn all the recipes you can), or give you a tip about the game (the outdoorsman’s channel is packed with advice about game mechanics, the town, farming, and so on).
At minimum, you should at least check the TV every day for the cooking broadcast because there are many recipes in the game you can only learn by doing so.
Rain, Rain, Come Again: Storms Are Your New Best Friend
Speaking of weather forecasts and rain, rain is your best friend. No, truly, in the beginning of the game especially you’ll love nothing more than to check the TV and find out there are storms forecasted.
In the early game you need to farm to get resources and money, but farming with the beginning level watering can can be really time consuming and exhausting. If you overplant, you may quickly feel overwhelmed by how much farmland you have. Rainy days are a sweet, sweet, relief from your farming responsibilities. Saw a cool cave you want to explore? Want to get to know the villagers better? Need to squeeze in some wood chopping to build up your supplies? A rainy day is a perfect day to do everything but farm, so when you wake up to the sound of thunder, pack your knapsack and get ready to explore—the day belongs to you.
Use the Box: The Mayor Is a Saint
When you first arrive in Stardew Valley, the very friendly mayor stops by to introduce himself. Among other things, he tells you that you can put any salable object in the wood bin right outside your farmhouse and he’ll cart it off to the various markets for you.
Many new players avoid the box because there has to be a catch, right? Surely if the mayor acts as the go-between and delivers your crops to the market or your fish to the wharf, then he’s taking a cut?
Put aside your suspicions, dear reader! Stardew Valley is wholesome and the mayor your patron saint. Despite the improbable economics, the hardy little guy hauls all the loot you put into the drop box and sells it for you each night. When you wake up in the morning, you get a breakdown of the sale and 100% of the proceeds.
The only time you don’t want to use the box is if you need the money right away. The mayor doesn’t collect the goods and sell them until the middle of the night and you don’t get the money until the next morning. If you have a huge pile of crops you need to sell right now to fund important purchases, skip the box and take them to the appropriate store to sell them.
On the Subject of Building: Silos First, Space is Fixed, and Everything Is Mobile
The town’s carpenter can build additional farm buildings for you. At first, the majority of these buildings (and their subsequent upgrades) are far too expensive, but there’s a building worth buying as soon as you can afford its modest price: the silo. Wild grass that you cut down on your farm to make way for other projects goes to waste if you don’t have a silo. If you do have a silo, however, the wild grass you cut down become hay.
Although you may not have any livestock now, eventually you’ll likely dabble in some animal husbandry and all your cute little barnyard friends will be ravenous. A silo or two in the beginning ensures you’re not throwing away the wild grass you cut down, but storing it for a later date.
On the subject of buildings, many new players get paralyzed trying to plan out their farms and worry that they are putting buildings in the wrong place (or that there won’t be room to upgrade those buildings later). Good news! First, you can move any building at a later date (with no penalty). Just visit the carpenter and pick a new spot. Second, don’t worry about changing footprints of your various upgradable buildings. Mercifully (and with an improbable TARDIS like quality) upgraded buildings maintain the same footprint no matter how big the interior gets. This means the modest starter barn takes up exactly as much space on your farm as the fully upgraded barn. Feel free to plan and place down walkways, fences, and trees, as you won’t have to move any of them when you upgrade the neighboring buildings.
Fishing Is *#$!ing Frustrating: Stick With It!
Hands down, fishing is the most polarizing thing in the Stardew Valley player community. It’s like a mini-game that some people seem to take to very naturally and others are left pulling their hair out.
If you’re one of the people that finds fishing really frustrating, we’d like to offer a few words of encouragement and tips. First, treat the fishing mini-game more like a dance and less like a click-spamming endurance challenge. When you hook a fish, the fish bobs up and down on a fishing “meter.” The goal is to keep the fish inside the “catch bar” (which increases a side indicator bar from red, to yellow, to green, before you finally catch it). Any time the fish spends outside the “catch bar” decreases the indicator until eventually the fish gets away. If you click like crazy, you’ll send the bar sailing right past the fish and most likely lose it. Instead, click slowly at first and watch the fish behavior.
Even if you’ve got a natural knack for it, the first bit of fishing you do is going to be brutal. The “catch bar” is small, the fish are fast, and you’ll lose far more than you catch. But! There’s a silver lining. The more you fish, the better you get at it (both in terms of game playing skill and in-game skill points) and the catch bar gets bigger.
So even if it frustrates you to death in the beginning, stick with it because not only is becoming a master angler rewarding, but fish are profitable, necessary for some in-game quests, and there are opportunities for you to show off your fishing skills for prizes along the way.
We’ll close by echoing our opening advice. Take your time, don’t stress about accomplishing everything as fast as possible, and remember to stop and enjoy the scenery, the adventures, and, of course, the people you meet in your new home.