Breath of the Wild, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Stardew Valley are Pretty Much the Same Game
I hear what you’re saying—”But Lauren, that’s crazy! Those are three completely different video games!” I know, it’s risky, but, as you’ll see, it’s not as much of a stretch as some would like you to think. Someone call Nintendo because I’m about to blow their minds like an Ocarina.
Farming and Foraging
Stardew Valley is the top name in farming. Harvest Moon tried to do it, but there’s nothing like Stardew if you want a true-to-life farm simulator in a town where worms have also stolen all the books from the library. If you haven’t played Stardew, one of the hardest aspects of this game is timing; you don’t time your crops right, they won’t grow in time to harvest, and you won’t make any money. If you do like me when I first started, and try to plant green beans with four days left of the season, guaranteed you’ll wake up on Summer day 1 with a farm full of dead green bean plants and a heavy heart. As I’m sure everyone who’s played this game knows, you’ve got to plant those multi-yield crops if you want to save any money.
Along with farming, you also get to forage in Stardew. Every season, there are four types of plants that randomly show up in town that you get to snatch up for yourself. Most of them are good eatin’, but some, like the daffodil or sweet pea, are better given as gifts to your town friends.
So, what Breath of the Wild and Animal Crossing: New Leaf lack in farming, they make up in foraging. In Breath of the Wild, foraging for food and ingredients for dishes is a huge part of the game. As we all know, now, instead of collecting hearts, you have to cook actual food, which can be fun or intimidating and oftentimes both at the same time. My favorite resource for cooking is Guide of the Wild which, alongside ingredients, includes armor, compendium, and map guides.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is very similar to Stardew in terms of how the foraging works, and extremely similar to Breath of the Wild in terms of sheer amount there is to forage. In both Stardew and Animal Crossing you can find shells, fruit, and flowers. In both Breath of the Wild and Animal Crossing, you can find durians. And apples. And crickets.
Sadly, there’s no fishing in this iteration of Legend of Zelda; but for Stardew and Animal Crossing, the techniques for fishing are extremely similar. Stardew fishing is notably more difficult, but it’s still all about timing; especially if you’re trying to catch a shark in Animal Crossing. If you don’t reel it in right when you hear that splash, it’ll get away. Now, I didn’t fish for a long time in Stardew because I was bad at it and I thought it was stupid. But once you give it a shot and start leveling up, fishing—alongside artisan goods—is where you can make a good chunk of your money.
What’s good about fishing in Animal Crossing—besides filling the museum with fish you carried in your pockets for three miles—is that sometimes Reese at Re-Tail pays extra bells for specific fish. That llama will pay a ridiculous amount of money for the stupidest thing sometimes, so, pay attention to the chalkboard.
In both Stardew Valley and Breath of the Wild, cooking is the best way to keep your health up. Well, in Breath of the Wild it’s literally the only way, as mentioned above. In Stardew, you can eat fruits, vegetables, eggs, and milk to raise your health and energy levels, but cooking is where it’s really at. Once you renovate your house and get the kitchen, you can start collecting recipes, either buying them or having them sent to you in the mail by friends. Cooked food will give you the most health/energy boost, and sometimes certain dishes also boost your speed, attack, defense, or foraging abilities. I love to make the red plate in Summer because you can guarantee I’m planting the heck out of radishes and red cabbages, despite their single-use harvest.
Cooking is one of the highlights of Breath of the Wild, at least for me. It’s also one of the greatest anxieties of the entire game. If you’re determined to play without looking anything up, who knows if you’re going to make something edible? When I started, I made nothing but dubious food for like an hour because I had no idea what went together (thank you Guide of the Wild, thank you Polygon, I owe you my life and also Link’s life).
It wouldn’t be a true cooking discussion if I didn’t include my favorite Breath of the Wild recipes: Mighty Fruitcake (Tabantha wheat, cane sugar, goat butter, mighty bananas plus any non-status changing fruit), Apple Pie (Tabantha wheat, cane sugar, goat butter, bird egg, apple), Tough Meat-Stuffed Pumpkin (fortified pumpkin, any meat), any type of curry (Hylian rice, Goron spice, anything else), and Meat Pie (Tabantha wheat, rock salt, goat butter, any meat). Additionally, I find the easiest status-changing food to make is any kind of rice ball; good for mid-battle snacking.
Here’s an obvious one—these games are rife with adventure. Stardew Valley: all the various mines. Animal Crossing: beach vacation adventures. Breath of the Wild: literally everything is adventure.
The mines in Stardew are unnaturally difficult if you don’t have the right tools; a good strong sword is a must-have, but in the beginning, without access to the Adventurer’s Guild, the mines may seem insurmountable. Once you have access, you can buy better weapons and armor to help you defeat the various enemies. It is so, so important to bring food into the mines; you do not want to die, as you’ll lose most—if not all—of the items in your backpack. You will always lose your weapons if you die in the mines, as I know from experience since I’ve had to buy the same sword four times from dying in the Desert Oasis mines. Bottom line: don’t die in the mines.
Animal Crossing presents a more low-key adventure; it’s basically just a beach vacation where sometimes you can catch sharks. Definitely go on a tour, though; that’s where the real adventure is. Butterfly catching, deep sea diving, fossil digging, competitive hide and seek, it’s all there on Tortimer’s Island. Of course, when you do well on the tours you get medals, which I use almost exclusively to buy mermaid furniture.
Now, as we know, Breath of the Wild is all adventure by nature of being an open-world game. I had never really played open-world games before Breath of the Wild, and now I need all the games to be open-world, like, yesterday (open-world Ed, Edd, and Eddy: The Misadventures, can you imagine). (Though, technically you could call that open-world depending on your definition of open-world, which, as we will discover, mine is very loose.)
I just finished the last DLC quest on my first complete run through, and I’m toying with the idea of erasing my save file and starting over from the beginning. Here’s my big heavy opinion: I love this game so much. It’s probably the best game I’ve personally played since Pokemon Ultra Moon (hopefully to be surpassed by the new Sword/Shield games) and I have no shame in saying that. If you disagree with my assessment that Breath of the Wild is the best, fill out a comment card, throw it away, and try not to think about it anymore.
Architecture and Interior Design
While it’s no Happy Home Designer, Animal Crossing still puts a good amount of emphasis on home design. New Leaf includes Happy Home as its own entity within Nook’s Homes, and your humble little cottage is judged according to your furniture and overall theme. There are some design hacks to get you more points, like owning all the pieces of one furniture collection (in one room, as they only judge your main room), putting red, green, and yellow items in specific corners for more luck, displaying pictures of your friends, etc.
Sometimes, you hunt forever for cabin flooring, the last piece in your design puzzle, and it never comes to you so you focus on other aspects of your home and somehow you lose points, Lyle, why are you doing this to me, please, my crops are dying, my family is sick, it’s been a harsh winter, Lyle, give me a break on my Happy House Points, I’m begging you.
Speaking of crops, design is important for your farm in Stardew Valley as well, especially if you want a fully automated farm. You want your crops to water themselves? You got to design your sprinkler system accordingly. Want your livestock to feed themselves? Got to plan your grass to hay ratio (something that I’m actually very bad at).
Your house in Stardew can also get a facelift or two: flooring, wallpaper, odds and ends, a horrendous singing stone you can use to annoy whoever you’re playing multiplayer with. Expanding your home also comes with more perks than just extra space; once you’re married and you’ve renovated your home twice, you have the option to have kids. Which, I guess that’s a perk?
Also, I love that Breath of the Wild is basically a Millennial fantasy; a barely clothed young adult finally able to own a home.
All good games need friend-making code! We love friends! In Stardew Valley, you can even marry your friends! Guess what, I married Harvey and I love him!
Friends are important in Animal Crossing: New Leaf as well because they’re also your citizens. Their happiness is important to the health of your town and whether or not you get those sweet, sweet Jacob’s Ladder flowers. Just like in Stardew, your friends will give you cool stuff and trade items with you. Sometimes in Animal Crossing, your citizens will get the big idea that they can charge you exorbitant prices for garbage they know you won’t want. If that happens, remember your D.A.R.E. training and just say no.
Making friends in Breath of the Wild is mostly bittersweet, just because you’re moving around so much. But, sometimes, on the road into a stable, you’ll meet up with Spinch and his horse Spinch; then, you’ll feel a little nostalgic thrill from seeing your friend again even in this big wide world.
In Stardew Valley you can ride horses, in Breath of the Wild you can ride horses, and in Animal Crossing: New Leaf sometimes your neighbors are horses.
An Old Man in a Cave Gives You a Sword
This point harkens back to the first of the Legend of Zelda games, where an old man in a cave gives you a sword. Now, in Breath of the Wild, an old man sitting at a campfire gives you a baked apple and a woodcutter’s ax, but the sentiment is still there; the same old man, still sitting around giving a kid weapons.
This was extra special for me in Stardew Valley, because I decided to dress my farmer like Link. So, we have a farmer dressed like Link being given a sword in a cave by an old man. How perfect?
Trains Pass Through the Town
Is this relevant? Yeah, I guess, Stardew and Animal Crossing both have trains passing through the town. Is it important? No, not really.
Defeat Your Enemies, Even if They Live in Your Town
Sometimes, someone moves in who you don’t want. Maybe they decided to plant their home right in the middle of your beautifully laid path and screwed your whole town up (Pashmina, I’m looking at you). These citizens are what we call Enemies of the Mayor; what you got to do is just ignore them completely until they move out (Pashmina, you’re too cute, you can stay, I can’t be mean to you). So, there can be an element of—I don’t want to say evil—but unrest in your town sometimes. Just ignore it, and it’ll go away.
Breath of the Wild and Stardew Valley, it’s obvious where the enemies are in these games: in the mines in Stardew (so, so many enemies), and literally everywhere in Breath of the Wild. Everything is a potential enemy, including an enemy picking up and throwing another, smaller enemy at you.
— lauren (@calamity_zelda) May 19, 2019
Here’s where we get to my loose definition of open-world: anything where you get to visit places on a map. Breath of the Wild? Map. Stardew Valley? Map. Animal Crossing? Map. Whoa! I guess all three of these are open-world games! How about that!
Bottom Line: Highly Recommend
Breath of the Wild, Stardew Valley, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf are three distinct experiences; they have eerily similar themes and elements, and I love all three games fiercely as if they were my own children. What do you think about these games? Like them? Hate them? Never played them but want to? Never played them but don’t want to? That’s okay too. Let us know what you think in the comments!