Eliza is a hardcore, passionate gamer with diverse tastes and a love for coding. She dreams of owning her own PC game development company.
Fans of the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory franchises have flocked to the farming simulator Stardew Valley, which is available on platforms such as PlayStation 4 and Vita, iOS and Android, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam (where it costs $14.99). The only problem players continue to run into is: "Just how do I play this thing?"
This is where I come in.
As an avid gamer girl with a taste for everything from Minecraft, Call of Duty, and Assassin's Creed, to Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and even Cookie Clicker, I've come across many, many different arrangements for controls and gameplay.
What Is Stardew Valley?
Stardew Valley is an indie farming simulator and RPG (role-playing game) developed by ConcernedApe and published by Chucklefish. It was released 26 February 2016, and, as of 2020, has earned itself an "Overwhelmingly Positive" rating on Steam, with 97% of the 220,000+ reviews being positive.
The game itself has charming, pixelated graphics to pair with the "rustic" house you're given from the start. A general summary of the introduction could fall along the line of:
You're stuck working a dead-end job with a major company known as the Joja Corporation. You've also inherited your grandpa's old farm and decide to move out to the countryside for a change. You're left with only a handful of coins and some tools to get you started. As the official website puts it: "Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home?"
The Game Introduction
The introduction for the game is lengthy, and I find it to be a poor first impression, but it's important nonetheless. To sum it up, you've inherited a farm from your grandfather, and, after being stuck at a dead-end job and needing a change, decide to move out to the countryside for some farming. From there, the game gives you some basic, hand-me-down tools (a hoe, watering can, scythe, axe, and pickaxe) and basically tells you good luck.
There are some side quests for players to pursue, and they help to advance the plot, but beyond those, there really isn't anything telling players how to actually get around in the game.
The controls bear a very strong resemblance to Minecraft controls, so when I played, I found that it was very easy to pick up and learn the ropes. However, if you don't play Minecraft—or really, PC games in general—then learning the controls could be a rather daunting and painful task as there is almost no tutorial to teach you the basic controls, and there's nothing for the more advanced controls. When you wake up for your first day, there will be a little panel with a few basic controls located on the lower left-hand side of your screen. That will be all that you get.
I'm only covering the basic controls in this guide so as to help the new players get started, but for a full list of controls (PC and Xbox), check out the Stardew Valley Wiki.
PC Controls: Mouse/Keyboard
- Moving: Use the W, A, S, and D keys on your keyboard to move around. Pressing and holding these keys moves the characters in their respective direction. For example, W moves your character up, A moves your character left, and so on.
- Menus: Pressing the E key (or 'Esc') opens the main menus. Here, you can see your inventory, your skills with tools, and your relationships with the other villages, among other things. You can also find the options and button so you can exit your game from here.
- Journal: Pressing F will open your journal so you can quickly see all of your main and side quests. Keep track of those, as they will give you something to do while waiting on materials for some of those longer quests.
- Map: Pressing M will open up your map. If you hover over various buildings and areas on the map, you will see a tooltip (or a little box pop up on the screen) telling you what it is your mouse is hovering over. It's a fantastic tool for early navigation, and the map can also be accessed in the menu.
- Using Tools: Left clicking (or pressing 'C') will have you use whatever tool you're holding. Example: left clicking while carrying the hoe will have your character use it and till the soil (or kill the monster.)
- Interacting: Right clicking (or pressing 'X') will make your character Check/Do something. Example: if you walk up to the door of a building and right click, your character will go inside (or give you a message saying that it's locked.)
- Running: Press and hold the Left Shift key to switch from walking to running. Running doesn't use any stamina (to my knowledge) and can help you get around quicker. If you have Auto-Run enabled, holding Left Shift will cause you to walk, allowing you to line up your character to keep from cutting your plants versus the weed.
- Inventory: The numbers 1 through = on your keyboard allow you to quickly jump from one item in your inventory to another. It also allows you to highlight empty spots on your hotbar and skip to them so you don't have to watch your character carry around that rock all day.
Xbox One/360 Controller
If you play Stardew Valley on your Xbox One or Xbox 360, I've decided to add the controls for you as well. I'm not as familiar with them as I am with the PC controls, so for more information and more advanced controls, take a look at the "Controls" page of the Stardew Valley Wiki.
Note: For the sake of space, I am only including the Overworld Xbox controls—how to navigate the menus is not included, but can be found on the "Controls" page of the Stardew Valley Wiki (see above.)
- Moving and Running: Use the Left Joystick to walk/run and to control your character. Just tilt the joystick in the direction that you want your character to go. You can affect your character's speed by varying how much you tilt the joystick. Example: if you just barely tilt the joystick up, your character will walk, but if you jam it forward, your character will run.
- Cursor: Use the Right Joystick to move your cursor around the screen. Pretty straightforward, right?
- Menus: Press 'Start' (or 'B') to open the menus and see your inventory, skills with tools, relationships with villagers, your map, and so on.
- Journal: Pressing 'Back' will open up your journal and give you a quick overview of all your quests and tasks that you need to (or should) complete.
- Interacting: Press the 'A' button to use the cursor (like left-clicking on a computer) and also to Check something or Do something. Warning PC players: if you're switching to an Xbox controller, the A button is not the same as a left click! The A button bears a stronger resemblance to a right click.
- Using Tools: Press the 'X' button to use your tool. That's about all it does in the Overworld.
- Crafting Menu: Press 'Y' to open the Crafting Menu so you can craft crucial items that you'll need in the game (more on that later.)
- Swapping Items/Tools: The Left Trigger and Right Trigger allow you to switch which item you're holding, and also to swap tools.
Tips and Tricks
Basically, I learned how to get started the hard way so you don't have to. Here are some of my quick tips and tricks for how to get started in Stardew Valley and how to keep your head screwed on straight with only 10 inventory slots to begin with.
1. Craft a Chest
This is something I can't stress enough! With only 12 inventory slots, you'll find yourself carting around a lot of junk that you want to keep, but don't necessarily need at the moment. If you open the crafting menu, you can find a recipe for a chest. What I ended up doing was restarting my game, and immediately after the intro, dropping everything to start chopping wood. Two things you'll need a lot of in this game: wood and stone. Stock up early, but make sure to invest in your chest quick! It's certainly saved me from a lot of hair-pulling.
2. Check the Trash Cans . . . Quietly
There are trash cans all around Stardew Valley, and they're there for a reason. People throw away all kinds of useful (and useless) stuff, and just taking a moment to right-click on a trash can might give you the leg-up you need to get that last bit of ore later on down the road. Sometimes, it's better to just sell the stuff in there. Sure, it's gross, but cash is still cash, and occasionally, you can find museum artifacts in there as well.
Caution: Checking the cans for items can yield some great rewards, but don't get caught doing it! Part of the game is befriending people in town, and if you get caught, there are consequences. First, the person loses serious respect for you, and their heart count takes a beating, but second, it becomes harder for you to befriend that person and earn their respect.
I've found that checking in the very early morning or late at night is the safest times to look for things, as everyone is asleep and inside.
3. Watch TV
There are plenty of shows on the TV and while it may be easy to just walk by every morning, there are some useful tips and just little tidbits that are good to know. I always check the weather for the next day, as it gives me an idea of everything that I need to do now (say, I need to catch a fish while it's raining, but the rain will stop tomorrow) instead of putting off. Knowing the weather can also be useful when I'm turning in my watering can for an upgrade, since I can plan ahead to try and minimize the days that my crops go without water.
Note: I have found that the weather channel isn't always correct. It is very rare, and it may be the result a bug or glitch somewhere, but nonetheless, predicting that it's going to rain every day for a week until it actually does... it can get tedious. Don't throw all your money in their word, but don't ignore it altogether.
The fortune teller may seem useless, but I've found some element of truth in what she says. If she says that the spirits are displeased, I find myself struggling to make progress in the mines or to catch fish. If she says that the spirits are happy or content, then the little green slimeballs in the mines continue to fall at my feet in little gooey lumps after a few whacks with my sword.
There is a show called "Living off the Land" that gives you tips on foraging and farming, but hosts nothing but re-runs after the end of the second year. It can tell you about where to find these herbs, or maybe hint at a new quest someone in the forest.
The cooking channel, "Queen of Sauce" that teaches you cooking recipes. You don't have to make or write down the recipes first either - simply watching the show will add it to the list of known recipes.
4. Visit the Community Center
You won't be able to get in the first time, as you'll see a message saying "It's Locked." Don't worry too much about it - soon after (for me, it was one day later) there will be a cutscene with the mayor talking about how the community center used to be so much nicer. From there, you'll be able to see the wizard, complete item lists for rewards, and eventually, restore the center have to its original glory!
5. Donate to the Museum
The museum, no matter how shady the director may seem when he asks you to donate things, is super useful. As you donate more and more "artifacts" for their collection, the director will start giving you some rewards in return, including some rare items. If an item can be donated, hovering over it will produce a tooltip explaining how the director might be able to tell you more about an item.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can you buy a horse in Stardew Valley?
Answer: Horses come with a stable you can have Robin build for you. The stable requires you to have 10,000g, 100 pieces of Hardwood, and 5 Iron Bars, but the horse is included once the stable is complete. Bear in mind: you need space on your farm for the stable, and if you demolish the stable, you will also lose your horse.
© 2016 Eliza Knight
Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on January 26, 2020:
Checking the trash can may not be worth it. I only find something useful rarely but it does change your friendship rating with a lot of people. Not for the better.
Red Fernan from Philippines on January 09, 2018:
Wow! I didn't know you could check the trash can!