Is there anything better than waking up at the crack of dawn to start planting seeds, feeding the chickens, and milking the cows all in the vague hopes of making enough money to allow your lifestyle to continue another day?
Oh, there is you say? Literally everything you say?
Well then, why is Harvest Moon so compelling? At the time of the original game’s release, a part of the appeal was certainly due to the fact that there was nothing else quite like it. But, even after all these years, this farming simulator’s charms and sense of fun still make it stand out in the chore list genre. Of course, its use of fantasy elements and a detailed dating simulator certainly didn’t hurt.
Black and White
Typically when people imagine themselves having the powers of a god, their thoughts turn to incredible adventures filled with the kind of shenanigans that are only possible with infinite abilities.
And yet, according to Black and White, being a mythical deity mostly consists of gathering crops and moving rocks. Amusingly, even your more fantastic skills such as raining down fire and lightning are more often than not used to expedite your to-do list and keep your people happy.
Oddly enough, your best opportunity to escape the chore list is to rain down death and destruction upon your own worshipers. Yet, there is a strange pleasure to be found in performing advanced yard work all in the name of creating a true utopia.
It’s funny how fast The Sims turned people’s reactions from “Why would I want to play a game that’s basically everything that I put off doing in my daily life?” to “Why can’t I stop playing a game that’s basically everything that I put off doing in my daily life?!?!?”
The Sims is one of the best-selling video games of all time and yet, to this day, it’s still kind of difficult to explain what makes it so addictive. Perhaps it’s the genuine bond that you begin to feel for your Sim and the life they live. Maybe it’s the way the game makes keeps track of every little detail so that you can always see where you are making progress.
Most likely, though, it has more to do with how much fun it is to play interior decorator with an unlimited budget. At least that would certainly explain the appeal of the next game…
Those of us who grew up with Animal Crossing know that there is no motivation for completing your chores greater than owing a bell debt to the town loan shark, Tom Nook.
Animal Crossing is a game that constantly requires you to complete a series of tasks that are in and of themselves not that much fun. However, for every bug you catch and tree you chop it brings you that much closer to earning enough bells to get out of debt and even spruce up your home a bit. Animal Crossing has this tremendous ability to make work fun by constantly reminding you that it’s all going towards a purpose.
Animal Crossing doesn’t take long to get its hooks in you and it does it with little more than catalog shopping and home upkeep projects.
Do you remember when your parents would exploit your childhood imagination in order to trick you into performing chores carefully disguised as more epic pursuits? If so, then you’ll recognize the design strategy of Viva Pinata.
Viva Pinata isn’t a game about building fences, planting gardens, and performing general upkeep; it’s a game about doing those things in the vague hope they will attract a mythical piñata creature to your habitation. This game knows exactly when you’re about to give upon its monotonous, errand-based gameplay and chooses that precise moment to provide you with a new, awesome pinata inhabitant that makes you want to keep playing.
Because let’s be honest: You’re not just going to abandon your new pinata in a weed infested garden are you?
Even if your culinary experience doesn’t extend beyond using the microwave to make a bowl of cereal before realizing what an awful mistake you’ve just made, it’s likely that you’ll fall head over heels in love with Cooking Mama.
Cooking Mama is nothing more than a series of peeling, chopping, and seasoning mini-games that all ultimately lead to you making perfectly normal food recipes. It would be boring were it not for your desire to slightly improve your best score on peeling a carrot or seasoning that bowl of peppers in record time.
More fun than topping your pizza rolls with parsley and posting them on Instagram, Cooking Mama may make a chef of you yet.
If Oz, Shawshank Redemption, and just about every other piece of prison entertainment have taught us anything, it’s that prisons are hellish institutions of fear and violence.
According to Prison Architect, though, running a prison is more about keeping the cafeteria pantry well stocked and maintaining uniform bed placement. While there are many of the usual elements of shocking prison content in Prison Architect, nearly all of them can be avoided by rigidly obeying a series of tasks designed to ensure proper facility upkeep.
Who knew the key to peace and harmony was to keep up with all your chores on a regular basis? Mom, that’s who.
Octodad is just a normal game about a normal guy completing a series of normal activities through his normal day. It would all be pretty uninspiring were it not for the fact that said normal guy is actually an octopus in clever disguise.
This one simple twist manages to turn such exciting activities as going to the grocery store into zany adventures. The presumably realistic Octopus controls in Octodad means nothing comes easy to you. Even grabbing a rake from your tool shed can turn you into a tentacle-flinging force of nature.
Ocotodad gets a little more adventurous towards the end of the game, but its best parts revolve around trying to live an average day as a perfectly average Octodad.
Those fans who thought Bethesda was crazy to turn the gritty Fallout series into a tower management mobile app had clearly never lost a good portion of their free time and disposable income to a tower management app.
Boiling down the Fallout universe to a series of micromanagement tasks all geared towards operating the most painfully happy shelter in the wasteland only works because it capitalizes off of the airtight tower management formula that turns a checklist into hours of amusement. This is a genre that has discovered the art of instant gratification and knows how to immediately reflect the benefits of your every completed task. Devoting hours of upkeep gameplay is worth it just to watch your counter of vault dwellers grow higher and higher.
Add to that the compelling “Everything is Fine” art style of the 50s Fallout universe and you’ve got one fine chore simulator in your hands.
Stardew Valley is an evil, evil, evil game that takes what makes everything great about other famous chore list games (most obviously Harvest Moon) and perfects the formula in such a way as to guarantee that your free time now belongs to it.
Stardew Valley does a brilliant job of infusing even the most monotonous tasks with a genuine sense of amusement. Every single accomplishment in this game opens up a new world of things to do until your available activities start to number in the hundreds. Before too long, you’ll be keeping a journal of your daily tasks and will start looking forward to checking them off one by one.
The way that Stardew Valley monopolizes your life with monotonous activities would be simply cruel if it weren’t so addictive and enjoyable.
This post was originally written by Matthew Byrd.