Co-op Stardew Valley: What Could Go Wrong?

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During the COVID-19 global pandemic, I’ve leaned a lot on video games to pass the time and keep me centered. Although several great single player games have come out in 2020 – Animal Crossing, Persona 5 Royal, Final Fantasy VII REMAKE, and The Last of Us Part II, to name a few – the co-op experience has been fairly limited. Luckily, my friend and I recently stumbled upon the multiplayer features in… Stardew Valley?

Yes, Stardew Valley. The farm simulator game where you farm, mine, build relationships, and grow the community of Stardew Valley. Although seemingly a single player game, many versions of Stardew Valley now have a Co-op mode. It might be surprising just how deep the multiplayer is, especially compared to Animal Crossings’ limited offerings.

There are basically two ways to play together: shared and separate finances. With shared finances, anything earned gets put into a single pot where both players can take from. Separate finances means anything earned individually stays in each player’s own account. Regardless of economy, certain things are shared – community center donations and farm buildings, for example – and certain things are individual – relationships, compendiums, etc.

What makes the game a surprisingly fun multiplayer experience are these individual accomplishments. Each player can fill out their relationships, catch all the fish, get all the minerals, cook all recipes, and achieve all associated in-game accomplishments.

Although there’s no way to see how much each person has made individually, these other accomplishments serve as great milestones or markers for “who is winning.” In particular, the diversity of individual accomplishments made it so we experienced the game in its entirety rather than optimizing for one particular goal.

What at first started as a mutual enjoyment of Stardew Valley thus turned into serious and competitive gaming sessions. Whether competing for limited ores, legendary fish, or first to marry a certain NPC, our Stardew Valley experience shifted from one of daily relaxation to a fun (and sometimes stressful) pushing of the game to its limits. In some ways, too, we learned more about each other as we worked together to complete some shared achievements but also worked against one another in order to gain accomplishments first. For example, I saw I was better at establishing relations with the characters while my friend was much better at optimizing the farm life.

More importantly, I think it brought us closer in a time when we are all separated. We were excited to jump on a call together to play. For a game known for its single play content, that’s pretty incredible.

If you’re interested in started your own co-op Stardew Valley experience, here are some tips to get started:

  • Set ground rules to start. If it’s fully cooperative, how are people going to share money? If it’s not, how are people sharing the limited space and resources?
  • Make sure the host has reliable internet. Otherwise you might experience a bunch of lag.
  • Time doesn’t stop in menus, so use the commands “/pause” and “/resume” to pause and resume the game as needed.

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