Coral Island is even more proof Stardew Valley is a genre now

Coral Island
(Image credit: Stairway Games)

Coral Island is unashamedly a Stardew Valley clone. It might not pitch itself as such – in fact, it actually depicts itself as a "vibrant and laid-back reimagining of farm sim games" – but it's Stardew through and through. But, that's not a bad thing – it's actually just a symptom of the fact that Stardew Valley isn't just a game anymore, it's a genre, and, because we're all so eager to lap them up, games like Stardew Valley aren't going to show any signs of slowing down. 

And they shouldn't either. Stardew Valley itself is too an imitator, using Harvest Moon as its inspiration kickstarter, so it makes sense that it in turn would spawn its own clones. But they've become so prevalent that we've now reached the point where Stardew-alikes need their own category akin to the Metroidvanias and Soulsbornes. (Stardupes?) 

At the top of that list should sit Coral Island. This brand new title is launching into Early Access today (October 11) after a successful Kickstarter campaign that reached its goal in less than 36 hours, and borrows many of its core gameplay features straight from ConcernedApe's creation. This Early Access period gives players the first year of life on Coral Island, where you've moved not because your grandfather died, but because you want to get away from city life for something a little quieter.

Stardew Crossing

Coral Island

(Image credit: Stairway Games)

It all kicks off in Spring, when you'll start clearing away your overrun-with-weeds farm to plant potato, daisy, carrot, and turnip seeds into freshly hoed earth. Seeds are purchased from the town shop, and take a variety of days to grow. You'll need to water them, build scarecrows to fend off the local wildlife, and later you'll get access to sprinklers to cut down on the busywork. It's a lot quicker to give you all of those quality-of-life upgrades than Stardew Valley is, but it's palpable just how close to its inspiration that basic gameplay loop is. Oh, and did I mention the village is called Starlet Town…

Away from your farm, there's a mine to explore where you have to work through a variety of levels to get deeper and unearth better and rarer resources. There's a shrine to donate bundles of resources to in order to unlock new features. Each season offers a unique festival experience to attend, including the Spring potluck. Every day ends with a tally of how much money you've made and how – farming, foraging, ranching etc – and you can level up your abilities like fishing and bug catching simply by doing them. There's an entire town of people to befriend, and even romance, by giving daily gifts. You can watch TV in your house to get weather forecasts or get farming tips. And while your farm might start simply enough with growing vegetables and flowers, you can quickly get to the point where you're rearing animals, have fruit orchards, and even build your very own greenhouse. You really can't move for Stardew mechanics and gameplay features. Honestly, I'm surprised the Junimos aren't coming for their money.

It even takes a little smidgen from Animal Crossing too with its museum. It might not have a bug-phobic owl behind the counter, but it'll still take your donations of bugs, fish, and even local artifacts to build out its collection.

Maize and Merfolks

Coral Island

(Image credit: Stairway Games)

"But, it also does have its own allure. For a start, it's really bloody gorgeous. It's gloriously sun-drenched, with vivid colors that really bring its Indonesian-inspired setting to life."

But, it also does have its own allure. For a start, it's really bloody gorgeous. It's gloriously sun-drenched, with vivid colors that really bring its Indonesian-inspired setting to life. The map is pretty vast, and doesn't even give you a full sense of what's on offer at first glance as the mines aren't shown and neither are its underwater parts that you'll eventually get to dive into. It's got its own art style too, with beautiful character art that pops up for dialogue, which complements the game's strong narrative – one about saving the environment. Plus, it's got a little bit of magic in it, with a spiritual element to its narrative and the fact you'll get to meet mermaids later on. 

The thing is, it might not have invented all of its gameplay elements, but Coral Island does them all incredibly well. Infusing its own cultural touchstones and adding just enough of its own unique elements means you won't mind that it constantly reminds you of Stardew or Animal Crossing. In fact, it might just be the perfect next evolution to keep us going until Haunted Chocolatier arrives. 

Coral Island is a game like Stardew Valley. Here are more games like Stardew Valley

Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.