Earlier this year, having played through the new update for Stardew Valley on my Switch and wanting a bit more, I decided to check into Stardew‘s modding community. I’ve done modding in a couple of other games over the years, tinkering directly with game code, so I was surprised to find that modding Stardew Valley is as easy as dragging and dropping folders. I was also surprised to find a vibrant, diverse, and friendly modding community, still going very strong five years after the game’s initial release. But perhaps the most surprising thing: all of the mod recommendation lists hadn’t been updated in three years or more, offering mods that are broken or outdated for the current 1.5.5 version. So, in the interest of being the change I want to see in the world, I’ve put together a sampling of my favorites that have been released or updated in the last year, all compatible with the 1.5.5 release.

Favorite Framework: Alternative Textures

Frameworks are mods made by people who, unlike me, did not drop out of computer science, which allow people like me to make additions or changes that won’t conflict with other mods easily. Frameworks can be used to add new items, change shop inventories, send letters, modify machines, or in the case of Alternative Textures, change the appearance of almost anything.

Ever wanted your cows to look like different breeds? Ever wanted your trees to have more variety? Ever wanted an easy way to mix and match your building looks? Alternative Textures, one of a few brilliant masterpieces from modder PeacefulEnd, makes it incredibly easy both to create a texture pack for your favorite in-game objects, and to switch them around in-game. It also assigns a random texture to the object when placed, so that you can have a variety without having to re-paint every tree or animal on your farm. And if you’re no longer in the mood for a particular reskin, you can switch it back to its regular appearance. Both its ease and its scope put it leagues above some of the previous framework options.

Favorite Crop: Korea Blossoms

KAYA is a well-known Korean modder who releases her mods in both Korean and English, and has also put in a lot of work to translate modding documentation to Korean to make it accessible to other Korean modders. All of KAYA’s mods are lovely and worth looking into, but Korea Blossoms is a favorite of mine, being a mod that adds new crops which are beautiful and not overwhelming in number. If you’re looking to add some newness to your farming options without being overwhelmed by choice, this is a great place to start. I mean, just look at this stuff.

Screenshot of a Stardew Valley farm showing off rows of crops, including some giant flowers.

Honorable Mention

Ancient Crops by TrentXV and 6480, a mod that adds a few new crops based on the Ancient Seed, with a sense of progression and well thought out integration.

Favorite Portraits: Diverse Stardew Valley

By far the most expansive portrait mod out there! Diverse Stardew Valley is run by artists/coders minervamaga, tenthousandcats (a bisexual Filipino woman), and Airyn (a transgender Australian man), with several other artists contributing work. Its primary aim is to visually insert more diversity to Stardew’s largely white, cisnormative and able-bodied cast, changing many of the characters to new races or ethnicities, with completely new art. In addition to the racial component, there are additional options such as a fat Abigail, a trans Penny, an albinistic Demetrius, and a seizure-detecting service dog for Linus. But that is far from all it does—Diverse Stardew Valley includes the most thorough seasonal outfit sets of any portrait mod, including different outfits for each season, indoor and out, as well as wedding and festival options. It’s also highly customizable, allowing you to select multiple options for each character, including their regular appearance (so if you wanted to use DSV just for the seasonal outfits, you could). It is still in active development, and future plans include modular options for familial groups of characters, as well as dialogue additions.

A screenshot showing Sebastian as a Vietnamese man.

Favorite Dialogue Addition: Farmerjack’s Dialogue Expansions

Step aside, Canon Friendly Dialogue; you’ve had your time. For those who want some fresh options for their latest playthrough, Farmerjack’s recent mod is a compilation of several in-depth mods for each of the regular marriage candidates, giving them additional dialogue for almost every season and friendship level available, as well as further developing their characters in ways that both give them more depth and also fit in with the original directions of their character arcs. Here’s hoping there are some further developments for the other NPCs soon!

Favorite Graphical Mod: Visible Fish

Visible Fish is the brainchild of Swiss programmer shekurika, and makes a seemingly simple but surprisingly complex change: showing visible representations of catchable fish in every fishable body of water. It’s one of those mods that is both useful and decorative, helping you to figure out if a particularly elusive fish is available that day, but also just providing something nice to look at in the valley’s waters.

Screenshot of a dock with many colored fish swimming in the waters. The farmer is holding a sea bass above their head.

FEESH (Sea Bass not included)

Favorite Visual Reskin: Sunny Crops

Over the years, a lot of talented pixel artists have offered their takes on furniture, items, and portraits in Stardew Valley, seeking to improve the original art or take it in another direction altogether. Taiyokun is one such pixel artist from Brazil, who has started with a reimagining of all the vanilla crops and forage, even including the icons for saplings and seed bags. He describes his style as “vanilla plus,” where he’ll use the same color palettes and stick to a similar style as the original game, but draws on real life references to give the items better shape and shading. It’s also very customizable, allowing you to turn off or on each one at will if you’re really dedicated to, say, your vanilla-style pumpkins. Taiyo has further plans to tweak the appearances of mining ores, artifacts, fish, and possibly every other item in the game as well.

Favorite Cooking Mod: Okay Recipes

I’m not much of one for the in-game cooking (or IRL cooking that isn’t baking, let’s be real here), which is perhaps why Coppersun’s mod resonates so well with me. Rather than a collection of fancy pastries or exotic dishes, Okay Recipes takes the idea of throwing together whatever is in your fridge and making a meal out of it. I could definitely see a farmer coming home and slapping one of these together before sitting down for an ironic watching of Queen of Sauce. Like all the modmakers here, all of Coppersun’s mods are worth looking at and grabbing, but I especially enjoy hers for the obvious thought that’s put into everything from how long a crop grows to what a kid’s shop might realistically have.

Favorite Story Addition: Rival Hearts Sam and Alissa

If you’re playing with the Ridgeside Village expansion and think Sam and Alissa are both cute but have no intention of dating either… why not get them together with each other? Rival Hearts Sam and Alissa goes from initial dates all the way to marriage, moving in, and having the cutest NPC kid ever, Cadence. If you love having extra story events and cute romance, this (and Zoedoll’s other mods) are for you. Future plans include another Ridgeside x Pelican pairing that might surprise you!

Favorite Game Mechanic: Free Love

You might be hard pressed to find a game mechanic that Aedenthorn hasn’t touched, with mods ranging from allowing the farmer to swim to adding secret puzzles and trivia-asking statues to the underground. Free Love is an update of perhaps their most famous Stardew mod, Multiple Spouses, which does what it says on the tin: allows you to marry as many of the marriageable characters as you like. No more having to choose between your straight and gay options, or having to split apart the Sam/Sebastian/Abigail trio (c’mon, they’d totally be a throuple.) Further additions to this, such as bed expansions and including other spouses at weddings, have been split into their own mods, allowing for easier customization and fewer bugs. What will this mad scientist think of next?

Favorite Small Change: Forest Junimos

Not all mods have to be huge and game-changing! KediDili, a Turkish modder, decided to bring us the Junimo content we all needed, adding them to the forests where they’re said to live: both in the canon forest and the Ridgeside forest if you have the expansion added. Forest Junimos makes them wave and “meep!” at you when you get close, and that’s about it, but what else do you need from Junimos, really? They’re adorable.

Favorite Bugfix/”Where Has This Been All My Life?” Mod: Stop Rug Removal

I cannot count the number of times I have been arranging furniture or just walking around in my own house, only to whip the rug out from under the six items on top of it, like an agricultural stage magician, and then spend the next thirty seconds picking up furniture, replacing the rug, and putting furniture down again. And then repeat the process when I misclick the rug again ten seconds later. Stop Rug Removal simply disallows you from picking up rugs if there are any furniture items on top of them. Bless you, atravita.

Favorite New NPCs

Adding new characters to the game is perhaps one of the most varied and diverse group of mods and modders alike. There are so many good ones, it’s impossible to pick just one, so here’s a few of my top choices:

Lucikiel

Lucikiel is a character from King’s Raid, a mobile game, but you wouldn’t know it from how seamlessly this character fits into the world of Stardew Valley. Summoned to Pelican town by Mr. “What’s a Consequence” Morris, the human-hating demon Lucikiel forms a contract with Clint that keeps him from destroying everything… for now. Arknir is a master of cinematic storytelling through events, and both the art and dialogue for Lucikiel have gotten rave reviews from the community. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t enjoyed this NPC. It even manages to make Clint likable!

A screenshot of a golden-eyed demon, threatening to "gobble you up in the middle of the night." The farmer is insufficiently threatened.

Juliet and Jessie the Joja Clerks

Lemurkat, a modder from New Zealand, is perhaps best known for her East Scarp expansion, but don’t sleep on her canon-adjacent solo characters as well. Juliet is a take on the unnamed red-haired clerk in the Jojamart, a quick-witted smart aleck who lives with the older and more mature herbalist Jessie. When forced to choose my favorite of Lemurkat’s NPCs, I finally had to go with my girl Juliet, being something of a quick-witted smart aleck myself. But really, you can’t go wrong with any of her NPCs.

Screenshot of a redheaded clerk offering you "a nice pair of juicy, ripe melons" on aisle one.

Juna

Juna is, in the words of her creator, Elhrvy, a “rude mess.” She’s a ballerina with frenemy ties to the Wizard, with dialogue that seems to primarily place her as an agent of chaos. Beneath the heckling and the quirks, though, there seems to be a darker backstory lurking. In addition to just being fun to read, Juna’s art, by HimeTarts (creator of Always Raining in the Valley), is stunningly gorgeous. Introduce a little bit of fun chaos into your life!

A screenshot of a gleeful white-haired woman praising her god for the local dance, because it's horribly embarrassing to the participants.

Honorable Mentions:

Toshinori by AeolianMode, which adds a non-super’d All Might (of My Hero Academia fame) to the Valley.

Mandalorian and Baby Yoda NPCs by BexTX, a surprisingly well-integrated NPC which can be enjoyed independent of Star Wars knowledge.

It’s Always Raining in the Valley by HimeTarts, an East Scarp trio of well-developed and beautiful NPCs.

Favorite Expansion: Ridgeside Village

(Disclosure: I have done some editing and writing for Ridgeside Village. I am very biased but also very correct.)

So you’ve looked through this list and decided it’s all great, but you want more, a big mod that does a bit of everything—new NPCs, new recipes, new crops, new fish, new maps, new storyline. The mod you want is Ridgeside Village, which just released its 2.0 version in November. This mod, the brainchild of Filipino med student Rafseazz, with additions from folks around the community, adds a whole new map reachable by cable car from the bus stop and a whopping 42 NPCs to the roster, with a variety of ages, races, and storylines. Fish up new fish from its rivers, fight its unique monsters, shop from stores with exclusive goods, and explore its lore. It also includes unique features like the ability to hold a reception for your wedding, two additional festivals, the ability to spend the night at its hotel, and even… well, we shouldn’t spoil everything, now. At this point, Ridgeside has so much content that it could practically be a Stardew Valley sequel by itself, but for its size, it runs amazingly well, making use of efficient coding and existing frameworks to provide a seamless mod that is compatible with just about anything else you might download.

Screenshot of a Junimo declaring "Kiwi favorite things are sharp things."

Also the best Junimo ever

Of course, all of this is only scratching the surface of literally over ten thousand Stardew Valley mods on Nexusmods and ModDrop. So if nothing here is to your taste, try giving them a search or drop by the Stardew Valley Discord to see if that perfect-for-you mod exists. And if it doesn’t, well, it’s never been this easy to make a mod of your own. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Haley dialogue mod to work on…