Story of Seasons (Harvest Moon) series
- Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
- Publisher: Marvelous Natsume Marvelous USA Rising Star Games Nintendo of Europe Nintendo Australia
- Year: 1996 – 2015
- Genre: Simulation
- Platform/s: Various
Story of Seasons (made by the original creators of the Harvest Moon series, and given a different title due to naming politics) is a very progressive game in some respects, but also quite conservative in others, which is discussed here. All clothing options are unrestricted by gender, which means any player-character can wear them; this is a new development when compared to earlier Harvest Moon titles, although other townsfolk do make comments on your clothing choices that can be quite judgemental. You are able to embark on relationships in a system that feels polished and streamlined, with more of a reliance on shared experiences than repeated gift-giving. There are a number of likeable queer characters within the game (although none of them are romanceable).
Harvest Moon: Korobokkuru Station for Girls features a heavily implied same-gender relationship option, allowing the player-character to have a 'best friend ceremony' so that one of the wives from the boys version moves in with the player-character and eventually brings a baby with them. This was removed from the US version of the game—Harvest Moon DS Cute—and Natsume refused to confirm that they deliberately removed the content.
In Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, the player-character's love interests are set based on the binary gender selected at the start of the game; however, the game allows for extensive customisation of the player-character, and all customisation options are available regardless of the player-character's gender. As the character is never referred to in game with gender pronouns (although NPCs do occasionally use the words 'girlfriend' or 'boyfriend'), it is essentially possible to select 'female' at the start of the game and then customise a masculine character if the player would like to play as gay, or select 'male' at the start and customise a feminine character. Unfortunately this does not facilitate plurisexual relationships, and can have some strange implications through dialogue if the characters have a child.
It is possible to have same-gender relationships in Harvest Moon games with the help of mods. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town has the True Love Edition mod that swaps the two player characters so that Claire can date women and Pete can date men. Unfortunately, this still only allows for monosexual relationships. Other player-made editions, such as the 'True Love Edition' of Harvest Moon: Sunset Islands (by kataika) and the 'Rainbow Version' of Magical Melody (by odjaye) incorporate same-gender relationships. There is a work-in-progress edition of Animal Parade being made by lackadaisical3nnui, and odjaye has mentioned working on a 'Rainbow Version' of Tree of Tranquility.
A particularly noteable issue with Story of Seasons and its representation of gender is through the misgendering of Marian. One respondent to the Queer Representation (2016) survey made note of this, bothered by Marian being referred to as 'he' by one villager, as well as being called 'gross'.
Earlier Harvest Moon titles were also discussed in the Queer Representation (2016) survey. Issues with gender representation were highlighted, with instances where the game will continue after a man player-character proposes to a love interest, but stopping once a woman player-character becomes married, implying that she is no longer able to work. Other issues include the typically heteronormative relationship systems and joking attitude towards queer townsfolk. One respondent said that this attitude became 'tiring game after game' and that it felt like the opinions of the developers had been imprinted on the game series.