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Stardew Valley came out in 2006, and to this day, it remains the gold standard that every other game of the genre is judged against. This game is beloved by many, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Speedrunners have been tearing it up for years! But if a game has no real ‘ending’, how can you Speedrun it?
In this Stardew Valley Speedrun Guide, I’ll explain the weird and wonderful ways the game is run. This won’t be a technical guide on Speedrunning a particular category, but you’ll have a great idea of how to approach your first Stardew Valley Speedrun by the end. If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, let’s begin!
Bottom Line Up Front
Stardew Valley can be Speedrun across multiple categories, each with its own style, goal and difficulty. These categories range from simple runs ideal for a fledgling runner to gruelling multi-hour marathons! Stardew Valley is open-ended, making it a superb platform for some of the most creative Speedruns out there.
Before You Begin
What Category Do You Want To Run?
Speedrunning Stardew Valley is much less about getting to the end of the game and more about reaching a predetermined goal. On Speedrun.com (the unofficial home of Speedrunning), those goals are what the community use to split the game into categories. Each category demands its own skill set, and picking just one to focus on can be tricky! In this guide’s ‘Picking The Perfect Speedrun’ section, I’ll explain how each category works and its suitability for a novice Speedrunner.
How To Time Your Speedruns
The most popular tool for timing Speedruns is a program called LiveSplit. It’s easy to use, and it’s free! LiveSplit can also be set up to time ‘Splits’ so a runner can easily track their progress section by section. You can download this tool from the Official Website: https://livesplit.org/
How To Record Your Gameplay
Recording your gameplay and watching it back is always helpful, even if you’re only planning to Speedrun casually. If you’re playing on PC, the most popular software to record gameplay is a free program called OBS. Most consoles have a recording function, but they have limitations. A great way around said limitations is a Capture Card, but they can be expensive.
Glitched or Glitchless?
There’s a community for Speedrunning Stardew Valley, both with and without Glitches. There’s no wrong choice, so I recommend watching a run of each and picking your favourite. I appreciate the skill involved in Glitched Stardew Valley runs, but I prefer Glitchless. To put it into perspective, a Glitchless ‘Marriage%’ Speedrun will take most Speedrunners over an hour. In Glitched, it’s all over in under 2 minutes. With this in mind, this guide will focus on Glitchless Speedruns.
There are a ton of nuances to Speedrunning Stardew Valley, and many take advantage of things you’ve probably never thought of!
Keybinds & Shortcuts
It’s important to be comfortable with your keybinds and be able to switch between items on your toolbar quickly. There are a few keys that aren’t common knowledge in Stardew Valley. Using these will have a minimal impact on your times but will add up eventually:
‘Shift + Left Click‘ Instantly moves any armour to the corresponding slot on your character.
‘F‘ Skips cutscenes.
‘Y‘ automatically selects ‘Yes’ for any Yes/No prompt. The most common example of this is consuming food or going to bed.
And finally, in the options menu, there’s a tick box called ‘Zoom Buttons‘. You’ll definitely want this on. When you enable this, a small + and – appear in the top right corner of the screen. Hit ‘-‘ until your camera zooms out as far as it can go. This will let you spot things from further away.
Boy or Girl?
One curious thing about Stardew Valley is that choosing to play as either a Boy or Girl changes how your Speedruns will unfold. Upon earning your first 5000G, you’ll get a letter from one of your parents. If you’re a boy, it’ll be from your Mom, who will send you some cookies. If you’re a girl, it’ll be from your Dad, who sends you 500G.
I’m sure you could buy a mountain of cookies with 500G! In many categories, earning gold can be an issue when trying to go fast. With this in mind, it’s usually better to be a girl.
Work yourself to DEATH!
OK, death may be a little dramatic, but sometimes, fainting in Stardew Valley is a good thing as it’s always the fastest way to travel back to your house.
You can purposely pass out by swinging any of your tools until your energy meter runs out. It’s also worth noting that swinging a weapon does not cost energy. It must be a tool.
Passing out carries quite a severe penalty as the day after you pass out, you wake up with your energy meter half full. Fortunately, this isn’t a big issue in most Speedruns, and there are ways around it in the runs where it would be a problem.
Sleeping is Optimal
A big part of Speedrunning is optimising a path through the game so everything can be done quickly and efficiently. Sometimes that optimisation comes at the cost of gameplay, and Stardew Valley is arguably a victim of that. You’ll notice Speedrunners sleep a lot in-game. Sometimes, they sleep until the last day of a season and do everything on that final day; it’s the fastest way to do things. Some categories require this more than others, and the quickest way to sleep over and over is simply to hold ‘right’ to hop back into bed and press ‘Y’ to confirm everything.
I hate recommending anyone quit and restart when things aren’t going their way. With Stardew Valley, there will be times when the stars simply don’t align, and you’re doomed to fail no matter how well you play. Sadly, this is one of the downsides to Speedrunning a game that relies on good ol’ RNG.
Picking The Perfect Speedrun
I think it’s about time we looked at the most popular ways to run Stardew Valley and what you can expect from each category. These are in no particular order, but I have put some more beginner-friendly options near the top.
The goal in ‘Marriage%’ is to, you guessed it, get married as quickly as possible! How hard can it be? Well, not too hard as long as you’re planning to marry Shane!
As far as Speedrunning is concerned, Shane has everything we’re looking for in a lifelong partner. He has simple tastes and loves Parsnips, Peppers and Beer. His birthday is in Spring (I’ll explain why that’s great in just a moment), and finally, he lives next door and always leaves his house at precisely 7:20 am; wow, I sound like a stalker.
You need Shane to like you pronto, and as with every inhabitant of Stardew Valley, you can increase your friendship points with him by talking and giving him gifts.
Shane’s birthday being so early (the game starts in Spring) works out well for us because we can give him a present right at the start of the Speedrun for a massive boost. Shane absolutely loves beer which you can buy from the general store. You get a colossal friendship point bonus if you gift him a beer on his birthday!
There’s more to wooing Shane than getting him drunk. The rest of this run is a test of resource management and efficiency as there are many prerequisites to meet. Among other things, you’ll need to dance with Shane at the Flower Dance, buy a larger house (so you’ll need all the materials AND money for that), and give him a bouquet of flowers. You’ll also need to get the Mermaid’s Pendant from a creepy Old Mariner on the beach who will only show up when it’s raining. The Old Mariner will only part with the Pendant if you have ten hearts worth of friendship points and have already given a bouquet to someone.
If this sounds like a lot to do, well, it is! I wouldn’t say Marriage% is a tough category to run, but there is plenty to memorise. Ultimately, Shane’s awesome and definitely worth the trouble. He even builds a half pipe for his skateboard on your farm once you’re married!
Marriage% is a popular category for Speedrunning, has a great optimised route and many skilled runners to learn from. If you’re willing to learn the basics, this is an excellent, hands-on category for beginner and advanced runners alike.
0″Photo by Anthony Yates”Mines50 is my favourite way to Speedrun Stardew Valley, and the goal is simply to rush down to the 50th floor of the mines as fast as possible. This Speedrun isn’t reliant on constantly sleeping as, for most of it, you’ll be getting your hands dirty in the Mines on the edge of town.
There’s a lot of RNG in the run, but there’s also a lot of snap decision-making. In Mines50, we actively abuse the ‘level-up’ mechanic allowing us to pass out without an energy penalty the following day. If you level up a skill the same night you pass out; you’ll wake up the next day like nothing ever happened!
Every 10 Floors, the optimal strategy for the run changes making this category one of the more dynamic ways to Speedrun the game.
Mines50 is excellent for beginners as you don’t need to learn much to start your first run. Once you dig deeper, there’s a lot of nuance and strategy, making this category surprisingly addictive.
If you REALLY enjoy mining in Stardew Valley, you might prefer Mines120. Mines120 is less popular than Mines 50 and is much more challenging. The goal is to get all the way down to the 120th floor as fast as you can.
The fundamental difference between the two runs is the number of variables to consider once you go past floor 50. In Mines50, you can make do with basic gear and power through the last few floors with Cherry Bombs. In Mines120, you’ll have to find time to make better gear and resource management is an unforgiving balancing act.
There’s a lot to think about in Mines120 without considering the crazy luck required for 120 floors to go your way. Because of this, Mines120 has only a handful of runs submitted on Speedrun.com. This isn’t necessarily bad, and it’s a category with a lot of growth potential.
Bundles % is a popular Speedrun category split into several smaller subcategories. Each of these corresponds to a room in the Community Centre. The goal in these runs is to complete a chosen room as fast as possible.
One strange thing about Bundles% is how popular some categories have become whilst others remain virtually unplayed. I’ll go through each Bundle Speedrun here but will only briefly touch on less common ones.
Crafts Room% is without a doubt the most popular Bundles% run. The items you require are relatively easy to get, and the run requires little base knowledge making it fantastic for fledgling runners.
The Crafts Rooms’ main demands are Foraging items (Leeks, for example) from each season, and the best way to get these is simply to sleep until the last day of each. This works because Foraging items don’t despawn right away. Foraging items across the map despawn every Sunday, but those same items on your farm won’t disappear until the next season!
After 27 long days of sleep, you’ll wake up to a farm overflowing with all the forage items you’ll ever need. Your farm will look like something out of Jumanji too, but you can ignore that! Most of the run is spent repeating this process for each season.
This might sound simple, but there’s a little more to Crafts Room% than simply foraging. There’s a 5th and final bundle to complete called the Construction Bundle. Wood and Stone are easy enough to get hold of, but Hardwood is a problem.
You could break crates in the Mines for Hardwood, but it’s inconsistent. The best strategy involves making a copper axe and cutting the tree stumps yourself. Scrounging gold together for the tool upgrade whilst you’re rushing to do everything else makes this run a lot more exciting and a great introduction to Bundles%.
Bundles – Fish Tank%
I love the fishing mini-game in Stardew Valley, but Fish Tank% is so heavily RNG based that it could drive anyone mad.
Fish Tank% is unsurprisingly all about catching fish but to do this efficiently; you’ll need to know where to catch every fish, what time of day they appear and if specific weather is required.
You’ll need the best luck possible, so sleeping for a day where you have good fortune is essential. You can always check your luck for each day in Stardew Valley by watching the Fortune Teller channel on the TV. You’ll always have the best luck on a day when a Pyramid picture is shown.
As if enough luck wasn’t required already, the quickest way to obtain some of the rarer fish is from the Travelling Cart. This Cart appears on Fridays and Sundays and can stock any fish in the game. The selection and the price are random, so finances are another thing you need to keep an eye on in this category.
You can be the greatest angler Stardew Valley has ever known and still fail abysmally in Fish Tank%. Because of the reliance on luck, this isn’t a popular category, but there’s still fun to be had if you enjoy fishing.
Bundles – Pantry%
Pantry% focuses on farm produce, including seasonal crops and animal products. At first glance, this sounds like the perfect category for master farmers to show off their skills, so it’s a shame that it’s barely played.
Speedrunning is about min-maxing and optimising everything to achieve the fastest time, so you won’t see giant, lush farms in Pantry%. Instead, you’ll see a small patch of tilled soil right by the doorstep. Crops aren’t all watered every day either, so there will be instances where you simply wake up, water a single crop and go back to bed.
There’s still plenty of clever Speedrun tech in Pantry%. This category demands a ton of knowledge about how long crops take to grow and the best items in each bundle. The Artisan Bundle, in particular, requires a mix of animal products and fruits. You can skip the animal products entirely if you opt to have the cave on your farm inhabited by bats, as they will drop every fruit item you need.
If you’ve watched a Pantry% run and are confused as to why their Pantry doesn’t require Animal products like Milk and Eggs, it’s because of the ‘Remixed’ setting. You can ‘remix’ bundles in the options menu before you start the game, which gives different bundles to fulfil. This means you can bypass animals entirely, which is a shame because they are all adorable!
Bundles – Bulletin Board%
As far as submitted runs are concerned, Bulletin Board% is the least played category in Bundles%. This can be attributed to how tough the Bulletin Board is to fill and the fact you need to complete 3 Bundles elsewhere to even unlock it.
Seriously, The Bulletin Board asks a lot from the player, and you’ll need a solid year-long plan if you’re going to everything in good time. Some of the standout items you need are:
Wine – Fortunately, you can get this from the Travelling Cart if you’re lucky. It’s a pain to get otherwise!
Aquamarine & Frozen Geodes – Both are only found deep in the Mines.
Nautilus Shell – This can usually only be found by beachcombing in Winter.
Maki Roll – This item can be cooked if you have the recipe. If you’re lucky, you can find this one in the bins next to the Saloon!
There’s so much more to find for the Bulletin Board Bundle, but this category will take you around the houses and requires deep knowledge of Stardew Valley to finish in good time.
Bundles – Boiler Room%
If you liked the idea of mining, but Mines50 isn’t clicking for you, Boiler Room% may be the perfect match!
Once you’ve completed two bundles, the Boiler Room is unlocked, and everything you need to complete it is deep underground. This category will have you hunting for ores that need smelting into their respective bars. You’ll also need to find rare items like Fire Quartz and hunt monsters on floor 80 and beyond for a chance at ‘Void Essences’.
Boiler Room% is fun and beginner-friendly as just about everything you require is in one place. The two prerequisite bundles can quickly be completed by collecting forage items (like Horseradish) on the way to the Mines. For the best chance at these items, starting at Forest Farm is recommended.
If the prospect of Boiler Room% has piqued your interest, you can find a link to a mind-blowingly detailed guide for it in the ‘Useful Resources’ section below.
Bundles – Vault%
Vault% is a race to accrue masses of wealth, 42500G to be exact! Spending all that gold on the Vault is the primary objective in this category, but the Vault bundles won’t unlock until you’ve completed four other bundles elsewhere.
The most optimal bundles are the Foraging ones for each season, and because of that, Forest Farm is the starting location of choice. The fastest way to approach this category is to sleep until the last day each month and collect all the necessary forage items. When Winter rolls in, it’s time to make mountains of gold!
This is done by beachcombing in a very specific pattern. Abusing this pattern of tiles makes a ton of Snow Yams and Winter Roots spawn, and it will only take a few days of this to get enough gold for the Vault.
The pattern I mentioned is difficult to explain but if you want to see it in action, check out a Vault% Speedrun! You can find a link to runs of every category in the ‘Useful Resources’ section below.
Community Center (CC)%
If Stardew Valley had an ‘ending’, It would be for restoring the Community Center. To restore the Community Center, every single ‘Bundle’ has to be completed, and that’s what CC% is all about.
There’s no sugar coating it; CC% is a brutal category as you combine the strategies for each ‘Bundle%’ run and try to put them together. It stands to reason that Speedruns in this category are a little lengthy. At the time of writing, the world record for CC% is 2hrs 56mins. While learning the route, you could easily be looking at 4 hours or more.
This category is definitely one for the purists. Your mastery of Stardew Valley and all of its secrets will be tested here. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you see yourself as a Stardew Valley savant, give it all you’ve got!
If you’ve ever wanted a Speedrun where you become the embodiment of corruption and corporate greed, you can do that right here with Joja%!
Joja% is a bizarre category as instead of rebuilding the Community Centre, you’re turning it into a Joja Warehouse! After being shown the Community Center in a cutscene, you can apply for a membership card at JojaMart and assist Morris (the JojaMart Manager) with Community Development Projects.
Community Development Projects all require the same resource to get off the ground. Cold. Hard. Cash. And Joja%’s chief focus is obtaining a ton of it as fast as possible.
This is actually where my biggest issue with the category arises. The quickest way to make heaps of money in Stardew Valley is to go to the beach in Winter and farm a specific pattern of tiles for Winter Roots and Snow Yams. This pattern is identical to the one Speedrunners use in Vault%. What’s the quickest way to make it Winter in Stardew Valley? You guessed it, sleeping. Over 7 minutes of Joja% Speedruns are spent waking up each day and immediately hitting the hay. If you’re willing to look past this, there’s a fun Speedrun to be had here playing as the villain.
Whew! As you can see, there are a ton of different ways you can Speedrun Stardew Valley. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend either Marriage% or Mines50 as they are both accessible, and there are plenty of runs you can watch and play along with.
There are also ‘Meme’ categories for Stardew Valley, such as ‘Talk to everyone%’. These can be fun, but if you’re looking to give speedrunning a go yourself, the categories above would be more rewarding, in my opinion.
The Leaderboards on Speedrun.com have an exhaustive list of every submitted Stardew Valley Speedrun. If you want to watch runs from this guide performed by some of the best Speedrunners in the world, you can do so here
If you’d like to try Boiler Room%, there’s an excellent guide by ItsFreakinEthan available on Speedrun.com
The Forums on Speedrun.com are sadly somewhat dormant. The Discord is much more active. You can find a link with an invite to the Discord server here
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is ‘RNG’?
Answer: RNG is shorthand for Random Number Generation. It’s commonly a used term in gaming to describe a random outcome.
Question: Can I Speedrun Stardew Valley on Console?
Answer: Yes, absolutely. Some Speedrun Leaderboards are dominated by PC players as tools available on the platform make practice much easier, but don’t let that put you off! As long as you’re nimble using a controller and can quickly utilise your inventory, you can compete.
Question: What’s the Best Category for a Beginner to Run?
Answer: Pick whatever sounds the most fun to you, but I suggest either Marriage%, Crafts Room% or Mines50. All of these are well documented, and you don’t need to know too much beforehand to start.
Stardew Valley Speedrunning may not be as popular as something like Metroid or Goldeneye, but it has a charm and unique ‘flavour’ of its own. To this day, Stardew Valley is the gold standard of what a farming game can be. Speedrunning is the perfect way to squeeze that little bit of extra life out of this magnificent title and play it from an exciting new angle.