PC, Nintendo Switch
September 26, 2023
Cosy games have become somewhat of a megalodon in the gaming space. With genre mainstays like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley becoming a blueprint for player expectations, it’s been interesting seeing how new games interpret this space. Mineko’s Night Market is an upbeat narrative-driven story game about a girl moving with her father to a small island town and it certainly fits the cosy game niche well.
With eclectic townsfolk and a sudden influx of cats, Mineko’s Night Market begins to reveal itself to players as a game imbued with a sense of community that welcomes players in. Have a look at the trailer below and tell me you aren’t wishing you could move to the town in the game.
Mineko’s Night Market is an interesting spin on the beloved cosy vibe genre. The game takes its time to welcome the player into its loop with some story padding and narrative setting. Mineko has just moved to this quiet old island with her father for a fresh start but there’s trouble afoot. Mysterious suited people roam the island. They’ve been scaring the locals and capturing cats, though their true purpose is unknown. It’s soon after the first encounter with these figures that the player is rescued by a mysterious being. Known as Nikko from the folk tales Mineko was told, it appears as a giant cat that is seeking a way to escape the island and the people in suits.
As the story progresses, the player explores more of the island and the mystery unravels. Nikko needs your help! It’s as tender as one might hope, too. With caring and quirky moments between Mineko with the game’s interesting cast of characters including the mischievous Nikko, it’s a game that builds the narrative around you as you help restore the island to its full potential.
With the village also falling on hard times, Mineko becomes the island’s saviour of sorts. This is no typical fight, however, but more of a craft-off. Everything Mineko crafts can either be sold or given to other villagers which allows her to gently begin to revive the town. It’s quite a hands-on process, and early on each of the micro-games presented gives you this real sense of accomplishment as you’re rewarded for your efforts with new materials and items. These in turn allow you to make new crafts to sell and give to the island folk.
“…each of the micro-games presented gives you this real sense of accomplishment as you’re rewarded for your efforts…”
The game’s main driving mechanic is its crafting which through daily activities keeps you quite busy. Micro-grames are abundant in this clever spin on the life sim genre that while repetitive, still add weight to the game’s actions. However, without the ability to craft in bulk, you’ll always feel like you’re not quite reaching your potential. While it’s all manageable, the game does create some bottlenecks stopping you from becoming a crafty capitalist.
As the game’s title might suggest, there is a night market element that also builds into the gameplay loop. Every week the market is held in the village and it allows players to not only sell their little crafts but also purchase new ingredients to create even more stuff. Mineko somehow becomes a driving force for change in the town with her hard work and crafting rewarded with new vendors joining the market, and maybe even some new people moving to the island. Players will love seeing how their hard work pays off, but be warned – the grind can be quite taxing and repetitive once you’re in the rhythm. In these sections, the story beats do appear to fall away in between objectives but players always have access to the journal that features a list of tasks they must complete to progress. The time between these tasks varies but often I found the longer tasks left me craving more of the story moments. Crafting through micro-games is fun, but too much of it becomes repeatedly doing the same skill check, especially in the later game.
With a game so attuned to the culture it’s representing, one instantly feels the respectful nods to the game’s Japanese influence placed throughout. Mineko’s Night Market wishes to be more than a life sim set in Japan, but an authentic representation of the depicted culture. From the start, I felt as though it was welcoming me in. Its warm tone and openness are exactly what one needs from a cosy game.
The game treads the line between fantastical and reality with ease, much like a Studio Ghibli film. Menial life walks hand and hand here with Mineko’s plight to save a lucky cat while also helping the island’s restoration. Much of my time with the game was spent relishing the childlike wonder the game serves to you. It’s a peeled-back approach to the life sim that feels very comfortable, if a little reluctant to allow the player to fully embrace capitalism to produce as much as possible. Not only does the stamina system deliberately hold the player back, but the time system also means that the weeks between the markets need to be carefully used. Players have limited stamina which means energy is used as actions are completed. You are able to extend your energy with food but the effects are short-lived. The time system similarly means players need to decide how to spend their days wisely. With the night market at the end of the week, players need to mitigate how they collect items with stamina and how they travel the island as this limits the time players have per day.
As you progress deeper into the game, the story beats begin to space themselves out more. While necessary, this leaves the game’s objectives feeling a little bit two-dimensional. For a narrative life-sim, this really ruins the immersion of what should be a very engrossing experience. Mineko’s Night Market really hurts itself here when you realise how player-driven the game is. Between every objective, it’s as if the game is waiting with bated breath. In the later game, this issue becomes more severe as things become quite tedious, having to grind out objectives before continuing the game’s narrative.
“Mineko’s Night Market proves it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.”
While playing on the Nintendo Switch, I did experienced some issues relating to how it runs on the console. The loading times between areas and entering into buildings were notably lengthy. It hurts the immersion to have to sit on a loading screen so often considering how much you travel between areas on the island.
The micro-games are also where the game shines though this is a double-edged sword. Having to repetitively play them becomes tiring no matter how cute they are. Mineko’s Night Market proves it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. This is especially true when bulk crafting, as you have to do each micro-game every time. In the end, you’ll be doing micro-games with your eyes closed. I would’ve appreciated some more nuance here, considering how other life sims have approached this.
Where Mineko’s Night Market does succeed, is in its narrative. The story is perfect for a cosy game when you look past the forced pacing. If I could have played this with less of the grind between narrative beats, I feel like that immersion would’ve felt much more natural and effortless. Having to rescue cats from people in suits and galavant around an island with your giant cat bestie Nikko is a game in itself, and the glee the game elicits could be so much more if it stopped there. Hopefully, this is improved with quality of life updates because there is a lot of potential in this cosy life sim.
It’s not going to be everyone’s favourite, but if you’re after a wholesome island adventure and happy to grind away then Mineko’s Night Market is a solid pick-up. You’ll find a cute cast of eclectic characters that will steal your heart, but without that immersion, this narrative life sim will always be a little bit stifled.
- Storytelling pulls you in gently
- Visual style that cherishes its Japanese influences
- Lots of variety in micro-games and other minigames.
- Pacing begins to effect the game's immersion
- Micro-games become repetetive
- Stamina system and time mechanics can feel quite limiting
Just like any night market, one is never quite sure what will be on offer. Nimeko’s Night Market is a spin on the cosy genre with a sure footing and loads of potential. With such an interesting cast of characters inhabiting the island and a nifty protagonist, the game is definitely a successful narrative life sim. Where Mineko’s Night Market fails to sell itself is in the menial grind. The idea of constantly crafting until you’re onto the next objective falls a little flat even when you are invested in helping Nikko find their way home. If cosy games make your heart swoon, then the time needed on this one will be worth the investment. If you aren’t a fan of the grind, order in and save yourself a trip to Mineko’s Night Market.