The main character in the game has no default name. In the opening sequences, the player is shown as a young boy living in the city, whose parents take him to see the country. During their trip the player becomes lost, and finds himself on the farm of an old man in Mineral Town. The old man helps the player contact his parents, and offers to let him and his family stay for a few days, as he has no family of his own. The player’s parents agree, and the player stays on the farm for a while. On the farm, the player plays with a girl who then becomes friends with him. After the player leaves Mineral Town, he continues to write letters to the old man. One day, when he has grown up, the letters from the old man suddenly stop. The player travels to Mineral Town, finding the farm neglected, and discovers the old man had died around half a year ago. The mayor of Mineral Town informs the player that in the farmer’s will, he left the player the farm. The player decides to restore the farm, beginning the game.
The player starts with five tools, and must earn money by clearing the large field on the farm and planting crops, mining, or foraging. This money may be used to buy other things, such as livestock, and to expand the farm.
The social aspect of Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town is a large part of the game. There are many villagers to befriend, and six bachelorettes available to marry. Befriending villagers allows the player to learn recipes and discover villager’s histories, and marriage allows the player to have a son.
The game offers connectivity with the Nintendo GameCube game Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life using a link cable between the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo GameCube.
The player begins with a dog that may be named. The dog starts as a puppy, but will be fully grown after two months. Shortly after meeting Barley for the first time, he will stop by the player’s farm with a young horse and ask if they can take care of it. If the player accepts Barley will return after a year, and may take the horse back if the player didn’t show enough affection. If he took the horse, he will return in a year with a full grown horse for the player to keep, but this new horse will not have any affection. To increase the horse’s affection, the player can brush and talk to the horse. When the horse is fully grown and wears a saddle, the player can ride it around the farm and enter in the spring and fall horse races.
There are three kinds of livestock: cows, chickens, and sheep. Cows produce milk (requires a milker to be gathered), chickens produce eggs, and sheep produce wool (requires shears to be gathered), which can be shipped off to be sold. All the livestock produce will sell for more if the animals have maximum affection for the player, and also if they win specific contests.
Chickens live inside the chicken coop, which may be upgraded to accommodate eight chickens and two incubators. Placing an egg in an incubator will hatch a chick after three days. Chickens may be let outside, where they do not need to be fed, but if unfenced they can be attacked by wild dogs