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Stardew Valley is a game that many know and hold in high regard for its light-hearted gameplay, its relaxing setting and soundtrack, and its ability to cater to all types of gamers, even those that wouldn’t consider themselves to be gamers at all.
I can’t even begin to count the amount of Stardew players who herald this game as their gateway game to becoming a certified gaming addict, and that is no surprise considering how inviting and addictive this game is. Heck, even my wife wasn’t much of a gamer until she found this game, poured hours into it, and now she works in the gaming industry like myself; go figure.
What I’m getting at here is that Stardew Valley is a very accessible game, but what many outsiders looking in forget is that, when the player progresses into the late-game content in Stardew Valley, things can get pretty intense, and one prime example of this is the Calico Desert hotspot, the Skull Cavern.
This is an area of the game that players will unlock when they become proficient and experienced miners, and also complete a handful of bundles within the Community Center or complete the Joja membership if you are so inclined. Once the player does this, they will gain access to this Cavern, which is a higher-difficulty dungeon than what Pelican Town can offer.
However, with this added risk comes a lot of luxurious and desirable rewards. Sure, the player will have to work hard, be an adept combatant, and be prepared for each outing to the Desert, but when the loot on offer is this good, we reckon you will do your utmost to take on this challenge.
However, you may be wondering where this secret dungeon is, how to access the Skull Cavern, and how to prepare for the perils that await within.
Well, we won’t have to enter the dungeon blind, so we have come up with a detailed guide that will explain exactly what is expected of the player when they take on the Skull Cavern. So without further delay, here is our comprehensive Skull Cavern Stardew Valley Guide.
What is the Skull Cavern In Stardew Valley?
The Skull Cavern in Stardew Valley is a secret dungeon/mine that players can only access if they have met certain criteria within the game. This dungeon is located in the Calico Desert in the top left corner of the Desert. This mine is a much more difficult mine to navigate than the mine you will encounter in Pelican Town.
The enemies in this mine are much stronger, there is a lot more strategy needed to survive and thrive when spelunking in this mine, and overall, if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up waking up in Harvey’s surgery and losing some valuable items.
This mine is also unique as it is an infinite dungeon where the player can theoretically descend forever. There technically is a final floor to this mine, but the player would need to descend about two million floors per second if they ever wanted to reach it.
How to Unlock The Skull Cavern
The Skull Cavern is not an area where players can visit from day one, as the player will have no access to the Calico Desert. Plus, even if you happen to find a Desert Totem, you won’t have access to the Skull Key, which opens the door. In general, there are two things that the player needs to do before they can set foot in the Skull Cavern. These are as follows:
Complete the Vault Room Bundles
While you can’t access the Skull Cavern from day one, you can be working toward completing the Community Bundles necessary to repair the bus, as this will provide a means of travel to the Calico Desert and aid you in your quest to unlock the Skull Cavern.
To do this, the player doesn’t necessarily need to complete all the bundles on offer. Instead, they can prioritize the bundles related to the Vault Room. These bundles are completed by donating large sums of money ranging from 2,500G to 25,000G. Here is a quick rundown of the total amount required from the player:
- 2,500G – Rewards the player with 3x Chocolate Cake
- 5,000G – Rewards the player with 20x Quality Fertilizer
- 10,000G – Rewards the player with 1x Lightning Rod
- 25,000G rewards the player with 1x Crystalarium
Once the player completes all these bundles and pays the total of 42,500G, the next day, the bus will be in service, and for a mere 500G bus fare, you can travel to the Calico Desert. This will give you access to new fish, forage, and items from the Oasis Shop, as well as the Desert Merchant, but you won’t be able to access the Skull Cavern unless you complete the second task below.
Reach Floor 120 In the Mines
The player will also need to reach level 120 in the Pelican Town Mines, which is the bottom floor of the standard mines. To do this, the player should try to move down the mine in 5-10 floor increments, using the elevator to their benefit each day.
The player can also make short work of these mines if they upgrade their Pickaxe a few times or get the Dwarven Translation tool to purchase bombs from the Dwarf. When The player reaches floor 120, they will find the Skull Key in the middle of this cave.
Collect this and then head out to the Calico Desert. Then head to the skull door in the top left corner of the Desert and interact with the door. The key will automatically be used, and the player can now come and go from the Skull cavern as they please.
Skull Cavern vs Pelican Town Mine Key Differences
So, before we get into the specifics of the Skull Cavern, we need to acknowledge that this mine represents a huge gameplay change when compared to the Standard mines.
The Skull Cavern is an unforgiving area that is designed to test players and make them think more carefully about each trip to the mines. So we should probably break down the unique aspects of this mine and what separates it from the Pelican Town Mine. So here are the key differences that we encountered when comparing the two:
An Infinite Dungeon
Firstly, as we mentioned above, unlike the Pelican Town Mines, which have clear sections and end at floor 120, the Skull Cavern is a endless dungeon that players can descend for as long as the day will allow. The mines are procedurally generated, and one day at the mine will never be the same as the last.
At certain increments, the player will start to notice that new enemies and items get introduced, but overall, the dungeon is a randomized and endless experience, which offers players an infinite playground with lots of replayability.
In the Pelican Town Mines, the player will have to descend each floor by finding a ladder to go down. This usually means killing enemies or mining rocks just to get to the next floor.
However, in the Skull Cavern, when the player kills an enemy or mines a rock, there is a chance that a hole will be created, offering the player a chance to descend multiple floors at once. The way this works is that there is a 20% chance of a ladder appearing as a hole instead.
The amount of floors that the player will fall down is randomized each time, but it is guaranteed to be somewhere between 3-15 floors. This will take a small amount of health from the player, but the impact of the fall will never cause the player to pass out.
Hold the Elevator
While the ability to jump down multiple levels at once is a very welcome change when adapting to this new dungeon, the trade-off is that when you visit the Skull Cavern, you start from scratch each time.
There are no elevators present in the Skull Cavern, so when you leave for the day, your progress is not saved, meaning that when you return, you begin from floor one all over again. This can be a bummer, especially since the best loot is deeper into the Skull Cavern, but if you embrace some strategies that we will go over later in the article, you should be able to consistently get pretty deep in the mine regardless.
An Iridium Incentive
As you get deeper and deeper into the Skull Cavern, the chances of encountering Iridium Nodes go up. This is also coupled with your luck stat.
So if you are visiting the Mines on a day when the spirits are in good favor, you have luck buffs equipped, and you have descended deep into the Skull Cavern, then the chances are that the mine is littered with Iridium. Plus, enemies will have a higher chance of dropping full Iridium Bars too.
Time Goes by, So Slowly Time Goes By
This will come as no shock to anyone that has played Stardew Valley for a while. The days in Stardew Valley aren’t particularly long, and while you can get a lot done, you have to plan your day pretty meticulously to get these things done.
In normal circumstances, an hour in Stardew Valley only lasts for 43 seconds, which, when you say it out loud, is super short. However, when you frequent the Skull Cavern, the game is a little more generous with time in a day. When you enter the Skull cavern, time slows down, and an in-game hour lasts for 54-seconds.
This means that the player has about 180 more seconds to work with if they were to use a Desert Totem and head straight to the Skull Cavern right at the start of the day. It’s not a lot, but it’s still very appreciated.
Enemies Don’t Mess Around
Then lastly, it almost goes without saying, but the enemies that you will encounter in the Skull Cavern are much tougher than those you will encounter elsewhere. Arguably even more so than those in the Volcano Dungeon on Ginger Island.
We will get into each specific enemy you can encounter below but our one to watch out for is the Serpent. These are flying dragon enemies that are super fast, hit very hard, and usually come in packs, so it can be very easy to get overwhelmed.
The Enemies in Skull Cavern
As mentioned above, the enemies within the Skull Cavern hit different and harder. However, they all come in different shapes and sizes, have varied abilities and attack patterns, and also have different drops, which can make these enemies worth farming if you need particular items for your farm.
Overall, it’s good practice to know your enemy, and thankfully, we have all the info you need to take on these nasties and do so with aplomb. So here is a quick rundown of each Skull Cavern enemy:
Common Drops: Bug Meat, Bug Steak, White Algae
Firstly we have the armored Bug, a variant of the common bug that is much more formidable. This bug can only be killed if the player uses a weapon with the Bug Killer Enchantment. However, these can largely be avoided and ignored as they have low damage output, move slowly, and have a fixed vertical path.
Common Drops: Slime, Iridium Ore
These are large blobs that roam around very slowly. They are very easy to fight as they don’t fight back; they only do damage if they make contact with the player. However, when killed, these enemies often split into multiple smaller slimes. The blobs you encounter in the Skull Cavern will often be purple, and this means a 25% chance of dropping Iridium Ore.
Common Drops: Sap, Slime, White Algae, Iridium Ore, Diamond, Iridium Bar, Coal
Then we have the Purple Variant of the common slime. This is a tough foe to deal with, especially in large numbers. They have a decent amount of health, move fast with a lunge attack, and can deal decent amounts of damage too. They are a good source of Iridium, though, so if you want to maximize Iridium intake, you will want to slay as many of these guys as you can.
Common Drops: Bat Wings, Bomb
The same kind of bat that players will encounter in the later levels of the Pelican Town Mines. These Bats are pretty easy to deal with in comparison to the other enemies you will encounter here. However, they do hit hard, so don’t underestimate them.
Common Drops: Solar Essence, Cloth, Miners Treat
Now we have the Mummy, an enemy within the Skull Cavern that can be persistently annoying if you don’t have a steady supply of bombs to deal with them permanently.
These enemies are slow-moving and generally aren’t too dangerous; however, the problem is that when you slay them, they reanimate. The only way to stop this is to kill them and then use a bomb to blow up their remains. So if you haven’t got any bombs, it’s best to give these enemies a wide birth.
Common Drops: Void Essence, Bombs, Spicy Eel
These things are literal demon spawn. These things will kill you in the Skull cavern more than anything else, we assure you. Serpents are flying dragons that behave somewhat similarly to bats; however, these enemies are much faster, hit much harder, and can take a few hits too.
Plus, as they are a common enemy in the Skull Cavern, they tend to come in groups, and a swarm of these enemies can be devastating. Killing these things is all about timing and batting them away to keep your distance from them.
Common Drops: Iridium Ore, Batteries, Life Elixir, Mega Bombs, Energy Tonic, Solar Essence
Now we move on to the enemies that will only appear on certain floors. First, we have the Iridium Bat, which will only appear once you hit level 51+ in the Skull Cavern or happen to be on a Prehistoric Floor. This bat is one of the strongest flying enemies you encounter within the game, but if you can best it, you have a 97% chance of getting your hands on at least one Iridium Ore, which is a great trade-off.
Common Drops: Crab Cakes, Iridium Ore
Then we have the Iridium variant of the Crab enemy type. This enemy isn’t all that threatening in truth, as its damage is quite low, and it also has a pretty manageable attack pattern. The best way to deal with these Crabs is to blow off their shell with a bomb, or use a pickaxe to weaken and pop their shell off, leaving them exposed and vulnerable. These enemies can only be found from level twenty-one onwards.
Common Drops: Omni Geode, Refined Quartz, Ectoplasm
This ghostly enemy can only be encountered in the Skull Cavern if you happen to be on a Mummy Floor. This Enemy behaves the same as any other ghost enemy. It can pass through debris, can pass through walls without collision, and when it hits the player, it will teleport away and float toward you again. Just keep batting them away when they approach, and you should have no issues.
Common Drops: Dinosaur Egg, Prehistoric Tibia, Prehistoric Rib, Prehistoric Vertebrata
Ever wanted to take on a Dinosaur? Well, if you happen to find yourself on a Prehistoric Floor in the Skull Cavern, you may just get your wish. These enemies are tanks, can deal damage upon contact, and can also breathe fire, allowing them to deal damage from range. This takes these enemies a pain to fight. However, as long as you can keep out of their fire breath, you should be fine.
Common Drops: Bug Meat, White Algae
Then lastly, we have the Mutant Fly, easily the least intimidating foe on this list. This is a variant of the Cave Fly and behaves the same, just with more health and the potential for more damage. The player will also encounter these in the Mutant Bug Lair that players can access through The Sewers.
The Benefits of Visiting Skull Cavern
So now that you know about the perils that await you within the Skull Cavern, you may be wondering why anyone would put themselves through the stress of fighting off these hordes of dangerous enemies. Well, we have a few reasons listed below that will probably tempt you to become a regular visitor. Check it out below:
The best thing about the Skull Cavern is hands-down the fact that you can get your hands on tonnes of Iridium provided you can stay alive and descend deep into the Skull cavern.
This is the best way to get a steady supply of Iridium Ore outside of a Statue of Perfection duplication glitch, and if you use some clever strategies, the risks can be minimized quite a lot. Iridium is needed for so many things for late-game content, so it’s a no-brainer. You need to become a frequent visitor if you want to get ahead.
Outside of Iridium, there are quite a few interesting items that can be farmed by killing enemies within the Skull Cavern, and if you encounter some Treasure Rooms, you might get something incredible that you hadn’t bargained for. There are so many items that players can potentially grab in the Skull cavern, but we have done our best to list only the best of the best. Here is a quick rundown of items you could find yourself walking away with:
- Prismatic Shards
- Ancient Seeds
- Spicy Eel
The Skull Cavern is also a vital resource when it comes to completing quests, both in the mid-game and the late game. The first quest you take on will likely be Qi’s Challenge which tasks the player with reaching the 25th level of the Skull Cavern, which most players should be able to do pretty easily, and this will reward the player with 10,000G.
Then later down the line, when the player has access to the Walnut Room, the player will have to reach level 100 in the Skull Cavern with certain criteria to meet. One will ask the player to reach level 100 while battling Dangerous Variants of the enemies mentioned above. Then another will ask you to reach this level while not consuming any food or drink throughout. These will award the player 25 and 40 Qi Gems, respectively.
Then lastly, the player can also use the Skull Cavern to get their hands on some elusive artifacts. The player can get their hands on the Prehistoric Rib, Tibia, and Vertebrata, as well as the Dinosaur Egg, which is a really interesting item, as this can be donated to the museum or incubated to grow your Dinosaur for the farm.
These items are quite tricky to find when not tilling the soil and killing dinosaurs on Prehistoric Floors, so it’s worth seeking these areas out.
Skull cavern Strategies
Then lastly, before we sign off and let you get cracking on exploring the Skull Cavern, we think we should share some strategies and tips that will help you take on this challenge and clear every hurdle that is presented before you. Check them out below:
Food is Vital
Food is such an important resource to bring with you to the Skull Cavern. While the Cavern does occasionally supply food through enemy drops and treasure rooms, you can’t rely on this alone. So you should prepare your rations and take them on each spelunking trip.
You will need to bring food items that heal, provide energy and also provide buffs to stats that lend themselves to the things you are trying to accomplish in the mine. For example, if you want to get through levels fast, you will want to take a mining buff and a speed buff.
Whereas if you are mining on a day where luck is working against you, a luck buff will come in handy. You have to bring the food items that best suit the situation, so we can’t offer an example that will work every single time, but here is a list of some food items that you should consider stocking up on:
- Spicy Eel
- Triple Shot Espresso
- Magic Rock Candy
- Miners Treat
- Pumpkin Soup
- Lucky Lunch
- Energy Tonic
- Roots Platter
Staircases are Your Friend
While we admire someone that approaches the Skull Cavern and its various challenges with an inherent sense of honesty, it has to be said that crafting a lot of staircases and plowing through the levels is much easier and offers better returns.
However, gathering 100 stone just to get one Staircase can be a pain. So what we suggest is building a lot of Crystalariums and then sticking some Jade in each one. This is because, on Sundays, you can trade Jade for a Staircase with the Desert Trader. So if you maximize your Jade Operation, you could have hundreds of Staircases ready to go in no time at all. They are also a great way to get out of infested zones and duck out of impossible fights.
Tick, Tick, Boom!
If you aren’t using the staircase method, then you would be a fool not to stock up on as many bombs as you can carry. Mining in the Skull Cavern is a very slow process and one that will practically ensure that you never reach level 100+ unless you are super lucky.
Bombs clear huge portions of the rocks in each area and allow the player to uncover holes and Staircases with ease. Not to mention gather up all the resources like Geodes and gems that get uncovered in the blast. You can buy these from the Dwarf in the Pelican Town Mines or from the Desert Trader.
However, we would suggest that you save your money and try your best to craft these. While Mega Bombs can be a pain to gather items for, regular Bombs are very easy to craft.
Luck be Your Lady
If you are going to the Skull Cavern practically every day, then this might be irrelevant for you. However, if you are still managing your farm and doing bits and pieces within the game, like building relationships with characters, or heading off to Ginger Island a lot, then you have to manage your time more efficiently.
So if you can only dedicate some days of the week to the Skull Cavern, we would suggest that you only go when the spirits are in good favor, or at the very least, neutral. You don’t want to waste the time you have with your luck stat working against you because even with buffs, you don’t need this stress.
Tools of the Trade
Then lastly, we have to warn you that if you go to the Skull cavern and expect to waltz through without upgrading your armor, rings, and weapons, then you are going to have a bad time, trust us. Your weapon should be the first thing that you upgrade before you even consider making an assault on the Skull Cavern.
As you will have cleared the PelicanTown Mines to reach this area, you will have something like an Obsidian Edge or a Lava Katana, but we would urge you to try and get your hands on a Prismatic Shard and get yourself the Galaxy Sword. Then you will be equipped for just about anything.
Then as for the armor you wear, the stuff you find in the standard mines will serve you just fine to begin with. We would urge players to head to Ginger Island and find better stuff, but it’s not a priority. What is a priority, however, is getting some rings that can protect you and help you deal with the onslaught of enemies that you will encounter.
We would suggest you have a defensive ring that helps protect you in battle and then an offensive ring that helps you cut your foes down to size. Plus, if you can spare the room, it’s good practice to have some alternative rings that will help in different situations. Here is a quick rundown of the best items we would suggest you look into:
- Mermaid Boots
- Dragonscale Boots
- Galaxy Sword
- Infinity Blade
- Iridium Needle
- Dragontooth Shiv
- Galaxy Hammer
- Infinity Gavel
- Dwarf Hammer
- Dragontooth Club
- Iridium Band
- Sturdy Ring
- Warrior Ring
- Ring of Yoba
- Burglar’s Ring
- Napalm Ring
- Vampire Ring
Where The Real Adventurers Go to Mine!
As you can see from the detailed information above, there is a lot to love about the Skull cavern and also a lot to fear if you go in unprepared. The area is filled with goodies like Iridium, treasure rooms, enemies that offer interesting drops, and much more.
However, the enemies within are tough and only get tougher as you descend further. This area is the epitome of ‘high risk, high reward’ and allows those who play Stardew Valley and crave challenge to seek it out. We hope that this guide gives you all the info you need to make your way through this mine and see all that it has to offer, and when you do descend the Skull Cavern, kill a few Flying Serpents for us, would you? As always, thank you for reading SdewHQ!
Question: Where is the Oasis Shop?
Answer: The Oasis Shop is also located in the Calico Desert and can be accessed even if the player does not have the Skull key just yet. This is a shop that is run by named NPC Sandy and offers the player the chance to purchase some luxury seeds not sold anywhere else. These are Starfruit Seeds, Cactus Fruit Seeds, and Beet Seeds. This is also where the player can access the Casino when the player has completed some quests for Mr. Qi.
Question: Who is the Desert Trader?
Answer: The Desert Trader is a merchant that players can only access in the Calico Desert. He has a stall along the road the bus travels along, and he wears a snazzy-looking turban.
The Desert Trader has a very interesting inventory, including some unique items that you cannot acquire elsewhere, including your snazzy turban. However, he doesn’t accept the standard currency for his goods. Instead, the player will have to collect the items that he wants, and in return, he will trade you for the item you want. The good news is that most of the items that he wants can be found in the Skull Cavern, so you need only spelunk for a while, and you should be able to gather what you need.
Question: Where Can I Play Stardew Valley?
Answer: The good news for all you Stardew virgins out there is that this game is available on just about any modern platform that you can think of. This game is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC, PSP Vita, IOS, and Android. In short, there is no excuse not to download this game and lose yourself in this fun farming adventure.