The visual novel game trend is wildly popular, especially among anime fans. Users can go through an anime/manga-style story with beautiful art, music, and choices to move the story along and even alter the results at the end of the game. There are different types of visual novels, from horror games to romances, giving users a wide selection to enjoy.
Whether you need a place to start or want recommendations for more visual novels to try, the following list is a great resource of some of the most popular ones out there.
Note: Please note the ratings before playing any of the games in case of possible triggers.
Code Realize: Guardians of Rebirth
Code Realize: Guardians of Rebirth is an otome visual novel with a compelling story and beautiful aesthetic. The story takes place in a steampunk world and features literary figures such as Victor Frankenstein and Van Helsing. You play as a young woman whose skin can’t be touched. If someone touches you, they’ll turn to sand. You were made this way by your father in order to protect a jewel. Players are given plenty of romance options as the story unfolds. It features stunning art and music as well.
There aren’t a ton of options in this game. It is mostly reading and deciding your character’s responses to what’s going on. Some visual novels feature more decisions than others, and this one is among the group of minimal decision-making.
Root letter is a unique visual novel that plays out like a murder mystery, ghost story, and a quest for love all wrapped up in one. It’s unique as it gives the player a variety of options and freedom to decide what to do, unlike many visual novels where there aren’t a ton of options to think through and decide between. You play a male character who is searching for his high school pen pal, Aya Fumino, who admits in a mysterious letter that she murdered someone. When he flies to her hometown and discovers that she was either a ghost or perhaps didn’t exist at all, he sets out to solve the mystery and to find her.
Each visual novel is made up of choices, but this game allows you to think about how to proceed. You are unable to continue the story until you figure out what to do next. This is in addition to the regular general decision-making aspect of the game. You have to interact with many characters and decide what to say, you have to decide your replies to your pen pal’s letters (which affects the ending you get), and you even have to search certain areas and find things to progress the story.
The story is really interesting as well, and the endings are quite diverse. Depending on your answers and playthroughs, you could end up with a ghost story, a horror story, or a sweet love story.
Zero Escape Games
While this is not just one game, the series as a whole needs to be mentioned. The Zero Escape games are a thrilling group of games that place the user in a life-or-death setting where an enigmatic sadistic person/creature is playing games with your life, as well as with the lives of the others stuck with you. In Zero Time Dilemma, you are in a bomb shelter, in 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, you are stuck in a replica of the Titanic (or a ship like it), and in Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, you are first found stuck in an elevator after being abducted from your home. In each game, you wake up and find yourself wearing a watch that you can’t remove without it killing you. So, you are forced to play a series of “games” while a murderer is tracking your every move. It’s a very addicting series and definitely worth playing through.
The House of Fata Morgana
This visual novel is extremely popular (having a 10/10 rating on Steam and 93% on Google) and follows an intense storyline. In The House of Fata Morgana, you play as a male ghost with amnesia, who follows a mysteriously un-aging maid through different time periods in the mansion you woke up in. You go through centuries of life in the mansion, which all contain the same maid, un-aged, and a mysterious white-haired girl who many fall in love with and reach disastrous ends. You must unravel the mystery and figure out who you are and where you fit in withing this ill-fated mansion.
However, this game isn’t for the faint of heart. Be sure to note that the game is a horror visual novel with an M rating. Murder, disturbing romantic feelings, and affairs are all part of the plot.
Doki Doki Literature Club
Beware that this game in particular has a lot of sensitive material and warrants a big TRIGGER WARNING before playing. It depicts suicide, self-harm, and gore.
Like the rest of these visual novels, Doki Doki Literature Club features anime characters in a mysterious setting. However, in this game, things are not what they seem. At first, you are an aloof high schooler who is convinced to join a literature club by your childhood friend. You don’t want to be a part of any clubs, but you reluctantly agree. All members of the club must work on poems for the upcoming cultural festival at their school. Your character must decide who to romance, but things don’t end quite as planned.
Beware that this game starts out like a high school romance otome game, but it doesn’t end up that way. An important death in the first act causes the game itself to “glitch” and then forces the player to start over again. Once starting over, you will notice that things start glitching more and more. Soon, you find yourself fighting against the game itself to make decisions and finish the game. During this second act, the game shifts to a psychological horror setting.
It’s an interesting concept and was created by Team Salvato, a new innovative indie gaming studio.
Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi
This game is another otome visual novel, but its setting is much different than the Code Realize game. You are a woman disguised as a man, trying to find your missing father in feudal Japan. Unfortunately, you get captured by a group of handsome samurai called the Shinsengumi. They are part of a unique special force and are going to interrogate you until they find out you’re actually a woman and that your father is an important doctor they are after. You get plenty of love interest possibilities, as is the case in all otome games, and aid the Shinsengumi in their search to find your father. There aren’t many options for the player of this game, though. It’s mostly just reading the text and following the story.
Which visual novels are your favorite? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!