Although visual novel games are not commonly produced by big-name developers anymore, it doesn’t mean that the demand or love for it has died off completely. Some visual novels have made a huge impact in the gaming world and are still talked about today! With that in mind, I’ve decided to make a list of some of the best visual novel games out there.
The visual novel games on this list range from weird and creepy to cute and sentimental. The point of visual novels is to tell you a story while making you a part of the action. The decisions you make lead to various consequences that affect the world around you. The best part is that there’s a visual novel game for everyone!
Set in a cyberpunk dystopia, you’ll be playing as a bartender at a dive bar by VA-11HALL-A, better known as Valhalla. The setting is grimy, with cyberpunkish neon colors and dim lighting. A majority of the game is about bartending of course, since it’s a visual novel game based around that concept.
You’ll be serving all kinds of clientele that walk through your door, from celebrities and robots to assassins and dogs. There is a story to the game, with various endings to achieve. Although, you’ll have to make sure to mix drinks with proper skill and serve it to the right people to progress and get better endings.
In the end, it’s all about the drinks as you course through the story of every personality you come across.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
One of the more famous visual novel games, Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC) has been around since 2017. The Plus version is the premium version of the game with expanded content and is best for fans who seem to want more. What makes DDLC stand out is its uniquely unsettling experience.
You’re met with a typical love-harem sim set up at the beginning that evolves into something else completely. To say more on this matter would be to spoil it, so you’ll just have to experience it yourself. It is set in a high school, and you’ll have four cute girls to impress – each with their own quirks and secrets.
Make no mistake, even with its cutesy visuals, this is a psychological horror visual novel game. Play it to find out more!
Surely, this is as weird as it gets. Hatoful Boyfriend is also known as the Let’s Date Birds Simulator, which is literally what it is. If you’re looking for a good laugh and a weird experience that is sure to draw you in, Hatoful Boyfriend is a great pick. In a world where most humans have been killed by bird flu, you get to attend a local school filled with birds.
In this narrative, you’re a human girl – hence the odd factor. This visual novel game is essentially a parody of the popularized doujin otome visual novel games, with all sorts of bird archetypes for you to fall in love with. It can get real weird real quick.
But the birds are charming, and it may seem like a joke to put it on this best visual novel games list, but it’s not! The game itself is weird enough that you should at least play it through one time, just for the sake of it.
Umineko When They Cry
Arguably the most popular visual novel franchise to end all visual novel games – Umineko is a series of mystery visual novel games that you should experience if you crave more family drama. Overall there are eight main games for you to try out in the series, but you’ll get through them quickly.
The visual novel follows eighteen people on a secluded island with a murder mystery to solve. To make matters worse, you’re all somewhat related to each other. Fans of whodunit movies and mystery crime novels would have a fun time trying to decipher who the killer is in this one.
There are not many interactive elements to the game, so you’ll have to figure it out through dialogue, text, and the game’s tips feature. This just makes it more challenging and a great exercise for your brain. Umineko is without a doubt one of the best visual novel games of all time, especially for fans of drama and mystery.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Aside from being the source of a viral meme, Phoenix Wright is also a great visual novel game for those who enjoy investigations and courtroom debates. You’ll be playing as the titular Phoenix Wright himself, a rookie defense attorney as he comes to the defense of all his clients.
Ace Attorney has received favorable reviews for its characters, writing, and visualization as well as numerous ports through the years. There are generally two parts: investigations where you gather clues and courtroom trials where you answer questions and cross-examine witnesses. All this in hopes that your client gets proclaimed not guilty.
Phoenix Wright is an enjoyable game, as enjoyable as all the memes that it has been the source of over the years.
The Silver Case
Looking for a neo-noir feel? The Silver Case just might be the one for you. A visual novel game depicting a group of special forces trying to uncover the murderer responsible for a string of murders in the city. You’re a part of it, of course.
If you’re a fan of crime mysteries, this is a great twisted case for you to solve.
How can a string of murders be connected to a serial killer that is already locked away in a mental hospital? Well, that’s what you’re here to figure out. The gameplay is based on text-based situations with point-and-click mechanics. There are all sorts of minigames and a quiz at some point to make sure that you get your facts right as well.
This case is a great and visible stain in this otherwise black and white game.
Heaven Will Be Mine
A mecha romance visual novel is not something you come across often, and Heaven Will Be Mine is a fine example of that. You’re a pilot mech, set in a world split into three factions at war with each other over who gets to rule over space and humanity. You get to choose between three characters, representative of each faction.
As usual, each character has its own personality and backstory for you to uncover. As you go through the game, your decisions and choices will determine which ending you unlock. Heaven Will Be Mine is set up in a way that multiple endings and replayability are endless. You can even somehow change allegiances, it all depends on your moralities and choices.
It does touch on some heavy subject matter and sensitive topics, but that just makes it a better visual novel that will hold a special place on everyone’s list.
Someone once told me that a ton of famous anime originated from visual novels, and Clannad is a great example of that. Throughout the years, Clannad has been remade and ported through various forms of media in an attempt to make its voice heard. And sure enough, it did. Clannad is a romance and drama visual novel, great for those who are looking for more emotion in their life.
This is one of the best visual novel games of all time, and it follows the life of Tomoya Okazaki from adolescence to adulthood. Tomoya meets with five girls in high school, each with their problems that he ends up solving in different ways. We witness his struggles through adolescence, and how the plot changes with every decision he (or rather, we) make.
It’s an interesting experience to be able to grow up with a character and see how things could be different. With that said, Clannad might even make you go through some self-reflection of your own.
Spirit Hunter: Death Mark
You’ve probably heard of the urban legend where if you wake up with a mysterious mark on your body, you’ll be dead by morning – well, Death Mark explores that reality. This is a horror visual novel game with an amnesiac as its protagonist. As you explore and investigate the abandoned locations you somehow find yourself in, you’ll meet some interesting characters along the way.
To proceed and stay alive, you need to eliminate the spirits for each chapter. As you progress, you’ll learn more about the Mark, as well as the dark history behind the spirit that bestowed it. You’re not the only one with the Mark, but will all of you survive it?
Death Mark is a beautiful game with some truly thrilling elements instilled in it that is not for the faint of heart.
Danganropa Trigger Happy Havoc
Another visual novel game that went on to make waves in the animation industry! Danganronpa pits 15 students against each other as they need to kill another student and not get caught to escape. In a way, you’re playing detective to find the murderer.
There are multiple elements and mechanics in this game that helps its players move forward and makes the experience more interesting. Elements like dating simulations, third-person shooters, and more riddle the game. This game came into fruition as Kazutaka Kodaka was experimenting with ways to create a new type of adventure game. Danganronpa hit the jackpot.
Although it was criticized for its depictions of violence between underage characters, it did garner astounding commercial success.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
If you were to go pick a visual novel to get into blindly, Zero Escape is a good choice. The common theme in most visual novels is the choices you make and their consequences. In Zero Escape, everything depends on your choices – even the lives of other people. Here’s a hint, the game’s tagline is ‘A million ways to die.’
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games is a bundle of two remastered visual novels from Chunsoft – Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999) and its sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward. There is a third game but it’s not included in the bundle – Zero Time Dilemma. All three hold the same concept and gameplay mechanics, but different characters to spice things up.
Plus, with the number of multiple endings you can explore, you’ll be sure to invest a great deal of your time in these visual novels. Time passes by quickly when you’re immersed, and you’re sure to be drawn in by the various characters and lives on the line.
Steins; Gate Elite
This is a remake of the Steins; Gate visual novel released back in 2009. They took the old game, added some animated sequences from the game’s anime as well as tweaked some features. It’s still the same compelling visual novel that was released all those years ago but is the first one to be fully animated in the Science Adventure video game series.
Steins; Gate Elite is for those who enjoy sci-fi, specifically time travel elements. What drew most people to the game was the interesting sci-fi plot as well as the occasional breaking of the fourth wall. Steins; Gate was also one of those visual novels that were successful enough to be adapted into a full anime series, similar to the likes of Clannad and Danganronpa.
Yes, this visual novel is as quirky as its name. With that said, it’s also a coming-of-age romance visual novel by indie developer Brianna Lei. The main characters of the story are four Asian American girls that bond over their shared experiences, with some baseball involved.
If you’re looking for something more lighthearted to make you laugh and perhaps gush a little, Butterfly Soup is a great option. Each of the girls gets their own chapters in the game, but the premise largely follows the developing relationship between two characters – Diya and Min Seo.
This visual novel explores self-expression and that awkward teenage phase of self-discovery. It’s an adorable must-play for sure, especially for those who are looking for a teenage LGBTQ+ centered visual novel.
An unconventional dating sim full of dads is not something you see every day, but Dream Daddy does the job well. You’re presented with all sorts of dads in various situations, each with their own children to handle. The one thing you all can bond on is the children you love and the shenanigans they get into.
Dream Daddy incorporates mini-games into its storyline, mainly when you’re out on dates with the other dads. At the end of each date, you’ll even receive a report card to mark how well it went. This visual novel game is adorable and can be messy as you navigate parenthood as a single dad and your very own love life.
It’s wholesome, with various endings to uncover with great dad jokes intertwined.
If dating sims are right up your alley, you might want to check out our other list that’s made up of quirky dating sims.
If you’re looking for a more PG and adorable version of Nekopara, perhaps Hustle Cat would satisfy your itch. They’re not in the same league, but they share a common theme: cats and love! In Hustle Cat, you work at a cat cafe where its workers are cursed to turn into cats when they get off work for the day.
This is a dating sim, with six human/cat characters for you to romance, each with different personalities and patterns. As Avery Gray, you’re here to figure out a way to break the curse that bounds your colleagues, while adding some spice into the situation with romance. It doesn’t matter your preference either, Hustle Cat is open for all to experience.
Overall, Hustle Cat is a cute experience you don’t want to miss!
Another cyberpunk world to delve into, this time you take up the role of the last human cab driver. You’ll get to meet various eccentric characters in this modern dystopian world. You’re gifted a smartwatch that reads your emotion, kind of like a mood ring by your friend that randomly disappears.
As you investigate her disappearance while driving passengers around, the world around you is in a battle about a proposal for rideshares to be replaced with driverless cars. It’s an intriguing narrative about making human connections while trying to survive in a dystopian world. How you communicate with your passengers affects your mood and indirectly your financial situation.
If you’re looking for a narrative-driven story that’s very human in its attempt to survive in a capitalistic world, Neo Cab is a great choice.
Having a chat over coffee is always ideal, and Coffee Talk is pretty much that. You’re a barista working in a coffee shop in an alternate universe version of Seattle where humans and monsters co-exist. The visuals are done in a pixel art 90s aesthetic which is sure to draw you in.
You’re tasked with listening to the stories of your patrons. To make it fun, dialogues are broken up by minigames where you would have to prepare drinks for your customers. Some customers are regulars, some are new, each with their own issues to talk about.
It’s like an interactive cafe experience – you can change the songs playing in the background, make latte art, stalk your patrons on social media or look up recipes to get that perfect drink. Coffee Talk is a chill experience, with some real issues intertwined.
Spirit Hunter: NG
The NG in the title stands for No Good, so you can already anticipate where this is going. Spirit Hunter: NG is the second game in the franchise following the release of Spirit Hunter: Death Mark (the visual novel game listed above). This visual novel is a horror adventure as well but holds a different premise.
You’ll be visiting haunted locations, searching for clues to purify spirits and find your missing sister. Through forming bonds with your partners, the use of bloodmetry as well as making the right decisions within a time crunch, you’ll uncover some pretty dark tales.
There is some highly disturbing imagery in this game that might deter you from continuing, so do be warned.
This visual novel game is a take on Cinderella, except that this time, there are no talking mice or oversized pumpkin carriages. Nevertheless, the visual direction and art of Cinders will captivate its readers.
This is a more mature take on Cinderella, where the protagonist is allowed to decide who she wants to be and how to live her life. Its characters are complex and motivated by different wants in life, mirroring the complexity of humans in real life.
There are four different endings to Cinders, all determined by your choices in the story. There are all sorts of twists and unexpected turns in your journey of self-discovery that is sure to keep you fixated till the end.
This is a relatively new visual novel. It acts as a great starting point for those who are new to the genre. Gnosia is simply another take on the ’Werewolf’ game. Gnosia utilizes a time loop mechanism to create new situations for you to experience each round.
You, along with everyone else on the ship have to discover the identity of the Gnosia. Which is an alien that is set to kill all the humans on board. You could say it’s similar to a game of Among Us, except it is in visual novel form. You’ll have to discover the Gnosia’s identity by communicating with everyone on the ship and putting them to cryo-sleep.
The fun part is that you could be the Gnosia, which will allow you to kill all the humans on board the ship along with your other Gnosia-ridden buddies.
Kinkoi: Golden Loveriche
If you enjoy romance and blonde anime girls, then Kinkoi: Golden Loveriche is the visual novel game for you. Not kidding, most of the girls are actually blonde in this one. Although it was released in 2021, Kinkoi has made waves in the visual novel world for its characters, visuals, and storytelling.
Each character has its routes that are properly fleshed out. Hence, you’ll find yourself satisfied with any route you decide to take. And yes, there’s a girl for everyone out of the eight that you can romance. It starts with a misunderstanding with a princess that leads you to attend the same private school as her.
An interesting part to note about Kinkoi is its ending. All routes lead to one dramatic ending centered around the theme of the game: Golden Loveriche, loosely translated as Golden Time.
Full Metal Daemon: Muramasa
A great action-adventure visual novel that will keep you engaged with every aspect of its gameplay – from its fight scenes to its plot twists and the overall message it tries to send across to its players. If you’re a mecha fan, this is a great pick, as the storyline revolves around armor and mecha.
The main protagonist has this moral internal battle going on within him. So as you continue through the game, the decisions you have to make get tougher and tougher. You can either surpass the voice in your head and all your weaknesses or fall burden to it. Either way, your choices will make or break your character and the world.
All in all, Full Metal Daemon: Muramasa is sure to bring you an entertaining read with its internal conflicts when it comes to saving humanity or dooming it.
Even if Raging Loop is mainly a horror visual novel, it can fit into several genres. You’ll be playing as Haruaki that gets stuck in a village with a dark tradition, that of which he is now involved. The gameplay involves a sort of ‘Werewolf-like’ game of social deduction, like Gnosia amongst other elements.
Raging Loop is very well written. It has a lot of twists based on your personal choices that bring you into the mystery and keep you there. It also employs a time loop mechanic which will take you to different routes. This helps you figure out what is going on and who is the villain behind it all.
There are four main endings, but there are other optional endings as well. This adds to the replayability of the game.
A visual novel that celebrated its 10th anniversary last January and is a great point for beginners, we have Katawa Shoujo. You’ll be playing as a young man that ends up living with five girls. The catch is that each girl has their own disabilities.
Katawa Shoujo is a bishoujo visual novel. You might think that it’s quite distasteful for spinning disabilities into a love story, but the game does it well. Instead, you get a heartfelt plot about self-discovery and overcoming challenges. None of that sympathizing fake love that usually comes with these stories.
Naturally, there’s a reason why Katawa Shoujo remains in the eyes of the visual novel community as one of the best visual novel games of all time to this day.
In a world where arcade games are still loved and a fun place to go, Arcade Spirits brings back the idea of what could have been in the form of a visual novel dating sim. There are nostalgic references to old arcade games, as well as seven love interests to romance.
The dialogue choices you make will determine what sort of relationship you want to establish and build your character’s personality to mimic your own. Of course, certain personality traits will attract certain characters and dispel others. This helps you to accurately experience a fulfilling relationship.
Arcade Spirits is all about choice, and if you are dissatisfied, you can always pull the plug and start over.
Had your fill of visual novel games? Hopefully, we’ve found some that catch your eye, so you’ll experience a different type of gameplay and world. Visual novels are works of art that largely focus on the story at hand. Even if some of its gameplay mechanics seem repetitive, I can assure you their storylines can really pull you in.
Let us know which visual novel games you enjoy and deem the best in the visual novel genre in the comments below!