15 Best Visual Novel Games You May Have Missed Out On

Best Visual Novel games
Pictured: Me, and a clone of me.

15 Visual Novel Games That You Haven't Missed The Boat On (Yet)

"When you get to the point where you can laugh at your mistakes, you'll find new things to replace what you lost." 
-- Marimo Jinguuji, Muv-Luv Alternative

We visual novel enthusiasts are used to seeing the same recommendation lists pop up in our feeds. It’s really a shame, because the visual novel genre is diverse, spreading across all types of stories and gameplay mechanics. 

Players look for different experiences out of visual novels. If we’re playing for the plot, we’re not looking for Winged Cloud’s Sakura series. If we’re looking to laugh we’re not up to bawling through Narcissu.

Here are 15 visual novels that you may be missing out on!

1. Cinderella Phenomenon

Cinderella Phenomenon promotional video

Crown Princess Lucette is removed from her life as royalty by the Fairytale Curse and has to become a good person to earn her life back. She learns to care for friends, family and a special someone. Also the fae are dying, innocent people are being cursed, and Lucette’s crazy mother is coming back from the dead.

Dicesuki has been met with overwhelming positivity with this release and is working on the fandisk, Cinderella Phenomenon: Evermore, to follow it up.

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I'm a sucker for high quality CGs and Dicesuki never lets me down.

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Did I mention the princess's evil mother is coming back from the dead?

2. Cupid

Cupid: Visual Novel gameplay

Rosa’s best friend Catherine dies and Rosa is certain that it has something to do with Catherine’s lover Marquis Guilleme. The man has always been suspicious, but now Rosa is certain that he is a monster.

Fervent branded Cupid as “a gothic romance tale about loss, revenge and the different faces of love.” This statement is as accurate as the game is disturbing.

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The gorgeous Cupid main menu.

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It’s sweet until you realize she’s dead and he probably killed her.

3. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony English Opening

The bears are back with a brand new cast of Ultimates. Danganronpa’s gameplay continues to build on character interactions, investigations, and Class Trials with a new Class Trial called Mass Panic Debate (where, SURPRISE, everyone is panicking at the same time).

Killing Harmony has the most endgame material of the Danganronpa games, offering 3 bonus game modes and a collectable card game.

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Steam release cover art.

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She’s technically not wrong.

4. Doki Doki Literature Club

The first layer of this game’s is a slice-of-life dating sim. The second is psychological trauma inflicted by Monika corrupting the game. The third is realizing that Doki Doki Literature Club isn’t a real game that the characters are meant to be in, and that Team Salvato is using Doki Doki to allude to a terrifying upcoming release.

If you haven't had the opportunity to play DDLC yet, there's still an active community surrounding the game. Also there is a worrying trend of layering stories that is becoming more popular. My fear of more Hatouful Boyfriends grows by the day.

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Just Monika. Just Monika. Just Monika.

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As a matter of fact, there are little devils inside of YOU.

5. Highway Blossoms

Highway Blossoms official Sekai Project trailer

We’re hunting for gold and falling in love in the desert, making trashy friends along the way. Nobody knows if the treasure they’re hunting for is real, but if the rumors are true we’ve got a leg up on the lot of ‘em.

Highway Blossoms does not feature player choice or multiple storylines, but the sweet story between tomboy Amber and excitable Marina is more than enough. (There’s an unlockable meme-mode worth reading, too.)

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Key art of Marina and Amber on their adventure.

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Trailer Park Wars: Cute Girl Edition.

6. Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth gameplay

The Pillars of the Earth is an interactive adaptation of the world-wide bestselling novel by Ken Follett. Characters gather together to build a cathedral for the poor during a time of struggle, and the lives of different people begin to intertwine.

This point-and-click adventure lets players move for multiple protagonists and make discoveries about the world around them in 12th century England. Face death and hardship alongside a cast of believable characters in a time so far away from our own.

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Key title visual for Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth.

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Lovely English scenery in the middle of winter.

7. The Letter - Horror Visual Novel

The Letter (Horror Visual Novel) opening trailer.

The Letter is a gorgeous psychological horror visual novel that makes no secret of its intentions to disturb you. Its mysterious story isn’t even the best thing about it. This visual novel features animated backgrounds, 7 playable characters, full English voice acting, quick events, countless meaningful choices, and over 700,000 words across the playable characters.

Yangyang Mobile crowdfunded The Letter and rewarded backers with an incredible labor of love. If you play it for the plot, The Letter deserves a spot on your must-play list.

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The Letter official key visual of the gang.

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It has artistic merit for being hideous.

8. Magical Otoge Ciel

Magical Otoge Ciel Let’s Play.

Ciel is a rebellious princess afraid of spending her life trapped in a palace. She escapes with her knight Florien and his brother, captain of the guard Anton. They bump into a clever thief and countless awful puns along the way.

This visual novel is short and fluffy with painted art style that was mimicked in its sequels. The story and humor in Batensan’s Magical Otoge games make them all excellent quick reads.

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A princess and her knight.

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It’s rude to insult cute slime monsters!

9. One Thousand Lies

One Thousand Lies Let’s Play.

Ciaran starts receiving strange emails out of nowhere and it turns their life on its head. With meta-level humor and likable characters, this short read will leave you thinking. “In the words of Harry H.: ‘If you want to know the truth, go find it’”.

One Thousand Lies is not your typical school-aged romantic comedy visual novel. While there are no branching stories, the artwork, soundtrack, and ridiculous plot enough to keep a reader interested.

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Relatable conversations.

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Lovely CG artwork in One Thousand Lies.

10. PANIC! At Multiverse High

PANIC! At Multiverse High official, absurd trailer.

Chad is the worst kind of high school bully: the kind that’s an evil alien overlord in disguise! As a student of Multiverse High, you’re on the receiving end of his bad attitude. But you can kick his butt with one of your 18 possible magical friends.

PANIC! At Multiverse High is a silly comic-style story focused on having fun. The characters are diverse and hysterical. If you go in without serious expectations you’ll have a great time.

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He even looks like an evil alien overlord in disguise.

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Every battle helps fight the War on Chad!

11. SC2VN

SC2VN Let’s Play.

Starcraft 2: the Esports Visual Novel is about a character that uproots their life in 2011 and moves to South Korea in hopes of becoming a professional Starcraft player. Readers can see remnants of what should’ve been a dating sim as well but ended up focusing on the story of protagonist Mac building a team with a bunch of outcasts.

SC2VN is hard to understand without prior knowledge of Starcraft or esports. Its prequel Don’t Forget Our eSports Dream was fully funded on Kickstarter in 2017 and is not yet released at the time of writing this.

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Pro player Jett telling it like it is to a cocky Mac.

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SC2VN’s lovable Protoss player acts 12 years old.

12. The Silver Case

The Silver Case 2016 release trailer.

The year is 1999 and Tokyo is in a crisis of serial murders. Detectives think this is the return of a notorious serial killer whose string of government assassinations was known as the “Silver Case”. But no one has ever seen the killer and the puzzles they leave behind feel unsolvable.

The Silver Case is a faithful remaster and localization of SUDA51’s 1999 debut title. A cast of intriguing characters reveals the secrets behind an impossible mystery.

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This looks very not-OK.

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Still looking very not-OK!

13. Soul Gambler

Soul Gambler is a modern interpretation of Goethe’s Faust, a 19th century tragic play. You play as Faust, a normal guy that can sell pieces of his soul to have his wishes granted. But all opportunities have a cost, and the prices Faust pays depend on your decisions.

The choices presented in Soul Gambler show immediate consequences and you can be punished hard for choosing wrong. A playthrough is short so you can return to try different strategies without feeling overwhelmed by skipping scenes.

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The one woman you don’t want to wake up to in this game.

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Exchange parts of your soul for conveniences and perks.

14. Stay! Stay! Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Let’s Play.

You’re an American tourist visiting your attractive penpals in North Korea. Enjoy vacationing in an oppressive regime with military-grade girls while learning about North Korea’s most famous landmarks. And try not to get yourself kidnapped, killed, or tried for treason.

Though North Korea has shown a sudden attitude shift in 2018, it doesn’t devalue the politically-incorrect humor that makes Stay! Stay! DPRK hilarious. (The developers made sure the game was playable single-handed, too…)

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Key Stay! Stay! Visual of Jeong (left) and Eunji (right).

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Traditional DPRK treatment of Americans according to Stay! Stay!

15. Tokyo Dark

Tokyo Dark Launch Trailer.

Tokyo Dark is a point-and-click adventure/visual novel hybrid played from the perspective of Detective Itō Ayami. It’s up to Ayami to solve the mystery of her missing partner’s death while fighting for her own sanity.

Critic reviews discuss unfulfilled potential in the game’s mechanics. Curator reviews compliment the compelling story and unique point-and-click approach. This is a case where a strong story might make other shortcomings forgivable.

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Tokyo Dark’s main menu.

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OwO What’s this? *Notices maid*

Secret #16. VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

VA-11 Hall-A Let’s Play.

It’s a post-dystopian future where everyone is controlled by nanomachines. Corporations have taken over the world and White Knights keep the oppressed population obedient. You play as a bartender that boozes up waifus and learns about the world through their drunken stories.

VA-11 Hall-A is a bartending simulator with visual novel elements. Instead of players choosing dialogue responses, scenarios are created through mixed beverages.

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Convincing key marketing visual.

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VA-11 Hall-A bartending gameplay.

 

Are there any visual novels that you have missed out on? What haven’t you seen suggested? If you like these recommendations, you might also like:

Sharing stories from the flatlands of Ohio is a Half-Dryad Bard with 6 Strength and 15 Constitution.
Gamer Since: 1998
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Sexy Brutale
Top 3 Favorite Games:BioShock, League of Legends, The Sims 4
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Pentazemin 4 months 2 days ago

Congratulations on an insightful review. To be honest, I was worried that VN of Winged Cloud might be mentioned to "Best VN". lol. The quality of their games is terrible, but so are their business practices.

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