8 Visual Novels That Aren’t Dating Sims
Not all games have to involve complicated button mashing and zombie destruction. Sometimes it's about the story and how a game can make you feel. That's where visual novels come in. Though the market is saturated with dating simulators, often with very adult themes, that just isn't for everyone.
There are plenty of intense visual novels that offer you something totally unexpected, with incredibly profound writing that brings up philosophical points, morality, and realistic characters to fall in love with platonically. There are also comedic visual novels and quirky situations you'll get yourself into, with options that will affect how the tale unfolds. All in all, there's an emotional rollercoaster of visual novels to explore.
8 Over The Hills And Far Away
Over The Hills and Far Away is a beautiful story about a wounded American soldier taking shelter with a Native American child during one of the many wars during the formative years of the United States. The artwork is stunning, and with a storm going on outside the lighting really reflects the tension and mood within the barn they find themselves in. Though the options in this visual novel won't change the narrative all that much, it's still a wonderful conversation to be a part of as two worlds meet and realize neither one is happy.
Though their backgrounds differ greatly, you'll find that, through this emotional rollercoaster, they both emerge onto the battlefield as changed people. The orchestral soundtrack is the perfect backing to this heartfelt tale, and you'll be struggling to keep yourself from sobbing as it unfolds.
7 Corpse Party Remake
With its rerelease in 2021, the cult classic Corpse Party now looks and feels better than ever to play. The story follows a ritual gone wrong, sending a group of friends to an alternate reality. There they learn the horrors that went on at the site of their own school, Heavenly Host Elementary, and must walk the halls surrounded by visages of death to find a way back.
Be ready for a gory, psychological mystery thriller complete with body-horror sound effects. The gameplay involves point and click to uncover clues throughout the wonderfully animated building, as well as RPG where every option you choose has an impact. There are sixteen chapters to play through and plenty of characters you're probably better off not getting too attached to.
This may be most multi-faceted visual novel you'll ever play, where your life depends on popularity, brains and a creepy little bear. Your high school has been cut off from the outside world, and a blood-thirsty teddy traps every student in a Hunger Games parody.
It's up to you to investigate every crime scene, sway classmates with your charisma, win mock trials judged by Monokuma the bear and discover his true identity. Somehow Danganronpa manages to twist together hilarity and psychological horror into a whirlwind investigation with an awesome soundtrack.
5 Fault: Milestone One
Follow the journey of a happy-go-lucky princess named Selphine and her misanthropic guardian Ritona as they attempt to uncover the shadowy assassins sent to kill them. A uniquely 3D visual novel in an anime art style with mystery and intrigue; what more could you want? The characters are fleshed out and flawed, drawing you into their lives and personal journeys.
The UI is beautiful and fits the atmosphere perfectly, though the choices made rarely affect any outcomes. You simply follow the story brilliantly laid out before you. Find out who's behind the attack on Selphine's kingdom, what secrets Rune keeps hidden and whether the duo will ever make it home.
4 The House Of Fata Morgana
Another heart-wrenching visual novel is the House Of Fata Morgana, which had a perfect score on Metacritic in 2021 and is a densely layered gothic tale that begins in 1603 within a mansion that has spanned centuries of misery. Behind every door is another time, and another chapter. Each of the characters you meet are intertwined and multidimensional, really drawing you into their lives and tragedies. Every choice you encounter will change the game from then on, and take note of tiny details, as following them can lead to an entirely different story path.
Again, the music is breathtaking and adds many layers of emotion as you read through, and ultimately creates something more than a game plot — a truly gripping tale to make you question your own beliefs. In the heat of some conversations, the time you take to answer can have grave consequences, which creates a kind of pacing that most visual novels lack.
3 Lucid9: Inciting Incident
On the surface, Lucid9 is about cute anime girls at a boarding school, but you'll quickly come to understand that you're at the center of a horrifying mystery. Set in the fantasy metropolis of Isamu, 2018, the game follows the disappearances of students at a prestigious boarding school, with a huge variety of side stories that can be fully explored to uncover how deeply flawed and human each character is.
The writing is absolutely hilarious at times, juxtaposing glimpses into the psychological horror going on beneath the surface, then jumping back to realistic interactions with your friends and fellow students. The choices you make hold real weight and can mean life or death for the NPCs you come to care for.
2 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Did you know this gaming series also has an incredibly popular Ace Attorney anime series? In these games, not only do you have to uncover all possible evidence using realistic forensic gear and help from your colleagues, but it's then up to you to untangle the truth from the lies, the red herrings from the real culprit.
There are fourteen episodes, each involving rooms for you to interact with and clues to collect. The cast of characters includes every trope imaginable, but with a twist, as you'll come to find nothing is as it seems. But don't worry: there happens to be two psychics who will help you identify people's darkest secrets, and ultimately argue your case in court. Let's hope you back the right person.
1 Monster Prom 3: Roadtrip
You might have played some of the prequels to Monster Roadtrip, such as Monster Prom, which was an immediate hit among those who enjoy dating sims. However, Monster Roadtrip takes a totally different direction, introducing a survival element and multiplayer while retaining the adorable animation and cute characters. There's still the possibility to woo some of the monsters and hitchhikers you meet along your journey, but it's something you can entirely ignore in this sequel if it's not for you.
You join your high school buddies on a trip of a lifetime, creating memories, visiting exciting attractions and trying to survive the open road. There are now resources to balance and if you let one shared resource bar reach the bottom then it's game over. Choices made have real effects and will change future interactions with everyone you interact with, as well as the trip's final destination.
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