An Intermediate Guide to Visual Novels


When you get past the entry point of visual novels through one way or another (such as using Francisco’s helpful guide here), it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed by many of the available games now legally available for English-readers. Nonetheless if you prefer a “pure” visual novel experience or want to try out something different, this guide covers a variety of titles to help you branch out into some fresh titles.

(Note: This article summarizes many of the visual novels featured in our Not ALL H-Games! panel. This article will also be amended in the future as we add and remove different games to our panel line-up.)


Standard VNs – The classic “click through dialogue and sometimes make choices to progress” titles.

  • The House in Fata Morgana
    • A gothic drama VN that eschews the typical otaku-centric writing tropes in order to tell a unique story about a seemingly cursed mansion and its tragic denizens. Gorgeous art and a beautiful soundtrack give this title a distinctive flair compared to other Japanese-made titles.
    • Available for PC through Steam and Mangagamer; PS Vita release coming soon!
  • Song of Saya
    • One of Gen Urobuchi’s early works, published by NitroPlus. Saya is a disturbing Lovecraftian horror story about sanity slippage and morality loss. Not for the faint of heart.
    • Available for PC through JAST USA.
  • Cho Dengeki Stryker
    • A classic example of an ero-game that would be a shounen anime if it had the budget. Focuses on lampooning superhero tropes, but occasionally gets distracted but its sexual antics.
    • Available for PC through Mangagamer (18+ version) and Steam (all ages version)
  • Steins;Gate
    • “I am mad scientist!” When a chunnibyou-addled college student accidentally creates a time machine, he’s torn between fulfilling his friends’ dreams and saving their lives from a government organization. Yes, it is better than the anime adaptation and worth playing even if you’ve watched it already.
    • Available for PC and PS Vita.
  • Planetarian
    • A short kinetic novel by the ever-cheerful Key. A dystopian story about a nameless vagabond, a perky robot, and a worn-down planetarium. Easy to read in a couple of hours.
    • Available for PC through Steam.


Otome – Dating sims aimed at a female audience. These games often have great world building and surprisingly deep characters.

  • Hakuoki
    • Late 1800’s Japan is terrorized by vampire-zombies, and only the shinsengumi can stop them. Protagonist’s initial simple goal to find her father gets her involved in more than she bargained for. Franklin’s review here.
    • Available for PSP, PS3, PS Vita and PC.
  • Code Realize: Guardian of Rebirth
    • Our protagonist wakes up in an abandoned mansion to find her skin is poisonous. Seeking out her father, she joins up with some fellows modeled after characters from Western literature.
    • Available for PS Vita
  • Collar x Malice
    • When a terrorist group takes over part of Japan, a specialized group formed from ex-police members steps in to investigate. Find romance and shoot things.
    • Available for PS Vita.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend
    • Yes it’s the pigeon dating sim. Yes it’s actually good. A parody of of otome games (and many dating sim tropes in general) that completely embraces how bizarre it is.
    • Available for PC, PS Vita and PS4.


Western & Non-Japanese-Originating titles – Games from devs who aren’t from Japan. These titles often turn typical VN writing and tropes on their head.

  • Katawa Shoujo
    • After coming down with a heart condition, our hapless protagonist transfers to a school for students with physical disabilities. Created as a freeware title by a non-Japanese dev team over the course of several years.
    • Available on PC for free.
  • Christine Love’s games
    • Love’s games frequently focus on recurring themes of technology, romance, sexuality and cosplay. My detailed review of two of her games can be found here.
    • Her early games are freeware PC games, others are on Steam and her website.
  • Butterfly Soup
    • From the creator of Pom Gets WiFi comes a shitpost-y (and heartfelt) short VN about Asian-American girls playing baseball, dealing with personal drama and falling in love.
    • Available through for free.
  • Ghosts of Miami
    • In late 80’s Miami, a freelance detective investigate missing people cases that slip by the local police. Like Carmen Sandiego with a retrowave aesthetic and a focus on subjects like immigration, drug cartels and drag clubs.
    • Available for PC through Steam.
  • The Confines of the Crown
    • An otome game by a UK-based dev team. The bodyguard of a prince gets wrapped up in a mysterious plot surrounding the local to-be-wed princess. Shorter than the average JP-based otome.
    • Available for PC through Steam.


VN Hybrids – VN’s crossed with other genres, such as puzzle or point-and-click.

  • Ace Attorney
    • Lawyers doing lawyer things. Featuring puns, logic puzzles, and exceedingly good writing that will have you laughing in one scene and crying the next.
    • Available on DS, 3DS and iOS.
  • Hotel Dusk Room 215
    • A former cop turned delivery man investigates a mysterious hotel in hopes of tracking down his former partner. Feels surprisingly Western and has gorgeous rotoscoped character portraits.
    • Available for DS (be warned that this game has been out of print for a while).
  • Zero Escape
    • Psychological drama-focused puzzle visual novel games. Primarily focus on groups of 9 people who are trapped by an individual named “Zero”. 3rd game almost didn’t exist without Western fans’ support.
    • Available for DS, 3DS, PS Vita, PS4 and Steam.
  • Danganronpa
    • High school prodigies are forced into a bizarre killing game by a robotic bear. Gameplay is similar to Ace Attorney but in real time with extra mini-games. Upupupu~
    • Available for PS Vita, PS4 and PC.
  • The Silver Case
    • Early Suda51 title from the PS1 era, now remastered. A police district’s investigation into a notorious serial killer brings up more questions about the district itself. Uses a 3D first person view with point and click mechanics.
    • Available for PS4 and PC.
  • Snatcher
    • Early game (and one of the first English-translated VN-style games) from the mind of Hideo Kojima. Cyberpunk as fuck with a plot about bodysnatching cyborgs. Point and click with some railshooter mechanics.
    • Available for Sega CD (but we recommend you just emulate it at this point).



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