[Top 15] Visual Novel Games That Are Amazing (2024)

Games can range from bad to timeless classic depending on the focus of the game, whether it be the setting of the game, visuals, etc. Many games have their respective niches and quirks that make them stand out compared to other games in the market. For a certain audience, the story is what makes a game good, and from this, a genre has been specifically made just for those wanting to feel more like you’re reading a story than actually playing a certain kind of game, visual novels.

Visual novels, sometimes shortened to VN is, as the name suggests, a narrative-focused genre that is more immersive through reading or visual-based cues and focuses more on the core story of the game through text and any accompanying art, rather than the other aspects of the game should they include other genres into them. This is widely popular in Japan, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t popular outside of the country. Countless VN’s have soared into popularity and have spawned things ranging from anime series to spinoff games, taking their popularity into different forms of media and at times, making them staples and household names.

It’s worth pointing out that the list you’ll see will be in no particular order, as different people will have different opinions on rankings and that’s perfectly fine. With that said, we’ll be looking at some of the most popular visual novels that anyone looking at joining in on the genre can try out, and with a wide range of implementation to the genre, there is almost certainly something for everyone.

15. Katawa Shoujo (Windows,Mac OS X,Linux)

We start the list with Katawa Shoujo, a bishojo visual novel with the typical elements of what the genre represents. You play as Hisao Nakai, a boy who suffered a heart attack from his dormant cardiac arrhythmia (a case of irregular heartbeats) and is transferred to a school wherein the girls he meets also have a disability of their own. You progress by responding to certain questions using the given prompts which can affect your progress with the story. This visual novel gives you a sense that despite certain underlying issues that a character has faced, they still give out something that your character falls in love with. With multiple arcs, you’ll appreciate the characters that you’ll see and share a story to make them, and your gameplay, feel whole.

14. Nekopara (Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch)

With a cutesy and bright design, Nekopara shows you the daily life of catgirls running a café and being able to interact with them through a system called ‘E-Mote’ and eventually get to know who more about them. The game itself is much heavier towards the reading aspect and has a large focus on the art and theme of a harem. To turn up the premise of the setting, certain explicit versions of the game are available to play, so do take playing that version of the game with extra precaution when serving up some self-fanservice.

13. Root Series (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch)

A mix of adventure and mystery, the Root series serves up a two-game hunt for the truth, both having different premises while being the same overall feel in terms of the end goal. The first game, Root Letter, tackles the disappearance of a character named Aya, while the second game, Root Film, focuses on film director Rintaro Yagumo and up-and-coming actress Riho investigating a murder that happened on set while filming their big-break TV series. While add-ons to the sequel include minigames such as a fighting game, the series shares the same attribute of finding the inconsistencies of the story given by a person of interest and making decisions that affect the story.

12. Ace Attorney Series (Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Windows, Wii, iOS, Android, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

Ever wanted to be a lawyer or just to want call someone out on their BS, then this game is definitely up your ballpark. A classic when in the discussions of visual novels, the Ace Attorney series is just reading bliss once you find out the connection towards the very statement that allows you to inch closer to the truth. Various add-ons and gameplay variations have made the series fresh while still being true to what it is, and it is a testament to how well made it is. So, should you wish to get the series, it’s a well worth investment, with no objections.

11. Higurashi When They Cry (Windows, Playstation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo DS)

Higurashi’s visual novel shows the concept of time looping, which is different from our most common thought of time traveling. For time travel, we can jump to any point in time, whereas the events of time looping simply being a repeat of events being cycled to a point. This makes for an interesting plotline for the video game, where you play as Keiichi Maebara, who moves to the fictional village named Hinamizawa and finds out about an annual festival taking place. He then learns that the events after the festival have been grim for the past 3 years, guaranteeing someone will die from the village and another would disappear. Looking to get to the bottom of it, he and his new friends and classmates find out the mystery behind the events, and the possibility of breaking the so-called ‘Oyashiro Curse’.

10. Mystic Messenger (Android, iOS)

Mystic Messenger’s craze can’t be understated with the hype making it a popular game shortly after its release in 2016. This game puts you in the shoes of a female character whose name you can choose, and eventually meet various characters (mostly guys) in the story and be able to learn more about them based on the response you send through certain special events unlocked in real-world time schedules. One person’s positive or negative response will affect your relationship against another, making the task of diving deeper into the character of your choosing relatively straightforward. With this being more on the romance themes, should you wish to pick this game up, expect to set your alarm at odd clock settings if you absolutely must want to know the character you fancy.

9. Little Busters! Ecstacy (Windows, Playstation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch)

Sometimes you’ll need to read through a story more than once to be able to grasp what the story is, and for this one, that is encouraged. Playing as Niki Naoe you’ll be entering a high school life wherein you interact with multiple heroines (number depends on which version of the game you have) and finding out things about them in their paths, and subsequent questions from their side and eventually making you learn about the other heroines’ story when one ends, opening up a true ending. This is one of your typical romance visual novels, although an extended-release has bumped up the theme to be more ‘adult’ in terms of content, so that’s also a bonus alongside the 3 added characters that version brings.

8. Doki-Doki Literature Club (Windows,macOS,Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)

Should you wish to play this game, a bit of warning as this game depicts a lot of self-harm and very strong themes accompanying it, so again, play this with extreme caution as while it may look innocent and nice on the outside, this visual novel is anything but that.

This game starts with your character being invited by their childhood friend and introduced into the school’s club, which also happens to be the games’ title. From here you help and interact with the club members, all of which at points wanted to express their love to you. Depending on your choice, the game turns from being really sad, to absolutely morbid, with things in the game having you become a bit more ‘hands-on’ to say the least. Another thing about this game is that this game forces you to redo a lot of the scenes in this game, and if you think you know how something pans out, this game will say otherwise.

7. Danganronpa (PlayStation Portable,Android,iOS,PlayStation Vita,Windows,OS X,Linux,PlayStation 4,Nintendo Switch,Xbox One)

With a similar theme to the Ace Attorney series, Danganronpa takes a similar approach to the ‘turn their words against them’ narrative and presents it with more visuals and colorful art styles that are unique and synonymous with the game. A trilogy of games and one spin-off, Danganronpa’s main game is an adventure, murder mystery game that focuses on the narrative of a being trapped by a being resembling a bear, known as Monokuma, making them play a killing game where the only way to escape is for a person to kill another person and not being blamed as the culprit in the trial room. That’s a very vague summary of the 3 games, but what truly makes the visual novel part of Danganronpa is being able to freely know about others in special ‘Free Time Events’, obtaining secrets about who they are, their possible backgrounds, and obtaining certain skillsets that can help you towards the trial portion of the game.

6. Zero Escape (Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita,iOS, Windows)

Another trilogy of games, this time for the theme of alternate realities. Zero Escape is a visual novel with the added element of finding a way out of certain scenarios or escape rooms. You’re here to use your wits and deduce the multiple mind-numbing puzzles and tricks to be able to get through and uncover more of the story’s many endings and learn that some realities are more than meets the eye.

5. AI: The Somnium Files (Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

A visually impressive visual novel, AI: The Somnium Files is made by the same director and writer as the Zero Escape series (Kotaro Uchikoshi). This game puts you into the perspective of Kaname Date, an investigator uncovering the clues to a mysterious murder, with the strange thing about the crime being the disappearance of the victim’s left eye. With each new information, a person of interest, and link to the victim gathered, you find the connection through a method called ‘Psyncing’, in which you relieve a very abstract representation of a hidden memory of another person, presented as puzzles for you to unlock. You only have 6 mins to solve the ‘Psyncers’ secret, unlocking the ‘Mental Lock’ allowing you to bridge together with a path that can lead to the answers for the case, but like his previous work, Zero Escape, the story isn’t as simple as they appear to be.

4. Steins:Gate (Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Android, Xbox 360)

Another visual novel with more on the classic reading-heavy style, Steins:Gate’s focus is more towards time travel and not time looping (see where this was going), wherein you play as Okabe Rintaro, the protagonist of this game. Your only interaction for the most part of the game is the option to respond to another characters’ dialogue in the form of a text highlighted in blue, and even that isn’t often shown. Those brief moments of reaction (or lack of) can affect how you progress through the story, so make sure you get to respond at the times appropriately if you want to know more about people like your ‘assistant’ Makise Kurisu or your childhood friend Mayuri Shiina. No worries, you have all the time in the world to get it right.

3. VA11 HALL-A (Windows, PlayStation 4, Mac OS X,Linux, iOS, PlayStation Vita,Nintendo Switch)

Like real bars, the people who go to them may have a story to tell once they took a bit of the booze, and VA11 HALL-A is a game that takes that realistic element into the visual novel genre. You play as Jill, a bartender in a post-dystopia life, interacting and making co*cktails and mixes for your patron, who in turn, tells you stories leading to interesting narratives.

2. Clannad (Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 2, S3G, FOMA)

Another one for the drama/romance visual novels, Clannad has the usual template for what a visual novel is. For a good while, you may think this is another romance story/slice of life type of deal, but as you progress through the story, you’ll see more depth towards the characters and the setting around them, making for a true eye-opener of a visual novel. It’s definitely much better for you to know first-hand and understand what this visual novel represents, and for this game being a great visual novel, it’s definitely up there.

1. Fate/Stay Night (Windows,PlayStation 2,PlayStation Vita,iOS,Android)

Of course, it wouldn’t be a visual novel list without this being included. Fate/Stay Night is one of the earliest true and true visual novels, being reading-based and simply knowing the interaction between you and the character you learn about. There are times that you will be tasked with choosing between a few lines, possibly affecting your advances with both the story and the character you wish to learn about. Its story has been split off into multiple arcs, learning about the story of a specific heroine with each one.

Its popularity has spawned into multiple mediums like spin-offs, light novels, and the like with one of the most popular being its turn-based combat RPG game, Fate/Grand Order.

[Top 15] Visual Novel Games That Are Amazing (2024)
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