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In defense of visual novels

Just like Batman, I’m here to right wrongs. Unlike Batman I care about videogames. Without punching, let’s talk about how visual novels aren’t given a fair shake and why you should give them a try. 

I know it’s super easy to write off visual novels. I did it for years. Sure, they’re not typically mechanically complex, and there are many that dive straight into titillation. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Visual novels are one of the most accessible genres, requiring little more than a mouse input. Beyond that, you’re not asked to make time sensitive decisions and there aren’t typically skill-based interactions with the game. To put it simply: visual novels reward reflection and investment.


The accessibility of visual novels extends beyond playing to the act of creation. There are a variety of tools available to help build visual novels as quickly and easily as possible. There’s even a jam dedicated to helping people make visual novels who haven’t before.

Beyond accessibility, visual novels are also diverse as hell. We have over 100 visual novels with the LGBT tag on itch.io alone. This of course says nothing for the games that are untagged, those on other services, and the creators themselves. Additionally,  there is a huge market of female-focused visual novels under the genre of Otome games.

So how do you get involved in visual novels? We have a huge collection on itch.io already so feel free to dig through the tag and try out anything that interests you. If you want a more guided approach feel free to check out some (all-ages) recommendations below.


Romance Detective:

Romance Detective is quite possibly my favorite visual novel ever. It’s a valentine’s day themed buddy-cop comedy with lesbian under overtones. The art is beautiful (the creator went on to work on Indivisible) and the characters are all imminently likable. The game is short and leaves you wanting more, but there’s a half-finished sequel available to quench some of your thirst.


We Know the Devil:

If you’re interested in the fusion of the occult and romance We Know the Devil has your back. Set in a bible camp where something has gone wrong, you’re tasked with guiding 3 equally likable campers. The game has gorgeous visuals from artist Mia Schwartz and is written by indie all-star Aevee Bee. We Know the Devil is a haunting experience from beginning to end, and asks you what happens to the third wheel in any group.


VA11 HALL-A:

VA11 HALL-A is one of the higher profile visual novels in recent years, and for a good reason. Fusing traditional visual novel elements with intense bartending action VA11 HALL-A becomes a meditation on what it means to be human and have problems while set inside of a terrifyingly believable cyberpunk world.

Also you get to hang out with the coolest dog ever put into a video game.

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Interesting examples here! Thanks for sharing. Glad to see that the acceptance of this genre is slowly gaining traction :)

Mentioned in this post

GIF
Cyberpunk Bartender Action
Adventure
A Group Relationship Horror Visual novel.
solving crimes... of passion!
the canceled sequel to Romance Detective