So You Want to Read Visual Novels


published on July 9, 2021


Maybe you're looking to get into the Visual Novel genre? Here are 5 potential picks that I think are good 'gateway' games.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Premise: A very over-the-top murder mystery/killing game. 15 students are trapped in a high school and must kill someone & get away with it to escape.

So, Why Should I Play Danganronpa? - It is among the most popular Visual Novels with a large community around it. It mixes actual gameplay within the visual novel. The premise alone is very enthralling. Accessible on PlayStation 4, PC and (soon) Nintendo Switch.

Cons: Ridiculous characters, some of the mysteries and twists are poorly written.

My Personal Rating - 7/10
Time Estimate: Medium (10-30 Hours)

Katawa Shoujo

Premise: A boy suffers a heart attack, moves to a school for the disabled. Proceeds to date one of many girls at the school.

So, Why Should I Play Katawa Shoujo? - You can get it for the low, low price of $0! If you're new to Visual Novels, most of them include "routes" which are just multiple endings depending on what decisions you make during the game. Katawa Shoujo's "routes" do vary in quality, but all in all Katawa Shoujo is a solid game and a good introduction into how most Dating Sims are set out.

Cons: There is one "route" that is quite bad.

My Personal Rating - 7/10
Time Estimate: Medium (10-30 Hours)

*Warning: It has sex scenes, you can turn them off in the settings though.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Premise: An up-and-coming defense attorney goes up against impossible odds to achieve a "Not Guilty" outcome.

So, Why Should I Play Phoenix Wright? - I feel like Phoenix Wright is the face of Visual Novels. It is the 3rd best selling Visual Novel of all time for a reason. Like Danganronpa, it blends gameplay within the visual novel. It has a very colourful cast of characters and the scenarios are ridiculous but never so confusing or convoluted that it becomes frustrating. There are only 4 cases in the original release, and all of them are quite good (although #1 is a push-over). It's basically on every platform - Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Wii, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS (probably the Xbox Mini Fridge whenever that comes out).

Cons: Rereleases (every version except the GBA version) added a fifth case which kind of takes away from the spectacular finish of case 4.

My Personal Rating - 8/10
Time Estimate: Medium (10-30 Hours)


Doki Doki Literature Club

Premise: Ordinary school-boy joins a literature club with four beautiful girls.

So, Why Should I Play Doki Doki Literature Club? - More so than Katawa Shoujo, this is included because it is $0. It was wildly popular on release (and if you haven't heard of it, it's best to go in with as little knowledge as possible). It's also really short if a 10-30 hour playthrough is daunting. It's certainly not the best of its kind, but it is pretty good and you can't go wrong with that price tag!

Cons: The first half of the game is kind of slow. Some enjoyment is removed if you go in with prior knowledge.

My Personal Rating - 7/10
Time Estimate: Short (2-10 Hours)



Premise: Delinquent high school student helps another student put on a play. (There's more to it, but as far as premises go, this is a very vanilla setup)

So, Why Should I Play Clannad? - I was hesitant to recommend it but it really is a staple of Visual Novels. It has an outstanding main story, probably the best romance story I've read to date. It is however surrounded by less interesting side-stories, and you are forced to read 8 of them to get to the good stuff. It is also a fucking colossal game. I'd still recommend it though, if nothing else as a gateway to some other Key Visual Novels (Little Busters, Rewrite, Summer Pockets) as Clannad really gives context into what Key Visual Novels are all about. It's available on PC and Switch.

Cons - Like I said, you are forced through EIGHT side stories before you get to the good stuff. Some of these side stories are really good, some of them aren't at all. (Look, it's probably worth the pay-off).

My Personal Rating - 7/10
Time Estimate: Colossal (50-100 Hours)

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