It has been well over a year since I last recommended a handful of free otome games, so how about some more to appease our never-ending otome cravings? There are so many hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered, so here’s a helping hand to kickstart your own explorations.
Ever since I had an absolute blast with this year’s Otome Jam, I’ve delved back into itch.io and Steam to unearth even more pleasing and delightful little creations worth your while and that absolutely deserve more attention and recognition to its creators.
Plus you don’t have to pay a penny for ’em. Nice!
A Pinch of Magic
A Pinch of Magic has us playing as Varsha, a young woman who has just graduated from high school. She’s returning to her grandparents’ magic café, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. The game is half slice-of-life and half fantasy, set in a world where magic is banned and Varsha is a witch, with its two routes presenting varying perspectives to its overarching magical theme. The female love interest is adorable childhood friend Kiana, who happens to be a stunning mermaid, while the male love interest Mikhail is a human snob of a food critic who is ignorant to our main character’s formidable witchcraft abilities.
The two relationships with Varsha are greatly juxtaposed, with Kiana being an immediately warm and supportive companion; her story progresses as a typical “best friends turned lovers” route. On the other hand, there is much more warming up to be done with Mikhail’s character before we see him lose his arrogant and uptight attitude — once that happens, though, he not only learns to appreciate Varsha, but adorably falls for her too.
The title can be considered a BL or yuri game considering the gender options it provides, including selectable pronouns and character portraits that allow the protagonist to present as male or female. The game is one of many free otome games made during the NaNoReno 2021 Jam, and unfortunately the month-long time constraint meant that Kiana’s route was unfortunately cut short compared to the considerably longer route of Mikhail; the latter also has two endings compared to just one good ending in Kiana’s.
While this is a shame — I would have loved to see so much more from Kiana because she was always such a gem to watch and talk to — there’s plenty to like about Mikhail’s route; the character’s initial standoffish and rude attitude made way for the best narrative development in the game. While A Pinch of Magic is most certainly constrained, the surprising amount of growth shown in just Mikhail’s route, and the overall abundance of adorableness in Kiana’s route made for a pleasantly feel-good, rewarding time spent playing it.
A Pinch of Magic has so much potential to be something far bigger, but what we have for now is tiny but endearing. With humorous and natural interactions, a heart-warming story, and cleverly mature writing, A Pinch of Magic is a short but sweet story with an eco-friendly message that more should spend a relaxing evening with.
And if you like any part of it at all, then be sure to look up the many other delightful games Crystal Game Works have made! Each is lovingly created, but just as unique and sweet as the last.
Lake of Voices
Lake of Voices is a complete contrast to the other two free otome games on this list for being on the opposite spectrum in its themes, tone and overall presentation, with a very bleak and dark premise. Its central message is that while you may have the option to save others when things go south, you will not always be able to save everyone. Needless to say, Lake of Voices is most certainly an experience to say the least, and it will not be so easily forgotten.
Every single choice truly matters here, and the clever utilisation of a timer mechanic during every single decision only ever adds to the high stakes and tension of this small but emotionally moving journey; it’s not always easy to know what you should be doing when placed under pressure, and that helpless feeling is exactly what the game capitalises on. Even in the end, Lake of Voices is a tragic reminder that life simply does not go as smoothly as we would otherwise hope. As far as free otome games go, I appreciate this unusually dark approach to the genre.
You will be coming back immediately to the game after one playthrough to correct the many mistakes you will be making, because Lake of Voices is one of the most punishing free otome games out there. The romance has a nice and genuine build-up of it, but nothing is explicitly shown or said considering its deathly premise. You’ve got a lot more to think about than a simple love confession here, after all, when death lingers around every corner.
Compared to many other free otome games, Lake of voices is a very high-quality release, featuring brilliantly done voice acting, an atmospheric soundtrack and well over 6 hours of content. There’s diverse character designs, a shocking twist and an overall effective horror experience — truly, it’s a must-play in the field of free otome games.
It is such a well-presented, brilliantly explored premise, with worldbuilding that never stops in a single playthrough and flawed characters you’ll be aligning yourself to; you won’t be able to help but share feeling their pain and suffering. I cannot compliment GB Patch Games enough for what they have managed to create!
Lake of Voices is ultimately thought-provoking as it challenges how we understand and perceive the value of human life, and presents an all too harrowing reminder of how fragile and terrifying simple existence is. Not to mention that as a visual novel, never before has the functionality of mere “throwaway” selections as a game mechanic ever felt so truly memorable and significant. Absolutely brilliant; one of the best free otome games out there.
I Love You!
I Love You! (Suki Da!) was localised earlier this year on the 20th of March thanks to the efforts of Moonchime Localization, a studio with a focus on making Joseimuke titles (an umbrella term meaning any video game targeted towards a female audience, from otomes to Boys’ Love) available for western players. And what a brilliant first choice they went with for their first ever localised title.
The game was developed and designed by indie studio Shinogi Shiohara, with its major pull and unique feature being its role reversal of its main character and love interests. We’re already eagerly anticipating seeing how Variable Barricade will play out with its core idea of the heroine’s usual “damsel in distress” characteristics being flipped upside down, so being able to experience a bitesize example of such an approach for an otome was an exciting experience to explore. And we want so much more of it already.
While there is no voice acting in the game, I think it would have made us all combust because its LIs are already impossibly adorable thanks to all of the gorgeously detailed and adorable blushing sprites and CGs that frequently appear here. We have the shy, senior bookworm, Kirishima; the energetic and always vying for your attention kouhai, Onodera; and Tsuna, your fellow classmate who is not only on friendly terms with you already, but is shipped with you by your entire classroom.
It is an extremely light-hearted, humorous and sweet romp back through our high-school years, whilst providing a fresh take on the expected dynamics of any and all slice-of-life, youthful romance games we have already experienced time and time again. Some choices in the game are so out there to reinforce how dominant and leading our Heroine is that they never fail to put a smile on my face for what outcomes result in such choices being made.
And for a short game that can be completed within 4 hours depending on your reading speed, I Love You! retains the replayability we expect from a visual novel. With two endings for each love interest — a friendship and a love ending — plus a secret ending, and the hilarious “Mother ending”, this one is a real treat to keep replaying in order to see all the possible outcomes and every single brilliant line of dialogue.
Be sure to keep an eye on the studio’s upcoming announcements, as I for one cannot wait for their first BL localisation of Tokyo Onmyoji to release later this year.
Download the game on itch.io.
What are your favourite free otome games you’ve stumbled upon? Let us know on our socials as usual, we’re all ears!
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