It has been a while since I last recommended a handful of dating sims, so here’s three more hidden gems to add to your ever-growing digital collection!
Dead Man’s Rest
First off for this short and snappy list of dating sims is one of my favourite recent discoveries: Dead Man’s Rest, which just beats out how much I unashamedly enjoyed the gruesome thrill ride that was The Price of Flesh. More than half of 2022 has already come and gone, and for me personally, it’s been quite a slow year video game wise, but thankfully indie efforts have been leading the charge.
Dead Man’s Rest released in March of this year and is the work of Gallium Games, a subsidiary of Argent Games — the studio responsible for the brilliant Red Embrace: Hollywood. It’s a title I almost failed to notice until just recently when deciding to check if any more BL games had been released on Steam lately. It turns out that was a good decision!
Dead Man’s Rest is a BL set in the Wild West, and this is something I did not know I needed until I got to playing it. As a revenge tale turned murder mystery, Dead Man’s Rest never does rest with how much it throws at the players in terms of how involved and immersive it all is.
It’s scenario writer Theo Southgate’s first credited work according to VNDB, so on the strength of this I hope we see more of them in the future. Character designer RavenRein has also done some good work here.
Players take on the role of bounty hunter Lee, a man with a lot on his mind. He’s keeping himself busy with his current and only mission: take down his enemy of eight years, and the cause of his past pain and misery.
The town mayor ends up dead on the night he arrives in town, and therein begins the unravelling of Lee’s past. He must sort friend from foe when he is accused of the murder. The game is on the shorter side, but packs plenty of replayability with five main routes, 17 CGs to collect and 15 different endings.
Considering that Motesolo: No Girlfriend Since Birth was one of my favourite games of last year, Cheongchunhyang Jeon was a welcome discovery during a rather aggressive browse through the Steam store during the recent summer sale.
Developed and published by J Wonder Co., Ltd., it’s another example of the underappreciated FMV game genre, and is based on the story of Chunhyangjeon, one of Korea’s best-known love stories and folk tales, and one which is based on the famous pansori (Korean theatrical, musical storytelling) Chunhyangga.
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of pansori before, though; Cheongchunhyang Jeon represents a modernised take on the Chunhyangjeon story that is ideal for those unfamiliar with the original tale. The game packs plenty of surprising twists and turns, making for a wildly entertaining love story that uses its famous inspiration well while making it feel original and fresh.
It’s quite simply an interactive K-drama filled with all the tropes you’d expect: a clumsy heroine of lower financial standing than her love interests, cheesy lines and, of course, frequent use of gratuitous slow-mo.
While the game features plenty of humour, there’s also a lot of heart and a few hard-hitting moments. It’s all quite relatable and well-intentioned, and builds nicely from a mostly humorous setup. The story covers matters such as missed opportunities in life, mixed signals in love, and poignant takes on proving one’s worth despite a low societal standing.
The game is short, clocking in at about 3 hours for a complete playthrough, but it’s worth spending an evening exploring it — particularly if you explore the alternative endings, which range from emotional to unbelievably silly.
Get it now on Steam.
Best Friend Forever
Best Friend Forever is the first game from indie studio Starcolt, and originally released in 2020. It’s had a bit of a mixed reception due to not being as fleshed out as it could have been and featuring quite a short playtime despite clearly trying to pack a lot in.
There’s six love interests with under-baked romances, gameplay elements that don’t really mesh together or present anything new and refreshing, and a plotline that remains far too linear to make multiple re-runs worthwhile. The faults of Best Friend Forever are indeed noticeable, and worth acknowledging.
But it has just as many good points, making it well worth playing at least once — it put a massive grin on my face in my first playthrough. The central premise alone is a major selling point as it’s truly one-of-a-kind: it’s a dating sim that is also a dog raising simulator, as you pick up your first ever dog and learn to care for them. The game offers four different breeds and the ability to change your adorable companion’s name; their temperaments are different from one another, but all are as challenging as one another due to the quick-time events that pop up every so often.
The QTEs may appear a bit too frequently for some, but you quickly get into the rhythm of things, and it’s a refreshing addition to the usually rather passive dating sim formula. As what I believe to be the first ever dating sim that brings dog grooming and dating together, the singles of Rainbow Bay will doubtless appeal to plenty of us for their sheer variety alone.
Confident, flirtatious lawyer Anders is a blessing; modern-day tsundere Felix is a delight in terms of how much of a blunt busybody he is; and Maribel challenges my heterosexuality every time she graces my screen.
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