3 of the best dating sims you probably haven’t played

In the expansive and wild world of dating sims, there are a lot of goodies to be discovered — particularly when it comes to the brave, unregulated frontier that is PC gaming.

There are a wealth of sites dedicated to our lovely dating sims; itch.io and the lemmasoft forum are both treasure troves of these hidden gems.

But today, we’ll be taking a look at a small selection available on Steam — as, surprisingly, it may actually be the very best platform to stumble across these little treasures. At affordable prices and packing a punch through unique characters and one-off premises, these three dating sims are worth your attention and affection.

Speed Dating for Ghosts

Dating sim Speed Dating for Ghosts

Speed Dating for Ghosts is exactly what you’d expect from its name. Developed by Copychaser Games, it is a short dating sim with a lot of life-changing messages despite its deathly premise.

As a ghost in the afterlife, you go through an agency to find your potential partner and hopefully discover that love can be found even after death. You are to narrow down your favourite prospective partner after two rounds involving three ghosts, each separated into their own room.

It will be a tough call deciding, as each innovative character design also features a charismatic and charming personality. So do not let first impressions put you off, since revealing the reasons as to why the ghosts are how they are is one of the major joys of immersing yourself in this bizarre premise.

You will gradually uncover more information and underlying factors for each potential partner once you choose your date and take more outings together in different areas and participate in different activities. Each outing is different for each ghost, again reinforcing how unique each one is. Be it personality, or in their preferences, everyone’s favourite ghost partner will be different — there really is someone for everyone. And since this is about two ghosts confiding in one another and uniting as one, you know how much of an impact their words and stories will have on you.

With poignant backstories and emotional tales waiting to be uncovered once your date feels more comfortable with opening up to you, the emotional core of Speed Dating for Ghosts is exquisitely balanced with macabre humour and cleverly witty dialogue. It may become overtly melancholic for a few players, but for those who can appreciate a short journey in finding love after life, its intelligent writing, dark moments, sweet storylines and charming characters make the title all the more memorable.

Speed Dating for Ghosts is available at £5.19 on Steam, and is also available on the Nintendo Switch and iOS App Store.

Royal Alchemist

Dating sim Royal Alchemist

For players more inclined to the otome and Boys’ Love genres when it comes to their dating sims, Royal Alchemist is an absolute blast to play through.

As the tutor to three Royal Princes of a kingdom after their father and King of the land was murdered, you become entangled in a world of politics, assassination, and bloodshed. Royal Alchemist’s story has more layers to it then you would initially expect, and it is impressive how involved the player character is in all the events, unlike many other more prominent games within its respective genres.

As a game-changer in the land’s current turmoil, it is truly satisfying to play as a heroine as confident and knowledgeable as our main character here, and whose relevancy to the story is of utmost significance.

Players can pick their preferred pronouns when choosing their gender, and this is only the first example of how well-designed Royal Alchemist is as a dating sim. You’ll be looking back at the game fondly after just one lengthy playthrough, and your first run can easily take you over 15 hours! It’s easy to see how much replay value Royal Alchemist has with this, making its small asking price tag all the more worthwhile.

Developer Nifty Visuals has gone above and beyond with this dating sim — which makes it all the more sad that it has not gotten the recognition it deserves despite all their efforts and hard work. With a slick UI featuring an overwhelming amount of features, gorgeous production values with beautiful visuals with animated sprites, and an excellent original soundtrack, presentation is just one area this indie gem manages to excel in.

Through its visual novel component, Royal Alchemist packs more than enough options throughout its run time, keeping players continuously engaged and always interacting with its world and story. And then there’s the RPG/stat-raising elements too!

At the start of each week, you’ll choose how you spend your time teaching the Princes, from raising up their stats as well as your own in order to trigger new dialogue and improve relationships, or by lending a helping hand to improve the kingdom’s perception of you through missions and completing requests.

The stat-raising element is a more than welcome inclusion to this dating sim to spice up the basic formula, and it’s implemented fantastically. It is of utmost importance that your main character’s stats are improved as frequently as possible to keep them alive through certain events. Many unique deaths that unlock stat bonuses on re-runs will occur — unless you have a trusty guide to the game to avoid these dead ends of course. (But where’s the fun in that? – Ed.)

Since Royal Alchemist puts more emphasis on its story and world building over the romance, it should be seen as more of a slow burner in this department, unlike some other otome or BL dating sims. However this does mean there’s a significant amount of character development explored and depicted in the relationships between the main character and the chosen love interest, which is a nice change of pace in contrast to the regular progression of similar titles.

The story itself is engrossing, with plenty of plot points and twists to keep any player caring for the cast. Not only is the main character continuously growing and improving, and not only do all the love interests have their own character arcs, but also the game’s supporting cast all have their own storylines, adding depth and dimension to these usually sidelined NPC’s.

It all makes for an extremely satisfying playthrough, and for an indie dating sim, the care and consideration evident in how Nifty Visuals made such an appealing world and a vast amount of characters memorable is impressive.

Royal Alchemist is available for £15.49 on Steam and Nifty Visuals’ itch.io.

Sucker for Love

Dating sim Sucker for Love

Now we come to the most hidden of the lot with Sucker for Love, a short dating sim concealed within a a compilation of multiple indie horror games called Dread X Collection 2. Despite being in a Lovecraftian horror collection, Sucker for Love is played for laughs, making it stand out among the other games in the collection, which mostly consist of shooters, action and survival horror games.

The fact that Sucker for Love is linked to the other games in Dread X Collection 2 as part of its ambitious and innovative meta-narrative just makes the compilation as a whole all the more appealing. Then again, I did purchase the collection just to play Sucker for Love. I’m a sucker for Cthulhu girlfriend, it would seem.

As yet another visual novel-style title, Sucker for Love still manages to be an impressive small creation that adds a bit of gameplay to the already established formula.

In order to get a kiss from our voluptuous octopus god, certain tasks must be completed by using the game’s point-and-click mechanics. By advancing its story while fulfilling these ritual steps, Sucker for Love goes from being awkwardly adorable to uncomfortably creepy — entirely fitting for its theme.

With dialogue as witty and entertaining as this alongside slick production values and amazing voice acting, Sucker for Love has made me question quite how quickly it managed to suck me into accepting the main character’s objective of obtaining a special smooch from the one and only cosmic entity from beyond time and space.

No kink-shaming here, though; developer Akabaka has struck magic with such a creation. Breathtaking.

Sucker for Love is available in the Dread X Collection 2 on Steam, with a standalone version coming later this year on itch.io.

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Lilia Hellal
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