The Rice Digital guide to the best visual novels

Looking for some new reading material? Well, we most certainly have you covered with this regularly updated guide to the best visual novels out there.

This guide will include both the best visual novels we’ve covered on the site and the best visual novels we’re simply aware of in our exploration of the medium. You’ll find links to buy them and to our coverage where applicable — along with information as to whether they’re all-ages, 18+ or both.

Check back regularly for new additions!

Best visual novels: Amy's Fantasies

Amy’s Fantasies

Synopsis: Across three episodes, brocon protagonist Emi finds herself in a series of increasingly ridiculous and surreal situations, each featuring the same “virtual cast members” in very different roles.

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, erotica, 18+ only

We said: “The writing throughout the game is consistently amusing, Emi is a protagonist with some genuine and often surprising personality about her, and the fact the whole experience is drenched with a dream-like sense of surrealism makes it all incredibly memorable.”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: Asenheim Project (Web)


Best visual novels: Aokana

Aokana

Synopsis: Become the coach for the local “Flying Circus” club and meet Asuka, Misaki, Mashiro and Rika, four girls who race in the sky with anti-gravity shoes.

Genre: Sports, sci-Fi, 18+ and all-ages

We said: “It’s exactly like watching a fantastic sports anime, with exhilarating, emotional competitions, and an extraordinary amount of character growth along the way.”

Find out more: Aokana intro and guide

Get it here: Steam (PC, all-ages, patchable), Neko Nyan (PC, 18+), Nintendo Switch (all-ages)


Best visual novels: Arcade Spirits

Arcade Spirits

Synopsis: Follow an alternate timeline where the 1983 video game crash never happened all the way to the year 20XX. Create your own custom protagonist and take a job at the local Funplex arcade — and see who crosses your path!

Genre: Slice of life, all-ages

We said: “Arcade Spirits strikes a unique duality through its exploration of serious topics and its overall light-hearted presentation.”

Find out more: Arcade Spirits: the wholesome place where retro and romance meet

Get it here: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4


Buried Stars

Synopsis: The TV “music survival” show Buried Stars is just about to announce the finalists for its fourth season, but disaster strikes before the results are revealed, with five contestants and two staff members trapped in the ruins of a collapsed building… possibly alongside a murderer.

Genre: Thriller, adventure, mystery, all-ages

We said: “One of the strongest parts of Buried Stars is in its layered characters, who have enough depth to feel human, with their many flaws and strengths combined. Their responses to both the dire situation around them and the truths of their own traumas are penetratingly realistic and raw.”

Get it here: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4


Best visual novels: BUSTAFELLOWS

BUSTAFELLOWS

Synopsis: Journalist Teuta finds herself wrapped up in a strange world of questionable morality when she witnesses the murder of a supposedly crooked lawyer and promptly travels back in time to warn him.

Genre: Otome, crime thriller, all-ages

We said: “With its very likeable cast, distinctive and memorable heroine, beautiful presentation and compelling narrative setup, BUSTAFELLOWS should be on the shopping list of every visual novel enthusiast — not just otome fans.”

Find out more: BUSTAFELLOWS is here – was it worth the wait?

Get it here: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch


Best visual novels: Cafe Enchante

Café Enchanté

Synopsis: When Kotone inherits her grandfather’s Tokyo café, she discovers the shop holds more secrets than anyone could imagine — it’s a meeting spot for beings from multiple, mystical worlds.

Genre: Otome, fantasy, drama, all-ages

We said: “Café Enchanté is in the higher tier of otome titles, with a plot that exceeds expectations and one of the most endearing and delightful casts within the genre.”

Find out more: Café Enchanté review

Get it here: Nintendo Switch


The best visual novels: Code: Realize

Code: Realize -Guardian of Rebirth-

Synopsis: Mysterious young woman Cardia has a deadly secret: her skin is poison to the touch. But that doesn’t stop a gang of misfits, including legendary thief Arsene Lupin, monster hunter Van Helsing, talented fugitive scientist Victor Frankenstein and more, from taking an interest in her…

Genre: Otome, steampunk, fantasy, all-ages

We said: “Code: Realize is a game that, while drawing inspiration from classic works of literature, makes creative use of them to produce something with a distinctive, intelligent feel to it.”

Find out more: Code: Realize is an otome game that loves literature

Get it here: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4


The best visual novels: Cupid Parasite

Cupid Parasite

Synopsis: Lynette is one of the best matchmakers in the Cupid Corporation, but she’s never known true love herself. Now she’s faced with her biggest challenge to date: the group of questionably desirable bachelors known as the Parasite 5!

Genre: Otome, fantasy, comedy, romance, all-ages

We said: “Cupid Parasite is super entertaining, and a breath of fresh air for the genre in the west.”

Find out more: Cupid Parasite: our new otome obsession, Cupid Parasite walkthrough and guide

Get it here: Nintendo Switch


The best visual novels: Deus Machina Demonbane

Deus Machina Demonbane

Synopsis: Lovecraft meets hard-boiled detective drama meets giant robots in this moody, dark tale of futuristic, fantastical shenanigans.

Genre: Noir, dark fantasy, horror, sci-fi, 18+ only

We said: “The seemingly disparate blend of narrative inspirations works extremely well — and the story never forgets to intersperse the darkness with moments of levity and good humour to keep the pacing interesting.”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: JAST USA (PC)


Best visual novels: DRAMAtical Murder

DRAMAtical Murder

Synopsis: A psychological BL drama set in a futuristic steampunk setting, DRAMAtical Murder follows the story of Aoba Seragaki as he explores the dark secrets beneath the glossy sheen of the city in which he lives.

Genre: Sci-fi, steampunk, boys’ love, horror, 18+ only

We said: “As a psychological drama set in a vibrant steampunk setting, the title has incredibly crisp and polished production, an unforgettable soundtrack and deep characters worthy of more attention.”

Find out more: DRAMAtical Murder: A BL classic, and a long-awaited English release

Get it here: JAST USA (PC), Steam (PC)


The best visual novels: Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki Literature Club

Synopsis: Join up with the school’s Literature Club, under the kind guidance of the beautiful Monika, and get to know four lovely girls while absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happens.

Genre: Slice of life, comedy, romance, horror, all-ages

We said: “One of the most notorious, fascinating games of the last decade.”

Find out more: Doki Doki Literature Club gets a brand new expanded “Plus” version

Get it here: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4


The best visual novels: The Expression Amrilato

The Expression: Amrilato

Synopsis: Rin finds herself accidentally sucked into another dimension that is a lot like our own with one important exception: everyone speaks a variant of Esperanto known as Juliamo.

Genre: Yuri, slice of life, fantasy, educational, all-ages

We said: “While the real-world application of Esperanto might seem a bit limited, the amount you’ll discover it’s possible to learn in a surprisingly short time when cute girls doing yuri things are involved may well spur you on to greater things.”

Find out more: 5 of the best yuri visual novels

Get it here: Steam (PC), GOG (PC), MangaGamer (PC)


The best visual novels: Fate/stay night

Fate/stay night

Synopsis: Shirou Emiya accidentally summons the legendary Servant “Saber” and inadvertently kicks off one of the longest-running cross-media franchises in Japanese history.

Genre: Dark fantasy, modern day, 18+ and all-ages

We said: “A fascinating, well-crafted read with a convincing narrative setup and setting, some excellent characters and several thrilling conclusions. It has truly become a worldwide phenomenon with good reason.”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: You’re on your own with this one!


Best visual novels: Gothic Murder

Gothic Murder: Adventure that Changes Destiny

Synopsis: The head of the Roquiford family has died, and the family’s new maid Ellie finds herself drawn into the mystery surrounding his final wishes — and the continued attempts on the new heir’s life.

Genre: Mystery, detective, otome, all-ages

We said: “The amount of material presented here makes me crave even more hours of the game — it was a thoroughly engaging and exciting time, but I simply want more Ewen.”

Find out more: Gothic Murder: Adventure that Changes Destiny is a hidden gem

Get it here: Steam (PC, Mac)


The best visual novels: Kana Little Sister

Kana Little Sister

Synopsis: Taka’s sister Kana is dying, and he’s not sure how to feel about that. As the years pass, he struggles to come to terms with her seemingly inevitable passing — and with his feelings towards her.

Genre: Tragedy, slice of life, 18+ only

We said: “Kana Little Sister is a thought-provoking classic, a visual novel that will always be extremely special in the minds of many readers — and still one of the best examples of how explicit sexual content can be used to create feelings other than arousal in the mind and body of the reader.”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: JAST USA (PC)


The best visual novels: Love Cube

Love³ -Love Cube-

Synopsis: Ichinari is a struggling hentai manga artist who isn’t sure how he is going to make ends meet — until he is presented with an amazing opportunity. And things just continue to come up roses from thereon…

Genre: Comedy, romance, erotica, 18+ and all-ages

We said: “Love³ -Love Cube- works as a surprisingly sensitive and heartwarming exploration of polygamous relationships. Plus it has some of the absolute hottest animated H-scenes you’ll ever see. Good luck making it through this one with your genitals intact.”

Find out more: No Nut November NSFW sexy visual novels

Get it here: Steam (PC, all-ages, patchable), FAKKU! (PC, 18+)


The best visual novels: My Girlfriend is the President

My Girlfriend is the President

Synopsis: Aliens crash-land on earth, causing a real mess in the country of Nippon. Having no idea how to put things back correctly, they attempt to re-establish society using the popular media they have had access to. Unfortunately, all that popular media was American…

Genre: Comedy, romance, sci-fi, 18+ only

We said: “In today’s world of never-ending political yelling and posturing on social media, this might just be exactly what you need to cheer yourself up a bit if you’re feeling a bit worn-out and run down.”

Find out more: Fed up with politics? My Girlfriend is the President is what you need

Get it here: JAST USA (PC)


The best visual novels: Nekopara

Nekopara

Synopsis: Kashou is attempting to establish his own patisserie — and he is both helped and hindered along the way by his family’s army of catgirls, some of whom are eminently more reliable than others.

Genre: Comedy, slice of life, romance, 18+ and all-ages

We said: “Over the course of multiple volumes, we learn a great deal about all these characters, and it’s clear that Sayori considers all of the ensemble cast to be much more than just catgirl fetish bait. They’re delightful, loveable characters in their own right, and each volume has its own distinct and surprisingly emotional stories to tell.”

Find out more: 10 of the best hentai games on Steam, according to its users

Get it here: Steam (PC, all-ages, patchable), Denpasoft (PC, 18+), Nintendo Switch (all-ages), PlayStation 4 (all-ages)


The best visual novels: Nocturnal Illusion

Nocturnal Illusion

Synopsis: Spirited away to a mysterious mansion and informed he is to be a “wind of change” for a group of others also trapped in the building, Shinichi has one hell of a mystery to solve before he can win his freedom.

Genre: Mystery, psychological horror, 18+ only

We said: “Nocturnal Illusion can and will leave you pondering things long after its end credits roll, and that makes it a strong, powerful work of fiction that is worth experiencing — even with its somewhat shaky English script!”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: Asenheim Project (Web)


Olympia Soiree

Synopsis: Set in the strictly hierarchical world of Tenguu Island, we follow the tale of Olympia from the White caste as she attempts to find a husband within a year. Along the way, we explore a story of discrimination, oppression and freedom.

Genre: Otome, fantasy, romance, all-ages

We said: “Olympia Soiree is the whole, entire package — you’ll want to play it for the layered story, (mostly) lovable characters and steamy, high amount of romances. It’s exceeded our expectations and surprised us in some ways too — and horrified us more often than not.”

Find out more: Olympia Soiree’s challenging themes make for a wild ride worth taking, Olympia Soiree walkthrough and guide

Get it here: Nintendo Switch


Our Life: Beginnings and Always

Synopsis: Follow the life of two people in the seaside town of Sunset Bird as they grow up together and decide if they want to be close, lifelong friends — or something more.

Genre: Otome, slice of life, romance, all-ages

We said: “Our Life hits every note, delivering on a satisfying otome experience while catering to a wide range of players, and allowing enough customisation to make the experience yours and yours alone. I cannot compliment this game enough.”

Find out more: The perfect bonds of Our Life: Beginnings and Always

Get it here: Steam (PC)


Our World is Ended.

Synopsis: Follow the misadventures of the independent game studio Judgement Seven as they explore a virtual world — raising some interesting questions about our digital lives in the process.

Genre: Sci-fi, thriller, all-ages

We said: “A visual novel that is obviously a passion project for everyone involved — one filled with compelling, memorable and unconventional characters, all of whom come together to tell a fascinating and thought-provoking story.”

Find out more: 3 underappreciated visual novels that deserve your love

Get it here: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4


Best visual novels: Palais de Reine

Palais de Reine

Synopsis: Take on the role of Filia, sole heiress to the kingdom of Losange, and attempt to prove yourself as queen. Can you and Filia prosper in the space of a year? And who will side with you?

Genre: Period drama, otome, strategy, all-ages

We said: “A thoroughly engaging royal coming-of-age story for everyone and anyone to enjoy, even outside of the romantic aspects.”

Find out more: Palais de Reine: hidden gem of the otome market

Get it here: Steam (PC)

Best visual novels: Piofiore

Piofiore: Fated Memories

Synopsis: Lili’s peaceful life in the church is changed forever when she is abducted and drawn into the perpetual battle between warring Mafia families.

Genre: Otome, crime thriller, period drama, tragedy, all-ages

We said: “A mafia otome that delivers a more mature and darker tale for those more partial to romantic tragedies!”

Find out more: Piofiore: Fated Memories is worth raving about

Get it here: Nintendo Switch


Private Nurse

Synopsis: Hiroki has been ill for as long as he can remember — can his new private nurse Maria cure that which ails him, or do his problems run deeper than an easily diagnosable physical complaint?

Genre: Slice of life, tragedy, romance, 18+ only

We said: “While its slow-paced, introspective story might not be to everyone’s taste — particularly when coupled with the arguably overabundant H-scenes — it’s definitely a memorable journey, and a relatable story to engage with for anyone who has ever found themselves struggling.”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: JAST USA (PC)


Return to Shironagasu Island

Synopsis: Detective Sen Ikeda and his partner Neneko follow the trail of clues left by an apparent suicide and end up exploring the sinister and mysterious Shironagasu Island to get to the bottom of things.

Genre: Mystery, crime thriller, all-ages

We said: “Filled with penetrating atmosphere, and with a very well thought out mystery brimming with ideas, Return to Shironagasu Island is a welcome arrival for Hyogo Onimushi in the world of visual novels.”

Find out more: Is sleeper hit Return to Shironagasu Island worth your time?

Get it here: Steam (PC)


Root Film

Synopsis: A film director picks up a project that is apparently cursed. What really happened to the people involved in that project all those years ago — and is a recent spate of murders in Shimane Prefecture, Japan related to the case?

Genre: Mystery, crime thriller, all-ages

We said: “Root Film would have been enjoyable as a straight visual novel, since its characters are likeable and interesting and the story is compelling. But the added interactive element gives the game a broader appeal; for those who find themselves resistant to the largely “hands-off” nature of many visual novels but who think they would otherwise enjoy such a narrative-centric experience, Root Film strikes a great balance between “story” and “game”.”

Find out more: Classic adventure game fans are going to love Root Film, Root Film: The Guide

Get it here: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4


Root Letter

Synopsis: Our hero receives an unexpected letter from an old penpal and travels to the town of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture, Japan to try and track her down — only to find she’s supposedly been dead for years. What is really going on, and why will no-one tell the truth?

Genre: Mystery, all-ages

We said: “With a compelling plot and characters, alluring visuals and a catchy soundtrack, it isn’t difficult to consider Root Letter one of the best visual novels out there.”

Find out more: Root Letter review, Root Letter guide and walkthrough

Get it here: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4


Saya no Uta/The Song of Saya

Synopsis: Left with irreversible brain damage after a car accident, Fuminori is doomed to view the world as a monstrous distortion of how it really is. The one thing keeping him sane is the delicate, beautiful young girl named Saya… or is it?

Genre: Horror, 18+ only

We said: “A fine example of an eroge that is about as far as you can possibly get from being “porn”, but which nonetheless wouldn’t quite be the same without its explicit content.”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: JAST USA (PC)


Best visual novels: Star-crossed Myth

Star-Crossed Myth

Synopsis: Follow the story of a reincarnated goddess as a group of highly attractive men make their presence known in the comfort of her home. What is the truth behind these gods expelled from the Department of Punishments and the Department of Wishes?

Genre: Fantasy, otome, all-ages

We said: “Not only do the routes provide plenty of entertainment in their own right, but the thought put into the characters’ backgrounds, relation to their constellations and their dynamics with one another are also impressive merits to the game.”

Get it here: Nintendo Switch (Department of Wishes), Nintendo Switch (Department of Punishments)


sweet pool

Synopsis: Youji Sakiyama returns to school after a period of illness, only to discover monstrous lumps of flesh starting to protrude from his body. What is happening to him — and is there a way out of this horrifying scenario?

Genre: Boys’ love, body horror, tragedy, 18+ only

We said: “The slow building of dread and the depiction of Youji’s deteriorating mind and body is told with such excruciatingly subtle detail over the course of what feels like forever. In a world of endless pain and suffering, we are made to witness his inescapable demise, and your eyes will be glued to the screen for every second of it.”

Find out more: Why I love sweet pool

Get it here: JAST USA (PC)


Three Sisters’ Story

Synopsis: After Koichi and Eichi Sanada’s father committed suicide, the pair were left wanting answers — and revenge on the man who had torn their family apart. But their enemy fled, leaving his three daughters to fend for themselves, so now what is Koichi to do?

Genre: Thriller, romance, 18+ only

We said: “Three Sisters’ Story is a genuine, honest-to-goodness example of a piece of proper entertainment intended specifically for adults — and never feels like it’s being edgy or explicit for the sake of shock value. The sexual content is part of the whole experience, but far from the main attraction — and the game doesn’t hold back from showing the seedier side of life when required.”

Find out more: The History of Lewd

Get it here: Asenheim Project (Web)


Best visual novels: Your Turn to Die

Your Turn to Die

Synopsis: Sara Chidouin is on her way home from school along with her friend Joe, but the pair find themselves abducted and forced into a life-or-death situation with a group of fellow comrades.

Genre: Thriller, death game, adventure, all-ages

We said: “Your Turn to Die was developed by a single man known as Nankidai — and it deserves to go down in the Hall of Fame alongside the very best individually developed video games such as Stardew Valley, Undertale and Cave Story.”

Find out more: Why Your Turn to Die is one of the best death games

Get it here: Official website (PC, Web)