Video game genres such as otome games have a focus on our main characters pairing off with another character in the game, usually due to the player’s choices forcing them on a specific route, or just simply by player’s’ passionate and relentless pursuing. Hybrid games from puzzle-solving to RPG’s feature dating sim elements that adds not only another layer to its gameplay and story, but can offer even more to appease certain gamer’s wants and needs. This list will suggest 10 video games with dating sim elements that fellow romance lovers can swoon over.
This cute RPG follows either the female protagonist Tia or the male protagonist Yumil on a less than cute quest to be the decider on the worthiness of everything and anything in their world to be carried over into the new world. We are introduced to our player character in the opening scene where the depiction the end of the world plays out in our character’s nightmares. After obtaining the Book of Prophesy the player must scan and identify a plethora of items and elements in their world. The list is endless, from objects, to weapons, to flowers, monsters and people. These contribute as Codes that can be combined for battle optimization.
Other aspects of its game mechanics involve mini-game solving, item collecting and the key to building relations between our protagonist and potential love interests.
The game features a cast of 14 romantic interests, with 6 additional characters unlocking after the main story’s completion. There are 4 immediately available love interests for both the female or male player character.
The game’s affection system allows players to gift possible partners with items that they like, and each suffer from their own storyline issues the player character can help resolve alongside them. These are side quests the player can complete to further develop the relationship between their chosen hero or heroine partner. Be sure to maximize these bonds as there is additional content of locked Codes to complete the book and new events exclusive to the character’s side stories.
Discover this unique system, story and lovable characters exclusive to the Nintendo DS.
Azur Lane: Crosswave
Azur Lane graced us originally on mobile devices in 2017. Its popularity has spawned several adaptions in both manga and novelisation formats, including the recently released video game ‘Azur Lane: Crosswave’. The game has four opposing military factions facing the ever increasing threat of an invasion by the antagonist faction addressed as Sirens. There is the main fleet Sakura Empire that our two leading ladies join forces with, who are exclusive characters to this version of the game. There is the ever so excitable and fun loving Shimakaze and the mature but troubled Suruga.
Each faction represents an existing nation as Azur Lane’s warship ladies are each designed with a specific warship influenced from World War II. For example, the Sakura Empire represents the Empire of Japan, with one of its members Atago representing the Japanese cruiser Atago. The many other ladies you gradually meet and unlock through the story and side missions are from the three factions of the Royal Navy, the Eagle Union, and the Iron Blood.
The game plays as a shoot ‘em’ up, even a collectathon one could say… of battleship waifu obtaining! The amount of customisation and optimisation available for battle is aplenty. Not only can you shop Akashi’s store for improved weapons and materials, but there is a total of 28 playable characters, and 35 others as support to unlock across the many hours of gaming. ‘Crosswave’ updates our shipboat waifu’s in glorious HD, and thankfully keeps the marriage mechanism from the mobile game. Players will have to use their chosen maiden in battle countless amounts of times to develop their relationship from stranger, to friend, to crush, to love and then finally, marriage material. To make the oath, players must compete in the 100+ stages of the extreme battle mode to collect their chosen ship’s heart tokens to purchase the promise ring in Akashi’s shop. As my closing note, I will not be sharing my waifu Yamashiro with anyone. You have 62 others to choose from!
Get in the right lane with ‘Azur Lane: Crosswave’ on both Steam and PS4.
Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars
Very much a guilty pleasure of a game due to its bizarre plot scenario that could make even the most shameless of a gamer try to conceal from prying eyes, ‘Conception PLUS’ is a remaster of the first game in the series that did not see a Western release until now. The game is predominantly an RPG, with dungeon labyrinths being explored and completed to progress the story. The player takes the role of protagonist Itsuki who finds himself teleported to the world of Granvania where he is tasked with producing “Star Children” to combat the rampaging enemy “Impurities” that are currently plunging its world into disarray.
Depending on player’s affection points with romantic interests and obtained events, the ending can differ from the common ending of Itsuki returning home. There is a total of 12 bachelorettes for our “Star Energy” to interlink to produce these “Star Children”. Not only is it a job well done in managing to woo the bachelorette of your choice with their favoured dialogue responses, but it is worth spending your time in ranking up the affection points to energise with each love interest. This will offer further depth and customization when going into battle with a variety of different unit classes, such as clerics and archers. And after a, hopefully, victorious conclusion, you could end up with the harem ending starring all candidates!
What party formation will you conceive in ‘Conception PLUS’? The game is available on Steam and PS4.
Rune Factory 4 Special
From the producer of the previously mentioned Avalon Code comes a more familiar entry to many. Rune Factory 4 Special is the newest entry of the Rune Factory series that was updated from the 3DS for the Switch. It feels almost wrong to put this entry in just a dating sim list as all the other aspects in its simulator side makes for such an enjoyable and rewarding experience. The farming, the combat and dungeons, the cooking and the home and town customisation are all wonderfully interweaved to create an all-round engaging experience that will keep players occupied for many years in game, and many years playing in real life. And the icing on the cake is that you can choose to spend these daily activities with the romanceable villager(s) you have your eyes on.
The game features an array of potential bachelors and bachelors you can spend all day with by your request, or even because they asked if they can accompany you! By socializing with the potential love interests each day, gifting them an item they love each day, and going out into dungeons alongside them hurries the relationship along until the dating phase. After achieving the 10 hearts mark and witnessing the character’s specific sub event, there is a chance to propose or be proposed to. For players who are unsure of who their spouse should be, players are able to date all 6 romanceable characters without any repercussions other than if they are already dating multiple candidates, love interests can take even longer in accepting your confession. To marry, the player must have a double bed, updated by spending prince or princess points, and a forged engagement ring. And after the fireworks and honeymoon phase, you have raising your kid up to fight alongside you in battle to look forward to.
‘Rune Factory 4 Special’ is available exclusively on the Switch.
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
As the fifth game in the ‘Sakura Wars’ series, ‘Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love’ was the first to be localised for Western audiences. Its story is set around the 1920s in a fictional rendition of New York as the antagonist Oda Nobunaga threats mass destruction. The player character is lieutenant Shinjiro Taiga of the New York Combat Revue comprised of theatre battling ladies. The game is split into different game styles in each of its chapters, from the tactical RPG battles, to the wind down time of exploring parts of New York City and the Little Lips theatre. In this ‘adventure mode’, Shinjiro can have another member of his party accompanying him, where certain sections will trigger the relationship system mechanic exclusive to the Sakura Wars series – the Live & Interactive Picture System (LIPS). These are conversations between Shinjiro and romanceable options or supporting characters that show three responses players can select one from before the timer runs out as a response that can receive either a negative or positive reaction.
This has been further developed with the “Analog LIPS” which by making one more selection, alters how Shinjiro delivers the response, further affecting how the character perceives his response. This is another entry that requires multiple playthroughs to experience the 6 specific love interest endings. Obtaining these endings will be determined by the player initiating a romantic relationship after enough affection points have been obtained.
‘Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love’ was released on both the PS2 and Wii. Be sure to check out the upcoming reboot of the series releasing on the PS4 on the 28th of this month!
Fire Emblem Series
The Fire Emblem series has become a juggernaut for Nintendo. This is mainly thanks to the first entry of the franchise on the 3DS. ‘Awakening’ had single handily revived and amassed many news fans of the series, with myself included. The games are staples in the tactical RPG genre, and with a few of its entries also featuring another appealing mechanic. Players can pair up units for their own sheer pleasure in witnessing the blossoming romance on the battlefield, or for better, faster and stronger units thanks to the mechanism of birthing child units with optimizable stats depending on their parents. First used as the love system in the earlier game ‘Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War’, this was further developed into what we know of it now as the support system. This includes additional dialogue between units growing closer through interaction such as when a Cleric heals a Armoured Knight, and the position placement or pairing in battle.
The most recent game however, removed the child unit mechanic. But despite this, its deep characters interlinked to the plot (I’m looking at you, Blue Lions), and unexpected but sweet pairings between students from opposing houses makes for wonderful character building. ‘Three Houses’ can end with different outcomes for its cast with each play through depending on the character’s closest allies, as paired units can get married in the end credits. My personal favourites are Marianne and Sylvain, Ash and Petra, and Felix and Annette. This allows for so many options for players who enjoy matchmaking, and seeing how their units fare after the war’s conclusion.
Even with one play through, certain characters such as each house’s lord are only available in their own house, so to maximise all potential relations requires playing through the game’s four routes. And who could forget the 4 additional characters in its DLC ‘Cindered Shadows’ that further expands the roster? Players will easily reach over 70 hours in one play through to see as many of these supports as possible for their own maximum enjoyment.
Awaken your new gaming obsession with ‘Fire Emblem: Awakening’ and ‘Fire Emblem: Fates’ on the 3DS. The newest game, ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ is exclusive to the Switch.
Stardew Valley is another addictive farming life simulator similar to the previously mentioned Rune Factory 4 Special. As a recent fan of this amazing little gem created by one man (Eric Barone, we thank you!), its wide spread acclaim and love can be understood with a single evening spent playing it. There is an emphasis on relationship building between characters to enable benefits for the player’s character to experience a more comfortable and engaging life in their new hometown, such as receiving helpful items in their letterbox. A notable advantage Stardew Valley holds over Rune Factory 4 in this dating aspect is that both the male and female player character can date all romanceable characters despite same-sex relations.
Character interaction with non-playable characters and developing town relations opens up many secrets to be discovered. This alludes to new areas yet to be accessible and subtle nods to hidden romantic ties between villagers, and even past traumas. When you introduce yourself to each character in the early game’s first week (and even then you have not met everyone yet!), it opens up 10 empty hearts that can be filled by your time, commitment and dedication to closing the distance between your character and them.
Some characters such as marriage candidate Shane and forger Clint appear cold or distant initially. It’s both heart-warming and rewarding to build up the hearts as events exclusive to each character are unlocked with each 2 hearts. And by the time you manage to snag the bachelor or bachelorette of your choice, you can decide if you want to stay with them in the long run, or divorce them. The game actually encourages you to marry every single candidate as once married, a 14 heart event is obtainable.
Make yourself at home with ‘Stardew Valley’ on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS Vita and mobile devices.
Shining Resonance Refrain
Shining Resonance Refrain is part of the JRPG series Shining, with earlier titles such as “Shining the Holy Ark” on Sega Saturn and “Shining Soul II” on the Gameboy Advance many may already be familiar with. Shining Resonance Refrain is a remake of the Japan exclusive title released on the PS3 in 2014. The plot follows player character Yuma Ilvern who finds himself protecting the land of Astoria in the war against the Empire with the power of the Spirit Dragon he can transform into that resides in his body. After being rescued from the grips of the Empire at the start of the game, we are introduced to two potential bachelorettes as our saviours; the knight and Astoria princess Sonia Blanche, and the magic Dragoneer user Kirika Towe Alma.
There are an additional 6 other characters you have yet to meet and add to your party before you can start building a relationship with them. Players will have many chances when conversing with these characters to increase affection points with them. Each response will have a different effect; there is the safe choice, a decreasing choice, and the all-important increase selection. When witnessing story events and battling alongside these characters in your party will also increase these affection points. By increasing affection points characters will start to accept your invitation to trigger the night events when other party members are asleep at the inn or campsite. This is yet another chance to deepen relations as well as learning more on the candidate. Once ranking up even more affection points, the none-playable character will invite Yule out for a date. After 4 dates, you are on your way to obtaining their ending. This title is also warm and welcoming with same sex relations, as Yule can be asked out on these dates with the male candidates as well.
‘Shining Resonance: Refrain’ is available on both the PC and PS4.
Catherine: Full Body
Possibly the most unconventional and darkest of the entries, Catherine was originally released on the Xbox 460 and PS3. Developed by the same studio behind the popular Persona RPG games (another fantastic series with dating sim elements I should mention!), the game’s purposely more adult content question’s the player’s morality with its themes and direct questions. Players will be faced with answering honestly to their thoughts on commitment, infidelity and love during their journey as the conflicted Vincent. He finds his current relationship with the Katherine with a K on the brink of collapse, not helped by the sudden appearance of the alluring blonde bombshell – the titular Catherine.
During its confessionals stages in the nightmares gameplay, players are gauged on the Freedom and Order scale for their responses to questions such as “Is it ok to live with your partner without ever intending to marry them?” Vincent’s character progression as chosen by the player’s choices is also influenced by how he responds to none-playable characters during the day in the Stray Sheep bar, and how he responds to text messages. But the crux of the gameplay is during its night events. Predominantly a puzzle platformer, each night Vincent must traverse a macabre tower through one stage at a time. He must avoid traps, falling to his death, and being caught by the stage boss crawling up from the pit black bottom of the stage in order to come out alive, as if he dies in the nightmare he will die in real life.
‘Catherine: Full Body’ adds even more to the mix with another distracting candidate for Vincent in the form of the cute Rin, who unlike the more forward and flirty Catherine, is reserved and uninitiated in the pursuit of Vincent. The game titters on what is right and wrong, and how not everything is blatantly black and white. Not only is the gameplay an addicting bonus, but seeing how Vincent is shaped by the player’s choices and to what extent this affects which route out of the 13 unique endings the player traverses through is a thrilling and sometimes guilty experience.
Get the whole package with ‘Catherine: Full Body’ on Steam, PS4 and soon to be on the Switch.
Persona is the spin-off series of Atlus’ RPG series Shin Megami Tensei. Persona shared many of the same gameplay mechanics as its parent series, until its entries since its third title developed new and exclusive functions. This shaped Persona into being a headlining series for Atlus, and becoming revered by many as a beloved and fantastic line of games all on its own. The Persona games have heavy dosages of RPG gameplay and dungeon crawling, with the later entries having a lovely side serving of relationship building mechanics, starting with the series’ exclusive Social Links in Persona 3 and Persona 4. And with the addition of the ever so popular Persona 5, this mechanic was altered to involve further benefits for usage in battle as well as the usual more options when fusing Personas. As the Confidants function, players can choose to spend quality time with the party members and supporting casts, opening up the possibility in romancing and dating its female cast by rank 8.
Each Confident represents a specific Arcana, and by improving the protagonist’s relationship with their comrades this will rewards players in experience bonuses when fusing the same Arcana matched Personas. Persona 5 opened up the many obtainable abilities that will aid players when entering and battling through Palaces, such as with Futaba’s Aracana Hermit that allows switching out knocked down party members with reserved party members. To hasten the relationship development, be sure when spending time with your crush that you have a Persona of the same Arcana type in your party, and take note of their usual hang out spots to be able to gift the lucky lady with a present they love at every opportunity. For players who want to get the full experience in one playthrough, Persona 5 allows for dating each and every possible love interest. The option to romance the character, however, is in your hands. If players do decide to go down the literal player route it will not go unnoticed. An exclusive event during Valentines awaits you if you do pursue every romanceable lady. You have been warned!
What games with dating sim elements have I missed out? I’m always craving these hybrid games so help a girl out in the comments!
- Auteur Analysis: Kotaro Uchikoshi - September 24, 2020
- 3 emotionally charged free visual novels you need to play - September 21, 2020
- Cherishing Cheritz: A deep dive into otome’s underappreciated company - September 10, 2020