This article was originally published on Goleika.com and written by Jerry Hrechka.
Visual Novels as a medium are getting more and more attention in the west, lately. As someone who has loved this medium for a long time, that’s wonderful news. An especially wonderful part of that is the rising number of visual novels getting legally localized.
If you’ve found yourself taken in by stories like Doki Doki Literature Club, Danganronpa, or Katawa Shoujo and are wondering what are some other good stories to jump into, then these games might be a good place to start!
These are the best visual novels available on Steam (but you can also find them on other platforms).
The Best Visual Novels Available on Steam
Raging Loop is a literal game of Werewolf. The premise is created directly from that. It’s literally about a small town that has a werewolf killing people off and you have to figure out who it is.
You play as Haruaki Fusaishi, a man who gets lost and finds himself in said village, Yasumizu. He meets a young cheerful girl named Chiemi and gets wrapped up in the unique circumstances of the village, its cultish society, and its unique mythology. Fortunately, Haruaki is stuck in a time loop and can use that ability to try and save himself and others.
Raging Loop is a folk horror story that is particular to Japan mixed with the ever-popular death game genre, similar to things like Danganronpa.
So if you’re looking for a game with similar vibes to that, this would be a good place to start, though Raging Loop is far more grounded. Still, its eerie isolated nature and engaging characters will get any fan of either genre engaged.
Raging Loop is available on Steam for $29.99. It is also available on the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch
Song of Saya
This game is recommended wholeheartedly, but not without serious conditions. This visual novel in particular is written by Gen Urobochi, best known for Madoka Magica. That alone should tell you if the story would appeal to you, though it goes into much darker territory than Madoka if you can believe that.
It wouldn’t be on here if not for my wholehearted belief in the quality of the story but if you are uncomfortable with stories dealing with rape, pedophilia, extreme gore, and excessive violence, you might want to skip this one over and look at some of the other stories on this list.
The story centers on Sasika Fuminori who suffers from a mental disorder that causes him to experience the world as disgusting and horrifying. Normal people look like masses of hideous rotting flesh.
The only exception is a young girl named Saya, who appears to him as a beautiful waifish young girl. Despite the fact that Saya is clearly not what she appears to be, Fuminori latches onto her and continues the descent into madness, cruelty, and cosmic horror.
This game is very much not for everyone, but for those who appreciate a dark story of both personal and cosmic horror will find this to be one of the best visual novels.
The Song of Saya is available on Steam for $14.99
Majikoi: Love Me Seriously!
If you’re in the mood for something lighter, Majikoi will probably be more up your alley. Rather than being a dark story, this one is centered around goofy action and school romance.
Majikoi exemplifies the idea of the dating sim visual novels, complete with sex scenes that can be patched in. If you want to relive a fantasized version of high school where you’re surrounded by beautiful women who will be your girlfriend provided you choose the right dialogue options.
The plot is basic but charming, revolving around a pair of rival schools planning a giant mock battle where everyone has ridiculous battle manga-style abilities. You play Yamato, the “tactician.”
Don’t expect Fire Emblem, your choices are squarely about which of the girls you like. Fortunately, there is a good deal of them and they’re all very likable and the scenarios are all fun, if cartoonishly over the top. If you’re looking for the classic experience of the Japanese dating sim, it’s hard to do better than Majikoi.
Majikoi: Love Me Seriously is available on Steam for $34.99
World End Economia
Split into three parts, World End Economica is written by Isuna Hasekura, the writer of the acclaimed light novel series Spice & Wolf. Much like that series, the entire thing focuses on economics and the drama surrounding it. In these stories, the drama comes not from swords or guns, but the very real power of commerce.
Haruo is a young boy living on the now-colonized moon who has decided to become rich by running away from home and investing in the stock market. Running away from the authorities, he encounters and starts to live with a woman named Lisa and a socially inept yet brilliant girl named Hana.
The story revolves around concepts of economics and social inequality. Hasekura shows both his deft understanding of economics and the market, as well as his ability to explain those concepts in entertaining, easy-to-understand ways.
World End Economica is on Steam in full for $35.07 or $12.99 for each individual episode.
Umineko: When They Cry
If you’re looking for the best visual novels, this is one you may very likely have heard of, but not gotten to yet. The biggest thing that intimidates newcomers is its massive length. Umineko is several times the length of Lord of The Rings so to call it a time commitment is an understatement.
Still, if you can find a year or so to set aside, Umineko is a genuinely brilliant and shockingly literary visual novel that discusses the very nature of storytelling. Written by Ryukishi07, the writer of the time loop horror VN Higurashi, this story goes to new heights.
A hybrid mystery-horror story, the game centers around the Uroshimiya family and the death of the head of the family, Kinzo, and the potential of a hidden trove of gold. Also, a malevolent witch named Beatrice may or may not be haunting the island.
Being a horror game, there are also intense visuals and dark themes including a strikingly realistic depiction of child abuse as well as extreme gore. However, for fans of horror and the mystery genre, every moment of this visual novel is engaging and fantastic. There’s also a pretty good fighting game spinoff if you happen to be a fan of those as well.
Uminenko is available on Steam in two parts: The Question Arc for $24.99 and The Answer Arc for $29.99