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Best Visual Novels On Steam

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Visual novels are interactive story games, usually accompanied by anime-inspired visuals. Fans of this increasingly popular medium know that there are amazing stories embedded in these games. Steam has a varied library of visual novels in 2020 that fans of all genres can enjoy.

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Due to the overwhelming number of visual novels on Steam, it is difficult for fans to know where to start. To get readers started, here are the top visual novels on Steam. These rankings are based on the quality of the story, characters, and visual/audio presentation.

Updated March 4, 2024, by Mara Cowley: Visual novels are perfect for fans of both video games and books, as these games masterfully combine both. With the wide range of genres and art directions they cover, there is something for everyone. With spring on the way, it might be the perfect time to take the Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck or tablet to the park, and prepare for an amazing adventure while enjoying the fairer weather. This article already included an in-depth list of fantastic visual novels across a wide range of genres, but this was still only the tip of the iceberg for this popular genre. As such, this article has been updated to include even more of the best visual novels, ensuring there is more for everyone.

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32 Aselia the Eternal -The Spirit of Eternity Sword-

A Hidden Fantasy Gem

Aselia the Eternal -The Spirit of Eternity Sword-

Platform(s)

PC

Release Date

November 3rd, 2011

Developer(s)

Xuse

Genre(s)

JRPG, Strategy

Visual novels contain the most hidden gems in any category of game, and Aselia the Eternal -The Spirit of Eternity Sword- is one of these games. Not merely content with giving only text for players to read, it also contains many RPG elements, challenging players to think strategically, engage in combat and develop their characters’ levels.

Taking place in an original fantasy world, players take on the role Yuuto, whose sister Kaori is held hostage in this new world. It is down to Yuuto to save her and the land. It is a more ambitious approach to the visual novel genre, and it definitely pays off.

31 Bad End Theater

Help or Hinder the Heroes

Four pixelated sprites stand in a dark room, the hero highlighted.

Platform(s)

PC, Android

Release Date

October 26th, 2021

Developer(s)

NomnomNami

Genre(s)

Story rich, Romance, Fantasy

Not all visual novels have a heavy focus on romance or relationships. Those looking for something that’s a bit more rooted in mystery and excitement should check out Bad End Theater. This colorful, video game-esque visual novel has players making decisions in order to protect (or hinder) a cast of characters. The choices made can affect the story of each individual involved and players will have to go through multiple storylines to see the fate of each cast member present.

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Bad End Theater oozes visual style, setting itself apart from the usual visual novel offerings with a dark, bleak, yet strangely appealing art style.

30 Amnesia: Memories

Many Eligible Bachelors

Title screen art for Amnesia memories, showing a dark haired boy in black and red clothing, holding a white rose.

Platform(s)

PC, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PS Vita

Release Date

August 25th, 2015

Developer(s)

Design Factory, Idea Factory

Genre(s)

Anime, Otome

Visual novels and romance are two genres that go hand in hand together, as they provide the best medium for narrating a compelling love story. Amnesia: Memories is a title that would have gone under the radar for many gamers compared to more popular rival games, but it is worth the time for otome gamers.

The Heroine loses her memories, but in order to save her life she must hide her amnesia. She finds herself entangled in complex relationships with five different men, all hosting unique personalities and looks. It’s up to the player to choose which path she will take as she pieces back together her missing memories.

29 Aokana – Four Rhythms Across The Blue

An Exciting New Sports Game

A girl drawn in anime style dressed in a school uniform, gravitational shoes letting her fly through the sky.

Platform(s)

PC, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PS Vita, PS4

Release Date

September 27th, 2019

Developer(s)

Sprite

Genre(s)

Anime, Adventure, Sports

Those looking for something a bit different should be sure to check out Aokana – Four Rhythms Across The Blue. This visual novel is one of the best-rated on the Steam platform and although it does feature some romance elements, its main focus is on an interesting new futuristic sport. Characters in the world of Aokana wear special Anti-Graviton shoes and battle against one another to be the best at a game called Flying Circus.

This visual novel features some impressive art and a unique premise that should keep players hooked.

28 Hatoful Boyfriend

Cute Birds

A pudding floats in the dark night sky, the words

Platform(s)

PC, Android, iOS, PS Vita, PS4

Release Date

April 13th, 2014

Developer(s)

PigeoNation Inc., Mediatonic

Genre(s)

Dating Sim

Perhaps the most surreal, strange, and endearing visual novel on this list, Hatoful Boyfriend is a cult classic that spread like wildfire across the VN genre. Those that haven’t had a chance to place this insanely odd adventure should put it at the top of their list. With situations that are rather comical and an array of downright emotional scenes, Hatoful Boyfriend sees players romancing a “flock” of potential suitors.

Although it’s perhaps not the best title on this list in terms of writing and direction, Hatoful Boyfriend has some impressively genuine scenes that may tug at a heartstring or two.

27 Cupid

A Dark and Gothic Tale

A blonde woman faces forward a tear trickling down from her one visible eye. A menacing man surrounded by a red aura stands behind her.

Platform(s)

PC

Release Date

March 4th, 2016

Developer(s)

Fervent

Genre(s)

Dark, Psychological Horror

The title of this game may make it seem like just another romance visual novel, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cupid defies the genre tropes of most VNs, delving into dark and disturbing topics most other VN titles would shy away from, which helps to serve the grizzly story.

After the passing of her best friend, Rosa investigates her husband Guilleme, certain that he is the culprit, and wanting to avenge her friend. But there is more to him than meets the eye and cannot be killed by ordinary means. Vying with his supernatural abilities and her own dark desires, Rosa and the players will be put through a test of courage and willpower.

26 Vampire: the Masquerade – Coteries of New York

Become a New Vampire

VtM - Coteries of New York art work scene screenshot cemetery

Vampire: The Masquerade Coteries Of New York

Released
December 11, 2019

Developer
Draw Distance

The studio Draw Distance is responsible for some bloody good visual novels, including Coteries of New York. This title is set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness, and deals with vampires. Set in the Camarilla city of New York, a fledgling vampire who belongs to one of three clans embarks on a journey. Their goal is to become an accepted member of the vampire community, gathering a group of allies known as a coterie.

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The game features a gorgeous art style, a plot full of political intrigue, and a bloody good cast of vampires. They all serve to make this visual novel one that players can sink their teeth into. With multiple paths and endings, it is ripe for numerous playthroughs.

25 VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Serve Drinks and Save Lives

Main character Jill working behind the bar, another girl floating upside down next to her with a playful expression.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Released
August 16, 2014

Developer(s)
Sukeban Games , Wolfgame

A fascinating mix of sim and visual novel, VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action places players in the shoes of a bartender whose drinks have the power to change the course of destiny (in the sense that they impact the story’s progression). Opting against a linear progression, VA-11 Hall-A brings a revolving door of intriguing personalities to the player’s bar stool, sparking conversations that can leave long-lasting impressions.

Visual novels live and die by their stories. While VA-11 Hall-A‘s narrative threads are not as gripping as some of the genre’s absolutely best offerings, they are complemented by delightful gameplay elements that most of the game’s contemporaries simply do not offer.

24 Doki Doki Literature Club!

Horror in Hiding

Sayuri sits across from the player with a soft expression. A large moon and orange clouds can be seen through the <a href=windows behind her.” src=”https://static0.gamerantimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/doki-doki.jpg”/>

Doki Doki Literature Club!

Released
September 22, 2017

Developer
Team Salvato

As far as visual novels go, none have been as deceptively mundane and serene as Doki Doki Literature Club! The freeware title developed by Team Salvato was released back in 2017 and quickly gained popularity when word of its duplicitous narrative spread.

The story follows a protagonist who joins his childhood friend’s literature club, where he meets and interacts with three other heroines. The game seems to be a standard dating sim, but the routes unfold in rather unsettling and inconceivable ways.

23 Purrgatory

Cute and Punny

0_0001_Purrgatory

Platform(s)

PC

Release Date

August 23rd, 2021

Developer(s)

Nic (Darvin Heo)

Genre(s)

Point & Click, Comedy

This game with its aptly punny name revolves around the afterlife, and how to pass the time in that place where nothing really matters. After all, when one is dead, what is the worst that can happen? Via a point-and-click interface, players can explore the hand-drawn environments inhabited by the deceased. They can talk with the spirits to learn more about them, and hear what stories they have to tell.

Simple, whimsical and fun, this free-to-play visual novel provides hours of relaxing escapism from life through a unique interpretation of what it is like to be dead. There is a lot of charm poured into this game, and more puns than anyone could shake a paw at.

22 Higurashi: When They Cry

A Higurashi screenshot that shows close up of character Rena staring at the player, a forest scene in the background.

Platform(s)

PC

Release Date

May 16th, 2015

Developer(s)

07th Expansion

Genre(s)

Mystery, Psychological

Similar to DDLC, Higurashi presents itself as an innocent slice-of-life adventure before turning things around for the player. Higurashi creator Ryukishi07 masterfully utilizes an assortment of anime tropes to lull players into a false sense of security, before gradually undoing the pleasant veneer that initially covers the troubled village of Hinamizawa.

Higurashi follows Keiichi Maebra, who, after moving to the idyllic village of Hinamizawa, learns of a series of mysterious deaths attributed to the town deity, all of which revolve around the village’s annual Watanagashi Festival. As players learn about Hinamizawa’s dark past, everything about the village – including Keiichi’s new friends – starts to raise suspicion. The series is split into individual question-and-answer arcs. The former presents with the bulk of the main mystery, and the latter utilizes the clues spread throughout the narrative to gradually connect the dots.

21 Umineko: When They Cry

Murder Mysteries

A rainy scene wherer a blonde woman with her back to the camera looks down at a man as he stares back with an indignant expression.

Platform(s)

PC, PS3, PS Portable, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PS4

Release Date

July 8th, 2016

Developer(s)

07th Expansion

Genre(s)

Mystery, Psychological

Whereas Higurashi utilizes elements of psychological horror to unnerve players, Umineko instead presents them with a series of murder mysteries that seem impossible to solve. The story follows the events of the annual Urshiromiya Family gathering on the remote island of Rokkenjima. A devastating typhoon leads the way to a series of occult murders. Battler Ushiromiya, the sole survivor, is forced into a game of wits with the apparent culprit; Beatrice The Golden Witch.

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Umineko also makes use of various question-and-answer arcs to develop the various narrative threads and character arcs throughout the 50+ hour-long mystery. True to form, Ryukishi07’s story is filled with twists and turns that invite the player to do their best in solving the seemingly inexplicable mystery at large.

20 Vampire: the Masquerade – Shadows of New York

Personal Horror

Main character Julia sits on top if a high building, looking down at NYC

Platform(s)

PC, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Release Date

July 8th, 2016

Developer(s)

Draw Distance

Genre(s)

Horror, Indie

Vampire: the Masquerade has populated the game market with several titles across genres, from RPGs to battle royale, and of course, a few good visual novels. They delve deep into the intricate lore and politics in the vampiric world of darkness.

Shadows of New York embroils journalist Julia into the world as she is inducted into the Camarilla, a faction of vampirism that places emphasis on hierarchy and status. As a fledgling Julia is pushed around by her elders and tasked with investigating the murder of the rival faction leader. She must learn to play the court game accordingly if she wishes to survive the backstabbing perils of the vampire world.

19 PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Death and Curses

PARANORMASIGHT_ The Seven Mysteries of Honjo screenshot conversation

Paranormasight: The Sveen Mysteries of Honjo
Platform(s)
Microsoft Windows , Nintendo Switch , iOS , Android

Released
March 8, 2023

Genre(s)
Adventure , RPG , Simulation

For another horror-tinged visual novel, Paranormasight is perfect. Set in Tokyo, the game deals with death; namely, how to reverse it. It follows the tale of an ensemble cast who are dealing with the consequences of a curse placed on them.

Players must don their best detective hat if they are to solve the mysteries in this horror/mystery visual novel. Through the story, peculiar events pertaining to the Rite of Resurrection unfurl before their very eyes.

18 Song of Saya

A Unique Horror Experience

Best Horror Visual Novel Games for Mobile The Song Of Saya cutscene

Platform(s)

PC, Android

Release Date

May 5th, 2013

Developer(s)

Nitroplus

Genre(s)

Pyschological Horror

Song of Saya is a unique horror visual novel that follows the tale of Sakisaka Fuminori, whose view of the world around him is ever-altered after a terrible car accident. Food tastes, smells, and looks disgusting, and everyone around him looks like a mass of flesh and organs, all except for a beautiful girl, the mysterious Saya.

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The mature and horrifying story takes many surprising twists and turns that the players’ choices will influence, all told with sublime writing and beautiful visuals.

17 The Silver Case

A Unique Experience

A man and woman stand in a glitchy background, the the title of the game censoring their eyes.

The 25th Ward: The Silver Case

Grasshopper Manufacture might be more well-known for games like Killer Is Dead, Lollipop Chainsaw, and No More Heroes these days, but they got their start with The Silver Case back in 1999. Possessing all the early trademarks of an early Suda game, The Silver Case places players in control of different characters in two separate scenarios, both revolving around a gruesome murder investigation.

The Silver Case didn’t get a worldwide release until 2016 and has since been ported from the PC to the Switch and PS4. It stands out as one of the most unique visual novels Steam has to offer, and the obscurity of the title makes it a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.

16 Chaos;Child

Replay Value

An ensemble image featuring many of the different characters in various stances and expressions, the main character at the bottom holding a sword up.

Serving as a thematic sequel to 2008’s Chaos;Head, Chaos;Child doesn’t necessarily require that you played the original, though a certain knowledge of its world and lore would certainly make for a much more enjoyable experience.

The game follows Takuru Miyashiro and takes place six years after the events of the original. Just as in Chaos;Head the narrative revolves around a series of bizarre murders which draws the main character into a world of deception and mystery. Chaos;Head has tons of replay value, as it forces players to complete its main route before unlocking subsequent paths which help uncover elements of the overall mystery later on.

15 Psychedelica Of The Ashen Hawk

Otome Goodness

The cover arty featuring two men face-to-face with loving expressions. The background looks heavenly with blue skies, clouds and some feathers.

Platform(s)

PC, PS Vita

Release Date

June 29th, 2018

Developer(s)

Otomate

Genre(s)

Adventure

Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk is an Otome a sequel to Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly. Otome (maiden games) are aimed at a female audience and allow the player to romance the male cast.

The story follows Jed, a young woman who is raised as a man because of her red-colored eyes. Red eyes in the world of Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk are a sign of a witch that brings misfortune. Follow her through her journey to hide her identity and survive the old Salem reminiscent town where she lives.

14 Raging Loop

Horror and Mystery

The cover artwork, showing the name of the game, two characters facing different ends of the screen and a third in the middle, reaching out to a pendant.

Platform(s)

PC, Android, iOS, PS4, Nintendo Switch

Release Date

October 22nd, 2019

Developer(s)

Kemco

Genre(s)

Psychological Horror, Adventure, Mystery

Raging Loop is a mystery/horror visual novel where a young man finds himself trapped in a strange, remote village with bizarre traditions. Follow the protagonist as he struggles to stay alive when murders begin to occur, and villagers say it is due to a mythical deity.

Find out why these murders are happening, and if this tragedy is being caused by gods or humans. Fans of this game know that it keeps you on the edge of your seat as you anticipate what could possibly happen next.

13 Werewolf: the Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest

Become a Beast

Artwork from the VN showing a red sky, a forest, and an old crumbling manor at the forefront.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart Of The Forest

Released
October 13, 2020

Developer
Different Tales, Different Tales Sp. z o.o.

The gaming market is saturated in vampire games, from the infamous Bloodlines RPG to titles such as V Rising. Thankfully, Different Tales gave werewolves their due with Heart of the Forest, throwing players to the wolves.

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Young hopeful Maia travels to Poland in hopes of tracing her family roots, but in her quest for answers, she comes across a dark secret hidden in her family’s history. An excellent tale narrated through the use of gorgeous graphics, Heart of the Forest is a must for visual novel gamers looking for a more mature and darker experience.

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