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Visual novels are a popular form of entertainment that a lot of casual gamers enjoy. While it may not be for everyone, for some, the genre is a form of art that transcends other types of novels in the way that they relay material, their format, and their accessibility. Visual novels can be anywhere from millions of words to a few thousand depending on the show, adaptation, or language. In comparison, there are novels that were written, such as Mahabharata (1.8 million words) and The Odyssey (129, 443 words).
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The amount of dialogue that comes from visual novels is usually because of the length of them compared to things like films, TV, or other novels and allows most video games to be able to have sub-plot lines, branching plots, lots of variable endings, or hidden and optional choices of answers/speech. This often leads to a much longer writing process for those that create them, and they are seldom as straightforward as a usual film or novel. Most of the visual novels in this list take over 30+ hours to complete, and this list excludes any explicit content, though it can be noted that most visual novels have an SFW version of them out there, as well.
Updated on April 10th, 2021 by Adriano Valente: Visual Novels can take quite a bit of time to properly run through, even for the fastest readers out there. Some of the most popular visual novels can take longer to fully complete than your average RPG, as they contain so many different routes and so much content that they encourage a full read. This aspect of the genre might seem intimidating at first, but like a good book, great visual novels just fly by from start to finish. Many of these titles have received various manga and anime adaptations, which just goes to show how enjoyable their core narrative can be, regardless of the medium.
15 Higurashi: When They Cry (50+ hours)
When the reader is going through this world of murder mystery and psychological and supernatural horror, they"re faced with characters that are thrown into unsolved crimes and what is dubbed the "Oyashiro Curse." This catapults Keiichi Maebara through situations he"s unprepared for, and he"s faced with many different realities in which, every four years, someone is murdered, and another goes missing during the Watanagashi Festival. It"s convoluted and incredibly lengthy, but it"ll grip those who have the patience for it.
Tennouji Kotarou has the ability to rewrite what happens with his own body and do anything ranging from becoming faster or getting stronger. He revives the Occult Research Club at school, and, along with five girls that join him, solves supernatural mysteries in a town which is anything but normal.
Throughout their investigations, details are revealed about each of them along the way, and Kotarou comes across a fate which, for once, he may not be able to write himself out of.
This series is likely familiar with its events cataloged through the Holy Grail Wars, where factions battle one another until one of them gains the coveted Holy Grail. The original visual novel gained so much popularity that it"s had multiple spin-offs and adaptations that have the same name attached to them.
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It should be noted that Fate/Stay Night was originally released for the PC, and, later on, released for the Playstation. Fate/Stay Night
One can"t mention Higurashi: When They Cry and not mention Umineko. Here, the wealthy Ushiromiya family has gathered on the family"s private island because the head of their family is on his death bed, and they need to discuss how to split his assets amongst them.
There are eighteen people in total on the island, including 11 family members, five servants, and the family physician, who then get stuck when a typhoon comes through and traps them together. Shortly after, a series of murders start taking place, and they need to figure out just who is doing the killings.
If visual novel lovers are into solving crimes, this is one to look up. With over 50 hours of play between all three of the installations, this visual novel takes the player through stages of crimes where they"ll need to figure things out before going to court.
Logic reigns supreme, with puzzles and other games coming before questioning witnesses on the stand, joining Phoenix, Maya, Pearl, and others along the way. Each episode is another case where players can enjoy this visual novel and lead them on an adventure full of curious mysteries.
After a normal day with friends, a massive accident happens where individuals find themselves trapped underwater in a marine theme park with a limited time of 119 hours to escape. After a while, with the path to the surface and communication lines cut off, they begin to wonder if they were brought there for a purpose, or if it was a massive accident after all. As water pressure mounts around them and threatens to immerse them all if they don"t figure it out soon, things get unusually tense.
Based on Fate/Stay Night and chronicling the events through the 5th Holy Grail War, characters Bazzet, her servant Avenger, and Shirou find themselves thrown into a situation where they are experiencing time loops. They set out to investigate, and, each time they end up dying at the end of the time loop, they awake again on the first day fully aware of what had happened to them before they died. They are determined to end the four-day loop and fight to do so by trying to uncover the truth behind why it"s happening.
After inventing a phone microwave that not only reduces bananas to green gel but also happens to send messages back in time, Rintarou Okabe, his friends, and fellow lab members come to find that they have to deal with the consequences and responsibilities of being able to have control over the realm of time.
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While shouldering this responsibility, they need to be careful of the hated organization SERN that is doing research of their own and has nefarious motives against them. If you"re not going to watch the entire thing, here are some episodes that are a must-see.
Cardia Beckford is infused with the Horologium, an eternally-beating heart that causes her skin to destroy anything it touches. The townsfolk and everyone around her fear her, and her memories are hazy where her father is concerned.
She is forced to leave her home by the British military as a prisoner but is saved by Arsène Lupin, after which she goes on a journey to figure out how her father is tied to the Twilight organization that seeks to gain the Horologium and her missing memories.
Ichika Hoshino finds herself with a poisonous collar attached to her neck, and, in a situation in which time is running out, she"s the target of an attack, and things are spiraling out of control.
Five strangers show up to help while navigating a city that"s thrown into chaos by a shadow organization bent on pushing society, with fear and violence, into the brink of chaos. With crimes dubbed as the "X-Day Incidents," Ichika and the five strangers set out to investigate these crimes and find out what"s lurking in the shadows.
Those familiar with the Fate series will likely have heard of Tsukihime. The game was released back in 2000 as served as the first Type-Moon VN, preceding the incredibly popular Fate/Stay Night.
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It follows Shiki Tohno, a reserved young man who can see manifestations of death as a result of a life-threatening childhood injury. Shiki is drawn into a supernatural conflict alongside a vampire named Arcueid which brings about shocking revelations about his past. The game never got an official English translation, but a remake titled Tsukihime: A Piece of Blue Glass Moon is scheduled to come out in Japan later this summer. With any luck, renewed fan interest in the series will lead to an official localization.
The Muv-Luv series is highly regarded among the visual novel community, and has spawned a number of anime, manga and novel adaptations as well as multiple game spin-offs. Alternative is the direct sequel to Muv-Luv, and is seen as the standout title in the trilogy.
The Muv-Luv trilogy follows protagonist Takeru Shirogane through various parralell worlds, with Extra serving as a typical harem setting and Unlimited upping the ante with the mech elements really taking hold. Alternative then brings things a step further, with an epic narrative that completely changes the tone of the series.
Key is one of the biggest visual novel developers in the industry, possessing a unique style and tone which makes their works instantly recognizable. Their early efforts include Kanon, Air and the ever popular Clannad.
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Little Busters! was released in 2007, and follows Riki Naoe who after the death of his parents meets a group of children calling themselves the Little Busters. The group helps Riki get over his grief and form strong bonds with him that last into their second year of high school. The VN picks up when the group starts recruiting members to form a baseball team, forcing Riki to recruit members and interact with new people.
Majikoi! Mixes comedy romance and martial arts to put together a quirky visual novel that hits with a lot of tried but true harem and slice-of-life tropes. The game is set in the fictional Kawakami City, a district with deep ties to its Samurai roots.
Yamato Naoe and his friends enjoy peaceful lives attending Kawakami Academy, but the group dynamic is disrupted with the arrival of some new faces. The VN allows the player to choose from a multitude of different routes, and explores Yamato’s dynamic with various members of the group. The Steam release tones down a lot of the mature content in the original and allows for players to better enjoy the narrative and character development.
Clannad’s grand narrative takes quite some time to complete, but it’s worth every second by the time all is said and done. Though it seems innocent enough at first, there’s more to Clannad than initially meets the eye.
The game follows Tomoya Okazaki, a straightforward delinquent who distances himself from others due to his troubled upbringing. The story kicks off after Tomoya meets and agrees to help reform his school’s drama club at the behest of his classmate, Nagisa. Through doing this, Tomoya interacts with various classmates and aids them with their own struggles – helping himself grow in turn.
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