All-time Favorite Visual Novels

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1. Ef – A fairy tale of the two

Beautiful, exotically beautiful. Ef uses the textbook method of story-telling, it gives us tales and tales of beautiful, heartwarming stories, befitting it’s name of a “fairy tale.” The story itself is divided into two different section, the first tale, and the latter tale, hence a fairy tale of the two. As the story progresses, you will be playing as a different character from another point of view, and it is interesting to see previous main characters appearing out of nowhere. Ultimately, the game’s beauty comes in the form of beautiful story and a beautiful music. It’s definitely a must-try. 
 

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2. Fate/Stay Night

Ahh Fate/Stay Night. One of the most revolutionary visual novels of all time. Every visual novel player should have played or should have at least heard of this title. While the anime didn’t do such a fine job in adapting the storyline, the visual novel, as expected of an original material, managed to expose the plot in fine detail. Fate/Stay Night has a very intriguing premise and as more light is shade on the Holy Grail battle, the more epic the visual novel become.
 
 
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3. G-Senjou no Maou

A visual novel which depicts a battle of wits for the ultimate supremacy. G-Senjou no Maou is probably one of the most mind-blowing visual novel ever made. With exciting tactical combat and intriguing plots and characters, G-Senjou no Maou would certainly cater to any kinds of visual novel players far and wide, purely just from it’s story presentation, disregarding the fact that whether or not one is a psychological thriller fan or not.
 
 
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4. Muv-luv Trilogy

An emotionally-gripping tale of a soldier fighting in an unknown, insane world. There are three parts of Muv-luv – Extra, Unlimited and Alternative, and it is recommended to play all three of them to garner the maximum entertainment experience. Although quite lengthy, it is incredibly hard not to find something you like in the Muv-luv trilogy-Takeru’s character development, militaristic psychology, camaraderie with the squad, battles with the BETA; it’s just such a great series. Alternative especially, is just so amazing that it makes all those time you invested into the series worth it.
 
 
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5. Deus Machina Demonbane

Based on fiction horror story written by H.P. Lovecraft, Demonbane revolves around the tales of science, alchemy and religion. It feels like Full Metal Alchemist, a more mecha version of that. The best part about this visual novel is the 3D CG scenes, they are even slight animations so even though Demonbane isn’t the newest, there’s no denying that the graphics could hold it’s own against newer ones. Like Fate/Stay Night, intriguing plots are this visual novel’s main weapon as well, as the visual novel gets better as more truth within the mystery began to shape up in the bizarre world of magic, mecha, gods and monsters.
 
 

6. Saya no Uta

Visually destructive visual novel, Saya no Uta depicts the pitiable tale of a young man, Fuminori Sakisaka, who involved in a traffic accident, had soon changed his perspective of the world in a completely different manner. The traffic accident that he had, “damaged” his brain permanently, and the way the brain reads the vision transmitted through his eyes.. are ghastly. Everything become guts and intestines and every person turned into some kind of tentacle monsters. Ironically, when one was reading Saya no Uta, chances are they are already expecting this and are playing the visual novel just to check out those scenes. Indeed, it is actually one of the good points about it, it’s definitely not Saya no Uta without the intestines. In a way, it is the highlight of Saya no Uta. Psychology thrills, nasty sequences and a tantalizing storytelling a makes up the ghastly visual novel, Saya no Uta.
 
 
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7. Sharin no Kuni

Likewise with G-Senjou no Maou, Sharin no Kuni was produced by Akabesoft2. The game depicts on how law and systems can change a country and focuses a lot conspiracies, criminology, political struggles and wits battles, just like G-Senjou no Maou. Sharin no Kuni introduces a really unique government system which aims to rehab certain “criminals.”
 
 
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8. Utawarerumono

While Utawarerumono has a strong plot, it’s battle game system is quite entertaining as well, which is akin to Final Fantasy Tactics or Ogre Battle. Standing on the boundary between visual novel and an SRPG, Utawarerumono provides an ample amount of plot twists. It at fist, revolves around the tale of one man, Hakuoro, a man without a memory, who was found unconscious in a rural village. A mask was strangely daunted on him and even more mysterious, it can’t be removed no matter how much physical force is used. As Hakuoro live alongside the villagers, he began to experience more and more events which would eventually lead to this true identity.
 
 

9. Ever17/Remember11/Never7 -infinity trilogy-

The infinite trilogy of awesomeness by KID. These three visual novels at times feel like separate entities, but they can also be connected too, despite pretty minor. Most players would play Remember11 (or to a lesser extent, Never7) to expand their knowledge on the Ever17 universe; the trilogy is especially good in making the players to review back nostalgically the events of Ever 17. Though truthfully, even if the presence of universal relation is so subtle, one who isn’t even familiar with the KID franchise would be able to enjoy them to the full extent. KID is also known to mix in genres of mystery and sci-fi so fans in that particular genres would love these games.
 
 

10. Clannad/Kanon/Air/Little Busters/Rewrite -key pentalogy-

Or basically anything from Key, is bound to be a masterpiece tear-jerker. Key likes to use the formula of slice-of-life + high school + drama = masterpiece. And even after all these years, there’s not once their pattern feels repetitive and they still feels like they are the top of their game. Key had also made certain awesome heroines in the past, Kyou (Clannad), Mai (Kanon), Rin (Little Busters) and so on. Aforementioned, anything made from Key is bound to give you a laugh and a cry. It’s romance and life hardships, portrayed in extreme simplicity and with a teensy weensy bit of magic is what spiced up Key’s top notch visual novels.
 
 
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11. Sono Hanabira Series

Of all the yuri media franchises I had come across, be it anime, manga, novels, the Sono Hanabira series, in my opinion, is one of the best of the best. There are nearly 10 instalments in the series, in some of them, new couples are shown while some continues the cute and fluffy stories of our favorite yuri couples. The atmosphere portrayed in any of the Sono Hanabira instalment is sweet, heartwarming, fluffy and most of all, the girls making love with each other and is always a sight to see. I almost never enjoy H-scenes in visual novels much but I guess Sono Hanabira’s an exception.
 
 
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12. Kara no Shoujo

Kara no Shoujo, a visual novel by Innocent Grey, tells a somber, but riveting story of mystery, sins, obsession, religion and truth-seeking. There are also gameplay elements incorporated into the visual novel – where you had to instigate actual investigations and to deduce conclusions from evidences you gathered. Be warned that the visual novel can be extremely graphic at times, forcing you to investigate through corpses died in brutal ways. Even so, I feel fans of mystery, suspense and even gore would love Kara no Shoujo.

84 thoughts on “All-time Favorite Visual Novels

  1. Pingback: Kai’s All-time Favorite Visual Novels « Visual Novel Aer

  2. Now this is a list I can agree with (since Ef – A fairy tale of the two is also #1 for me). Haven’t played the other titles yet but will definitely play them soon :D

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  5. hahha very nice i played almost all except elf the fairy tail of the two, infinity series , saya no uta, and clannad i have to say i have to agree with your choices. But I’m more anxious for the new akabeisoft 3 works XD, but i will try them if i have the time nevertheless

    • Think you should certainly try it out :D Ef is an astounding VN. For infinity series, I suggest either trying Ever17 since that’s the most epic (imo) out of the series. Saya no Uta is definitely a must too. Akabeisoft3 eh? Probably going to keep pretending ignorance until some sort of translation is out D:

  6. Yo man, just thought I’d say my opinions on all the visual novels mentioned.
    Anyway:
    Ef: Epic
    F/SN: All time fav
    G Senjou no Maou: I want an anime for this one. SO BAD.
    Deus Machina Demonblade : Epic
    Saya no Uta: Least fav out of all of Gen Urobuchi’s works.
    Sharin no Kuni: Same as G s no Maou
    Utawaremuno: Epic
    Infinity trilogy: EPIC
    Key: Epic. Still waiting for Air and Rewrite to be translated though.(And Kotomi’s route to be animated)
    Sono Hanabira series: Not my thing.

    I question Umineko, Chaos;Head, Steins;Gate,Tsukhime sequels and Narcissu not being on this list though. Mind you though, you have epic taste, but still…

    • Speaking of Key, I haven’t got the time to play Tomoyo After. And I know I got epic choices :D

      About your doubt, that’s because aside from Chaos;Head, I haven’t play all of those. I sound like I played a lot of visual novels but there are actually a lot of good ones I haven’t even try yet. Hopefully I will have the time to try them soon (though I might just watch the anime for Umineko.. who knows)

      • Thanks for replying. About Umineko, try to stay from the anime; it’s just a complete mess. By the way, I’ve been searching for the Higurashi VN but can’t find it. Where can I find it?

        • I can’t even remember, lol. I remembered I “suffered” trying to find it since it was the same time during the MU outbreak. But I think eroge download should had by now Think they should had reuploaded them by now.

  7. I don’t have much experience with visual novels. Played Ever17 and a few smaller ones before, but thought I would try out a few of this list. So I started with ef… and I was really amazed. There were a few weak points, but the atmosphere, the pictures, the various problems and esp the end… an outstanding experience.
    So I thought of playing another VN of the above list and decided on Clannad, expecting a slightly less tragic story. But I was really disappointed. Part of the afterstory was okay, but the rest was (my opinion) really boring and no comparison to the really intense and exciting ef. The only positive point were a few funny ‘idiot friend’ moments. And I was really shocked about seeing (afterwards) that Clannad got a much better rating on most sites.

    The next days I’ll start Fate/Stay night, but I would like to ask if anyone can suggest a VN comparable to ef.
    It should be mostly realistic (historic or sci-fi would be fine, but no strange monsters or obvious supernatural beings), not involving ‘nightmarish horror parts’ (like intestines… I want to read late at night and sleep after that), have good graphics and if possible some thought-provoking topics… Ever17 had a lot of these and ef too (esp Chihiro). Clannad surely not.

    I would really appreciate some comments and thank you in advance for suggestions what to read. :)

    And sorry to everyone who enjoyed Clannad. This is of course only my personal opinion.

    • I suggest G-Senjou no Maou and Sharin no Kuni; while containing supernatural elements, I equally recommend 999 on the DS and Persona 3/4 on the PS2. Those are also very refreshing visual novels :)

      • 999 is awesome! Best DS game I had ever played :D
        For Persona 3 on the PSP perhaps yes, but I’m not sure if you could count Persona 3/4 on the PS2 as a visual novel (wait, I think I just found a good topic to post about), though stories from Persona are usually top notch anyway.

    • For Ef, a lot of people think one of it’s bad points is it’s linearity and third person perspectives. I still think the storytelling itself is quite amazing though, and the VN’s soundtrack is one of the best I had heard. Well after story is more on the drama part, from what I heard from you, it seems like the former part (the ones more focused on “slice-of-life everyday” was a bit more longer then expected. I only played the very few beginning parts of Clannad myself (wanted to try out Kotomi’s route since it wasn’t adapted yet) but haven’t get to that yet.

      Not sure if you would like Fate/Stay Night then, lol. While there are no strange monsters (don’t think servants could count as monsters much.. maybe except for Beserker), it has quite some supernatural elements. And I guess Saya no Uta’s not for you. If Ever 17 stroke you fancy, how about trying the rest of KID series? Remember 11 was awesome too, and while Never 7 imo isn’t as good as the other two, it is still a force to be reckon with on it’s own. Most of the KID series has quite immensely thought-provoking themes as well.

      • First I like to thank you two for your comments. :)

        I did like the linearity of EF, as it was used to develope every character to a very deep level. Because of this the characters seemed very realistic and the reader (me) could understand their behavior. I think if I would have been any of these characters I would have acted exactly in the same way (most of the times). This was certainly a main reason why I liked it that much.
        For Clannad this was exactly the opposite. There were too many different characters, too many different paths and it seemed to me that most of the text were greetings, goodbyes and meaningless conversations. Especially in the Kotomi path. If they would have shortened the endless hello’s and goodbye’s and instead developed the drama and the personalities of Kotomi and the protag a bit more this would have been a really good path (in my opinion of course).
        Funfact: In EF i hated the H-scenes because they delayed the story, in Clannad i would have wished for a few because the rest was not interesting enough.

        I started F/S night and I think it’s not my fav VN, but definitely interesting. Can’t give an exact statement before I finished it, though. After all it’s not that I dislike supernatural elements, but if they are too much they destroy the atmosphere and the story of a ‘normal’ VN like EF or Ever17. As I said above I consider a VN as good if I can empathize with the characters and this is destroyed if there are too much phenomens not explainable by science.

        In the meanwhile I gathered information about other VN and on my to-do-list are now (because I think they might be interesting):
        G-Senjou no Maou, Sharin no Kuni, Kira☆Kira, Edelweiss Eiden Fantasia, Remember 11, Little Busters, Rewrite (two more chances for Key), Cross†Channel, Grisaia no Kajitsu, Maji de Watashi ni Koishinasai!, Subarashiki Hibi.
        Maybe I try 999, Perona 3/4, Utawarerumono or Sono Hanabira Series after this.
        If anyone wants to comment on this list or adding something I would of course appreciate it.

        And again thanks for your comments and a big thank you for the creation of the list. :)

        • A lot of the games in your list only had the partial patch released, lol. For visual novels like Subarashiki Hibi, I’m not sure if they even planned to continue the translation, seems like it’s incredibly hard to do so.

  8. I agree with Veruz on Demonbane. I played Al’s route through to the end and felt that things got far too out of hand. Some might have found it epic and enjoyable, but instead I thought it was over the top. I did enjoy most of the game, but it is not one of my favorites.

    Unfortunately I can’t comment on your other choices, as I haven’t played them! I’ve got G-senjou no Maou and Clannad ready to go though.

    I’m just a beginner as far as visual novels go, but out of the ones i’ve played the ones that stand out to me are:

    Kira Kira (with the Curtain Call fandisk) – Loved it all the way through. A certain ending very nearly had me in tears, and i’m not one to cry easily.

    Deardrops – Much like Kira Kira, but better! The original songs (not BGM) included in both of these games are amazing, and I really can’t stop listening to them. I see you’ve played this one, and was interested to see that it wasn’t one of your top picks.

    Princess Waltz – Not quite as good as the above two, but the story had me riveted from beginning to end despite the first half being noticeably better than the second. The game aspect was interesting and my only complaint is that it wasn’t used enough.

    Katawa Shoujo – A free VN that was really very good. The story splits early so each heroine is developed fully, allowing me to become very attached to all of them.

    True Remembrance – Another free VN. This one is very short but definitely worth your time.

    • I think the visual novel was already over-the-top already at the beginning. Seconds into the games and there’s already giant mecha destroying their city, and the protagonist are already facing extreme dangers and before he know it, he’s already piloting a giant mecha of himself. Demonbane doesn’t let up with it’s “wildness” and weirdly enough, I find that nice.

      Both of them are incredible games, and especially G-senjou no Maou^^ The plot for it builds up a little slow, but it’s quite awesome as a whole overall.

      Yes, indeed I played Deardrops, in fact, I played quite a few which I didn’t review (you can have a look at my vndb list), Kira Kira and Deardrops are great games no doubt, but I’m not sure if they could actually be my “all-time favorite VNs.” I also played Princess Waltz but I don’t have a really good impression about it, I feel the plot is kinda weak and characters don’t even grow on me. The gameplay aspect is certainly interesting but not the best, if you’re looking for visual novel/gameplay hybrids, I recommend ones from Alicesoft like Sengoku Rance or Big Bang Age, or even ones from Eushully like Kamidori. Katawa Shoujo is quite the visual novel despite being free, and indeed, characterizations in Katawa Shoujo is top-notch. Haven’t started on True Remembrance though.

      • I’ve heard good things about Sengoku Rance, and I definitely intend to try it. I haven’t heard of those other 2, so i’ll have to look them up.

        One VN I forgot to mention was Aselia The Eternal, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The interesting thing about it is that, as well as having 8 main heroines with their own endings, you are also given extra main plot scenes on the second and third playthrough. There’s also a special ending to be viewed once you’ve finished the other 8, but given the large portion of the VN taken up by gameplay elements I think it will take me quite a while to get to it XD

        • I made a review for Kamidori so you can check it out if you want.

          I didn’t play that, lol. Not sure if I want to, while visual novels/gameplays are good, they sometimes take up a lot of time, especially if their gameplays are actually something major. It’s why I had been avoiding alicesoft games, they are good, no doubt, but they take up too much time, worse, I’m not really good like these. Tried multiple times but just never get to finish both of it.

          • I’ve been slowly downloading a lot of your recommended visual novels, but I seem to have hit a snag on Air. Is it safe to assume you read it in Japanese? I can’t find a translation anywhere.

            • Yes I read it in Japanese, though I haven’t completed it yet. Likewise with Rewrite but that’s obvious since it’s so new. Translation for both is in steady progress though as far as I know.

  9. Hey there, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and have gone through and played most of your visual novel recommendations. I was wondering, considering it’s been a while since you have posted this one, if you have read any new visual novels or has any changes of heart on the order of this top ten ranking. I’m not saying I disagree with any of these, most of them are great and 2, 3 & 4 coincide with vndb popularity polls, I was just wondering if you’ve changed your mind on any of them, or if your memory of them has changed over time.

    • Thanks^^

      Most of my lists does require updates, but sadly, with the exception of this one. I haven’t been reading much lately so I don’t really have any new ones to add, for now at least. The order however, is not ranked according to superiority. This is a top ten indeed, but doesn’t mean that the lower ranked ones are worse then the higher ranked ones, all of them are great in their own, spectacular ways.

      • Makes sense. The VN community is very small in NZ but I think it’s a form of media that’s well underrated and overlooked, the closest thing between a novel and an anime, as a Graphic Audio is the closest thing between a novel and a film. (http://www.graphicaudio.net/c-91-browse-by-genre.aspx).
        In particular, I have to thank you for recommending G-senjou no Maou. I’d been in the middle of a big writer’s block until getting inspiration from its brilliant story, and the atmosphere of Saya no Uta was like nothing I’d ever read before. I’m currently reading Deus ex Demonbane which is helping me write a science fiction novel about a bunch of gamers oblivious of the fact that they are piloting mecha drones in a war through their games, so I guess I should thank you for that one as well. I’m sure you’re busy so thank you for the reply and I was wondering, besides watching visual novels and light novels, do you read any western science fiction or fantasy novels or do you stick to Japanese media, which I assume is your specialty?

        • VNs, especially outside of Japanese community, is indeed pretty much underrated and overlooked, not as much as LNs imo, but definitely can still see some improvements.

          And I’m glad some of these visual novels could spark you off with some inspirations, lol. At their very base, visual novels are entertainment, but they can also be incredibly inspiring literature – the context of Demonbane for example, is actually inspired from H.P. Lovecraft. That story of yours does seems interesting anyhow, and I can see how it reflects on Demonbane, or some of Nitroplus’s works even.. xD

          I seldom (almost never, I had to admit) read any western fiction books, and stick to Japanese anime, manga, visual novels, light novels and the like. I do play Western games a bit here and there however.

          • Vincent moved through the city in the dead of night, streetlights shining down on the cars parked on either side of the empty road he walked down. His footsteps echoed on the concrete as he looked around at the neon signs that were hung up on the massive buildings all around him. Tonight he wore his long black duster, his black leather gloves and of course, his hat.
            The air was cool and he almost had a skip in his step even as he made his way through the crossroads of the city center where he knew the trap was waiting for him. It excited him, this confrontation of theirs. Even as the spotlights were lit up one by one from the police cars that surrounded him, he still found himself smiling.
            “Vincent Lorengi!” a sharp voice called from a megaphone. “You have been found guilty of crimes against the state, give yourself up!”
            Almost laughing, Vincent looked down at the pavement and crossed his arms as though embracing himself.
            “Don’t make this hard on yourself!” the voice called again.
            There was no reply for a moment as silence befell the crossroad. Suddenly, in a snapping movement, Vincent spread his arms. As he did the Shattering commenced. The police sirens, the car windows, even the streetlights all around them smashed into a hail of glass. As the push of the Shattering spread from his body the policemen flew back, cars slid from his path as they crashed into the poles of the broken streetlights and even into the buildings and alleyways around them. He heard the single scream of a girl amidst the chaos as one of the police cars shattered completely against an alley corner.
            The remaining policemen ran and covered themselves from the falling glass but none of them were firing at him. It seemed they were frozen in fear from what they had seen him do. Vincent acknowledged this with a nod before exhaling in satisfaction. Then, after the noise had dulled down, he began to walk down the street again, casually, as though nothing had happened.
            A while off from where the rest of the police cars lay in ruin, a long dark limo was parked on the side of the road. Leaning against it, unharmed and undisturbed by the events that had taken place, a black man with dark shades waited for him. Vincent came by him, passed him and continued to walk. Still the black man spoke up.
            “You can’t run forever Vincent, they’ll catch you eventually.”
            Vincent stopped and smiled. He turned, noticing the weapon on the familiar man’s hip, a 5.0 Desert Eagle.
            “Well then, I guess I’ll just run for as long as possible until they do. Unlike you, old friend, they do not yet have a leash long enough for me.”
            The man shook his head. “Then run while you can….”
            Finished with him it seemed, Vincent began to walk again, not even hearing his old comrade as he continued to say, “Because next time… I’ll be the one chasing you.”
            (Beginning of my VN created on Ren’Py)

  10. Hey there, I have a question.
    I recently finished G senjou no Maou, and it really is an excellent game. Although the bitter-sweet epilogue really caught me off guard.
    Anyways, since I found out Sharin is made by the same company, I was planning to also play the game, but I was hesitating if my playing of G senjou no Maou would make the experience less exciting/be underwhelmed (similar to how you play fsn first and then you play tsukihime)
    Is the game satisfactory, or would it exceed my expectations like G senjou no Maou? I would like to hear your opinion.

    • Hmm, I’m going to share you a psychological basis of mine that helped for me. Everytime I finished something major and significant, visual novels especially since they need so much time to play, I like taking “breaks” in between. The breaks could be a few days or a few weeks. During the breaks, I tend to go to media that take lesser time to finish and more minor in general – manga or perhaps a 10 or 20 episodes anime. The point here is for the “aftereffects” of the impact from the previous visual novel to fade slowly away. Maybe a bit tough if the visual novel really grow on you (which is a good thing anyway), but once you feel you had enough break, then go ahead and start the next one. That’s how I go about mine, maybe it will help you out.

      Sharin no Kuni is a great visual novel by itself, and I feel it shines brilliantly in a different way G-Senjou no Maou shines.

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    • In terms of story, F/SN has the sense of epicness (dunno which other word to describe it, so I used that for the lack of creativity), while Tsukihime is more dark, gloomy and raw. I can’t really say each of the title’s story is better then the other. Then, the next.. character.

      F/SN’s characterizations went for complexity – highlighting on the flaws of the characters and in the process, creating very relatable characters – Shirou, in particular. You can especially see how he still thinks of his ideal by the end of each 3 routes. Although the process of their developments made it slightly frustrating at times. For Tsukihime, Shiki is a cool character, and he had a pretty unique power, but also possessed qualities wasn’t as relatable as Shirou (would like to say more but that would include spoilers now). It’s more of a general preference here, do you prefer relatable flawed characters or do you prefer cool unrelatable characters? Again, hard to pin-point which had better characters. But aside from the protagonist, if you include the heroines, I tend to find my preference more inclined on the F/SN side (minus Sakura, bwahaha).

      Next, comes art and music. I think we have a clear winner there.

      And overall, and from a very personal standpoint, I find F/SN to be much more enjoyable then Tsukihime. Not to say Tsukihime isn’t bad, it’s just as good, and now that when I think about it, I do feel Tsukihime deserved at least an honorable mention, something which I might add in once I revamp my VN list (which is about time I do so, as there are some other titles I would like to add)

  12. I am surprised YU-NO is not in this list.
    It has been out for around 17 years and is still one of the top in Japan.
    None of the visual novels that I have played compare to it.

    I did enjoy most of the visual novels you listed but I had issues with some of them.

    G-Senjou no Maou – they made separate character routes that completely forget about the main conflict in the game once you reach a certain part.
    They ignore a major plot twist to the game and don’t make sense in context with what would of happened in the true ending.

    Sharin no Kuni – I could not get attached to the characters and the game did not do a good enough job of making the world believable. Extraordinary changes to the norm comes extraordinary explanations which this game just couldn’t justify IMO.

    Clannad – the game was overly dramatic to the extent that it made certain events seem less believable. I would have felt more touched by the story if it didn’t feel like the emotional parts were forced into my face.
    Also the true ending to the game is such a slap in the face. It was such a childish approach to solving a conflict.

    • I would say that my list is extremely subjective. In fact, I think all lists are imo, and for subjective lists like this, it’s not like the maker of the list had played every single title in said medium – me, in this case. I didn’t play YU-NO, but I do promise to check it out if I got the time. Also, some of your issues, especially with ones regarding the story is a bit vague for me to get the full picture on what exactly the issue is (understandable since it will be spoilerish), so my bad if I got it wrong.

      If you’re talking about the other characters aside from Haru, it made sense. From all the heroines, only Haru has the most connection to the main conflict of the game, especially to Maou. I also admit that as compared to Haru, I don’t really like the other heroine’s routes as much, also this issue, perhaps it’s branching structure had something to do with it, and is also something I’m still trying to get used to in visual novels, lol (think only VNs I played which uses such branching structure is G-Senjou and Grisaia).

      Not sure about that for you, I find the flaws of the heroines and even some qualities of the main character were very nicely defined. Although some of these flaws arise from very mundane stuffs (something I may be wrong, as it’s been a long since I last played it, I might had forgotten some important details). I find the world quite an interesting alternate rendition of real world’s juridical system, though because it’s an fictional alternate rendition, indeed I do find it unrealistic at times too. Also, some slight elements of the story seems unbelievable as well for me.

      This isn’t something I could comment. I only played through a very small segment of Clannad (liked what I see though) and was only planning to play it purely for Kotomi’s route (since the anime didn’t animate it), something which I haven’t done up till now.. lol.

  13. A great, introductory-styled compilation for those new to VN’s (a la ME). Right now I am playing School Days HQ (love the characters and the fully-animated sequences are beautiful, even on an old Sony VAIO PC) and I am about to jump into Kara no Shojo (“The Girl in the Shell”) and “If My Heart Had Wings”. If not for games like Persona 3, I would’ve never even been initiated into the realm of Visual Novels. I recently wrote an article for Destructoid.com about how Persona 3 introduced me to Visual Novels. Check it out if you’re interested, it took me over a week to compose and edit until I was content with it:

    http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/ACiDBANDIT/persona-3-s-discreet-dating-sim-elements-introduced-me-to-visual-novels-267654.phtml

    Also, here’s my blog that covers everything videogames (console, PC and VN’s) to culture, sci-fi, and movies:

    http://hiddendefinition.wordpress.com

    Regards (and keep up the fantastic work!)
    -db-

    • Interesting choices for someone who just got into VNs^^ You don’t see it in my list here (which seriously need some updates soon), but I definitely vouch for Kara no Shoujo – a pretty great mystery VN with an underlying theme under all the chaos. If you haven’t start, I definitely recommend VNs like G-Senjou and Fate/Stay Night. I just read it, and it was interesting to see how a game like Persona 3 got you to try VNs, especially interesting indeed since for me, it was someone introducing me into the VNs.

      • Thankyou for taking the time to read my article, I really appreciate your feedback. Persona 3 Portable was a definitive eye-opening experience for me, and I have yet to complete the game (with over 80 hours invested in it too!). After my PSP broke I started looking for games similar to Persona 3, not so much the RPG elements but more of an experience that was a harmonious blend of non-linear storytelling and awesome graphics. Enter Visual Novels. To be honest, “Divi-Dead” was my first true VN experience and I enjoyed the horror story balanced in front of a highschool backdrop, much like Persona! After being introduced to my first VN, I found out about several others such as “Discipline: A Crusade….”, although I would argue it’s more of a harem, sexually-charged game rather then a true interactive VN. I heard about “School Days HQ” soon after, seeing as how it gained so much popularity in the East after being serialized into a 12-part OVA for Japanese Television. The anime follows the plot of the game as close as it possibly can, and does a serviceable job for fans of the VN. “School Days HQ” was published in the West as physical Collectors Edition that includes a ton of extra goodies and is well worth the price of admission. Also being released in February is the NA version of “Steins;Gate” which has been critically acclaimed in Japan for it’s deep, compelling story and diverse steampunk/sci-fi characters and environments. You can currently preorder the game now until it’s release in February of 2014 from publisher JAST USA. Go here to check out their online catalog:

        http://www.jastusa.com

        I wish they made VN’s for portable/handheld gaming systems in the West as they do in the East. Nothing beats snuggling up in a nice, toasty warm bed with a good VN in the palm of your hands. I <3 my PSP because it's simply an RPG monster. If you want a good portable system that plays music, videos, games and connects to PSN/the internet you cannot go wrong with Sony's PlayStation Portable. The number of awesome games for the PSP is in the hundreds but the amount of RPG's available for the PSP is staggering. Almost every major RPG franchise has it's own iteration for the PSP: Finaly Fantasy, Lunar, Ys, Valkyria Chronicles, Wild Arms, Jeanne D'Arc, Half-Minute Hero, the complete Persona series (excluding P4 which was re-released for the Vita as P4: Golden), Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Phantasy Star Online, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together and "The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky". Yeah, I <3 the PSP and it's deep catalog of RPG games. My next acquisition will probably be a Nintendo DS Lite or 3DS, simply because the DS/3DS both have a wealth of their own RPG action/adventure games.

        Either way, perhaps I'll purchase a chrome book or very small laptop and use it as a portable VN gaming device so I can snuggle up in my warm, toasty bed with a good ol'-fashioned Visual Novel. I have recently downloaded "Fate/Stay Night" translated into English by [Fuwanovel] plus the Japanese voice patch, "Clannad" VN with English translation patched with the Japanese voices and "Ef – A Fairy Tale of the Two" English translation. I can't wait to dive into these games, and if you have any other recommendations akin to 'School Days HQ" or "Kara np Shojo", please let me know!

        Friendly Regards,
        -db-
        aka
        COUSiNSEXx

  14. Just curious but have you ever played Steins;Gate or Chaos;Head? I find a lot of people judge their visual novels on their anime adaptions when they really shouldn’t (not that that’s a bad thing for Steins;Gate).

    • I had played Chaos;Head but didn’t watch the anime, and the opposite for Steins;Gate, watched it, but haven’t play it. I can’t remember much of the nifty details in Chaos;Head but all I remember is that it’s a total mindscrew, lol. The premise is weird, and it’s like all the themes and concepts of the story just go all haywire, but it’s a good visual novel, and it’s certainly good at what it’s intended for – psychological horror.

      • I found the Steins;Gate visual novel far better than the Chaos;Head one, mainly because of the characters. It’s my 2nd favorite VN (& anime through its brilliant adaptation) mainly because I find most of the characters in Steins;Gate so likable. I read your review on what you thought about the anime but found it odd that you gave the sound a C considering the high praise it’s opening got, or were you just talking about the BGM? I’ve started up a blog with some reviews on anime/manga/visual novels and maybe a few fantasy novels in the future. Would you mind if I put you on my blogroll?

        • Just from watching the anime, I do find an odd liking to the mad scientists – namely Okabe and later on, Kurisu. Takumi in Chaod;Head on the other hand, can indeed get rapidly depressing especially if you’re reading the story from his perspective, lol. Maybe I need another listen, I can’t really remember much of the music in Steins;Gate sadly, and that’s already a problem, the tunes aren’t memorable, and while listening to it besides the anime may be good, I’m not sure if listening to them as standalone is good, but again, I may need to listen to them a second time or something.

          Oh, I don’t mind. Thanks^^

          • I thought Kurisu had some really good parts in the ending movie if you have watched it. The opening of both the anime (hacking the gate) and visual novel (skyclad observer) sung by Kanako Itou was one of the things that really got me in to it to begin with. Cheers, I’ve just posted a Fate/Stay Night visual novel review on it (using Silvacheif’s recommended review formula lol), if have you the time you should check it out and tell me what you think.

            • Movie? It’s subbed? Haven’t watch it yet. I can’t really remember about all these movies and OVAs until a very long time had passed since they were subbed it seems, lol. Really? Aside from the very cool name, I don’t think I think of it much, lol. I’ll give it a listen again soon.
              Ahh, I’ll give it a read soon. All my blogging stuffs are slowed down for awhile since internet was lost at home so give me some time Dx

              • Yeah the film is the end of the series and ties up a few of loose ends that the series leaves out. Cheers, at the moment I don’t have any internet and am currently replying on my mate’s computers, hah.

      • I literally just finished Alternative today. I marathoned the entire trilogy while my girlfriend went down for a week to see her parents, barely slept a wink and only just made it to the end today. I will say one thing about it, it was the first visual novel where I was actually yelling at the screen, “Shoot the bloody thing!” LOL I don’t think that’s a spoiler, is it?

        • Man, you’re mad, lol. It took me almost akin to the time allocated to playing three visual novels to complete the trilogy.

          I wonder if I’m actually the only one who asked “Where exactly are those…. things?” Cause you don’t see them not until the middle parts of Muv-luv Alternative, lol, which is quite a lengthy time for them to show up, considering we had finished about two and half of the series by then.

    • I watched that sometime ago^^ I do recommend to play the series first (the third one which first featured this particular pairing) before actually getting to the OVA, lol.

      • He did the same kind of funny review style in his winter season first impressions for sakura trick. As for the sono vn i’ll probably stick to non-hscene vns like little busters or corpse party… There were parts even in muvluv that would have been awkward if my gf had walked in on while reading, the groteque one in particular. Then again if she went away again… Maybe.

        • I rarely check video reviews but I’ll give it a read. But from my own opinion, Sakura Trick is BEST ANIME xD Non H-scenes are few and far in between though, aside from titles from Key, kid and some others. Corpse Party is more of a game to me than a VN, a distinction I spent 5 blog posts to express sometime ago… xD

          You know the most disturbing scene I found in muvluv? *hint*tentacles*hint* That would had been awkward if anyone saw me reading, lol.

          • Yup that’s the one. Atm im just reading the vns on silvailchiefs recommendations page. Believe it or not i used your recommendations page as a reference site long before i had my own blog. It’s probably oneof the reason i hadnt read muvluv until now lol

            • Oh is it? Glad my list help you, lol. Some VNs I didn’t add on here even though I play them is because this is a favorite list, so my standards is a bit high when I’m thinking which title to add. But I’m thinking of lowering down my standards, lol. It’s a thing for me to think about when I finally get to updating my list.

  15. In fact me and silvachief are thinking about doing a discussion on muvluv over skype chat or a open post after he’s posted his review for it. Would you be interested in being involved with that?

    • Sure, I’m in. Perhaps we need to discuss about our time zone or something first though, lol. Do you use google drive? I don’t really prefer skype but it’s fine if it’s really needed, lol.

      • He’s not doing his review til later next week so we have time to organise it. We can do it through google drive if its faster, my skype is pretty slow. I’m free whenever so
        any time organised that suitzs both you and silva, considering he’s a full time student, I’m guessing some time in the weekend. I doubt ther would be any more than 3hours differences in the time zone.

  16. Just played through G-Senjou no Maou, thanks to your list. Loved it!

    I was looking through the comments a bit and it looks like you’ve been mentioning ‘lowering your standards’ to update the list….for a long time, haha. I know this is a ‘favourites list’, but I’d love to see a ‘B list/with honourable mentions’ list. (that way you can still keep this as a pure favourites list, lol). Basically… a list of other ‘pretty good’ VNs that you read would be appreciated by many, I’m sure! I’m just looking for a reading list. i.e., I personally loved Princess Waltz and Tsukihime, for example, and I know a lot of other people do. Your readers would like that, I’m sure :)

    Personally I’m into visual novels as just that…. NOVELS (I groan a mighty groan when people complain about VNs having too much text! lol). The more linear, the better for me, with low interest in gratuitous nudity/sex scenes. I actually loved how G-Senjou no Maou handled the branching: Make most choices irrelevant, then pretty much ask “are you sure?” before going into a character’s branch/sub-story.

    *VAGUE* SPOILERS WARNING / My review:
    My only big complaint about G-Senjou no Maou– Whenever you go into a non-true ending route, it just pretends that the red herrings were true all along. I know in different VNs once you take a different path, they often treat it as a parallel universe with different truths and characters (i.e., everything you knew might no longer relevant from other story lines)…. But for a story that tries to explain absolutely every little detail, this left a nasty flavour in my mouth. They could have explained it if they tried. But Urf. Whatever. It was still super enjoyable.

    The only other VN that I read off this list was Fate/Stay, so I’ll be set for another while at least! (Though I don’t think I’ll have the heart to read Saya no Uta based off what some reviews said. Urp!)

    If you can think of any other slightly darkish psychological thrillers that didn’t make the list here, I’m all ears :) Excessive tentacles need not apply, lol. I have a feeling you might be able to recommend something cool, but if not, no worries!

  17. Nice! Glad to see my list help^^

    Thanks for your suggestion, making a second list seems like a great idea too, let me think and consider for a while, lol. I know I’m slow, and since it’s my own lists, I like to just take my time and think, lol. I was actually in a lengthy process of revamping most of my lists for a while. I didn’t specifically mention it, but actually, both my main anime and character list had already been updated – with new pictures, format and entries. I personally isn’t really attached to Princess Waltz but indeed it isn’t too bad a visual novel, I think. It just doesn’t quite make much of an impression to me >_>

    VN player with a preference to linearity, that’s a surprise, lol. What do you feel about branching routes of visual novels? Some people seem to like visual novels like Ef less because of it’s linearity. If there’s sex scenes, I usually skip it if it’s characters I don’t really care about, lol.

    Yea, G-Senjou no Maou’s branching style is pretty unique. Like you said, instead of having each route branched off in a separate “dimension”, everything in G-Senjou seems like it just connect in one straight, long line, with slight routes branching off of the line, and with the canon route at the very end of straight line. If you like such branching-style, I would recommend Grisaia no Kajitsu which employs the same branching style. Please be warned that this is the first title in a trilogy, lol, and the latter two parts of the trilogy haven’t been translated yet.

    Also, that problem you mentioned is something that may only be apparent in one with branching routes design like G-Senjou, but it’s not too much of an issue to me, at least not so much that it impaired my impression of it^^

    I would say Saya no Uta, but ahh well. Incidentally, Remember11 to me, is the most “thrilling” psychological thriller out of the infinity trilogy. Here are some other titles that didn’t (or haven’t) made it to this list.

    – Kara no Shoujo
    – Higurashi (if you couldn’t stand the graphic, I think there is a PS2 remake)
    – Umineko (likewise, I think there is a remake too if you can’t stand the graphic. I haven’t play this myself though so I can’t guarantee the quality, but from the various reviews and opinions I had read around the net, I think it’s guaranteed to be of superb quality)
    – Moon.
    – Chaos;Head

    Also, I personally don’t see the next few titles as visual novels, more like games. They are pretty visual novels-esque though, and quite a lot of people consider them as bona fide visual novels.
    – 999
    – Dangan Ronpa
    – Ace Attorney series (less thriller, at least not as much compared to some of the titles I mentioned, but more mystery and battle of wits and investigation and stuffs)

  18. Haha, well I was just saying….by the comments it sounded like you wanted to add more, but didn’t want to ruin your ‘favourites’ list. Easy solution! I think this page was one of the top 5 hits when I googled ‘best visual novels’, so I imagine you get a fair amount of traffic from people like me, clueless to what’s out there, other than a few big names. I always saw the exact same few tiles on message boards with threads called “Another game like [name]”. So this was a very happy find =)

    I think Princess Waltz might just hold a little spot in my heart since it was one of the first actual novel-like games I played. I also really liked the music. I ALSO played it before Fate/Stay, so…there’s that too, hah.

    I just think VNs are an awesome medium for story telling. It’s like a regular book, but with added music & some simple visuals to go along with it. It can really amplify the emotions with a heart felt tune, or an extremely creepy soundtrack. G-Senjou had one really creepy track that was in all flats….really made my skin crawl lol. I don’t know much Japanese either, but just the emotional delivery of the speech is very welcome. The prosody in their speech is fairly cross-linguistic for conveying emotion. It just all adds to the experience of the novel. And of course, the branching. I think it’s another fantastic way to present a lot of character developments/side stories that just don’t fit into the regular story. i.e., Optional material that doesn’t impede the main story. Or simply ‘what if’ fanservice, hah. It’s just a fantastic medium that I only recently really discovered in the past year or so. (I always thought most of them were just dating sims, or poor excuses to show sex scenes…’cause lets face it. They’re overflowing the market!!!) I’d love to see this type of medium spread outside of Japan.

    I’ve played a few games in the past that were far too reliant on stat/relationship building by planning out each day. Persona 4 was fantastic, but I got soooo sick of planning regular days to advance the story & dungeons. Fun for awhile, but they always lose me before the end. Maybe I’ll go back one day to find out who the murderer really was…. I was so close!

    That was quite a few more recommendations than I expected…I was right to ask, very much appreciated! I was thinking of reading ef next when things settle down here, but I’ll be checking a number of those out for after :)

    • I saw from my WP statistics that this page receive a lot of views, but never thought it is to that extent xD Not sure what happen to the other lists, lol.

      Ahh, I see. Fate/Stay Night’s the first VN I played long before I even started Princess Waltz so maybe that’s why, lol.

      Indeed! I always regarded VN as the ultimate otaku medium, which doesn’t specifically mean that it is objectively the best medium there is, but because it is a culmination of other otaku media. Anime-like artworks and OST, manga-like scenes progression (manga = panels, VNs = CG), and it’s novel aspect equivalent to light novels. Also, games are interactive media which I think is Also something VN implemented, in the form of dialogue choices and branching routes. Additionally, there are also VN/games hybrid too. A good soundtrack really does work wonder in reinforcing certain atmospheres, G-Senjou in particular has quite a great soundtrack, quite a few of them re-arranged from classical music pieces, something which also strikes me fancy. And indeed, when a seiyuu really gets into the character, the execution is pretty awesome xD Branching routes does allow the focus on particular heroines and their characters and developments, one thing I sometime don’t really like in branching design is how you MUST play every single routes before finally bronco able to access the main/true route. Dating sims are but just a very small portion of what we call visual novels :-) Quite a number of these visual novels really tell great stories, despite the sex scenes.

      I personally think adding the dating sim element into the standard RPG dungeon crawling of Persona is actually quite fun and unique, lol. And it’s the main reason why if I would rate the best Persona games in the series, 3 and 4 will obviously be higher than any other titles in the series. The dating sims element emohasized the school-life interactive element, and is a great refreshing addition to the standard RPG.

      Glad to see they help^^ Tell me if you need any more recommendations.

    • Actually, I have another one I want to include in this list, but planned to do it after I review it first. As for which title it is, it’s a secret! ..for now.

  19. Hi Kai and the rest.

    Thanks for your committed blog to VNs. :)

    I am really glad that you have FSN listed as one of your tops. I haven’t read the VN yet (well I started to, using mirror moon’s translation, but someone kept me from reading the rest :( :( ). I’m at the point where Shirou and Saber go off to find Shinji and Ryder (for their fight on the building). It’s actually taken me 40 hours gametime to get there (approx.)

    I know you said the anime doesn’t adapt the story very well, and to an extend I agree (although I really shouldn’t be saying jack since I’m oh so early in the vn lol). I mean, I really wished they included the hard work Shirou does every night (not gong to spoiler that), or his whole “I want to be a hero”. I think that belonged in the anime. They also had to crunch the whole heroic spirit and magical explanations a lot, which is fine I guess. I do admit that while watching the anime, when they were talking about their noble phantasms in that one scene, it felt like I really was missing a huge huge explanation, but whatever.

    What I really liked about the anime though, is the *PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS* way they did Saber’s entrance. It was so epically done that it’s the main reason I got hooked into SN in the first place. They put all the attention on Rin, and made Shirou look like a normal guy, all on purpose just to build up to the surprise moment when it seemed as though Shirou was going to die to Lancer’s hands (Rin had already saved Shirou one time, and really couldn’t make it to his house on time). So it wasn’t like most animes where you’re expecting Shirou to be rescued – it was far too certain that Shirou was going to die….. and then *SPARKLE* Saber comes to rescue him, but not only that! Shirou’s a master too!!!! That had to be the single best hook that the anime could have ever done. They did a fantastic job of making the audience believe Shirou was normal, (to “willingly suspend our disbelief” without there being disbelief! Take that Coolridge!), and then making him one of the masters rescued by beautiful Saber :).

    So the turn-off I had with the VN is that it gives that spoiler… in the VERY BEGINING, omg even before the story starts lol. Idk why Type-Moon did it that way, but I really disagreed with it.

    What I enjoyed the most about FSN though, was the romance. I’m a guy and I hate romances, but FSN’s romance actually made me cry. I think it’s because they didn’t really show too much of a romance, it was all implied and subtle, until it burst free towards the end. I guess as I was watching I kept hoping that they would fall in love, and all the show kept doing was giving very very subtle hints, until it flowered to fruition at the end… only to be so sadly taken away the very next ep. Fantastic.

    So Kai I wanted to ask, do you know any other VNs that have romance like in FSN?

    Oh and a note to you: If you liked Stens;Gate the anime, please watch Robotics;Notes. It’s not as good as Steins;Gate but it’s better than Chaos;Head. And by the end you really do get emotionally involved.

    • Fate/Stay Night is, now that when I think about it, probably one of the lengthiest non-gameplay visual novel I had ever played, although I played it just right as soon as I got out of high school, so fortunately at the time, I got a lot of time xD

      I didn’t remember much of the Fate/Stay Night anime by now, but while they didn’t integrate much of Shirou’s efforts of becoming a “superman”, I think his dream of “becoming a hero” itself is implemented. The theme is present, but of cause, not expanded with as much detail as the visual novel. And indeed about the explanations and all that too, but in defense, even if they had to crunch out a lot of information, when I was watching the anime (at the time, I still don’t know much about visual novels), I already feel that for an action anime, there were already an absurd amount of conversations, I could watch an episode, and sometime spent more than half of the episode watching the characters (specially Shirou and co.) sitting down in a seiza position in the living room and talking. After I knew it was actually adapted from a visual novel, the amount spent on conversation make sense, and there’s also the fact that Fate/Stay Night’s setting has quite an amount of detail developed on it. (Btw, the visual novel’s glossary is great for servant and noble phantasm information, and possibly other info regarding the universe).

      Ahh, that scene, one of the signature scenes in Fate/Stay Night and also the scene signifying the start of Shirou’s troubles^^” If I’m not mistaken in the visual novel, the perspective is shifted to Rin, showing how she save Shirou, before shifting to him, right? I could had sworn the anime did something similar though, just not such a detail the visual novel shown.

      Being one of the first visual novel I had read, I actually like Fate/Stay Night and it’s psychoanalysis. I also like the settings too. Romance is something I didn’t feel much of in Fate/Stay Night, but I admit that as far as non-romance-focused-visual novels, it is one of the better done ones. The Fate route is especially heart-breaking.

      So you want a VN, where the focus of the story isn’t romance, and whatever romance is present, it remained subtle and implied until towards the heart-breaking end? That’s rather specific, lol. Try G-Senjou no Maou (Haru’s route).

      I watched Robotic;Notes, it’s not really that good though imo. I feel Steins;Gate is several leaps and bounds better. And I only just played the visual novel for Chaos;Head.

      • I’m glad that you, like me, watched FSN before playing the VN. At least you know what I’m talking about with the huge difference in the “surprise” the anime had with Shirou becoming a master (from zero to hero, the right way).

        You’re right, the same thing happens in the VN. But the problem is, the VN’s first page when you start the game is Saber saving Shirou and reaching out to him and asking if he’s her master. I dunno why Type-moon put that spoiler there, (maybe because they thought the rest of the VN is so good that the spoiler has no effect on the epicness?) but whatever, at least it’s corrected in the anime. And yes, in the VN the POV is switched to Rin as she and Archer run towards Shirou’s house to save him, and she sees a brilliant light… and etc. But I guess that wouldn’t matter because Type-Moon already put the spoiler in the start of the VN.

        I find it intriguing that you say that FSN the VN isn’t really romance-focused. I disagree, and agree. I think Type-Moon wanted to make the romance subtle and strong rather than outward and strong, but I think FSN has the same level of romance as an actual romance vn. A great example is EF. Thanks to your awesome list, I actually binge-watched EF – A tale of memories yesterday and today. Ef, lol, is literally, literally a romance :D. Bu it didn’t affect me like FSN did. But evn though Chihiru and Renji (the best romance in EF imho), had so many many romantic moments, they seemed sappy (most of them), except for the ending when Renji ran all over town to gather the… and then Chihiru says she never even fogot about him… I thought that was touching, and almost cried actually.

        But yeah, FSN had that same level of romance, except subtly. When Shirou and Saber trained, Shirou (in the VN) would describe how whenever their swords would meet or he’d touch her body whiele sparring, he’d describe the crush-developments starting. And in the anime when Shirou always vows to protect Saber and when he catches her before she falls in the forest after the Ilya fight, and they both blush. Those subtle moments are equal to the outward moments in EF. I guess EF really lacks in subtle moments, which FSN has an abundance of. But they have an equal amount of romance because of this.

        I’m definitely going to try G-Senjou now though thanks! Also, I have another question, I know I posted in the other section that Fate/Zero doesn’t follow FSN, but does it? Is Fate/Zero solely based on the light novels by another guy, or is everything in Fate/Zero included in the VN?

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