Top 3 Visual Novel Studios

While I do not count myself as a veteran visual novel player, over the years, I did played quite a number of visual novels. Some of them really stood out for me, and I was able to appreciate the inspirational creators behind these wonderful masterpieces.

Here are three of my most favorite visual novel studios:


1. Type-Moon

Type-Moon is known for their intriguing plot and it’s clever storytelling, which drags it’s readers and help them immerse into the plotlines itself. It is not too exaggerating to say that Type-Moon may be one of the best breakthrough visual novel company ever.

Originally just a comiket circle, Type-Moon developed Tsukihime, a doujin game and a widely proclaimed vampire visual novel. Due to positive reception, Type-Moon, now, with more resources and budget, produced the phenomenal Fate/Stay Night, the widely acclaimed visual novel which every visual novel players around the globe should have seen or heard of. Fate/Stay Night is a more professional work, which entails the story of Emiya Shirou, and the mysterious Holy Grail of War. Its these two main titles which made Type-Moon as popular as it is today.

Type-Moon also has a recurring pattern in which all of their releases are universally related to each other. Long time fans of Type-Moon can enjoy the relation of other pieces of Type-Moon work when playing their games. For example, when playing Tsukihime, veteran fans of Type-Moon can appreciate the fact that Aozaki Aoko (who unmistakeably had some kind of F/SN-like magi power), has a sister in Kara no Kyoukai, who looks unmistakably similar with the same red hair. Type-Moon’s latest visual novel, Mahou Tsukai No Yoru will focus on these two siblings. It is most interesting to see and detect just how each media relates to one another as it feels the studio is joining every releases they made together as one.

Notable Type-Moon Visual Novels: Fate/Stay Night, Tsukihime, Mahoutsukai no Yoru

2. Nitroplus

Nitroplus is known for it’s specialty in creating gore, dark and twisted atmospheres. In a good way, making a scene “nasty” and “bloody” out of nowhere is a child’s play for them. The studio had made countless bizarre masterpieces, like Steins;Gate, Zanmataisei Demonbane, Kikokugai and so on. However, the most twisted and grotesque of them all, and probably the one which delivers the most impact ever, is Saya no Uta, which even incorporates organs and intestines as part of their storylines and visuals. Some other classic Nitroplus titles are on par with Saya no Uta; bloody, gore, and visually destructive, though Saya no Uta still triumph them all in that department.

Currently, Nitroplus tend to have toned down with their bloodiness and grotesqueness, but they are still one of the best VN developers in integrating dark elements into their stories.

Notable Nitro+ Visual Novels: Zanmataisei Demonbane, Kikokugai, Steins;Gate, Chaos;Head, Phantom of Inferno, Soukou Akki Muramasa, Saya no Uta

3. Key

Key is the polar opposite of Nitroplus. While Nitroplus applies the use of dark elements, Key relies on their unique charming point; tranquility and warmth.

In Key’s path to fame, it is known to make good use of it’s “traditional formula” from past to present: Slice of Life + Romance + Tearjerking drama + A bit of Magic = Masterpiece. From visual novels as new as Rewrite, to ones as old as Air, this fixed pattern had worked wonders, even to this day. Using no complicated stories or confusing plot twists, Key uses the simple strength of slice of life drama and a bit of magic to obtain that fairy-tale like ambiance, while at the same time creating an atmospheric pristine serenity. Following them, many other slice of life visual novels uses almost the same pattern which Key had revolutionized. Key is indeed one inspiring visual novel company and it proved one simple fact: simplicity is the best magic.

Notable Key Visual Novels: Air, Clannad, Kanon, Little Busters!, Rewrite

There are still a lot of other studios who deserves honorable mention; and some includes AkabeiSoft2, kid, Eushully, Alice Soft, Leaf, Light and so on. Perhaps, there might even be various other undiscovered gems which I most probably haven’t come across yet and hopefully, I would expand my visual novels horizon much more in the near future.

Also, this is not what I originally intended, but I made a post which is coincidentally a good guide for beginners of visual novels, so off it goes to nopy’s project…

This entry was posted by Kai.

59 thoughts on “Top 3 Visual Novel Studios

  1. Vava admitted all the heroines in past Key games follow 1 of 6 formulaes. It’s basically 6 scientifically shown ways to make people feel sad. It’s the same 6 they use in ‘crying shows’ on many of TV’s Jdramas.

    Oh yea Jun Maeda tweeted that he was working on Angel Beats the visual novel. hopefully they use NaGa and Itaru Hinoue artworks. very exciting~

    thx Kai nice introduction piece for first timers :3

    • So there’s actually a specific formula they follow, well, probably not going to look into it, as it kills the fun to know too much of these in-depth.

      Ohh he did? I remembering hearing about these one or two years ago, wonder how’s the progress now. NaGa is an extraordinary artist! :D

      Thanks :D

  2. Of course, the only visual novels I played so far is from Key, although I have watched adaptations from other companies that make visual novel adaptations…

    As for Nitro+, it’s not a surprise since Gen Urobuchi worked on some of those stories, most notably Saya no Uta. I like his story telling, although he has a tendency to kill off characters.

    • You should try out some of the ones I mentioned too, even ones from honorable mentions, they are epic :D

      He’s mad. He always likes killing off his characters in the cruelest way possible, but that is exactly why we all love him :D

  3. I’m by no means a visual novel player, but I would personally have Key and Leaf at the top of my list based on their anime adaptations. I would also have Navel up there as well since I love Aoi Nishimata’s and Hiro Suzuhira’s character designs.

    • I didn’t judge them from anime adaptions but strictly from visual novels alone. Well, Leaf is certainly amazing; and one of their works, Utawarerumono, is great, both in anime and in visual novel. Ooh and I totally forgot, Navel made some great visual novels too, and that reminded me, I need to play Soul Link soon.

      • Well, Tsukihime in anime adaptation is much worse than the VN and FS/N is the same case (but a little bit better). I read (played ?) at least one VN from each of this studios and I have to say, that Tsukihime still remains the best VN I´ve ever played

      • F/SN is not that bad, at least F/SN anime managed to manifest their existence. For Tsukihime well, “There is no Tsukihime anime.” I didn’t watch it but I’m sure it’s gotta be hell bad for such a meme to turn up itself.

      • Navel, Shuffle is one of my favorite game ever.

        F/SN anime is not half as bad as tsukihime anime.
        though, I hardly remember tsukihime anime because it was so bad that my memory of the anime might be patched up by my memory of the game.
        as for F/SN anime I watch it first before I play the game so I can really enjoy it. however, after playing F/SN, I found the game is many times better than the anime.

      • It’s a good thing I didn’t watch the Tsukihime anime and went straight for the visual novel, I’m sure it’s going to ruin my image of Type-Moon.
        That’s a no brainer, and I’m sure it’s the same for most other visual novels. In the visual novels, it is able to “not” feel rushed and cut corners, unlike anime which is constantly pressing for time. The Unlimited Blade Works movie is one prime example.

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    • I will definitely put Key in third but if it’s Type-moon and Nitro+, if I were to rethink that, I would have trouble positioning them again :p But for now, Type-moon first, and Nitro+ second.

  5. Can not touch another Key title game, too much sugar for my blood, lol. Perfectly fine with Leaf, AkabeiSoft2, Softhouse-Seal (when I want a nukige), and not forget Alicesoft. Also would like to put down Alcot, Escu:de (Otome Renshin Prister, good times my friend. good times.), and Will get honorable mentions. Yeah, pretty my whole list right here XD

    • If that’s so, get some classic Nitro+ :D Not sure about softhouse-seal but they specialized in nukige? Perv :D But their artwork is pretty beautiful. And lol, as expected of a veteran VN player, you know a lot more then I do :D I also like Alcot too, for Osananajimi wa Daitouryou, didn’t play Onigokko though..

  6. Same here, still new to galgaming, but if given a chance, I’d probably mention the same studios as well. Key and Type-Moon did things greatly, just felt that the anime adaptation of the Type-Moon titles (FSN and Tsukihime) were subpar compared to their Key counterparts. As for Nitroplus, they should tone down their character killing, (killing the girls in Muramasa is crime enough) still epic though XD

    • I had played for a few years but sadly yea, the amount I played doesn’t amount to much D: Yea certainly, and Key were always choosy themselves with anime adaptions, perhaps that’s why. Though Nitro+’s Steins;Gate adaption is quite awesome enough :D Ahh I haven’t play Muramasa, don’t think there’s an English patch for it yet no? I wanted to try playing it raw but for me, Nitro+’s storytelling is always too difficult without proper translations.

      • Muramasa is actually being translated by JAST/Makoto, most of it is translated however it is being stalled due to something on Nitro+ side.

          • I thought that to, but according to VNTS its because the game is Nitro+ that it is stalled. Besides that it may be because JAST has like 5 games they want to put out, even though 3 of the games are already translated…

            Also i heard that Makoto himself wants to translate the game, but thats just a rumor. (If the game does come out itll probably be in 2014 lol.)

          • That comes as a surprise. Well that’s true too, I wonder what’s the hold-up, even thogh the game’s already translated, what’s stopping them for actually releasing them? Does publishing their completed works take such a long procedure?

            Ooh that’s cool. Lol, I can wait. I wonder if they will do Robotics;Notes too..

            • I guess we’d need to wait until a pc version comes out then, but since an anime will be airing, we can hope its done as well as Steins;Gate or even better.

            • Both Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate are phenomenal (excluding the fact that Chaos;Head’s anime is kinda horrible.. mind you) so I’m sure Robotic;Notes won’t disappoint.

            • Personally I don’t like Chaos;Head anime.
              I think the story is far more complex than that (I have the game just don’t have the time and will to played it yet).
              I like Steins;Gate though, the idea of traversing space and time is something that I like to study/read.

            • I didn’t watch the anime and went straight for VN, and I would say I made quite a good choice. I’m sure it will just be a waste of time watching the anime.
              And Steins;Gate went quite deep into the concept too, most of the terms and concepts used in the anime all existed in real life. “John Titor” is especially intriguing.

  7. Your top 3 studio’s are probably also the top 3 most famous ones because of their mainstream succeses.
    While i don’t deny that the studio’s that you have listed are very good, because the explanation that you gave for your top 3 is very convincing.
    However type-moon and nito plus won’t make it into my favorites list because i am not into those kind of VN’s that they make.

    • They are indeed ones which sets trends in newer VN releases, the intriguing Type-moon, the bloody Nitro+ and the calmness of Key.
      So Key’s your number one?

  8. Key will always be no.1 for me, below that I have absolutely no idea… 07th Expansion’s Higurashi, KID’s Ever 17 and Nitroplus’ Steins;Gate were epic mindfucks, August’s Aiyoku no Eustia and Palette’s Moshiraba are really awesome too, and of course Akabeisoft2’s Sharin no Kuni and G-senjou no Maou. Musn’t forget Type-Moon for its awesome works as well. Oh, and Liarsoft’s Forest, Kusarihime and What a Beautiful Series have great stories, especially Forest… That’s it, there’s so much visual novels from different studios I like that I can’t really choose and 2nd or 3rd. Though I haven’t had time to read Muramasa, Hanachirasu and Jingai Makyou, I may like Nitroplus even more after reading those.

    • 07th Expansion although good at suspenseful stories, those graphics are… horrid. They always had to rely on graphical improvements in other ports like PS2/3 and it’s not even a huge improvements, at least in Higurashi’s case. Even PS2’s Higurashi is not as good as other visual novels graphic-wise.

      If my list is a little longer, like say, top 5, then I’m sure I would put KID somewhere on 4th or 5th. What’s good about KID is that it’s like Type-moon, their stories and plot points may/may not overlap with other releases. I always like subtle universal relations like this.

      Nitroplus is indeed epic as sht, though I haven’t played Steins;Gate, lol. I will try to find some time for it but I guess I’ll just stay content with the anime for now. Akabeisoft2 made great games too, in fact, G-Senjou no Maou becomes one of my most fav VN. Still putting the Beautiful Series on hold. How’s Jingai Makyou’s translation progress so far?

      • To be honest, I have no qualms about horrible graphics as long as the other aspects can make up for it, and 07th Expansion did this perfectly for me. Jingai Makyou only has a chinese translation patch, I’m not sure about english. I guess I’m lucky that one of my languages is chinese, my range of VNs to read has increased greatly, though currently I’m studying Japanese, so hopefully I can read Japanese VNs by this year, though VNs like Subarashiki Hibi and Saihate no Ima are out of the question.

        Nitroplus is that epic huh? I’ve only read S;G, C;H and Demonbane, and I’m satisfied enough by those, maybe I’ll try the others someday. But there are tons of good VNs out there by not-so-popular companies that I can’t ignore. In fact, I’m reading 6 VNs right now, trying to complete them by this month, then maybe I can finally try out Muramasa and 3 Days from Lass.

      • Well I haven’t check out Umineko yet but Higurashi’s PC version is like watching powerpuff girls. Graphic isn’t everything I know.. but there there’s still a limit for how bad it is. So you’re reading them through Chinese? Haven’t try those yet, I still prefer English if possible though. How far are you with your Japanese? I studied hiragana and katakana but my kanji is………

        You should try out Saya no Uta! The ones you played are the more scientific aspect of Nitroplus. Kikokugai is also kinda underrated. I’m trying to play some old games from Alicesoft, as usual, their gameplays are really challenging.

        • Since I can read Chinese, kanji isn’t that hard for me, quite easy to remember and some of them have the same meaning as its chinese counterpart so I’m quite lucky. I’ve tried out reading Onigokko by Alcot last week and got about 50-70% of the meaning correct by comparing to the translated version. I’ll be going through intensive training so that I can read Rewrite Harvest Festa when it goes on sale on the end of July… Well since my holiday is during mid August that’ll be my time limit then.

          Oh no, not Saya no Uta, not yet. I heard its good, I know its good, but for now I’m not going for horror and gore yet. There’s a lot of popular translated VNs out there that I haven’t read as well such as G-senjou no Maou, Muv-luv Alternative, Cross Channel and Umineko, so there’s no rush. After all, there’s tons of good VNs out there unknown to many non-Japanese, and I’m reading various vns to find a good one for myself.

        • I’m a Chinese too but I still prefer English, there are more comfortable for my eyes, lol. Some of them can easily be understood yes but the way they are read are sometimes completely different, so at times, they are slightly confusing. I’m planning to wait hellishly for Rewrite, which won’t finish translating in around a few years, lol >_>

          I haven’t read the Muv-luv series at all yet and they are in my To-read list indeed. G-senjou no Maou is phenomenal, it’s one of my most favorite visual novel^^

          • Based on the speed of amaterasu, the translation patch of Rewrite would most likely be done at the end of the year or even faster, since Ixrec’s translating it.

            My Chinese is quite bad too, to the point of giving up taking the subject until I found out about Chinese translations, which spurred me into reading as much as possible even if I could not understand it as well as English, and as a result my Chinese skills have improved quite a bit. And actually, its because my Chinese sucks that I read kanji in Japanese instead of Chinese since I don’t know how to lol. Now for my goal to switch to Japanese asap…

      • Hmm I hope you’re right. I don’t wanna get my hopes up too much D: I remember I waited LB’s translation literally for years, since for LB, I started playing as soon as the common route was translated, and waiting for the other routes and true end to release was quite… “painful”.

        Hmmm, I think I will try it one of these days, but I definitely won’t read VNs like Muramasa though, Nitro+ VNs are too difficult to understand without proper translations, I will most probably find some random slice-of-life stuffs. It must taken quite an effort to be able to even read most of the kanji, well, good luck with that :D You have until August right? Few months to go for the mastery of the language~

  9. Type-moon as my first and Key second.
    I don’t really like Gore and so Nitro+ is something I am not yet able to add to my favorite list.

    I especially love crossover story. and Type-moon with their universe is really something that I would love. or I could say that its something that I was looking for.
    well, FSN is my first ever VN that I finished solely because of their story. (before it I would just use skip and grab all the CG)

    As for Key I knew them from their anime adaptation. and mostly play for the completeness of the story of the anime.
    next is Leaf for their added game-play and not just dialog all the way to the end.

    then I know Kamidori and that make Eushully in my next favorite list.

    Anyway thank for the post as it really will help me recommend VN to new player.

    • So what would you like in your 3rd spot?

      So you were playing other VNs before F/SN? What were you playing? F/SN was my first VN and while a bit complicated, it manages to instantly pull me into the entertaining realm of visual novels.

      I also play them for completeness though quite recently, I finished LB, and it’s probably the only Key product which I finished the original VN first before watching the anime. Leaf, Eushully and also Alicesoft always provide entertaining gameplay aspects to their VNs, and they are indeed pretty fun.

      • That is the hard part, if it was about the game I might have one or two on the third spot. but as a studio I rarely notice other than Type Moon and Key.

        before F/SN i was playing x-change, pick me honey, snow drop, virgin roaster, brave soul, and few more game with that kind of genre.

        for LB I am not finished playing it yet. still around 5 hour game play so I guess its hardly enter the common route. I think I’ll save the spoiler for latter this year.

        I have lot’s of title yet to play in my collection right now so I think I’ll save the 3rd spot for when I can play at least half of my collection. though, with this rate it would be never ending list as I add 1 or 2 title every 2 weeks and hardly finish anything in a week.

      • Hmm I guess that’s why I didn’t pick some other studios where only just one or two games are known. Type-Moon, Key and Nitroplus had been in the business for years, they are vetarans and know what they are doing, and had released a lot of epic masterpieces.

        Wow, I heard of those titles but I don’t think I ever tried those before. 5 hours eh.. going to take sometime to finish it completely. That’s the thing with Key games, they always force viewers to finish every route just to see the true end. Sadistic creators.. well, I’m not complaining though, it’s kinda worth it :D

        Mine too. VNs need time to finish, I just managed to finish another one some time ago. I won’t say what it is now (for the surprise) but a post about it would come out soon I guess..

  10. my first spot is Akabei soft2 since i like mystery and deep psychology story maybe because one of first VN i played is G-senjou no maou and sharin no kuni and my second spot is Key cause i like tear-jerking story.

    btw, i especially love VN where the protagonist is gentle villain (people think he’s bad person but the truth is he’s very good person)

    • Those two are great VNs indeed, and G-Senjou no Maou is mindblowing.

      Ohh yea I love those protagonists too; controversial protagonists who is both good and evil at the same time, it makes readers question the morality of the character.

  11. My top favorite VN studios: 07th Expansion, Type-Moon, Nitro+. So many stories to read, still too little time.

    Nitro+’s stories are complex, the characters are memorable, good art to boot.

    Having played Saya no Uta, a bit of Chaos;Head/Steins;Gates and still in the process of reading Hanachirasu, not to mention having watched all of the animated counterparts, I can conclude I without a doubt like Nitro+. I tend to like darker elements in stories because they provide a strong depth. I like that Nitro+ isn’t afraid to try new things others don’t and ‘go there’ when necessary. I can respect that.
    I would really like more Nitro+ games to be and continue to be translated. They do really deserve more attention.

    > Tsukihime, Plus-Disc, Kagetsu Tohya (still playing), Mahoutsukai no Yoru.

    Type-Moon is another vn studio I’d like to get more into, however, there are so many games and they are lengthy enough to take me a while to finish them. To me, Tsukihime’s story and true potential only reveals itself after you’re done playing all routes (especially the final route for me).

    I’ve been planning on starting F/SN since forever. Fate Zero just made me want to get in there more. I just know that I’ll play it, just don’t know when.

    Btw, in case you may know, how long does it take to finish one average route in FSN?

    • there is a record time in FSN and if I remember correctly for 3 route it total around 4-6 days so I guess it around 20-30 hour per route.

      ooh FYI I use the flow chart included by the english patch so I didn’t do any side route (collecting bad ending for the badge). and play straight to the route. well, sometimes got bad ending though.

    • 07th Expansion certainly make great suspenseful psychological stuffs, but dat graphics.. And yes, I feel your pain D:

      Hmm.. kinda depends which one you’re talking about, since Nitro+’s art had been constantly evolving, but I certainly like the old Nitro+ with their dark-like looking characters.

      I still haven’t started Steins;Gate yet but the anime did the VN some justice for sure. Chaos;Head is also quite good, not counting the anime, lol. Hanachirasu is filled with hot-blooded swordsfight, only thing I don’t like about that is the huge explanations on the movements and martial arts. And yes that’s certainly true, Gen Urobuchi certainly had a knack for creating deep and dark characters… and he also has a knack for killing off his own characters, lol.

      Been a long time since I played those 2 games, but isn’t Tsukihime’s final route Kohaku’s? I don’t think I feel anything special in regards to it, though it is certainly a good route. My favorite is the “imouto” route.. xD

      Aww that’s too bad, I think you would had enjoyed Fate/Zero even more if you played the VN. There are some things both the anime and the movie haven’t go into yet, like the crest worms from the Matou family.

      Like Sakurai said, I think I finished mine around 20 hours too, could be shorter though since I played without the Realta Nua patch (no voices) = I can read faster without waiting for the dialogues to finish.

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  17. For me it would be Nitro+, Flying Shrine, and 07th expansion
    Havent done much 07th but Umineko ep 1 but i love it. And for the other 2 studio’s, lets just say some of their stuff will break you apart far more emotionaly than a standard charage

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