All-time Favorite Visual Novels
1. Ef – A fairy tale of the two
Before modern visual novels evolved and grew with such colorful, vibrant and breathtaking visuals, older visual novels haven’t been, for a lack of better word… pretty. However, there was Ef, which was amazingly beautiful for a product of it’s time. Ef also tells a linear, but heartwarming story, matched with the beautiful visuals and music-gives an almost fairy tale-like feel. It’s an all-around incredibly therapeutic visual novel with touching romance stories.
2. Fate/Stay Night
Ah, Fate/Stay Night. One of the most recognized visual novels of all time, thanks to it’s popular adaptions. Intriguing system and concept, amazing fight scenes are among some finer points of the title. But the best highlights of Fate/Stay Night is definitely the knee-deep level of character focus-characterizations which would grow strong even today; with the overarching Holy Grail War progressing on the forefront. Some may argue it’s pretty much a chuuni story, but even if that’s so, it’s one damn fine chuuni story if you ask me.
3. G-Senjou no Maou
Nothing short of a masterpiece. G-Senjou no Maou is a visual novel written by Looseboy of Akabeisoft2. Battle of wits, mind-blowing twists and adrenaline-pumping excitement; G-Senjou no Maou is everything you want out of a mystery-thriller, hell, it has everything you want out of a plot-driven story. Once it starts picking up, G-Senjou no Maou is among one of the most engaging story you will ever find in visual novels with it’s high tension and drama.
An emotionally-gripping tale of a soldier fighting in an unfamiliar, insane world. There are three parts of Muv-luv – Extra, Unlimited and Alternative, and it is recommended to play all three of them to get properly invested. Although quite lengthy, it is incredibly hard not to find something you like in the Muv-luv trilogy-Takeru’s character development, camaraderie with the squad, the intense 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 trilogy worth it.
Steins;Gate is an excellent time-travel story-a tale depicting a man fighting against fate. I’m actually hard-pressed to find anything to complain about. While it is slightly less ambitious as far as time travel stories are concerned, it has the advantage of coherence and meticulous planning when developing ideas and concepts-and they actually had initially great ones to work with. Naotaka Hayashi just seems to have a good idea how subsequent events should unfold-resulting in a smooth pacing, naturally flowing plot and an extremely satisfying, conclusive end. All in all, despite the seemingly overabundance of time travel stories, Steins;Gate is definitely one to look out for.
6. Sharin no Kuni
Likewise with G-Senjou no Maou, Sharin no Kuni was produced by Akabesoft2 and written by Looseboy. The visual novel depicts on how law and systems effect a country and focuses on themes like conspiracies, criminology and political struggles. Sharin no Kuni introduces a really unique government system which aims to rehab certain “criminals.” It’s more interesting, character-driven and less over-the-top than G-Senjou no Maou so if some of you aren’t too fond of G-Senjou for some reason, then Sharin no Kuni is an excellent alternative pick.
7. Ever 17: The Out of Infinity
At the time, Ever 17 was one of the most original titles localized, and it turned into one of the top titles among Western visual novel audiences in no time flat. In any case, Ever 17 proved one thing — that it’s formula is an almost guaranteed-masterpiece. There’s clearly a reason why the series’s writer, Kotaro Uchikoshi, even goes so far as to use the same tried-and-true formula in some of his later games, predominantly the Zero Escape series which is also as popular.
8. Key Visual Novels
Speaking of tried-and-true formula, you can never go wrong with Key’s — the master of nakige. Key’s penchant for writing high school dramas have never once felt stale, even after all these years. Anything made from Key is bound to give you a laugh and a cry by the end of the game. It’s slice of life, portrayed in extreme simplicity and with a teeny-weeny bit of magic, is what spiced up Key’s top visual novels. While there are definitely exceptions as Key has worked on titles that are different from what I described here, I have a personal fondness for Key’s slice of life stories myself. In my opinion, Key and slice of life goes hand-in-hand like peas in a pod.
9. Sono Hanabira
Of all the yuri franchises I came across, be it anime, manga, novels; the Sono Hanabira series is to me one of the best, if not, truly the best — because Sono Hanabira is one among very few series that can satisfy my ideal yuri preferences. There are more than 10 titles in the series at the time of writing this list, and it can only keep growing which is really telling of the series’s popularity.
10. Kara no Shoujo
The Kara no Shoujo series is a psychological mystery by Innocent Grey, set just after World War 2 in Japan. Slower-paced with apprehensive twists in between, the story puts you in the shoes of detective and former police, Tokisaka Reiji-as he involved himself in a serial murder that would literally force him to investigate every nook and cranny, an investigation which would discover that everyone is not as unrelated as you may think. Kara no Shoujo is a story of sins, a story of religion, a story of truth-seeking; but more than anything, a story of obsession. It’s a type of mystery with a focused motif, and one which fans of mystery and suspense would definitely enjoy.