Visual novels they form a niche genre, where stories and artwork take priority over raw gameplay. As a result, many gamers may write these games as nothing more than elaborate books, but this is doing this genre a huge disservice. After all, stories have become quite important in modern gaming, and good visual novels make it important to create great narratives that keep players hooked for the long haul. There’s a reason why so many anime adaptations of visual novels end up being high-profile hits, with their own incredible storytelling to behold.
That said, there are times when certain games in the visual novel genre play their part in allowing for a more unique and memorable experience. One clever way most games achieve this is deconstructing the genre itself and subverting expectations in the best possible way. Here are some great visual novels that do a great job in this context.
5/5 Air pressure
Most people assume that partnering with a central character and nurturing this relationship to stay with one partner to the end is the perfect way to wrap up the experience. Air pressure is one such visual novel, with the main character forming a romantic relationship with Leigh, a girl the protagonist has known since they were teenagers.
The logical course of action to achieve this game’s best ending should come with the player and Leigh living happily ever after…but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, what ends up happening is the players slowly realize that their relationship with Leigh is far from good for both of them, with the best ending leading to a breakup and both characters slowly reuniting and enjoying life. once on once they realize they were both mean to each other.
4/5 I hate you
Visual novels have romance as a pretty big part of their games, with most games in this genre essentially being dating sims where the player character can choose from a number of girls to develop relationships with while spending time with them, making gifts and performing other similar activities. I hate you it has this exact mechanic, with the player character trying their best to woo some romantic options.
However, there’s a reason this game is called I hate you, with pretty much every “option” hating the player a bit. In their minds, this man is nothing more than an obsessed monster who won’t let them go, which can be borderline predatory behavior. It’s a unique twist on the whole concept of romance in visual novel dating sims, with the game itself warning players from the start that wooing any of the game’s heroines will be totally impossible.
3/5 Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
The Danganronpa the series itself deconstructs so many tropes in the visual novel genre right from the very first game. Sayaka seems like a sweet character who would help the character… only to die and her disappearance reveals that she always meant to kill Makoto. The second game also has its fair share of subversions, but it’s definitely the third game that deserves a special mention on this list.
The ending of this game is extremely controversial, with V3 representing the 53rd edition of The Killing Games which is broadcast worldwide for all to enjoy. It’s an extreme twist that completely turns the franchise on its head and adds a whole new meaning to the Hope vs. Despair that has been going on in this series for so long.
2/5 Doki Doki Literature Club!
It would be impossible to talk about a game that deconstructs the visual novel genre without mentioning the worldwide phenomenon that it was Doki Doki Literature Club. This game is loved by many as one of the most effective examples of horror and fourth wall breaking in a video game, with Monika being one of the love interests who realizes she is part of a video game coded in a way that never leaves her finish with the main character.
Slowly succumbing to the madness brought about by this realization, Monika rewrites the entire code of the game itself and forces the surviving characters in the game to take their insecurities and questionable morals to the max, leading to Yuri’s gruesome death and Monika eliminates both her and Natsumi from the game by deleting their files. It is only by accessing the game files and deleting Monika’s character that players can finally reach the end of this very unique visual novel game.
1/5 Your Turn to Die -Majority Death Game-
Your turn to die is one of the more unique visual novels on this list, with the characters in this title being thrust into a twisted Death Game that is filled to the brim with gruesome executions. The main character of this game, Sara Chidouin, is a perfect deconstruction of the visual novel main character trope in many ways.
While her intelligence and magnetic personality initially convince everyone to trust her as the de facto leader of the group, it becomes endlessly clear that a high school student is nowhere near the perfect candidate to lead people through such a dark game. She takes everyone’s deaths personally, culminating in a mental breakdown after a close friend, Joe, ends up losing his life. The rest of the people in the group also doubt her effectiveness as her leader, singling out her background as a young high school student and whether she is ready to take on such a huge responsibility.
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