What to play in a genre marked mostly by more of the same
By Lauren Kelly, Editor-in-Chief
In the world of video games, dating sims often have the reputation of being very heterocentric and problematic. However, as game development has diversified, so too have the offerings at hand for those of us wanting to experience new stories. For those who are unaware of the genre, they are mostly visual novels, where you click through pages of story and usually still pictures, and are given choices to decide how it plays out. In this subset of visual novels, your choices decide which of a set amount of love interests you date, and whether you’re successful at dating them. Although there are more out there, here are three of the best.
Katawa Shoujo by Four Leaf Studios takes place at a school for students with disabilities, which the male main character has just begun attending. There are five girls who you have the option to romance, and all of their stories are handled deftly and with great respect. There is also much more to each character than her disability. For example, Rin is a painter born with a birth defect resulting in her not having fully formed arms. However, her plotline focuses heavily on how she deals with mental illness, due to her being unable to communicate effectively. This is a game that could have gone horribly wrong, but instead it’s beautiful, crushing, and a lot of fun. There are also few explicit scenes, and you can turn them off without missing much. It’s free to download on their website, and it’s something everyone should play, even if just to better understand those around us who are living with disabilities.
Coming out on Top
Coming out on Top is a gay dating sim put out by ObscuraSoft. In it, you play Mark Matthews, who comes out of the closet at the beginning of the game. Your romance options are varied, including a Taiwanese punk rocker, a black marine, a redhead jock, your blonde professor, and your best friend. You also have the option to give each man a beard and body hair, so you can tailor it to your preferences. The writing is clever and entertaining, making it enjoyable for multiple playthroughs. However, the game is very explicit, so go into it aware of that fact. It’s also nearly $20 USD, so it is a bit costly, but you can play the free demo and decide for yourself if it suits your taste.
Cute Demon Crashers
Cute Demon Crashers is quite different from the previous two. First, the player character is a woman, and the game is not truly a dating sim. Instead, the character is sexually frustrated, and four demons come into her house to help her out. There are three men and one woman, and they each have different amounts of sexual experience and very different personalities. However, the best part of this game is the heavy focus on consent. Each step of the way, all of the characters check in with you to make sure you’re comfortable with what’s happening, and you can choose to not engage with any character and everyone is very understanding. It’s fantastic, and much shorter than the other two games, so it’s less of an investment. It’s also free, so if it sounds like it’s up your alley, go grab it right now!