Login with Patreon
Discussion > Video GamesAug 23, 2023 8:00 am CT

How do you feel about visual novels as a gaming experience?

While it seems like everybody else was excited for Baldur’s Gate 3 this month, I actually had my eye on two very different games: Stray Gods and Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood. They differ highly in terms of art style and gameplay, yet they both fall under the rubric “Visual Novel” on Steam and in reviews. It made me wonder: What even is a visual novel game these days?

Of course, there’s one group of these games that’s easy to say is considered a visual novel: games that are exactly that, a story told via game format with no choices — you just turn the “pages” until you’re done. While there’s definitely room for these in your library, the advantage of gaming is the computing power that lets you transform a visual novel into a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style experience. Still essentially a visual novel, but one with multiple endings or paths to increase the immersion or replayability for players.

Like so many other gaming genres, there appears to be some significant scope creep with the definition. I just finished Season: A Letter to the Future and while it definitely had some elements of a Visual Novel — an intriguing story on rails, well-developed characters, beautiful environments — it was a very active exploration game, which makes me tend to think it’s not one (note: Steam tags disagree with me). On the other hand, there’s the popular Life is Strange series which is also on the cusp, but I feel still falls into the category, as the exploration/movement is much more restricted. I guess to me the big differentiator is how much time you spend moving from place to place versus how much time you interact while in those places.

Of course I think we can all agree that Persona 5 Royal — a game that I am still obsessed with months after completing it — is most definitely NOT a visual novel game no matter what the Steam tags say. Sure it’s “story-rich,” but a lot of the story interactions are optional, and oh yeah, it’s a turn-based RPG. I may be old-fashioned, but I have to think a game should be defined by its core genre.

So what’s your opinion on visual novel games? Do you like them or hate them or meh them? Do you think visual novels should stick to a straightforward story, or do you prefer yours with choices? What are some of your favorites in this genre? And hey, did you know Starcraft had official tie-in visual novel games?

Blizzard Watch is made possible by people like you.
Please consider supporting our Patreon!


Join the Discussion

Blizzard Watch is a safe space for all readers. By leaving comments on this site you agree to follow our  commenting and community guidelines.

Toggle Dark Mode: