Visual novels are hugely popular in Japan and, in the last few years, have slowly made their way to the West in greater numbers. Upon first glance, they may not appear to be a standard “game” but visual novels excel at telling unique stories that are not often told in the medium. This special form of storytelling has found an audience on the Nintendo Switch and make up some of the best games on the system.
★ Featured Favorite
One of the most amazing visual novels ever created is on the Nintendo Switch. If you are interested in diving into a stellar game that does just about everything right and pushes the boundaries of what narrative can do in a game, it one of the then you should check out Steins;Gate Elite. It’s one of, if not the, best visual novel game for Switch.
The Dating Game
The Charming Empire
If you’re looking to get a true visual novel game on the Switch, then The Charming Empire is likely going one of the only options for now thanks to its focuso n reading. It’s further bolstered by gorgeous manga styled art, this one definitely checks all the boxes. Like so many visual novels, this story is about love and relationships and the choices you make to get there.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
This popular franchise comes dangerously close to being a point-and-click adventure at times, but there are definitely visual novel elements, whether you’re investigating a crime, interviewing witnesses, or in court. The best part about this purchase is that you get three games for the price of one.
Night in the Woods
This game is a visual novel, adventure game, and social simulator all rolled up into one that addresses the growing pains of coming into young adulthood. You play as Mae, a hilariously macabre college dropout who returns to her dying hometown to discover that life with her friends has changed. There’s also something sinister going on. Can you figure out what it is?
The Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya
Another pure-bred visual novel option for your Nintendo Switch would have to be The Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya. It’s a popular romance game in Japan that has been localized for a western audience. You are faced with a cadre of beautiful young men vying for your attention, and it’s up to you to decide who to develop a relationship with.
Visual novel purists would likely claim that Oxenfree does not come anywhere near close to ticking all the boxes required to be counted in the category. It does, however, focus heavily on character development and branching dialog choices, which are common in the genre. If you love a great story inhabited by well-rounded and deep characters, this will probably be right up your alley.
People have mysteriously been finding a grotesque birthmark on their bodies. The thing is, those marked only have a limited time before they die a gruesome death. You play as a young man in Tokyo’s H City who’s just discovered a birthmark on his body. Will you be able to figure out what’s going on in this horrific world?
A Little Too Real
This is anything but a lighthearted game. You play as Evan Winter, an overweight and depressed individual. This game will put you through some serious emotional crises, and spin a tale filled with dark humor until finally coming to the end. What really makes this haunting tale worth your time is the phenomenal writing and difficult decisions you’re forced to make.
The Coma: Recut
While The Coma doesn’t hit the nail on the head when it comes to visual novels, it does come a little closer. There is a large 2D side-scrolling element, but it does lean heavily on text and dialog. Also, the visual aspect of the game is, at times, reminiscent of a traditional visual novel.
Hand of Fate
WILL: A Wonderful World
A young girl wakes up in a room with a talking dog only to discover that she is a god, and it’s her responsibility to answer people’s prayers. How you respond and the way you complete puzzles will affect the lives of those you aid. Will you be a force for good or will you unwittingly lead to these people’s downfall?
Love is in the Air
Code: Guardian of Rebirth
Explore a reimagined steampunk world in 1800s London full of historical and literary characters. You play as poison skinned Cardia as she tries to stay one step ahead of a mysterious organization who’s hellbent on capturing her. The visuals are absolutely gorgeous, and the story allows you to make decisions and play out different scenarios between different characters.
A Modern Love
Florence is a modern love tale through the eyes of a young artist. Play short minigames in between a tender story about falling in and out of love.
Somebody call the freelance police!
Sam & Max Save The World Remastered
Sam and Max were once adventure game icons during the golden era of PC gaming in the early 90s. They’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, but have recently resurfaced in Sam & Max Save the World Remastered, a remaster of their 2006 reboot. It’s still packed with plenty of goofy dialog and ridiculous interactions to keep fans of visual novels entertained.
Fear the Walking Dead
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season
The Walking Dead is the incredibly popular horror comic book series that has been successfully translated to TV and video games. While there are many entries in the Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead, you should definitely start at the award-winning first entry.
Music to my ears
Across the Grooves
Across the Grooves is a handcrafted adventure soaked in magical realism. When Alice plays a record from an ex-lover, it forces her to relive old events, and when she emerges, she comes back a different person. Determined to figure out what happened, Alice sets out to uncover the origins of the record and get her life back on track.
Batman – The Telltale Series (Nintendo Switch)
Who doesn’t wanna be Batman? Another Telltale series makes our list and tells a story that focuses more on Batman’s investigative skills (he is the world’s greatest detective you know). Unravel a story about the deep-rooted corruption of Gotham City that’ll require the help of both Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Not a typical walk through the park
Thimbleweed Park (Nintendo Switch)
From the creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion comes Thimbleweed Park, a neo-noir mystery that fans of X-Files and Twin Peaks will enjoy. Discover a town packed full of quirky citizens, satisfying puzzles, and plenty of jokes.
The truth is hidden
Syberia 1 & 2
Experience the first two classic graphic adventure games on your TV or on-the-go in this package. Fans of surreal stories will find a lot to enjoy as they follow Kate Walker on her journey across Europe.
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition is a magical realist adventure game told in five acts, with a soundtrack by The Bedquilt Ramblers. This is a series of bizarre but grounded stories about the fall of America that are sure to stay with you long after you put down the controller.
The bureaucracy of the dead
Grim Fandango Remastered
Another adventure game classic reemerges on the Nintendo Switch. Follow Manny Calavera, the travel agent at the Department of Death, as he struggles to unravel a conspiracy that threatens his very salvation.
Does a drink compute?
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action
In a world where corporations reign supreme and society lives in an oppressed cybernetic dystopia, you have one purpose. And that’s to serve drinks. As a bartender named VA-11 Hall-A or Valhalla, you must keep your patrons happy with the right drink. Get to know your clients and learn more about their lives with each new drink prepared. Enjoy a moody soundtrack as you unravel the stories unfolding on the other end of the dystopia.
No love lost
When the Past was Around
When the Past was Around is a story about a girl in love. Experience a surreal story about love, moving on, letting go, and the joy and pain of everything in between.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
Everyone deserves love, especially daddies. You play as a daddy who just moved into the sleepy seaside town of Maple Bay. As it turns out, there are many dateable dads in your area. Create your own dad and see if you can find love in the only Dad-dating simulator.
Wake up to something hot
In an alternate version of Seattle, elves, orcs, mermaids, and humans live together in a modern world, and they all love a good cup of coffee. Learn about the cast of characters who frequent the coffee shop and find the right drinks that’ll help them open up their hearts to you.
Down on your luck
In a future that’s almost totally automated, you play as Lina, one of the last manual cabbies on the streets of Los Ojos. Choose which passengers you pick up and learn their stories — who knows, maybe someone in the city can help you with your problems?
Another chance at prom
Monster Prom XXL
Monster Prom XXL is just like high school all over again, except that this time you’re a monster. Find a date, pick a perfect outfit, and rise from a nobody to totally-not-lame prom royalty. Featuring gorgeous artwork, local multiplayer, and all of the DLC, Monster Prom XXL is loaded with hundreds of things to do and collect. Just try to be cool this time, OK?
Where do you find visual novels for Nintendo Switch?
It is still pretty rare for a visual novel to make its way to the console. I am sure we will see more visual novels pop up in the future, as the console matures. Visual novel-loving Switch users are just going to have to hold on a bit longer. Some more great titles are sure to be on the way. No matter if you’re playing on the standard Switch or a Switch Lite, the system seems like the perfect platform for the genre.
For now, Steins; Gate Elite is a great time travel story for players to enjoy where each choice makes a difference. If love interests are more your style, The Charming Empire offers you plenty of suitors to choose from. Those who are more interested in dark stories will enjoy the dark tale The Coma: Recut. Whichever story you choose, I’m sure the Nintendo Switch will be a very enjoyable console for you to explore this genre further.