Visual Novels That Will Change Your Mind About The Genre

Part of what some would call a gaming genre niche, visual novels tackle the stories that most mainstream games avoid. A genre-cum-medium of interactive stories that often feature static anime-influenced art, they also tend to be more diverse than more mainstream titles — often taking a hard like at the society we live in.

There’s a lot more to visual novels than some people expect based on stereotypes about the genre. That’s truer now than ever, thanks to a raft of new games — either visual novels or titles influenced by them — that demonstrate the possibilities of the format and signal a sea change that asks us to reconsider what a visual novel is. So check out our list of visual novels that are re-inventing the genre.

Emily Is Away & Emily Is Away Too

So nostalgic it hurts. The Emily Is Away series is a game about instant messaging played in an extremely familiar setting of Windows XP. The game feels exactly like my high school days of MSN and ICQ where subtle passive aggressiveness and language reigned supreme. It takes place completely on a computer terminal during your senior year in school. As in the original, you’ll message your friends on the non-copyright infringing EOL Messenger, but this time around you’ll also be able to browse profiles on Facenook, watch videos on YouToob and transfer files. It’s so charming and dizzyingly nostalgic I get the feeling my parents are just about to yell at me to free up the phone line.

The gameplay is fairly straightforward and you’ll be chatting to Emily and Evelyn during the course of your time here. Both girls come across as happily believable; insouciant teens feeling out the last days of their adolescence, afraid and excited for what the future will bring. Their play-acting at cool is largely endearing, especially after the introductory chapter. Like any normal human being, both Emily and Evelyn take their time to open up, and when they do, it’s hard not to care about them.

Platform: PC

Emily Is Away is available on Steam for Free and Emily is Away Too is available on Steam for RM 12

Neo Cab

This is a survival game unlike that you’ve ever played before. Neo Cab, from Californian studio Chance Agency, looks to put a much more human and relatable spin on the concept. Also, the visual settings are absolutely neon cyberpunk gorgeous.

Neo Cab is a game about being one of the last cab drivers. In the not-too-distant future, you play as Lina Romero, one of the last human members of a business long since taken over by AI in the city of Los Ojos. Players are tasked with balancing money, reputation and emotional health while navigating both the streets of the city and the conversations that the job brings. You’ve got to keep your feelings from exploding while you engage in a quest to save someone close to you. Managing the emotional needs of your passengers along the way, and becoming invested in their lives, are the parts of the gig that you probably won’t be compensated for.

There’s a diverse cast of characters and unique mechanics including branching stories, an in-game economy, and an emotion system that promises to be completely original. The city is procedurally generated and contains plenty of random encounters and discoverable items. Get on their mailing list here.

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux

Release Date: February 5th 2019

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