5 Dating Sims I Highly Recommend

5 Dating Sims I Highly Recommend

A few weeks ago, when I wrote about video games I’ve recently enjoyed, I mentioned that I could probably do an entire post about dating sims. Now feels like a good time to fulfill that promise.

For those unfamiliar, dating sims are exactly what they sound like they should be. You play a character looking for love, and the game offers you several options to choose from. Usually, if you date all of the available characters, you unlock a secret route – often a special character you can’t date otherwise.

Dating sims are notorious for forcing their main characters to assume certain characteristics in order to date their love interests. For example, sometimes you have to level up certain stats or express interest in certain hobbies in order to attract the attention of your desired character. Some games take this to the extreme by making you choose outfits or your career based on the desires and interests of the character you’re pursuing.

Traditional dating sims feature male characters trying to romance women. But I tend to play Otome dating sims, which instead feature women trying to date men. Often Otome dating sims feature some kind of overarching story that you can only unlock by moving through all of the routes, including the secret one.

Of course, as you’ll soon see, lots of dating sims contain off the rails twists – like dolls that come to life to date you. Or in at least one case, tanks that turn into cute anime girls.

I can’t claim to have played dating sims extensively. So this is by no means a top five list of the all time best. But they are the ones I have enjoyed the most!

Hatoful Boyfriend

This was the dating sim that introduced me to dating sims. I didn’t actually play it. I watched someone else play it. But it still opened my eyes in many ways.

First and foremost, Hatoful Boyfriend convinced me that you aren’t always meant to take dating sims seriously. The premise of the game is that you’re a human woman attempting to date birds. You can turn on human portraits that flash during the initial introductions. But you can’t escape the fact that you’re dating birds.

This game takes place in a post apocalyptic future in which birds have become the dominant species due to a particularly aggressive form of avian flu. (It’s best not to think too hard about it.) The main character is the only human attending an extremely prestigious bird academy. Your dating options are fellow students and a few of the staff.

I recently started a new playthrough with a friend of mine, and his reactions to the game were everything I hoped for and more. We dated Okosan on our first run, and let’s just say we engulfed the world in pudding.

But beneath its fun and fanciful surface, Hatoful Boyfriend hides a story so deep and meaningful, I once stayed up till 3 in the morning to sob my way through it. You access this secret ending by dating all the other birds. And it is a ride, let me tell you.

In fact the biggest thing I learned from this game is that it doesn’t matter what your characters look like or what kind of world they inhabit. If you can tell a compelling enough story, it will not only hold a person’s attention but leave them begging for more.

So go date some birds. I can’t recommend it enough!

Monster Prom / Camp

Wasn’t this game on the last list?

Why, yes. It was. Including it a second time surely speaks to how magnificent I think this series is. (I’ve played 92 hours of Monster Prom and 45 of Camp, as further proof.)

The Monster Prom series is different from traditional dating sims in that there are no set routes or correct answers. Monster Prom is more of a party game, meant to be completed quickly and usually with friends. (Though it’s also enjoyable solo.) Since each game generates events randomly, each playthrough is different. And the antics are always wild and wacky.

You and your friends play monsters either attending school or summer camp. The goal is convince your love interest to attend prom with you (or a meteor shower in the case of camp). Players can even compete against each other to win the affection of the datable characters. You win by building the stats related to your chosen character. But you also have to pass skill challenges during the game’s events – and you have to guess which stats are tied to which answers.

But again, beneath the surface of the wild, crazy events of the game are a series of stories that punch straight to the heart. Each character has a series of secret endings, unlocked randomly or via items from the in-game shop that reveal unexpected depths of character. Sure, you can punch the sun in one of those endings. But you can also uncover Damien’s secret desire. The true reason Polly died. The truth about Scott and Vera’s parents. And the complicated friendship of the Coven.

Oh and you can give a computer sentience and help an elder god discover their true identity – just to name of a few of the game’s hidden gems.

Hustle Cat

This was the first dating sim I played myself, instead of watching. I was also so enamored with the idea, that I kickstarted the game.

In Hustle Cat, you play a teenager who gains their first summer job at a cat cafe. But there’s a twist; when your coworkers leave the cafe at the end of their shifts, they all turn into cats. And you will too, if you can’t solve the mystery of the cafe.

This game is cute, to say the least. I also appreciate that it breaks a lot of the rules of traditional dating sims. You don’t have to level up stats, for example. The outcomes are purely based on choices. You also get to decide the gender of your character (male, female or nonbinary), and you get to date both ladies and gents.

Each of the routes in this game reveals different details about the overall situation affecting the characters, which makes the secret route even more exciting when you finally unlock it.

The character that you date for Hustle Cat’s secret ending is one of my all time favorite dating sim characters and routes ever – and I’ve played a lot of dating sims, my friend.

Another benefit of Hustle Cat, is that it’s short compared to a lot of dating sims. So you don’t have to invest fifty hours to get the best endings.

PLUS every character turns into a cat that suits their personality!

Amnesia Memories

The art in this game is gorgeous, which is reason enough to give it a peek. My favorite thing about this game is that you don’t have to repeat an introduction where you’re introduced to all of the characters and choose from among them who pursue. Instead, you choose a world to enter, based on card suits (heart world, diamond world, spade world or club world), and that determines which route you experience.

Amnesia Memories has another twist that makes it feel a little more like a game; your character can’t remember who she is or much about her life. So not only are you trying to get the happiest ending with your love interest, you have to try to blend in until you can figure out what the heck is going on in your life. And sometimes there are sinister forces lurking in the shadows to make your job more difficult.

This game also has an overarching story that’s only unlocked once you complete the other routs and unlock the ‘joker’ world. Though I think my favorite thing about this game is that there are few hidden gems you can unlock by playing around. For example, one of the events gives you something like 15 choices. It’s obvious which one you’re supposed to pick, but I had fun re-loading and trying each and every option just to see the reactions.

The only downside of this game is the diamond world. Sadly the story is pretty twisted. And if you want to see the secret ending, you have to play through it at least once. So while I think the game is worth looking at, click the diamond world tag forewarned.

Boyfriend Dungeon

I debated whether or not to include this game on the list because I have yet to actually finish a route. I need to go back and re-play this game because I’ve missed a lot of it. But, it’s a super interesting game, well worth a peek.

Remember how I said that dating sims often involve dating objects? Well, in Boyfriend Dungeon, you date people who turn into weapons. That’s right, people who turn into swords, axes or scythes. And there’s actually a dungeon delving aspect to this game. So you fight monsters with your love interests, upgrade their skills, and find all kinds of interesting objects you can use for crafting. That alone makes it pretty neat.

I also like that unlike other dating sims, you don’t have to play through the game multiple times to experience every route. The game doesn’t punish you for dating multiple characters at once – which is nice, considering that you have to perform a fair amount of dungeon grinding to reach the end of the game.

Since I’ve not yet reached any of the game’s endings, I can’t speak to how the stories turn out. But I did enjoy interacting the characters when I played, and several of my friends have raved about the game. If you usually avoid dating sims because they don’t involve much gameplay, Boyfriend Dungeon does solve that problem by including an actual game. But be warned that the dungeons do actually require a little bit of skill to navigate. (My husband is so much better at the fighting bits than me!)

That’s it for me for now. But since I have a lot of dating sims on my to-play list (including Speed Dating for Ghosts), expect an update in the future!

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