It’s time to sharpen that wit, tidy up that profile and swipe right as we check out the best anime romance games!
Though still a fairly niche genre, dating sim games have become increasingly popular in the West.
These anime romance games have long been a gaming staple in Japan, but it’s only in relatively recent years that developers and publishers have taken the time to translate them into other languages and take them beyond their country of origin.
Anime romance games tend to feature very well written narratives and offer a choice of which character – sometimes even multiple characters – that you can date.
Which are the best though?
Let’s find out, as we check out the best anime romance games!
10. Hatoful Boyfriend (2014)
Though you may think that Hatoful Boyfriend is more of a joke than a ‘real’ dating sim, it actually has a great story and plenty of options when it comes to romance.
Why might Hatoful Boyfriend be considered a joke or a meme, though?
Well, that’s because Hatoful Boyfriend is a dating sim that sees you dating pigeons.
You read that right: pigeons.
Though that is the case, you can choose to change the visuals so that the pigeons are instead represented as humans in anime-style illustrations.
Still, this doesn’t change the fact that you’re basically trying to romance birds, as a human!
Hatoful Boyfriend is, however, a brilliantly written and very well presented game, with a bizarre but ultimately involving story.
Human/bird romance eh? What a way to kick off the best anime romance games list!
9. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! (2021)
A truly subversive anime romance game, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is much more than meets the eye.
There’s a good reason this one features on our best PS5 horror games list after all.
Yet despite the psychological horror elements, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! does wrap itself in the tropes of anime romance games – with your main character joining the titular Literature Club, looking for love.
Writing poems and making choices will see you charming the person who’s the object of your affection.
This will also unleash the horror of teenage love.
There’s so much bubbling under the surface and so many clever twists in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! that it would be poor form to reveal any more than the above.
Suffice to say that, if you don’t mind a little subverting of expectations with your anime romance games, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! will likely be right up your street!
8. Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest (2014)
Imagine waking up and finding yourself in a world populated by notable historical and legendary figures – who all happen to be beautiful women.
Well, considering that Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest appears on the Retro Dodo list of anime romance games, you can probably imagine how things progress!
However, Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest is more than ‘just’ an anime romance game.
In fact, in addition to the visual novel and romance elements, Eiyuu Senki has strong turn-based strategy and RPG mechanics too.
It’s a potent and effective blend that complements the dating sim style elements brilliantly.
Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest also received a sequel titled Eiyuu Senki GOLD. Iinstead of continuing the story, it poses a ‘What If?’ style scenario change in which the events of the game play out differently due to the main character’s first interaction with one of the NPCs!
7. Nightshade (2016)
Nightshade is a unique title that sees your main character romancing one of five ninjas. It’s a historical romance game, set shortly after the Sengoku period in Japan (which ended in 1615, just for you history buffs out there!).
Interestingly, though the story and several characters are fictional, many events and other NPCs are real, making Nightshade quite the history lesson!
Though of course, it’s the romance that players are likely most interested in – and from that viewpoint, it doesn’t disappoint.
Replaying the narrative in order to romance all of the available characters is a must to see all sides of the main story, with two endings for each of the five romanceable characters depending on the choices made throughout the game.
Definitely a strong entry for the best anime romance games list!
6. Little Busters! (2007)
A group of friends known as the Little Busters decide to form a baseball team.
Doesn’t sound like the most romantic of storylines, does it?
Yet Little Busters! is brilliantly written, has a superb branching storyline and lots of replayability.
There’s some genuinely involving narrative twists too.
Little Busters! has proven so popular since its original release – back in 2007 on the PC – that it’s also been adapted into a manga, an anime and has had several sequels too!
5. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (2005)
The hugely popular and long-running Sakura Wars series of games – which debuted in 1996 – took a long while to be localised into English, but it was worth the wait.
Though many of the Sakura Wars games have a Steampunk setting, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (the fifth game in the series) is set in an alternate 1920s.
Like several other games on this list, Sakura Wars: So Long My Love is more than a straightforward anime romance game.
Instead, it blends elements of dating sim and visual novel with turn based strategy-focused, tactical RPG gameplay.
Incredibly, the localisation into English took two years to complete. It just goes to show why so many visual novels and anime romance style games were deemed too costly and difficult to bring to the West!
4. HuniePop (2015)
One of the few non-Japanese originated titles on the anime romance games list, HuniePop combines the mechanics of dating sims with that of a match 3 puzzle game and light RPG elements.
When taking one of the game’s romanceable characters on a date, players must play a puzzle game. The aim is to match tokens to score points – and to score enough points for a successful date in a limited number of moves.
Succeed and you’ll initially get a photo of your dating partner, with subsequent dates yielding further rewards until things get decidedly NSFW.
That’s actually a big caveat: do be warned that HuniePop is most definitely a mature-themed anime romance game.
If that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, there’s an awful lot of fun to be had with this title’s unique, well thought out puzzle game and dating sim elements.
3. Sakura Wars (2019)
The Sakura Wars games make another appearance on this list with this fantastic reboot. The sixth entry in the series is actually known as New Sakura Wars in Japan
In a first for the Sakura Wars games, the reboot steps away from turn based strategy between visual novel style romance scenes – and instead embraces real time, third person combat.
The gameplay is definitely skewed more towards the anime romance elements, however. The mech combat offers a neat and intense diversion from the melodrama and comedy of the dating sim scenes.
As the first game in the main series since Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, this contemporary version of Sakura Wars had a lot of expectation placed upon it by fans – and it lives up to that beautifully.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take 14 years for the series to continue!
2. Steins;Gate (2009)
Like several other games on the best anime romance games list, Steins;Gate proved so popular that it was adapted into a manga and an anime.
Though it’s one of the most traditional of visual novel style games to feature on this list, it does have a unique mechanic in the form of the ‘Phone Trigger’ system.
This sees the player’s in game phone ringing and replies – or even outright ignoring the call or message – leading to the narrative branching.
With such a tightly controlled narrative – which features lots of time travel elements – it’s the fantastic story that makes Stein’s;Gate such a memorable experience.
There’s a huge number of endings and outcomes, several of which depend upon your romantic interactions with other characters.
Steins;Gate is a hugely beloved and perennially popular anime romance game that very nearly made it to the top of the anime romance games list.
But we have one more, unusual title to cover that just made it to the number one spot!
1. Catherine: Full Body (2019)
Originally released as simply ‘Catherine’ back in 2011 on PS3 and Xbox 360, this re-release brings the game to contemporary consoles and adds quite a few new features too.
First thing’s first though: Catherine is another example of a multi genre anime romance game. It’s part visual novel/dating sim, part puzzle game with elements of platforming too.
In Catherine: Full Body, players are in charge of a guy named Vincent, who’s in a long term relationship with a woman named Katherine.
Though he’s a bit commitment-phobic, everything is seemingly fine until the eponymous Catherine walks into his life – and presents a tempting alternative to Vincent’s current situation.
The player is given lots of moral choices that affect the progression and outcome of the story – and this ‘Full Body’ edition even adds in an extra character named Rin, presenting an entirely new branch of romance that can be chosen.
The puzzle/platform elements come into play at night, with you having to navigate Vincent’s unsettled sleep in frantic, brilliantly implemented nightmare stages.
Catherine is an incredibly unusual, brilliantly designed, one of a kind game – which is why we rank it at the top of our best anime romance games list!
Looking for more anime style games? Why not check out Retro Dodo’s very own anime games on PS3 recommendations, our overall best anime games list or even – if you’re looking for pretty much the polar opposite of romance – our best anime fighting games list!
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.