Tired of waiting for the right person, only to be left on read once again? Perhaps you’ve slid into DMs without any success? Well, fret not because there’s someone I can introduce you to. He’s tall, handsome, dashing and mysterious. And best of all he will always reply to your text messages. Who is this unicorn of a love interest? His name is Napoleon Bonaparte of the otome game Ikemen Vampire.
What Are Otome Games?
Otome games, literally meaning “maiden games,” are a genre of romance-themed visual novel games that are traditionally geared towards women. Lying somewhere between a manga and a choose-your-own-adventure story, the goal is typically to develop a romantic relationship between the main character and one of the love interests.
Select dialogue or action options in a decision-tree format where the correct answer will help you advance your relationship. The wrong answer, however, will push your potential beau away.
This can differ from one title to another, but most characters fall into the ‘reverse harem’ type, meaning there will be a cast of men to choose from, all with looks and qualities that should suit any preference.
Some otome games are set in a real-life-like world, making ‘self-insert’ (writing oneself into the story) relatively easy as you juggle an office day job with your dating life. Others are complete works of fantasy, like the aforementioned Ikemen Vampire, which features famous historical figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Osamu Dazai and Comte de Saint-Germain — except they’re all hot and, well, vampires.
Games that are more involved require players to do more than just read and choose dialogue options. You might encounter some mini-games that require you to level up your character in the hope of becoming more desirable to your ideal man.
As strange as the premise of a dating game might seem, it does have wide appeal both in and out of Japan. Many of these games receive thousands of 4-5-star reviews. They’re no different from guilty pleasure rom-coms or lusty novels.
What makes otome games extra special is the level of immersion that comes from writing your own story through your choices. Most games feature prominent voice actors. You might even find titles with more unique mechanics, such as being able to receive text messages from your love interest.
Our Otome Games Recommendations
Ready to throw away Tinder for the 2D? Here are some great otome game suggestions that are mostly free-to-play and available on mobile devices:
Ikemen Sengoku: Romances Across Time
If famous historical figures of the Western world aren’t your thing, how about some fearless fighters from the Sengoku Period (1467–1615)? Ikemen Sengoku takes you back to the era of the Warring States of Japan as the accidental savior of warlord Nobunaga Oda. You’re tasked to spend three months surrounded by some of the most iconic individuals of Japanese history such as Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Shingen Takeda and Mitsuhide Akechi. While not historically accurate in the slightest, players can revel in some good old chivalrous sweet talking.
Tears of Themis
Tears of Themis unfolds in the near future within the fictional city of Stellis. You play a criminal defense lawyer at Themis Legal Office, where each case brings you closer to an overarching mystery. Four love interests make an appearance in the game, including one of your clients, suspected of murder and your boss, the senior attorney you report to. Tears of Themis is a romance and mystery visual novel, as well as being a card game, which makes it more involved than most otome games. This also makes the victory in each chapter all the more satisfying.
Known as one of the forefathers of otome games, Voltage Inc. is a Japanese game developer that has produced more than 50 titles in the genre. These were all previously available for individual download but can now all be found in the handy Love 365 mobile app. There are endless varieties, all neatly categorized by genre such as slice-of-life, ‘taboo’ and historical.
For something spicy with a revenge arc, try In Your Arms Tonight, a game where you start off with a cheating husband and need to figure out your next move. For something a little more flamboyant, Scandal in the Spotlight lets you live out your dreams of being close to your favorite K-Pop or J-Pop idol group.
Our Life: Beginnings & Always
For a beautiful slice-of-life story that takes you from adolescence to adulthood, look no further than Our Life: Beginnings & Always. This nostalgic tale starts off on a summer vacation where you first meet your childhood friend, Cove Holden. But does he become something more as you grow older?
This critically acclaimed game is most well-known for its almost fully customizable gameplay and storyline. Not just stopping at name, appearance and personality, players can also choose their pronouns which also have the option of transitioning as they grow up. Cove, the game’s singular love interest, will also reflect these changes with the way your character develops.
Feature image by Anna Petek