We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

18 visual novels to play right now

Make tough decisions and decide your fate in the best visual novels, whether you're looking for teenage romance, court battles, or birds.

The punkgeon gang from Hatoful Boyfriend, one of the best visual novels.

What are the best visual novels? These dialogue-driven adventures envelop players in intriguing and mysterious worlds where every decision can lead to a series of satisfying conclusions. With a focus on incredible storytelling and art direction, visual novels can feature anything from cute coming-of-age narratives to AI ultimatums and horror-filled historical homes.

If you’re trying to find the best visual novels to play this year, then look no further. There are a few novels here that could earn a spot on our free PC games list, not to mention bona fide classics like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy. Don’t forget that these games can easily fit on one of the best Steam Deck SD cards if you want to play them on the go.

The 18 best visual novels in 2024 are:

Best visual novels: A black and white bear in Danganropa - Trigger Happy Havoc says "Well, it's not that it's pointless, I guess. But I'm no expert on the birds and the bees and all that."

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Trigger Happy Havoc tells the story of Makoto Naegi, a student at the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy who is trapped in its halls by an evil little bear named Monokuma. The bear has forced the classmates against each other, forcing them to play a game where the incentive is to commit a murder and get away with it.

Players make friends and develop relationships in their free time until a murder inevitably occurs and the gameplay shifts towards gumshoe clue-finding. Ultimately, this results in a voting trial where difficult accusations must be supported as to who has committed each terrible crime. With unforgettable characters, including the cuddly-creepy series mascot Monokuma, and an awesome anime art style, Danganronpa is sure to stick in your memory long after you deduce its many mysteries.

Trigger Happy Havoc is only the start of a storied Danganronpa history, so if you get into and love it, you don’t have to fear that disappointment at reaching the end, as Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and the rest of the series’ offshoots are waiting for you.

One of the main characters in the story of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, one of the best visual novels.

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood

With a bit more interactivity than your average visual novel, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood has some deck building elements, as well as magic, female protagonists, and mysterious villains. What more could you possibly want?

In The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, you follow the story of Fortuna, a fortune-teller witch who is searching to regain her freedom after being exiled from her home. The complex story isn’t the only thing that’s going to keep you engrossed in Fortuna’s tale, as you make a series of decisions that can have an outcome on the story itself, build a deck of your own tarot cards, and reforge friendships after hundreds of years alone.

A girl looks thoughtfully out of the window of a car in one of the best visual novels, The National Park Girls.

National Park Girls

Made up of five episodes, National Park Girls tells the story of Eve, a young nature enthusiast whose dream was always to protect the land around her. After five years as a park ranger though, Eve is starting to lose faith in her dreams – until the National Park Girls appear to help her.

With Japanese influence clear in its delicate anime style, National Park Girls takes place in America as the three National Park Girls belong to the parks after which they are named: Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion, while Eve has been working in Yosemite National Park itself. As well as an adorable story with colorful characters (Yellowstone even has an erupting volcano on her head), you are sure to love National Park Girls for its topics of nature and its questions about just how important protecting the land is.

Best visual novels: Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney Trilogy, an image show the character Edgeworth on the stand, accompanied by the dialogue "Then allow me to remove that doubt from your mind, Your Honor."

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

The presumption of innocence has never been more important for rookie attorney Phoenix Wright. In this courtroom cult classic collection, players navigate the intense and dramatic world of legal battles, supporting defendants in the fight for justice, all the while investigating sinister suspected crimes with killer twists.

Cross-examining witnesses and working with the police can make or break your case, so paying attention to all the details is imperative to success. The Ace Attorney Trilogy is also supported by a cast of charming recurring characters, who you’ll come to know and love as you explore this historic, influential series of visual novels.

Best visual novels: Monster Prom 3 - Road Trip, five colourful, comic book style characters pose, while one says "I hope wherever my corpse is, it's being controlled by a rodent."

Monster Prom 3: Road Trip

Take prom on tour with this teen tantrum-filled instalment in the popular Monster Prom series. Monster Prom 3: Road Trip is a cooperative visual novel that maintains the dynamic cartoonish art style of its predecessors, swapping swooning in school halls and campsites for the hitchhiking highway Road Trip is filled with mood-setting radio stations and a gallery of cool characters, both old and new.

Players will mainly be managing resources to make it to their ultimate destination but don’t fret, you’ll still be competing for romance on the open road. However, if you mismanage your resources along the way, it’s game over for the whole coast-crossing crew.

Best visual novels: The novel title "A taste of the past" appears in text on a backdrop of the ocean, next to a black haired girl sitting peacefully reading a book.

A Taste of the Past

If you’re looking to invest your time in a journey full of warmth and vulnerability, A Taste of the Past might be for you. From the talented minds at Sondering Studio, this thoughtful story lets players step into the shoes of Mei, a Chinese-American high schooler dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s tragic death.

Mei’s food-focused ancestral journey, on a train to the afterlife, is one that balances meditative minigames with honest and meaningful dialogue, allowing players to engage with their own grief alongside the protagonist. Featuring dreamlike melodies and a sunset palette, A Taste from the Past’s soft edges encourage players to get lost in its world.

Best visual novels: Butterfly Soup - A dark-haired character called Diya, wearing a blue floral hoodie, above the dialogue "You say that like I'd be interested just because it's gay."

Butterfly Soup

Brianna Lei hit a home run with Butterfly Soup, a visual novel brimming with romance, friendship, and baseball, of course! Set in 2008, players explore the personalities of four queer high school students in California.

Full of early ’00s references and brought to life by its characters and their distinct personal style, Butterfly Soup allows players to immerse themselves in teenage experiences that feel authentic and meaningful. Once you wrap the game up, players looking for more of its low-key gameplay and witty dialogue will be pleased to hear that a sequel, Butterfly Soup 2, launched in October 2022.

Best visual novels: Eliza - An image shows the game's realistic looking artwork, as a character called Darren says "Do I have any cause to be hopeful about anything?"


Shifting towards the incumbent technological dystopia, Eliza is an astounding visual novel set in Seattle about a controversial therapy bot powered by artificial intelligence. You play as Evelyn, one of Eliza’s new script-reading assistants, who questions the ethics of such a morally-murky system when faced with real patients in need of honest care.

As Evelyn, players explore a prescient hand-painted world, interact with its range of realistic characters and consider their own thorny past. Buffeted by illuminating contextual text messages and emails, players decide whether to stick to the program or put their own thoughts on the line. Ultimately, it is you who seals the program’s fate, in spite of its curious potential.

Best visual noevls: AI The Somnium Files - A large polar bear stands by a neon green circular saw, which appears to be hovering dangerously above another character.

AI: The Somnium Files

From one piece of futuristic tech to another, let’s talk about AI: The Somnium Files. In this fascinating visual novel from the bright minds behind the Zero Escape series, players take on the role of Special Agent Kaname Date, a detective hunting down a slippery serial killer in a futuristic Tokyo.

A unique world-building mechanic sees Date jumping into the thoughts, dreams, and memories of key suspects and witnesses, solving time-gated puzzles to clear mental obstacles and summon the ultimate truth. Landing in 2019, The Somnium Files is a modern visual novel that stokes the imagination as to where the medium may go next. It’s a great place to start if you want to appreciate the genre’s versatility and aptitude for strong stories. If you fall in love with its mystery, you’ll happy to know a sequel, Nirvana Initiative, landed in 2022.

Best visual novels: The House in Fata Morgana - a blue-haired girl looks sad as she holds a white rose, while another, dark-haired lady looks at her from the back of the image. Both are standing in front of a large, looming moon.

The House in Fata Morgana

The Haunting of Hill House has nothing on the cult classic visual novel The House in Fata Morgana. In this ghostly tale of amnesiac intrigue set in a once-great mansion, players must piece together missing memories by uncovering decades of emotional tragedy. To uncover who they are, players work their way through time periods from 1099 to 1869 and across hauntingly beautiful environments, seeking difficult answers behind every door.

The secrets hidden in Fata Morgana may leave you with more questions than answers. By continuing to explore its hallowed halls and venturing further into the manor’s dark underbelly, the truth, and your identity, is sure to be revealed, its awesome OST complementing each twist and turn.

Ryouta Kawara in his human and avian form in Hatoful Boyfriend, one of the best visual novels.

Hatoful Boyfriend

Hatoful Boyfriend is the avian dating sim, a concept so off-the-wall that it sparked a viral movement. You are the only human student at a high school for gifted birds, and you’re not just looking to graduate; you’re also on the lookout for love. Hone your charisma, vitality, and wisdom in class, then woo your avian crush. Strike up a school rivalry, stop the apocalypse, and take a pigeon on a dinner date – all in that order. Hatoful Boyfriend commits to the bit in all the best ways, with strong dialogue, genre-bending storylines, and birds. Lots of birds.

The best visual novels: steins gate


Steins;Gate is the ultimate sci-fi visual novel and one of the largest in the genre. The game sets up an adventure in which time travel is made possible through mobile phone technology, and sees the government seeking to capture the group of university students behind it.

In this sci-fi world, tampering with time is forbidden as it can negatively impact history. Protagonist Rintaro Okabe experiences the potential problems of tampering with time-travel first-hand after trying to save one of his friends from being killed, and discovers that he has less control over events than initially thought. The story’s twists and turns will grip you throughout, and its cast of passionate, intelligent characters will have you cheering them on as they battle the forces against them. The game also spawned an excellent sequel, Steins;Gate 0.

The best visual novels: Zero Time Dilemma

The Nonary Games/Zero Time Dilemma

The Nonary Games consists of 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, with Zero Time Dilemma being the third and final game in the series. Each installment follows a cast of characters who find themselves kidnapped and thrust into a life-or-death situation.

Puzzle-solving, multiple endings, and a tense atmosphere keep you gripped as you work your way through the game’s world. 999 is the best of the lot but the way that the trilogy ends is satisfying. This is a must-play trilogy.

The best visual novels: Emily is Away Too

Emily is Away/Emily is Away Too

Emily is Away, and its sequel Emily is Away Too, are visual novels set during the heyday of AIM messaging. Remember those embarrassing avatars and lyric-inspired screen names? It is all here. The story starts as you use a recreation of that classic conversation interface to speak to your crush Emily.

The first game is free on Steam, but the second game is much longer and features another woman, Evelyn, along with multiple endings. While these games are an indulgent exercise in nostalgia they go beyond that to deliver a story that gets you invested in the lives of these women. Emily is Away captures that feeling of being a teenager at the turn of the millennium, when trivial matters meant the world, and dial-up speeds were horrendous.

The best visual novels: Clannad


Clannad, by famed developer Key, has a reputation for being one of the greatest love stories in the genre. Lengthy, packed with drama, and with a distinct art style, Clannad follows delinquent Tomoya Okazaki in his last year of high school.

After suffering an incident during his childhood, Tomoya finds his life getting brighter when he begins to make friends, who he helps get through their own issues. Each character is well-written, and the multiple routes and endings leave you with a lot of decisions and routes through the story to experiment with. You will cry, find yourself sighing with relief, and will want the best for the characters as you learn their back stories and help them find their own happiness.

The best visual novels: Kindred Spirits on the Roof

Kindred Spirits on the Roof

Kindred Spirits on the Roof is one of the most well-renowned yuri visual novels. At an all-girls school, Toomi Yuna is eating lunch when she is disturbed by two ghosts. These spirits, bound to the school, are unable to pass on from the physical world as they have yet to achieve everything they wanted.

The biggest of those desires stems from the pair being in love and wanting to become more intimate but are unsure how. You follow Yuna as she helps the couple out. Besides that main story, Kindred Spirits on the Roof follows several students tackling their own love woes – its characters and focus on deep relationships have a lasting impact.

The best visual novels: Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki Literature Club!

Doki Doki Literature Club! is one of the most intricate and disturbing visual novels on this list – the game’s various routes and mysteries will keep you searching for answers for a long time. It has a cutesy aesthetic, but underneath lies a morbid – yet emotional – story about a seemingly innocent literature club.

In it, you get to know four women as you try to decide who you would most like to date. Things quickly turn dark, however, and a series of horrifying events take place. It is down to you to figure out why these terrible things are happening, and who is causing them. What makes this visual novel really special is that it will have you questioning whether its horror is restricted to the game, or able to seep out into your own life.

The best visual novels: va11 hall-a

VA-11 Hall-A

A visual novel that brings together cyberpunk and alcohol? Sign me up! Working as a bartender at VA-11 Hall-A (aka Valhalla), you make drinks and serve them to the punks and cyborgs that stop by for a break from the city futuristic city outside.

The stories told by the cast are as varied as they are, all of it wrapped up in cyberpunk politics, of which you get to hear by sides. It is quite unlike anything else on the market, and the retro-inspired visuals and music fit its theme to a tee. VA-11 Hall-A is a touching look into the (prosthetic) hearts of a society that relies on technology and the divide it has driven between them. You also get to learn how to make a mean cocktail, which is an important transferable life skill, obviously….

And there you have it, that’s our list of the best visual novel games. If you’re in the mood for games created by clever developers without huge publishers and massive budgets, check out our list of the best indie games. For those of you who only want to play AAA titles, here’s our best PC games list for hundreds of hours of fun.

Additional contributions by Mitch Jay Lineham.