The portability of Nintendo Switch makes it a great system to play a wide variety of genres, and while visual novels can be enjoyed perfectly well on your TV, there’s something about playing them on a handheld which just feels ‘right’. Since launch, the console has accrued some great examples of the genre, and the catalogue of great visual novels on Switch is growing all the time. Everyone loves a good book, right?
We’ve collected a selection of the best visual novels on Switch for your perusal. These are our personal picks, so whether the games below are a total visual novelty, you’re dipping a toe into the genre pool for a second or third time, or you regularly burn through visual novels like matches, you’re sure to find something to suit all tastes below. You’ll also find the odd crossover puzzle/adventure game element in some of the titles below — be sure check out our selection of the best point and click games on Switch if your VN tastes lean on the adventure-y side.
So, let’s pull up a nice comfy chair, make sure your Switch is fully charged, and take a look — in no particular order — at the best visual novels on Switch.
A release from Nintendo right out of left-field, which the company describes as a ‘deep cut’ from its archives. The originals on NES (and one SNES re-release) were all Japan-only, and even these remasters / remakes only have Japanese voice-acting with localised subtitles. Considering the settings and stories, however, that kind of works, and they’re wonderfully animated and atmospheric experiences. We give both titles a hearty recommendation; a bundle is mandatory in Europe, and there’s a discount for buying both of the individual downloads in North America.
Publisher: Game Grumps / Developer: Game Grumps
Dream Daddy puts you in the shoes of a single-parent father moving to a new area improbably filled with beautifully buff and sexily sensitive dads. It’s a feelgood game, from its tongue-in-cheek Dream Weaver-esque theme tune to its message of acceptance and generally being excellent to one another. Head out to concerts and coffee shops with your newfound friends and chat about the trials of raising kids alone, keeping your finger on the pulse of modern culture as a cool dad, and — maybe — find something more. There’s real heart to the stories here, with textured characters dealing with a multitude of situations life throws at them. It’s a wonderfully observed, toughing and hilarious visual novel with fun little mini games that’s definitely worth a look.
Publisher: Aksys Games / Developer: Aksys Games
Spirit Hunter: NG itself is a really great game steeped in the traditions of Japanese horror, with a creepy plot and likeable and intriguing characters. It is dark and brutal, yet never needlessly so, and the horror always plays out in the context of infusing its antagonists with real depth and relatability.
And if you like this, there’s always its predecessor, Death Mark, to enjoy, too.
Publisher: Chance Agency / Developer: Fellow Traveller
Some chats with cab drivers can be a real trial of your patience — fortunately, the conversations you’ll strike up in Neo Cab will hook you into an engaging cyberpunk story that tackles contemporary issues with characters that feel genuine and interactions that feel meaningful. It might not be the most technologically advanced title, but Neo Cab takes you on one hell of a journey.
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft US / Developer: MAGES
STEINS;GATE 0 is a follow-up to STEINS;GATE Elite, a critically-acclaimed visual novel of renown (and probably the best place to start if you’re looking to jump on the STEINS;GATE train — we weren’t able to review that one when it released, though). This sequel delivers an intriguing time-travel plot and fine character writing worthy of its predecessor, and is definitely worth checking out. And if you’re looking for dating sim gameplay in the STEINS:GATE universe, you might also enjoy My Darling’s Embrace.
Publisher: Ysbryd Games / Developer: Sukeban Games
For visual novel fans, VA-11 HALL-A is definitely refreshing and distinctive enough to be worth your time. It’s also ideal to play handheld on Switch: touchscreen, Joy-Con, HD rumble, pick-up-and-playability and a close-up screen for reading all add to the experience. Is it good enough to read through six times in search of alternate endings? Probably not. But, like a good cocktail, its flavour lingers after the final sip, and sometimes one is enough.
With its unique premise and interesting take on a fantasy world (think Netflix’s Bright, but actually good), Coffee Talk serves up a refreshing brew of angst, introspection and coffee beans. Its hand-crafted story mode is a tad too short for our liking, but with Endless mode you’ll have plenty of fun getting in touch with your inner barista.
Publisher: Ratalaika Games / Developer: Kinmoku
One Night Stand puts you in the position of waking up in the bed of a stranger with little or no memory of the previous night’s shenanigans. While she heads off to get you a coffee, it’s up to you to piece together clues to discover exactly how you ended up in this position and if you want to pursue it further. A suitably short and sweet experience.
The original Ace Attorney is getting on in years, although you may not realise thanks to how well it holds up. Sure, it’s been ported plenty of times and the jump to Nintendo DS certainly helped shake off the retro cobwebs, but as a piece of interactive history, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is as utterly addictive and truly rewarding as it was back at the turn of the millennium. Whether you’re brand new to the world of virtual defence law or a veteran attorney, Phoenix Wright’s first adventures are still a fine set of cases to undertake.
Across The Grooves has a really unique magical-realism time-travel storyline, and we really dig this visual novel’s handcrafted art style. Each chapter takes roughly an hour to complete, and if you want to play it again to experience different choices, you can easily skip through the text if you wish. If you’re after a mature tale with interesting characters and solid writing, you may want to check this one out.
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft / Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Part visual novel, part puzzle adventure, AI: The Somnium Files starts out slow but once you’ve traversed a few of its delightfully surreal Somnium dreamscapes and got to an ending or two, working your way back through your flowchart and striking out in different directions, it becomes an engaging and tense affair. Fans of the Zero Escape games will feel right at home here, and director Kotaro Uchikoshi’s talent for putting the player into increasingly unsettling circumstances ensures everything takes flight in a very satisfying way as you work your way through the many strands of the loopy central mystery towards its various different endings.
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