For those who are not familiar with reddit, it's a website where users submit Text Posts or Links and vote submissions "up" or "down" to organize the posts and determine their position on the site's pages. Outside of that, it works like a typical forum where different topics are separated by different topics called Subreddits.

In February 2015, a user called "The_Dvls_Advocate" ran a survey on the /r/visualnovels subreddit that asked various questions such as asking what the users' favorite visual novels, favorite VN characters, most underrated VNs, etc. were. For those who don't what visual novels are (will refer to them as "VNs" from here on), they are games with little conventional gameplay. Instead, the writers trade "gameplay" for more robust stories, plot, characters, and dialogue. The VN is delivered through text with still images in the background ... pretty much a novel with picture and audio!

The vast majority of VNs have choices similar to choices you would find in a Choose Your Adventure book. These choices can either alter minor dialogue or vastly change the ending depending on the choice and the VN. Most VNs have some romance even if it isn't necessarily an important part of the main plot. Most also have "routes" which are entered based on some of the choices you have picked and have different story elements and endings. Every VN has elements of a typical video game such as background music and a save/load feature.

This list has the 10 most popular VNs voted by the /r/visualnovels Subreddit community (which has over 14,000 subscribers). Don't think of this list of what the subreddit thinks are objectively the best VNs. Instead, think of this list as a guideline of which VNs are the most well known or generally liked. Most of these VNs are made in Japan, and have plots/characters/tropes that are similar to ones you’d find in anime. In addition, almost every VN on this list has only been fan-translated (2 of them are in the process of being officially released on Steam). Unlike VNs like Phoenix Wright, 999 or DanganRonpa, when you get the VN you will need to go through a process of patching the VN so the text will be in English. Thankfully, there are clear instructions on how to patch VNs and the process doesn't take too long.

Some VNs have Erotic Content, commonly referred to as "H scenes". If you don't like the idea of having Erotic Content in VNs, thankfully there are very few erotic scenes in each route and all are very short and easy to skip. I will note which VNs have erotic content in each entry.

Spoilers will be kept to a bare minimum.

Developer: KEY
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 50+ hours to finish all routes.
Erotic Content?: No

This visual novel stars Tomoya Okazaki, a high school senior who doesn't take his studies seriously, is always late for school, and doesn't particularly like his life.

In many ways, Clannad does a very good job of giving its readers what most people expect a visual novel to be. It takes place in high school and in the common route you choose which girl to get involved with and help with her life problems. The catch is that there are 10 routes in this visual novel, when most visual novels have 4-6.

After you beat the main heroine's route, an "After Story" for her route is unlocked. This route is different from many romance stories as it actually shows the life of the couple after they get together. Family themes become more important in After Story and you will come to care about the main couple even more than you did in previous routes. However, in order to get the best ending for After Story you need to go through every route in the visual novel, so it is recommended you do so before starting After Story.

There is an anime of Clannad that covers most of what was in the visual novel, but there are some comedy scenes and shorter routes that were omitted in the anime. Watching the anime can be a good alternative to reading the visual novel.

Clannad is a very touching, emotional and hilarious visual novel. If these are things you are looking for in romantic comedy you will love Clannad.

Developer: KEY
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 50+ hours to finish all routes.
Erotic Content?: No

Before the main story starts, Riki (the main character) was very depressed as a child due to his parents dying very early in his life. Shortly after, a group of four kids calling themselves the "Little Busters" invite Riki into the group to have a great time and play around. This causes Riki to slowly get out of his depression and have a much better life.

The common route and main story has the Little Busters group hanging out and having a good time in high school. A big part of the story has the Little Busters slowly inviting more people into their group (which end up being most of the main heroines) and playing baseball together. While the story does have romance, there is a much bigger emphasis on friendship compared to many other visual novels out there.

There are 6 main heroine routes you get onto by choosing various choices throughout the common route. While the story is mostly light-hearted, each of the heroine's route has quite a bit of drama and you have to help them some of their personal problems. The most popular route in Little Busters is called "Refrain". In order to unlock it, you have to complete all of the other routes in the game which serve as a lead up and allow you to appreciate everything that happens in "Refrain". There is a great amount of character development, happy moments, sad moments and a lot of plot twists you won't expect.

There is an anime of Little Busters that covers most of what was in the visual novel, but generally it's recommended to read the visual novel over watching the anime.

If you want a light hearted visual novel with a big emphasis on a group of friends and a decent amount of drama Little Busters is the VN for you.

Developer: KEY
Genres: Comedy, Fantasy, Mystery, Action, Drama, Romance
Length: 50+ hours to finish all routes.
Erotic Content?: No

You may have noticed that Clannad, Little Busters and Rewrite have the same developer and a very similar art style. While Clannad and Little Busters share are a very similar story tone and structure, Rewrite's is actually a little different from them.

The story stars Kotarou Tennouji, a high-schooler in the fictional city called Kazamatsuri. The common route is very light-hearted, with much of the humor involving Kotarou messing around with many of his classmates. Kotarou eventually joins the Occult Club with all 5 of his potential love interests, and the 6 of them go on adventures around town to research various rumors/stories that seem connected to the Occult.

Unlike the previous visual novels on this list, there is a much smaller focus on the romance in all of the routes in Rewrite. Every route is connected to an overarching main story and Kotarou and the heroine you choose get involved in a different side of the story. Each route has varying emphasis in comedy, action, fantasy and drama. Despite the tone being very different in each route, they all have their satisfying moments and there's no route that's universally loved over the other.

Similar to Clannad and Little Busters, there are two routes that get unlocked after completing all of the heronies' routes: Moon and Terra. Unlike Clannad and Little Busters' unlockable routes (which focus on creating very emotional and tearjerking drama), Rewrite's two unlockable routes take on a different approach. The two routes instead reveal many answers to a lot of the mysteries in the VN. That said, there is still a decent amount of drama, action and exciting events in both of these routes.

If you enjoy stories with a lot of different genres, you'll be sure to enjoy Rewrite.

Developer: 07th Expansion
Genres: Mystery, Fantasy, Drama
Length: Each episode is around 10-15 hours each. There are 8 episodes. Meaning reading the whole series can be as long as 80+ hours.
Erotic Content?: No

For those who are familiar with the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni series, the Umineko visual novels are written by the same author and have similar styles of storytelling.

The story starts with 18 members of the rich Ushiromiya family meeting up on an island called Rokkenjima to discuss what will happen to patriarch Kinzo's inheritance once he passes away. In the middle of these arguments, a typhoon traps all 18 people on the island and the family finds a mysterious letter from someone called "Beatrice". The letter claims that unless someone solves the riddle of the epitaph on her portrait before midnight on October 6th, Beatrice will claim everything that the family owns, including the ten tons of gold that Kinzo was planning on passing down. This only fuels arguments even more but then mysterious murders start to happen.

The main character, Battler Ushiromiya tries to figure out who the mysterious murderer (or murderers) are but at the same time he has to argue with Beatrice (a self-proclaimed witch) to prove that the killings weren't done by magic or witches. This presents a problem, as Battler does not want to directly accuse any of his fellow family members. Beatrice uses her powers to show Battler alternate potential scenarios of the Rokkenjima incident to Battler in order to prove her argument but also as a way to fuel her endless boredom.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni is divided into 8 "episodes" or story arcs between it and Umineko Chiru. The beginning of Episode 1 can be considered a little slow by some until the very eventful dinner discussion. From that point, nany fans start to really love the series. Umineko's story is completley linear, and it practically reads like a typical mystery novel, except with (possible) magic. The one thing that's almost universally loved about this Umineko is it's music. Some fanfavorites include: worldenddominator, hope, Life, Dread of the Grave and dreamenddischarger.

If the original art isn't to your liking, there is a fan patch that changes the character designs to have improved art from the PS3 version. There is also an anime of Umineko that covers episodes 1-4. However, it omits a lot of details of the story, making the mystery a lot harder to solve. In addition, the anime does not cover episodes 5-8. It's highly recommended to read the visual novel over watching the anime.

If a Mystery story with (possible) magic and a lot of characters sounds appealing to you, be sure to check out Umineko.

Developer: Akabeisoft2
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Romance, Drama, Comedy
Length: 10-20 hours to just read the main story. 20-30 hours if you want to read optional side routes.
Erotic Content?: Yes. 2-3 short scenes in each route.

Kyousuke Azai is considered by most people a nice and sociable high school student. However, he's secretly a highly intelligent and ruthless businessman who works for his adoptive father, Gonzou Azai, who happens to be a yakuza leader.

The main plot has 5 chapters and they revolve around Kyousuke and Haru Usami trying to capture Maou, a dangerous and highly intelligent criminal who shares a deep history with Haru. This is a story with many spoilers and plot twists, and with all the unpredictable battle of wits between Haru and Maou, you'll constantly be on the edge of your seat.

Even though this visual novel has routes, they work a bit differently than other visual novels. These routes are more like side stories that get off tangent from the main plot and are therefore considered "non-canon". These routes are very character-oriented, with the girl you have chosen getting a decent amount of character development. The routes are slower-paced than the main plot so feel free to skip any of them if you do not like any particular side heroine.

Give G-senjou no Maou a shot if a mystery thriller visual novel is something you are interested in.

Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Romance
Length: 30-50 hours to read all routes
Erotic Content?: No

This visual novel stars Rintarou Okabe, a self proclaimed mad scientist that has started a group called the "Future Gadget Lab" with his childhood friend and an otaku hacker. They pend their days in a ramshackle laboratory hanging out and occasionally attempting to invent incredible futuristic gadgets.

The story starts off light-hearted with a lot of the comedy centering on Okabe's dorky antics. He'll do things like give nicknames to people (like calling himself Hououin Kyouma), making overly dramatic speeches about he's fighting a (vaguely) evil organization, pretending to call someone on his cell phone, etc. He and his group end up accidentally making a device that allows them to send text messages to the past.

One of the big themes that is done well is the concept of time travel. While many movies, TV shows, video games, anime, etc. have time travel incorporated into the plot, Steins;Gate goes out its way to explore the scientific theories relating to time travel. Once you finish the first half of the VN, the story takes a much darker turn. A lot of the lightheartedness goes away and you're able to see Okabe get a lot of character development. There is a great atmosphere and the many plot twists make you feel like you're on some kind of intellectual roller coaster. While there are 5 heroine routes, only doing the main heroine's route will unlock the true ending. If you read through the story, it should be pretty obvious who the main heroine is.

There is an anime of Steins;Gate that is very well received and covers the main story of the visual novel well. If you prefer watching anime over reading visual novels, the Steins:Gate anime is a great alternative.

If you want a visual novel that covers the nitty gritty about time travel and don't mind the large amounts comedy that comes before the serious plot, I highly recommend reading Steins;Gate.

Developer: Four Leaf Studios
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Length: 10-30 hours to read all routes
Erotic Content?: Yes. However, there is an option to turn them all off.

Katawa Shoujo is the only visual novel on this list that was not made in Japan. That said, it takes many writing cues from many popular Japanese VNs and writes the stories to make them more appealing to a non-Japanese audience. Unlike every other visual novel on the list, Katawa Shoujo is 100% free. These factors have made Katawa Shoujo many people's first visual novel.

At the beginning of the story, the main character, Hisao Nakai, finds out he has arrhythmia. It is a rare heart condition that causes his heartbeat to sometimes become irregular. His parents then enroll him in Yamaku, a school for disabled students of all kinds. A big theme of this visual novel is interacting with various students that have their own unique disability. The great thing is that Katawa Shoujo handles every disability with great tact and understanding.

While the routes explore each of the main character's disabilities, Katawa Shoujo makes it a point to show how each of the characters try to break through the stereotypes usually given to them without glorifying their own disabilities. Unlike many other visual novel on this list, there aren't any "true ending" routes. All the main heroines's routes are given equal treatment and you are free to do all 5 main heroine routes or just the heroine routes that interest you.

If you haven't read a visual novel before, I'd highly recommend this one due to its length, being free and being fairly easy to get into. Even if it's not your first VN, if you are interested in giving a non-Japanese VN about disabilities a chance you'll be sure to enjoy Katawa Shoujo.

Developer: Type-Moon
Genres: Action, Drama, Romance
Length: 50+ hours to read all 3 routes.
Erotic Content?: Yes. 1-3 short scenes in each route.

Out of all the visual novels on the list, Fate/Stay Night has the highest amount of action scenes. Its plot is centered around a battle royale called the "Holy Grail War". The Holy Grail can grant a person's wish, even one that can transcend time.

There are 7 participants and each of them get a "Servant" with unique powers to assist them. The different Servant classes are: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Caster, Rider, Berserker and Assassin. Each Servant is based on an ancient hero such as Heracles/Hercules. Even if you get the most powerful servant you can't simply go out in the open and start fighting, lots of strategy is involved to win.

A good amount of the plot consists of the main characters trying to figure out the best time to attack and go out, since all the masters and servants start the War not knowing what kind of powers each other servant and master have. This amount of strategy along with the great atmosphere create a long but rewarding and exciting plot. Due to the high amount of choices in this VN, there are at least 40 ways to get a game over.

There are 3 routes in Fate/Stay Night: Fate, Unlimted Blade Works, and Heaven's Feel. The branches into these routes are quite early into the visual novel, making all three very different 10-15 hour scenarios with different story themes. However, you have to go through them in a linear order. Fate is the only route that is unlocked at the beginning, and you need to finish it in order to get the branch to Unlimited Blade Works. You get access to Heaven's Feel by finishing Unlimited Blade Works. Given how long the overall visual novel is, there are bound to be a bunch of spots that are slow-paced. Usually these moments are in-between fights to serve as a breather and/or to devise more planning but there are times when the main characters are just eating and relaxing inside the main character's house.

There are currently two Fate/Stay Night anime series. One that covers the Fate route and one that covers the Unlimited Blade Works anime. There is also an upcoming anime movie that covers the Heaven's Feel route. If you prefer watching anime over reading visual novels, the various Fate/Stay Night anime series are decent alternatives.

If a mix of strategy, drama, and especially action are what you looking for in a visual novel, make sure you give Fate/Stay Night a chance.

Developer: âge
Genres: Action, Drama, Comedy, Romance
Length: 10 hours reading Extra to unlock Unlimited. 15-20 hours if you want to read all routes in Extra. 10 hours to read Unlimited to understand Alternative. 15-20 hours if you want to read all routes in Unlimited. 50+ hours to read Alternative.
Erotic Content?: Yes. 1-2 short scenes in each route in Extra. 1-2 short scenes in each route in Unlimited. 1-2 Short Scenes in Alternative.

Well-known as one of the longest and most-well liked visual novel series ever. The visual novel "Muv-Luv" has Extra and Unlimited, the first two parts of the story while "Muv-Luv Alternative" is a sequel and its own visual novel.

Muv-Luv Extra is the first VN in the series and is a light-hearted high-school romantic comedy. Its overall reception is mixed, but some people are fans of what it offers. Even if Extra's story isn't your cup of tea, it is important to at least do the 2 routes of the main heroines (Sumika and Meiya) to unlock the next part of the story.

Muv-Luv Unlimited is unlocked when you finish Extra and while it has most of the same characters, there is a slightly more serious plot. There is a lot more action and drama while still having a decent amount of comedy. Unlimited is generally more well-received than Extra and doing 1 route in Unlimited is all that is necessary before continuing on to Alternative. Feel free to go through all 5 routes if you want.

Muv-Luv Alternative is where the real meat of the story begins, being twice as long as Extra and Unlimited combined but with the quality increased tenfold. While Alternative appears to be Muv-Luv Unlimited's premise, Alternative is much longer, has more action, more drama, more heartbreaking scenes, more heartwarming scenes, and better music.

It's worth noting that Muv-Luv Alternative's story was inspired by a popular book called Starship Troopers. Similarly, Muv-Luv Alternative's setting and plot was an inspiration for a newer big anime called "Attack on Titan". In addition, JAM Project composed the intro song for Muv-Luv Alternative.

If you end up not liking Extra or Unlimited much, as long as you get through the main routes of those stories, Muv-Luv Alternative will be a very rewarding experience. Finishing Alternative may make you appreciate Extra and Unlimited more.

Developer: Front Wing
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 50+ hours to read all routes
Erotic Content?: Yes. 2-5 short scenes in each route.

At its core, Grisaia is not much different than the other route-oriented visual novels on this list. However, its dialogue, writing, and execution are what make this visual novel much more popular than the rest.

The story starts with Yuuji Kazami, a stoic and serious enigma, who is joining a school called Mihama Academy that only has 5 other (female) students enrolled. A school with only 6 students may sounds weird but this school houses some very eccentric and strange students that wouldn't fit very well in a "normal" school. One character isn't very smart, another has an incredible lack of common sense. The third practices a fake personality, and the last two take turns roleplaying a big sister and threatening people with a box cutter.

Grisaia probably has the longest common route out of all the visual novels on this list. However, there is a lot of excellent comedy throughout the common route, where many of the girls' eccentric traits and Yuuji's sarcasm provide a lot of hilarious jokes. The common route also serves as a way of Yuuji fitting in with the main girls, finding more about everyone's personalities and the 6 main characters getting closer.

Once you get onto a heroine's route, the tone of the story gets a lot more serious. You start to see the deeper meaning in why the heroine's personality turned out the way they did. There are quite a number of plot twists in each route, and while there are very few choices throughout the VN, the ones you get are important in earning the best end.

Grisaia no Kajitsu has two sequel VNs ("Grisaia no Meikyuu" and "Grisaia no Rakuen") which are currently in the process of being translated. In addition, there is an anime that covers some content of the VN but it is generally recommended to read the Grisaia visual novel over watching the anime.

If seeing the comedic and serious sides to more unique heroines and having a sarcastic but very proactive protagonist is something you are interested in, then Grisaia no Kajitsu is likely to become one of your favorites.

There were several notable VNs worth reading that didn't quite make the top 10. These include Mystery Thrillers (Ever 17, Higurashi and 999), Horror VNs (Saya no Uta), Comedies (Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai) and Dramas (Hoshizora no Memoria and Sharin no Kuni).

However, the 10 visual novels on this list should all be good starting points if you're interested in starting a visual novel for the first time. If you've already read (and liked) a visual novel before, be sure to check at least a few of these options if any seem interesting to you.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading this list and gained an interest in visual novels!

If you are having any trouble with installing/patching visual novels, feel free to shoot me a private message.

List by superange128 (03/09/2015)

Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.

Have your own Top 10 in mind? Create and submit your own Top 10 List today.

Would you recommend this Top 10 List? Yes No