Visual Novel Recommendations for Christian Readers

Visual novels almost always have R-18 content, but there are still a number of VNs that omit such content. They are perhaps the most interesting medium to come out of otaku culture, as they read like full length novels where reading time can range from a couple short hours to an upwards of 50 or more hours, yet also have background visuals, character sprites, music, and sometimes basic animations, voice acting, or mini-games. While some read as straightforward stories, it is more common in VNs for readers to sometimes make their own choices, influencing which path the game takes. This almost always means the game following a different heroine’s route. However, while this can sometimes be simply used to appeal to everyone’s different interest with different stories and archetypes, oftentimes a VN has a “true route,” deemed to be the real ending to the story and is sometimes far more plot driven than one might expect. Below are some of the staff’s recommendations for VNs which represent the best parts of the medium.

Ever17: The Out of Infinity (Ever17: The Out of Infinity)
Little Busters! (Little Busters!)
Narcissu (Narcissu)
Planetarian (Planetarian)
Rewrite (Rewrite)
True Remembrance (True Remembrance)
When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no Naku Koro Ni)

Note on acquiring VNs: Some small visual novels are created and released by small groups legally and for free. Others have been translated into English and released using some sort of mainstream distribution platform, such as iOS or Steam. Beyond those two options, visual novels must be purchased in their original form and then patched using fan-made translation packs. We have provided links to either download or purchase the game in completely legal form, as well as the appropriate English translations if necessary.


ever17 banner

Ever17: The Out of Infinity
Ever17: The Out of Infinity

Co-written by legendary writer Kotaro Uchikoshi, responsible for the Zero Escape series and for many other visual novels/games that straddle the line between brilliance and madness, Ever17 is partly responsible for bringing the VN medium to where it is today. By pioneering the idea of multiple branching paths that converge into a “true” route, Ever17, despite some of its apparent flaws, has made some of the other VNs on this list possible and made the very medium competitive in the scheme of intelligent fiction by allowing writers to create stories that were previous impossible in books, movies, and everything in between. It may not be the best out there, but it is still an amazing read, and worth reading simply because of its significance.
~Kaze

(2002 ~ KID)

Length: ~30-50 hours
Voiced: Yes
Routes: 5

Biblical Themes:
(+) Sacrificial love
(+) Exploration of the supernatural
(+) Existence of a higher and connected being

Content to Look Out For:
(-) Suggestive themes
(-) Mild language

Purchase here (Amazon)
*Note that it has an official English release, though is extremely difficult to find and thus very expensive.

Return to Top

 


little busters banner

Little Busters!
Little Busters!

If Clannad is a story about family, then Little Busters! is a story about friendship. When Riki was a child, his parents died, leaving him alone and in despair. It was then that the Little Busters a group of 4 people befriended him, saving him in his time of need. As their fun life continues on into high school, they decide to form a baseball team and Riki begins to recruit to fill the needed spots. However, everything is not as happy as it appears to be.  Little Busters! is often considered Jun Maeda’s masterpiece as a work which has brought countless people to tears. Although all the routes are widely considered to be between poor and average, it is the true route Refrain which more than makes up for them as the heart of the story.
~Kaze/Japesland

(2007 ~ Key)

Length: ~50-60 hours
Voiced: Yes
Routes: 6 + true route

Biblical Themes:
(+) Sacrificial Love
(+) Working to become a stronger person

Things to Look Out For:
(-) Brief mentions of child abuse
(-) Occasional partial nudity
(-) Coarse language
*Although Little Busters! is technically rated “All-Ages”, it situations and images that are risque in nature. All are safe for television, ranging from humorous dialogue to a non-sexual panty shot. Despite this, we have deemed the edifying majority of the VN to greatly outweigh this content. Regardless, reader discretion is advised.*

Read articles about Little Busters!

Purchase Little Busters! here (Amazon)
Download fan translation here (Tlwiki)

Return to Top


narcissu banner

Narcissu/Narcissu: Side 2nd
Narcissu/Narcissu: Side 2nd

If there is one VN a Christian should read, it is without a a doubt, Narcissu: Side 2nd. It is better to read its original story Narcissu to gain some perspective, but Side 2nd provides far more amount of satisfaction from a Christian view. It is a story about young girls who are merely “waiting to die,” due to medical conditions beyond anyone’s control. Several characters are of Catholic faith background, and the church is portrayed surprisingly accurately. More importantly, this story delves into the serious topics of death and falling away from faith in a way that is both respectful and thought-provoking.
~Kaze/Japesland

(2005/2007 ~ Stage-nana)

Length: ~3-5 hours
Voiced: Yes
Routes: 1

Biblical Themes:
(+) Personal exploration of faith
(+) Respectful atheist perspective of Christianity

Content to Look Out For:
(-) Issues surrounding death may be uncomfortable

Read articles about Narcissu

Download legally for free here (Neechin) or here (Steam)

Return to Top


planetarian banner

Planetarian
Planetarian ~Chiisana Hoshi no Yume~

One of the few examples of a Key VN which does not have an anime adaptation. It is a short read, but it still manages to retain all of the standard elements one might expect from Key. Due to its length, simplicity, and quality, it is a highly recommended read to anyone who wants a glimpse into the VN medium. Set in a post-apocalyptic time, a nameless “junker” stumbles into the decrepit remains of a planetarian. There, he meets a girl who will change his cynical view of the world he lives in.
~Kaze/Japesland

(2004 ~ Key)

Length: ~2-3 hours
Voiced:Yes/No (depends on game version)
Routes: 1

Biblical Themes:
(+) Kindness toward others
(+) Sacrificial love

Things to Look Out For:
(-) Mild language

Read articles about Planetarian

Guide to purchase Planetarian for PC here (Insani)
Download English patch here (Insani)
Purchase Planetarian for iOS here (Apple)
Purchase Planetarian on Steam here

Return to Top


rewrite banner

Rewrite
Rewrite

The VN company which created popular titles such as Air, Kanon, Clannad, and Little Busters! heads in a very different direction by switching the master tearjerker storyteller Jun Maeda with the renowned Romeo Tanaka. What begins as a seemingly cliched high school story with comedic antics quickly develops into an epic tale of adventure. In terms of story writing, it is one of the best of the medium with very likable characters despite being on different sides. Furthermore, some of the later plot twists reveal some very interesting parallels or insights into Christianity, God, and the Holy Spirit.
~Kaze/Japesland

(2011 ~ Key)

Length: ~50-60 hours
Voiced: Yes
Routes: 5 + 2-part true route

Biblical Themes:
(+) Parallels to God’s intimate interaction with human events
(+) Parallels to God’s existence outside of time
(+) Hope in the face of a bleak future
(+) God’s foreknowledge

Things to Look Out For:
(-) Supernatural elements such as magic and summoning
(-) Small amount of ecchi or lewd jokes

Purchase Rewrite here (Amazon)
Download fan translation here (Amaterasu)
An official localization of Rewrite is on the way

Return to Top


 

true remembrance banner

True Remembrance
True Remembrance

While the Narcissu series is considered to be the staple of indie visual novels in the English-speaking community, due to its ready availability in the language for a long time, True Remembrance is considered to be a staple of the visual novels in the Japanese community. Taking place in a psych ward disguised as a city, humanity has, in the near future, been undergoing an epidemic of depression called the Dolor. In order to “medicate” this condition, which has led to mass suicide, mnemonicides (memory-killers) are trained and housed in this city by the government to treat the patients who can pay for treatment. All of this setup leads to an extraordinarily interesting and thought-provoking story that leads to numerous ethical dilemmas and discussions, healthy for anyone seeking to solidify their beliefs in ethics and related-philosophy.
~Japesland

(2004 ~ Shiba Satomi)

Length: ~5-10 hours
Voiced: No
Routes: 1

Biblical Themes:
(+) Contemplation of the importance of undergoing suffering
(+) Ethical analysis of the sanctity of life

Things to Look Out For:
(-) Prevalent themes of suicide (though suicide is never shown)

Download legally for free here (Insani)

Return to Top


when the seagulls cry

When the Seagulls Cry
Umineko no Naku Koro Ni (Chiru)

Ushiromiya Kinzo, the head of a rich family, is on his deathbed. When his family gathers on his private island for the annual family conference, a series of murders begin to take place as a typhoon isolates them from the outside world. Who is the culprit behind these murders, or is it truly the work of the mysterious witch Beatrice? An amazing story of tricks and misdirection as the truth is slowly revealed.
~Kaze

(2007 ~ 07th Expansion)

Length: ~100-130 hours
Voiced: No
Routes: 8 parts split into 2 games

Biblical Themes:
(+) An individual’s faith
(+) Insight into religious debate (both for and against)
(+) Perseverance through difficult times
(+) Depictions the danger of greed (love of money)

Things to Look Out For:
(-) Some descriptions of murders can be gruesome
(-) Magic, witches, demons, and other supernatural depictions

Purchase the first half of Umineko on Steam here.

Return to Top


 

22 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

  • Take Four – April 2014 |
    30 April 2014 at 7:01 am

    […] another note, as we continue to work on our guide to anime and otaku-dom, we have also added a visual novel recommendations page (with Narcissu […]

    Leave a Reply
  • Clinesterton Beademung
    30 April 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Nice. Really looking forward to reading all of these at some point, if time and circumstance allow it. Keep talking about Narcissu: Side 2nd, and I just might have to write a review of my own…

    Leave a Reply
    • japesland
      5 August 2014 at 6:18 pm
  • JC
    30 April 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Is Katawa Shoujo going to be added to this list? I understand y’all may not want to include it because it contains sex scenes, but I think its realistic portrayals of the various difficulties people can encounter in relationships and how those can be resolved make it an incredibly moving and worthwhile experience (not to mention that the sex scenes can be turned off entirely).

    Leave a Reply
    • japesland
      5 August 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Sorry for the late reply, but no, KS will not be added. Although I have read it and praise it for exactly what you said, there are two main reasons for this:

      1) Each of the VNs listed on this page are better and offer more edifying experiences than KS does.

      2) Although sex scenes can be turned off, nude sprites cannot be. Since the nude sprites accompany the sex scenes, the entire point of removing the sex scenes in terms of making the content more “wholesome” is essentially nullified.

      Thanks for your input, though!

      Leave a Reply
  • Nolan
    22 September 2014 at 12:44 am

    downloaded several of these looking forward to them kinda surprised not to see clannad on here ps what do you mean by ecchi content on rewrite? like sex, or looking at a girl in bed?or does it show a girl in a bikini? if its minor i might try it but i just don’t know.

    Leave a Reply
    • Kaze
      22 September 2014 at 3:28 am

      None of our recommendations contain sex, with the exception of subtle implications that it happens. Rewrite’s ecchi content is around the level of panty shots, bikinis or other revealing outfits, breast groping, etc. It is hardly representative of the VN, as there is just so much other clean content, but the material is mentioned as a warning to more conservative readers. That said, I can speak for both myself and Japes that we consider Rewrite to be the most brilliant piece of fictional writing that parallels Christianity.

      Leave a Reply
      • Nolan
        23 September 2014 at 3:44 am
      • TWWK
        23 September 2014 at 9:52 am

        I think fans of The Brothers Karamazov and Les Miserables would be aghast at your last statement, Kaze. 😛

        Leave a Reply
        • Kaze
          23 September 2014 at 10:17 pm

          One day Japes and I will get around to writing about it, and it will be the greatest thing ever 😛

          Leave a Reply
  • Michael M.
    1 October 2014 at 4:59 am

    Thanks for the list. Never got into VN, but now that you explained them in more detail and gave us a list, I just downloaded Narcissu on Steam so will come back with a review. Will probably write a post on it, thanks for sharing.

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      3 October 2014 at 2:03 pm

      I started Narcissu long ago, but never finished it! I’ll be looking forward to your write-up.

      Leave a Reply
      • Michael M.
        4 October 2014 at 12:00 am

        Yeah, it’s my first dive into VN, I guess I never stumbled upon any so this is new territory for me….looking forward to me. Though Japes and Kaze scared me a little on the podcast talking about how long they are O_o

        Leave a Reply
        • japesland
          16 October 2014 at 9:20 am

          Heh, it’s a common problem. Narcissu, Planetarian, and True Remembrance are all fairly short, though, so you should check them out!

          Leave a Reply
  • Mauro-san
    28 December 2014 at 8:14 pm
    • TWWK
      7 January 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Haha, well, I wouldn’t say it was something we forgot. We could absolutely fill these pages with recommendations, but we want to offer a good variety. We’ve already given several Key VN recs on this page. But if you go to the anime recommendations page…

      Leave a Reply
  • Axael
    28 January 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Im.. sorry, but Rewrite is more about the purpose of intelligent life and expanding beyond the earth, it has very, very little to do with religion unless you start grasping at clouds. I don’t mind people finding their own interpretations for things, but Rewrite is clearly about :humanity: walking forward, and making sacrifices that may leave earth dead, but life undying. Even the lyrics of Canoe point to this.

    Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      28 January 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Perhaps another writer here will chime in, but I thought I would respond by saying that 1) when we analyze works, we (hardly) ever say that our interpretation is an intentional one on the creator’s part, and oftentimes, we’ll admittedly say that a work is better seen in light of a different religion or philosophy (see Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Buddhism), which could be the case here, and 2) please stay tuned to our site, as two of our staff have been preparing a quite extensive analysis on Rewrite from a Christian spiritual perspective, which will be posting sometime in the not-so-distant future.

      Leave a Reply
    • Kaze
      28 January 2015 at 6:09 pm

      Absolutely. But as TWWK said, this entire blog rarely, if ever, believes or claims that there is some Christian intent behind the works we analyze. There are, however, parallels that can be drawn. I don’t want to go into specifics and risk spoilers for those who have not read it but an example would be Rewrite advocates “humanity walking forward;” so does Christianity, but not for the same, literal purpose. Of the 1000+ posts on this blog, I’m not sure if I can think of a single one where the source material was actually meaning to push a Christian agenda.

      Leave a Reply
  • Subverting Expectations | Beneath the Tangles
    14 January 2016 at 7:00 am
  • crossoverkaty
    24 August 2016 at 10:05 am

    you guys should add otome visual novels to the list as well

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      24 August 2016 at 12:13 pm

      We want to! Emdaisy1 and I are keeping our eyes out, but so far, none of the otome games we’ve played have quite worked for this list. We’ve found ones that aren’t entirely inappropriate… but none with great themes like the ones Kaze and Japes find in VNs aimed at guys. But if you have any recs for us, let us know!

      Leave a Reply

    Get Social!

    Facebook By Weblizar Powered By Weblizar