Visual novels can be categorized into groups based on the theme and content of the game. These categories make it easy for readers to understand what the game is about and see if it may interest them.
Visual novels being the intersection of literature, graphic novels, games, and film, they frequently borrow genre information from any of them.
Examples of Literary and Film Genres in Visual Novels
- Horror and mystery: Higurashi When They Cry [VNDB], Corpse Party [VNDB]
- Suspense/thriller: Root Double [VNDB], 428 Shibuya Scramble [VNDB]
- Science fiction: Steins;Gate [VNDB], YU-NO [VNDB]
- Post-apocalypse and mecha: Muv-Luv Alternative [VNDB], Baldr Sky [VNDB]
- Fantasy: Fault -Milestone- [VNDB], Utawarerumono [VNDB]
- Urban fantasy: Fate/stay night [VNDB], 9-nine- [VNDB] series
- Historical fiction: Hashihime of the Old Book Town [VNDB], Rose Guns Days [VNDB]
- Romance: Kin'iro Loveriche [VNDB], Doukyuusei [VNDB]
- Coming-of-age: CLANNAD [VNDB], Musicus! [VNDB]
Visual novels that share genres with games are often known as Visual Novel Hybrids. These types of visual novels combine elements from visual novels and certain genres of games.
Examples of Hybrids
- Visual novel-fighting game: BlazBlue series
- Visual novel-adventure game: Ace Attorney series, Corpse Party
- Visual novel-dating sim: Dandelion, Tokimeki Memorial series
- Visual novel-puzzle game: Zero Escape series
- Visual novel-RPG: Persona series
What constitutes a visual novel hybrid vs a game of another genre is often a subject of debate. Some games, especially role-playing games, are often indistinguishable from visual novel hybrids and are the source of arguments about what constitutes a visual novel.
Visual Novel genres are often referred to by a number of Japanese loan words. This is not an exhaustive or prescriptive list.
A kinetic novel (sometimes abbreviated as KN) is a visual novel with no choices, routes or paths. This term was originally coined by Visual Art's as a brand name for their titles with this type of presentation, but has since been used to describe all visual novels without choices.
A sound novel is a visual novel with an increased emphasis on audio, including the number of audio effects, tracks, and/or voice acting. This term was coined by Chunsoft to describe one of their franchises.
A charage (キャラゲー, lit. "character game") visual novel that is usually focused on character interactions rather than deep, fleshed-out plot.
Bishoujo / Bishounen Games
Bishoujo games (Japanese: 美少年ゲーム, lit. "pretty girl game") or bishounen games (Japanese: 美少年ゲーム, lit. "pretty boy game") are games that generally revolve around interactions with attractive girls/boys.
A galge (Japanese: ギャルゲー, lit. "gal game") is, like bishoujo game, a visual novel that has attractive girls as a selling point. Galge can be of any genre. It's often used interchangeably with eroge, as many galge also contain erotic content.
Otome Game / Otoge
An otome game (Japanese: 乙女ゲーム, lit. "maiden game") is a story-based video game that is targeted towards women. Generally one of the goals, besides the main plot goal, is to develop a romantic relationship between the female player character and one of several male characters.
An otoge (Japanese: 乙女ゲー) is an abbreviation of otome game. Ostensibly, is the same as an otome game, but in the West there is some degree of push to have it refer to VNs with female protagonists, marketed to a female audience which do not include romance as a main plot point.
Another term that’s useful for this purpose may be ‘josei-muke’ which means a piece of media that is aimed at women (any media - not necessarily only VNs or even just video games).
A moege (Japanese: 萌えゲー) is a visual novel that focuses on moe characters, usually girls, and generally lacks drama or stakes. Moege can often be summarized as "cute girls doing cute things".
A nakige (Japanese: 泣きゲー, lit. "crying game") is a visual novel that attempts to create an emotional response in the reader, but usually contains an uplifting message or ending (generally after significant hardships).
An utsuge (Japanese: 鬱ゲー, lit. "depressing game") is a visual novel that attempts to depress the player and create an atmosphere that leaves them in low spirits. Unlike nakige, utsuge often lack happy endings or hope.
All ages (translated literally from 全年齢, Hepburn: zen nenrei) is a term that describes a visual novel that doesn’t contain sexually explicit material. This term, while it is easy to misunderstand it, does not mean the content is suitable for audiences of all ages, as it does not exclude graphic violence, profanity, or other rating-impacting content types.
Eroge (Japanese: エロゲー, lit. "erotic game.") refers to any game or visual novel that heavily emphasizes erotic content as its main appeal. Not to be confused with a nukige.
A nukige (Japanese: 抜きゲー, lit. "ejaculating game") is a visual novel that is focused on sexual content or the player's fetishes rather than plot.
The following terms are used by the community to judge the quality of a game. These categories are very subjective and are often jokes.
A kamige (Japanese: 神ゲー, lit. "god/divine game") is a visual novel that is considered to be the pinnacle of the medium. Mostly used sarcastically or as a meme.
A kusoge (Japanese: クソゲー, lit. "shit game") is a derogatory term for a visual novel considered to be poor quality. Mostly used sarcastically or as a meme.
A dating sim is a type of game where the objective is to get into a romantic or sexual relationship with one (or more) of the characters. Any gameplay will reflect that goal. The line between dating sim and a romantic visual novel can sometimes be blurry or confused, but usually the differences come from the emphasis on gameplay as a method to woo a prospective partner, as opposed to solely dialogue choices.
Examples: the Tokimeki Memorial and Tokimeki Memorial: Girl’s Side series, Huniepop, Love Plus, Girlish Love Revolution Love Revo!!.
A gege (pronounced "gei-gei" in reference to the Japanese suffix -gē/-ゲー to mean “game”) is a joking (somewhat derogatory) term to refer to non-visual novels. As an example, Persona 5 may have portraits, text boxes, and relationship parameters, but it is not generally considered a visual novel. If someone were to try to claim Persona 5 is a visual novel/rpg hybrid, someone might say, "No, it’s a gege."
An English Visual Novel. This refers to the language the visual novel was originally produced in.
A visual novel originally created in Japanese, or more precisely, by Japanese developers.
A visual novel created originally in Russian.
A mobile game.