Since video games and collecting manga are two of my favorite hobbies, it was only time a matter of time before I dove into the world of visual novels. One of the best consoles for visual novels in 2023 is the Nintendo Switch. On top of having a wide range of titles, the Switch’s portability is great for when you want to read visual novels on the go.
I enjoy reading visual novels, because they feature rich storytelling, engaging characters, and immersive worlds, and they mix together interactive storytelling and game-like elements that bring together these two worlds I already love. You are an active participant in the story and the choices you make have consequences, much like a video game, but they are told and expressed in a way that reminds me a lot of my favorite manga and novels.
One of the best things about visual novels is how interactive and immersive they are. You make choices throughout the game, which can open up new paths in the story and lead to multiple endings. The relationships you make in the series can be affected as well by the choices you make. They span various genres, such as romance, mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy, so there is a lot of different series you can explore.
They often have an anime-like style that will make them feel familiar to anime fans. Many of these stories have even been adapted into anime and manga, so they have inspired many of our favorite series, including Steins;Gate. Needless to say, we have a lot to thank visual novels for, because they have influenced a number of adaptations and have inspired other creators and media in the industry as well.
That all being said, here are the best visual novels you need to check out on Nintendo Switch! In this post, I’ve included images of all of the physical copies that I own in my collection, so you can see them firsthand. If not pictured, I purchased them digitally.
ESRB rating: T
Clannad is undoubtedly a classic that deserves a spot on any list of the best visual novels. Developed by Key, the studio behind other remarkable titles like Kanon and Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet, Clannad delivers a heartwarming and emotional experience with rich storytelling and unforgettable characters.
The story follows Tomoya Okazaki, a high school student who feels disconnected from the world around him. Fate intervenes when he meets Nagisa Furukawa, a shy girl who dreams of reviving the school’s drama club. As Tomoya gets to know Nagisa and other characters, he gradually forms meaningful relationships with them.
At its core, Clannad is a character-driven narrative that delves into themes such as family, friendship, and love. Each character’s route uncovers their unique struggles and personal growth while Tomoya’s own journey of self-discovery unfolds alongside theirs. The game’s striking visuals and moving soundtrack further add to the immersive and emotional experience.
What sets Clannad apart is its satisfying gameplay elements and multiple branching storylines and endings. This will keep you invested and make you want to explore each character’s story to see all of the possible outcomes. With its engaging story, relatable characters, and captivating presentation, Clannad has earned its place as an instant genre classic.
ESRB rating: T
Gnosia brings a fresh twist to the visual novel genre by offering a compelling mix of social deduction gameplay and RPG elements. Set on a drifting spaceship, you’re part of a crew whose primary objective is to identify and eliminate the Gnosia-infected crew members. Through a series of discussions and votes, you’ll need to survive each round while uncovering the truth. Gnosia masterfully combines the captivating elements of games like Werewolf, Among Us, and Danganronpa.
Each playthrough, or loop, is a completely unique experience, as the roles and characteristics of the crew members are randomly assigned at the beginning of the game. This setup ensures that no two games are the same, providing immense replay value. As you progress, you’ll learn more about each character’s backstory, motivations, and personality, which adds depth to the game’s narrative.
What sets Gnosia apart is its integration of RPG elements within a visual novel. As you play, you gain experience points that you’ll use to enhance your character’s various attributes, improving your ability to detect lies, deceive others, and more. These improvements will help you survive as you progress through the game’s different phases.
Gnosia was initially released on the PS Vita in 2019, but now you can experience the game on Nintendo Switch as well. If you’re a fan of visual novels with interactive elements and a blend of social deduction, deep storytelling, and RPG elements, Gnosia is one you won’t want to miss.
ESRB rating: T
Milk Inside A Bag Of Milk Inside A Bag Of Milk is best described as surreal and unconventional. This visual novel was made by Nikita Kryukov and it’s one that is best experienced without knowing too much beforehand. I’ll do my best to explain what it does well and who it might appeal to, without going into too much detail about what it’s really about.
Though it’s one of the shortest visual novels I’ve played, it’s packed with thought-provoking content. Milk Inside A Bag Of Milk Inside A Bag Of Milk features minimalistic artwork and simple mechanics, but it still manages to create an immersive and interesting world. The ambient music adds to the dreamlike atmosphere, which made the experience even more engrossing.
If you’re seeking a unique psychological story that challenges your perception of reality, Milk Inside A Bag Of Milk Inside A Bag Of Milk is definitely worth your time. This memorable title stands out from the crowd and offers an experience unlike any other.
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action
ESRB rating: M
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is one of my all-time favorite visual novels, not just because it is set in a unique cyberpunk dystopian city called Glitch City and has some of the best music I’ve ever heard in a visual novel, but also because it has an interesting setup.
As a bartender named Jill, you’ll have conversations with the eclectic customers that come into VA-11 HALL-A all the while mixing drinks. The mixology gameplay is fun, and the conversations you have are interesting, to say the least, because they dive into some pretty dark and intense topics. The issues that plague this world come up in your conversations as well, so you not only learn about the people but Glitch City also.
There’s something that’s oddly relaxing about making drinks in this game. There’s a Jukebox too, and I love that your playlist is customizable. You can select 12 songs that you want your Jukebox to play, and you can cycle through the songs during your shifts at the bar, which adds a personal touch. VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action has unique gameplay mechanics, but it also has an incredibly immersive story, and it’s set in a compelling cyberpunk world.
ESRB rating: M
The House in Fata Morgana is a haunting and striking visual novel that takes you on a captivating journey through a cursed mansion that’s shrouded in mystery and darkness. As you navigate the mansion, you’ll traverse through time, witnessing the lives of its fascinating inhabitants across various historical periods. Each new era uncovers layers of a rich narrative that masterfully weaves together elements of gothic horror, romance, and tragedy, ultimately unveiling the secrets concealed within the very fabric of the mansion itself.
Although several titles on this list feature unique gameplay mechanics, The House in Fata Morgana stays true to the core elements of a traditional visual novel. As a result, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in the story, reading and making pivotal decisions that influence the story. This straightforward approach doesn’t detract from the game’s appeal and only enhances the experience. Being aware of what to expect allows you to appreciate the unfolding story all the more, keeping you enthralled throughout the journey.
My favorite aspects of the game were the beautiful artwork, captivating music, and memorable interactions between characters. The non-linear structure of the story also allows you to explore and piece together the story gradually and further enhances the game’s replay factor.
If you’re considering picking this one up for the Switch, I highly recommend opting for the Dream of the Revenants Edition. This edition features full prequel and sequel stories, in addition to the main storyline, revamped artwork, visual enhancements, and a collection of short stories that delve into interesting side narratives.
ESRB rating: M
Chaos;Head Noah is one of the most atmospherically dark visual novels I’ve played to date. Set in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, you assume the role of a high school student named Takumi Nishijou, who becomes caught in a web of gruesome murders known as the “New Generation Madness”. As Takumi delves deeper to solve the mystery behind the “New Gen” murders, he begins to question his own sanity and reality itself.
What sets it apart from other visual novels I’ve played is its fascinating exploration of the human psyche mixed with the mystery and psychological thriller narrative. As the story progressed, and you dive more into the mind of Takumi, I felt immersed and invested in a way few visual novels have succeeded to pull off. The game does a great job at making you feel the isolation that Takumi is experiencing, as you spend countless nights awake scouring @chan to uncover the truth behind the murders.
The game also has a unique mechanic known as the “Delusion Trigger System”, which allows you to select whether Takumi will have a positive, neutral, or negative delusion during certain events in the game. The choices you make here will impact how the story unfolds and ultimately which ending of the game you experience.
If you’re a fan of dark psychological thrillers and sci-fi stories, I can’t recommend Chaos;Head Noah enough. The game has plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes and the engaging characters and dark subject matter make it a must-play. This is also the first game in the Science Adventure Series which also includes Steins;Gate, Robotics:Notes, and Anonymous;Code to name a few.
While I haven’t played the original Chaos;Head visual novel, Chaos;Head Noah is recommended by many for being a more polished and complete experience. Improvements were made to the dialogue and gameplay as well as updates to the visuals and graphics. The most significant, however, is the inclusion of character-specific routes and the addition of more endings than the original had.
I recommend picking up the Chaos;Head Noah / Chaos;Child Double Pack, which includes both Delusional Science Adventure games in one. In this edition, the opening movies have been remastered in HD as well.
ESRB rating: M
In Bustafellows, you play as Teuta, a smart young journalist that is always on the hunt for a scoop. After witnessing the murder of a crooked lawyer named Limbo, Teuta is destined to save him. With the ability to leap into the past for a very brief moment and take on the body of another, you must find clues and help those around you. The series kicks off with you traveling to the past to warn Limbo of his fate and figure out how to save him, but what sort of effects will this have on the future?
Bustafellows is a crime drama that has an interesting time travel mechanic. Not only do you get to influence events in real-time through the choices you make and interactions you have with the characters, but you go back in time as well, which shapes the story in ways that continuously keep you invested. Bustafellows is an otome game, and while there’s some romance and flirty lines throughout, it’s more so a thriller and murder mystery than anything.
It’s definitely one that otome fans will enjoy, but there’s a little bit of everything in Bustafellows from suspense to drama that visual novels fans of all kinds can enjoy as well. The romance is on the lighter side, though, so if you are someone who likes your visual novels to be romance heavy, this is something you may want to consider. All in all, Bustafellows has a gripping narrative, the characters are interesting in their own ways, and the time travel spin makes it unique.
ESRB rating: T
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a sci-fi visual novel developed by the talented team at Vanillaware (GrimGrimoire, Odin Sphere). The game will captivate you with its intricate narrative web, weaving the tales of 13 distinct characters whose lives span the past, present, and future. The story is an exhilarating blend of sci-fi, mecha, and time travel as you gradually unravel the secrets behind a catastrophic event that jeopardizes humanity. With each revelation, you’ll piece together the entwined destinies of the 13 protagonists, whose fates are connected in this genre-bending adventure.
This game occupies an interesting cross-genre territory but primarily shines as a visual novel with some real-time strategy elements sprinkled in throughout. One of the standout features is the unique progression system, which allows you to switch between the 13 protagonists, delve into their individual stories, and discover the intricate links between them.
Although the game incorporates giant mech battles against Kaiju in a real-time strategy format, this aspect can feel repetitive after a while. However, the fascinating story and unforgettable characters more than makeup for it, keeping you hooked until the very end.
The beautiful hand-drawn visuals, rich narrative, and highly memorable cast make 13 Sentinels a must-play for visual novel enthusiasts. Whether you’re a fan of sci-fi, time travel, kaiju, or complex intertwined stories, 13 Sentinels offers something for everyone and truly stands out as one of the best stories on this list.
ESRB rating: T
Let me start by saying that Digimon Survive is the first game in the Digimon franchise that I’ve played. What initially caught my attention was hearing it described as the darkest Digimon game to date and after experiencing it for myself, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
In Digimon Survive you step into the shoes of teenage protagonist, Takuma Momozuka, who, along with his classmates is transported to a dangerous world after getting lost while on a school camping trip. In this strange yet familiar world, you and your friends must rely on your newfound Digimon companions to survive. As the story unfolds, you’ll make tough decisions, forge relationships and fight to uncover the mystery and return home safely.
The primary appeal of Digimon Survive is definitely its story. With well-developed characters, a striking art style, intriguing environments, and a dark tone, I was fully immersed throughout Takuma’s journey. Although I didn’t dislike its strategic turn-based combat as much as some players, I did find it quite tedious at times. However, I don’t think the combat system should define this game because, at its heart, it’s a visual novel first.
The significance of your choices influences everything from your friendships to story progression and even battle outcomes. In addition, Digimon Survive boasts an outstanding soundtrack and exceptional voice acting that helps draw you deeper into its engaging story. With an extensive main storyline, plenty of optional content, and numerous branching narratives this game has plenty of elements that make it one of the best visual novels on the Nintendo Switch.
Needy Streamer Overload
ESRB rating: M
Needy Streamer Overload is a Denpa-themed visual novel that doesn’t necessarily feel like one at all times, because it requires quite a bit of work to keep up with. You play as P-Chan, the partner and producer of a streamer, Ame-chan aka “OMGkawaiiAngel”, and you have to acquire 1 million followers for her within the short timeframe of 30 days.
The choices you make will lead you to different endings, so there are multiple pathways you can take, and the decisions you make, also trigger different events. Since this game is short too, you can get through it pretty quickly.
There’s a lot of interactivity in Needy Streamer Overload that makes it feel like more than a visual novel at times, but it’s still very much one with a driving narrative where things can get extremely out of hand and fast. Not only do you have to juggle keeping your relationship with Ame-chan strong by going out on dates, spending time together, and responding to her messages, but you also have to focus on increasing her following by keeping her on a steady streaming schedule and helping her come up with new stream ideas.
All the while, you have to keep an eye on her stats, including her follower count, affection (how much she likes you), stress, and mental darkness. When she hits the minimum or maximum of each, and whether or not you choose to focus on her fame or her well-being, will bring about different endings. Essentially, you are controlling her actions, which lead her down a path of happiness or not.
My first three play-throughs were rather quick, around an hour or so. At first, there was some learning curve, because there is so much to juggle in this game. Once you get the hang of it, though, it’s easy to manage everything. There’s a lot that goes on in Needy Streamer Overload, and because it follows a daily time schedule, things happen fast.
When all is said and done, if you are a completionist, you are looking at around 10 hours of playtime, but if you are just wanting to get through it, I’d expect to spend around 2-3 hours with this one. It’s one of the most unique visual novel experiences and the retro appeal (the novel plays on a 90’s-esque Windows desktop) is cool too.
Right now, Needy Streamer Overload is available to play digitally on the Nintendo Store, but there is also a physical copy that has English support, which you can pick up on sites like Playasia.
ESRB rating: T
The Ace Attorney series is a popular visual novel franchise that places you in the shoes of various defense attorneys, most notably the charismatic Phoenix Wright. Throughout the series, you’re tasked with solving intriguing cases, investigating meticulously detailed crime scenes, and defending your clients in nail-biting courtroom battles.
In each case, you’re challenged to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and piece together the truth behind each crime. The gameplay offers an addictive blend of detective work and courtroom drama, where you’ll eventually present your findings and cross-examine witnesses to uncover hidden truths. The Ace Attorney games stand out on this list for their eccentric cast of memorable characters, witty and humorous writing, and satisfying “Eureka!” moments when you successfully expose a lie or contradiction.
While the third entry in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, is my personal favorite for its masterfully woven narrative, complex cases, and engaging storytelling, I highly recommend playing the two prior games in the franchise first. Doing so allows you to better understand the relationships between characters and appreciate the overarching story, which will make the experience even more immersive.
That being said, the Ace Attorney series offers a unique and captivating blend of storytelling, humor, character development, and gameplay that can appeal to a wide variety of players, even those who are not particularly interested in courtroom dramas. You can collect the first three games in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy which contains remastered versions of the original games, making it the perfect starting point for new players!
ESRB rating: M
The Danganronpa series, which is developed by Spike Chunsoft, is absolutely essential if you are a fan of murder mysteries. It’s one of the most successful and best visual novel series released to date and it has a unique style.
There are a number of different titles that have been released within the series, including spin-offs, but the three main ones you’ll want to get into are Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Each has its own setting, but the setup is similar. You, along with your classmates are forced to play a deadly game constructed by a robotic teddy bear named Monokuma. To get out, Monokuma says you’ll have to kill your classmates, and this creates tension and unease among the group.
Danganronpa is psychological and it explores the human psyche. There’s a bit of groupthink that occurs in this series, but it pushes you to think for yourself and stand out as an individual. Of course, this can be hard in a situation, like this one, where you are forced to question your every conversation and uncover the true intentions of your classmates in this game. It really poses the question of, “Who can I really trust”, but to survive you’ll have to trust the right people, and this is where things get difficult.
The trials you’ll take part in over the course of the series are exciting, and the whole mystery of it all, keeps you invested in the story. Before each trial, your life goes about like normal, albeit with the potential killer(s) hiding amongst you. You interact with your classmates, explore the school, and bolster your relationships. When a murder happens, you go into investigation mode, which eventually leads to a Class Trial, which features a series of mini-games to determine the true identity of the killer.
Despair and hope are two concepts that are explored extensively in the series as well. Difficult and horrifying situations can shape people for the better, or for the worse, and this is showcased in Danganronpa well. Despite the nature of its content, Danganronpa doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I really appreciate this. It still knows how to be funny, albeit in a dark and twisted way.
The best way to collect the series in English is via the Danganronpa Decadence edition, which collects the three main titles in the franchise, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Anniversary Edition, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Anniversary Edition, and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Anniversary Edition. It also comes with Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp, which is a new board game-style bonus game.
If you are a fan of Spike Chunsoft’s games, an upcoming title Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is on its way in 2023! It was announced at Nintendo Direct 2022.
ESRB rating: M
Doki Doki Literature Club! is a visual novel that appears to be one thing, but is another entirely. This one is quite the surprise and you won’t know what to expect, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat. What seems like a nice, heartwarming game turns into something very different and the story becomes much more horrifying over the course of the chapters. It explores dark, serious themes that may be potentially triggering for some.
The first few chapters for me felt like your average visual novel, but they are supposed to. You play as a male character who joins the literature club, which has four female members, Sayori, Yuri, Monika, and Natsuki. Sayori has been your friend since childhood, but the rest of you are meeting for the first time. He joins not because he’s into literature, but because he can’t say no to four beautiful girls.
It starts off feeling a lot like a dating sim as you work to foster relationships with these girls and spend time with them both in and outside the club room. Ultimately, you choose who you talk to or want to focus on most in this game, but your choices and actions will have consequences. One of the most unique things about this game is that you make as well as share poems. There are certain words that are attractive to different characters, so what you choose, will affect your affinity with them. As you read their poems, you learn more about these girls and the issues they are dealing with in the shadows.
While the first few hours felt somewhat tedious to get through, what happened next, immediately hooked me into the story. The game changes as you play, and adapts to the situation, which is unique. It’s an immersive story full of mystery and conspiracy. It takes you down rabbit holes and makes you question your every conversation and move. Doki Doki Literature Club! wants to put you on edge, and it’s highly effective as a result.
You won’t be able to put this down, and if you do, you’ll be itching to read more, because you want to see what happens next. If you are new to visual novels altogether, I highly recommend starting with Doki Doki Literature Club!, because it’s a relatively quick one at around 7 hours of gameplay. It will surprise you in ways you never imagined, and if you like stories that are meta, it is one you’ll want to pick up.
The standard release is free to play on Steam, but you can also purchase a physical copy of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus, which comes with a new DLC and extra content, for Nintendo Switch as well. The Plus version is definitely worth it because you get more backstory about the girls via the six new side stories that are included in this edition. The Steam edition appears to be censored somewhat, so you may want to consider the physical copy for this reason as well.
ESRB rating: M
Steins;Gate, which was developed by 5pb and Nitroplus, is a visual novel you probably have heard of by now. If you haven’t already played the visual novel, you may have already watched the anime adaptation or read the manga that was released after it. Steins;Gate is my favorite anime of all time, and the visual novel, which is the original source material, is my favorite visual novel to ever release.
Steins;Gate is set in Akihabara, Tokyo, and it follows a group of friends who discover a way to manipulate time through—of all things—a modified microwave. As they delve deeper into time travel, they find themselves involved in an exciting and perilous plot full of conspiracies and consequences.
Steins;Gate is part of the Science Adventure series, so it comes as no surprise that it features a deeply complex and immersive sci-fi story. Not only do we get to explore the concept of time travel in Steins;Gate, but themes, such as causality and the dangers that come with manipulating or changing moments in time, are explored. Complexity is something that Steins;Gate has a lot of, but the story doesn’t get lost in all the details. It gets pretty science-y, but it’s not like some lecture hall discussion. It’s about members of a lab who also happen to be comrades working out a puzzle, but also experiencing life together.
Steins;Gate discusses real-world theories, including John Titor’s time travel theories and the butterfly effect, which add to its believability, but it includes them in a way that makes them feel more exciting. Time travel is a subject that isn’t always executed well, but Steins;Gate sets the example of how it should be done. With time travel comes skepticism and critics, and Steins;Gate is self-aware of this. As you read, you will find yourself less of a skeptic and more of a believer, and this is part of the reason why it’s so successful.
The idea that the person who discovers time travel is a cooky, paranoid, “mad scientist,” is something that has been explored before, but while Okabe’s personality is built from this stereotypical profile, there’s a gentleness and magnetism about him that makes him stand apart. Science is meant to be empirical, but it is emotion that drives Okabe to carry out his research, and this is what makes Steins;Gate such an enveloping and twisted visual novel.
While the anime and manga primarily follow the “true ending” route, the visual novel enables players to delve into alternative story arcs and conclusions, offering a more extensive look into the lives of the characters and the game’s universe. With its multiple endings and highly immersive story, Steins;Gate has high replayability. It’s a must-play, whether you are a fan of visual novels or you are a fan of the franchise because there’s so much more to dive into. However, it’s worth noting that, with an average playtime of around 50 hours, it’s quite a commitment, but it’s one that’s well worth your time.
They released a remastered edition of Steins;Gate for Nintendo Switch titled STEINS;GATE ELITE. On top of being remastered, certain endings have newly animated sequences.
These are the best visual novels on Nintendo Switch right now! As new visual novels are released, we will update this post, so stay tuned for more.