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 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 puzzle-y, adventury-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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The writing is the centrepiece of any visual novel, and so long as the reader has the patience and the attention span to contend with the rather sedate pace of the whole experience – not to mention its substantial length, clocking in at 15-20 hours or more, depending on one’s own personal reading speed – SeaBed certainly delivers on that front, providing a compelling tale that stirs the imagination and serves as a fascinating exploration of loss, grief and the mental health matters that surround such things. It’s a beautiful, emotional work of digital literature that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but come in with the appropriate expectations and there’s a true masterpiece of the visual novel medium waiting to be enjoyed here.
Arcade Spirits is a niche title that nevertheless finds its audience thanks to some great writing and a very inclusive selection of diverse characters to interact with. While there are a few flaws in the sound design area, including some poor voice work and an overall low volume output, the gameplay is engaging and the plot intriguing, making this the perfect choice if you’re after a fun, light-hearted experience or a well-written gaming nostalgia trip.
A mature visual novel that isn’t afraid to be fun, Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York is a quick plunge into the freezing waters of a bloodsucker-filled Big Apple. It won’t last you forever, but you’ll be hooked for its short runtime. It does a lot with a little and is breezy enough to fly by. Just don’t expect to actually, you know, do that much. Great art and good writing, but not enough of it.
Code: Realize Guardian of Rebirth is a solid visual novel with a unique steampunk setting and a bunch of well-written and likeable lead characters. The mystery surrounding Cardia’s bizarre situation combined with suitors based on well-known 18th-century literary characters is an engaging mix and, even if you’re not really all that bothered with romancing a bunch of lads, there’s plenty here to keep you reading and exploring the various routes and scenarios until you’ve seen everything this one’s got to offer.
World End Syndrome has everything you would expect from a saucier entry in the visual novel genre yet manages to add depth to characters which you may have assumed were present only to look fabulous in bikinis. It offers plenty of replayability but also provides a satisfying ending if you’re more of a one-and-done individual. If you’re after a well-crafted visual novel featuring a little more than the standard anime lady tropes (but also the standard anime lady tropes), this is a fine example with a pleasantly substantial and gripping story, to boot.
Think there’s something missing from our list? We hear that Florence is good, although that’s one which escaped our review net. We’ll be expanding this selection with more worthy entries in the future, but let us know if we’ve missed something and we may add that, too.
This article is one of our Switch Essentials guides which cover a wide variety of genres, including the Best Switch FPS Games, the Best Switch RPGs, the Best Switch Games For Kids, the Best Switch Couch Co-Op Games and the Best Switch Fitness and Exercise Games. We can also help out hunting down the Best Switch Horror Games, the Best Switch Racing Games, the Best Switch Action-RPGs, the Best Nintendo Switch Roguelikes, Roguelites and Run-Based Games , the Best Free Switch Games, and even Games to Play After You’ve Finished Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Whatever your favourite genre, we’ve got you covered: Strategy Games, Metroidvanias, Puzzle Games, Party Games, Online Multiplayer Games, Shmups, Fighting Games, Hidden Gems, 2D Platformers, 3D Platformers, Sports Games, Beat ‘Em Ups, Chill Games, Family Games, Retro-Inspired Games, Short Games, and the Best Switch Exclusives, as well as Every Arcade Archives Game, Every ACA Neo Geo Game and Every SEGA AGES Game On Switch.
If you’re looking for the best Switch games regardless of genre, our reader-voted selection of the Best Nintendo Switch Games should help you out, and you can also find the Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2017, 2018, and 2019. And finally, if you’re interested in other Nintendo consoles and retro games, check out the Best Game Boy Games, Best Nintendo DS Games, Best Nintendo 3DS Games, and the Best GameCube Games, as well as Every Nintendo Switch Online NES Game and Every Nintendo Switch Online SNES Game.