games

simulations

these games are arguably role-playing games, but don’t focus on the traditional battle mechanics of classic JRPGs or the western-style adventure RPGs and instead focus on some kind of simulation gameplay; whether that’s running a farm, a restaurant, or taking care of tenants, there’s some kind of management going on, and usually some amount of crafting & gathering as well. this is easily my favorite genre of game. no point bolding anything here as they’re all favorites.

  • stardew valley
    you quit your dead-end job at jojacorp after inheriting your grandpa’s farmhouse in stardew valley and have to restore it to its former glory. a love letter to the SNES harvest moon - perfectly enjoyable on its own but also has a robust modding community giving this cozy lil farming sim infinite replay value.

  • touhou mystia’s izakaya
    play as mystia lorelei, an izakaya owner in gensokyo trying to make ends meet and bring delicious food to the local yokai. spend your mornings gathering ingredients and your evenings cooking up delicious meals for hungry yokai.

  • little witch in the woods
    play as a little witch that gets lost in the woods on her way to witch school and must try to deal with the vines that have grown over the woods keeping her hostage so she may return. very cute, has potion crafting!

  • calico
    you’ve opened a cat café in a new village and must decorate it, bake delicious sweets for your patrons, and solve villager’s issues all while adopting wandering stray cats to live in your café.

  • unholy heights
    you’re the devil, and you’ve decided to become a landlord, converting an old tenement building into monsters-only apartments. convince ghosts, demons, skeletons, and other creatures to move into your apartment and suck them dry of their money by charging rent, but keep them happy with a well-decorated flat or they may leave in the night! battle wandering adventurers who are bent on destroying your tenants and prevent them from stealing your fat stacks of cash! lots of fun, and surprisingly complex.

rpgs

JRPGs were my main special interest growing up and I still enjoy playing them. My tastes may have changed some over the years, but I still consider these to be timeless classics. bolded entries are my favorites.

  • mother 2 aka earthbound
    in a departure for rpgs of the time, this SNES classic has you playing a (mostly) normal kid in American suburbia when a UFO crashes to earth. meet friends & save the planet from gigyas, and have a silly time doing it.

  • chrono trigger
    a classic Square SF RPG - time travel shenanigans, character design by Toriyama Akira, what more could one ask for? lucca best girl.

  • star ocean the second story
    one of the first rpgs I’d ever played from Enix and on the playstation…way ahead of its time with compelling and loveable characters, a fascinating SF story, and a unique relationship system. definitely worth your time.

  • hyperdimension neptunia re;birth 1, re;birth 2, & re;birth 3
    Idea Factory & Compile Heart’s flagship series: cute anime girls representing different consoles fight against the evils of video game piracy and can transform into hot scantily-clad anime girls. add a dose of silliness and humor and you have a tried and true formula. pururut best girl.

  • SaGa frontier
    the only one of the romancing saga series that I’ve played, but I loved it. a multithreaded story that you play through various main characters - asellus best girl. a really unique experience, I’ve never played anything remotely like it.

  • seiken densetsu 3 aka trials of mana
    the best installment in the mana series imo. features multiple (loveable) playable characters with the classic squaresoft fantasy trappings of the era. angela and lise best girlies. has an interesting branching job system for each character which changes your ending slightly, so has infinite replay value imo for this reason.

  • persona 2: punishment
    the first ATLUS game and first megami tensei series game I ever played, back in 1999. this game left a lasting impression on me and I have enjoyed the other persona games I’ve played, but this one will always be number 1 in my heart because of our history ♥

  • bishoujo senshi sailormoon: another story
    a must-play for fans of the anime, this SNES-era hidden gem is absolutely worth a play if you’ve never heard of it. taking place between the s and supers seasons of the original sailormoon anime, it features all of the main senshi battling against the opposito senshi who are changing history to suit their own evil means. fight against them and restore peace and tranquility to crystal tokyo in the future!

  • magic knight rayearth
    another SNES-era rpg based on an existing anime, magic knight rayearth lets you experience the events of the anime and manga as hikaru, umi, and fuu in a nostalgic journey. absolute must for fans of the series.

  • NieR:Automata
    Yoko Taro’s masterpiece originally for playstation 4, play as YoRHa android no.2 type B (2B), a combat-type android who is partnered with YoRHa android no.9 type S (9S) who are assigned to Earth to help protect the Council of Humanity from the invading aliens and machine lifeforms. absolutely lives up to its hype; an introspective action-rpg investigating what it truly means to be human.

  • akiba’s trip: undead & undressed
    a beat-em-up rpg where you play as a regular otaku guy who must save akihabara from vampires by stripping them, exposing their bodies to sunlight which makes them melt away. very dumb, very fun.

  • undertale
    toby fox’s nostalgic rpg masterpiece in which you control a human who has fallen down to the world of monsters and you must find your way back home. battles are optional, and you don’t have to kill anyone. if you haven’t experienced this for yourself, go in as blind as humanly possible. it is worth experiencing.

visual novels

visual and kinetic novels are electronic media very often compared to video games for obvious reasons, but are more akin to digital “choose your own adventure” novels. they are largely text-driven, but may contain drawings, rendered characters, voice acting, and even gameplay elements. I’m also on vndb, so a more complete list of what I’ve played is there. What follows is a selection of some of my favorites. Bolded entries are highly recommended.

  • world of horror
    a love letter to the 1bit adventure games of yore, itou junji, and h.p. lovecraft. play as a diverse cast of characters and make your way through solving the various mysteries of Shiokawa, Japan, in 1984. captures the dread and unease of the cosmic horror genre expertly. if you enjoy cosmic horror at all, you should play this.
    cw: violence, gore, body horror, drug use, parasites, arachnids, mature themes.

  • a wave of lights
    short & sweet story about meeting an alien on the beach at night.

  • ame no marginal -rain marginal-
    really sad, but really moving. completely drew me in; I read it in one sitting.

  • CHAOS;HEAD
    part of the science adventure series (steins;gate, robotics;notes), MAGES. at their best.

  • va-11 hall-a: cyberpunk bartender action
    time to mix drinks and change lives; great setting, great story. dorothy best girl.

  • 2064: read only memories
    it says cyberpunk thriller, but it’s more like a buddy-comedy mystery in a cyberpunk setting. still really good.

  • roadwarden
    a departure from the more modern-day entries here, but enjoyable nonetheless. a love letter to text-adventure rpgs of the DOS era; you play as a new roadwarden tasked with finding the missing previous roadwarden. your stats and backstory populate as you play through the game, which I found a really unique and interesting way of storytelling.

  • okujo no yurireisan aka kindred spirits on the roof
    only you can see the yuri ghosts who inhabit the roof of an all-girl’s school, and now you have to help them play matchmaker! this too, is yuri.

  • galaxy angel
    classic galge, vanilla is best girl.

  • sonicomi
    sonico is a gravure model and you are her photographer. goofy but fun.

  • needy streamer overload
    aka needy girl overdose, a modern take on the girl-raising simulator. balance k-angel’s mental darkness, stress, and love for you (p-chan, her producer), and help her ascend into cyber heaven or descend into normie hell.
    cw: discussion of suicide, depression & mental health; drugs & addiction

  • long live the queen
    princess maker but make it difficult as hell. great fun, still haven’t gotten all the endings after owning it for….5+ years?

  • princess maker 2
    if you want to try out the girl-raising simulators, I recommend beginning with this one! the first princess maker game is very fun, but it’s not as fleshed out as 2 is, so I think new players will have an easier time understanding this one.

  • higanbana no saku yoru ni
    aka “on the night the spider-lily blooms,” a lesser-known ryukishi07/07th expansion property that I’d argue is better than or at the very least as good as higurashi, its better-known sibling. VERY DEPRESSING.
    cw: bullying, suicide, child abuse, sexual abuse

  • higurashi no naku koro ni hou: onikakushi
    the first installment in the “when they cry” series, arguably the most famous of the 07th expansion properties.
    cw: murder, violence

rpgmaker games

most of the games listed here use either RPGMaker or WOLF RPG Editor, but use these tools in unconvential ways resulting in very surreal and interesting experiences. bolded entries are personal favorites.

  • yume nikki (check left panel under ‘download links’)
    a surreal exploration game by kikiyama, you play as madotsuki, a hikikomori girl who can’t leave the confines of her room during the day. when she sleeps, however, an entire world of fantastic dreamscapes is available for her to explore. wander through her dreams and collect different effects, write down your dreams in your diary. maybe one day you can leave your room?
    cw: suicide, bullying, body horror, anxiety/depression

  • lisa: the first and the painful
    two truly depressing experiences. in the first, play as lisa armstrong and try to regain her memories; and in the painful, play as brad armstrong, finder of the last girl alive in the wasteland and her adopted father as he absolutely ruins his and everyone around him’s life. bizarre, depressing, and surreal, but worth experiencing.
    cw: violence, gore, abuse, sexual assault, drug & alcohol abuse, suicide

  • ib
    a young girl visits an art gallery with her parents, then suddenly realizes she is alone. help her find her way back home.
    cw: suicide, nudity, blood

  • off
    a surreal game originally in french by mortis ghost, a belgian gamedev. english fan-translation is available. play as the mysterious batter and help guide him on his important mission.

  • space funeral
    play as phillip, a sad pajama-clad lad as he befriends a horse made of legs and sets off to find the mysterious “city of forms.” bizarre & blood-filled, with an amazing soundtrack.

  • FRANKEN
    the greatest love story ever told.

  • melon journey
    play as either cantaloupe or honeydew in this cute monochromatic rpg. you awaken outside hog town missing your buddy! talk to the various animals to figure out where they’ve gone.

bullet hells

bullet hell games, aka 弾幕 (danmaku, literally “barrage”), are types of shooting games more akin to a puzzle wherein the screen is littered with projectiles you must dodge that follow more and more intense patterns. they are ridiculously difficult, but really fun and a great way to blow off some steam.

tabletop rpgs

  • maid rpg
    we played a oneshot of this for my birthday a few years back and it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a table. I would love to play this again sometime.

  • engine heart
    I ran a short-lived campaign using this system pre-pandemic. the system itself is really good and lends itself to lots of fascinating post-apocalyptic storytelling.

  • golden sky stories
    I have never gotten to play this, but I have read the book multiple times and it’s probably the one ttrpg I want to try the most.