ooh, you requested some visual novel recs! i love having a reason to recommend vns on itchio to people and equally feel that “enthusiasm for itch not translating into actual coverage” sometimes, thanks for giving me an excuse to sign up for waypoint and wait patiently until it’d let me link enough stuff to spout off about vns, haha! your post on EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK was excellent and i enjoyed reading your thoughts, so i’m looking forward to any writeups about vns you play!
I’m gonna use proper capitalization so this is easier to parse. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of indie visual novel developers on Itchio that I haven’t seen much coverage of in any decently large gaming outlet, at least off the top of my head, who’ve made things I think would be perfect for this column! They’re broken into groups of three so this doesn’t take up your whole screen any more than it already does, haha.
Cyanide Tea, Soulsoft Electronic Arts, and Girls Make Games.
Cyanide Tea is a team that has since unfortunately moved on to other things outside of their partnership, but they made two of my favorite visual novels – Where We Lay Our Scene, an emotional dating sim about a model-turned-actor named Christian navigating relationships with the four love(/friendship) interests, and Break Chance Momento, a dark time travel-themed visual novel about catching a serial killer with a heavy focus on plot and trying to keep your friends and family from being killed. Neither one is free, unlike most of the other entries on this list, but both are well worth a look.
Soulsoft Electronic Arts is one of the oldest English VN developers on the list, at least as far as their first published work – 2008’s Dream Savior Gakuen – goes, but what I’m recommending here is their newer horror/thriller VN hosted on Itchio, Let’s Meat Adam (link contains NSFW content). Starring vain and honestly kind of pretentious protagonist Adam, LMA’s concept is best summed up as “it’s a bunch of gay men trapped in an escape room game with a serial killer (?) and there’s a whole lot of neon”. Aesthetically, tonally, and contextually, I can’t think of anything else quite like it in games. That NSFW warning definitely isn’t a joke.
Girls Make Games has a rotating team, given the nature of how the actual camp behind it works, but their debut visual novel Interfectorem (warning for art of graphic violence against a child, specifically the murder mentioned below, in the Itchio page’s preview pictures) is smart, well-put together, and one of my personal favorite horror visual novels. It centers on a sheriff named Alis who comes home to discover her young sister has been murdered while she was out on a hike – and now Alis has to struggle to survive the same killer herself. The young team that made this has a lot of potential, and what they’ve made here is already strong enough that I’m excited to see the rest of their careers.
Ebi-Hime, GB Patch Games, and Pyonkotchi.
Ebi-Hime is one of those developers who kind of skirts the boundary of “decently large outlet’s coverage”, so I’m not 100% that she hasn’t been featured somewhere similar to Waypoint, but it’s still kind of a shock to me that I don’t see articles about her work regularly! She does an incredibly huge variety of stuff with a wide variety of tones/themes, skewing mostly toward WxW content – my favorite VN of hers is Where The Sun Always Shines, a free linear story about jaded novelist Blake and his scrappy young friend, Sunny. It’s emotionally honest and extremely well-written, with a lot of interesting aspects to its visual presentation.
GB Patch Games has shown that they specialize, at least out of the work of theirs that I’ve read, in some truly stellar character writing. The strong character writing and good balance of realistic, relatable teenagers with the most blatantly terrible parts of those characters’ personalities is what makes XOXO Droplets so uniquely hilarious. If you’re a fan of women characters that people like to yell about for being “unlikeable”, XOXO Droplets’ protagonist JB is definitely for you.
Pyonkotchi only has one non-April-Fools VN with anything out to play right now, but I’d be missing out if I didn’t recommend their demo of Magical Warrior Diamond Heart, a magical girl-inspired visual novel about a teenage girl named Valerie who suddenly discovers that she’s a Legendary Crystal Warrior. MWDH is one of the only visual novels I’ve ever seen with a character whose nonbinary identity/presentation really resonated with me and it nailed a lot of the things I loved about 90s-00s shoujo humor, which I think is the kind of thing some Waypointers like? Y/N?
Team Rumblebee, STARDUST★SODA, and KONOL Games/Yossarian III.
Team Rumblebee got a bit of attention for their Life Is Strange fanmade dating sim back during the original installment of LIS, but I always love to recommend Loan Wolf to anyone who might not have kept up with them after the fact! It’s another free, short WxW dating sim, about a werewolf who’s stuck working a desk job as tech support. They haven’t released anything since 2016, but both of those visual novels are incredibly sweet and charming!
STARDUST★SODA has such a wide variety in tone and art style that’s something else in the best possible way, but my personal favorite is so obscure;, a visual novel the team completed for last month’s NaNoRenO about two high school students in early-2000s Hong Kong who meet on a social messaging app and bond over their favorite bands. I first found them through Last Call, an equally excellent story where you play a bartender trying to help a woman named Dawn reconcile with two people who aren’t in her life anymore.
KONOL Games/Yossarian III makes some extremely funny, extremely distinct visual novels – the best example I can think of is their NaNoRenO 2018 entry, Crunchy Lunch, which is entirely about that moment where you’re in a public place and you want to eat something, but whatever you want to eat is really, really loud. It’s told exclusively through sticky notes, too. Yoss III’s comedy is top-notch, at least to me, and I personally really enjoy their art style!
The excellent NaNoRenO 2018 visual novel-themed game jam.
If none of those sound interesting, or you just want to dig deeper into visual novels on Itchio, I seriously recommend giving the NaNoRenO 2018 jam page a look! NaNoRenO is an annual game jam centered around finishing a visual novel during the month of March and it always produces some incredible results. I’m going to add in the caveat that I participated in it and it’s not hard to find what I did in its entries page, but I genuinely believe that there’s a visual novel for nearly every kind of interested reader somewhere in its whopping 74 entries and didn’t want to just make a list here of all my favorite NaNoRenO entries. That list might be even longer than this one.
A not-hidden disclaimer here that the English VN community on Itchio can get a little claustrophobic, so I’ve worked with or know a handful of people in some of these studios/teams. But the only VNs on this list I actually contributed to in the slightest was STARDUST★SODA’s so obscure;, which I personally volunteered for as a late-stage beta tester and didn’t touch otherwise!
The smaller nature of OELVNs as a community and my involvement in it is just an important fact for me to note, IMO, so you’d be able to have that context if you decided to play it. I definitely stand by all of these VNs as being worth unpacking in this thread for their content alone.
And, hey, this is an awesome thread! Thanks so much for making it; I can’t wait to see what you cover next!