Look, love is a wild and extremely personal thing. So long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and stays safe, then people are well within their rights to express their feelings however they see fit. That can go to some pretty unexpected places in the real world, but video games are free to take that even further. With that in mind, I have searched high and low for an intriguing collection of ten really just out-there games about love, lust, and romance.
As a note, I wanted to avoid a few things going into this list. For one this, there are a whole litany of weird dating sims that can be summed up as “You date something wacky,” and that is the entire thrust of the game. Sometimes it’s tanks, sometimes it’s John Cena, sometimes it’s a surrealist nightmare, and you’re dating Nick Cage, but there’s usually not a whole lot new to talk about there.
Additionally, I wanted to keep this list around mostly stuff that is not really being talked about right now. Boyfriend Dungeon is certainly a thing to behold, but it’s also fairly recent and is most likely already going to be on a lot of these sorts of lists this year. Now, with that all out of the way, turn down the lights, crank the smooth jazz, and let’s see about finding you something unforgettable to occupy your lonely nights.
10: Hatoful Boyfriend
So, there is a law out there somewhere that says that whenever you talk about weird dating games, you have to talk about Hatoful Boyfriend. I know that almost everyone knows about it at this point, but I’m not going to jail for this. If you aren’t familiar with the internet’s favourite depiction of human on bird romance, well, that’s what this is. In Hatoful Boyfriend you play as a human girl living in a city (possibly Tokyo) and attends a high school populated by intelligent, romancable, talking birds.
The reasons as to why these birds are so smart and why your character is being compelled to date them end up being some fairly interesting questions that are mostly explored in the background while you are exposed to bird ghosts, bird serial killers, and (of course) bird angels. If you are still left with a few burning questions about the world after playing, rest assured that there is now a trove of supplementary material including books, a direct sequel (Holiday Star) and some sort of card game.
9: I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator
Though not as well known as Hatoful Boyfriend, I Love You, Colonel Sanders! It certainly got people’s attention when it hit the… weird dating game scene. It’s hard to say why, exactly. Perhaps it was because it is a dating game where players set about with the expressed purpose of dating the titular Colonel Sanders, of chicken frying fame.
Perhaps it was because it was an officially branded KFC produced product. This was a part of KFC’s gamer-focused advertising strategy and was an obvious marketing stunt. Luckily, it remains completely free to play when you really just need to express your feelings to a very pretty white haired gentleman in a fancy suit.
8: My Horse Prince
Now, with all the pigeons and chicken mongers out of the way, we can get to the really weird stuff. If the media has taught me anything about young girls, it’s that they love horses. If a particular mobile dating game has taught me anything, it’s that they really like horses with a handsome boy’s face that only they can see. My Horse Prince is not a great game to play.
In fact, some might say that it employs optional, somewhat predatory microtransactions. Most of its gameplay involves tapping on your phone while your man-faced horse boyfriend performs horse tasks and talks with you. The tasks consume horse boy’s stamina and telling him things he likes helps restore that stamina. You can also restore it with real money, obviously. I don’t suggest you throw your life savings at My Horse Prince, but it is certainly a thing to see.
7: Tomak: Save the Earth – Love Story
Tomak: Save the Earth – Love Story is not going to be an easy thing to play for a lot of people. The game came out on the PS2 and never really made it to North America, which is really a crime. To be fair, it may have been a sign of the times. Perhaps we, in this hemisphere, were not ready for a game where you grow and take care of a plant that is a lady’s head in a flower pot.
Perhaps we wouldn’t have accepted a game where you romance that same lady’s head in a flower pot, but I think now might be an excellent time to localize this forgotten gem and finally quiet the hungry masses thirst for this sort of content. Oh, the lady’s head is also the goddess of love, obviously.
6: Hustle Cat
Hustle Cat is honestly just a solid virtual novel where players work at a cat café with a handsome and enigmatic staff. That staff does also turn into cats as well, which is pretty cute. Really, that’s a pretty solid business model because a cat that draws a paycheck might actually take feedback. Then again, workplace drama with a cat sounds like a nightmare.
Regardless, Hustle Cat is well written and really sweet at times, with some fun characters and numerous romantic options to choose from. As an added bonus, the protagonist is non-binary and happy to date anyone regardless of their gender identity, which is surprisingly rare in these sorts of game.
5: Is Lupin Still Flirting?
Fans of quality anime from the ancient days of yore will be pleased to see that their favourite slippery thief remains up to his usual shenanigans. Unfortunately, his constant pursuer, Inspector Zenigata has managed to nab him, and they are currently on their way to the slammer. Obviously, the best way out this is to flirt with his old rival and find a way to ditch the law once again.
Is Lupin Still Flirting? is an endearing work of fan fiction delivered with gorgeously rendered watercolours. The writing is fun and funny here, but really the visuals and the silly, nostalgic premise are what sells the show here. Besides, who doesn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers story?
4: Digital: A Love Story
Good news! We’ve been through some madness up to this point, from advergames to fan games about old anime, but know that the remaining four games on this list get my full-throated approval as real good games that you should definitely play and are also pretty wild. So, with that we come to Digital: A Love Story. This game has been around for a while now, but it certainly holds up. Set in a futuristic view of the internet from the 80s, the game explores romance as it existed via the internet.
This means interacting with old ARPANET style BBS systems, rummaging through messages, and possibly solving a murder or two. Digital: A Love Story is just as much a story about the love between two people as it is about our love for an imagined future. If this game hits home with you, I would urge you to explore the rest of designer Christine Love’s work, including Ladykiller in a Bind, Analogue: A Hate Story, and last year’s Get in the Car, Loser!
3: Sucker for Love: Prelude
Okay, I know Digital isn’t the kooky kind of thing a lot of you are here for, so might I suggest Sucker for Love: Prelude. In your search for an endlessly cute romantic partner with which to smooch, you find yourself in possession of an ancient book of forbidden knowledge, and summon an eldritch abomination set to plunge the world into chaos.
That abomination is also super-duper cute and absolutely willing to reward you with the aforementioned smooches should you perform a few dark rituals to aid in her domination. Sucker for Love originally came out in the excellent Dread XP collection of horror games, but is now free as its sequel Sucker for Love: First Date’s is available now for all your dating needs.
2: Speed Dating for Ghosts
It’s hard to meet people sometimes. I imagine it’s harder to meet people when you’re dead, or, at least, I suspect it is. In Speed Dating for Ghosts you’ll meet some very interesting dead folks, have a brief conversation with them and decide if the both of you are interested in going on a longer date together.
Now, you are probably wondering what sorts of things a ghost might get up to on a romantic encounter, and the answer to that is a lot of things. Some are lonely and just want some company, some want to rob a bank, and some want to engage in an evening of spooking. Dates can go many ways depending on how you and your companion get along, but even when it turns ugly, it always remains memorable.
1: Tender: Creature Comforts
Alright, so here’s the secret: I wrote this entire list and tricked you into reading it just so that I could get the chance to talk about … Tender. Tender: Creature Comforts is an excellent mobile game that made me seriously think about whether I should tell my partner about it while I was playing it. I should note that this game is also available on the PC, but it feels so perfect on a mobile device that I implore you to find it there. The story is that you are some sort of spaceman fresh on a new planet and, in the search for companionship, you take to online dating with the locals.
Mostly, you’ll be swiping left and right and talking with other creatures through the in game messaging app. If you find someone you get along with in between halfhearted conversations and weird bros asking about your cheese preferences, you can set up a date with someone. Name a day and a time and do your best not to miss it or things get awkward.
The writing in the game can be alarmingly authentic at times, and you may become so engrossed in dealing with a 3am crisis over text that you forget you’re talking with an imaginary mouse lady. Tender: Creature Comforts is often extremely normal while still being a game about dating aliens on tinder, and that can lead to some awkwardness all on its own.