Whether you’re lovesick or not, dating simulators can provide an entertaining vicarious experience. Romance in games can lead to complicated mechanics, branching paths, and meters to keep track of — you might argue that the complexity of these games is true to life. But it’s a bit of fantasy fulfillment as well, with dating sims presenting fantastical and silly scenarios for you to figure out how to navigate through. The Nintendo Switch is primed for visual novels, so we gathered ten standout dating sims (in alphabetical order) to cozy up with in handheld mode.
Fiction Factory Games fantasized a timeline where the video game crash of the 1980s never occurred, and arcades are still very much mainstream. In this bright and neon world, you play as the newest employee of a local arcade, and you find yourself drawn to some of the arcade’s regulars, along with some of your co-workers. The colorful cast includes QueenBee, an imposing esports player, Teo, a laidback dancer, and Naomi, who obsesses about restoring and preserving classic arcade machines. Predictably, you’ll eventually have to try to save the arcade itself, but you’ll certainly be invested in this cause by then.
Best Friend Forever
Best Friend Forever presents an interesting juggling act — not only are you trying to find a date, but you’ll also be taking care of a pet. You’ll adopt a dog and form a bond with this little buddy, and with your friend by your side, you’ll be finding locals to interact with and perhaps eventually romance. Your dog will be growing and learning throughout the story, truly becoming your best friend. It’s really up to you for who you want to devote and invest your time in. But let’s be real, you’re definitely playing the game to pet the good dog.
After glancing at the straightforward full title of Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator, nothing in this title from Game Grumps should be surprising. You play as a single father who moves into a new neighborhood, and the cul-de-sac just happens to be populated with other single fathers — many who are datable. Dream Daddy made a splash in the mainstream for its general charm, and it was a wonderful way to showcase different body types that otherwise not be highlighted in other dating sims. Critics also point out that the game lacks stereotypes, and it’s overall a soothing antidote for toxic masculinity.
Half Past Fate
Serenity Forge’s Half Past Fate isn’t necessarily a traditional visual novel, but this narrative game still proudly wears the rom-com label. This game sports a pleasant 3D pixel art style and follows six different characters, all lovingly normal and relatable. The fun gimmick here is that the story will jump between different times, and you’ll experience how these characters evolve and how they all intertwine in this crazy roller coaster that we call everyday life.
Being elderly doesn’t mean that it’s too late to find romance in your life. That’s the base premise of Later Daters, the newest visual novel from Bloom Digital. You’ll be in the shoes of the newest resident of Ye OLDE Retirement Community, and you’ll have plenty of space to choose the name, pronouns, and backstory of your elder. Encounter some quirky and lovable characters in this community, all while being accompanied by a pet, who could even be a robot, if you so choose. It’s a wonderful way to depict queerness and polyamory, and it presents a plausible future for us young folx when we grow older. Later Daters is also episodic, so take the story in bite-sized pieces, if you’d like to.
Through LongStory, Bloom Digital crafted a story that depicts young, queer love. Create your own character and choose their gender, and you’ll be thrown into Weasel Heights as the new kid in school. You’ll encounter cliques and bullies as you navigate through school drama. As in real life, your dynamics with your friends (and enemies) will always be changing based on the choices you make. Attend school dances and build healthy relationships, and get a second chance to do school correctly.
Monster Prom: XXL
Many of us tend to not want to flashback to our high school experience, especially the stressful prom season. You’ll be spending an anxiety-ridden in-game three weeks trying to find a date, with all of your potential partners being well-designed and amusing characters. Choose how to spend your school days and make the harrowing decision of where to sit at lunch in the cafeteria as you try to build your relationships with these characters. Best of all, you can play Monster Prom with up to four people in total — some may find more success than the others, however.
My Girlfriend is a Mermaid!?
Uh, yeah. Imagine going back to your childhood hometown to find that one of your best friends as a kid is now a mermaid. And if you fail to imagine that on your own, you can just start up My Girlfriend is a Mermaid!? on your Switch to see how that scenario would play out. Later in the story, you’ll meet an amnesiac mermaid named Petakko and a priestess named Rin; the latter watches over mermaids, but also has a “split personality.” Sounds potentially problematic, but regardless, the high concept itself and the outlandish title demand your attention.
Pixel Puzzle Makeout League
Have you ever imagined dating a giant, talking puzzle piece? Probably not, but Pixel Puzzle Makeout League makes a compelling argument for it. This title from Rude Ghost Games has you control Pixel Girl, the newest member of the superheroic Puzzle League. Your gimmick is your ability to turn your problems into literal Picross puzzles, and this nonogram solving serves as the bulk of the gameplay. But in between, you’ll be making choices and interacting with the other four members of the league: Sudoku, Chess, Crossword, and the quite-unusual Piecea. Whether you’re hanging out in a cafe or bonding as you battle evil, there’s still love to be found on the job.
The Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya
The marketing for The Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya may claim that this Japanese game is aimed at women, but this steamy visual novel should appeal to anyone with an eye for guys. Taking place in the pleasure district of Yoshiwara, this dating sim promises to play with gender role reversal, as your character is entranced by the attendees of these banquets. You’ll have plenty of men to choose from, but if the game’s visuals to be believed from a surface level, it looks like you can’t really go wrong here.