Winter term is nearly over, but spring term is hot on its heels. The coming of spring brings the desire to cement those bonds you’ve fostered over the year. But maybe you’re feeling a little bit out of practice and you’re looking for some way to get outside your comfort zone. Well, do I ever have the answer for you. Why not try some really weird dating simulators?
A dating simulator is a video game all about pursuing and impressing the object of your desire through social reinforcement and personal growth. At least, that’s what the normal ones do. The following dating simulators touch on those topics and more. So, so much more.
Hatoful Boyfriend features all the hallmarks of a traditional Japanese dating simulator. It’s set in a prestigious Japanese academy where the student body is largely made up of intelligent, attractive individuals of the opposite sex, all of whom are eager to get to know you. If you want to impress future dates, you’ll need to engage in various school activities and raise your stats. There’s just one small, nearly insignificant detail about your potential suitors: They’re all birds.
The premise of Hatoful Boyfriend is that you are the only human girl in an academy populated entirely by students who are birds. Hatoful Boyfriend does offer the option to display the birds using human portraits, but why would you ever, ever do that? Despite its jokey premise, Hatoful Boyfriend plays its cards straight. Each dateable bird has a genuine personality, background and storyline. Getting Hatoful Boyfriend to run can be a bit of a chore, as you’ll need to download an English patch (the default language is Japanese). Fortunately, there’s a downloadable demo for you to test the waters.
You should play Hatoful Boyfriend before spring term because of its deadpan humor and as a reminder that beauty is more that just skin—or feather—deep.
There’s a lot to love about Jurassic Heart. Spawned from a dating simulator game jam, it was conceptualized and developed in just two days. Like Hatoful Boyfriend, your longtime crush is non-human. This time he’s a little bit earlier on the evolutionary chain, though. He’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Because of the condensed development time, Jurassic Heart is shorter and more focused than many dating simulators. There’s only one love interest and thus just a single storyline to pursue. Despite all of that, Jurassic Heart is a charming, visually appealing, weird dating simulator that’s easily completed in a single sitting. Also, if you play your cards right, you get to see a dinosaur play a ukulele. I am tempted to copy and paste that previous sentence again just to further impress upon you the majesty of that visual image.
You should play Jurassic Heart before spring term because it firmly reinforces that, even if the object of your affection is a 40-foot long reptile of debatable dietary preferences, true love can still bloom.
Long Live the Queen
Okay, Long Live the Queen isn’t a dating simulator at all. In fact, it doesn’t fit neatly into any video game category. But Long Live the Queen gets a nod because every choice you make in the game should be treated as if it were your last, because it may very well be. That’s sort of like dating, right?
See, in Long Live the Queen you play as a princess. As a princess, everyone else is trying to do what comes naturally to them, given the medieval setting: marry you or kill you. Sometimes both, in rapid succession. Your main goal is to avoid the latter of these fates. Predictably, that’s not easy. You die a lot in Long Live the Queen, and each death sends you back to the beginning. Luckily, it’s a short game rife with customization, making it a joy to replay and experiment with divergent paths. If your run as a stately, diplomatic princess didn’t bode well, try playing as a wild princess who travels with an entourage of wolves. In some sense, wolves are their own brand of diplomacy.
You should play Long Live the Queen before spring term because it’s all about defining yourself, finding your confidence and being proud of who you are, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
Perhaps the only legitimate dating simulator featuring actual human beings in this article, Katawa Shoujo places you in the role of a normal boy leading a normal life until he is suddenly stricken with a congenital heart defect. Upon diagnosis, he is sent to a school for children with special needs. There he meets several girls with their own respective handicaps. You can, of course, romance these girls, learning more about them and yourself in the process.
If the premise of Katawa Shoujo sounds offensive to you, make no mistake, you’re not alone. Luckily, both critic and player reaction to the game has been generally positive since its release. The material, which could have easily devolved into tasteless jokes, is handled well and the game is touching at times. This is especially impressive considering that Katawa Shoujo was developed over the course of four years by a group of volunteers.
You should play Katawa Shoujo before spring term because it’s a wonderful thing to see the world from other perspectives.