What is Huniepop?
Released in January of 2015, Huniepop is an adult puzzle dating-sim game. (Not the most common combination.) In Huniepop, the player completes different puzzles and goes through different missions to successfully complete dates with female characters. The puzzle gameplay is simple match-three, and you have to pass a certain number of points in a certain number of turns to win. By completing enough dates successfully, players are rewarded with smutty images of the girls, which vary in explicitness based on which version of the game you own. (The version on Steam is censored, but I would still consider it R-rated.)
It’s a unique premise with execution that a lot of people really enjoyed. There are plenty of “reward-based” adult anime games out there, but most of those games take the form of visual novels. A visual novel isn’t really a game — you sit back and watch a story unfold on screen, and occasionally select options when prompted. Huniepop has actual gameplay. This particular genre is one that is bloated with a lot of garbage, but I’ve taken the liberty of sifting through that garbage to find some unique adult anime games that feature gameplay along with their story, like Huniepop.
5. Hatoful Boyfriend
I know that I said I was going to stay away from visual novels, but I think Hatoful Boyfriend is too well-known to not mention on this list. Hatoful Boyfriend is pretty much your standard visual novel. It takes place in a high school, you’re surrounded by a cast of archetypal characters, and there isn’t much gameplay to speak of. The twist of this game, however, is that your love interests are pigeons. Hatoful Boyfriend is basically a parody of the anime visual novel genre, and if you enjoyed some of the weirder humor in Huniepop, you’ll probably really like this one.
Even with its tongue-in-cheek premise, this game is surprisingly well-written. The stories behind each character are compelling, and it manages to avoid the common visual novel pitfall of being drawn out or dull. Like Huniepop, Hatoful Boyfriend is on the shorter side, which is nice in a genre where some games can last as long as 50+ hours. Another thing to mention is that this game isn’t all that steamy. (I’m not sure what you would expect from a game about pigeons.) Even though Hatoful Boyfriend isn’t really all that similar to Huniepop, I think that fans of the puzzle game would probably enjoy it, too. Neither game takes themselves too seriously.
4. Shira Oka: Second Chances
Like Hatoful Boyfriend, Shira Oka takes place in a high school. However, you might be happy to hear that all of the characters in this game are human. This game doesn’t do a whole lot that’s unique or different from other visual novel-style games. There are little mini-games, but the bulk of the story is communicated via a standard visual novel format. It may not sound all that special, but this game is widely regarded as one of the best adult visual novel-style games out there, praised for its depth of story, RPG-like mechanics, and likable characters.
In Shira Oka, you go through your life as a high schooler. Based on the different actions that you perform each day, you’re able to progress along different stats (like popularity and athleticism) and/or progress along the main story, and your relationships with other characters. This game offers a lot of options, and you can easily get 50+ hours out of this game trying to go through every different story branch. The only real issue that this game has is that it’s very old. The game itself (and some of the art) doesn’t look all that great, which might be an issue if you’re used to the sleek Huniepop interface. It may seem vain, but in games that mostly consist of sitting, looking, and reading, I think that it’s important for these games to look good.
3. Little Witch Romanesque
This game is a bit more well-produced. In Little Witch Romanesque, you play as a character who is tasked with mentoring two young witches. You train them, build up their skills, and send them on quests to progress through the main story. A lot of story carries out in a more visual novel format, but the actual gameplay lies in the strategic minigames, which are more fun than you might expect. The art in this game is really good, but I think it might be a little dated. The original Japanese version of the game came out in 2005, and the anime art style has changed a lot since then.
The story is pretty good, the characters are surprisingly likable, and the soundtrack is superb. The only issue with the game? Some of the more adult scenes feel shoehorned in. They don’t match the tone of the rest of the game, and I can’t help but feel like they were put in for the sake of being put in. They’re jarring, to say the least. The version of Little Witch Romanesque that you can find on Steam is censored, and all of the adult scenes are removed. This version of the game, in my opinion, is much more palatable. It feels true to the original story, which is able to stand on its own, without the smut.
2. Kamidori Alchemy Meister
Even though Little Witch Romanesque is great, I’m inclined to believe that Kamidori Alchemy Meister does a much better job at portraying its fantasy world. In this game, the protagonist is an orphan who is training to become a great alchemist. He is accompanied on his adventures by three girls, who he has employed as bodyguards of sorts. The player then embarks on an epic central storyline, where certain events are affected by which of the three girls you have chosen to romance.
As far as gameplay goes, Kamidori may be the strongest on this list, in terms of being both easy to grasp and fun to play through. Combat in this game feels a lot like combat in games like Fire Emblem, where your units are spread out on a grid and you make moves in a turn-based environment. It never feels too challenging but it definitely isn’t easy, either. You have to really think to get yourself out of certain situations, which I’m sure the average Huniepop player would be able to relate to. The game is well-written, and the art is fantastic. The different routes also offer a bit of replay value to an already deep game. I wish I could place Kamidori higher, but I think that it’s lacking a certain amount of self-aware charm that the next game on this list possesses.
1. Sengoku Rance
Let’s drop the euphemisms for a moment, and speak in frank terms. Most of these games are games where you click through a story and go through a mini-game of some sort, with the reward being pornographic images of anime characters. It’s utterly ridiculous, and I personally think that the way that games like Kamidori and Little Witch Romanesque take themselves so seriously is even more ridiculous. They spend all of this time crafting a beautiful world and a captivating story, which is great, but they don’t ever really acknowledge the fact that the majority of their players aren’t really playing with narrative in mind. I think that a large part of Huniepop’s success was that they were aware of that, and they built the game around that anticipated mentality. The Rance series does that, too.
Sengoku Rance is probably the strongest game of this series, and I think it’s the best place for someone to jump into the series. (The series is chronological, but some of the earlier installments aren’t so great. Jumping in at the middle won’t kill you.) These games star Rance, a brash, rude warrior whose primary motivation is sex. He doesn’t want to be the hero of the universe, he doesn’t want to avenge his parent’s deaths, there’s no melodrama. Still, he’s often stuck into a more heroic role, which means that these games are usually really, really funny.
The gameplay in Sengoku Rance is also worth talking about. I think it’s a little overly complicated (I don’t think I could summarize it in a paragraph) but ultimately, it’s a strategy RPG that is as challenging as it is satisfying. I think this is one of the only games on this list where I would hesitate to place “adult visual novel” in front of “strategy RPG”, because the gameplay is honestly fantastic, and just makes a great game even better. Sengoku Rance has Huniepop’s same fun gameplay, while still maintaining Huniepop’s level of humor and replayability. I highly recommend it to any fan of the original Huniepop game.