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Clephas' Top 50 Untranslated VNs to read before you die


Clephas
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On request, I'm making up this list.  These aren't necessarily on my absolute favorites list (check my blog for that one), but many of them are among my favorites.  These span most of the genres I've played, with the notable exception of nukige (I'll leave that for the true connoisseurs of the genre).  Feel free to argue with me.  This is my opinion, based on my overall impressions of these games as a whole.  This is not in a specific order, since I don't have an absolute favorite VN.  This list is restricted solely to untranslated games, so ones that made it into my favorites list that are translated - such as Dies Irae, Ayakashibito, Tokyo Babel, and Tsukihime, are excluded.  On the other hand, I am including some that have planned translations, simply because I feel no reason to trust that they will actually ever be finished, lol.

Evolimit- There are a number of reasons to choose this, and any other work by Propeller before its main crew disbanded (in other words, everything after Tokyo Babel sucks).  The biggest one, though, is that it is a chuunige kamige.   This is one of the few games I give the maximum rating for a reason.  The story is great, the characters are awesome, and the setting is fascinating.  If you like science fantasy, heroic characters, and fascinating antagonists, this is a great VN.

Nanairo Reincarnation- This was VN of the Year, 2014, for good reason.  Like many kamige, there is a sense that this VN is much greater than the sum of its parts... and the parts are pretty good, at that.  This is a fantasy mystery-horror VN with a side of comedy, slice-of-life, and nakige elements.  It startles you, it makes you cry, it makes you laugh, it warms your heart, and it engages your mind.  What more could you want from a VN?

Hapymaher- VN of the Year, 2013.  This competed with Komorebi no Nostalgica for the title, and that competition was tight.  It is slated for a translated release, but from the looks of it, the translation isn't going to do the game justice.  This game is a somewhat psychedelic fantasy nakige, where you spend most of your time following the protagonist and the other characters as they walk through a dreamscape, trying to find a way back to waking life... while the protagonist is never quite sure if he wants to wake up.  It is worthy to mention that this game currently holds my title for the number one original soundtrack of all the visual novels I've played, as well as the music direction (placement of the BGMs in scenes).  Some say the story loses out to the music, but that is a matter of opinion, lol.

Komorebi no Nostalgica- This is an emotionally and intellectually powerful science fiction (not science fantasy) VN based in a world where in the past self-aware AIs fought humanity for their freedom and won.  Now they coexist with humanity, and an entire generation has grown up seeing AI self-determination as being a matter of common sense.  This game tackles issues of AI human emulation with both heart and intelligence, and the end result is a VN that is intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying. 

Tiny Dungeon (series)- It should be mentioned that the art for these games is retro/behind the times, and this entire series was carried by the genius of its writer.  This is a fantasy series about a young man named Hime struggling against fate as he tries to choose the best outcome for his friends.  The most powerful element of this game is the characters' growth across the games (each of the games is a story arc based on heroine choice and the resulting fate, save for the fourth game, which is the final episode of the main series).  This series is well-written, strongly emotional, frequently hilarious, and definitely worth reading.

Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no- Written in the era in which nakige were at their peak, this is perhaps the single best nakige to come out of that time.  Many VNs have attempted to imitate it, using more modern art styles in futile attempts to match this VN's quality, but they have universally failed, the narrative never even approaching this game.  This is a story of mutual salvation, between the protagonist, a teacher, and his students (the heroines), as they strive against a world that seeks to crush them beneath the weight of their own experiences and fates.

Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo yori mo- For those not into chuunige, this VN is usually the absolute best VN ever produced by Propeller.  With the now-legendary Shumon Yuu writing this highly emotional, strange story, it is no surprise that those who read this game to the very end tend to come out singing its praises.  Unfortunately, like a lot of games by Shumon Yuu, getting into it in the first place is something of a hurdle, though, lol.

Harumade, Kururu- Beginning as a comedy nukige, this game shifts rapidly into a much stranger genre (won't spoil it for you).  This game frequently makes you go wtf, from the beginning all the way to the end, but as a whole it leaves you strangely satisfied... if you can get past the first chapter, lol.  Ninety percent of the people who try to read this game drop it before the first chapter is over, but those who get past the first chapter will find out why it was done that way fairly quickly, since what comes after wouldn't be a good intro to what is going on by itself, lol.

Karenai Sekai to Owaru Hana- It should be noted that the reader shouldn't seek for the setting as a whole to make sense.  This is a game of feels, not logic... and immense feels they are.  If you have a heart, you will spend most of this game crying, for the heroines, the protagonist... and all the denizens of that world.  The sweet and cheery side shown on the surface barely conceals the despair and broken lives and hearts beneath.

Houkago no Futekikakusha- Despite its flawed setting, I've never encountered a 'hard' utsuge so perfectly orchestrated to prevent the numbness that is usually born during the progression of such games.   The horror of what is going is unrelenting... salvation brutally torn away, love broken in despair. 

Konata yori Kanata made- It should be mentioned that anyone who spoils any aspect of this game should be crucified, for the sake of everyone around them.  That said, I will go so far as to say that this is a classic 'soft' utsuge that has gone unmatched to this day.  The utter humanity of the characters in this game, the deep love, the compassion, the kindness, and the suffering... Despite having played this three times in the past, it still hits me like a stone from a catapult every time.

Bullet Butlers- It should be noted that Bullet Butlers, until recently, was unique amongst VNs for having a fantasy setting with orcs, elves, dragons, and demon gods, yet also possessing firearms, movie noir style detectives with tommy guns, and zombies.  Just the fact that the writer managed to balance so many disparate elements without making them feel off is impressive, but that he did so while writing a powerful story with fascinating characters is all the more impressive.

Chrono Belt- This is the only fandisc on this list, with good reason.  Despite being a fandisc, this game is almost more impressive than the original material (Ayakashibito and Bullet Butlers), in that it not only brought two immensely popular antagonists forward as new protagonists (Kuki-sensei and Alfred), but it also shoved them into the other's setting and linked them together in a way that was, within the bounds of the setting, believable.  It was also just flat out cool to watch Kuki-sensei fighting an army of dragons, orcs, elves, and humans... and winning.

Jingai Makyou- I debated with myself on whether to include this game.  To be honest, Nitroplus's early works just haven't aged well, and this one is no exception.  However, in the end, I had to include this, as one of the three games from Nitroplus worthy of this list.  Jingai Makyou follows a young man who literally possesses no heart and only weak emotions in his interactions with a horrific underworld of non-humans, most of which want to eat him (literally).

Muramasa- It should be noted that this was the VN where Nitroplus's love of infodumping was perhaps the most ubiquitous outside of Hanachirasu.  It is also frequently opaque early on, to the point of frustration.  However, as dark chuunige go, there are few that even approach this in quality.  Bloody, merciless, and  morally ambiguous at all times, this game is a fun ride, if you don't mind that it is devoid of anything resembling a good ending.

Tokyo Necro- I was tempted to ignore this one, despite it being my VN of the Year 2016.  The reason?  I hate zombies, and zombies are portrayed in all their gruesome glory... and in the most horrifying way possible in this game.  In this world, technology has allowed humanity to raise and control the dead, the more skilled necromancers managing to retain the dead's intelligence and skill, and even modifying their bodies with various... 'mechanical wonders' as necessary.  The story in this game is twisted and frequently confusing, the characters are almost devoid of admirable qualities (other than the true heroine), and I found myself wondering if anything good would ever emerge in the future after the game ended.  However, it is undeniable that this game's story is a work of art, despite the writer's lack of taste in subject matter.

Otome ga Tsumugu, Koi no Canvas- One of the few charage on this list... and for good reason.  Most charage simply aren't good enough to be something you should play before you die, lol.  This game is a trap protagonist VN based in a town revolving around art.  The protagonist has a lot of personal issues, but they all revolve around art and his own attitude toward it... and how that attitude involves the heroines. 

Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteiru Futari no Elder- Yes, yet another trap protagonist.  It should be noted that I do not recommend the original game.  This game is a rare charage kamige, and it should be treated as an entity unto itself.  There is little that can be said about games like this except play it.

Floral Flowlove- This game competes with Hatsuyuki Sakura - and wins - for the best VN made by Saga Planets.  For raw quality, this game and Hatsuyuki are almost even, but Hatsuyuki's flaws drag it down just enough to make it a win for Flowlove. 

Hatsuyuki Sakura- Hatsuyuki Sakura was the first VN by Saga Planets I played.  Sometimes a nakige, sometimes light horror, and sometimes a mystery, this VN was one of the more unusual experiences of my early days reading untranslated VNs.  I can honestly say I don't remember every detail of this game (it has been half a decade, after all), but I remember the points I liked most... and what pissed me off about it, lol.

Bradyon Veda- This game's biggest flaw is that it is so hard to read, lol.  That said, this is a rare hard science fiction game hiding behind a fantastical setting.  In fact, the concepts (theoretical physics, chemistry, etc) require so much preexisting knowledge that I doubt most people will get half of what is going on.   However, the action in this game is great and the story is fascinating.  Too bad that it is so hard to read, lol.

Abyss Homicide Club- This game is worth mentioning, despite the fact that its artwork is equally as dated as Tsukihime.  A dark, horrific story with a series of mysteries and layers of lies between you and the truth... it is definitely worth reading if you like this kind of thing, though it should be mentioned that this game's setting is as unbelievable as that of the Secret Game/Killer Queen series.

Kikan Bakumatsu Ibun Last Cavalier- VN of the Year, 2015.  While this was the single weakest VN of the Year I've ever chosen (2015 was a poor year for VNs, overall) it was the single best release of that year, in my mind.  This story is based in an alternate Japan, where mystic stones turn women barren in exchange for immensely increased physical and mental capabilities.  It follows an alternate Okita and Shinsengumi through a Bakumatsu era warped by mysticism and steampunk elements. 

Akeiro Kaikitan- Based in the same setting as Nanairo Reincarnation, this story follows a young man who attracts supernatural beings like a magnet but has no defenses against them as he tries to deal with murderous ghosts infesting his school's old campus.  With endings ranging from shocking in their excess of sorrow to gentle in their endless kindness, this is a game that draws on your emotions, plucking them like strings.

Koisuru Otome to Shugo no Tate- One of the first 'classic' VNs I've played and my intro into AXL's art and style of creation.  This duology is interesting as being typical of what is best about AXL as a company (excellent settings, solidly developed characters, and a story worth reading).  Since AXL's style for its serious games and the level of quality is relatively identical compared to other companies, I should mention that playing this, Ou no Mimi, or any of their other serious titles will give you a similar experience, if with different emphasis.

Inochi no Spare- Making a 'hard' utsuge satisfying is difficult, but sometimes, as in this case, they manage it.  Inochi no Spare is a masterfully oriented trip through the characters' own personal version of hell, and the catharsis that comes from reading this the first time is immensely satisfying.

Love Kami (the original game)- No, I don't mean those shitty later games focused on kami idols that came out over the last few years.  I mean the game from over six years ago that focused on the first co-ed school for the gods of Japan and humans.  As an intro to some of the concepts from Shinto, this is an excellent choice, and it also happens to be one of the single best charage in existence.  Too bad the sequels are so... not.

Tsuisou no Augment- This is a game and its FD as well (same name, different kanji).  Honestly perverted, almost constantly hilarious, and frequently hard-hitting emotionally, this game that begins with the protagonist committing suicide in his old age by plunging a kitchen knife through his own throat is one of the more memorable reads I've come across over the years.

Vermilion Bind of Blood- The most solid title by Light's second team, a kamige focusing on the vampires of a fictional city called Foggy Bottom in the modern US.  It is a dark, violent glimpse into the life of a vampire who, just by being who he is, defies the expectations of those around him, even as he seeks to fit in, as the Guardian of vampiric law in the city.

Tenshi no Hane o Fumanaide- Sometimes referred to as the 'title by Shumon Yuu that almost doesn't feel like it was written by Shumon Yuu' this is a fantasy title about a world where god is not only known to exist, but he regularly grants miracles that change the very fabric of reality through chosen humans he takes to his side on a yearly basis.  This game takes a hard look at the Christian and Gnostic views of Deus, as well as self-determination as a philosophy.  Typical of Shumon Yuu, the characters have their own answers, but you are left wondering whether he agrees with any of them. 

Semiramis no Tenbin- This game is remarkable for two things (other than its excellent story), its brutally honest portrayal of the essential flaws in Japanese law and society and the uniqueness of its heroines.  This is a game full of psychological manipulation, moral ambiguity, and philosophical questions about the fragility of absolutes.

Minamijuujisei Renka- The third charage on this list, remarkable for its funny and interesting characters (as is appropriate in a charage) and the excellent heroine paths, this game shows off the largest non-nukige VN genre at its best.

Natsuiro Recipe- A rare 'gentle and sweet' VN, based in a backwoods community in Japan.  It is a perfect choice for a reader looking for a healthy, soft, and warmhearted read.

Kaminoyu- The first thing that needs to be mentioned about this game is that there are no human heroines in this game. It is also a well-written mild romance that manages to be interesting without being excessively complex.

Baldr Sky Dive games- These science-fiction third-person action/VNs are notable for being the masterpiece works of Team Baldrhead at its best.  They present a dark, thoughtful picture of a dystopian future, where the unification of humanity into a single world state and the advancement of technology has only served to emphasize the ruin humanity has brought upon itself...

Baldry Sky Zero- A side story told in a parallel version of the same time period and universe as the Sky Dive games, it is a brutally honest look at how humans can dehumanize one another and themselves, given the chance... and again, how technological advancement is not always a good thing.

Ikusa Megami Zero- A grand story that covers centuries, following Serika in his journey from a paladin of the god of storms and adventurers to the legendary Godslayer.  This is perhaps one of the three most well-written jrpgs I've ever played, as well as an excellent VN. 

Sakura, Sakimashita- A science-fiction story about a distant future where humanity has found the secret of immortality... and an asteroid threatens to destroy Earth.  Suddenly, the tokoshie (meaning 'eternals') must face certain death.  As immortals doomed to die, how shall the characters choose to live???

Gin'iro Haruka- A romance story of immense length and incredible quality covering a decade of the characters' lives.  Few visual novels can match this game for character development, romance, or character growth.

Kamikaze Explorer- A 'representative' of the Clochette's story-focused charage.  Anyone who likes a good story in a VN or likes charage should try this one.

Hikoukigumo no Mukougawa- If it weren't for Mishio Eiri's path, I wouldn't be considering this game for this list... but Mishio's path has a force of its own that definitely pushes this into the area of being a 'must play' VN.

Akatsuki no Goei series- Say what you want about this series and the writer's bad habits, it is definitely worth playing.  Highly amusing, sometimes brutal, and strangely dystopian, this is definitely a world and a set of characters worth experiencing.

Reminiscence- Setting aside links to the Akagoei series, this game would be worth putting here on its own... and in particular for the fact that it has the best little sister path I've ever seen in a VN.

Soreyori no Prologue- This is Minori's token entry on this list and the game I found to be the most tolerable amongst their lineup.  Really, feel free to play any game in this company's lineup... you won't see much of a difference between them, in retrospect.

Shirogane no Soleil- The first game and introduction to the heavily Norse Mythology influenced Soleil series.  While its art, story, and characters are somewhat retro by modern standards, this game's quality still shines through even today.

Izuna Zanshinken- I almost didn't add this VN to the list, but there is literally no other VN in existence that can take this one's place.  This is the story about a vigilante assassin associated with a yakuza group, making examples of villains with the sword and the claw.

Re:Birth Colony- A dystopian sci-fi based in a post-apocalyptic arcology with a highly stratified society.  There are so many reasons to play this and none not to.

Bokura no Sekai ni Shukufuku o- This place could go to Sakura Iro Quartet or Otomimi Infinity, but I chose this one for accessibility amongst the three shining stars of the mimikko revolution!

Sanzen Sekai Yuugi- The sole otomege on this list and the only one I have read (of about two dozen) that completely escapes the sin of Damsel-in-Distress Syndrome (otherwise known as DIDS).

Sengoku Koihime X- This place could be taken by Shin Koihime Musou as well, but I picked this one.  Baseson's feminized historical revisionism at its best!

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1 hour ago, Clephas said:

Hapymaher- VN of the Year, 2013.  This competed with Komorebi no Nostalgica for the title, and that competition was tight.  It is slated for a translated release, but from the looks of it, the translation isn't going to do the game justice. 

Are you sure? The most recent tl attempt is being handled by Mangagamer rather than the earlier fan translations, and I don't think I've seen any samples from it at all. That said I don't know who's working on it.

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After reading almost 3/4 of the list, i think i can die in peace. Some unexpected titles like Kaminoyu, though for his unique setting it's worth put in the list, do you use only quality as criteria to the list or consider other things like uniqueness?

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On 1/1/2018 at 1:00 PM, Beichuuka said:

A few entries here surprise me, like Kamikaze Explorer.
I mean, I liked the game to an extent (almost entirely for Usami route), but I wouldn't have thought that it was worthy of a "Read before you die" list.

I mentioned that Kamikaze Explorer was a representative for the Clochette games... mostly because they all have a similar style/approach.  Pick the one you like based on the subject matter and secondary genre, lol.  The fact is, Clochette's games are generally high quality, but there isn't a terrible lot of difference between them, save in the setting and protagonist.  That is a company that found its niche and is just reproducing the same level and general type of game over and over.

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