This article was first published in 2020 and has been kept updated since.
Visual novels and Xbox don’t often go hand-in-hand.
There aren’t many visual novels to choose from on Microsoft’s platform, but thankfully in recent years we’ve seen more and more come to Xbox One and, in turn, Xbox Series X. Many of these come from indie developers, but that means we have a huge range of genres and stories to choose from. Dating monsters? We’ve got those. Talking dogs? Those too. Retellings of classic fairy stories? Yes, and those.
If you’re a fan of visual novels, you’ll find a bigger selection on PS4 or Switch. But if you’d rather play on an Xbox console, not all is lost. Your choice may be smaller, but plenty of excellent titles exist.
We’ve rounded up 10 of the best visual novels on Xbox One and Xbox Series X right here. Scroll through to see our picks – you might just discover your next favourite VN.
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1. Arcade Spirits
Advertised as a “romantic visual novel”, Arcade Spirits is much more than that. It’s a slice-of-life story that casts you as a new employee of Funplex, a run-down arcade. But tatty around the edges it may be, it’s full of life thanks to its eccentric owner and its enthusiastic staff.
Throughout the course of Arcade Spirits, you’ll follow your protagonist – who you can name and choose the appearance of – as well as several staff members from Funplex – as you fight to restore the arcade to its former glory. That means rivalling the mega-corp that’s moved into town, dealing with troublesome visitors and, of course, dabbling in some love interests along the way. Your romance options are wide, and the decisions you choose along the way will shape not only the outcome of your love life, but the outcome of Funplex.
Arcade Spirits is a down-to-earth story, but it’s one packed with character, humour and heart. It’s full of classic video game references too, so any gamer will get a huge kick out of it. As far as visual novels on Xbox One and Xbox Series X go, this is without a doubt one of the best.
2. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Objection! Ace Attorney is perhaps one of the better known titles to appear on this list. And while the focus on solving cases may make it slightly more involved than your typical visual novel, there’s still enough written storytelling here for it to count. In our opinion, at least.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy bundles together the first three games from the Ace Attorney series: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Justice For All and Trials and Tribulations. They originally started out as Nintendo DS titles, but an excellent HD remaster brought them to consoles in 2019, allowing a whole new audience to play. And they’re very worthy games indeed. Each one sees you step into the shoes of Ace Attorney; as Ace, you’ll explore crime scenes then question witnesses and suspects in court to try and ascertain the truth behind a crime. There’s a huge amount of cases to work through in the Trilogy, and each one is as gripping as the last.
If you enjoy mystery, comedy, over the top drama and getting sucked into a good story, then Ace Attorney Trilogy is one of the best visual novels on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S that you can play. Seriously, give it a go.
3. Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York
Set in the Vampire: The Masquerade universe, Coteries of New York puts you right in the middle of the vampire world. There are three characters to play through as, and whichever one you choose, you’ll experience the struggle of power between two of New York’s most powerful vampire factions: the Camarilla and the Anarchs.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York spins a very rich narrative, one that’s very easy to get invested in thanks to excellent writing and the beautiful art that goes alongside. Each of the three characters has their own story, too, so playing through all three will reveal different aspects to the narrative. There are branching paths to take, too, which depend on choices you make while playing. It’s one of the best visual novels on Xbox – especially if you have a love of vampires and dark narratives.
4. One Night Stand
You’ve had a night out drinking, and you’ve just woken up in a stranger’s bed. They’re still asleep next to you – what do you do?
That’s the premise of One Night Stand, a situation that undoubtedly many people have found themselves in at some point in their life. It’s a short experience, with one playthrough taking no more than 30 minutes to complete. But there are multiple outcomes depending on the choices you make. Do you get out of there as fast as you can? Or do you take a photo of your sleeping partner to brag to your friends? Perhaps you act pleasant and polite in the hopes of getting a second date, or maybe you’re aloof and disinterested?
Seeing how different choices can widely affect the outcome of just 30 minutes of your character’s life is fascinating, and One Night Stand begs to be played multiple times. Its beautiful simplistic art style certainly helps this be one of the best visual novels on Xbox, too.
5. Monster Prom XXL
You’re a monster, and prom is coming up. You need a date, but who’s it going to be?
That’s basically the plot of Monster Prom XXL, a visual novel-meets-dating simulator. This isn’t one for younger players though; mature themes and colourful language means it’s very much adults only. In the run-up to prom, it’s your job to impress the monster you want to take to prom. Your actions and choices you make will determine your stats, and the stats you end up with will influence the outcome of the game. Will you get the monster date of your dreams? Or will you end up alone or embarrassed?
Quite possibly the second one, because Monster Prom isn’t easy. The outcomes of your choices are unpredictable, making multiple playthroughs a lot of fun as you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. Better yet, Monster Prom XXL can be played in multiplayer, where you’ll compete against your friends to bag a date for prom. It’s certainly a unique game, and that’s what makes Monster Prom one of the best visual novels on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
6. Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition
Another very short experience, Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition is minimal in its design, but leaves a very big impact on you when you’re done playing.
You take on the role of Kelly, a young woman whose change in circumstances mean she’s had to move back home to her parents’ home in Midwest USA. For the entirety of the game, Kelly’s in her car; a bad storm is about to roll in, and she needs to get home before it hits.
Between taking in the beautiful, minimally-designed landscape as she drives through, Kelly must navigate a phone call with her parents. Amidst the panic of her not making it home in time, topics about adulthood, family, life and more come up. As Kelly, you’ve got multiple choices to make, and the options you choose will determine how the story pans out. .
Roommates is a bright and cheesy visual novel all about student dorm life. In it, you take control of either Max or Anne as they navigate life while living in Latin House. Surrounded by students, there’s always plenty of drama going on – and of course, numerous opportunities to romance a fellow student.
You’ll have to pick your classes, choose a job, and build and maintain friendships with your classmates. Choosing Max or Anne will bring up different options and problems to deal with thanks to their very different personalities; Max is a self-proclaimed god of rock, while Anne is smart and studious. Roommates‘ writing is packed with humour, and it doesn’t ever take itself too seriously. If you want to get lost in a light-hearted visual novel filled with comedy, this is one of the best.
8. Blind Men
Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a supervillain? A lot of work, it seems. Blind Men is a parody of spy fiction, putting you in the shoes of Keegan, a supervillain’s nephew. He wants to follow in his uncle’s footsteps – but it’s not as easy as it seems.
Keegan must first apply to join the League of Evil, but that means committing a huge crime worthy of supervillain status. He’s got it all planned out in his head – but on the night of the act, things go wrong. He’s interrupted by spies from other agencies, out to thwart him before he’s even started his supervillain career. Blind Men doesn’t take itself seriously, but packs in a story with romance options, branching narrative and numerous choices to be made.
Depending on the options you make, Blind Men can feel like a full-on parody, or a straight-up spy adventure. It’s up to you. But whichever path you take, it’s a lot of fun, and one of the best visual novels on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
We all know the tale of Cinderella, right? Well, Cinders retells it like you’ve never heard it before, putting you right in the shoes of Cinders herself.
As Cinders, you find yourself living an unfortunate life under the power of your overbearing stepmother. You’re basically a slave in your own home, forced to cook and clean for her. Her two stepsisters don’t exactly treat her fairly either – but are they as evil as the fairytale suggests? Or are they too victim to their mother’s power? While the traditional story of Cinderella tells her as a downtrodden princess too afraid to speak up, Cinders on the other hand isn’t afraid to take matters into her own hands.
As you play through Cinders you’ll be given multiple choices to make, many of which will see you twist the fairytale into something completely new and exciting. There are multiple endings, too, so how things turn out for Cinders is completely in your hands. With beautiful art and a gripping story, Cinders is one of the best visual novels on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
10. Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York
Another visual novel set in the universe of Vampire: The Masquerade, Shadows of New York tells a completely separate story. It’s designed to be a ‘companion piece’ to Coteries of New York rather than a sequel so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t played it. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t familiar with the Vampire: The Masquerade universe at all, actually; this is a completely standalone story that should enrapture anyone with an interest in a dark, vampiric underworld.
In Shadows of New York, you take on the role of an outcast vampire. You’re a loner, a nobody; you don’t associate with either vampire faction, and you feel like your time is sharply coming to an end. But when one of New York’s vampire leaders is destroyed, it somehow falls to you to investigate. Cue a dark and grizzly story filled with mystery, intrigue and terror. You know it’s a trap, but you have no choice but to go ahead with the investigation anyway.
If you’re a sucker for vampire stories (sorry), then Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York is one of the best visual novels on Xbox.