Despite being one of the most niche genres, there are many different flavors of dating sim games, ranging from zany and weird premises to serious and heartfelt or downright sultry.
Sifting through them all to find the cream of the crop can be a lot of work, especially when you consider most dating sims are visual novels with text-based dialogue that takes time to read through.
We’ll be updating this list in the future with new titles, so make sure to check back and let us know if we missed any games!
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Our first recommendation is Senren Banka, a visual novel dating sim set in an old Japanese village called Hoori, which has turned into a tourist hotspot over the years due to its gorgeous vistas and hot springs.
The village is also home to the Murasamemaru, a mysterious ancient blade embedded in rock that no one’s been able to pull out for decades.
Naturally, your character ends up breaking the sword in half when he goes to pull it out, resulting in you having to marry the shrine’s magical maiden in order to make things right.
The rest of the game is spent trying to connect with the fabled maiden while also learning about Hoori’s history and many secrets.
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac
Synergia is a visual novel dating sim set in the distant future where owning androids is commonplace and, for some, a primary source of companionship.
This happens to be the case for Cila, a police officer who has trouble connecting with anyone other than her household android Mara, though the corporation that created her has much bigger plans.
With society on the brink of war, the company intends to use Mara as a tool for achieving peace, though as you’ll soon learn, things don’t exactly go so smoothly.
The game lets you make different choices that shape the storyline, and there are a handful of different endings that warrant multiple playthroughs.
I Love You, Colonel Sanders!
Platforms: PC, Mac
Alright, we couldn’t resist including I Love You, Colonel Sanders, both as a joke recommendation and a serious one considering it has a pretty good premise and is free-to-play.
At the time of its release, KFC was experimenting with various weird marketing moves in hopes of attracting more customers.
As a result, we got a dating sim that sees you training to become a master chef at culinary school while also courting the iconic KFC mascot, Colonel Sanders.
Gameplay is a mix of choice-based conversations with a diverse cast of characters and cooking battle mini-game puzzles.
Doki Doki Literature Club!
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac
On its surface, Doki Doki Literature Club looks like your average visual novel dating sim, complete with attractive anime girls in tight-fitting school uniforms.
However, as you delve deeper into the story, you’ll start to encounter much darker themes akin to playing a psychological horror video game.
It’s a bit of a slow burn, with the most unsettling reveals tied to dating various characters and advancing the storyline with each, so it’s best to go in completely blind.
Like the KFC dating sim, you can pick up Doki Doki Literature Club for free on Steam, though there’s also a paid DLC that includes the official soundtrack, high-res wallpapers, and concept art.
Lucy The Eternity She Wished For
Platforms: PC, Android
Lucy The Eternity She Wished For is another visual novel dating sim set in a futuristic dystopia where household androids have become the norm.
Despite being viewed as mindless machines with no personality by society, your character finds himself face to face with an impressively lifelike android during a trip to a dumpsite.
The two start to form a relationship, sharing plenty of moments of laughter, sorrow, and joy that culminates in a surprise ending.
It’s a relatively short experience compared to many of the dating sims on this list, but is well-written and features some interesting twists that make for a compelling story.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS
While it’s admittedly more of a farming sim, Stardew Valley does feature some dating sim elements, namely the option to woo your neighbors through conversations.
Inspired by the Harvest Moon series, the game sees you ditching your boring life in the city to fix up your grandfather’s old farm, which has fallen into disarray over the years.
Outside of tending to crops, mining in caves, and fishing, you can pass the time by interacting with townsfolk and getting to know what makes them tick.
Commit each of their likes and dislikes to memory along with providing the occasional gift, and you’ll eventually unlock the option to ask for their hand in marriage and move in together.
Max Gentlemen Sexy Business!
Platforms: PC, Mac
It presents itself as an adult-centric tycoon game that blends business management and dating sim mechanics, resulting in surprisingly satisfying and unique gameplay.
After your family business gets stolen, you set out to rebuild your fortune while at the same time navigating high society, including a dozen potential partners.
Max Gentlemen features character customization, the ability to court both men and women, and several content options to make the game tamer or risqué depending on your preference.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mac, Linux
Any video game history buffs will get a kick out of the setup for Arcade Spirits‘ story, which presents a world where the video game crash of 1983 never happened, and arcades continue to thrive.
You take on the role of an arcade employee who encounters potential new mates in the form of both customers and fellow employees.
Like Max Gentlemen, the game features several customization options, including dialogue choices, characters’ appearances and personalities, and the ability to date both men and women.
Choices made throughout the story can affect your relationship with certain characters, as well as impact the future of the arcade.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android
If we had to bet, we would wager Hatoful Boyfriend is both the best and weirdest bird dating sim to date, which is actually saying something considering there are probably more than you would think.
In it, you play as a new student enrolled at the prestigious St. PigeoNation’s Institute, where gifted birds go to spread their wings and fall in love between classes.
You’re introduced to a diverse bunch of avian companions, many of which will try to charm you with promises of romance and good vibes.
Rich with bizarre, off-beat humor, the game does a great job at delivering on its genre-bending storyline, complete with hidden subplots and multiple endings to discover.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
Platforms: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android
Dream Daddy sees you playing as a single father who moves into a new neighborhood with his daughter, only to be met by a community of other, attractive single dads.
By striking up conversations and successfully completing mini-games, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know each dad and eventually focus your efforts on a particular one.
There’s a good amount of variety to the social situations you’ll experience, and the dads all having exciting backgrounds and personalities worth exploring.
Like many dating sims, you’ll have to play through Dream Daddy multiple times to see everything it has to offer, though a built-in character customization tool lets you roleplay as a different daddy every time.
Platforms: iOS, Android
Limited to mobile devices, Mystic Messenger is a unique dating sim that sees the player character installing a new dating app called Mystic Messenger.
However, after receiving some weird messages, you come to realize the app is for more than just dating and has quite a lot more going on.
Gameplay revolves around managing text interactions with potential suitors while diving into mysteries, with frequent overlapping between the two.
It’s a very choice-focused experience with multiple paths and endings to follow that adds to the immersion by operating in real-time.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac
Set in a high school for monsters, Monster Prom has you scrambling to secure a date for the big dance only three weeks away.
Despite the limited timeframe, the story moves at a reasonably relaxed pace, giving you time to soak up its unique humor and emotionally expressive cast of characters.
Along the way, you’ll have the chance to buy gifts for your potential new beau, purchase new abilities to wow your crush, and compete with friends thanks to the game’s online multiplayer mode.
It’ll take multiple playthroughs to see everything Monster Prom has to offer, and there are numerous expansions and sequels that build off of the mechanics of the original.
Our Life: Beginnings & Always
Platforms: PC, Linux
Our Life: Beginnings & Always takes a very different approach to dating sims than other games on this list by dividing itself into four different time periods.
After deciding various details for both your character and their love interest Cove Holden, you embark on a romantic adventure spanning childhood, adolescence, teenage years, and adulthood.
The game provides you with a lot of flexibility in shaping your relationship with Cove and even gives you the option to remain friends without pursuing any romance whatsoever.
If you’re on the fence about this one, we recommend checking out the free demo before purchasing any of Our Life’s premium expansions.
Love Spell: Written In The Stars
Cast as a young woman with bad luck, Love Spell takes you on a magical adventure filled with romance and excitement.
One day, after helping an old woman who turns out to be a witch, our protagonist “MC” is rewarded with a spellbook that can make anyone whose name is written inside fall in love with the owner.
Over time, this power goes to MC’s head and she begins making questionable decisions that result in awkward situations you’ll have to navigate in order to find true love.
Included are four different routes with several potential matches and endings based on your choices throughout the story.
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac
HuniePop is one of the most covered games on this list, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen it pop up on your Steam recommended lists before.
Part dating sim, part puzzle game, it follows your character after they’re rejected by a magical love fairy named Kyu.
Eager to help you land a date, Kyu takes you under her wing as you complete tile-matching puzzle challenges that make it easier to wow different women you come across.
It’s skewed towards a more mature audience and rewards you with increasingly revealing photos of characters based on your performance solving each puzzle.
Emily is Away <3
Platforms: PC, Mac
If you have even an ounce of nostalgia for the early days of Facebook and social media in general, then we recommend giving Emily is Away <3 a shot.
The game sees you playing as a high school senior as they meet and interact with online friends during the year 2008 in a post-AIM world where “Facenook” is the next big thing.
Much of the game focuses on getting to know your crush, Emily, and dealing with all the drama and competition high school dating brings.
Beyond that, you can customize your avatar, explore different posts and message threads, and make choices that will either grow or shrink your circle of friends.
Tender: Creature Comforts
Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android
Tender is a narrative-driven dating sim that explores romance in the modern era, complete with a faux dating app that lets users swipe ‘yes or no’ on users’ profiles.
The story is told through the app’s user interface and sees you looking for love in a sea of intergalactic profiles from different species, including animal and alien-looking characters.
Once you’ve found a potential match, things switch over to texting, where you’ll be rewarded for your wit and charm with an opportunity to hang out with that character.
From awkward first dates to flat-out rejections and true love, Tender includes a vast array of branching storylines and outcomes depending on how you play.
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac
If you’ve managed to run through all of the visual novel-style dating sims, consider checking out something completely different like Helltaker.
It’s primarily a puzzle game, though you can find an assortment of demon girls to try and impress by clearing levels or risk of them murdering you should you fail.
Gameplay sees you trying to open up portals deeper and deeper into hell in hopes of fulfilling your wildest desires while hellfire and spikes surround you.
While it’s a relatively short game, considering it’s completely free on Steam, you have nothing to lose just by giving it a try.
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, Mac
Reaffirming that romance isn’t just for young lovers, Later Daters casts you as a senior citizen on the prowl in a community of like-minded elders.
After choosing your pet companion: dog, cat, or robot, you’ll set off for the streets in search of Mr. or Mrs. Right at Ye Olde Retirement Community.
Your peers come from all walks of life and have distinct personalities, including kinks, you’ll get to know intimately throughout your interactions.
It happens to be one of the more inclusive dating sims around and, as a result, includes several modifiers designed with LGBTQ+ in mind.