While visual novels are most commonly played on PCs, consoles, and smartphones, some can also be played directly in your web browser of choice. This affords players, me included, a more convenient experience, as no download is necessary. I was actually able to play some of these games listed on my commute to work! All I had to do was open the game page and run the game directly through my smartphone’s web browser. Aside from being so easily accessible (and free!), browser-based games are usually on the shorter side, as they encourage players to finish in a single sitting—say, a fifteen-minute train ride or a ten-minute walk on the treadmill.
If you’re anything like me and are looking for a quick and easy way to play visual novels on the go (or even at home without having to wait for a large download), then look no further. I’ve compiled some recently released browser games for your enjoyment!
In this short ten-minute game made with Twine, you play as a young kid on Christmas in 1993, anticipating the gift of your dreams: The Ultra-Cube 16 with Super Medieval Kingdom, the hottest game on the market. This game is nostalgic, leaving me with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside as I recall memories of my own childhood. Despite not being born until after this game takes place, the feeling of anticipation is universal. Who doesn’t remember waiting on Christmas Eve, bouncing with excitement as you try and figure out if you got the newest game console? When you finally tear open the box, the game is all you can think about.
Christmas 1993 features links where you are supposed to click directly on the “continue” button to progress. The graphics do not present themselves as sprites or elaborate backgrounds. Instead, we are given images, usually one at a time (a single console or a Christmas tree), on a blank background. This is all reminiscent of classic text-based games of the late 80s and early 90s. Definitely check this one out if you’re looking for a short but nostalgic experience.
Frog Story is a unique entry to our list. It was originally a submission to the seventh Narrative Driven Jam. You follow the story of Prince Oran, who has been transformed into a frog, as his best friend tries to save him. I love so much about Frog Story, particularly the way it’s told. As soon as you start the game, a narrator begins the introduction and players are thrown into a quite literal storybook. Each scene takes up a page of the book, and advancing through prompts an animation of someone turning the page. It’s quite innovative and fun. The experience is only amplified by the fully traditionally drawn sprites and backgrounds.
Players are left with a whimsical feeling like from grandiose fairy tales, except with more interaction. Not only are there choices you can make for what you think should happen next, but there are also point-and-click elements as you investigate different areas. Perhaps the most memorable part is the game’s background track, which feels very homey as someone hums through the pages. Frog Story is quite the interesting experience and definitely worth checking out.
Special Holiday is a relatable browser game that tells the story of life during quarantine. The events are based on the early parts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Special Holiday, you play as someone who has been told to quarantine in their home rather suddenly and with no warning. They are told they cannot leave their house even to get food and will have someone come over to test them every few days. The developers let the players know that this game is rooted in truth, and you only have to play for a few minutes to understand this notion is completely believable.
I was quickly reminded of the rough days just a few years ago, having to be locked in my home. The only people who could leave were the ones who went to buy groceries once every one to two weeks. As you play through this game, you’re hit hard with the mundane yet scary times of being locked in your home with only social media, chats with friends, and news to rely on for information. While Special Holiday may not be the happiest game on this list, it gives players a very real and authentic look at life during the pandemic.
Let us know some of your favorite browser-based visual novels in the comment section below!