With October upon us, many people subject themselves to watching scary, sometimes even gory movies or television shows. For those looking to do the same but with visual novels, I have prepared a list of ten amazing visual novels that will no doubt unnerve you with how violent they can be.
10) Perseverance: Part 1
Platforms: Windows, Mac (Steam)
Perseverance: Part 1 is a horror-drama visual novel where you play as Jack, a father trying to keep his family together. His relationship with his wife Natalie seems to be on the rocks, and all the while, their daughter, Hope, listens in on their arguments. However, the family might need to set their differences aside as something is happening at the nearby military base that could result in them losing their lives.
Perseverance isn’t as bloody as the other titles on this list, but there is some violent imagery used in the game that will no doubt disturb you.
The big issue I have with this game is that it doesn’t have a manual save feature. While the game automatically saves, it uses checkpoints. For example, if you leave off in the middle of a scene, when you load the game back up, instead of starting right where you were, you might go all the way back to the beginning of that scene. If you want to try out a different choice, rather than saving at the choice menu as you would in most visual novels, you will have to either finish up your current playthrough or start a new save file to test out choices you didn’t make before.
There’s a demo available for Perseverance: Part 1 if you’re on the fence about it.
9) Corpse Party series
Price: $14.99 (Steam), $11.99 (iOS)
Corpse Party follows a group of teenagers who end up being teleported to the abandoned Host Elementary School after a ritual gone wrong. While they try to escape, the characters begin to learn the sinister history of the school, and if they’re not careful, they might end up becoming its next victims.
The main cast members aren’t the only people wandering these halls. As the name implies, the former students, who are little kids, are also roaming around. While they may look innocent, they can turn sinister very quickly, sometimes being the reason the characters die. There’s one death in the game where they literally claw into a girl’s torso, and while I can handle most things, that death made me have to take a few minutes away from the game in order to collect myself.
However, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how violent the Corpse Party series can get. There is one death, which happens to an endearing character, where they are thrown at a wall at such high velocity that they end up exploding upon impact.
I’ve played two out of three Corpse Party games: the first game and Book of Shadows. I loved the first title, but I only found Book of Shadows to be alright, in my opinion. I highly recommend checking out the first game to see if you like it. I personally think it’s an excellent survival horror game that really manages to get under your skin with its disturbing story. If you end up liking it, then feel free to check out the later titles in the series.
8) Danganronpa series
Price: $19.99 (First and Second Game), $29..99 (Ultra Despair Girls), $39.99 (V3: Killing Harmony)
Platforms: Windows (Steam), PS Vita
Danganronpa rose to prominence when it was released in 2010 in Japanese only. Fans of the series translated the first games for others to enjoy, and soon enough, despite non-Japanese-speakers only being able to understand the story through fan translations, many people came to love it. In time, the series would find its way to an official English release.
The Danganronpa series, with the exception of Ultra Despair Girls, follows a group of teenagers who have been accepted to Hope’s Peak Academy for their extraordinary talent. However, once they arrive, they find themselves in a death game where, in order to escape, they must kill one another and then figure out who the murderer is. What Danganronpa does extremely well are its executions. Outside of them being absolutely brutal, they’re also creative. When the students correctly point out who the killer is, the killer is sent to their death via execution. This execution is tailor-made for them, as it goes off their talent. As an example, there’s an idol in the game whose execution is described as her being placed on a stage with a bear trap on its edge. In order to live, the idol must sing in order to fill up a score meter. However, just as she’s about to fill it, the game’s mascot, Monokuma, destroys it. This causes the bear trap to slam shut and kill the idol.
There are plenty more deaths, such as someone being burned at the stake or someone being beaten to death. While the deaths are nothing to shrug off, it’s the game’s executions that have helped the series become known for how violent it can get.
I think the first two games are fantastic, with Danganronpa 2 being my favorite out of the entire series. Personally, I feel the series falls off in terms of writing with Ultra Despair Girls and the later acts of V3: Killing Harmony. Those games aren’t as strong as their prequels. I couldn’t really care for anyone in the Ultra Despair Girls cast, and one mini-game in particular completely turned me off from the game. Meanwhile, V3: Killing Harmony starts off strong but falls off once the game starts to become meta. Normally, I don’t mind games becoming meta. But it’s not done effectively here, and as a result, results in perhaps one of the weakest endings I’ve seen.
7) Purrfect Apawcalypse: Love at Furst Bite
Don’t let the cute appearance of this game fool you—Purrfect Apawcalypse: Love at Furst Bite is incredibly violent. Labeled as a dark comedy game, you play as Olive, who finds themself trapped in Hachiko High School during the apocalypse. Demons are killing their classmates. With no guarantee that they’ll make it out alive, Olive wants to spend their last moments with someone special. Will you spend time with Brownie the corgi, Sparky the husky, or maybe Patches the dalmatian?
A trend I’ve been seeing with visual novels is gory or violent games with a cute aesthetic. We’ve seen it with Doki Doki Literature Club!, Hatoful Boyfriend, and many others. With so many games out there like that, you need to create something that separates you from the pack, and thankfully, Purrfect Apawclypse: Love at Furst Bite does that well. It helps that the game is a dark comedy and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is something we don’t see often in this “cute-dark” genre.
Even though the player finds themself stuck in the worst situation possible with everyone dropping like flies, the game manages to keep the mood lighthearted with its comedic writing. It blends well with the cutesy cartoon look that it has going for it. The look of the game also aids the player in continuing the game without being overly grossed out or disturbed at the violence taking place.
All in all, for $4.99, you can’t go wrong with this game. If you end up enjoying this title, I recommend checking out the other two games in the trilogy!
6) The Letter
Inspired by classic Asian horror films such as Ju-on and The Ring, The Letter takes on a familiar format where the cast of characters find themselves trapped by a centuries-old curse. It’s your job to help these characters make it out alive, or else they will fall victim to the curse.
As someone who has played Corpse Party, I thought I was completely prepared for the amount of gore this game was going to bring. However, I was wrong. There are a lot of deaths in this game that are disturbing, to say the least. Like someone’s throat getting slashed with blood just seeping out like a fountain, it gets gnarly.
While I love The Letter, it’s not a perfect game by any means. First, it’s sometimes incredibly obvious what choice will lead to a bad end for a character. There’s a choice in the game where you’re running from the ghost and you can either get out of there or corner yourself with no escape. Obviously, you’re going to go with the former. Second, the decisions you make determine whether or not you find out the full nature of the curse, and even having everyone make it out alive doesn’t reveal the complete truth to you, which I find a little odd, to be honest. In order to fully understand the story and origins of the curse, you need to kill off certain characters, which goes against a player’s instinct.
However, despite my grievances with The Letter, it manages to still be one of my favorite horror games. The characters are developed very well; even the most hated characters like Luke manage to be fleshed out enough for the player to have some sympathy for him. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re looking for something that doesn’t hold back on the gore.
Chaos;Child is developed by MAGES., the same team who made the critically acclaimed Steins;Gate. It’s also only a thematic sequel to the Japan-only release Chaos;Head, so thankfully, you don’t need to be familiar with that title in order to enjoy this one.
Set six years after the events of Chaos;Head, the player takes control of a young man named Takuru Miyashiro. He’s investigating a recent set of gruesome murders that have taken Shibuya by storm and has made the discovery that these murders are exactly like ones that took place six years ago.
What makes Chaos;Child and its prequel memorable is the Delusion System. At certain points in the game, rather than making dialogue choices, you will decide whether or not Takuru will succumb to disturbing delusions or nice little daydreams, or do neither and move on completely. What you pick will affect not only the story but Takuru’s overall perception of reality.
For fans of MAGES.’ SciADV games like Steins;Gate, you’ll find yourself in familiar territory while also enjoying the little references to their other games. The writing for this game is fantastic, but can be bogged down sometimes. Plus, the game’s separate routes, outside of the main route and the true ending, were written by different people. You might notice some small dips in quality in terms of the game’s writing, but even then, the routes are still great.
There is also a weird issue with the map. For legal reasons, the map which Takuru and others use for the game’s ongoing mystery is untranslated.
If you’re looking for an intriguing science adventure game but have already played Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes, then you have no reason to not check out Chaos;Child.
4) Raging Loop
In Raging Loop, you take control of Haruaki Fusaishi, a man who gets stuck in a remote village called Yasumiza. With no way out, Haruaki is forced to stay put until his bike is fixed. However, it seems like his luck is only going to get worse. The next day, a dense fog covers the village, and no one can leave. If they try to, they’ll die.
The only way for this fog to be lifted is for the village to complete a sacred ritual called the “Feast.” The “Feast” is pretty much like the social deduction game Werewolf: werewolves have sneaked into the village, and every night, they kill a villager. It’s the villagers’ job to find out who the werewolves are and hang them. However, with Haruaki’s arrival, all eyes are on him.
It’s your job to successfully get Haruaki out alive as well as make sure you can keep as many of the villagers alive as possible while also correctly identifying the werewolves.
Every time you come across a dead character, the game does an excellent job at describing what their bodies look like—if you can even call them that anymore. You might not see the violence or blood on screen as you would with the other games on the list, but I argue that just describing what the corpses look like is actually worse, since you’re forced to imagine the brutal ways these people were murdered and our minds tend to think of the worst possible scenario.
The writing for Raging Loop is absolutely phenomenal. The mystery always managed to keep me on my toes, guessing what will happen next.
3) Spirit Hunter series
Price: $49.99 (Per game)
Platforms: Windows (Spirit Hunter: Death Mark on Steam) (Spirit Hunter: NG on Steam), Nintendo Switch (Spirit Hunter: Death Mark) (Spirit Hunter: NG), PlayStation 4 (Spirit Hunter: Death Mark) (Spirit Hunter: NG)
I’ve previously talked about Spirit Hunter: Death Mark and how good it is here. The same can be said for the second game in the Spirit Hunter series, Spirit Hunter: NG.
In Spirit Hunter: Death Mark, there is a curse where the inhabitants are marked. At dawn, they die a horrific death. It just so happens that the player character, an amnesiac man, is one of those people. He arrives at a mansion with the hope that he can find the answers to not only getting rid of the death mark but also finding the pieces of his lost memory. It turns out these death marks are given to people by ghosts. In each of the game’s six chapters, you are to aid someone who has met the same ill fate as you. You will explore various locations, solve puzzles, and ultimately, “battle” the ghost who has cursed that character. I say battle very loosely, because rather than actually fighting them, you will be using items you collected along the way against them.
In Spirit Hunter: NG, you play as a young ghost hunter. You’ll explore various haunted locations, much like in Spirit Hunter: Death Mark. However, the game expands upon the gameplay of its predecessor by including side quests and a mechanic called “bloodmetry” which is used to gather information.
While both games are violent, I think Spirit Hunter: NG is a huge step up in that department compared to Spirit Hunter: Death Mark. The latter also just does a better job at improving what the first game did and more.
2) Zero Escape trilogy
Price: $49.98 (Zero Escape Bundle on Steam), $49.99 (Nonary Games on PlayStation), $39.99 (Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation)
Now, the plot of each Zero Escape game is different, but they all start off the same: a bunch of characters wake up in a mysterious place with no recollection of how they got there. They’re told that they have a set amount of time to leave said place before they die.
Zero Escape is a game of trial and error, in a way. In order to reach the true ending for all three games, you’ll have to first fail. It’s required that you achieve all the endings, even the bad/dead ends, in order to ultimately reach a satisfactory end. The journey of getting to that treasured ending is a grueling one. What Zero Escape does well is that it expands on its cast of characters very well, getting you to care about them. When you end up seeing them die a horrible death, whether that be from an exploding bomb inside their stomach, being chopped up by an axe, or cut up by a chainsaw, you feel heartbroken for them. The fact that you need to see these characters endure so much pain before getting that true ending is part of what makes these games so great, because when you do reach that true ending, there’s so much relief a player feels to finally see their favorites walk out of the game alive.
1) When They Cry series
Price: Free (Chapter 1 of Higurashi When They Cry Hou), $48.53 (Higurashi When They Cry Hou Bundle), $75.97 (Umineko When They Cry Bundle)
It was hard to decide whether Higurashi When They Cry or Umineko When They Cry should get this spot. After much deliberation, I thought they both deserved to be here.
It’s incredibly tough to go into detail about these games because they’re best gone into blindly. So, I’ll just give you a quick synopsis for both.
Higurashi When They Cry takes place in Hinamizawa, a small village located in the countryside. Every year in June, someone dies and another goes missing. Some theorize that these yearly occurrences are connected to a dam construction project. Others believe that the village is cursed. Others think it’s all just a giant conspiracy. So, what is going on in Hinamizawa? That’s for you to find out.
In Umineko When They Cry, the wealthy Ushiromiya family is doing their yearly meeting on an island to discuss family matters. It’s revealed that one of their family members is going to die very soon and they have to decide who will inherit his money. Tensions rise as the family argues over who is more fit to get the money, and everything boils over once someone is found dead on the island. Things only get worse from there for the Ushiromiya family.
If you haven’t had the chance to read these VNs, I highly recommend that you do.