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These last few months have been hard for a lot of reasons. Long lines at grocery stores, the stress of a new pandemic, and what feels like an endless stream of bad news. For many people, it’s been hard because they’ve felt isolated and alone. One of the most difficult things for me during these last months has been how I haven’t been able to see my friends, how isolated and lonely I’ve felt at home.

So what better way to combat the crippling loneliness of quarantine than by romancing some cartoon boys? And how else do you do that but with a dating sim.

Dating sims are video games that are usually divided up between gameplay and story-based modes where the goal is to successfully romance one of the characters of the game. There’s often a roster of at least four or five characters with varying levels of emotional trauma, and it’s your job to make them fall in love with you while you also try to survive the plot.

Below, I’ve listed four of the dating sims that I tried during quarantine, and that I think you all should try too!

Mystic Messenger

One of the most interesting, fun and frustrating games that I tried this quarantine. The game is set up so it functions like you’re participating in chat rooms, texts and phone calls, where many of the chats are time-limited and it’s difficult to access them once you’ve missed them. That being said, the storylines within the game are filled with mystery, intrigue and a lot of humour. There’s a mysterious cult, bombs, characters with psychic powers and, of course, good old fashioned romance. Definitely one of my favourite games to play!

My Horse Prince

We all remember about four years ago when that weird game about romancing a horse came out, right? Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t a collective fever dream and it was, in fact, a very real game that you can still download for free from the app store. And I did, in fact, download it. I would say this game is only really good for the few laughs you’ll get while playing it, if only because it makes absolutely no sense and it’s so absurd you have no other choice but to laugh.

Mr Love: Queen’s Choice

I’m being absolutely serious here when I say this game is incredibly fun to play. There are several different functions aside from the main storyline, and the romance within the game is secondary to the plot. It focuses on individuals with superpowers and investigating a shadowy organization that seems bent on killing or kidnapping the main heroine. But along with this mystery you get to meet four incredibly handsome boys that help (and sometimes hinder) you as you work towards your goals. 

The main story is divided between simple game levels and visual novel modes. Aside from that, you can gain access to dates with different love interests, participate in competitions against other players, and play bonus mini-games to help you level up! It also doesn’t hurt that the music is good and the art is beautiful. There’s a lot happening in this game, but honestly, it’s so much fun and so worth it to play.

Hatoful Boyfriend

Frankly, I think this is the pinnacle of what all dating sims should strive to be. In this game, you’re a hunter-gatherer (yes, that’s actually what they call you) that’s been allowed to attend a prestigious school for pigeons. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic future where birds have risen up to reclaim society and have essentially replaced all humans. But you are the lucky hunter-gatherer that gets to interact with the pigeons and attend school with them! And, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to romance them. Give the bird of your heart beans and other assorted bird paraphernalia to win their affection and watch your love soar!

This game is, in all honesty, pure nonsense and there’s allegedly a secret route that’s a psychological thriller, but it continues to elude me as I get the same 3 endings over and over. But stay tuned, because one day I will unlock the secrets of Hatoful Boyfriend!

Have you played any of these games or similar games that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below!

Ria Boldt

U Vic '20

Ria is a slightly confused fourth year at the University of Victoria, with a major in tea drinking and a minor in freelance superhero-ing. When not busy she can usually be found reading, eating, or re-watching all of the Star Wars movies.
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