Dating sims are romance-driven games in which the player has to meticulously maintain relationships with one or multiple characters in the game. They are normally dialogue-heavy and take place at some bizarre Japanese school. Those familiar with Doki Doki Literature Club! and I Love You, Colonel Sanders! might think that dating sims can’t get much stranger. Right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Kazuma Saeki is a young high schooler who lives an ordinary life with his loving girlfriend Yukari Izumi. PacaPlus starts by telling the story of a summer of love between Kazuma and Yukari. On the month of Yukari’s 16th birthday, Kazuma decides to take her on all kinds of dates, one of which is a romantic visit to Alpaca Kingdom, a wonderful place where people can visit in order to ride and feed a number of alpacas. As the sun began to set, Kazuma presents Yukari with a gorgeous pendant for her birthday and the two head back home on the bus. Everything goes swimmingly until Kazuma awakes on the way home to see an alpaca sitting next to him wearing his girlfriend’s clothes. This is when he realizes: his darling Yukari has turned into an alpaca.
PacaPlus is an unsettling visual novel riddled with grammatical errors and awkward interactions. The one thing the dating sim does well is show that true love is when someone loves you even if you suddenly morph into a fuzzy, four-legged mammal.
6. My Horse Prince
Another quadruped romance tale but with more twists and turns, My Horse Prince follows a young businesswoman who never had much time to enjoy her life and find her soulmate. She decides to quit her job and ventures off to a racing horse ranch in the hopes of finding attractive men to date. She fails to find any handsome men at the ranch and is then flabbergasted by the sight of Yuuma, a horse with a human face. The woman becomes Yuuma’s owner and, as she spends time training him for an upcoming race, she finds herself falling in love with the horse.
My Horse Prince is a mobile game that isn’t afraid to include some cross-species love. The game has obvious parallels to PacaPlus but the human head makes My Horse Prince the more disturbing of the two.
5. Panzermadels: Tank Dating Simulator
In Panzermadels you play as an aspiring military officer named Erwin Lemmor who gets transferred to an elite military academy to study tanks. Erwin soon finds out that the tank school he transferred to is actually a school for tanks, who all have the appearance of teenage school girls. At the tank academy, Erwin meets many fine ladies (functional WWII tanks) such as M4 Sherman, Panzer IV, T-34, Tiger I, and IS-2. Erwin must decide which tank he wishes to woo while struggling to complete his own tank training.
There are six distinct romance plotlines which can lead to a number of choice-based endings. Flirting with sentient objects is beyond strange, but the humanlike appearances help to make dating them more grounded.
4. Love! Brother-Kun
Love! Brother-Kun tells the story of a DCP-J952-ECO-W A4 inkjet MFP Privio Basic Brother printer that transfers to the main character’s school. The name of the printer is Bro-dan, who introduces itself by saying that its favorite ink color is magenta and that it loves to play soccer. During an afternoon outing at the local park, you bear witness to Bro-dan using its flatbed scanner top to immaculately headbutt a soccer ball while its plastic exterior glistens in the sunlight.
As odd as dating tanks is in Panzermadels, dating an actual printer takes the amount of odd to an entirely different level.
3. Jurassic Heart
Jurassic Heart tells the story of someone whose heart is much bigger than their arms. The dinosaur dating sim centers around Taira the Tyrannosaurus Rex, who is incredible at playing the ukulele. After you encourage your carnivore classmate to put on a performance, he breaks the ukulele which fit so well between his pair of tiny arms. You decide to take Taira to the local music store to get a new ukulele which leads to him getting the hots for you.
Jurassic Heart is a sweet game that tugs your heartstrings despite involving a monstrous theropod that is an aspiring musician.
2. Hatoful Boyfriend
If you’ve ever had a thing for rats with wings, then there is a game for you. In Hatoful Boyfriend, you play as a girl who was transferred to a school for pigeons. The fact that you are the only human in attendance doesn’t appear to ruffle anyone’s feathers, as every conversation you have with your bird classmates is deep and whimsical. You do your best to fit in with the flock and progressively level up in order to secure dates with specific pigeons. You might even get to score with the most popular pigeon on campus.
The concept of Hatoful Boyfriend is very random but the dialogue for each interaction is oddly engaging.
1. Tomak: Save the Earth – Love Story
Tomak: Save the Earth – Love Story is by far the creepiest dating sim in existence. A love goddess descends from the heavens to Earth with the mission of proving that “love is real.” Her only problem is that the part of her body below the neckline didn’t make it to Earth so now she is a disembodied head in a flower pot. The half goddess half houseplant is your love interest and you have to keep her alive by feeding her regularly. If you fail to take care of her, the devil will destroy the entire planet.
It is both the convoluted plot and the disturbing image of the head in the flower pot that makes this game the strangest dating simulator.
And that’s about it. If there’s one thing I learned from creating this list, it’s that love really has no limit. If you’re ever feeling lonely and down because you don’t have anybody special in your life, play some of these simulators and come to the conclusion that dating isn’t worth it.