By Diego Hernandez / January 21st, 2022
It’s finally time to discuss my choice for the top visual novels of 2021, isn’t that crazy? Another chaotic year in the books with the world still on fire, but at least we’re still alive. To clarify though, while a lot of it was pretty bad, a lot of it was also good. I think it’s certainly better than 2020, and the main reason for that is within this piece today: Visual novels. While there’s plenty of shortages hurting the world right now, visual novels are an exception. From start to finish, there was a visual novel out there for everyone to enjoy. Truthfully, there were so many visual novels that my boss and I have two articles to honor the releases. You should check out his side when you’re done here.
I think it goes without saying, but this piece will be based on the titles I had the opportunity to take a look at. I will be the first to admit, there are several titles out there that I may have missed that could have certainly put up a fight for my top three. It just goes to show how breathtaking the year was for the genre, and I certainly hope I can keep up in 2022. Nevertheless, the titles I have chosen are breathtaking experiences that I want the whole world to check out for themselves. They all feature such wonderful characters and stories that I wish I could replay them again for the first time. I’ll be including links to my spoiler-free reviews and store pages, please consider checking each of the winners out if you haven’t already. Let’s jump in.
Kinkoi: Golden Loveriche
While there’s merit to keeping you in suspense for who’s going to be at the top of the podium, I’d rather talk about them early. For you see, this title changed my life. This one visual novel taught me about making the most of the time you’ve got. While teaching me about this, I laughed, and I cried like never before. It’s a title that keeps surprising you with major plot points at every turn. A title with some of the most memorable characters ever. A story that slowly, but beautifully, builds you up and knocks you down afterwards. However, rather than agonize over the fall, you simply state how grateful you are that it happened. Lastly, it’s a visual novel that definitely got a ton of love from the community when it got on Kickstarter. Ladies, gentlemen, NBs, my visual novel of the year is: Kinkoi: Golden Loveriche.
NekoNyan had a tremendous 2021 publishing campaign with titles aplenty, but none greater than the blonde invasion that is Kinkoi. This is a title I absolutely had no idea what to expect. When I spoke to a PR representative about it, they just told me to take my time with it and sent a smile emoji afterwards. I’m glad I followed through, because this isn’t just a title that I’d call the best of last year, it was also one of the best I’ve ever read. My only regret now is I wish I tossed more money at the Kickstarter, oh well. There will be plenty of opportunities to support the ever-so busy company in 2022. At this point, I can’t wait to see how they’ll break my heart next. They’re the publisher of the year in my book with the top visual novel of 2021.
The Blind of the New World
While Kinkoi takes the gold, hah, there’s still two more titles to talk about. Even if first place sits on such a huge pedestal, the runner-up isn’t a pushover either. It’s a title that really made me think about the technological advances of the world. Are we really having fun with it all? Or are we falling into a deep societal trap that we’ll never get out of? What happens to those who don’t follow the trends? These thoughts and so many more are a product of a small title from a very humble company that blew me away. From a spot in the world that I didn’t even know was making visual novels, the runner-up for visual novel of the year is: The Blind of the New World.
My first Korean visual novel courtesy of the folks from TALESSHOP, and now I find myself wanting more. The unique dynamic between the main characters, Seejay and Chohyun, really set things apart from the other qualifying titles. The story is already a hooking factor. However, watching those two get closer as they explore the intricacies of the world is just phenomenal. The highs and lows of this rollercoaster will have a lasting effect on you. That’s because you never know what answers you’re going to get from traversing the unknown. I’m glad I found out about this title, and I hope I have the opportunity to cover more Korean titles. I seriously hope you check this one out in particular because I believe it needs more appreciation.
The gold and silver are out, but we can’t forget about the bronze. They’re an exceptional romantic comedy story from a company that never fails to make me smile. A story that features four remarkably beautiful heroines, and a loveable oddball for a main character. You will laugh your butt off one scene and contemplate the wonders of romance in the next. It also features some of the most colorful art and voicework that I could ever hope for. All in a wonderful package, beautifully wrapped and delivered by a company we’re all too familiar with. When the girls are so sweet, funny, and fashionable, it’s no wonder that Sugar*Style is the second runner up in this year’s list of top visual novels.
Remember a couple paragraphs ago when I stated that NekoNyan killed it this year with publishing? I wasn’t lying. If The Blind of the New World didn’t surprise me the way it did, this article could have been entirely NekoNyan releases, and you could hear the cries on certain forums on how this writer was bought out. If they aren’t already doing that at least. Nevertheless, this Smee title is deserving of a spot for its masterful blend of romance and comedy in a very special collegiate setting. It gives off much more mature vibes than traditional school-based rom-coms, and does a well-enough job with its humor to keep you hooked on the characters on an intimate level. It’s just an exceptionally fun time, and when I have that much fun, how can I say no to marking it up as one of the best of the year?
So that’s my list for Top Visual Novels of 2021. It’s really hard to come up with just three in a year where everyone did their best. Not just NekoNyan and TALESSHOP, but MangaGamer, Sekai Project, JAST and Shiravune, among others, made this year absolutely unforgettable. If there’s ever a time to bring a friend on to enjoy the genre, the releases of last year are the perfect entry points. Everyone got something to appreciate last year, and it’s only going to get better. There are works constantly publishing from around the globe. Japanese visual novels, Chinese visual novels, Korean visual novels, English visual novels, you name it. The scene as a whole is thriving with talent, we just need to be there to support it. I honestly can’t wait to see what 2022 will bring, and I hope that you feel the same way after reading this.
Japanese Visual NovelJVNKinkoi Golden LovericheKorean Visual NovelKVNSugar StyleThe Blind of the New WorldTop Visual Novelsvisual novelVisual Novel of the YearVNVNOTY