Blurring the line of media formats: VNLs

Alright party people, buckle up for a ride and let’s enter a pointless and misguided thesis this fine evening:

visual novels are comics and i dare you to prove me wrong

First up, what is a visual novel? Simply put, Visual Novels (VNLs from here on out) are a kind of game marked by minimal gameplay and high emphasis on character dialogue as a means of narrative progression. Genres can include slice of life, romance, dating sim, horror, adventure, fantasy, eroge (pornographic), mystery, and others. Usually, the player makes intermittent choices in order to move the plot along. The story can be branching, non-linear, stat-based, or a short click-through story common to fan-made games.

This screengrab is from Katawa Shoujo, and is what you would expect from VNLs. The player takes the role of the (often invisible) protagonist and plays from a first-person perspective. The dialogue box at the bottom is used for speech, descriptions, and thoughts. As the two characters speak, their names come up in the top name label.

Through this, it is simple to draw parallels between VNLs and graphic novels. The still images paired with dialogue are panels, the gutter the space between character movement. Many VNLs also have chapter delineation.  The dialogue box takes the place of speech bubbles, description blocks, and captions. There may be music, sound effects, voice acting, cutscenes, and our splash page parallel:

I actually don’t know what these are called, I refer to them as splash pages.


When crucial moments happen, the artists of both comics and VNLs take special care to illustrate what is going on. This may be a shocking discovery, a traumatic event, or the long-awaited kiss at the end of a romance. There is always a beginning, middle, and end as told through a relationship between text and still image. That there’s a comic.


Visual Novel recs for your gaming pleasure

  • Romances
  • Katawa Shoujo
    • Free, high school romance, mature themes can be turned off in settings
  • Seduce Me
    • Free, fantasy/supernatural, casual
  • Hatoful Boyfriend
    • $10 and worth it.  You’re a human girl in a bird school. There’s more under the surface.
  • Romance/Horror
  • Doki Doki Literature Club
    • Free, seriously this game is scary and deals with heavy themes don’t play it for happy times.
  • Mystery
  • Cupid
    • Free, play as Mother controlling your daughter’s life. Mature content can be filtered in settings.


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