The 10 Best Anime Based on Visual Novels

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Anime Based on Visual Novels
Credit: White Fox

Compared to anime and manga, visual novels are a rather obscure form of entertainment but those who love both reading and gaming are bound to be hooked. After all, a lot of our favorite anime are actually based on popular visual novels. Curious? Here are some of the best anime based on visual novels.

  1. Steins;Gate

    In general, there’s often some degree of suspicion associated with TV adaptations of games; will anything made for gaming consoles have a sufficiently intriguing plot that can be watched as comfortable as it is played?

    Steins; Gate proved that this is possible! Based on a legendary 2009 visual novel of the same name, the show follows Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed mad scientist, and his friends, Mayuri Shiina and Hashida Itaru as they try to unlock the mysteries of time travel.

    While the concept of time travel is by no means new it's done exceptionally well in Steins; Gate, and, combined with an intriguing plot and strong character arcs, it makes for a memorable viewing experience.

    Of course, the branching storyline of the visual novel can’t be perfectly translated, but both the anime and game are thrilling media in their own right.

    Related: Do Kurisu and Okabe End Up Together in Steins;Gate?

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  2. Clannad

    Clannad is one of the most moving anime you will ever watch, but did you know it stems from a 2004 visual novel?

    Both the game and anime follow Tomoya Okazaki, a boy with a troubled past, from adolescence to adulthood, focusing on his encounter with Nagisa, a girl who has recently returned to school after a serious illness and dreams of reviving her school's drama club.

    Claiming he has nothing better to do, Tomoya decides to help Nagisa and four other girls achieve this goal.

    As he grows closer to them, learns about their problems, and, eventually, helps them overcome them, Tomoya realizes that life is much more interesting than he thought.

    Once again, experiencing the Clannad visual novel is associated with more agency as player choices matter, but the anime also tells a beautiful slice of life story that you should check out!

  3. Higurashi When They Cry

    Higurashi When They Cry (or anything from the When They Cry series) requires a strong stomach and a real love for horror anime.

    Unlike other works listed here, Higurashi is more of a "sound novel;” a variation of the visual novel, which focuses on sound and atmosphere – appropriately for the horror genre.

    This is a less active form of visual novel that doesn’t really require the player to make choices – though you’re welcome to actively speculate on the mysteries until the truth is revealed.

    Both the anime and the game follow Keiichi Maebara, a teenager whose family moves to small-town Hinamizawa; but Keiichi could never imagine the horrors he’s about to encounter: will you dare join him?

  4. Umineko When They Cry

    Umineko is the less well-known sibling of Higurashi but it deserves its own entry due to the decidedly different tone.

    Umineko is notoriously difficult to explain. The basic plot is fairly simple; a large, rich family become trapped in their private island due to bad weather and start to fall victim to occult like murders.

    But what happens when a son of the family becomes acquainted with the story of the witch Beatrice, and gets into a series of mind games with her, trying to explain the murders with logic instead of magic?

    The Umineko anime is not just as successful as Higurashi but the character designs and writing are quite interesting and worth watching, if only to tease what the more complete visual novel is about.

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  5. Danganronpa

    For fans of Hunger Games and Battle Royale, Danganronpa is an excellent, quirky and creepy anime and visual novel to try.

    A group of students find themselves in a horrifying situation; trapped in Hope's Peak Academy, they must murder a fellow student without being found out, or die trying until there’s no one left.

    The visual novel is a bit more interesting than the anime in this case, due to interactive elements; the player can choose who to spend time with and acquire skills, argue, or search for clues.

    The anime might seem a bit awkward in comparison but horror fans will appreciate it.

  6. Uta no Prince-sama

    Moving away from all the horrors and into the romance genre – a more common genre of choice for visual novels – Uta no Prince-sama is a multimedia franchise closer to your typical dating sim.

    Haruka Nanami enters the Saotome Academy, a prestigious school of performing arts, where everyone aspires to be an idol or music producer.

    Haruka becomes acquainted with six male classmates and can choose who to team up with.

    The visual novel received an A-1 Pictures adaptation too. In this situation, the visual novel is likely to be more fun due to its branching storyline – but the anime is good fun too!

  7. Fate/Stay Night

    Fate media are many and hard to categorise or put in order. We’ll therefore start with Fate/Stay Night – believed by many to be one of the first Fate anime you should watch after the prequel Fate/Zero– though all Fate anime shows count as visual novel adaptations.

    Fate/Stay Night focuses on a fantastic retelling of the war for the Holy Grail. The game isn’t a particularly interactive one, but it’s critically acclaimed, and if you loved the anime it might be worth playing to see how it all started.

    Equally, if you’ve played the visual novel, do get into the anime. The amount of Fate works is currently a bit intimidating but still worth a try!

    Related: Fate Anime’s Watch Order Explained

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  8. Utawarerumono

    If you’re looking for an adult, medieval fantasy anime or game, Utawarerumono might be great for you.

    Utawarerumono has a masked, amnesiac protagonist, likely to aid player immersion by providing a blank slate protagonist. This main character, Hakuowlo, is found in the woods by two girls who take him to their village where he starts a new life.

    Little did he know that he’d end up leading a rebellion against oppressive forces to defend his new home.

    Utawarerumono allows for a number of player choices, though these do not ultimately influence the ending; there’s some turned-based RPG fighting if you’d like something a bit more active.

  9. Ef: A Tale of Memories

    Memories are often important in visual novels, and games generally. How are they portrayed, what needs to be remembered, and how do our memories, or lack thereof, influence our present actions?

    The game and its anime adaptation feature a complex cast and different timelines, including the unlikely friendship between teens Hiro and Miyako and the jealousy of Kei, Hiro’s friend; and the chance encounter of another boy, Renji, with Kei’s twin, Chihiro, who suffers from memory loss.

    The visual novel requires generally little action from the player’s part meaning there’s not much experience loss in the adaptation – though the story’s intricacies are actually ideal for the visual novel format!

  10. The Fruits of Grisaia

    The Fruits of Grisaia isn’t the most well-known anime out there, but it’s based on an award-winning visual novel you might want to add to your list!

    Yuuji Kazami is a transfer student who gets accepted into the mysterious Mihama Academy. Once there, he realizes he’s the only male student. There are only five students apart from him, all of whom are girls.

    The school has a prison-like structure; but what caused each of the students to end up there? And will Yuuji manage to assume the role of the catalyst and stir things up?

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