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Dating Sim

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"Let's see; she's smiling, so option one should work — unless that throwaway line of dialogue back in Chapter 2 was hinting that she was actually a Tsundere and so I should choose number two... hold on while I check the FAQ."

The Dating Sim is a type of game designed to set up goals, usually in the forms of schedules and stats corresponding to social skills, which must be achieved to discover a story focused entirely around the Character Development of the player's chosen DATE, get into their pants, or both. This leads to Multiple Endings, though some Dating Sims make it possible to see several of these "endings" in a single playthrough.

Some Sim Date games have been made into Harem anime, though the result is usually nothing special due to the removal of sex and the fact that the narrative can no longer focus on any single character.

Because there is almost no market for true Dating Sim games outside of Japan, it's a frequent misunderstanding among western gamers that "Dating Sim" is the general term for all ren'ai (romantic love) games. In fact, many romance games are Visual Novels, which is a much different game style. (See for example, the difference between the Ace Attorney series, which is very close to a Visual Novel style of gameplay, and the DOA Xtreme series, which is the closest thing to a true Dating Sim with mass-market appeal in the US.) If the game plays out like a Gamebook, that's a Visual Novel. If it feels like you're playing an RPG, trying to keep track of everyone's feelings about you and giving out presents, that's a Dating Sim.

In recent years, there have been many Role Playing Games that incorporate dating sim elements. These dating sim elements are often referred to as Romance Sidequests in the RPG genre. Life Simulation Games and Farm Life Sims also tend to feature dating sim elements.



  • The genre in some forms is Older Than They Think, as are parodies of it: the Ur-Example in commercial games, Softporn Adventure (released on the Apple ][ in 1981 by Sierra On-Line) went far in deconstructing the nascent genre even as it was setting the stage for it. The game was later remade in an Action-Adventure style as the first game in the infamous Leisure Suit Larry franchise, which took the satirical elements even further. Despite this, it is unlikely that those games significantly impacted the style's evolution in Japan, which developed independently of them, and remains a rare Western example of the type.
  • Season 3 of Aggretsuko opens up with Retsuko playing a dating sim called Heartthrob! Virtual Boyfriend, featuring a handsome Bishōnen unicorn named Seiya, to cope with a recent breakup. She ends up going into debt due to blowing all her money on buying items for her virtual boyfriend.
  • Done as a joke at a comicon in Japan, where Studio Pierrot showed a redubbed set of Bleach clips meant to be an advertisement for an upcoming dating sim.
  • Class of '09 advertises itself as a "reverse dating sim" where instead of playing an average joe looking to date a bunch of cute girls players assume the role of a hot girl who only strings guys along for her own personal gain. As stated by the game itself:
    It's not a dating sim. It's a rejection sim.
  • Date A Live plays this straight with the twist that the protagonist doesn't make the decision making part. Rather, it's his sister and the Ratatoskr crew aboard the Fraxinus who makes the decision making part.
  • The Journal Comic Doodle Diaries featured a short parody of dating sims, starring the three main characters as the love interests.
  • Excel♡Saga, naturally, did an episode parodying these. In a Running Gag, the male characters suddenly find themselves in a game with several options, the last generally being "Put It In." Il Palazzo, playing the game, gets a bad ending by killing the Patient Childhood Love Interest who wakes him up in the game, before even leaving for school.
    • In the last two episodes, Watanabe gets the dating sim option popup when he encounters Hyatt. He almost gets the good ending, too, but Excel interrupts.
  • Final Fantasy VII has an ongoing pastiche of one, which leads to dating one of four characters (one of which is The Lancer and extremely male) at a minor scene later on. Interestingly, all of them contain some character and plot development - Aerith's scene foreshadows Cloud's Tomato in the Mirror moment later on, Tifa's serves as proof that she Cannot Spit It Out, Yuffie's is the only one in which Cloud actually gets a kiss, and Barret's is part non-sequitur rant, part self-parodying Ho Yay, and culminates in Cloud being (bizarrely) accused of being a paedophile. Cloud's relationships with other characters also affect several other scenes, including one near the end of the game that may imply a sexual encounter with Tifa if her Relationship Values with Cloud are high enough.
  • Week 6 of Friday Night Funkin' is set inside of a 16-bit Dating Sim set in a stereotypical Japanese high school, whose protagonist is in love with the Girlfriend. This week introduces visual novel-style dialogue boxes to provide cutscenes before each song. By the third song, it's revealed that the Senpai is actually someone who was imprisoned within the dating sim by Girlfriend's Father, and he wants to steal the Boyfriend's body to escape and get revenge.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke's classmates attempt to prepare him for a date by having him play a Dating Sim. His military-wired mind causes him to be blatantly honest to the girl, upsetting her and losing the game, much to his consternation.
  • In Genshiken, shameless Otaku Madarame spends almost a whole episode in a room alone with Dungeon Masters Girlfriend Saki, trying to work up the courage to talk to her. This is emphasised by dream sequences in which he imagines her as a character in a Dating Sim, complete with Art Shift - and repeatedly ends up clicking 'Do nothing'. He bemoans in his internal monologue how real life has more choices than just three, and how it's not always obvious which one to make.
  • Parodied in Gravity Falls with Giffany, a perky AI from a Japanese dating sim which gained sentience and became a psychotic yandere towards anyone who plays her game.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Korea asks if China likes him. China is about to respond with no, but stops when he sees a little box above Korea that says that any response will lead to sex. Which is somewhat awkward considering the two are brothers.
    Yes: "Than it's alright if I XXX than?"
    No: "If you don't like me, I'll just XXX you!"
  • In the Strong Bad email date, Strong Bad creates the “Homestar Runner and Marzipan Extra Real Dating Sim XR” to simulate what he imagines what Homestar and Marzipan actually do on a date. It's mostly just them saying "Duh", occasionally pausing to talk about how awesome Strong Bad is.
  • La-Mulana, upon acquiring certain MSX ROMs, lets you play what at first appears to be an MSX knockoff of Tokimeki Memorial, and the heroine, Shiori, is talking about how she'd like to take her friendship with Taihei (your character) to the next level until she comments that she had a toothache since this morning. Taihei then discovers a piece of fake skin on the ground, and Shiori then reveals herself to be a Snatcher. After satirical dialogue on women in dating sims, you're thrown into a battle against Shiori while being careful not to shoot the "game mascot", Gyonin (A.K.A. Metal Fish MSX3 Turbo R Plus). After the whole ordeal is over, another girl named Nijino runs up... only to reveal herself as a Snatcher as well. And the whole thing starts all Syntax error in 1220
  • Likewise, one episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi featured a world that partially functioned as a Dating Sim (with an all-girl cast and drawn in a Moe style), to the point of Sasshi requesting a replay so he could end up with a different girl.
  • Masques and Murder is a vicious Genre Deconstruction: your three "suitors" are detestable scumbags who murdered your father and brother and you work at improving your skills and impressing them not to find true love with them, but to make them let down their guard enough for you to kill them in revenge.
  • There's two 'dates' in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, where you can go to the beach with either Paz or Kaz. You speak to them using the Co-Op battle cries, and then (if they like you) you can invite them into the cardboard box for quality time. They're parody, but both Paz and Kaz have different personalities which come out during the dates (Paz likes being complimented and treated gently, Kaz likes being punched and Big Boss staring at his crotch with the binoculars). Hilariously, you have to successfully seduce both to get the 100% Completion conversation.
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun had a story where Mikoshiba convinced Nozaki to try a dating sim in order to try and understand girls better. After a false startnote , they end up getting emotionally invested in the main character's best friend Tomoda and decide to write a Doujin to address the fact that he ended the game without a girlfriend. However, the only character with whom Tomoda has any meaningful interaction is the main character himself, which results in the doujin unintentionally becoming Boys' Love.
  • My Bride is a Mermaid has an episode where San's Dad, Lunar's Dad, Shark Fujishiro, and Masa played one of these games in an attempt to understand girls' feelings so they can better relate to San and Lunar. It ends up failing in an epic fashion.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! also makes focus on Dating Sim tactics (particularly of the Otome variety), but unlike the above example it gets played in a Cringe Comedy setting akin to Welcome to the NHK.
  • Nyaruko: Crawling with Love!:
  • Super Paper Mario parodies the genre in a pre-Boss Battle cutscene. When the boss, a geeky chameleon named Francis, meets Princess Peach, the game turns into a dating sim with Francis playing it and the player providing her responses. Princess Peach quickly becomes annoyed at the concept, and sics Boomer on the Nerr2Babe Interface - which has the side effect of nuking Francis' video card. Cue the Boss Battle, folks.
  • Undertale:
    • Flirting with Papyrus during your battle with him unlocks an optional dating sidequest. As Papyrus's never dated before, he consults a guidebook on what to do and ends up believing that you're madly in love with him even if you spend the entire date insulting him. Not only that, but his Large Ham personality leads to him treating the date as more like a competition to see who has the most "Dating Power". At the end of the date, he admits that he doesn't like you in that way and would prefer to just be friends.
    • The True Pacifist route includes a similar comedic "date" with Alphys at the local garbage dump. Being a bit Genre Savvy, she brings gifts intended to increase your Relationship Values with her, but they're all obviously intended for a different person, namely Undyne, who actually wrote the love letter Alphys mistakes you as the author of. The date turns into more of a pep talk session that's then unceremoniously interrupted by Undyne.
  • The World God Only Knows takes this to metafictional levels, featuring a Dating Sim otaku who captures escaped spirits by applying his knowledge of dating sims and their sub-genres.
  • A Yuria 100 Shiki omake features the Yuria 100 Shiki eroge. The first options all immediately lead to a sex scene except for the youngest female character, which immediately leads to the player getting arrested as a pedophile.

Special Mentions

  • Dating Sim elements are sometimes present in Western RPGs, especially when the player has some control and customization over the Player Character.
  • Flash games: a number of English-speaking fans have created stat-driven dating simulations using Flash. The "sim date" games emphasize gameplay over story or characterization. There are a number of games which use original characters and settings, both for male and female audiences. Others are based on popular series, such as Naruto.
  • The Dawnguard DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has shades of this in the form of Serana. Throughout the questline, when her past and lineage are slowly revealed, you can be polite and understanding in your dialogue, or you can be forceful and rude. While you can't marry her, if you're polite enough, you can convince her to cure herself of vampirism if you ally with the Dawnguard.
  • The awkward dialogue of Festival Days must be seen to be believed.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Oddly enough, Grand Theft Auto IV has this as a feature, complete with different places to go, activities to play, and different opinions with each and every girl. You can even meet them online on the internet and eventually have "hot coffee" with them. Your clothes, vehicle, driving skills, calling time, and amount of calling (if you call too much you're a stalker, but too little and they'd think you'd forgotten them) all count in to how they view you. They remember what you have and where you go to. Each girl also has a totally different personality and interest, along with benefits if they like you enough — dating the lawyer Kiki, for instance, will allow you to get out of a wanted level of up to three stars.

      A similar system is even used with some of the male characters. Although their activities are strictly of the guy friend variety, like drinking or going to a strip club, it's still the same basic feature, and you can get similar bonuses from being friends with them — your cousin Roman offers free cab rides, Little Jacob offers discounted weapons, etc. They also implement this feature directly into the storyline several times; you have two canonical girlfriends over the course of the game, while the ending you choose results in the death of either your dear cousin or your already mentally scarred girlfriend.
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also had this feature, albeit a stripped down earlier version. It doesn't tie too much into the story aside from stealing an access card from one of your girlfriends, though you do receive rewards like special outfits and access to their cars.
  • League of Legends held a temporary, client-based instance of this called Spirit Bonds during their 2020 "Spirit Blossom" lore event, centering around a Featureless Protagonist getting stuck the Spirit World of the game's mythology and encountering alternate versions of several playable champions on varying paths, most of them with a hint of romantic subtext. In order to advance the stories (and earn the in-game rewards for doing so), players would need to complete missions for the characters in the proper League game, including killing enough monsters, dealing tons of damage, avoiding death, etc.
  • Man Enough is a 1994 FMV game that involves exchanging cheesy pick-up lines with beautiful women.
  • Mass Effect 2: Legion, a robot, purchased a dating sim based on a blockbuster romance film between two different aliens. His score is 15 (hopeless), humorously contrasted with the rest of his game scores (that consist of a million sniper kills on a generic FPS, et cetera).
  • Mount & Blade is mainly a Strategy RPG, but it does have a rather complex courtship system that allows you to woo and possibly marry various ladies. Each lady has a certain personality that affects her opinion on certain matters (your character's Honor and Renown, tournament dedication, various bits of poetry you can recite, etc.). Of course, since the game takes place in a medieval setting, there's more to it than just winning her favor most of the time...
  • The happiness level in some versions of Pokémon has more than a shade of this, with your Pokémon reacting well to "gifts" like Potions and Stat Ups and badly to failures in your cooperative battles.
  • Sleeping Dogs (2012) has four women that you can go on a dating sidequest with. The reward for completing them is that collectibles will show up on your mini-map. The dates are all treated as flings rather than anything serious and two of the girls you date end up calling Wei out for his philandering ways.
  • Yandere Simulator plays like an inverted Dating Sim. Instead of trying to woo "Senpai" (because the main character's Cuteness Proximity prevents her from even talking to the guy), she instead has to kill or otherwise sabotage her rivals to prevent them from successfully dating Senpai. However, you do get to play more straightforward Dating Sim minigames if you decide to matchmake your rivals with other boys to keep them away from Senpai as the matchmaking process involves you coaching these boys on what to say and give to the rivals to win their heart.