There are more genres of video games available to us today. Due to this, it’s tough for players to see what games they want to play extensively. It’s hard to choose which games to try with the quagmire of games coming out every yearly quarter. The sequels and new IPs also make the simple task of choosing a game to play tough. Thus, it comes to mind that they might be open to other genres of games that are available. Maybe they want to experiment and diversify their game libraries. Enter visual novel games, one of the—if not the most—interesting types of game storytelling you’ll ever see.
In this article, we’ll list down our picks for the top 20 visual novel games available. These titles will offer varying stories that will make you feel certain things. If you’re interested in experiencing something new, these games will give you just that.
Best Visual Novel Games
1.) Doki Doki Literature Club
Let’s start with the most obvious game of the bunch and one of the most popular visual novel games to come out in 2017. Doki Doki Literature Club, or DDLC for short, is a VN created by Team Salvato for Windows, macOS, and Linux. The game took two years to make and was primarily created to be similar enough to other VNs out there. Well, that and combined with a Dating Sim type of gameplay with the various poetry minigames.
However, that’s just the surface level of things as there’s a whole lot more to the game than it seems. Underneath the cutesy characters and lighthearted premise lies a deeper story that’s told in various methods. There are various ways to learn the story, from trawling the game files to examining the various poems the characters create.
This, alongside the endearing characters, allowed DDLC to grow from a quirky VN into the sensation it is today. However, don’t let this monologue be the only thing that you’ll hear about the game. Go and download the game on Steam now to experience it.
Doki Doki Literature Club is available to download on Steam for free. Players can also pay to buy the Fan Pack if they wish to support the developers.
2.) The Science Adventure Visual Novel Series
The Science Adventure visual novel series might not be familiar to some people here. However, you might know a particular entry in this series that goes by the name of Steins;Gate.
The Science Adventure Series takes place within a single universe. All of the entries in the series go into the application of various scientific or fictional concepts. An example of this would be Steins;Gate where protagonist Rintaro Okabe accidentally invents Time Travel. Other games in the series explore scientific themes as well, in addition to the traditional Dating Sim choice elements.
The main entries for the series are as follows:
The first of the series and one that deals with delusions. The story follows Takumi Nishijo, a shut-in who is held in suspicion by the police due to the New Gen Murders. He then gets involved with several people who are investigating the murders to bring them to justice. Gameplay-wise, there’s something called the Delusion Trigger system, and it allows players to choose between positive and negative Delusions to affect the game’s ending.
The second entry deals with time travel. The protagonist, Rintaro Okabe, managed to figure out time travel and uses it to change the future. However, said changes start to do various unintended effects. Similar to Chaos;Head, the game has the Phone Trigger system, which gives players the ability to affect the game’s timeline and ending by either ignoring the call or answering and choosing specific options.
The 3rd entry of the Visual Novel series and the one that deals with robotics and AI. The VN follows the story of multiple characters, with the main one being Kaito Yashio. Gameplay-wise, it’s similar to a typical Visual Novel, though the VN does have the same overarching plot that the other games in the series have.
Other than these games, there is also the sequels Chaos;Child, Steins;Gate 0, and Robotics;Notes DaSH. There are also several other side games and a new Steins;Gate sequel.
Steins;Gate, Chaos;Child, Robotics;Notes, and their sequels are available on Steam. The games are also available on iOS, Android, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
3.) Ace Attorney Series
Now if you want to try VN storytelling with great gameplay, then you want to try the Ace Attorney Series. For those who haven’t heard about the Ace Attorney Series, you’re in for a treat.
The Ace Attorney Series started with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, released in 2001. After that, several Ace Attorney games came out over the years, each with its own plot and story. They range from the game’s original trilogy to the various spinoffs that came up over the years.
The games all revolve around Phoenix Wright, a defense lawyer who usually defends individuals with fantastical crimes. That and the anime stereotype of a lawyer with the usual fantasy courtroom drama. Those include the rules as well.
So you have the recipe of a dramatic story, as well as comedy, what else is on the Phoenix Wright series? Well, it’s the lawyer and courtroom gameplay. As Phoenix, your job is to look for evidence to exonerate a defendant in the eyes of the court. When presenting evidence, you should present them as clearly as possible. The combination of visual novel storytelling with detective and lawyer gameplay is incredibly addicting.
If you want to experience the series’ main trilogy, they’re all available on Steam. They’re also available on the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
4.) Va-11 Hall-A: A Cyberpunk Bartender Action
Next up on the list is near and dear to a lot of indie gamer’s hearts. Va-11 Hall-A.
The game isn’t much spec-wise. It’s just around 2 to 300 MB so it won’t take that much space on your PC. The game’s primarily made from pixel art, and the only thing that you do is to mix drinks in a bar for your customers. However, the game shines in terms of its storytelling.
Various characters that go into the bar to talk to Jill, your character, about their struggles in life. The game has Jill interact with the people that come in to have a quick drink. They talk about their daily lives at times, other times they just want to be left alone. Maybe that person over there just wants a stiff drink? Perhaps they want someone to talk to. That’s the entire premise of Va-11 Hall-A, and by GOD it’s a good premise. Thankfully, the game delivers on its premise perfectly.
Combine that with great pixel art and some banger soundtracks, and you have indie game visual novel perfection. All in all, just play Va-11 Hall-A and experience the nightlife it offers. Trust me, you’ll thank us for it.
Va-11 Hall-A: A Cyberpunk Bartender Action is available on Steam. It’s also available on the PS4, PS Vita, and Nintendo Switch.
5.) World End Syndrome
Next up on the list is World End Syndrome, made by Arc System Works. If you’ve heard of Arc System Works, it’s usually through their numerous fighting game franchises. If you want to be more specific, we’re talking about Blazblue, Guilty Gear, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH, and Arcana Heart. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t branch out to other genres, which is what they did when they made World End Syndrome.
The game’s story starts pretty normally for a visual novel. Our protagonist, who is unnamed for plot reasons, moves to Mihate Town to escape his past. He enrolls at Mihate High School in the hopes to do so, but one of the students dies while he was settling into the town and making new friends.
Due to this, the protagonist is swept in the mystery of Mihate Town, as well as several strings of weird incidents that happen aruond him. Don’t fret, though; he eventually gets better, and the romance routes in the game aren’t forced. Overall, the game is for those who want a relaxing time to just enjoy mystery and romantic shenanigans.
World End Syndrome is available on the Nintendo Switch and the PS4.
6.) Dies Irae
For those that want Battle Opera with Nazis, they might want to check Dies Irae. It is a full-on shonen treat for people that like the genre. It’s definitely one that you’ll sink hours into
The story of Dies Irae follows Ren Fujii, who was hospitalized for two months after a fight with his best friend. When he was released, all Ren wanted was to have a normal life. However, the appearance of Nazis in Ren’s hometown threatens that normality.
The Nazis in question are from the Longinus Dreizehn Orden or the Order of the 13 Lances, and they are supernatural harbingers of the end of the world. They were summoned by Nazi officers back in World War 2 while the Red Army attacked Berlin. As for their intentions in the city, well, it’s up to our protagonist Ren to find out.
All in all, Dies Irae has a great plot that will have you hooked from the start. The characters are incredibly well-rounded, and there are a lot of story paths to take. It’s gonna take a while for players of the VN to fully complete it as it has upwards of 50 hours of story. But it’s all worth it, and you will be satisfied with this purchase.
The initial route of Dies Irae can be played on Steam for the low, low price of zero dollars. However, you need to purchase the game’s DLC if you want to go through the routes of all four heroines.
7.) Danganronpa Series
When it comes to murder mystery visual novel games that started in Japan, the Danganronpa series is one of the first IPs to show up in many lists. The franchise consists of three main titles:
- Trigger Happy Havoc
- Goodbye Despair
- Killing Harmony
Each of these three games has the same premise. Several students are trapped by Monokuma, a demented black-and-white teddy bear, or one of his relatives to their school. They are then forced to kill each other, but these murders come with a twist. Once a kill was committed, everyone needs to try and figure out who the culprit is. If the culprit is found, they dies and everyone else lives. If they’re not discovered, then everyone else dies and the culprit lives. It’s… harsh, to say the least. However, the gameplay is incredibly fun. It is also similar to the Phoenix Wright games, adding a lot to the gameplay.
In addition to that, other gameplay beats help break the monotony. In the debate to find the killer, minigames will happen from time to time to keep players on their toes. However, the main draw to the series is the story and characterization of the various individuals you meet along the way. This also includes the main character, which is a nice change of pace from the other entries in this list.
In addition to the main games, there are also four spin-off titles. These include Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. Other than that, there are compilations, manga, novels, and even two anime made about the game. But we’re here to talk about the games, so that’s another topic for another article.
Danganronpa’s full series is available on Steam. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is also available on the same platform.
8.) Grisaia Series
Next up on the list is the Grisaia Series, and this is one of the more confusing titles you will play if you’re not paying attention. Still, it’s one of the best romance VNs on this list that features a big banger of a plot.
The Grisaia Series is about Yuuji Kizami, a new enrollee at Mihama Academy who wants to live a normal life. And to be fair, he does get that normal life of his if you count out his side “Job.” In addition to that, he also meets people who get close to him while learning about his past.
The Grisaia series has the main trilogy of visual novels:
- Kajitsu (Fruit of Grisaia)
- Meikyuu (Labyrinth of Grisaia)
- Rakuen (Eden of Grisaia)
All of these VNs deal with the interactions between Yuuji and the women around him. Meikyuu adds in a narrative about Yuuji’s past before he enrolled at Mihama Academy. Lastly, Rakuen is a direct sequel to Meikyuu that deals with the consequences of Yuuji’s past. Due to this, there’s a lot of action as well as scenes of Yuuji and his friends interacting and talking about said past.
If you’re looking for a good and lengthy story to sink your teeth into, then you might want to pick up the Grisaia Series.
The Grisaia Series titles are available on Steam. All the games can be bought on their own, but there are bundles as well.
9.) Cinderella Phenomenon
Next up on the list is Cinderella Phenomenon. What makes this title interesting is that it popped out of nowhere to claim the hearts of a lot of people
Now, Cinderella’s tale is known to a lot of people. However, the visual novel adds a few twists. As for what these twists are?
Our protagonist is a princess who lost her mother four years ago in a great war. She’s cursed with an inverse of the Cinderella Fairytale. Due to this, she must now do three good deeds before she can go back to her former life. Along the way, she meets five men, all of which are also cursed with a Fairytale. Now due to this being an Otome game, you can choose to romance one of the men in question. But if you’re going that route, you’re gonna need to do a lot more than do three good deeds. That in itself is already difficult for our intrepid heroine.
If you’re looking for a great VN with some slice of Dating Sim, then don’t miss out on Cinderella Phenomenon. This game is downloadable on Steam for free.
If you’re a fan of Type-Moon, you probably heard of the Fate series. However, the Fate Series isn’t the only thing that Type-Moon released back in the day. Enter Tsukihime.
Tsukihime is an earlier entry by Type-Moon, released even earlier than Fate/Stay Night. And while it’s premise is still counted in the wider Type-Moon universe, it’s still its own game. Case in point, the visual novel deals with vampires, psychic powers, and the church. Yes, the church.
Tsukihime tells the story of Shiki Tohno, an… ordinary high school boy who encounters a blonde-haired woman one night. After a fainting spell, he wakes up only to find the said woman slashed to bits by him. He goes back home in a hurry to get away from the crime. However, he met her again the next day, with her stating that he has to take responsibility for what he did. As for what she wants? She wants him to help her in hunting down renegade vampires.
Overall, Tsukihime is a great visual novel with a lot of lore that lore junkies will gladly lap up. It also has its routes with endings to said routes as well. Last but not the least, the game is a pretty long one, so it’s great for those who want to chill and savor a game to its fullest. In addition to this, there’s also a remake announced back in New Year’s Eve for the Nintendo Switch and PS4. The Remake will be released in Summer 2021.
Tsukihime, like Fate/Stay Night, is a game that came out long ago. Thus, there’s no longer any official way to buy it. However, you can download a translated version of the game for free here.
11.) When They Cry Series
Next up on the list is the When They Cry series. Overall, the series deserves the PG rating that it has in spades. There are some VN’s on this list that also has this rating, but this one takes the cake.
The series is into three parts, each with its supernatural murder mystery. Each of these parts is separated into different VNs, with each VN covering a story arc for that part of the series. They’re Higurashi, Umineko, and Ciconia. Higurashi and Umineko are already finished, with Ciconia being the current project for the studio.
For spoiler reasons, we won’t be getting into the minutiae of the series’ plot. Do note, though, that some of the characters die and mysteriously come back to life in the next game. But don’t worry, they’ll be explained in the game’s plot.
Overall, if you’re looking for murder mystery with a supernatural spin and a LOT of cute and psycho characters, then go for When They Cry. Trust us, it’s a good romp.
The entire series is available on Steam.
12.) Muv-Luv Series
Now for a classic that evolved into an absolute bombshell of a VN. The Muv-Luv series is one that’s near and dear to the hearts of many VN enthusiasts. Not only because of the incredibly spicy scenes, but also due to its plot and character development.
The series is divided into a trilogy: Muv-Luv Extra, Muv-Luv Unlimited, and Muv-Luv Alternative. Each of these stories follows along with a plot, with several additions to the overall narrative added to each entry.
For example, without any spoilers, the Muv-Luv Extra is a RomCom Visual Novel with added Mecha. The 2nd entry, Muv-Luv Unlimited is that, plus an alien war in a parallel world. And finally, Muv-Luv Alternative is all of these plus a Time Loop. Yes, it sounds weird, but trust us when we say that the plot makes sense if you play the games.
Overall, the Muv-Luv series is a series that any Visual Novel lover doesn’t want to miss. One thing to note is that the entire series is available on Steam. But only Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv alternatives are there. This is because The first two games are fused into one game, so you’re pretty golden on that part.
The Muv-Luv Triple Threat bundle containing all the games is available on Steam.
13.) Fate/Stay Night
What can we say about Fate/Stay Night that hasn’t been said already? The visual novel has been fan translated many times already. Also, it is one of the most famous visual novel games ever. If you haven’t played this yet, then you need to do so if you want to start your VN journey.
The story of Fate/Stay Night begins with Emiya Shirou, a third-rate magus who wanted to be a hero. Though he lived an ordinary life at that point, he will be dragged to the Holy Grail War, a battle royale between Masters and their Servants for the Holy Grail. Servants are heroes summoned from the Throne of Heroes. A place where Heroes from all across humanity’s eras go after their deeds is immortalized.
Thus, with his Servant Saber by his side, and with a little luck, he fights in the Grail War.
This is a generalization of the entire visual novel, and anything more said would be spoiler territory. There are a lot of things that are in the visual novels that are used in the wider Fate universe. Some of them are incredibly esoteric, and others the developers and writers already handwaved. But all in all, the VN still holds out to this day as one of the best VN’s out there.
Fate/Stay Night or its remake, Fate/Stay Night Realta Nua, are not available on Steam, unfortunately.
Now that you have an idea of what the Fate Series is about, it’s time to talk about Fate/Extra. It is another entry from the Fate series but is not related to the franchise’s main universe. However, it still has several connections to it in one form or the other. The premise of the game still revolves around the Holy Grail War. However, there are a few modifications.
For one, the War is now on the Moon. Next, participants have to HACK to join the war. And lastly, there are loads more participants when compared to the original Grail War. You’re one of those participants. However, similar to the original VN, you’re way over your head. Good thing that you have the choice to pick three powerful Servants to help you win this War, eh?
The game is still a visual novel by its nature, and a lot of the events happening in the game usually follows the average visual novel. However, Extra also has the added feature of actually being an RPG. Each week, you fight an enemy boss or Servant in a 1v1 fight. Your objective is to get strong enough to fight the boss, learn who they are, and defeat them.
The game’s combat functions similarly to rock, paper, scissors. While it’s simple, it’s deceptively complicated. You and the enemy can do six moves per turn. However, the enemy’s moves are hidden from you, so you have to guess what move they will make and counter accordingly. To add to the complication, you and your servant have skills that you can use to even the fray.
Overall, it’s a great visual novel and tactical RPG. It is one of the best entries in the whole Fate Franchise. It is more than worth the purchase.
CLANNAD is the story of Oozaki Tomoya, who is a delinquent. Everyone else in his school is focusing on their studies while he gets into trouble with fellow delinquent Youhei. However, he’s still miserable as he feels like he’s not doing anything in his life. In comes Nagisa Furukawa.
After that meeting, Tomoya started to open up more with other people. This is particularly due to helping Nagisa re-establish the Drama Club. He also interacts more with his classmates, including several other girls who know him and eventually like him. This is where the dating sim elements come in because he can choose which of the girls he’s going to end up with.
Each of the girls in the game has their struggles that Tomoya will learn about and eventually confront. Each of these struggles is equally heartbreaking in their own right that will move you to tears. If you’re looking for a good VN with emotional storytelling, then get CLANNAD. You won’t regret it.
CLANNAD is available on Steam. You can also get the CLANNAD bundle that has the original game, plus side stories as well.
16.) Coming of Age Collection
Next up and following the choice-based dating sim gameplay that VNs have is the Coming of Age Collection. This collection is made up of three visual novel titles created by Pulltop and published by MoeNovel.
- If My Heart Had Wings
- A Sky Full of Stars
- Adventure of a Lifetime
All three VNs are great in terms of storytelling. They have awesome and relatable characters and quite frankly, some of the cutest girls on this list. They can range from cutie pies Kotori and Sora to childhood friend Chisa. Expect a whole lot of sugar on these games as they’re made to warm the heart.
The Coming of Age Collection is available right now on Steam. Individual games can also be purchased on their own.
17.) Toradora Portable
Now there are a lot of people in the anime community that know of Toradora. After all, it’s an anime classic and one of the best rom-com anime that ever came out. However, it might be a surprise to some, but there’s a VN of Toradora that came out of Japan.
Introducing Toradora Portable for the PSP. Now, before you rag onto us about the fact that it’s just released on Japan and the PSP, do note that emulators exist. That and the game also has a fan translation that stays faithful to the original Japanese game.
The game is faithful to the original anime up to a point. As for why we say up to a point, it’s because the game is a dating sim in addition to a visual novel. Ryuuji can still romance Taiga, following the original anime and manga. However, he can also go and romance other characters in the series as well. If you look closely and follow a route, you can get a funny threesome ending. In addition to that route, there’s also the Yasuko Route, who, if you can still recall, is Ryuuji’s mother.
Still, the visual novel game is a blast and has a lot of comedy and romantic scenes befitting of a rom-com. You’ll need a PSP Emulator if you wish to play this game on your computer. PPSSPP is what we recommend. Also, there’s a lot of ROM websites with Toradora Portable already patched.
18.) Tiny Bunny
Next on the list is a little horror visual novel by the name of Tiny Bunny. Don’t let the name fool you: it’s very, very unsettling to play.
The game is set in a remote region in Siberia and is planned to be five episodes long. For now, we’re on the game’s first episode, with the focus being on 12-year-old Anton and his family. Times in the family are tough, with his father constantly being fired and in constant conflict with his mother. Anton’s mother, not wanting to upset the children, decides to keep them calm through the use of drugs. This is yet another aspect of horror here, but it’s is not the only thing that makes this game horrifying.
Throughout your playthrough, you’ll see hallucinations and other weird phenomena that’ll trick Anton’s senses. It’s going to be up to you to navigate through all that and hope for the best. Although, given that the game is in its first episode, it remains to be seen how the story will go.
Tiny Bunny is available for free on Steam.
19.) Planetarian ~ The Reverie of a Little Planet ~
This is another tearjerker anime in the vein of CLANNAD. Well, that’s clearly a given since it’s made by the same people. This one though is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic wasteland where acid rain is frequent. That, and most of humanity is dead. Yikes.
Our main character is a junker who goes inside ruined cities to search for usable material. He proceeds to take shelter in an abandoned planetarium for the night.
For one, there’s someone there, a robot girl by the name of Yumemi Hoshino. Hoshino is one of the staff members of the Planetarium. However, she doesn’t seem to realize that the world went to the crapper. She just keeps on waiting for the staff members to return and restart the Planetarium again.
Thus, she enlists the junker to help in fixing up the Planetarium’s broken projector. Along the way, stuff happens that we can’t discuss in detail because it’ll spoil the VN’s plot. Rest assured, though, that it’s as much of a tearjerker as CLANNAD, which is why we recommend bringing tissues when you play these visual novel games.
Planetarian ~ The Reverie of a Little Planet is available on Steam.
20.) Demonbane Series
The last entry in our best visual novel games list, but not least, is the Demonbane series created by Nitroplus.
The Demonbane Series premise is pretty unique. In the part that it’s a combination of magic, eldritch, mecha, and science plot that was executed incredibly well. The VN tells the story of Kurou Daijuuji, a detective living in Arkham City down to his luck. He was then commissioned to look for a grimoire by the head of the Hadou Group. Which he did find, in the form of a girl named Al-Azif.
They were then attacked by the Black Lodge Syndicate, a group of sorcerers who wish to destroy the world. While being pursued, Al-Azif creates a contract with Kurou, allowing him to use magic. Later on, in the Visual Novel, he also gains the ability to use Demonbane, a mecha that only Al-Azif’s wielder can use.
And that’s the entire plot of the series. It’s shonen as all hell that features impeccable storytelling. The series has two main entries that you can try:
- Zanma Taisei Demonbane (Deus Machina Demonbane in English Release)
- Kishin Hishou Demonbane (Flight of the Machine God, Demonbane), the sequel for the first game
Both are incredibly well polished Visual Novels of the shonen genre. Though there might be some spicy scenes there, as per usual with Japanese VNs, the main draw is the shonen. And by God, there’s a lot of shonen to get into here. If you’re looking for a good mecha visual novel game with magic and eldritch god stuff, Demonbane is for you.
What Are Visual Novel Games?
Visual novel games are fiction books in video game form. They usually have a text-based story and narrative style that players can influence their choices. This level of interactivity can also be enhanced by either original sprites and/or artwork. The most popular visual noves use anime-esque art, but other titles have also used live-action stills or video. Usually, visual novel games are shortened to VNs by the audience.
What Makes a Good Visual Novel?
Several things make a good visual novel game. However, putting them all into a list will take a long time due to the enormity of the genre. So instead, we need to take a look at four things that good visual novels have in spades.
This is essential not only in visual novel games but on any kind of media in general. For one, how exactly are you enticing someone to take a chance on what you created without a good storyline? You can have the best gameplay in the world, but without a good story, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The Doom series is a special exception to the case, but that’s not the point we’re trying to make here.
Long story short: you need to have a good story in your game, or else you’re screwed. This is incredibly important for visual novels as this is their main drawing point. After all, VNs are usually text-based with incredible graphics and choices unless they have other types of gameplay. Thus, not nailing the story or the graphics is tantamount to a death sentence for a visual novel.
If you’re a fan of games with amazing plots and twists, here is our list of the best video game stories.
In terms of graphics, or more importantly, the sprites of your Visual Novel games, a few things need to be considered.
For one, the visual aspect of your VN should be taken into account. Maybe you’re looking for panoramic vistas for various areas to provide greater emotional impact to a scene. Or perhaps you want a more foreboding landscape to underscore the threat of the enemy in front of the protagonist.
Other than that, you need to take into account the appearances of your characters. You need your characters to fit whatever their role is in the visual novel. There’s also a lot of drama in subverting various areas in terms of appearance, that’s true. However, care must be shown by the game makers in making sure that the characters also fit in the story. The worst thing you can do is to create a good plot with characters that don’t fit in.
The right kind of aural stimulation can turn a good scene into a great one, and this fact makes music a point of consideration to developers. For one, good music is universal in all genres and media. You honestly can’t overlook the effect of good music on a lot of things.
This is the case with Doki Doki Literature Club. The music is cutesy and light in the initial parts of the game, which is something you’d expect from a dating sim. When the second arc comes around, the music starts to get a bit weirder. Parts of it start to drone slightly, and there are times when there’s no music at all. This sudden change in tone helps drive home the feel the game is trying to convey to its players.
There are other factors to take into account when talking about how good a visual novel is. There’s their miscellaneous gameplay: what makes the game interesting to play overall? In DDLC’s case, it would be the game’s twist and turns as well as the poetry minigame. In Steins;Gate, it would be the Phone Trigger system. Meanwhile, Va-11 Hall-A is a straight-up bar simulator slash visual novel-slash-dating sim.
Overall, the game’s uniqueness is another factor to take into account in deciding what visual novel to play for some. The little things will create an entirely unique experience that you won’t experience in other titles of the same genre. It’s these seemingly small things that separate the men from the boys in the genre.