Bishoujo is the Japanese word for "pretty girl," and bishoujo games are games in which a key part of the games appeal are the beautiful female characters drawn in a Japanese anime/manga style. Some bishoujo games (called "hentai" or "eroge") are pornographic in nature; however, this is not necessarily true, and many of the best are simple romantic games or nonsexual "dating simulations" in which players take on the role of a young man trying to meet the girl of his dreams. Many of them are commercial games sold in Japan and translated for distribution in America, while many others are free and designed by fans using tools like the Ren'Py game engine.
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Clannad, a commercial bishoujo game created by the Japanese game developer Key and published in English by the group Drama Club, is the highest-rated bishoujo game on the Visual Novel Database. It stars Okazaki Tomoya, a struggling high school student who is actually popular with the girls, even if he doesn't realise it yet. He meets a mysterious girl on the way to school one day, and it changes his life forever. There are multiple endings, and the game requires over 50 hours to play through in its entirety. It is a romantic comedy with no sexual content.
Ever 17 is the second most highly rated bishoujo game according to the Visual Novel Database. It was created by the game development company KID and is published in the United States by Hirameki International. The protagonist is trapped along with six other characters, including five lovely girls, in an underwater theme park named LeMU. The cast has only 120 hours to escape before they drown. The game is more serious and has been recommended for players aged 13 or 15 years or older by various rating groups. The player must escape the facility, discover the cause of the accident and fall in love.
Symphonic Rain, created by Kogado Studio and published in the United States by TLWiki, stars Chris, a 17-year-old student at the Piova Communal School of Music in Italy. He has long been out of touch with his old girlfriend, who he had to leave behind to attend the prestigious university. They maintain a weekly correspondence, but they have begun to grow apart as Chris sets out to find a female vocalist for his graduation examination. Whether Chris remains faithful to his childhood sweetheart or finds a new love in Italy is up to the player. As an added feature, the game includes rhythm game elements in which the player must simulate playing a musical instrument using the keyboard to pass some sections of the game.
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