I’ve heard the term “anime game,” used in a lot of ways. Often I hear it used derisively but people who tend to keep their distance. Other times, I hear it used to refer to games that are based on specific anime. But the term can just as easily apply to games that feature an anime aesthetic and likely come from Japanese developers. If you’ve had a few bad experiences, it can be easy to dismiss a ton of titles based on their look alone. I think you might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, though.
It’s not that I don’t understand the argument against anime games, though. There are a lot of games based on anime shows or movies that feel like heartless cash grabs than fully realized experiences. Often, the story modes in these games are retreads of the story that was told in the show but worse. A surprising amount of the time, anime-based games are arena fighters. It doesn’t take long for them to grow tiresome and it makes sense for people to write them off the same way they write off video games based on movies.
Video games that feature the anime aesthetic can offer a lot, though, and there are plenty of examples of excellent anime games. Part of the reason they can be so great is because the way they are drawn means they age extraordinarily well, and their combat can be highly stylized. If you throw realism out the window, there are a lot of over-the-top experiences you can enjoy.
The other thing to keep in mind that anime is more a style than a genre. It also isn’t necessary for games with an anime appearance to come from Japan. This is the case for the psychological horror game, Doki Doki Literature Club! , which plays with the player’s expectations. It looks exactly like a typical visual novel full of fanservice which makes it a compelling case against writing off a game for the aesthetic. Few games are as unsettling as this one.
The games also come with a lot of different styles of gameplay, too. Games like Dragon Ball FighterZ or Guilty Gear are some of the best in the fighting game genre. In terms of roleplaying games, anime games are some of the most beloved. This has been the case for decades. Visual novels, which are interactive stories, overwhelmingly feature anime-style art. It’s also a genre that is underrepresented in the west.
All in all, these games are varied and many of the best designed games of all time share this look. Sure, a lot of them might have cheesy dialogue, but there’s often a good story at the core. If you can look past all the cash grabs, which are also present in more realistic games, and can avoid any fan service that makes you uncomfortable, there are some absolute treasures for you to discover. So go on ahead! Find an anime game that works for you. There are so many good ones you might have missed.