Dating sims have been around since the very early days of video gaming. Around 1992, to be precise, when the adult-themed game Dōkyūsei was released in Japan.
The plot of Dōkyūsei involved walking around a town and trying to chat up various girls the (male) protagonist happens to meet. The aim of the game was to, well, have sex with them, basically. And that’s the format that dating sims have followed ever since.
However, over the years that basic template has given rise to a whole host of absolutely bizarre variations, which are quite entertaining in their own right. From John Cena to KFC, here are seven of the most genuinely baffling dating sim games we could find..
1. I Love You, Colonel Sanders!
One of the weirdest and wackiest dating sims games to ever exist has to be I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger-Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator. Commissioned by the restaurant chain KFC themselves, I Love You, Colonel Sanders! was a tongue in cheek parody of the conventional dating sim genre. The primary objective is to develop a romantic relationship with a fictionalised version of KFC’s founder Colonel Sanders, portrayed as an attractive classmate at a cooking school.
Developed by Psyop, the game takes place over a three-day semester at the fictional University of Cooking School: Academy for Learning, where the player character is studying to become a chef. The player is presented with dialogue choices that present opportunities to win Sanders’ favour, as well as interact with the other characters in the story. Despite receiving a lukewarm reception from critics, I Love You, Colonel Sanders! has gone on to become a bizarre cult favourite with gamers around the world.
I Love You, Colonel Sanders! is available on Steam.
2. Jurassic Heart
Jurassic Heart is a truly peculiar, Japanese-style pulse-pounding dating simulator game named after the 1993 sci-fi film Jurassic Park. The dinosaur lovefest was created by Hima and developed by Tyrano Script, giving players the chance to operate as a young woman named Buttplu (yes, really) who is entering into a blossoming romance with a Taira, a talented ukulele player.
Trying to win their heart, the aim is to develop the game enough to have five romanceable characters whilst managing the complex emotions of Taira. Taking inspiration from Hatoful Boyfriend, Buttplu meets up with their best friend Taira-Kun, who just so happens to be a shy tyrannosaurus rex. When Buttplu broke Taira-kun’s ukulele, she tries to purchase a new one but as time moves forward, they start to feel a romantic spark between the two of them. It really is very strange.
Jurassic Heart is available to play at Jay is Games.
3. Hatoful Boyfriend
Standing tall as one of the most known notoriously strange dating sim games to exist, Hatoful Boyfriend has quite the reputation. Released in 2011, the player gets the role of a human named Hiyoko Tosaka who is attending a school for birds. Because why not?
In an attempt to find love, players can end up with several different endings after chatting with birds of every feather, choosing an elective class like art, English or gym to help raise your character stats or alternatively build their own nest of intrigue within the St. PigeoNation’s Institute. Recently, fans everywhere were saddened by the news that the game is going to delisted across iOS, Android and PlayStation.
4. Caging Me Softly
If you’ve ever wanted to date Nicolas Cage – and who doesn’t – then Caging Me Softly is definitely for you. Released back in 2015, this dating gem gives its players (and those secretly in love with the Hollywood actor) a chance to experience Nicolas Cage in all his radiant glory. Taking you on a journey of love and most definitely fantasy, this game will have you ready to book a one way ticket to Hollywood in an attempt to be Mrs. Cage (hint: be very careful what you say about his face)/
Caging Me Softly is avaliable for download here.
5. John Cena’s Sexy High School Adventure
John Cena’s Sexy High School Adventure was a short parody of visual novels involving John Cena created in 2014 for his ‘John Cena Jam’ on itch.io. The exciting dating sim/RPG game took place in a high school setting, where all the characters you date are John Cena. The non-profit parody created by Will and Migoy contains seven endings. The plot sees Fucco-san attempt to become one of the popular kids in his new school after being bullied. Ahead of prom, he’s running against the clock and seeks the help of the one and only John Cena. It’s very, very silly.
John Cena’s Sexy High School Adventure is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. You can download the game here.
6. Purrfect Date
Last but by no means least, Purrfect Date is the perfect combination between a visual novel, a dating simulator, and a dark British comedy. Created by Oliver Hindle and Ruby-Mae Roberts, the game allows you to take on the role of a human researcher arriving on Cat Island to assist a mysterious scientist named Professor Pawpur. As the newest arrival, you get the chance to date cats (um, OK) and uncover the dark secrets of the mysterious island.
Although romancing cats, balancing your stats and carrying out your research into the dark and questionable history of the island are the main missions of the game, it also exploring emotional and moral themes, too.
Using their life and relationship as inspiration for the game, both Oliver and Ruby-Mae wanted to engage players by making the romance aspect of falling in love with cats the aim. “This game is basically our relationship. There are so many of our personalities in there – lots of jokes and loving insults. The sphynx cat is quite helpless in her vanity. She is very much me on a bad day. The game is an expression of our love for each other” Ruby-Mae told the Guardian back in 2018.
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