1. Clannad

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Most visual novels based around romance have said romance as the end goal. You get to know the guy or girl of your choice, and once you do and the relationship starts…well, the game ends. Clannad takes a different approach. Sure, the two main characters fall in love and end up living together by the start of the game’s second half. But from then on, the story shifts to something that’s kind of unexpected: life. The characters have to deal with family issues, physical and emotional abuse, terminal illness, and death. There are elements of the supernatural/psychological strewn throughout, but all in all Clannad is a story grounded in reality. The visuals reflect this, having a sort of painted feel to them (though the character designs are definitely early 2000s). It’s not a dynamic action novel or a sappy romance, but it doesn’t need to be. Clannad is a story of life, and life has just as much suffering as it does joy.

~Donovan Bertch


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