Which Mystic Messenger Route Is The Best? Rating Yoosung’s Route, Jumin’s Route, 707’s Route, & Zen’s Route

If you read all of my blog posts, you know that I love the Japanese game style known as otome. And, as I recently added a new “Gaming” category to my blog, this is a doubly-appropriate post to continue the dialogue I started with my last otome post.

When I originally wrote my post “The Best Otome Games For The iPhone,” I included Mystic Messenger, but it was the only otome game I hadn’t actually played. Truth be told, I got sick of feeling out of the loop on sites like Tumblr and Etsy, where Mystic Messenger often showed up in my search results.

I’ll be real with y’all: Mystic Messenger is ADDICTIVE. So, to feel more productive while I play, I’ve set an ambitious goal for myself….I am going to play four of the Mystic Messenger routes and share my opinions on this blog. My goal is to get all of the good endings so I can judge them fairly against one another. Wish me luck in this tempestuous ordeal!

But before we get too deep into my opinions on the game, I’m going to start us off with a warning: spoilers lay ahead! And, because I am writing each section of the post as I complete each route, they may seem a bit disconnected in style and tone. I will try to write as best as I can, but bear with me!

What Is Mystic Messenger?

If you already know what Mystic Messenger is, feel free to skip this section! But for those of you who might be new to the game, Mystic Messenger is an otome game downloaded as a smartphone app. The premise circles around a mysterious stranger leading you to the apartment of Rika, the deceased founder of the fundraising organization RFA. After being led to the apartment, you wind up in a group chat with the other members of RFA, one of whom will later become your love interest. Because of the confidentiality of the organization, you can’t leave. Instead, you choose to take on party-planning responsibilities and do the job that Rika used to do. Along the way, you’ll discover more about the mysterious hacker that led you to Rika’s apartment and to RFA.

The Best Mystic Messenger Route*

*Spoilers ahead!

I am not including Jaehee’s route or either of the Another Story routes. I hope to add Another Story to this post (or a separate post) once I play them later! Also, I will be rating each of the routes in the order that I play them, not in order of preference! You’ll just have to read the whole blog post if you want to know which route was my favorite πŸ˜‰


Yoosung is a college student addicted to playing a video game called LOLOL. He’s a little ray of sunshine and he honestly reminds me of a Golden Retriever. That’s probably how I ended up on his route without trying, the very first time I ever played the game! It’s impossible not to smile over Yoosung’s sweet comments. From the very beginning, he harbors so much care for MC, Rika, and the rest of the members of RFA. He is also very loyal and determined. Personality-wise, Yoosung reminds me a lot of Hinata from Haikyuu!!

Yoosung’s route is best summed up in two words: character development. As MC bonds with Yoosung, he moves through the grieving process until he eventually transforms from a game-addicted slacker to a motivated future veterinarian. This involves his struggle to differentiate MC from Rika in his mind. Unfortunately, this character development is often referred to (especially by Zen) in terms of toxic masculinity — i.e. Yoosung is “becoming a man.” I wrote this off as the product of the cultural differences between Korea and the U.S., but I can’t pretend it didn’t bother me.

Honestly, Yoosung is a precious cinnamon roll whose cheeks I would like to squish. I love Yoosung, which is how I ended up with so many hearts for him. Admittedly, I was a bit upset at winding up on his route at first, since he is definitely the most immature of the members of RFA at the beginning of the game. But, by the end, I don’t think you can say that’s true anymore. Yoosung’s character development was so much fun to watch (I felt like a proud momma!), and this romance was an adorably chaste slow-burn that gave me those warm-and-fuzzy “hands brushing in a Regency-era film” vibes.

To summarize…

The things I really enjoyed about this route were:

  • Yoosung’s character development *chef’s kiss*
  • Yoosung’s inexperience with girls, which led to some wholesome moments
  • The sweet slow-burn of anticipation leading up to Yoosung meeting MC in person
  • Feeling really involved in the story, especially when it came to Yoosung kicking his game addiction
  • Learning more about Rika as a person
  • Finding out more about the hackers

The things I did NOT like about this route were:

  • This route is definitely more “cute” than “steaming hot.” This wasn’t something I disliked, per se, but if you’re craving more than a kiss, this is not the route for you
  • There are fewer art scenes in this route than other routes
  • Because all the other characters are young professionals, it’s hard to resonate with Yoosung being a college student , especially coming into the game as an older player
  • Seven, who I normally really like, MERCILESSLY teases Yoosung in this route, and it gets old fast
  • Toxic masculinity, especially coming from Zen
  • The ending will literally shatter your heart into a million pieces…and that’s all I’ll say about it

Some tips for getting the good ending on Yoosung’s route are:

  • Support Yoosung’s game-playing to an extent, but encourage him not to let it take over his life
  • Be on Yoosung’s side when he’s teased by 707 and other members of RFA
  • Join Yoosung in hating on V at every chance you get
  • Do not let him confuse you with Rika or use you as a replacement for her (this is most important!!)
  • Obviously, be nice to him, but don’t treat him like a puppy or a baby; he wants to be viewed as a mature young man
Yoosung x MC Good Ending Continued | Wiki | Mystic Messenger Amino


Jumin Han, a.k.a. the OG Cat Daddy, is the wealthy heir to C&R Corporation. The rest of the group makes fun of him for his robotic, workaholic tendencies, his privileged childhood, and his obsession over his treasured Persian cat, Elizabeth the 3rd. As you progress along Jumin’s route, you gradually draw him out of his shell, until years of repressed emotions bubble to the surface. This creates a dark twist in the story, which you must overcome in order to get your happy ending…a proposal at the final RFA party!

Before I go any further, I also wanted to mention that this route could be extremely triggering to anyone who has dealt with a toxic or abusive relationship in the past. So could my description of it, so tread lightly!

First thing’s first: Jumin’s route is NOT the route to choose if you are interested in learning more about the hackers or what happened with Rika. There is virtually zero backstory in this route, except for that which relates to Jumin’s relationship with Rika. And, while you do follow Seven and Yoosung to the hacker’s HQ, you’re left with an unsatisfying and ambiguous conclusion.

Now, let’s talk about the romance…

I have a soft spot for Jumin (and, TBH, any guy who treats his pet like a princess), so this was a route I really looked forward to playing. Unfortunately, I don’t think Jumin’s route does him justice. He makes some choices that are, IMO, completely out-of-character, such as practically imprisoning MC in his apartment. This plot point honestly threw me for a loop and made it difficult to enjoy the super-satisfying and romantic ending.

Even so, I interpreted these problems as a product of Jumin’s environment and unstable childhood (as far as relationships went). As someone who has also dealt with childhood trauma, I can understand the importance of standing by your partner as they heal, even when they do and say things that aren’t healthy. Jumin is learning how to be in a healthy relationship through MC — and while it’s certainly not your partner’s responsibility to “heal” you, I truly believe that interpersonal trauma can only be healed through satisfying interpersonal relationships.

On a different note, I also felt that it was super out-of-character for Jumin to consider giving Elziabeth the 3rd back to V. I do think it is important that he realized he was projecting his need for a human relationship onto the cat, but let’s be real: Jumin would NEVER give up that cat! The decision to give up Elizabeth the 3rd would make more sense if she was the only cat Jumin liked, but as we see throughout the game, Jumin has a soft spot for all cats. He invites a cat organization to the party and posts cat memes unironically. Sadly, we don’t really see what happens to Elly after Jumin decides to keep her, so I filled in the blanks in my head and decided MC helps Jumin learn how to love her as a pet!

To summarize…

The things I really enjoyed about this route were:

  • Jumin’s backstory, especially regarding his relationship with his father
  • Jumin’s weirdly adorable attempts at humor
  • Literally everything about Elizabeth the 3rd
  • Extra bonding with Jaehee because of MC’s relationship with Jumin
  • Seeing Jumin gradually treat Jaehee better because of his relationship with MC
  • That one time when Jumin called MC “my princess” on the phone *swoon*
  • Accurate representation of the difficulty of interpersonal relationships after trauma

The things I did NOT like about this route were:

  • Some of the moments that were meant to be “romantic” felt more cringey to me because of Jumin’s possessive side
  • Zen’s sexism when MC wants to spend the night with Jumin… Believing that men can’t control themselves is the basis of rape culture!
  • Actually, Zen, in general, is insufferable during this route. I get that he doesn’t like Jumin, but he doesn’t have to be so annoying about it
  • We never get a satisfying explanation of what happens to Seven and Yoosung at the hacker’s HQ

Some tips for getting the Good Ending on Jumin’s route are:

  • Choose options that value logical reasoning more highly than emotional reasoning
  • You can be annoyed with his father, but acknowledge that he’s a good father despite his flaws
  • Avoid attacking Glam Choi or Sarah directly
  • Make sure you aren’t too eager; avoid any options talking about marriage
  • Skip the “gold-digging” responses that make it sound like you want him for his money
  • Don’t encourage Jumin to view you as an alternative to Elizabeth the 3rd (this is most important!!)
  • You shouldn’t let him hold you captive, but don’t insist on leaving either
  • Push Jumin to take responsibility for Elizabeth the 3rd, rather than returning him to V

Also, I CANNOT end this review in good faith without urging you to play the After Ending, if only to see Jumin with his hair slicked back. I mean, JUST LOOK AT THIS:

Jumin Han's Endings | Mystic Messenger Amino


Seven (a.k.a. 707, a.k.a. Luciel) is the mystery man and legendary hacker who takes on a lot of responsibility for RFA. In the RFA chat room, he’s the ultimate meme lord. However, on this route, you discover that he has a serious dark side IRL. If you can manage to stick by him while he attempts to push you away, you’ll discover that he’s loving and loyal. But, this route is an emotional rollercoaster. Seriously….it’s the only one to make me shed actual tears. (So far, meow.)

Before I go any further, and without spoiling anything major, I want to mention that this route could be triggering to you if you experienced childhood trauma or physical or emotional abuse. Approach at your own risk and make sure to put your mental health first!

Seven’s route is the one to choose if you are less concerned about cheesy romantic moments and more interested in the story of it all. This one leads to some important discoveries about V, Rika, RFA, and the hacker. And, you’ll learn a lot about Seven’s backstory (including his real name!), including a dark past with an abusive family. All of these details enrich your reading experience on the other routes. Plus, it’s the only route that sees some form of closure or justice in the hacker situation. I won’t say more at risk of spoiling anything major, but the ending is one of the most satisfying (to me, at least) because it’s not just about the romance between 707 and MC.

Of all the characters in Mystic Messenger, Seven is probably the deepest and most realistic to me. He represents the duality present in all human beings: the playful, fun friend and the vulnerable, dark side within each of us. I love that he is hyper and hardworking, and he will go to extreme lengths to protect the people he loves. That being said, he spends 80% of this route trying to push you away, so it will leave you wanting more when it comes to the romantic side of things. I guess that’s what fanfiction is for!

Probably the most frustrating part of this route, however, has nothing to do with Seven it all: it’s the length of the chatrooms and scenes. One thing I do like about the route is that you get a lot of visual novel-style content that’s more like a traditional otome. On the other hand, this means some of the chats are really short, and there are many you don’t participate in — you just watch them happen. Of all the routes so far, this one may have been the least interactive for that reason.

To summarize…

The things I really enjoyed about this route were:

  • 707’s humor in the chatroom is probably most similar to my sense of humor, so chatting with him felt natural
  • Seven has a really rich and compelling backstory that explains how he became an agent and got to know V and Rika
  • Seven’s relationship with his brother adds a lot of emotion to the story
  • This route has the best explanation of who the hacker is and why he’s targeting RFA
  • All of the other RFA members are really concerned about MC’s safety, and it’s adorable
  • I especially liked Jumin’s role in this route, especially when they learn the truth about V (though his reaction definitely makes more sense if you have already played Jumin’s route)
  • There are a lot of visual novel scenes and face-to-face interactions with Seven in this route
  • You finally learn 707’s real name! Yes!

The things I did NOT like about this route were:

  • Honestly, I’m not a fan of the “I’m going to make you hate me to protect you” trope
  • 707 opens up really suddenly — it’s like a switch is flipped — and I would have preferred it to be more gradual
  • I understand they do this for the sake of storytelling, but 707 calls and texts MC even when they’re in the same room!
  • We learn V was involved with Mint Eye, but we do not learn exactly how he became involved or how it connects to Rika
  • Fewer opportunities to interact with other members of RFA through chats
  • You don’t actually attend the party or meet the other members of RFA in this route
  • I didn’t feel the art scenes in this route were as well done as in Jumin’s

Some tips for getting the Good Ending on 707’s route are:

  • Choose the options that express trust in Seven’s decision-making as often as you can
  • Do not allow him to push you away emotionally — it can be painful, but resist walking away! (this is most important!!)
  • Ask for details about his life; he will respond sharply, but appreciate it (you’ll still earn hearts)
  • You can joke around with him, but don’t only joke around; make it clear you see him as Saeyoung, not just 707
  • Listen to his suggestions about your safety and express happiness at being with him
  • This route has a lot of “hubby” options…please, for the love of God Seven, don’t click those
  • Trust V as much as possible, until his betrayal is finally revealed

I also urge you to read 707’s After Ending. Unlike Jumin’s, it’s not for the sexy visual novel scene; it’s for the ambiguous conclusion. On Seven’s route, you can unlock additional content that comes after the conclusion of the story. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m told that the After Ending is important to understanding the basis for that conclusion.

Reset" Theory + 707 Loves You in Every Route | Mystic Messenger Amino


Zen is a musical actor with narcissistic tendencies but a loving heart. As Jaehee says when you ask her about Zen, he’s a 24-year-old workaholic with a dirty mouth yet he cares a lot about the people around him. You can feel the depth of that care in Zen’s route, when he comes to MC’s rescue more than once. TBH, I dreaded playing this route, because I didn’t want to alienate Jaehee and I wasn’t a huge fan of Zen in other routes (especially Jumin’s route). However, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the story and of Zen’s character!

In Zen’s route, the main conflicts of the story are 1) keeping MC safe from the hacker and 2) a major PR scandal involving Echo Girl, his co-star on an upcoming project. Minor themes in the story include his estrangement from his family and Jaehee’s feelings for him (which she tries unsuccessfully to deny). If Zen is unsufferable on Jumin’s route, Jaehee is even worse on Zen’s route, given her disapproval of MC and her lack of any substantial evidence to back up her suspicion. However, Zen’s adorable dialogue throughout the route more than makes up for the suffering I experienced at Jaehee’s hands.

The most problematic part of this route, IMO, was the rampant sexism. Zen is a sexist character in many of the other routes, but in this route, you discover that he’s also a hypocrite. Despite all of his ranting about MC staying overnight with Jumin and other characters, Zen has no trouble at all asking MC to stay the night or voicing his fantasies about her. I have no problems with them staying together in and of itself, but the fact that living together before marriage is treated by many of the characters as sinful in multiple storylines feels outdated and, frankly, unrealistic.

Again, I wrote this off as a product of cultural differences between the U.S. and Korea, but I couldn’t just forget about the sexism in the story — especially not on Zen’s route. You see, the major conflict between Zen and Echo Girl results from false sexual harassment allegations Echo Girl makes about Zen. While it’s an effective plot device in that it succeeds in sending Zen to rock bottom, this storyline completely contradicts my beliefs surrounding women and sexual harassment. This story casts doubts on women’s stories about public figures, suggesting that men are the victims in these situations. I understand what the developers were trying to do; I just don’t think it was the right plot device to use in this day and age.

To summarize…

The things I really enjoyed about this route were:

  • Zen has some of the sweetest dialogue of any of the characters in any of the routes
  • Zen is one of the only characters with a rational reaction to the bomb in Rika’s apartment (i.e. he runs to MC regardless of reason, as opposed to encouraging her to “just trust V”)
  • Zen’s backstory with his family reveals a lack of confidence that explains his narcissistic behavior, making it easier to empathize with him in this and other routes
  • It’s easy to tell in this route whether or not you are making the “right” choices to get the good ending
  • I LOVED Zen’s relationship with Jumin in this route, and MC’s relationship with Jumin as a result!!
  • This is a personal opinion, but I love Zen’s use of pet names like “babe” or “honey” — it made me melt!
  • There were a lot of art scenes in this route and they were all really well done

The things I did NOT like about this route were:

  • Echo Girl’s storyline undermines women who come forward to report sexual harassment and assault. The women who come forward are more often the victims than the men accused, and this story portrays Zen as the victim. Yes, he didn’t do anything, but I see no reason to cast doubt on women’s stories like this
  • Jaehee, Jaehee, Jaehee… I understand she’s in love with Zen, but I wanted to drop-kick her by the end
  • It gets a bit old listening to Zen talk about how his looks are God’s gift to humanity (and having to play along with it)
  • A bit like in Jumin’s route, there isn’t as much anticipation built up for the party because it’s overshadowed by Zen’s press conference

Some tips for getting the Good Ending on Zen’s route are:

  • Stroke Zen’s ego at every opportunity
  • Make it clear you see his talent and not just his looks; don’t force him to give up his career for you (this is most important!!)
  • Ask for details about his family; express empathy but encourage him to reach out to them
  • Say you want to go visit Zen when he hurts his ankle
  • Counter Jaehee’s concerns about Zen having a relationship without outwardly attacking her or the fans… this gets really frustrating, because you want to accuse her of being a jealous b*tch after the way she acts. But, if you want the Good Ending, then resist that urge!
  • Encourage Zen to come save you from the hacker and express trust in RFA
  • Avoid any option that says “Zenny,” as a general rule — these often appear in serious situations, when it’s not the right time to flirt
  • Stay optimistic about Zen’s career, even when everything goes to sh*t
Zen | ZEN (Hyun Ryu) Amino


After playing all four routes, I came to the following conclusions:

  1. Jumin was my favorite character.
  2. Zen’s route had the best romance.
  3. 707’s route had the best story.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite route of these four, because they’re all so good for such different reasons. But, if I could only play one route ever again, I would pick Jumin’s route. While it’s certainly problematic, Jumin has a compelling backstory and a dramatic, entertaining route. Although his route doesn’t share much about the hacker or the fate of RFA, it has the most depth when it comes to defining Jumin’s emotional experience and establishing his relationship with MC.

Another word of advice? If you’re going to choose whose route to play first, I would choose Yoosung’s route. Yoosung’s route is available on the Casual Story, which you’ll need to complete before you can do either Seven’s or Jumin’s route on the Deep Story. But, I think it offers a lot of important background information on V and Rika that you can then take into the other routes. Zen’s route is also available on the Casual Story. However, I would prefer starting with Yoosung’s route to starting with Zen’s because the information you learn on Yoosung’s route makes some of the information from Zen’s route make more sense (especially when it comes to V and Rika).

Story Of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town Vs. Story Of Seasons: Pioneers Of Olive Town – What’s The Difference?

I’m back! After a much-needed break from blogging, I (finally) feel inspired to write again. At first, I wasn’t sure I would continue, since I just started a new blog called Wellness by Haley to chronicle what I’m learning about mental health, social work, and grad school. I’m also preparing for a busy year: my first as a full-time grad student!

So, what have I been doing in my free time during this hiatus, besides setting up my new blog? TBH, I’ve been playing a LOT of video games on my Nintendo Switch Lite. You probably already know that I am a fan of Animal Crossing, but I’ve recently gotten into the Story Of Seasons series.

These games are very similar to Animal Crossing in that the objective is to beautify your farm and befriend the local villagers. As someone who loves otome games, I love that there’s a dating/marriage/children component to the series as well! Now that I’ve played both Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town (FOMT) and Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town (POOT), I have some thoughts about what makes each game unique — and which features I prefer from each one.

Oh, and if you’re waiting for stationery content (because I know I’ve been writing about a lot of video games, etc. lately), don’t worry — that’s coming soon! πŸ˜‰

Story Of Seasons: Friends Of Mineral Town

In both the SOS games, you play a boy or girl moving to the town — in FOMT, that’s Mineral Town — where your grandfather used to run a farm. After your grandfather passes away, he leaves you the farm, but it’s in a state of disrepair. It’s your job to restore the farm to its former glory.

The most obvious difference between FOMT and POOT is the art style. FOMT is a chibi art style, while POOT is more sophisticated. I prefer the FOMT style because the graphics load more quickly and are less busy. I felt like the art style and number of features in POOT overwhelmed me a bit.

I have played through the first year of FOMT a few times and gotten to about year 3 on my most recent playthrough. I wanted to decide which of the male marriage candidates were going to be the most entertaining! Eventually, I settled on Grey, who is a cute, fiery blacksmith’s apprentice. His dialogue once you get married and have a child is sweet as honey.

In general, I prefer the marriage candidates in FOMT because they each have their own unique cutscenes and personality. More than in POOT, the game goes into the characters’ backstories and establishes their motivations. It really helps you connect with the marriage candidates, making it easier to choose who to start your new life with.

Another aspect of FOMT that’s better than POOT is the mining aspect of the game. You can enter the mines in both FOMT and POOT, but FOMT has a much more sophisticated mining system. There are many different types of gems you can collect during the wintertime, when no crops grow,

Finally, something great about FOMT that’s not in POOT (as far as I know) is that you can hunt down different treasures throughout the game. There are truth jewels, Kappa jewels, and goddess jewels. Some are hidden around town and some are hidden in the mine. Once you’ve accomplished the main objective of the game (to get married and restore your farm), hunting for these is a fun little side quest that I really enjoy!

Image Source: Steam

Story Of Seasons: Pioneers Of Olive Town

Story of Seasons: POOT is the upgraded version of FOMT that improved on the game’s features and art style. In fact, this newer version of the game is very similar to Animal Crossing in a lot of ways. The primary similarity between the two is the crafting element introduced in POOT. As in Animal Crossing, you can craft decorations for your farm, customize furniture, and obtain different hairstyles and outfits in this newer Story of Seasons game.

After playing FOMT, the first thing I noticed about POOT was how much easier the game seems to be (for reference, I played on Normal for both games). For example, it’s a lot easier to sell items for money (you get more money, faster). More money means it’s easier to upgrade your home and your tools, meaning you can acquire things like pets earlier in the game. This definitely made my experience with POOT more fun.

In general, farming is easier in POOT. For one thing, it’s easier to switch between tools and easier to upgrade your tools. The crops are easier to grow, in that they grow quickly so you can cash out on them sooner. And there’s a wider variety of crops to choose from, without needing to unlock them as the years go on. You can also continue to grow certain crops in wintertime. In FOMT, the lack of wintertime activity meant you spent more than you earned almost constantly, making it hard to acquire a big enough fortune to shop Van’s special items.

Van isn’t in POOT, but one feature they carried over from FOMT to POOT is the Makers. Makers are machines that produce different items from animal byproducts. For example, you can turn milk into butter or eggs into mayonnaise. In this game, however, you have to craft the Makers, instead of buying them from the blacksmith’s. They’re a lot easier to obtain in POOT, which contributes to the ease of acquiring income in this version of the game.

In POOT, there’s a lot more to do because they introduced new elements that made things like cooking easier to accomplish. There’s no Goddess Collection in POOT, which does take away some of the incentive to cook. However, they introduced a Grocery Store, which carries all the seasonal crops you’ve ever shipped. This way, you don’t have to worry about saving your crops for cooking and can just head on over to the store like you would IRL.

However, one of the annoyances of POOT that contributes to having more to do is the fact that it’s so difficult to keep your farm clean. Weeds sprout quickly, grass grows errantly, and every time it rains (which is a LOT, in my experience), puddles accumulate. You can avoid this by placing items like roads, which prevent weeds or puddles from spawning in those squares. But, the rest of the grid is fair game. Not to mention, getting the dilapidated farm clear in the first place takes a lot of time and energy — both yours and your character’s!

In conclusion, POOT is a lot more complicated than FOMT. In some ways, I miss the simplicity of FOMT. And, I definitely felt more attached to the marriage candidates in FOMT. But, the new features in POOT keep me busy and make the game a lot more fun. Instead of wondering what I should do to pass the time, I now find myself running out of time in the in-game day to get things done, both on and outside the farm!

Image Source: GoNintendo

The Best Otome Games for the iPhone

Above all else, this blog is about being honest — so I have a confession to make: I’ve been in a bit of a blogging rut lately. I live with depression and, lately, it’s been like pulling teeth to get myself to write blog posts for work, let alone for the fun of it.

However, one thing I always come back to when I am depressed is my comfort games: those games you download onto your phone and become absolutely obsessed with when you don’t have the energy to do anything else. For me, those are otome-style games.

While I’m not a gaming blog, and am definitely more of a casual gamer, this post is not entirely out of place given my interest in Japanese culture. In other words, this is yet another extension of my obsession with all things kawaii.

Otome games originated in Japan. The word “otome” is Japanese for “maiden game,” and refers to a story-based game where one of the main goals is to romance a character. Originally, they were geared at women, but they have since become popular with all genders, and many are LGBTQ+ friendly.

The otome style may have originated in Japan, but it has definitely become mainstream here in the United States. If you play Choices or Chapters, then you’re already deeply familiar with the otome concept.

The main difference between otome games developed in Japan and those developed in the United States is the artwork: Japanese otome games tend to resemble the anime style of drawing, while in the U.S., the artwork is more realistic.

If you, like me, aren’t much of a gamer but love a good book or manga, you’ll love otome games. Like Animal Crossing, the game takes little skill to learn and gets you deeply invested in the characters. And, like a good book, the story will pull you in and capitalize on your imagination.

Without further ado, here are five otome games you should check out (both American and Japanese) if you’re interested in exploring the genre for yourself.

1. Obey Me

Obey Me is hands-down my FAVORITE otome game for the iPhone. The premise for Obey Me is that you are an exchange student sent to live with seven brothers in the Devildom. The brothers are devils, while you are human. You are also there with three other exchange students, one of whom is human and two of whom are angels, as well as the Prince of the Devildom. Only the brothers are love interests in the game; of the other four main characters, one is a child and the other three are considered “undateables.” In Obey Me, you can play through the main story, as well as receive chats and phone calls from characters, read side stories, and participate in special events to earn prizes.

Obey Me seems strange and convoluted from the outside, and the story takes some pretty weird turns. But if you’re willing to suspend your sense of realism and get lost in the story, the characters are some of the most compelling you will find in any otome game. Unlike other otomes, you don’t have to choose a route in this game, meaning you can romance as many or as few of the seven brothers as you like. The other nice thing about this is that you don’t need to choose an LI at all, if that’s not something you’re interested in — as far as I can tell, you can skip all of the romantic choices.

Obey Me uses the gacha system, something you’ll find in many Japanese otome games and virtually no American otome games. In the gacha system, you earn randomized pulls from a batch of cards. These cards have ranks and rarity levels that help you beat other players (or, in the case of Obey Me, the computer). You need energy to participate in these battles — in Obey Me, they take the form of dance battles — which are required to progress through the game. That’s the one caveat to this game: it’s annoying to wait for your energy to recharge and hard to earn enough money to level up your cards!

2. Mystic Messenger

*This section has been updated as of June 2021.

I’m going back and editing this section….because I FINALLY played Mystic Messenger! The premise of the game is a bit confusing, but you’re essentially lured into a group chat with a bunch of random guys who invite you to join their secret party-planning association called RFA. Almost the whole game is told through chat, with a few visual novel scenes along the way. One thing I love about this game is that there is NO GACHA SYSTEM in Mystic Messenger! You can also progress through the main story without having to earn any type of in-game currency (though having currency, called hourglasses, definitely helps you binge-play).

Like most otome games, you wind up on a route with a particular character; however, instead of choosing your route, your route is chosen for you based on the number of hearts you have for each character. Hearts can be earned by choosing responses the characters like. There are at least six different characters, including one female, that can be romanced. So far, I have played the Yoosung Casual Story route and the Jumin Deep Story route….Jumin’s route is a bit twisted, but I can’t help but simp a cat daddy!

You can then unlock one of seven different endings (elaborate, right?!) based on your choices over the last 11 days. There are good endings, bad endings, and neutral endings — and you can replay as many times as you want to try to get the ending you’re looking for! My main complaints about the game are about the storytelling: even in Deep Story mode, each route only gives you bits and pieces of the whole picture. The game really gets you coming back for more, because you have to play every route to see the full story and learn all of the characters’ motivations.

3. Ikemen Series

The Ikemen games, created by developer Cybird, send you to different worlds and points in time to fall in love with one of the “Ikemen.” The phrase Ikemen is derived from the Japanese words for “good” and “men” and essentially means a good-looking guy. There are three main games in the Ikemen series (while I call them a series, you can play them in any order and they don’t relate to one another): Ikemen Vampire (“IkeVamp”), Ikemen Revolution (“IkeRev”), and Ikemen Sengoku (“IkeSen”).

Each of the Ikemen games uses the route structure, where you select a love interest after the introductory chapter. In IkeVamp, your love interest takes the form of a 19th-century vampire — but all the vampires in this game are based on historical characters, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Leonardo DaVinci. In IkeSen, the characters are similarly historical, based on the Sengoku period in Japanese history. And, in IkeRev, the game takes place in the 19th century, but the love interests are members of one of two militias fighting in a dystopian version of Alice’s Wonderland.

Ikemen deserves props for its creative plotlines, which are definitely more elaborate than any I’ve seen in other Otome games. Like Obey Me, the Ikemen games all use the gacha system, though the cards play a less important role in these games than in Obey Me. You collect cards through the gacha and then use them in “Love Battles” to earn intimacy points. These points help you progress through the story: occasionally, you will need a certain number of intimacy points to get past a checkpoint. You may also need to battle to earn in-game currency, which is used to purchase clothing items for your avatar at avatar checkpoints.

4. Choices

Choices is the O.G. American otome game. We call them “visual novels” here in the United States, but the premise is the same: choose a love interest; make choices that impact the outcome of the story. In Choices, however, there is no one main plotline. Instead, there are many books — some of which are part of different series — that take place in different worlds. For example, in The Royal Romance series, you play an American waitress who is whisked away to the fictional land of Cordonia to compete for the hand of a prince. Or, in Open Heart, you play a resident doctor who falls in love with one of her coworkers.

Something that’s nice about Choices is that there are books for everyone. Not every book is romantic, either. There are even horror books, like the It Lives series, and fantasy books, like The Crown and the Flame. Some of these books have romantic plotlines, but the romance isn’t the main element. Others don’t feature any romance at all. You can also customize your character’s appearance, unlike in many of the Japanese otome games. Each game lets you choose a face for your character (meaning more racial diversity!) and a hairstyle. In some games, you can also choose your gender, playing as either male or female.

Choices deserves points for its efforts to broaden racial and gender diversity, especially since this doesn’t seem to be something Japanese otome games think about at all. However, it has come under scrutiny for making some questionable choices regarding race (such as its decision to almost kill off a BIPOC love interest, which was scrapped after protest from fans). If you’re interested in learning more about this drama, I highly suggest you scroll through the Choices Tumblr scene. A lot of people on there are much more knowledgeable than I am about these issues!

The other annoying thing about Choices is that if you don’t want to spend real-world cash, you’re limited in your options. You need story keys to progress to the next chapter, and these recharge every few hours (unless you pay to buy more — which, trust me, gets addicting — or opt for the VIP subscription, which gives you unlimited keys). You also need diamonds to unlock different outfits or premium choices, which unlock additional scenes. These scenes used to be treated more like bonuses, but in the newer books, you often need to make premium choices to even spend time with romanceable characters. Again, you can get around this with the $15/month VIP subscription, which gives you 10 gems a day and additional gem rewards for playing chapters.

5. Regency Love

Regency Love is special in that it is neither American nor Japanese: it was made by Australian indie devs, Tea for Three Studios. It also has incredible artwork with special art scenes. As the name suggests, the game takes place in the Regency period, transporting you to a Jane Austen novel where you are the heroine. You can’t customize your character’s appearance (in fact, she is never pictured) or gender, but you can earn different epilogue endings based on your choices throughout the series, which earn you points toward different personality traits (such as being “Amiable” or “Witty”) and accomplishments (like Riding, Embroidery, and Music).

In Regency Love, you play the daughter of a deceased gentleman whose mother is pushing her to get married and secure her future. The main game features three romanceable characters. One is a stoic older gentleman named Mr. Curtis, one is a bland but kindhearted gentleman named Mr. Digby, and one is the aloof Mr. Darcy of the series, named Mr. Ashcroft. (You may also choose not to marry at all.) If you choose to pay an additional $4, you can also unlock a fourth romanceable character named Mr. Graham; unlike the other love interests, he is a humble redcoat soldier staying in your town of Darlington. One of the best parts of Regency Love is that the storylines are well-developed with many opportunities to learn more about your love interest’s past, as well as ample conflict in the present.

Tea for Three Studios is currently planning a sequel to Regency Love, which I am ecstatic about! The sequel will improve on some of the weak points of the original, such as exploring queer storylines. They also plan to fill in some of the plot holes from the previous story — such as a mysterious letter revealed at the start of the story, which is never really explained, and an estranged older brother who, again, is never really explained.