While there have been a lot of anime studios that have contributed to video games in one way or another, including the likes of Studio Ghibli, Gainax is perhaps the most prominent company to have internally developed their own, and quite a few of them at that! We’ll be covering both Gainax-original titles and other games they contributed to in chronological order, going into the basics of gameplay and story and pointing out any other interesting things worth mentioning.
As to why Gainax got so involved with games in the first place, the basic reason is that the studio was in financial trouble during the late 80s due to a slump in their anime production. Looking for new sources of revenue, President Toshio “Otaking” Okada saw the adult game industry as a promising market where the studio’s artistic talent and otaku cultural understanding would make them stand out, particularly because many major developers had recently left the business, causing the average art quality to deteriorate.
4. Cybernetic Hi-School
- System: NEC PC-98, later NEC PC-88 and MSX
- Publisher: Gainax, General Products
- Developer: Gainax
- Release Dates: JP: July 15, 1989
Gainax’s debut would be with this adult hybrid visual novel quiz game where you play as a student trying to get into the titular high school. As part of the entrance examination, you must correctly answer a series of questions given to you by current students. The adult part comes in that these examinations are all given by cute girls who will slowly remove their clothes if you answer enough questions correctly. True to their roots, the questions revolved around Japanese and Western science fiction topics.
Eventently Okada was right about the market as this first endeavor would quickly spawn sequels: Cybernetic Hi-School Part 2 ~Highway Buster!!~ (1989) which featured cool motorcycle girls, Part 3 ~Top o Nerae!~ (1990) which was based on their own breakout anime success Gunbuster, and Part 4 ~Ape Hunter J~ (1991) which was about an extremely strange scenario where you are trying to kill hyper-intelligent, mutated apes posing as humans. Part 3 was even directed by Hideaki Anno himself, his first involvement in Gainax’s game activities.
3. Silent Möbius
- System: NEC PC-98, later FM Towns, Sharp X68000, PlayStation
- Publisher: Gainax, D4Enterprise (re-release)
- Developer: Gainax
- Release Dates: JP: August 10, 1990
Based on the manga and anime series of the same name (not made by Gainax), Silent Möbius follows members of a superpowered female police force that fights demonic beings from another dimension called Lucifer Hawks who are invading a post-apocalyptic Earth. This time playing out as a more traditional visual novel with some adventure game elements, it contains an original story revolving around the strange appearance of a ship in the sky above Tokyo that appears to be the famous RMS Titanic.
While it does contain some risqué elements, this game was given a Cero B (12 and up) rating when it was re-released on PlayStation and is less sexually-focused compared to Cybernetic Hi-School. It also received a modern physical re-release with deluxe packaging in 2016 which speaks to it being well-regarded in the mainstream and was Gainax’s first game to appear on a dedicated game console.
2. Battle Skin Panic -Naked Warrior-
- System: NEC PC-88, later sequels on PC-98, MSX/MSX-2, and Windows
- Publisher: Takeru, General Products (PC-98), D4Enterprise (Windows)
- Developer: Gainax
- Release Dates: JP: December 15, 1990
As you might guess by this title, Battle Skin Panic -Naked Warrior- is another adult-orientated game, this time swapping Cybernetic Hi-School’s quiz mechanics for a rather simple card battling system. This game’s ridiculous story is about an ordinary high schooler named Arigawa who gets involved with a transfer student from Peru named Mimi who reveals herself as an esoteric martial artist who gains more power as she loses clothing and must battle other girls who studied under the same teacher.
The game would receive follow-ups with Super Battle Skin Panic, Mighty Battle Skin Panic and Battle Skin Panic 9821 on other systems which would feature improved sound and graphics but largely remained the same, over-the-top experience.
1. Princess Maker
- System: NEC PC-98, later IBM-PC, MSX-2, PC Engine, Sharp X68000, PlayStation 2, Windows
- Publisher: Gainax
- Developer: Gainax
- Release Dates: JP: May 24, 1991
Gainax’s greatest claim to fame in games, Princess Maker was an incredibly innovative title that established its own genre of ‘training simulations’. Taking place in a medieval fantasy world, you are in charge of raising Maria, the orphaned daughter of a famous hero who died after defeating a demon.
Players decide on her schedule, such as what social events and classes she takes, what she wears, and other aspects of her life. Each choice impacts her stats and ultimately leads to one of 74 different endings that happen when she turns 18. Depending on how she is raised she could become anything from an archbishop, queen, or general to a witch, crime boss, or even court jester!
The wide variety of endings led to great replayability and popularity of the game which further led to 4 numbered sequels and a couple of spinoffs on many platforms through the 90s and early 2000s of which Princess Maker 2 is the most well known. Series creator Takami Akai was a key figure in Gainax since the beginning, he provided character designs and key animation for Daicon III, was the animation director for Daicon IV and would later go on to be the producer of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, among other things. The latest Princess Maker game was Princess Maker 5 which released in 2007/2008 on Windows, PlayStation 2, and PSP.
The history of Gainax is one of the most fascinating out of all anime studios and its often overlooked connection to video games is part of what makes it so! We’ve actually only just begun our foray into their games so stay tuned for the next installment! As always, please feel free to leave us a comment below if you enjoyed this article and be sure to stick around Honey’s for more of all things awesome, video games made by anime studios and otherwise! See ya~!