The infamous Key Studios is renowned for creating masterpiece works due to its warm and homely visual novels. Most of Key's games are within the genre of romance and what makes them extremely enticing is its expertly woven storylines combined with appropriate emotion evoking music pieces in the game. These VNs are often tearjerkers and are extremely touching such that those with the coldest of emotions will even feel its effects. It can even be said that Key was the studio that made nakige-type VNs popular, revolutionising and accelerating the demand for this sub-genre. So today, we'll count the top 10 visual novels developed by Key!
- Platform: Windows
- Release Date: September 23, 2016
- Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Phiroid's are androids created by man to serve as companions to another fellow man. For one Phiroid however, he found himself to be emotionless and his right hand to still be in the form of a mechanical arm. He seeks to learn the human emotion one day. During his journey, he meets Shiona who brought him to a small town where he slowly learnt the ways of how the heart works. She names him Rei and this is their adventure in discovering what makes humans, humans.
The concept of Phiroids is easy to understand. It is extremely similar to Giftias from Plastic Memories, where androids serve humans with emotions. Despite its short length compared to other of Key's works, it still manages to be impactful in terms of emotions. While it may be lacklustre, it offers an opportunity for people who never played any of Key's visual novels before to have a glimpse of what the world of Key is all about. Harmonia is essentially is a short game of about 5-10 hours that encompass some core themes of Key.
9. Kud Wafter
- Platform: Windows, PSP, PSP Vita, Android
- Release Date: June 25, 2010
- Genre: Drama and Romance
Kud Wafter is visual novel succeeding the events of Little Busters! series. It further expands the romantic relationship between Riki Naoe and Kudryavka Noumi. During summer break, as all of the other members of the cast returns home for summer vacation, the duo was left in the dormitories. As the male dormitories were undergoing renovations and Kudryavka was without a roommate, they shared a room together. There, Riki comes into contact with the residents of the female dormitory and depending on the choices he makes, develops the relationship between him and Kudryavka.
Kud Wafter is a spin-off from the original Little Busters! series. During the year of its release, it was ranked first in terms of pre-orders. The anticipation and hype for the game were there well before the game was even released. Spin-offs usually do not garner much attention nor popularity but Kud Wafter exceeded the expectations of fans. Kud Wafter, along with the spin-offs of Key which we will discuss later shows that Key puts focus and care into all the games it releases, giving meaning to every game ever produced by Key.
8. Tomoyo After: It's a Wonderful Life
- Platform: Windows, PS2, PSP, Xbox 360, Android
- Release Date: November 25, 2005 (JP) July 1, 2016 (WW)
- Genre: Drama, Romance
Following his graduation from high school, Tomoya Okazaki finally still keeps in contact with Tomoyo Sakagami. Now a functioning member of society, Tomoya works as a garbage collector and a repairman in order to support his home. They are also seeing each other more often and Tomoyo frequently visits his place. Joining the household of Tomoya are also Tomo, the illegitimate child of Tomoyo's father and the younger brother of Tomoyo, Takafumi Sakagami. This story holds the central theme of family and how this group of people bond and stay together as one.
Tomoyo After is a spin-off from the Clannad series which we will discuss further later. It shares the same elements of Clannad such as family, friendship and love. Tomoyo After emphasises more on the relationship between Tomoyo, one of the heroines of Clannad. Since Tomoyo was rated highly in the popularity votes, this expansion spin-off came as a joy to Clannad fans. It enjoyed high sales in Japan and was recently released worldwide in 2016 on the PS3 and even on the Android!
- Platform: Windows, Dreamcast, PS2, PSP, Android, iOS
- Release Date: September 8, 2000
- Genre: Drama, Romance, Fantasy, Tragedy
Yukito Kunisaki is a travelling showman performing telekinetic puppetry. On one such occasion, he visits a small seaside town where he tries to put up a show for the kids there. Too bad for him, however, Yukito did not impress the children and he did not earn any money that day. He sleeps at a seawall on the bridge but faints due to heat stroke. When he wakes up, he found himself in a guild of fishermen who tended to him. Amidst the crowd, he spots Misuzu Kamio, an earnest girl who wanted to befriend him. Unknown to the both of them, Misuzu is cursed to die whenever she falls in love and Yukito will do anything to prevent that from happening.
Air premiered during the time where visual novels were not highly popular in the West yet. In early 2000, where not much attention is given to visual novels. Despite that, however, Air has built a solid reputation as an outstanding bishoujo game. Even after the year of its release, re-bundled and re-mastered copies of the game continues to sell well. Even today, Air is renowned for its soft and soothing emotions with a relaxed game pace. Its success carries forward to the anime adaptation where it received rave reviews as well!
- Platform: Windows, PS2, PSP, Android, iOS
- Release Date: September 12, 2014 (WW) November 29, 2004 (JP)
- Genre: Drama, Post-Apocalyptic
In the distant world, the population of mankind has been dwindling due to nuclear warfare. Humanity has basically destroyed itself after overpopulation and the depletion of natural resources. The remaining humans are left to scavenge the world for anything they can find and use. They are known as 'junkers' and our nameless protagonist is one of them. As he was scavenging through a building, he meets Yumemi, a female android. She earnestly wants the protagonist to watch a projection but the power went out with our protagonist ending up agreeing to fix the projector...
To date, Planetarian remains one of the shortest Key visual novels. The length does not compromise the high quality that Key has set over the years, however. Critics have praised both the game's art and storyline, calling it 'exceptionally beautiful'. The music blends in with the overall storyline, setting a woeful yet hopeful state to the story. All in all, Planetarian is a bite-sized visual novel which packs an immense amount of emotional punch.
- Platform: Windows, PS2, PSP, Android, iOS
- Release Date: June 4, 1999
- Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Yuichi Aizawa is a cynical 17-year-old and loves practical jokes. However, he really has a caring personality and goes the extra mile to help someone in need. When he arrived back to his hometown, he meets 5 girls with connections to him. Although, he was not able to remember the events that preceded him upon his return. Throughout the story, his memory starts to come back to him and he recalls what truly happens during the years he was not present and the connection between him and the 5 girls.
Kanon is classic Key game. It started its roots in the late 90s and has enjoyed acclaim over its brilliant storylines and numerous humorous interactions. Despite its age, Kanon has stunning artwork which contributed to its success. Kanon continues to rank high with its remake edition for the PS2 released in 2002. Even today, Kanon is a staple in key games along the other games that follow below, making them classic Key games.
4. Angel Beats 1st beat
- Platform: Windows
- Release Date: June 26, 2015
- Genre: School Life, Tragedy, Romance
Otonashi wakes up in the land of limbo. Unbeknownst to him, this world is only for those with lingering attachments to the world of the living. Suffering from amnesia, he was approached by Yuki Nakamura and was coerced to join the SSS - an organisation that rebels against the cruelty of fate itself due to the suffering they have endured in the living world. The objective was to rebel against God himself, whom the SSS thought was Kanade Tachibana. Though eventually, Otonashi realises that Kanade was not an enemy and befriended her instead. Now begins a story of letting go and accepting death...
Angel Beats was adapted from the anime series from the same name. The highly acclaimed anime is now reborn in this episodic visual novel. As such, the popularity was transferred over to the game and it did not disappoint! Relive the moments of the anime with additional storyline exclusive to the game. The creator of the Angel Beats happens to be the co-creator of Key, ensuring that key elements of Key's were retained in both anime and the visual novel.
- Platform: Windows, PS2, PSP, PS Vita, PS3, Android
- Release Date: April 28, 2004
- Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
While walking to school one day, Tomoya Okazaki walked past a girl along the hill up towards his school. "Anpan!" she exclaimed, confusing Tomoya in the process. That girl was Nagisa Furukawa. It wasn't long until he realised that she has a frail body and in order to keep her confidence up, she will say out her favourite food. One thing led to another, and Tomoya helped Nagisa re-establish the defunct drama club. Slowly but surely, the club's size increased with 4 new members. With every new member, Tomoya learns more about the girls and their personal problems. Life is no longer dull for our minimalistic and dull teenager...
Yet another Key signature work, Clannad impresses the audience with its simplicity but yet elegant storyline. Emphasising highly on family and the importance of relations, Clannad may have very well taught us one or two things about treasuring such relations. The in-depth character development and rich story entice you in the beginning before inducing your tears in a bitter-sweet ending. Each arc ends in a touching manner, making you think that the next won't be as bad, or so we all thought at first. The next arc exceeds the expectation set by its predecessor before culminating in the final Nagisa arc. Definitely, let your emotions flow freely with this one. It is without a doubt one of Key's best works!
2. Little Busters
- Platform: Windows, PS2, PSP, PS Vita, PS3
- Release Date: July 27, 2007
- Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Growing up, Riki Naoe never had nor understood the feelings of having a parent since they died when he was very young. Seeing how depressed and forlorn he was, the Little Busters invited him to join their group and played with him. Fast forwarding into the future, the leader of Little Busters, Kyousuke Natsume decided to play a baseball game but found out there were not enough members. Now, Riki has to recruit enough members to form a team. He managed to recruit 5 girls to join the Little Busters. And just like how he has recruited years ago, the Little Busters still continue to have fun and enjoy their school life... or so is it?
It has good theme songs and BGM, a great storyline and lovable characters. Little Busters is one of the most critically acclaimed visual novels in the industry. In terms of popularity, the game managed to sell out on the day of release. Even the adult-released version - Little Busters Ecstasy managed to sell out on the same day of release a year after the original release. The anime also fared well with fans of the game too and even to date, remains one of the popular Key games.
- Platform: Windows, PSP, PS Vita, PS3, PS4
- Release Date: June 24, 2011
- Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Action
Kazamatsuri is a fictional town set in the world of ReWrite. In this town, there is a secret war waged between the factions of Gaia and Guardians. Gaia is comprised of jaded humans that dislike other humans and they seek to destroy human life while Guardians seek to eliminate the familiars that the Gaia's are able to contract such that human life may persevere. Enter Kotarou Tennouji, a human with the superpower Rewrite, the ability to rewrite any part of his body, modifying them to extreme proportions. Kotarou joins the Occult Research Society after being fascinated by the mysterious animals appearing in town. There he meets 5 girls and depending on the choices he makes, falls in love with each of them. How will their relationship last amidst the torrid state of the world?
Amongst the fans of Key, ReWrite has been voted the favourite Key game amongst all. On the day of its release, it managed to secure the top spot in terms of sales. Throughout the year, it even managed to hold its top 10 positions. When ReWrite Harvest festa! (a fan disc game) was released, it still outranked the games released that year. The ReWrite series was so popular it spawned numerous spin-offs which include mobile app games and its own animation. Wonder why it did so well? Just look at its masterful crafted story and art, expertly composed soundtracks and emotionally relatable characters that are truly befitting that of being the magnum opus of Key.
So that is our take on the top 10 games produced by Key. Key is a company that is so well-known for wrenching your heart out by always developing emotional visual novels. The beauty of Key games is that it is always on point and is sure to make you feel emotional. Key's games are so iconic and unique, focusing on simple and delicate storylines to make you relate to them. You can tell that they are a reputable visual novel company by the years that they are active and till date not have a single flopped game. What is your favourite Key game so far and what makes you love Key so much? Do share with us your opinion such that other readers may indulge along with you as well. Until next time, jya-ne!