The Hakuoki franchise is one of the most successful otome game series, spanning several main series games, spin-offs, a 2010 Studio Deen anime series, manga, and two films. Hakuoki Demon of the Fleeting Blossoms was one of my first introductions to the world of “mainstream” otome games, and with Idea Factory cranking out a new game every few years there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. The most recent English localizations being Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms.
If you’ve been living under a rock these past few years, Hakuoki is the name of a historical romance otome game series that takes place in the Bakumatsu Era ( final years of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate ended) and follows the members of the special police force known as the Shinsengumi. Since I absolutely suck at history, I’ll just leave a link to the Shinsengumi wiki, here. Like you’d expect from an otome game, you get to romance the members of the Shinsengumi while helping them defend the shogunate. There’s more historical details, but, the long and short of it is you get to romance hot swordsmen.
The Hakuoki franchise remains one of my favorite otome game series, I mean come on good looking swordsmen, battles, historical references!! But, after finishing Edo Blossoms there was this void left that I absolutely needed to fill, so I compiled a list of five otome games like Hakuoki. Each of these games either A) focuses on the Shinsengumi or B) is set in the Bakumatsu Period. So, for those of you wishing for more time with Hijikata, Saito, Okita, and the rest of the Shinsengumi crew, look no further, I’ve done all the hard work for you!!
First up on the list is Voltage Inc.’s Era of Samurai Code of Love and I’m not gonna lie this is one of the better titles on this list. It has a lot of the big players from the Shinsengumi and unlike Hakuoki, you can actually romance Isami Kondo which was something I felt was missing from the Hakuoki franchise (yes, I am aware that he is married). There’s also an additional non-Shinsengumi romance option, a local shop clerk, named Shinsaku Takasugi and I really liked his route because the Shinsengumi are your enemies and you spend most of the time trying to take them out.
Era of Samurai Code of Love plays it pretty straight with the historical aspects of the shinsengumi narrative, taking a few liberties here and there with characters. But, it does forego the whole supernatural demon plotline, which is a plus if your looking for something more grounded in realism. The MC in this one is a doctor’s assistant so she doesn’t actually participate in any of the battles like Chizuru does, but, she does have more agency than your typical otome heroine. All in all, this is definitely a game I would recommend if you’re looking to fill the void left by Hakuoki.
Unlike Era of Samurai Code of Love, this next entry is a freemium game, so expect a lot of checkpoints, charm missions, and gatcha spins… yay. If you’re not big free games, you’ll get pretty frustrated with the frequency of the checkpoints, but, Bakumatsu Shinsengumi more than makes up for it in the story department. You play as a normal modern woman who is mysteriously transported to the Bakumatsu Era where you meet the members of the Shinsengumi… so begins your romance.
Now, the art is gorgeous and the story is pretty good too (just the right balance between historical fact and fiction), however, the translation is a bit hit or miss. It’s not unreadable, but, it is a bit hard to follow in some places, so if you can overlook a few minor grammatical errors you’ll be fine. The in-game avatars are super cute and events are fun and the side stories are definitely worth reading.
Destined to Love: Ikemen Samurai Romances is another time travel historical otome game. After visiting a new bar, you are transported 150 years into the past to the Bakumatsu Era, the only clues you have are a letter, a mysterious sakura tree, and… your best friend, Kyo. What sets this game apart from the rest is that you can romance the Shinsengumi and the revolutionaries (Era of Samurai only has one rebel route), which gives you a pretty cool perspective on both sides of the game’s conflict. There’s also a childhood friend romance with Kyo, who is also transported through time along with the MC. This game has a whopping 10 love interest, which puts it fairly close to Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms in terms of variety.
The one downside, is that like most freemium games, you’ll need to purchase coins to get specialty items for premium events and CGs. The coin system in Destined to Love is ridiculous at time, with premium choices being damn near impossible to get most of the time. But, if you can overlook that and don’t mind shelling out a little cash, this one is totally worth playing, the characters are amazing and the routes are so good. The only downside is that there haven’t been any new events lately, but, if you just want to read the stories I definitely recommend downloading this game.
I have a love hate relationship with Dogenzaka Labs and their Forbidden Romance series of mobile otome. On one hand, they cast a pretty big net with their stories, with titles ranging from historical romances to modern office romance. HOWEVER, their characters leave much to be desired, with most falling into one of two categories: complete asshole or sadistic bastard. You might be wondering what the difference is between those two categories, because in any other otome game they would be indistinguishable from one another, but, trust me in Forbidden Romance land, one is most certainly better than the other.
But, that pales in comparison to how forceful the love interests are with sex (mind you this is another FR trademark), each of the guys at some point or another force themselves on the MC… Heisuke’s route is by far the worst offender of this, it makes the other routes look TAME in comparison. The only silverlinings are Shinpachi and Sanosuke’s routes which dial back the cringy bits. But, in the game’s defense, the smut scenes were very descriptive… which if you’re into that is A-OK. However, the biggest misstep in this game is that there is NO HIJIKATA ROUTE… Like, excuse me?!
Last on this list is a bit of a departure from the other titles since it’s still in production, however, there is a demo that covers about 2 hours of gameplay, but it’s totally worth it! Chrysanthemums in August is yet another time travel historical romance, however, while the MC is transported to the Bakumatsu Era, she doesn’t actually romance any of the Shinsengumi. Rather, Chrysanthemums in August focuses on the events leading up to and surrounding the Boshin War (during which many of the Shinsengumi members died… but, not Saito, my boy is a survivor).
The game promises a new perspective on events many Hakuoki fans are familiar with, opening up new storytelling opportunities. Crysanthemums in August appears to focus more on the political goings on of the era as opposed to the military side of things that we see in Hakuoki. The game also has three distinct heroine styles
The Shinsengumi and the Bakumatsu Period are extremely popular in Japan, with a lot of media dedicated to it, and I mean it is an exciting period what with the battles and whatnot. And with the success of the Hakuoki franchise it makes since that other video game developers would want a piece of that sweet, sweet Shinsengumi romance money. Some of these titles diverge a bit from the narrative of Hakuoki, whether it’s the characters, the story, or the liberties it takes with the historical source material. But, rest assured, if you’re going through Hakuoki withdrawal like me, at least one of the games on this list will manage to hit the spot.
Here’s where I turn things over to you guys! Have you played any of the Hakuoki games? Which character is your favorite (I’m a Saito fan through and through)? Are there any other Shinsengumi otome games that I missed? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments section. As always, thank you for reading!!