Otome games offer women (and men) a fantasy romance experience of their dreams, but sometimes they stretch the limits of “fantasy” and delve into some questionable territory. These games play around with your suspension of disbelief, dropping you head first into scenarios that most of us would find downright frustrating if they happened to us in real life. From lowkey abusive love interests and dubious consent, otome games are known to toe the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t.
There have been times while playing an otome game where I had to step outside myself and check my self respect at the door in order to achieve my happily ever after with my chosen love interest. Of course, that isn’t the case with all otome games, there are some perfectly lovely ones that don’t force players to wave a hand at less than savory story elements. However, there are still quite a few that’ll raise a few eyebrows… So, that got me thinking about some of the more ridiculous otome game storylines and premises. The ones that really made me go, WTF.
Kissed By The Baddest Bidder
I’ve dragged this game a couple of times in the past, mostly because the love interests are complete assholes (okay, maybe not Baba and Soryu). I know loads of people love this game, it’s consistently one of Voltage Inc.’s top sellers and Eisuke Ichinomiya always manages to rank in the top 5 guys whenever Voltage runs a poll. And, trust I do like certain aspects of Kissed by the Baddest Bidder. But, lets be real, the premise is all kinds of messed up… In the game you work as a maid in a super swanky casino/hotel, one day you wander somewhere you shouldn’t and see things you definitely weren’t supposed to see. In order to tie up loose ends, you’re put up for sale at a secret black market auction to become the plaything of some rich pervert. Thankfully, the owner of the hotel, Eisuke Ichinomiya places the winning bid and saves you at the last minute. But, rather than setting you free, he plans to get his money’s worth and decides to keep you as his personal servant… or if one of his equally rich friends is interested pass you off on one of them… So right off the bat that’s human trafficking and indentured servitude… so romantic!
Some of the guys are better than others, Mamoru isn’t too bad and even though he’s a mob boss, Soryu is super sweet. But, then you have Eisuke who treats the MC like his personal slave, ordering her around and using his wealth and power to control her… or better yet Ota, who treats the MC like a pet, he calls her “Koro” and buys her an effing collar…
So, ya’ll had to know that one of those delightful Dogenzaka Labs games would make their way onto this list and with so many to choose from I decided to go with the one that gave me the most grief, Dangerous Relationship. This game is 100% on this list because of Kei’s route, he makes Eisuke Ichinomiya look like a saint and I LOATHE Eisuke! So, in Dangerous Relationship you play as a makeup artist who winds up in a scandalous relationship with one of five super hot celebrities. I will admit that the other guys aren’t so bad, but I had the misfortune of playing Kei’s route first and it made me want to punch someone in the face and fling my iPad out the window.
Dogenzaka games are the embodiment of everything wrong with otome games and then some! This game had a lot of sex and while I’m usually okay with a little sex every now and again, the sexual encounters between the MC and her chosen love interests happen often and sometimes without warning. This game is 85% sex, 15% cliche drama. But, that’s not even the worst part, consent is almost non-existent. In Kei’s route he literally uses the MC just for sex and when she attempts to reject his advances he pushes her down and forces himself on her. There’s even a scene where she is begging him to stop and the game tries to make this seem romantic… Honestly, I don’t want to remember this game, but if you’re curious I wrote a review, Forbidden Romance: Dangerous Relationship- Kei Toyonaga.
Shall We Date: Can’t Say No
Where do I start with Can’t Say No, because there is a lot unpack with this game… Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in an adulterous romance? No? Well, too bad. In this game you play as Kana Saeki, a woman balancing a rocky relationship and a stressful career. After a particularly crappy day, you seek refuge in a tucked away cafe, as you sip your coffee you contemplate your life and soon find yourself tempted by one of the shop’s handsome patrons. Enter into an adult love affair that’s as passionate as it is dangerous. So, the whole premise of the game is adultery… Kana is in a “committed” relationship and one of the love interests, Akira, is married and looking for a mistress. Oh and did I forget to mention he’s also Kana’s boss?! Even in the good end when he leaves his wife for Kana, she secretly wonders if one day he’ll cheat on her too… Yeah, wholesome romance all around.
But, you know what, that isn’t even the worst of it. One of the love interests Subaru is a secret yandere who kidnaps Kana and holds her hostage until she develops feelings for him. He even forces himself on her! Bruh, at least in Amnesia Toma kept his hands to himself… until that one bad end… But, Subaru pretends to be a nice guy saving Kana from a would be rapist and then he turns around and tries to do the same thing! WTF?! But, oh does it get better, you can also choose to stay with your fiance, only to cheat on him with other guys… Voltage Inc’s In Your Arms Tonight has a similar premise, but rather than feeling tawdry and cringey, that game was much more wholesome and dare I say, tasteful.
The Bell Chimes for Gold
This game polarized the otome games community when the localization project was announced. The Bell Chimes for Gold is a large departure from the usual bishounen styled love interests found in most otome games. Some welcomed the change, while others not so much, but regardless of how you feel about romancing older love interests, the premise for the game is a little messed up. In the game you play as Maria a talented herbalist, who dreams of marrying her Master, however he has other plans and dumps her for her best friend. As a parting gift, he tells Maria she can easily save up enough money to buy a new man, and Maria does just that. She amasses a considerable amount of money in hopes of attracting a mate in need of a wealthy benefactor…
It’s like Kissed By The Baddest Bidder, but gender flipped. I like the idea of woman having a bit of control and power in an otome game, but, it’s kind of effed up that Maria has to resort to buying a man. Rather than evaluating her life and seriously considering what she truly wants, she settles for a group of desperate, washed out men.
Part of what makes otome games so much fun is that they cover a wide range of genres and scenarios that appeal to many different people. If you don’t like one game’s premise, then chances are there’s an otome game out there that you will enjoy. However, there are some that are less enjoyable than others… I liked Period Cube up until the point that it became a terrible bro-con nightmare and then there’s Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly with it’s casual misogyny, which is pretty overwhelming (even by otome game standards). And don’t get me started on Toma’s route in Amnesia…
This is just a list of some of the games that bothered me the most. There are plenty of other questionable otome games out there that didn’t make this list. So, this is where I turn things over to you guys. Which otome games have you played with questionable storylines?