Confessions of an Otome Gamer: Indie Otome are BETTER than Otome Games

I know, potentially polarizing opinion incoming–don’t @ me.

But, if you’ve been following me for awhile it shouldn’t be such a big shock that I prefer indie otome games over the more “traditional” Japanese otome games. I mean on a very basic level, indie otome games are much more accessible and available than Japanese otome games. Sure, we’ve been getting tons more otome games than we have in the past, but given the volume of otome games being released in Japan annually, what we get through localization is merely a drop in the bucket. Not to mention localization titles are selected and curated by companies that at the end of the day are protecting their bottom line. So the games that do make their way to the West are ones that are considered the most “financially viable” (read: safe).

Most of the otome game localizations that have been released favor more action and drama heavy storylines with the romance taking a bit of a backseat (at least in my humble opinion), sure you have different genres and settings–mafia boys in the 20’s, supernatural cafes, and twisted fairytales, to name a few. But, when it comes down to the stories themselves, there is a distinct lack in lighthearted, slice-of-life stories among the localized titles available in the West. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some action and drama, Collar x Malice is one of my fave otome games, but every so often I need something more chill to balance things out. I thought Café Enchanté would be that chill slice-of-life otome game I had been craving, but instead I got a heart-wrenching emotional gut punch that I’m still not completely over…

And it seems that a desire for more lighthearted romantic otome localizations is a sentiment that is shared by many in the otome community. Many in the fandom have taken to their social media accounts begging for more fluffy romance titles, and yet most of the upcoming otome localizations seem to be much of the same

I don’t really self insert when I play otome games, because I don’t exactly look like most otome heroines, and it’s made harder when an LI is praising a heroine for her beautiful pale skin… and I have a lovely chocolate brown complexion. But with indie otome games it’s easier for me to see myself and people I know in the characters and stories being depicted on my screen. And we owe that in part to the facts that the teams working on indie otome games tend to be more diverse. Unlike the AAA studios that have to worry about their brand or their bottom line, indie devs create the games and stories they wish to see on the market and because of that indie otome games feel more organic. These are stories and characters created by people with actual lived in experience and you can really tell that there is a lot of love and care baked into these stories.

And before anyone starts–I am aware that Japanese otome games are made for a Japanese audience and expecting publishers to start including more diversity in their games and/or expecting them to start catering to Western fans is not realistic–that’s not what I’m asking for. Rather, I find that indie otome games tend to take more “risks” with the types of stories they create, which makes them more relatable to the wider otome gaming fandom. As with most fandoms the otome games community is not a homogenous blob, we all come from different backgrounds and cultures and identities and while we all love otome games, lets be real otome games aren’t exactly the most representative games out there.

Indie otome games give different types of people to tell their own stories in their own voices and I dunno, for someone like me from a traditionally underrepresented group, it makes the gaming experience that much more enjoyable. When you look at the indie otome scene there is much more variety in the types of stories we see from the romance genre. From queer and BIPOC representation to more slice-of-life and comedic stories–indie otome games are stepping up to fill that void by offering titles that have the representation that is missing in more traditional otome game titles. And as a Black female gamer, this is something I find much more appealing, because not only do I get the fantasy romance stories, but also the representation and diverse stories that I desperately crave in my media.

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8 thoughts on “Confessions of an Otome Gamer: Indie Otome are BETTER than Otome Games

  1. I used to prefer Japanese otome games, but I guess that was more a mix of seeing the Japanese games as the “original”, how these games “should be” and the western indie games I knew not being of the quality I wanted. However, with all the great indie games out these days, I absolutely agree. We need the diversity, both in stories and characters. They’re such a breathe of fresh air after all the drama of the “big” Japanese games. Plus, at some point I just got bored of traditional shoujo elements like super innocent heroines and the often dubious consent…

  2. I haven’t played an indie otoge yet.
    I love indie games. I play them a lot on Steam.

  3. I’m hoping that Variable Barricade will do well enough that we’ll see more romance-oriented otome. It might be the first otome Aksys brings over that doesn’t have an element of danger baked into it.

    I like playing indies when I get the chance, but I prefer playing on Switch, which limits my options. 😦

  4. I 100% feel you with this(especially with the mc getting compliments on pale skin and silky hair when I’m the total opposite lol!) The MC in most indie games don’t fall under the clueless/useless pushover variety that a lot of the ‘main ones’ do either.
    Indie games have kind of spoiled me so much with inclusiveness with character customization and the slice of life element that it takes me a while to get in to the more traditional otome’s. Not to mention I’m way more picky now.

  5. As someone who can read Japanese, I prefer indie games. Indie protags have more personality, there is more rep for people like us (black) and people don’t get mad at the main character for not being a soulless blow up doll (looks @ variable barricade Hibari hate…) I don’t self insert,

  6. I can definitely see liking the indies better as the storylines and protaganists are more varied . Plus they probably reuse character archetypes less too . Even as a big anime fan who binges so many shows I forget , I do skip shows that just copy paste archetypes or story beats too much .

  7. Hi love the post by the way, I do always prefer the indie games because they give different playing experience with each developer having their own flavour of narrative stories to be told.

    I personally don’t self insert in playing game and often potray myself as part of the subconscious of the game protagonist (hence why I always make dumb choices just so I can watch my protagonist suffer due to sheer stupidity or from second hand embarrassment xD)

    I haven’t played any Japanese otome game yet apart from seeing snippet of someone playthrough but I do agree that indie game are far more accessible for me to play 🙂

Gush about cute otome boys~