Relieve that holiday stress with these five awesome anime-style games — whether it means adding them to your holiday wishlist, playing them to grab some desperately-needed alone time, or giving you something to share with your similarly-aged sibs and cousins.

We chose our favorites in five different gaming categories so you can choose what you’re in the mood for.

Clannad (Visual Novel / Story Rich Game)

Older (2004), and with two sequels, Clannad is justifiably a classic, with gameplay that is challenging without being frustrating and a story that is on par with one of the better manga stories, heartwarming and heartrending by turns.

clannad game

The story follows Tomoya Okazaki, who has lost his family: his mother has recently passed away, and his father is an alcoholic.  When he meets Nagisa, someone who is also searching for meaning, she engages him in friendship and in a special project to revive the school’s drama club.

As they move forward together, they rediscover and redefine what it means to be a family.  This description can’t capture how utterly entrancing this story is.

If you’re a newer gamer, you might have missed it, and that would be a mistake.

The game often runs a little pricier than average but reviewers invariably agree Clannad is worth every penny.  Definitely worth checking out over winter or summer break, and for casual gameplay.

Doki Doki Literature Club (Horror / Psychological Horror Game)

Allow me to introduce you to the weird and wild world of Doki Doki Literature Club.  What is this game, you ask?

Why, it’s a sweet and engaging visual novel about a book club, full of charming young ladies poised to become your very best friends.

doki doki literature club

Now, note the category.

Japanese storytelling has an infidelity to genre, and sometimes that’s just what makes it so surprising and captivating to a Western audience.

Doki Doki Literature Club is a perfect example: a sickly sweet dating sim confectionary with a gooey, psychological horror center.  It will give you nightmares, and we mean this in the best of ways.

The game is not for the faint of heart or easily disturbed, so beware!

Long Live the Queen (Strategy Game)

Long Live the Queen is an anime-style quest to shepherd your beloved ruler, whose mother has just met an untimely end, into her new role.

long live the queen

Gameplay involves teaching the young queen the right lessons to be clever enough to evade the dangers ahead.  Will you focus on political compromise or teach her to be ruthless?

Will you dress her so she appears welcoming and friendly or harsh and cold?  And what troubles will she run into over the weekend, when you let the little terror loose?

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A good part of the fun of Long Live the Queen is in creating a monster and unleashing her on an unsuspecting mythical world; but sometimes actions have unforeseen consequences, like your little despot’s ultimate downfall if you teach her too much Machiavelli.

It’s hard to overstate how charming, challenging, and fun Long Live the Queen is, with so many choices and so many different endings – including a series of tragicomic, untimely ends for our young ward!

Long Live the Queen easily provides 30-40 hours of gameplay if you want to go on the hunt to catch every alternate ending.  If you’re a fan of tabletop RPGs, you’ll probably love this oldie but goodie.

Epic Battle Fantasy V (Classic RPG Game)

Epic Battle Fantasy V was one of the most fun games to come out last year – and no, you don’t have to have played Epic Battle Fantas(ies)? I-IV to ‘get it’.

Epic Battle Fantasy V

What makes EBF so much fun is its silly, genre-savvy humor and unabashed stealing-cough-‘borrowing’ from other franchises.  (You can capture enemies and get them to fight for you, a la Pokemon, for example.)

There are over 120 skills you can acquire and over 170 different enemies to fight, making this RPG suitable for hard-core gamers and casual players alike, since with plenty of save-points and no ‘points of no return’, you can take it at your own pace.

There’s a little fanservice but you can play the game with offensive content switched off, just in case you’re playing it around little cousins or siblings this holiday season – or easily-disgruntled older folk!

Dungeon Munchies (Action/adventure Game)

Dungeon Munchies: how could we not include this quirky, indie gem?  This anime-style game requires you to hunt down creepy monsters.  Why?

dragon munchies

To use them as cooking ingredients, of course!

The dialogue is wittily funny, the combat style is fluid as heck, and each of the beings in the story has great characterization, including an especially relatable main character.  Art is well-thought-out and pretty unique, with pixel-style graphics for the fight scenes and more of a visual-novel style during conversations.

Only the first four chapters are available right now, as it’s still on early release – go play the game and leave a feedback review along with some encouragement for those hardworking game designers at maJAJa!

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