Paranormasight, one of 2023’s best games, might be the best visual novel to get you into the genre

Poor old Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo. One of the best games of 2023 — it’s in my personal top 10, for what it’s worth, and has nearly 2,000 Overwhelmingly Positive reviews on Steam if you don’t want to just take my word for it — was never going to get a look-in when it came to giving out serious recognition at the end of the year. That’s because Paranormasight is such a rare beast in the industry at the moment that it’s basically a cryptid: a visual novel developed in-house by a AAA company for worldwide release. Some people loved it, but most still don’t quite know what to make of it.

Visual novels are a bit niche at the best of times, especially among western gamers, who have been a bit slow to get a feel for the delights of the slower-paced genre that’s been a hit in Japan for a good couple of decades now. Appreciation for them is gradually picking up steam though, if you’ll pardon the pun, since it’s indie or AA productions distributed mainly via Steam and Itch.io that make up the bulk of the new VNs taking off at the moment.

But aside from occasionally snapping up the publication rights to a promising indie title, there are only extremely rare exceptions — and to be honest, I’m thinking almost exclusively of Capcom’s Ace Attorney series here — to the rule that AAA publishers aren’t doing much with visual novels right now, at least not on an international scale. When they do, it’s mostly okaying remasters or sequels within existing IPs. That’s what made Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo such a weird little addition to this year’s extensive catalogue of truly excellent games.

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