There are lots of different types of video games: first person shooters, real time strategy games, role playing games; but one genre that’s never really taken off (at least in America) has been the dating sim.

A dating sim is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you spend the game wooing your would-be mates until you can finally make a connection with one. There’s lots of dialogue, little action, and no shooting. They’re a lot more slow-paced than your everyday World of Warcraft game.

While dating sims have a following all over the world, they’re played and produced mostly in Japan. Among Japanese otaku especially, dating sims are very popular; one otaku even ritualistically destroyed his old dating sim on his wedding day.

In terms of content, dating sims run the gamut from romantic, innocent love stories to more upsetting, explicit affairs. But somewhere in between those two extremes, there lie a few dating sims that are so ridiculous that they are to dating sims as Japan World Cup is to horse racing sims.

Here are some of the strangest dating sims to come out of Japan recently:

Pigeon Dating Sim

A first, second, and all subsequent glances, Hatoful Boyfriend makes no sense. It’s a dating simulator that puts you in the role of the only human at a school full of pigeons. Instead of wooing pretty girls you woo, well, pigeons.

But when you think about the title, it makes a little more sense. Seriously! The title in Japanese, はーとふる彼氏, is a play on words. In Japanese, pigeon is hato, and heart is haato, so the pun makes the game make a little more sense (but only a little).


Regardless of the wordplay, it’s hard to take the ridiculous premise seriously. Surprisingly though, I’ve heard that Hatoful Boyfriend has a unexpectedly moving story. Maybe courting pigeons can teach us something about love?

It’s available for Windows and OS X in Japanese and English, so if you’ve ever wanted to date a bird, this is your chance. You can find the official Hatoful Boyfriend site here.

My Girlfriend is the President

Imagine a world where aliens have invaded and wiped the minds of everybody on Earth. Then imagine that your girlfriend is the President of New Japan, living in a building strikingly similar to the White House, and you’re the vice president.


That, in a nutshell, is the plot of My Girlfriend is the President. It’s confusing, and you’ll have to suspend your disbelief for a lot of plot points – like the President of New Japan in a post-invasion world is a young blonde girl and that she’s dating her vice president – but makes for an interesting game.

While My Girlfriend is the President is interesting and all, it doesn’t fulfill my greatest wish: to see a dating sim that lets you woo the actual sitting president of the United States. Wait for me, Barack-tan~

Alpaca Dating Sim

If you want more inexplicable cross-species dating sims, then you’re in luck. Unlike Hatoful Boyfriend, you’re not the only human in a world full of pigeons.

In Paca Plus, you play a school-aged boy whose girlfriend suddenly and inexplicably turns into an alpaca after visiting an alpaca farm.

Even though Paca Plus presents us with an absurd scenario, like Hatoful Boyfriend, it still plays like a normal, everyday dating sim, and follows a lot of the tropes of the genre.

You’ll find yourself talking to your girlfriend-turned-alpaca in empty rooms in your school, taking her out for dates, and other typical dating sim stuff.

Visit the official Paca Plus website here.

While I’m not sure that I would ever play any of these games, I salute that they’re creative and try to avoid some of the clichés that plague the genre. Whether or not they accurately portray what it’s like to date a pigeon is another issue entirely.

  • Tiffany Harvey

    Check the first paragraph of “Alpaca Dating Sim”.

  • Ricardo Buijsman

    freaky when does “my girlfriend is a giant” come out^^ 冗談 冗談 `U`

  • Mescale

    People who play dating games are so pathetic! Who needs a dating sim when you have the real thing?

    Come to me Dakimakura-tan! <3 <3 <3

  • hatos

    I started Hatoful Boyfriend thinking it was a joke, and the game did have its hilarious moments, but many of the character endings and the extended route are absolutely heartbreaking. Very good storyline/characters for $5, I’d recommend Hatoful for sure.

    It also has a sequel game, Holiday Star, which is very moving as well.


    Alpaca My Heart.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    One of these games is 18+. I’ll leave it to your now horrified imaginations which one it is.

  • Joel Alexander

    きゃむ? Not きゃん?

  • Shollum

    I was more confused about it being in hiragana instead of katakana. Maybe the phrase evolved over time and they forgot that it wasn’t Japanese or something…

  • Shollum

    You know, I’m pretty sure something like that already exists…

  • Shollum

    Heads up on the My Girlfriend is the President link. Don’t click the CG page if you’re at work.

  • {jyuichi}

    きゃむ refers to a word that starts with c and ends m that I don’t know if I can say on this website….

  • piderman

    Like “yes” and “oui”?

  • seiteta

    Is this the “Alpaca week” ?
    First this article about those shaved Alpaca (, and then this !
    What happened ?

  • Phil McCauley

    It is indeed this, she gets very flustered after having to talk in front of a large crowd. Erm, don’t ask me how I know this.

    As for why Hiragana instead of Katakana, it’s probably just that the game is pretending she’s Obama. So as she’d be the one who made up the phrase, it’d be Japanese in origin, therefore Hiragana. :P

  • Eth McCoy

    Took me a while to realise the use of katakana in the words in the pigeon game paragraph.
    I got confused when you said ハート was japanese for ‘heart’, I was thinking, “isn’t it 心?”.
    It seems to me they might be poking some light hearted fun at english words.

  • Shollum

    I’ve never seen it put that way before, I guess they were just being different… Don’t ask why I’m so confident about my sample size…

  • Gerran Coppin

    Thanks to Tumblr, and now Tofugu) I can now decently one-up my friends on obscure dating sims! <3

  • foozlesprite

    I actually played Hatoful boyfriend since there’s an English version and I love bizarre things. It was a bit repetitive to play through and get all the endings, but the story gets ridiculously in-depth in the final few playthroughs and you find out that there’s some dark stuff going on behind the scenes. It’s not all cute pigeon boyfriends like first advertised =P Still, it was decent for the price, and I laughed my butt off.

  • Bifurious

    I work around alpacas a lot as my father is an alpaca/sheep shearer. Not only would I NOT date one I hardly want to go near them, they’re horrible, they spit your stomach contents at them as a defence mechanism and their wool/hair is worth nothing in my country.