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You think you know dating sims, but you haven't seen these

Katawa Shoujo

Supports the love between: People with disabilities

No, we're not saying that dating someone with a disability is the same as courting a pigeon - stick with us on this one. As both a game and a thing that exists in the world, Katawa Shoujo teaches an invaluable lesson: never be too quick to judge. Our story starts on 4chan, which you might assume is incapable of producing anything heartfelt or genuinely touching. Not so. After striking up a discussion around a sketch of cute girls who all happen to have disabilities, a handful of 4chan users banded together to turn the concept into a dating sim.

It sounds like a recipe for demeaning fetishism, but the final product is anything but. Katawa Shoujo may be a game about a young guy surrounded by a harem of disabled girls, but it treats the circumstances with the utmost respect. Its message is clear: Disabled people are just people, with talents, flaws, and aspirations just like any of us. It just goes to show that some 4chan regulars are capable of feeling and evoking genuine empathy. Who knew?

Namco High

Supports the love between: An androgynous alien and the protagonists from various Namco IPs

If you've ever transferred between schools, you probably know about the trials and tribulations of being the new kid, just trying to fit in as you get your social bearings. And if you've ever been to an arcade, then you definitely know what it's like to feel sexually attracted to Pac-Man's voluptuous sprite and the curvaceous Galaga ship. Namco High combines those two awkward phases into one wonderful experience.

As an exchange student from the Katamari universe, you find yourself in detention with ne'er-do-wells, mean girls, and outcasts from all over the Namco universe. I can safely say that, without any doubt, this is the only game that lets you befriend and possibly romance Richard Miller from Time Crisis. I was also unaware that the Taiko no Tatsujin drums could be such divas until I delved into Namco High. Someone was clearly Namco High when they conjured up this idea - but given the intriguing end result, I'm not complaining.

Luckydog1

Supports the love between: A group of male gangsters

Take the classic 1963 film The Great Escape, then amplify any homoerotic undertones to their absolute limits. What you get is Luckydog1, the tale of five infamous mafiosos who endeavor to bust out of prison, possibly taking the time to make sweet love to one another along the way. Tough-guy bravado is all well and good, but when you get two handsome convicts alone in a room together, well anything can happen.

As Gian, an Italian member of the Cosa Nostra CR-5, you must use your adept jailbreaking skills to bail out your four CR-5 brethren (who, coincidentally, are also your four potential love interests). This ain't a baseball game, but you've gotta decide: Will you be a pitcher, a catcher, or both? Look, I've never been to prison, but if the taxpayer's dollars are spent on helping inmates determine their sexual preferences, so much the better.

Gakuen Handsome

Supports the love between: Teenage boys with impossibly sharp chins

True fact: the more attractive the guy, the more his chin will have in common with a machete. Gakuen Handsome (Let's Handsome~! in Japanese) looks like it was drawn by a pre-teen with a loose understanding of MS Paint, but don't hold that against it. What other game lets you fawn over men with extremely - extremely - pointy faces? You step into the shoes of an introverted 17-year-old, who finds himself surrounded by attractive men who look like Egyptian sarcophagi faces come to life.

Yes, Gakuen Handsome is purposely silly, and its main love interests are parodies of the all-too-typical dating sim archetypes. The dour rich kid, the flirtatious teacher, the bad-boy jock, the mysterious transfer student - they're all here, and they all look like someone grabbed their face and violently pulled downwards. If you've secretly had a crush on Jay Leno all your life, Gakuen Handsome is your dream come true.

Hatoful Boyfriend

Supports the love between: A young girl and a pigeon

Hatoful Boyfriend has been mystifying gamers since 2011, achieving such infamous cult status that it somehow made its way onto the PS4. It's a simple tale portraying what happens when a high school girl and pigeon become more than just friends. If you've never imagined what it would be like to start a relationship with a pigeon, then I have two questions: What's wrong with you, and wouldn't you like to know what you've been missing?

In Hatoful Boyfriend, you step into the shoes of a female student at St. PigeoNation's Institute, which is basically private school for urban birds. As the only human to walk through St. PigeoNation's halls, you've got plenty of feathered potential suitors to choose from. For instance, will you fall for the empathetic rock dove? Do badboy fantails make you go weak in the knees? Should you dare to start a forbidden romance with your teacher who is also a quail? It's entirely up to you - just make sure you don't get your eyes pecked when you move in for the first kiss.

Burn Your Fat With Me!!

Supports the love between: People of contrasting physical fitness

Do you wish you were in better shape, but suffer from a lack of incentive? What if every push-up or squat you did had a direct correlation to the affections of an adorable workout buddy? Burn Your Fat With Me!! ensures that you won't flake on your workout regimen, lest you fall out of favor with the girl of your dreams. Your exercise routine becomes the means of progression through a dating sim, which some gym rats might call an accurate representation of reality.

Think you could do 50 sit-ups in three minutes if it meant going out on a date? Of course you could! You might start this ingenious app as an undefined ball of flab, but by the end of the game, you'll be fit as a fiddle. When people ask you how you got into such great shape, just tell them the truth: You won your trainer's heart with your stick-to-itiveness and discipline. The game dubs this impetus "movation" - and as an appreciator of puns, I've got to give props for that one.

Jurassic Heart

Supports the love between: A teenage girl and a dinosaur

Steven Spielberg is one of the most respected directors in the film industry, but even he couldn't capture the gentle nuance of a tyrannosaurus rex's softer side. Jurassic Heart does what Spielberg could not: make you feel emotionally attached to a prehistoric creature that could potentially devour you in one bite. Even a vegan would fall in love with the carnivorous Taira-kun, a shy T-rex who struggles with performance anxiety.

Of all the dinosaurs I've ever known, Taira-kun is the only one capable of serenading me on the ukulele. Here's a tip, ladies: if you want to impress the tyrant lizard in your life, wear some meat-based accessories in your hair. Play your cards right, and you just might be on your way to bringing dinosaurs back from extinction, if you catch my meaning.

Osananajimi wa Daitouryou: My Girlfriend is the President

Supports the love between: A teenage boy and an alien disguised as the Chief of State

Let me attempt to describe this game as straightforwardly as possible. When aliens invade Earth and destroy the capital of the United States of Nippon, they brainwash the nation's citizens to think that nothing happened. There's just one small change: the girl next door has now been sworn in as President. You play as a perverted guy with a can-do attitude. Will you endeavor to boink the most powerful woman in the world? Or does your heart truly lie with the likes of Irina Vladimirovna Putina?

When the world's leaders all look like prepubescent girls, politics become a hell of a lot more interesting. And even if it's all a sinister plot schemed by our alien overlords, can't the denizens of the Snow (White) House have a little fun? On the one hand, My Girlfriend is the President has a penchant for graphic depictions of seemingly underage sexual encounters. On the other hand, it stars a female president, so it deserves at least a modicum of credit for progressive ideas.

RE: Alistair

Supports the love between: MMO addicts and the people who grief them

If you're at all familiar with EverQuest, you might remember the legendary "You Stole My Cloudsong!" video, where a particularly vitriolic gamer was deprived of a super rare item when some hooligans snatched it up off the ground. Now, imagine that this scenario was the basis for a high school romance. Yeah, I don't know why someone didn't think of that sooner, either.

Merui Lucas is an avid player of the faux MMO Rivenwell Online, and she's deduced that one of three boys at school must be the jerk - someone by the name of Alistair - who stole her phat lootz. You've got 30 days to crack the case, dipping in and out of the in-game game but will you fall in love by month's end? If every instance of ninja looting escalated into a full-on love triangle, the world would be a very different place indeed.

Love Plus

Supports the love between: A real-world man and a machine

Meet Sal 9000 (name likely withheld to protect the socially damaged). He's just a normal guy living in Japan, who fell head over heels for Nene Anegasaki. As their love grew stronger, Sal's heart got bolder, until finally he resolutely decided that he would marry her. Now, Sal 9000 and Nene Anegasaki are happily married. Actually, I can't quite say that with 100 percent certainty, because Nene Anegasaki is a character in a Nintendo DS game, and is therefore incapable of discriminating between potential suitors. Sal 9000, on the other hand, is all too real.

Though it's not legally binding, Sal 9000 did in fact marry Nene - there are witnesses and livestream archives to prove it. And while Sal 9000 may never know the touch of a woman, perhaps he truly has found love, bridging the gap between virtual and real worlds. Everyone was raving over that movie Her, right? Little do they know that Joaquin Phoenix's got nothing on this guy! Call it unbelievably creepy if you want - but if this guy's truly happy, then who are we to judge?