Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is the number one free app on iTunes right now, and many, like me, have enjoyed the game’s strong writing and addictive gameplay, as well as it’s ability to create an avatar that can resemble oneself fairly strongly (within certain limitations.) Of course, as a free to play mobile game, I find my own enjoyment tapering off after a while. But there’s no doubt it’s attracting many people from Mrs. Kardashian West’s core fanbase, a group that does not often overlap with the type of people one would imagine as a gamer. Some of those people may not have the resources I do to find a deeper experience if they wanted to. If you’re finding yourself enjoying Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and would like to try something similar but don’t know where to start, here’s the 10 best games to try.
1. Persona 3 and 4
The last two games in Atlus’s Persona series are complex and rough RPGs. They can be grueling, and have a sizeable fanbase of people that love them for that reason. But these games have become popular in the Western world not just because they’re hard. These are games full of rich characters and deep stories. Everyone you meet in Persona 3 and 4—and you’ll meet a lot, as the game’s Social Link system encourages you to get out and make friends—is drawn sympathetically. They’re full characters, and by the time the game ends you’ll be sad to see them go.
While the games play similarly, plot-wise they vary greatly. Persona 3 is a fairly dark game that pokes at uncomfortable thoughts that often lie dormant. Persona 4 is bright and happy, even if the majority of the plot is about murder. However, the PSP version of Persona 3 allows you to play as a woman, opening up new Social Links and dating options. Let me tell you—I was overjoyed to have a chance to date Akihiko, just as much as I was to play as my own gender.
2. The World Ends With You
Set in a Shibuya that is portrayed as extremely image conscious, fashion plays a huge role in The World Ends With You. Each of your combat abilities is received in the form of a pin, which you buy at retail shops throughout the map. You can also buy clothes from these stores that affect your stats. Although they don’t change your sprite, they do have a real effect on battles—each area has a specific style that’s popular and thus affects the stat bonuses you can receive, and by winning enough battles you can change what’s trendy. If you don’t get deeply invested in its gameplay, you’ll probably stick around for its music, stylized artwork and characters.
3. The Tokimeki Memorial Girls Side series
Tokimeki Memorial Girls Side is a series of dating sims where you play as a young woman in high school, who studies, joins clubs and goes on a lot of dates. What I really love about it is that the game never makes you feel like you’re changing yourself to make a boy love you. You’re just another girl in high school, pursuing her interests, and getting to know people who share them. The bulk of the content comes from the men you can date, each designed to appeal to a particular type. But really, who wouldn’t love Hazuki Kei, the tightly wound straight A student with a secret fondness for cats? While there is a complete fan translated English patch for the ROM, as these games have never been localized officially, the translators ask that you not link to any source to find this game for free. However, the translators do give full instructions on how to patch your game once you have it.
4. Bravely Default
Silicon Studio and Square Enix
Bravely Default does a lot to make the slog of JRPGs more fun, but one of my favorite things is the Jobs system. When you battle, not only do you level your character, but you level the job they are assigned to, from black mages to thieves to weirder ones like merchants or performers, each accompanied with inspired costumes. Each character gets their stats adjusted to match their job, but some, like the fierce and headstrong Edea Lee, do better at certain types than others (just let her stab things—trust me.) Although it presents itself as unchallenging fantasy fare, the plot is as fresh as its gameplay, taking its by-the-numbers characters to newer, more fun places.
5. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Probably the closest to Kim Kardashian: Hollywood on this list, Animal Crossing: New Leaf allows you to be the mayor of a small town. While there’s no romance, the bulk of the gameplay is centered on making sure the animal inhabitants of the town you reside in are all happy. That means doing them favors and showing them your home—which you have to decorate, because they’ll judge you, harshly. They rarely pay you in money, preferring to give you gifts of clothes or furniture, but the charmingly written characters are easy to care about regardless. The latest in the series, New Leaf, has the most variety of activities in the series, although like every entry it gets a little same-y over time. But there’s such sincerity in these little country stories that I know I’ll pick up the next one regardless.
6. Analogue: A Hate Story
Analogue: A Hate Story is a short visual novel that unwinds to reveal a complex story about femininity, power and the contexts in which we view history. It begins with you on a simple mission to recover the story of how an abandoned space ship got that way. Once you log in, you meet two AIs who give a greater context for the love, desperation, loss and pain that’s trapped within all the files and correspondences backed up on the ships computers. Allowing you to make the choices and judgments, it’s a strong story that I keep returning to, each go around revealing something new about the story and how I view myself.
7. Fire Emblem: Awakening
Intelligent Systems and Nintendo
Love and marriage are core mechanics in Fire Emblem: Awakening, which is a strange thing to write about a tactical RPG. As your characters battle, they get emotionally closer to each other. And as they get closer, they can get married. And when they get married, their children come back from the future to help you fight. Each pairing can create different stats for your children, but when I played, I was more interested in unfolding the little love stories for each couple, often grinding levels just to get the next section. Some are funny and some are touching, but they all are believable. Each character is wildly unique from each other, personality wise, and there’s great care taken to make sure each pairing makes sense. The game ensures that as they fall in love with each other, you fall in love with them, so you’ll play cleverly to keep everyone alive.
8. Princess Maker 2
The conceit of Princess Maker 2 is simple—a child is given to you from the heavens and you’re asked to raise it the best you can. While you play as the father in this game, you spend most of your time watching your virtual child learn and grow into her own person. She can end up as a military general, a chef, a ruling demon in hell, and yes, a princess, or even better, the Queen. A couple of RPG sequences break up the monotony of just telling your daughter what to do and watching a brief animation of it, as well as the yearly festival and combat tournament that most of my daughters have won—a lot. While this game was never officially released in English, the full localization has since been released for free.
9. Long Live the Queen
Hanako Games and Spiky Caterpillar
In the raising sim Long Live the Queen, you play as Princess Elodie, a young woman who learns quickly how hard it is to hold power. With assassination plots at every turn, you’re tasked with balancing your areas of knowledge in order to both become an effective ruler and to simply stay alive until your coronation. With many branching paths, and many, many deaths, you navigate Elodie’s social and romantic life, learning how every interaction has consequences when you’re next in line to rule. She goes from a naive young girl to a woman worthy of being Queen, who proves her ability with every dodged arrow, blackmail attempt and refusal of poisoned chocolates.
10. the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series
Set in an almost hellish alternate universe where the legal process has become some kind of detective work/performance art hybrid, you play as Phoenix Wright, a bumbling attorney with a strong sense of justice. As a visual novel, the pointing and tapping required to get through the game will be familiar to most Kim Kardashian: Hollywood players, and while some puzzles are obtuse, all are riotously funny. It’s the kind of game that wants to make you laugh even when you fail. That and it’s eccentric characters will keep you hooked from case to case.
There’s enough room in this community for all kinds of games, and all kinds of players. I’m always happy to talk about any of these games on twitter, and to discuss my reservations about some of them (to paraphrase Maddy Myers, everything I love comes with a long list of reservations.) I believe that we will all be richer if Mrs. Kardashian West’s game helps more people appreciate what videogames have to offer.
Gita Jackson writes at xoxogossipgita.tumblr.com and her Twitter is @xoxogossipgita.