8 Emotional Games Like Emily Is Away

Image credit: Kyle Seeley

If you didn’t shed tears whilst playing Emily is Away, you’re either lying or didn’t grow up with AQL Instant Messenger. Combined with the game’s creative use of the visual novel format and immersive interface – it’s an emotional ride and packed with hard-hitting nostalgia.

Emily is Away’s prime target is anyone who grew up with the internet in the mid-2000s. People who would run home to message their high-school crushes online. The game’s Windows XP aesthetic is also genius, and gets you feeling like you’re reliving your best Summer again.

The writing will have you reminiscing about your—“the one who got away”. Emily is Away doesn’t just pull at your heartstrings; it rips them in two and leaves you pondering the what-ifs. The game embodies the saying: short, sharp, sweet, and shiny.

The visual novel’s five chapters feel fleeting, leaving you wanting more. If you’re searching for heart-touching games like Emily is Away, our curated list below has you covered!

Digital: A Love Story

Available on PC.

If Emily is Away wasn’t heavily inspired by this game, color me shocked. The love interest even shares a similar name – Emilia – and it emulates an old-school computer interface too. 

Digital: A Love Story makes the Windows XP and chat programs in Emily is Away feel modern. This game is set in 1988, and the interface emulates the decades-old 1.X AmigaOS aesthetic.

The gameplay consists of reading messages from an online bulletin board, as well as sending back replies. It’s here where the epic romance-mystery begins.

If you made a cyber-salad with Emily is Away and Blade Runner, the result would taste like Digital: A Love Story. It has a similar focus on online relationships, but then peppers in sci-fi mystery.

It’s hard to say much more without spoiling it! The game doesn’t give the player any story-changing decisions, but deciphering the mystery requires puzzle solving.  

Digital: A Love Story takes about an hour to complete and is free! Christine Love, the author, has an absolutely captivating writing style. It’s engrossing. 

She also does an expert job balancing the romance and mystery elements. The plot doesn’t feel aimless or overwhelming with the multiple themes.

The story also tackles topics like the government well, and artificial intelligence. Also, the ending? An absolute. Tear. Jerker.

Coffee Talk

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

If you’ve ever played VA-11 HALL-A, you’ll find the gameplay of Coffee Talk cozy and comforting. The gameplay consists of making hot beverages for customers and listening to their stories.  

Coffee Talk is set in an alternate world’s fantasy-Seattle. Humans coexist alongside a range of other species (not limited to): Elves, succubi, vampires, and even mermaids. 

Despite the high-fantasy setting, the game captures the vibes of a real-world café perfectly. The entire game feels like the first sip of a warm coffee on a freezing morning. 

It’s refreshing and offers a cute escape away from the gritty, world-is-ending games we usually see. The developer describes the game as a “storybook you read before you sleep.” 

The story and unique coffee-serving gameplay aren’t the only high points of the experience. It’s also backed by gorgeous 90s anime-inspired visuals, and relaxing lo-fi beats.  

Coffee Talk is heartwarming, and its atmosphere will get your soul grooving. The developers also use the game as a platform to cover relevant topics like racism and crunch in the industry.  

They aren’t afraid to call out genuine issues in today’s society. The studio also cleverly uses the fantasy theme to simplify and explain the problems.

If you’re coming in hot from Emily is Away, you’ll appreciate the unique approach to visual novels. It’s also worth checking out VA-11 HALL-A, which is on our games like A Dark Room post.

Both games feature building genuine connections with your customers. The main difference is that VA-11 HALL-A is set in a cyberpunk bar, whilst this game has you as a barista.  

To The Moon and Finding Paradise

Available on PC, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.

Who would’ve guessed an RPG Maker game would become a hit sensation? To The Moon dominated YouTube and even won GameSpot’s 2011 “Best Story” award, beating Portal 2 and Xenoblade. 

The story follows two doctors who fulfil people’s dying wishes by implanting artificial memories. It has minimal gameplay mechanics, instead focusing on its expressive narrative and puzzles.

The best way to describe the game is poignant. It’s beautiful and eloquently written, and also leaves you with a strong sense of melancholy.  

Along with the story-driven gameplay, the plot itself shares a similar theme with Emily is Away. It focuses on a high-school romance – but that’s also where it ends.  

To The Moon was incredibly unique at its time of release, and is worth playing for that alone. Its visuals might not be AAA-tier, but its design, heartfelt plot, and accompanying music carry it.  

Without spoiling too much, the doctors are creating new memories for an elderly man, Johnny. He can’t remember why, but his dying wish was to go to the moon.  

The reason slowly unfolds as you progress through the game, and tweak his old memories to create new ones. If you find the premise interesting, Freebird Games has released several, free mini-episodes in the same universe. 

They’ve also released a full-fledged sequel – Finding Paradise. It follows the same two doctors. The game covers themes like mortality and regret in a heart-rending manner, making them must-plays.

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid this game until now – that’s an achievement in itself. Congratulations! Doki Doki Literature Club was everywhere. YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, you name it. 

On the surface, it seems like your run-of-the-mill visual novel is filled with cute anime waifus and fan service. However, once you start playing the game, you’ll notice something is amiss. 

What earns DDLC a clear spot on the games like Emily is Away recommendations, is its creative and innovative mechanics. It’s impossible to delve deeper without spoiling but… Just trust me.  

Hidden behind the game’s super cute poetry and romance front is a passionate psychological horror. The sad-yet-sinister experience will leave your heart aching and in utter disbelief. 

The upgraded Plus! Version of the game is the edition that’s multiplatform. It includes new side stories, unlockable images and music, and enhances all the visuals to HD! 

Warning: Before you purchase this game, it does include heavy themes such as self-harm and depression.

Doki Doki Literature Club follows your character as you join the school’s literature club. It’s a terrifying take on dating sims, that masquerades behind prose and the written word. 

If you’re a completionist, the title also offers plenty of replayability to unlock the different endings. The writing easily rivals Emily is Away. Both are essential text-driven game experiences.

Doki Doki Literature Club even made it on our games like Undertale list. It’s up there for its one-of-a-kind gameplay systems and inventive storytelling.

Corpse Party (2021)

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Corpse Party is the other RPG Maker game alongside To The Moon that left the world enthralled. It had everybody terrified in the palm of its blood-soaked hands.

The 2021 version remasters the cult classic game’s visuals. It also expands on the base story, adding in previous extra chapters, and all-new original stories for two never-seen-before characters.

Don’t be fooled by Corpse Party’s simplistic art direction. It might not look like the latest Resident Evil entry or even Five Nights At Freddy’s – but the atmosphere it crafts is second to none. 

Corpse Party’s setting shares some elements with Silent Hill. The story follows a group of high-school students in a haunting, alternate world after they screw up an occult friendship ritual. 

The failed ritual teleports them to a terrifying version of their local elementary school – filled with blood, gore, and ghosts down every hall. 

Corpse Party blends visual novel elements with a top-down view which allows you to explore the school. The art is still impressive, and some deaths look downright disturbing and vomit-worthy. 

The reason the game stands the test of time is the likable roster and wide range of endings. There are dozens of gruesome deaths awaiting the cast if you aren’t careful… 

Whilst Corpse Party isn’t that comparable to Emily is Away, it’s an iconic text-driven game. Also, it’s still filled with its share of emotional moments, even if it’s macabre.

CLANNAD

Available on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Android.

My first experience with CLANNAD was actually the anime. Its lovable cast had me instantly hooked, and the touching plot sent me weeping in bed.

It wasn’t until a few years later I got the chance to play through the visual novel – and it manages to be even better. Compared to the show, it adds more character depth and fleshes them out.

CLANNAD is a very traditional-styled visual novel, especially compared to Emily is Away. It’s way a long read, but if you’re a fan of the genre – it’s part of the welcoming ritual.

The interactivity in the game really gets you more emotionally attached and invested in the cast. Depending on your choices throughout the game, it’ll influence the story and the ‘route.’ 

The ‘route’ of a visual novel refers to the story arc you end up following. Usually, these routes are tied to different characters. 

The routes in CLANNAD are a few hours long for each character. If you end up falling in love with the world, this means there are dozens of hours of story content you can read through.

CLANNAD follows the story of Tomoya Okazaki as he meets classmate Nagisa Furukawa on the way to school. From here, the game opens up and you’re introduced to a wide range of characters – from other students to townspeople.  

Even after all this time, the visuals and plot have aged well. Whilst the art style might look a bit old-school, the game is still an unforgettable experience. Make sure to prepare some tissues!  

Life is Strange

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.

This is a graphic adventure game that follows the story of Max Caulfield as she moves back to her hometown, Arcadia Bay. The big twist? She has superpowers. She can rewind time to redo (most) decisions. 

Life is Strange’s powerful story and high-school setting earn it a spot on the games like Emily is Away list. The story is presented very differently, but you’ll find it brings up the same emotions.

Both titles leave you reminiscing on your school years, and probably crying in your bed. The game is split into various episodes, and primarily focuses on Max and her best friend Chloe.  

Without delving too deep into spoiler territory – your decisions in the game will end up deciding the fate of the town.

The plot of Life is Strange is riveting, and that isn’t even the best part. Where the game excels is with the writing of the characters and relationships.  

Max’s awkward and sometimes cringe personality is relatable. It’s also impossible to just not adore Chloe. She’s the badass best friend you’ve always wanted and secretly have a crush on. 

The likable cast is what gives the story in Life is Strange so much weight. It’s what makes every “bad” decision follow you around like a storm, and the choices so hard to make.  

The finale is also so soul-crushing, it left me in a worse state than Emily is Away. If you want emotionally-moving stories – Life is Strange is the one. The search is over. 

Gone Home

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and iOS.

This title is a thinking-out-of-the-box recommendation. When it comes to emotional impact, it’s definitely an experience that belongs on a games like Emily is Away post.

Gone Home falls under the term “walking simulator.” It was actually one of the games that led to the popular usage of the category, and was praised by outlets for using games as an art form.

If you expect a text-driven experience, you won’t find it here. Gone Home tells its story in a non-traditional way. Instead of dialogue and player choices, it tells it with the environment and narration. 

The story has you take control of Katie Greenbriar, returning home from overseas to check out her family’s new house. The family consists of a younger sister, Sam, a mother, Janice, and a father, Terry. 

The game is set entirely in the house and is designed to be played in a non-linear fashion. By examining different items laying around, and collecting your sister’s journal entries. 

As you slowly start to unravel the mystery in Gone Home, you’ll be met with a touching LGBT-focused narrative. The game does an incredible job at portraying the issues that come with being a queer teen. 

Gone Home will have you uncovering deep secrets surrounding your in-game family and its dysfunctional dynamic. It’s heartbreaking because it drives home the idea: that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. 

Bonus: Emily is Away Too & Emily is Away <3

Available on PC.

After you’re done sobbing over Emily is Away, and your heart is in gear to be smashed again… You should boot up the sequels!

Each game in the Emily is Away trilogy builds on the unique storytelling style. They throw in more mechanics and give the immersive user interface an update – literally.

The second game features a more fleshed-out chat program. You can even access totally-not Facebook profiles and send YouToob videos. There’s also now too? two. Love interests!

In Emily is Away <3 AIM is finally dead – LOL. Everybody has swapped to Facenook. The layout is accurate to the old-2000s interface. It ends up being a memory-filled punch, triggering high-school flashbacks.

If you’re a sucker for branching story paths, you’re in luck. The third game expands on giving the player a sense of agency with choice. Fall in love or fall apart, it’s all on you this time.

Best of all, the narrative quality is consistent throughout the series. Kyle Seeley’s writing stays soul-shattering, and manages to capture lightning in a bottle – not once, but three times over.

It captures the awkward lows and lmao-highs of growing up online expertly. The characters come off as genuine, and the messages read like real conversations.

The high-speed fights over texts, and overthinking every message with Emily are also authentic. It would throw me into a flight response. If you play the sequels, remember: she’s not the one that got away. It’s just a game.

0 comments

Leave a Comment